It’s Monday and I’m still hungover from Saturday night.
It was worth it.
I think it was worth it.
Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, and I woke to an email from the Warden, confirming all the details of the Assistant Warden job – I know which flat I’ll be living in for the year, I know which house I’ll be responsible for minding, I know when the fire safety talks will happen. I know I shouldn’t get excited by knowing the dates of fire safety talks, but I did. I just really like the idea of this job. Being around young people makes me happy, and I am awfully fond of Trinity Hall.
When I was a teenager, I used to read and re-read the Little Women series of books over and over again. I imagine other teenage boys used to flick to their favourite sexy scenes in books and read them for a different type of titillation, but the scene I read the most times in all of literature was the one in the second book (Good Wives) where Laurie declares his love for Jo and she rejects him as kindly as she can and he rows off in a rage. I used to read this scene repeatedly and have a good cry. I wasn’t your typical teenager.
Jo did eventually get married, to the kindly Professor Bhaer, and she inherited Plumfield, which they opened as a school for boys, or as she called it “a wilderness of boys”. On his first Sunday in Plumfield, she took Nat aside and showed him her book. In her book, she keeps an account of how well each boy has behaved during the week. Nat is amazed that Mrs Jo takes the trouble to write about the boys:
“I really don’t know which I like best, writing or boys,” she said, laughing to see Nat stare with astonishment at the last item. “Yes, I know many people think boys are a nuisance, but that is because they don’t understand them. I do; and I never saw the boy yet whom I could not get on capitally with after I had once found the soft spot in his heart. Bless me, I couldn’t get on at all without my flock of dear, noisy, naughty, harum-scarum little lads.”
I think I have a lot in common with Jo. I, too, am unsure as to whether I prefer writing or boys, and I think my ideal job would be one where I get to write about boys.
I dream big – I think I’ll end up a famous writer, or media personality, a noted intellectual or politician, but when I think about what I’d actually like to do, what would actually make me happy, I think I need to work with young people and I think I need to be able to write about it.
Saturday reminded me of the year ahead, when I’ll be working with 18 and 19-year-olds every day. I really can’t wait. I know that the bulk of my job will be shutting down parties, and dealing with 2:00 am fire alarms and midnight trips to hospitals and fights over boyfriends, but I’m still looking forward to it.
On Saturday, we had an open day in Hall, and I was giving tours to prospective students. They came from Limerick with their spray-tanned orange boobs hanging out of their tops, they came from Monaghan with their best tracksuit bottoms on, they came from Carlow with their deliberately messy hair, they came in their Dublin-ready finery, with anxious and soon-to-be impoverished parents in tow. I gave tours, making up the answers to questions I didn’t understand.
I can’t help thinking about this year – it’s like waiting for the second season of a TV show you really liked. Will it be as good? Will any characters be written out? Which relationships will change? What will the new characters be like?
What I didn’t expect to see at the Open Day was one of my boys. Yes, those Boys. He’s on the JCR (the student committee in Hall) and he was giving tours too.
I did a double-take. And waved to him. And we had a man chat. It was kind of muttered and awkward. This was decontextualised. But I got a grip, and soon things were normal, and I felt things fitted again. By the end of Saturday afternoon, I felt recharged. I could literally see the light at the end of the crappy tunnel that this summer has been. Things get better. And life’s good.
As it turned out three of the Boys (and one of their girls) were in Dublin for the weekend. They invited me out.
And of course I went out.
I prepared like it was a date. I shaved. I agonised over my hair. Gel was applied and re-applied. After shave was applied. Too much. I was nervous.
I met them at the house where some of the Boys will be living next year. And it was normal. It was good. It was fun. I had worried during the summer that I’d “invented” the Boys in my mind. That I didn’t really like them and/or that they didn’t really like me. That’s bollix. And I was really relieved.
The house is beautiful. Cream leather sofas. Glass furnishings. Fluffy rugs. I kind of hope it ends up looking like the kitchen in the house we lived in last year, but it probably won’t.
We got a bus to Dun Laoghaire. There was a festival of unimpressive fireworks. And worse, a ukelele festival. And it wasn’t the world’s finest ukelele players. It was Jamie from Maynooth playing “Eight Days a Week” out of tune. It was bad enough to be enjoyable.
We ate and drank. We went to one pub with velvet curtains and fluffy wallpaper that blasted 80s rock at us, and then to a late bar that played Rihanna song after Rihanna song, old men clinging to the bar and young ones on the dancefloor.
It was a great night.
I felt all warm inside at one stage, on about the fourth drink, and I leaned over to say to the boy who was nearest me “Just to warn you. I’m going to have to hug you before the end of the night.”
He promised to prepare himself appropriately.
And by the time we had drunk three more pints and were getting into the taxi home (carrying takeaway wine) I had hugged him convincingly.
We got to the house and drank more. It was all good for a while.
And then, somehow, the conversation became Deep and Meaningful. And I was talking to one of the Boys about my fears and I started bawling crying. It was 50% alcohol and 50% actual emotions.
We had what I remember as a fairly disjointed chat, and he hugged me hard, and made me feel safe, safer than I’ve felt in a long time, and that thought made me cry harder.
The volume of crying I did re-exploded the blood vessel in my nose that the doctor had cauterised last week. Blood joined the other bodily fluids coursing down my face.
He ran to get me a roll of toilet paper. I tried to clean myself up, but I missed a spot. He took the tissue from my hands and cleaned the bloody snot from my beard.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so thoroughly looked after. I kind of regained my composure at this point. The wine-drinking slowed down, but it was still at least an hour before I left.
I staggered through Rathmines at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, while elderly people bought their papers and went to Mass.
Sunday was hell. Worse. Sunday was Hell With Added Bagpipes.
I didn’t get out of bed until 6:30 pm. And the only thing I ate all day was curry chips.
I’m still hungover, but Saturday night was definitely worth it. I still feel both warm and safe inside. And what I’ve given up in brain cells and dignity, I’ve made up for in hope for a better tomorrow.