The Blonde on Dame Street
The sound of relentless footfalls clomping back and forth along the cobblestone laneway across Dame Street haunts me. I see faceless, nameless nobodies pass across the lane, coming from somewhere -going to nowhere and back again. I hate the endurance of the cobbles. A thousand years of populace grinding through the streets and there is no trace of a single one of us on these stones. No stains of blood from the revolution, no cracks from the ravages of famine, no erosion from the endless Irish rain, no trace of the endless use of endless bodies of endless humanity ceaselessly walking back and forth.
The first time I noticed that I noticed her, I was walking back onto Dame Street after stopping for a diet coke at the Centra. You had called me to talk about something important, but I can’t remember what. I was putting my phone in my purse, and she was standing in the doorway waiting for someone who had stopped in the store like I had. He passed me on his way towards her as I was closing my purse.
Out on Dame Street I realised that I had been walking behind her all the way from the Tara Street Station. I hate the way she walks. Hands in her pockets. Elbows tight against her back. A masculine heel walker. Black jacket. Black polyester pants. Black rubber soled shoes. And peroxide white, short, spiked hair. Working class, cliched, smart ass to me. Cutting edge, anti-social, post-mod in her own mind. I scoff as I think of my days listening to the Sex Pistols, painting spider webs on my face, wearing moth eaten T-shirts and ratty jeans before they were chic.
At some point on my way to work I wasn’t behind her anymore.
What I did at work that day is meaningless. So meaningless I didn’t even think about you.
The next week began with an early morning. I followed you like a puppy on to the train as far as Connelly Station. There was no blonde that morning. I’m sure I didn’t notice it. At the time, I was happy and didn’t need to occupy my emptiness. At the time, I was thinking about you while I was walking on Dame Street.
I was proud for having come so far - not just traveling thousands of miles from my home, from my world of stories and light, from my place of pine trees and ocean cliffs, from the voices and flavours that I thought I loved - but for standing up and claiming you as mine. No secrets from the intimate judges and familial authorities in my life. I had stood raw and naked in front of them with nothing to protect me except a powerful certainty. I defied all of them. I defied their condemnation. I defied my own fear. I defied the laws of their society and accepted my own true nature.
I am a deviant, an explorer, an outcast. I believe that love is meant to take us dangerous places. I believe that lust is the fire that burns away our human nature to reveal what is truly underneath. I believe that denial of that truth is the most destructive human force. To follow that lust, to bring the chaos that accompanies it out in the open, to be that purposeful without shame made me feel like I existed for the first time.
In that moment, I promised never to doubt that everything I want is within my own making. I had willed a thought, a hope, into reality. Nothingness into fact, from so much excruciating experience in between. In that moment, walking down Dame Street, the air parted to let me through.
That must have been Tuesday. I think I was sick on Monday.
Wednesday morning seemed non-eventful, except for the blonde on Dame Street. I was back in the monotonousness of walking behind her. She was too fast to pass but too slow in front of me. I was getting frustrated by my own futile attempts to get beyond her. Opportunities thwarted by crowds walking in the opposite direction. Set backs at lights that turned red just as we reached a corner. Angling to jump in front of traffic as we cross an intersection - determined to get to the other side ahead. I don’t know if I passed her or if she turned off. At some point, along the way she was just gone – like so many annoyances that occupy our every thought and then vanish into the background.
Wednesday evening. I try to leave work on time, but fail. I’m always late. I meet you at the same time, in the same place, the same pint, the same bar stool, the same bartender – probably the same glass as every other night when you’re home. We talk about the same things, worry about the same people, argue about the same issues, leave after the same number of drinks.
I remember laying my head on your arm, smelling the safety and comfort of your neck. Thankful again for having you within reach. I love you so fiercely I am almost incapable of feeling it. It is as though I am traumatised by an accident of overwhelming proportions. I turn that word over in my head, ‘accident,’ and it resonates, tripping a wire deeply within. I want to crawl under your skin and never leave.
