“I’m getting the vaccine on Wednesday,” Claire from Bray of all places goes, like this is an achievement, something worthy of a high-five or even a “fock, yeah!”
Sophie’s like, “Which one are you getting?”
“Pzifer,” Claire goes – again, inviting us to weigh in with the “attagirls”. I say nothing and just switch on the borbecue.
"The woman I do my online PT with," Amie with an ie goes, "was told she was getting AstraZeneca – she showed me the text and it literally said AstraZeneca – but when she turned up it ended up being, like, Moderna?"
"Are you talking about Líadan?" Chloe goes. "Because she actually got the Pfizer one? Because I remember saying to her, 'Oh my God, my sister got the Pfizer one! They could be, like, vaccine buddies!'"
Sorcha sidles up to me. “Ross,” she goes, out of the corner of her mouth, “this is a disaster.”
I’m like, “What is?”
"This," she goes, meaning presumably the first gathering of her friends since all the madness storted. "Everyone has forgotten how to, like, talk to each other?"
I listen again – except more closely this time.
Claire is like, “How are your parents coping with the whole thing, Chloe?”
"My parents?" Chloe goes.
“Yeah – as in, have they been vaccinated yet?”
“Er, my mom, like, passed away in 2010 and my dad in, like, 2015?”
“Oh my God, I totally forgot!”
“Yeah, no, it’s fine.”
“I literally can’t believe I asked you that.”
“Honestly, it’s cool, Claire.”
"I was actually at their funerals. Well, the second one. I had my driving test the morning of your mom's funeral and I just showed my face in Fitzpatrick's afterwards."
Sorcha looks at me again. She’s like, “See what I mean?”
I’m there, “The girl’s from Bray, Sorcha. If she dropped her kacks and crimped one off in the Caprese salad, no one would be in the least bit surprised.”
"No, I read about this," she goes. "There was an orticle in, like, the New Yorker – by either a psychiatrist or a psychologist – and they said that after a year of basically not interacting with people outside our immediate family circle, we all need to, like, relearn basic social and conversational skills?"
I’m there, “I still say you’re overthinking it, Sorcha.”
"I'm not overthinking it, Ross. We've been here for, like, an hour and no one can talk about anything that isn't, like, pandemic related?"
“Okay,” I go, “I’ll tell you what I’m prepared to do. I’ll pop into the gaff now and throw on my nudey lady borbecue apron.”
She’s there, “What nudey lady borbecue apron?” because she tends to blank out memories that she finds traumatic.
"Er, the one I wore to that surprise porty we threw for your old pair's 40th wedding anniversary? You took it off me because you said it made Father Glackin feel uncomfortable. And because there were children present."
She goes, “You mean the one with the big–?”
“The very one, Sorcha. The very one.”
“But how is that going to help?”
“It’ll clear the conversational blockage. Trust me on this one.”
Sorcha stares at her friends. I can tell she’s conflicted.
Claire goes, "So do you have any elderly relatives who are in, like, the at-risk category?"
"I have, like, a grand-aunt," Chloe goes. "She lives in Duleek. "
"Jesus – and has she had the vaccine yet?"
“I presume so.”
“Oh my God, that must be such a relief to you.”
"Yeah, no, such a relief – even though I've only seen her, like, twice since the Millennium."
Sorcha looks at me and takes a deep breath. “It’s at the bottom of my underwear drawer,” she goes. “Be quick, Ross.”
Thirty seconds later, I’m pulling the thing out of Sorcha’s – like she said – knicker drawer. I originally bought it as a wedding present for a dude who was on my Sports and Exercise Management Course in UCD, but it made me laugh so much that I ended up keeping it and regifting him one of the three NutriBullets I got for Christmas the previous year.
I put it on over my head, then I tie the straps at the back. I take a look at myself in Sorcha's full-length mirror and I crack up laughing for a good, like, 30 seconds. It really is that funny.
I tip downstairs, then out to the back gorden again.
Sophie is going, “By the way, did I tell you that my mom is looking for a new cleaner?”
“Oh my God,” Amie with an ie goes, “what happened to Wiktoria?”
"She says she's decided to take some time out for herself. But according to Mom, she can make more money from the PUP than she can for actually working?"
"That's a disgrace," Chloe goes. "A total disgrace?"
I clear my throat to try to get everyone’s attention. I’m like, “Ahem!” except nobody even looks at me.
“Has your mom been vaccinated yet?” Amie with an ie goes.
Sophie's like, "Yeah, it was such a relief."
“Which one did she get?” Claire from Bray of all places goes.
Sophie’s there, “Moderna.”
"Moderna?" Claire from Bray of all places goes. "Oh my God, she is literally the only person I know who's had the Moderna vaccine."
“So random,” Chloe agrees. “So, so random.”
“Is it, like, two shots or one.”
“It’s, like, two, but the interval between the two shots is either longer or shorter than the Pfizer one.”
I feel a nudge in my back. Sorcha wants me to say something.
“Anyone fancy a sausage?” I hear myself go.
All eyes suddenly turn to me. And I watch a dozen faces suddenly drop.
"Oh my God," Sophie goes, "that is so inappropriate!"
Chloe’s like, “How can you think it’s okay to wear something like that in the current climate?”
Claire from Bray of all places shakes her head. "No offence, Sorcha," she goes, "but remind me again, how did you end up marrying him?"
“By the way,” Chloe goes, “did I tell you I’m back texting Pete with no neck who played loosehead for Lansdowne’s thirds?”
“Oh my God, random!” Sophie goes, the blockage well and truly cleared now.
And Sorcha gives me a look so full of love that I can’t even describe it to you. All I will say is that, after pushing on for nearly 20 years of marriage, I hope the rest of you get that lucky.