outwait outrun outwit


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We’d rise at four in the afternoon and start the day with sausage sandwiches or bowls of soup boiled from a turkey’s carcass, which we ate wordlessly over newspapers as the world dimmed outside the windows of that labyrinthine house. He would light a hand-rolled cigarette, scanning the page as he sucked, never exhaling.

He’d work in the bar until supper, some hurriedly cooked or acquired thing--roast meat or takeaway, burgers or a greasy curry with cardboard naan. Then he’d go back to work. Tonight is busy: families, emigrants home for the holidays, or exiles seeking company. The page tallying Christmas drinks for So-and-So from So-and-So--an account of friendship measured in booze--becomes smudged from much pencilling-in and crossing-out.

Upstairs, above the din of the punters, I wait. I read The Earthsea Quartet too quickly, eager for travel… or rather, a quest, towards which one devoted labor, intellect, will. I am restless, thinking of everything I left behind for a fortnight: research, friends, apartment, city. All the ways of Galway, travelled by foot and mind.

Around three am, I’d go downstairs and check if he was still working, and then I might have a drink, a glass of cognac, to sip in a dim corner of the pub, waiting for the last ones to leave.

Finally we’d have the late night or early morning ritual of the onion or ham and cheese sandwich, toasted, with a mug of tea, before ascending the stairs to bed, darkness all around us, and darkness beyond the windows of that house.


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