We get back to Dublin and I pick up a new product that promises to alleviate my cunt of a mouth ulcer in one fell swoop. It is acid on a swab, and it should come with a health warning. "This will sting." This will shred your fucking soul. Show me the man who doesn't shed a tear when hydroxymethoxybenzenesulphonic acid is applied to an open sore in his mouth and I will show you a man dead from the waist up. I sit in the armchair for some time, shell-shocked and self-pitying, reading a Sunday supplement.
I sit there for too long. After a fashion she perches beside me on the arm of the chair. I want her to sit on my lap, but she thinks she's too heavy. She's never been too heavy. There is good music playing, and there is the slow admission of what is really up: the difficult days approaching and the momentary sense of the impending collapse of it all. The crass guilt I have put on myself. I say very little because she knew before I did. I cling to her like an infant and she asks if I want to have a cry. I do, but I know I won't. I had a sneaky one last month.
We stand up and suddenly I'm freezing. She offers to get my jumper, but I need something else. I take off my black shirt and put on a t-shirt and a hoodie. It's bright orange and far too big. Retrospectively thinking, I may have bought it for days like this. I am an X or maybe even an XXL, but I am not an XXXL. I wonder how many men have the dubious honour of being called extra, extra, extra large by clothing companies.
She hands me a cup of tea and I smile gratefully, then shuffle out to the balcony for the day's only cigarette. I peer through the rain and count the chimneys on the grey slate rooftops. I'd never even noticed them before, but right now they're fascinating. I've been sleeping here about six months now, but I've never really lived here. We won't be here much longer.
I spend so much time broad and bearded and made out of bricks. I spend so much time six-two and smiling. I spend so much time strong and almost sensible. I spend so much time, so much time, so much time. And today I'm the small, shivering boy I thought I'd long left behind.
For half an hour, anyway.