Post 64 – ‘You men are all the f**king same!’ – try some tempestuous Irish passion in this chapter extract from HARPS & TEARS

I am daydreaming in Dublin’s Trinity College park when a smiling student walks by with an armful of books.

“It’s a grand day,” she says, and I agree. It’s an idyllic place where carefree youngsters hold hands and laugh about life.

Perhaps I should enrol somewhere on a course in philosophy, or maybe I could find a mantra and practise transcendental meditation. I need more meaning and substance in my life, and I’m looking longingly after the student with the books when my phone rings.

“Hi there!” a serious female voice exclaims.

“Claire”

Shouldn’t I have been calling her? Is she going to charge me a fee if we meet … and is there any future in our seeing each other again?

“How’s your friend?” I ask.

“She’s coping, I think … but the drugs she needs are expensive, and she doesn’t have the right sort of insurance.”

If she’s a pal of Claire’s in the professional sense, she might have AIDS, which would of course bring a lot of censure from mature elements in parts of Ireland. But I’m allowing myself far too many negative thoughts, and why am I deliberately trying to exclude someone I like?

“Do you fancy meeting?” she asks.

“Sure … yes –”

“You seem uncertain?”

“No – I want to see you … now!”

“OK … come up to Grady’s Bar in Cuff Street. I suppose you could say it’s my local … and we’ll take it from there.”

Almost everywhere in central Dublin is within easy walking distance. So I banish my doubts, and when I’ve consulted my pocked-sized street finder, I work out a way up to the Liberties. This part of town was once the red light district, where respectable Victorian and Edwardian guys would venture out for forbidden pleasures with fallen women.

I get lost at the back of Dublin Castle, and for a moment I’m thinking of the cop, MacInerney, emerging with a short truncheon and a pair of metal toed boots. But I then hurry on towards a street where a cook from Bangladesh once cut up a reluctant female companion. It was a gruesome story about an unhappy love affair, which ended as the chef put his victim into a cooking pot and then tried to flush her down a blocked drainage system.

These cuttings library snippets keep intruding as I approach Grady’s Bar. It’s a pretty basic sort of establishment, and unlike Docherty’s off Grafton Street it doesn’t look like it’s had a lick of paint – let alone a makeover – since the day it was built, just about the time that Queen Victoria would have passed on.

It’s got a lot of atmosphere though, which clearly appeals to the intellectuals and intense students who are mingling in with their books and literary periodicals amongst the locals: Pensioners and low paid working people, who still live in a few of the Georgian tenements that haven’t yet been taken up and made over by astute developers.

“Hi ye!” Claire exclaims when she arrives almost half-an-hour later.

She’s wearing a Gucci sweatshirt with jeans, no make up, and a New York Redsox baseball cap.

You look great, I’m thinking when she apologises for being late and I ask the ageing publican for an orange juice and a glass of stout.

“You know about this place … the Liberties?” she asks.

“Yes – I read about it in my guide book.”

“They’ve only recently converted the gas lamps to electricity, and it’s where the film people come if they want to get a feel of what sex and sin used to be like in old Dublin”

She arrived in the Liberties four years previously after an interlude with a Jewish furrier in Capel Street. He felt that Claire reminded him of his daughter, who had disappeared, and in return for her listening to him and ministering occasionally to his limp member he set her up in a flat with a generous lease.

“He’s gone now though, and the developers have made a few secure tenants – including myself – an offer we can’t refuse. I’ve got to be out though by the end of the month … and then I’m off to Australia.”

It seems like a place that’s very far away, and I’m wondering if I might take a sabbatical there when Claire leans across the rough wooden bar table to get hold of my eyes.

“Come … I’ll take you on a tour,” she says.

I’ve still got half a glass of Guinness on the table, but it’s not a time to wobble. So I give a wave towards the publican, who’s reading about horse racing at Leopardstown and the Curragh, and I then follow Claire as she walks confidently towards the door.

At High School there was an art teacher that my new friend reminds me of. Whenever she walked down a corridor in front of me, I used to tremble uncontrollably. It was, I think, the way her hips moved. I have the same feeling now, and I’m once again hooked by the metronomic oscillations across the coarse fabric of Claire’s 501s.

There are still cobblestones on some of the side streets, but the fine lines of the crumbling Georgian houses are diminished by the narrow spaces between the buildings, which means they don’t get a lot of light and all the time I’m feeling I’m on a film set: A place maybe that could suddenly throw up John Millington Synge or a Yeats brother, or one of Sean O’Casey’s gunmen might emerge at any moment from the shadows.

“Even to be seen here would be enough to destroy a girl’s reputation in those days,” Claire tells me while I take in a plaque on a house wall that says a doctor called Devane had once attended to the sick and needy of the surrounding neighbourhood. Perhaps he was an upright and selfless man. Or maybe, occasionally, he would succumb to the temptations of those girls who sauntered by with provocative bustles.

