Another dry day and I'm ready to try some dating
Scut Kelly, a drinker for 30 years, is sober now and visiting Canada for a family wedding. Then a woman with a big laugh tells him it's time to stop hiding himself away. Eugene O'Brien gives us this latest instalment of Scut's life
Well the feet haven't touched the ground since I landed in Pearson, that's the name of the airport in Toronto. Non stop, be jaysus, and now it's the big day and I'm sitting listening to wedding speeches and to be honest with ye the jet lag is hitting me so I'm kinda tuning in and out but I feel okay like.
I haven't thought about having a drink in at least an hour. Not since the waitress came around pouring the wine the first time and I had to put me hand over the glass to indicate that I wasn't having any.
But at the back of me head I'm thinking that I could sneak away at any time, into the bar and down a brandy. I could. But for now I won't. I sup on mineral water instead.
My cousin Donal is up, giving his speech and talking about his daughter Cathy and she's beaming over at him. She looks so beautiful in her white wedding dress and Al, the lad she's marrying, is dead sound.
He's from the city, of Italian stock, so there's a whole rake of eyeties here. They're gas and very friendly and everyone's clapping Donal now as he has described a time his daughter Cathy consoled him when she was only a child herself. It was the day of his mother's funeral and she was able to say the right thing to him. And it makes us all feel a bit teary.
I can't help thinking about my own people and how there was never any way of talking to them. I used to blame meself for stuff that went on at home but now I don't. They were the f**king adults. They should have looked out for me more. We all stand and clap Donal. He is on cloud nine. Sitting back down beside his wife Marion, who plants a kiss on his cheek. Jaysus, I never knew the boll**ks could speak as well.
Now the thing that is making me really want to have a drink is the fact that we have all secretly been training for the past few days to perform a flash mob dance for the groom.
Cathy made up a dance to Little Bird, his favourite song by Annie Lennox. She videoed herself doing it and sent it around so all the mates and the family have to learn the moves. And it's soon going to be time. We're supposed to be primed for action after the dessert. Like it's going to be a big surprise for him and the rest of the crowd.
Now I am not the greatest mover, bar when it was closing time at The Alley disco and I'd leap across the room to get to the closing shutters.
So the thoughts of doing a dance with people watching is giving me the scutters. Like as soon as Donal and Marion brought me from the airport to meet their daughter she told me that I had to be a part of the dance. So there was no way of getting out of it.
Cathy was born and reared in Canada and does nursing and she's a gorgeous kinda girl and real interested in me, her long-lost relation.
And her Ma Marion is real warm to me as well. I am embarrassed with them at first cause I know they know my story. How Donal tried to reach me one time. How I chased him from the house. Too drunk to want anything from him. Certainly not help.
But after a few hours I begin to relax. They are very easy to be around and they don't fuss over ye.
Anyways the big tele goes on in their sitting room and the screen is filled with Cathy doing the dance and the rest of us have to try and learn it. Well, like I was absolutely desperate. Christy Brown with a hangover.
I say this to Donal who laughs cause that's what he looks like too. Cathy asks who Christy Brown is. Donal tells her he was a great writer and artist from Dublin. He kinda does a quick impression of Daniel Day to me - "I don't need a f**king psychology lesson, I just need a light." Cathy doesn't catch this. Just as well.
We laugh and have a lovely dinner after and I'm kinda quiet but listen to them all chatting and laughing.
Al's parents arrive over and they know nothing about the flash mob dance thing so we're not to let on. And as I thought he would, Donal does indeed introduce me to everyone as Paul. Not Scut. So that's sound but I'm just not used to this stuff. This openly affectionate "honest to God" genuine joy these people are able to share with each other.
The wedding meal desserts emerge from the kitchen. A legion of waiters and waitresses like a well-trained army peg them out to the 30 or so tables. Donal passes by my table on the way to the jacks and leans into me. "How is it hanging horse?" And I say, "Great speech". "Ah, sure, thanks… it's nearly time for the you-know-what."
We both laugh and he squeezes me shoulder and says that it's great that I'm here. His eye strays to my glass of mineral water. For a split second I think he might be checking up on me. To see am I on the dry. I resent this.
Mad old paranoia rises up my gullet as he walks away. I cop myself on. He wasn't doing anything.
My pavlova arrives and I dig in. When I was drinking I never had any interest in food, never mind dessert, but now I savour every bite.
Cathy takes to the mic and we know that it's nearly time. She speaks about her new husband and his family and all that craic and then the Annie Lennox song fades up and she starts to move to the music. Al has no idea what's going on.
Her chief bridesmaid stands and starts to move as well. Gradually they break into a dance and then - Three, Two, One, Blast off!
We all charge the dance floor and get into position and then we're off, too! Al roars laughing. He can't believe it.
