In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day I have written a short story called Meeting At The Parade. Hope you all enjoy! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours! 🙂
He took a cigarette out of his pack and I lit his cigarette. Although he looked like a cool rock star just taking a casual pull on his cigarette I knew it was really his introvert’s mechanism to cope in a crowd and boy was the crowd large at the annual Dublin City parade. Usually he wouldn’t be so on edge. His motto was if I don’t have to talk to anyone for a prolonged period of time I shall be just fine. But today he was meeting my family for the first time and it was an understatement to say that he was clearly bricking it.
“They’ll love you Aaron.”
“Yeah I know. I’m fine Jake.”
“You don’t need to put me at ease …”
“I’m not! I will be fine.”
“If you fuck it up I’ll still marry you. You wouldn’t be my first boyfriend that my family despised.”
“I have dated some assholes. You’re a saint in comparison to most of them.”
“I’m not nervous.”
“Of course you’re not.”, I smile sarcastically.
“Bob, is there no way we can possibly get there a bit faster? I said we’d be there by 1.”
“Mary, traffic is congested. There is a parade on today or hadn’t you noticed woman?”, replied my husband in an agitated manner.
“How come we’re only meeting this bloke now?”, asked my youngest son Rory from the back seat of the car.
“Ah but mother he could be a serial killer for all we know.”
“Rory dear he’s not a serial killer! I trust your brother’s judgement. If he loves him he must be a good sort.”
“I don’t. Do you remember that guy Leon? He’s in prison now for armed robbery! Jake was in love with him for a while too!”
“Yeah, well he was one of the Clancy’s. They are all a bit like that. Runs in the family the criminal streak. His father held up the grocery store when he was younger. Mind it was a bit of excitement at the time.”
“And don’t get me started on Ray Carroll …”, chimed in my eldest son Ronnie who was sitting beside Rory.
“Now that’s enough boys. It isn’t like all of your girlfriends were angels.”
“Ray Carroll was high at the dinner table! Jake just thought he was full of energy and and vibrancy for life. I swear he was sniffing in our bathroom between courses!”
“Well that was never confirmed Ronnie dear. Although his mother was a tearaway in her youth. Mind she never really grew out of it. I’m convinced that’s what drove that poor husband of hers to his death. And I remember him when he was younger. He was a good-looking man, always had a steady job. Sure by the end he was a wreck. The ‘ole drink got the better of him. You worked with him for a bit didn’t you Bob?”
“In the graveyards, yeah. FÁS. Had that job for years till the back gave way.”
“It brought in good money for us that job.”
“There’s the parade now Mary. I’ll just find us a parking spot.”
In the distance I see my mum, dad and two brothers trying to make their way through the crowd.
“There they are now.”, I say tipping Aaron on the shoulder.
He breathes heavily.
“You’re not been brought to the gallows Aaron. Relax.”
“I am relaxed.”, he protests.
“Just be yourself.”
“I am going to be. That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re the only one who thinks there is. They’ll love you as much as I do if you just relax.”
“What sort of hair has that young lad? I thought he was a girl.”, Bob said upon spotting Jake’s fiance.
“He’s a hippie rocker type. He’s definitely on drugs!”, Rory replied.
“Now stop, we can’t slur the young man’s character like that Rory until we’ve got to know him.”, I said.
“We didn’t wear hair like that in my day unless we wanted to be bet up!”, Bob added.
“Well Bob dear times have moved on. I’m sure it’s probably a popular trend nowadays.”
“He’ll be reciting poetry soon enough. Mark my words. Where does he find them?”, Ronnie pitched in.
“Let’s give the lad a chance. Maybe he’ll even eventually cut that hair of his.”, I replied as we got nearer to Jake and Aaron.
“Did you all have a pleasant journey up from the country?”, I asked as my family joined us.
“You know that road near the roundabout Jake? Still as bumpy as ever! They still need to fill in them potholes!”, my father said.
