What Time Is It ?

 Monday was odd…even for me.

Elliott, our youngest, was attending a Physics week in Trinity College in that Dublin and staying with our great friends Micky & Helena. Jake and Robyn, our other two star-children, have always been fearless and travelled sans parents at their earliest opportunity, even hitch hiking across the country on occasion. But Elliott had wisely, and thankfully, shown no such enthusiasm.

So I felt it necessary to accompany him to Trinity on his first morning, just to make sure he got there OK. He was meeting Sam, another escapee from his school, St.Macartans, at the Science Gallery, and they’d go in together. We went in on the LUAS together, got off at the right stop and walked down to the Science Gallery. As we approached the archway into Trinity I spotted a young chap waiting in a doorway and asked Elliott if that was Sam. He said it was. I was making my way over to introduce myself to Sam, planning to wish them well and take a photo of them together. Elliott quickly manoeuvred himself in front of me, blocking my path.

“Thanks Dad, see you Friday.”

“But I was going to say ‘hello’ to Sam.”

“See you Friday, Dad.” He said firmly.

“But I was just …”

“Go home !”.

I felt like a besotted puppy that had started to follow his master to school and was being scolded. I whimpered slightly and turned to head away. I snuck a look back and saw the boys greet each other and head into the cobbled courtyard of Trinity, the haunting ground of Wilde, Stoker, Goldsmith, Beckett, Swift, Enright, Burke, McAleese, Robinson, and Schrodinger. They did not sneak a look at me.

“The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…..”

I messaged him before I’d made it to Grafton St. to ask him to make sure that he texted his Mum daily to let her know that he was OK and what he was up to. What I meant was ‘Please tell me you’re OK and what you’re up to.’

“Little boy blue and the man in the moon”

I made my way up to the Muji shop, I’m an absolute sucker for their gel ink ballpoint pens, and spiral backed notebooks, and always pop in when I’m in Dublin. I hadn’t realised that most shops in Dublin open at 10, so I popped into a coffee shop to pass the time. There were two staff and two customers. The customers each sat at separate tables studying their phones. The two ladies behind the counter were friendly. It was clear that the younger lady was new and being trained by the slightly older lady. I got my coffee and croissant and sat at another single table and started looking at my phone, so as to fit in.

“WHAT TIME IS IT ?” a lady shouted as she entered the shop, immediately startling all of the customers from their blue light reverie.

“Half nine.” The slightly older lady said from behind the counter.

“What time is it ?” the lady asked , slightly quieter.

“Half nine.” The coffee shop lady answered again, patiently.

“What time is it ? Is it ten ?” the lady asked again.

“Nearly ten.” One of the customers answered this time.

“Nearly ten ?” the lady asked “I’ll go so. Can I have a straw ?”

“Of course” the coffe shop lady said. “Would you like some water as well ?”

The lady nodded and took the coffee cup of water and a straw and left.

The slightly older coffee shop lady turned to her trainee and explained that she’d worked there for four years and that the lady had called in every single day at the same time , asking the same questions and receiving a water and a straw.

“She’s lovely really, but just give her the water , nothing else.”

I waited for the other customers to leave before I approached the counter. I offered the coffee shop lady €5 and asked that she give the ‘water’ lady a coffee the next day. She handed it back.

“I’m sorry, you are kind. But I did that once myself, three years ago, and then when I couldn’t do it everyday she got very upset. I really can’t. “

I took the money back, a little embarrassed.

“But if you want to give it directly to her , she always leaves here and goes left around the corner to a double doorway in the alley.”

“Is that where she works ?”

“Works ? No, that’s where she lives.”

I left and followed the route the coffee shop lady had mentioned. Around the corner was an alley , the backs of main street shops. In a double doorway, against two large bare black metal doors , buried in a number of sleeping bags were the lady from the shop holding the cup of water up to an elderly man trying to get him to take a sip.

“It’ll be good for you.”

“It’s too cold !” he scowled.

“Excuse me” I said, interrupting them.

“We’re not in the way, the man said we could stay here ‘til Thursday.” She pleaded.

“No, I’m sorry, I just wondered if you’d like a tea or a coffee ?”

“Americano, lots of milk, four sugars !” the man barked.

“And you ?” I asked the lady.

“No , I’m OK, thanks.”

I came back a few moments later with the coffee and a few croissants and handed them to the pair in the doorway.

“What are they ?” the man asked , pointing at the croissants.

“Croissants.” I said

“Croissants ??? Are you trying to kill me ? Do you know what they’ll do to my cholesterol ?”

“Be quiet Gerald, the young fella is trying to be nice.” The lady admonised.

I turned to leave. I put my hand in my pocket and took out €20 and handed it to the lady. She hid it quickly and nodded at me, saying “I’ll say a prayer for you.”

I walked away.

“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

It’s Friday now as I write this. I’ve thought of that lady every single day.

And I’ve felt that she did pray for me.



Author: paul

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