The rest of the guests cheer and clap. I can't remember any of the moves. I turn to my left and there's a woman beside me. And she laughs and shakes her head and she says, "I should have spent more time watching the video!" But she's pretty good and I just copy everything she's doing and I have to say she's an easy kind of a one to be looking at. Blonde and a lovely big laugh and like I have to say, a sexy body like. She's my kind of age and the song ends and the dance and we all clap and laugh and it's the best of craic.
I turn to leave the floor when the woman says, "Are you the Irish cousin?" "Yeah," I say. "I'm Sue," she says, "I work with Marion." "I'm Paul, Donal's cousin."
We shake hands and she tells me that her husband's people are originally from Cork and I kinda slag Cork people and laugh to cover up the fact that I'm browned to hear she has a husband. What did I expect? Of course she has, a grand one like her.
And she laughs and asks what part of the country I'm from and we go on talking kinda s**te until she tells me that her husband couldn't come. She's here on her own. I end up getting her a drink and we sit down as the place clears for the disco to start.
Sue is all questions about Co Offaly and the bogland and because she is into sports I tell her about Darby's goal stopping Kerry winning the five in a row in '82.
She tells me about the Toronto Blue Jays and tries to explain baseball and I ask her does she want another drink but she's okay as she's driving.
I ask her does she have any kids. She has three. The youngest one is in college. The middle one is an accountant and the oldest lad is an actor. He's is in a Canadian soap on the tele. "Go way," I say. "Is it as good as Fair City?" She shakes her head. "What?" "Ah, nothin'," I say. She's very proud of them all and mentions that her husband is away on business in Vancouver. I nod and there is a bit of a hiatus so I start babbling. Just to keep the chat going.
I tell her about the day before. Donal and Marian had taken me to Niagara Falls and before I know it I'm telling her all about it. Because something happened to me in the boat.
After the queues and the ponchos were put on and we boarded the Maid of the Mist and moved towards the American falls and then on towards Niagara. The sheer power and noise of the water drawing closer. I felt a huge inner feeling of peace. I felt free or something. We passed in closer, until the falls surrounded us. On both sides.
The deafening crash of the water and you realise that it's not mechanical or electric. We didn't build it. It's just the raw power of nature thundering down. I was soaked through and I wanted to cry.
I was alive. I was glad I was alive. I felt that if there was a heaven this is what it would feel like and I started thinking about God and the Universe and why are we all here and unless I'm going to be born again, as a dog or whatever, I will only ever have this one life so I better get doing something with it!
Sue smiles at me. She looks away like I've upset her. I ask her is she all right? She nods and says that she hasn't been to the falls for many years, not since the kids were small.
She sighs and tells me about her marriage. It is in trouble. It is becoming a kind of charade. A pretence. She goes quiet and then the Prince song 1999 comes on so she grabs my hand and pulls me up. Out on the dance floor and I let go. I boogie on down. I am doing the worst kind of old man moves but I don't care. Sue closes her eyes and sings along. "Tonight we're gonna party till it's nineteen ninety nine!" Except we're not. She needs to go. I nod and look around and see Donal and a crowd of his mates at the bar and everyone is fairly well on and drinking more and I just really feel the need to be away from it all. And Sue seems to sense this. She offers me a lift. She will get the car and meet me out front.
I tell Donal that Sue is giving me a lift back to his place. He winks at me and says "Dark horse". I shrug and laugh and leave the room, giving Cathy a hug on me way out.
We drive out towards the Weston district of the city. Sue is all chat.
"You shouldn't be hiding yourself away now, Paul. Get out and try and meet someone. Have you tried internet dating?"
I say no and I laugh at the notion and distract her with yarns about Donal when he was a child. The time he thought he was the man from Atlantis and nearly drowned in the canal. She talks about what a good friend Marion is and we arrive at the door. And she gets upset because without Marion to talk to this last while she doesn't know what she would have done. I don't really know what to say.
She says good night and leans in to kiss me on the cheek. Her face kind of stays where it is. I can feel her breath. I kiss her on the cheek. I can feel my heart pounding. Jaysus wept! I really feel like I could go in for the snog. I think she's feeling the same. But neither of us do.
We draw back from one another. She laughs and says that she has to go home now. Her husband is due back tomorrow. She needs to really talk to him. I nod and tell her that it was lovely to meet her.
I open the door and put one foot on the pavement. She says that it was a real pleasure to meet me. I get out and close the door and she drives off.
I stand in the empty house in the dark. Kinda flabbergasted. Stunned. I find the light switch. I'm on a high from meeting this lovely woman but sad too as I probably will never see her again.
I move across to the drinks cabinet and pour myself a glass of brandy. I look at it. I move it towards my lips and a load of pictures come into me head. Donal and Marion meeting me at the airport. Dancing like an egit with the flash mob. Niagara Falls. Sue's laugh and her saying, "Get out and try and meet someone".
I put down the glass. I go to the sink and pour it away. I go up to bed and lie down. Lovely and tired. Another dry day.
And I think to myself. By Jaysus, I'll do it.
As soon as I get back home, Paul 'Scut' Kelly is going on the dating scene!