“Everyone, this is Aaron. Aaron, this is my mum Mary, my dad Bob, my older brother Ronnie and my baby brother Rory.”
“It’s really lovely to meet you all.”
So far, so good.
Everyone engages in a customary hugging session to break the ice further.
“We have been looking forward to meeting you too Aaron. Jake told us noth- so much about you.”, my mother said.
“All good I hope.”
Two sentences Aaron. Hallelujah.
“Indeed. But you really must fill in all the details … all the missing details he left out.”
My mum is been her usual nosy self. Yes, Aaron this will require many more sentences.
“Oh for heaven’s sake Mary be honest with the lad, we know nothing about him except he picked him up on some street in London.”, my overly honest father says.
I silently think that I’m going to be slapped across the face later and talk quickly.
“Not a street necessarily. A cafe on a street in the smoking area outside where we met and got talking. And we’d met a good few times at the cafe prior to him getting into my car.”
“And you dropped me off at my flat.”, Aaron adds in that tone of voice of his that always suggests to me that my life is going to come to an untimely end.
I mouth silently that I’m sorry and he gives me a stare as if to say you’re not forgiven. It’s obvious that nobody notices that I’m probably going to be dissected when Rory says,
“Were you wearing them clothes when he picked you up? Skinny jeans?”
“I was as a matter of fact. Look I think you all have the wrong impression of me. I am not a prostitute!”
“Nobody’s suggesting you are. I mean Auntie Regina used to stand outside bars waiting for men and she wasn’t a prostitute.”, Rory replies.
There’s silence. Aunt Regina is my father’s sister and everyone knows she was on the game but the news doesn’t seem to have filtered through to Rory.
“I wasn’t waiting outside the cafe for a man …”, Aaron says indignantly and I’m careful not to meet his eye line because he’s fuming.
This bypasses my father who says,
“Aunt Regina had her ways. We don’t like to talk about her lifestyle choices.”
Rory’s mouth falls open.
“Auntie Regina was a prostitute?!”
“Times were hard son. She was bringing up them two children on her own and Frank wasn’t much good. He was always on the bottle.”, my mother explains.
“Well that’s not Aaron’s line of work.”, I say trying to bring this to an end.
“It fucking isn’t.”, Aaron adds defiantly.
“Auntie Regina, wow.”, Rory says.
“That’s enough about Aunt Regina.”, my father says.
“Let’s all find a spot near the front to enjoy the parade.”, my mother says like we had all just had a pleasant conversation about the weather.
As we stood watching the parade I endeavoured to find out more about the man who was to become my son-in-law.
“So what is it that you do?”, I ask.
“I’m a student. English Literature.”
I can hear Ronnie whispering to Rory behind me,
“Told you! Now we’ll hear about Wordsworth or some other geezer.”
“Not exactly a geezer. Sylvia Plath.”, Aaron says.
“Oh she’s not the best example dear. Didn’t she kill herself?”
“Well I just like her poetry but it was sad what happened to her. She must have been really upset in her life.”
Rory and Ronnie roll their eyes but I rather like his compassion. If he has compassion after all for a poet he never knew it means he is more than likely gentle to Jake. Although the interest in poetry must be extremely boring for Jake to have to listen to. We never encouraged that artsy fartsy nonsense in our house.
“And do you have other interests?”
“I like old films. Alfred Hitchcock.”
“He’s going to bump you off Jakey boy.”, Rory laughs.
“I used to watch them. Don’t anymore. I’m guessing you like music.”
“Mainly rock, folk and soul. Maybe a bit of country too. What do you like?”
“In music? Well I loved Herman’s Hermits back in the day. Peter Noone, I had a bit of a crush on Peter Noone. Never really got that whole Beatlemania but my sister now Gail she was in love with John Lennon. Cried like the rain when he was died. I liked Elvis too and of course Cliff. Robbed in the Eurovision he was.”
“Yeah he was.”
The Eurovision. Now we’re finding some common ground.