“And this is my place,” she announces when we’ve walked around the old Dublin red light district, which presently draws tourists with clicking cameras from around the world.

Claire’s building is an untouched Georgian tenement with the original fanlight over the door and dark common parts around a creaking staircase. Inside, her apartment isn’t much different, with years of grime on the outside of the windows and sparse furnishings. From the living room though, I glimpse an ugly plaster crucifix with a soulful god figure looking down on a large double bed with a bright Mexican counterpane.

“I can’t get away from my Catholic roots,” Claire explains with a wry smile while taking a bottle of white Bordeaux from a rumbling fridge in a space that passes for a kitchen.

Outside on the film set street with the recently converted gas lamps and the hundred year old paving slabs, I can see her sleek black Mazda sports car. It gives me a sort of reality check about where I am and who I’m with. I’m half expecting Miss Hanlan the working girl business woman to present me with a bill for hundreds of Euros. But she’s coming over with the wine and rolling her tongue invitingly along the edge of her seductively rounded bottom lip.

“Why don’t we just forget about the chat and go to bed,” she suggests. “Otherwise, I suspect you’re going to get confused and addled with thoughts – when all you really want to do is to get your cock out and to start fucking me all the way up to the stars.”

There isn’t time on this occasion to pause and admire her beautiful body, and in particular the breasts and hips that a painter or sculptor would die for. The plastercast Christ has family history associations however. It has me thinking of my own Irish relatives, and great uncle or grandpa whoever, who possibly sowed the conjugal seeds of life for their wives with thoughts of the Lord and his Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary.

Claire then kisses me unexpectedly, and when we reach the bed under the plaster cast feet of the holy Lord Jesus, she says she wants to squat across my torso.

“And when you’re inside of me, I’ll tell you about the part of my life that brought me here … only you mustn’t come until I’ve finished.”

It’s like saying to an expectant and excited kid how they can have this delicious lollipop or fruit in their mouth, only they’re not allowed to suck or swallow it – at least until the person who gave it to them has read out a story.

It doesn’t matter though, and she’s still smiling as she kneels astride my hips and then moves to enclose me with the lips between her thighs. I would like to have licked her clitoris or to have fondled her breasts for a while – but we have a deal: I can have seconds, without payment, if I do the business to her satisfaction on our first session.

“My father worked at the Guinness brewery,” she tells me, “and we all lived in a slum at the back of the Four Courts.”

It was a traditional working family set up, only the mother was out of it mentally, which meant the father was left to fend for himself. He was angry and frustrated about this and one night he came home in a drunken state that was worse than usual. He swore and urinated in the corridor, and he then came into the bedroom where Claire was and demanded that his sixteen-year-old daughter should pull down the sheet and open up her legs for Dada.

He apparently did the same with her only sister, who immediately left the house and went off to Australia. But when one of Claire’s brothers tried to follow in his father’s footsteps a few weeks after she was assaulted and raped, she hit him with a cast iron frying pan. It was a murderous but necessary reaction, and as an ambulance came to take her brother to the Jervis Street hospital, she walked out of her family home and never returned.

“Oh … oh – Jesus!” I yell involuntarily as her vaginal muscles contract around me and we set off on a tumultuous Irish roller coaster. It has Claire coming down eventually to lie on my chest, which gives me a chance to caress the cheeks of her ass until she starts to moan. A physical and emotional tsunami has started and it’s escalating. We’re away, and when a scream finally erupts in Claire’s throat, I feel I’m lifting off and being catapulted into orbit.

“I should maybe make you pay for your pleasure,” she says later. But I’m way past caring. I’ve ascended into another world, and I feel – as the Catholics would have it – in a state of grace as her head rests contentedly in the crook of my arm.

“This hasn’t happened for a while,” she tells me when I respond with a squeeze.

“What?”

“You know … just now … and the other day at the hotel.”

Does it mean I might get a discount? Only I’ve never been here before. Not even in the initial period with Angela, when love was blind and we thought Isla de Mujeres in Mexico was a piece of paradise. There is a thought lurking about what Claire got up to with all of the other guys over her five year stint as a working girl. But I don’t want to spoil any of what I’ve experienced with her by getting too heavy or righteous, or by over analysing my feelings.

“Would that get me another glass of wine do you think … or maybe even a cup of tea?”

It’s crass of course, and it probably came out the wrong way. For it’s got her leaning up unexpectedly on an elbow, and there’s fury in her eyes.

“Jeazus Christ … you men are all the fucking same!” she shouts. “You’re fucking heathens – the lot of you!”

With that she gives me a fierce wallop across the jaw with her open hand.

“Hey … ease up – chill out!” I shout while trying to protect myself from anymore of this volatile Irish anger.

It’s over now though, and when she’s taken my face in her hands, she brushes my lips with her own.

“I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “I’ve got a lot of anger inside of me … and we will have tea or wine, or whatever it is you’d like. Only I want you to do it for me again now … and if I come, I want you to kiss me on the mouth … and you won’t have to pay.”

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