January saw me haunting the streets of Stoneybatter at every available quiet or light moment, searching for our missing cat, Butters. The plumber had let him out, and he obviously bolted, then didn't know how to get home. I grew familiar with every every single street - invariably named after an obscure Scandinavian king or one of the more agricultural parts of County Wicklow. The streets grew grubbier and darker every evening that I didn't find him, and with them my mood. The streets smelt of other cats' piss. I thought the brushes on the inside of every letterbox we posted heartfelt callusifyoufindourcat flyers through were going to eat the flesh from my hands. A young guard on a bicycle who stopped me late one night as I was checking under cars on Niall Street looked disappointed when I told him there were only Dreamies in the little bag I was clutching. He looked taken aback by my face, helpless and teary with the wind. My wife, who loves me very much, beat the streets with me more often than not, tried to tell me when it was time to knock it off for the night and bought me a lightbox to combat the dark and grubby beast that is my SAD. I took the head off her for telling me my dinner was ready one night, and hated myself more than I ever had before.
I am back in college now, part-time, adding another silly arts degree to my 'skillset' - so I sat in front of the lightbox with a history textbook or Great Expectations, letting the harsh light hit my retinas and waiting to feel better. And, stupidly, I did. I do. What a sorry mental condition to just be pining for the sun! Who wants to lose their edge, their excuse to be a prick and be bad at their job, to a high watt bulb and regular walks in the park?
Natural light slowly returned to the world just as Butters was found. Not by me - a great blow to the hero fantasy I had conjured up on cold evenings - but by a nice man called Des eight doors down. He was skinnier and had rotting teeth, but he's grand, the little fucker. Butters, that is. I have little reason to pour scorn upon the dental hygiene of Des. We gave him a bottle of Faustino V by way of a thank you. Des, that is.
So the returned cat and the improved mood leave me with just the streets to contend with. Because a place takes on everything that has ever happened there, and every bad fucking feeling you felt on it. It does. Thankfully, most of us only feel the ones that happened to us. But I've reclaimed the sofas of bereavement, school locker areas, and the lane in Wicklow where someone punched my jaw so hard that the pain made me vomit. Scraped off the residue of resentment. I will put the strut back into my Stoneybatter shuffle and the aching streets will be glad of it.