“Do you watch it?”
“My sister is obsessed with it. I go over to her place each year where she does hold her Eurovision party.”
“Swanky, is it?”, Ronnie asks with his nose turned up.
“No, it’s a bit of popcorn and a few cans of lager. Maybe a cheap bottle of wine if we can afford it that week.”
I can see Rory’s and Ronnie’s grimacing scowls soften. Good sign.
As we walk from the parade I notice that Aaron and my father are engaged in conversation so I walk behind them and listen in.
“What are your intentions with my son?”
“My intentions? I love him very much and I want to marry him.”
“And will this be a forever type marriage or not? Because nowadays they aren’t always. I’ve been invited to so many second and third marriages of some of the young people in this family and I look forward to the next. If Elizabeth Taylor lived now she’d be in fashion with what’s going on. And you know maybe it’s for the best divorce came in, because it wasn’t there when I married Jake’s mother, it wouldn’t be heard of, you made your bed and you lay in it, because some people aren’t happy. But I would like to see Jake happy. I’ll never forget when he was sixteen and some young fella, his name escapes me, cheated on him and subsequently left him for the lad he cheated on him with and my god there was tears and wailing into the night like the sounds of a banshee and …”
“I’m not going to hurt him Mr. Murphy.”
My father stares at Aaron for a moment like he’s sizing him up before speaking.
“Well in that case, call me Bob. There’s no need for these formalities where family is concerned.”
“Ok Bob.”, Aaron smiles as they walk on.
We all arrive at a nearby pub and order in some drinks. Aaron takes a long gulp of his drink and it is only then that it dawns on me how nerve-wracking today must have been for him. He didn’t know us from Adam after all. But what he didn’t realise was that it was also a very nerve-wracking experience for us too. We may have been extroverted by nature but it was always nerve-wracking meeting new people for anyone. It is really rather endearing because he clearly loves and cares a lot about Jake to worry what we think of him.
“I didn’t know an Englishman could drink faster than me!”
“You’d be surprised.”, Aaron smiles back.
We raise our glasses and gently knock them off each other.
“Slainte. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”, we say in unison.
I stand out in the smoking area of the pub and Aaron comes out to me.
“I’m sorry about …”, I begin.
“Yeah you should be.”, he interrupts.
“Our wires got crossed. I said I met you in the cafe on the street and my dad must have picked it up wrong. He worries that every man I get in with is a bad one.”
“Well if you were wailing like a banshee I’m not surprised.”
“I wasn’t wailing! I cried a few tears …”
“Hard man.”, he laughs with playful sarcasm and pulls me into him.
“I love you Aaron more than I’ve ever loved anyone.”
“Even the fella you wailed like a banshee over? Sorry cried a few tears over?”
“I was sixteen for fuck’s sake!”, I laugh.
“Yes, far more than Mark! I wasn’t even in love with him. I just thought I was. I didn’t even know what love was until I met you actually.”
“I love you too.”
“More than any of your exs?”
A grin curves the side of his mouth.
“What are you smiling about?”
“You know when we were on our first date and I listed all those names of guys I was supposedly with?”
“I was making them up. Taking random names from my head and the waiter’s name tag. I wasn’t with anyone before you. You’re engaged to an introvert or hadn’t you noticed?”
“Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“Because I didn’t want you to think I was sad or weird or a freak …”
“I’d never think that of you.”
“But you didn’t know me then. I thought you’d be on the next bus home as fast as you could.”
“For the record I’d have stayed.”
“I know that now. Some prostitute I’d make.”
“And I love you because you wouldn’t make a good one. But is it wise that we get married when you haven’t sowed your oats?”
“I hit the jackpot when I met you. How many people go through bad boyfriend after bad boyfriend in a search to meet the one? I met the one first time round. I don’t need to sow any oats. I’m not that into farming anyway.”
“Ok then future husband.”
“Ok then future husband.”, he smiles and we begin to kiss passionately.