I am more tired than usual, more tipsy and more angry. In bed, you tell me you won’t be back until Friday. When you reach for me, I recoiled. You can’t have me tonight if you’re not going to be here tomorrow.
Thursday morning you got up too early for me to follow you and left without saying goodbye. I could tell by the sound of the door closing you were never coming back.
The walk up Dame Street had become so familiar behind the blonde that I stopped marveling at how it happens. The bizarrely random reality that everyday, no matter what, she and I would turn one corner and then the next to find ourselves in the exact same pattern – one behind the other- on Dame Street.
I spend my morning leaving messages on your voice mail. I pretend to not know what I did wrong. Even deviants have their moods. But this is not my apology; my apology is about something else.
All I get is your silence. I am struck by the bizarrely random reality that every time, no matter who it is; I meet, I love, I strive for something more and then I find myself in the exact same pattern – speaking to someone who won’t answer.
I go alone to a play that night. A dramatisation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. It is a brilliant production. The tone of the play is perfect - as though all of the elements are in tune with each other – and the story itself like a theme plucked from my own personal opera.
I am struck by the inability of Gregor’s family to accept his metamorphosis. They deny his cockroachedness or his cockwretchedness. The absurdity of denying such a dramatic change is not lost on me. For someone as hungry for change as I am, the denial of such a drastic transformation only accentuates the fear (or the absurdity of the fear) people have about change.
Can we cause change or does it just happen to us? When I want change from within, it seems impossible to even start. When change descends from without, and is inescapable, I am traumatised by helplessness and despair.
I go home alone. I wake up alone. I decide to go in late, to take the late train, to indulge my wretchedness. A little moment of little control leading to a little triumph over nothing but time.
I smile to myself at the irony of the announcement that the early train has broken down and we will be re-routed after picking up the stranded passengers. Had I gotten up on time and caught the early train, I would still be as late as I am now. I am too small in this vast randomness.
As I get off the train, she is in front of me on the stairs in the train station. As I walk behind her through the station along the queues, around the Trinity Campus and on to Dame Street, I know I am trapped. It doesn’t matter what I do, how many little things I alter, in the grand scheme of things I can’t escape being stuck in the same rut day after day. I can’t escape being the nobody stuck behind the blonde nobody on a street full of nobodies.
At the street corner, something inside begins to break. The horrid kind of breaking that releases a truth that’s been hiding or repressed. All I need to do is cross the street. All I need to do is to wait for a different light. All I need to do is turn slightly to my right and walk away from this trap – and I am paralyzed by the realization that I can’t. I can’t cross the street. My chest tightens and the tears begin to stream down my cheeks. Something really wrong is happening and I can’t grasp it. I can’t understand. I can’t cross the street. I stop walking and they all go on without me. It’s the coward’s way out.
I begin to walk again but very slowly and very measured. I walk more closely to buildings because I feel safer there. A step or two to the right and I will be on the outside of the footpath nearest the traffic
and that’s too far out. That’s too far.
I begin to wonder if that’s why I can’t cross the street. I begin to think that maybe I need the buildings to always be on my left side. The irrationality of that crazy thought only becomes worse when I realize that I walk home on the same side of the street with the buildings to my right. I stop and look across the street. And the tears well up again and it’s harder to breathe. I just know in the depths of my soul that if I cross the street my heart will shatter into a thousand shards that will puncture my lungs and serrate my innards until I’m just a pulverized, bloody mess on the inside. The only thing that will be spared is my brain which will feel and record every pulse of every seared nerve ending. I will know everything that is happening to me, I will know that it will go on and on, and I will know that it will never get better.
I am late for work. It is Friday and you still haven’t called.
Later that morning – a voicemail message – you won’t be home until Saturday.
Now I know I have to cross the street. I have to be able to. And I know I can’t. I know that it’s simple. I also know that once I cross the street, everything will change – and even though that change might be good, it might be necessary, it might be everything. I know if I cross the street, I will never come back to the blonde on Dame Street.