My Awkward Life | The Woman Downstairs

Me

My Awkward Life | The Woman Downstairs

This is a completely true story. 

I’ve been looking forward to this trip to Dublin for a while, I haven’t seen some of my ‘college friends’ (as they’ve become known) in well over a year, so this is going to be a great chance to catch up with all of them again.

My bags packed, I hop on the early afternoon train from my hometown of Tralee and soon, I’m passing away the approximate four hour journey on the train by reading, listening to music and generally avoiding the inevitable awkward eye contact with my fellow passenger, seated directly in front of me.

‘Don’t make conversation, don’t make conversation, don’t make conversation…’ my inner voice silently pleads with the man intermittently throughout our long journey together. 

The train pulls into Heuston Station at around 3pm and I’m soon skillfully weaving my way through the huge throng of people currently making up the stations population that day.

‘Excuse me, woah, just trying to slip through there please, thank you, sorry’. 

Before you can say ‘tourist’, I’m out on the street, hopping onto the LUAS, a ‘packed to the brim’ school bag on my back and scrolling through the messages on my phone to see what bar my friends told me they were in.

It turns out they’re in a bar at the very top of O’Connell Street and after winding my through the bustling and cheerful June crowd, I’m soon sitting in a wonderfully cool roof top bar, sipping gratefully on a nice cold pint and chatting to some of my favourite people in the world. 

All too soon though, my friends are getting up to leave, they’re heading for a concert in Croke Park and I, the ‘eejit’ that I am, forgot to get tickets so I’ll be meeting them afterwards. 

Catherine, my friend, gives me her keys and the directions to the house she shares with her elderly landlady. 

“Poifect, that’ll do the finest, enjoy your concert and send me a text when you’re finished and I’ll meet you all out afterwards,” I said to her as she departs. 

I’m finished my pint a few moments later and I head back down to street level where I hail down a taxi. 

“Can you take me to Kimmage?” I ask the driver, just about stopping myself from saying ‘You know, the place from the Monopoly board’, knowing that he’s probably heard that (still brilliant) joke a thousand times. 

“I sure can, hop in.”

It’s a pleasant enough journey in which I manage to bluff my way through GAA talk with generic phrases I’d learnt from work

“Ah shur look, Eamonn Fitz has done a great job down there, we’ll just hope Gooch is back firing soon yano.

“That diving is taking the game to the dogs shur, a disgrace so it is” I say to him, wondering to myself if this is anyway correct. 

I think he buys it though, he’s nodding away to himself, “Mmmhmm, you’re dead right son”, I’m quickly giving myself an imaginary pat on the back.

As I depart the car, I watch him drive away knowing that he’s probably thinking to himself ‘this young fella sure knew a lot about his football’. 

I let myself into Catherine’s house, head up stairs to her room, drop my bag and sink onto the soft bed, where I lay relaxing on my phone for the next while. 

A short time later, the front door downstairs opens and I hear what must be the elderly landlady returning home, she potters around downstairs for a few minutes before I hear her shuffling feet making their way up to the second floor. 

‘I wonder if she knows I’m here?’ I think to myself, sitting on the edge of the bed.

The landlady is now in her bedroom and directly across from her room is the room where I’m now sitting, pondering to myself about what is the best way to let her know that I’m in the house. 

‘Okay, maybe I could say this’ 

  • ‘Hello, I’m Fergus, Catherine’s friend and I’m just staying here while she’s at the concert, I hope that’s okay. 

‘Or this’

  • ‘Hey there, didn’t mean to scare you, just wanted to let you know that I’m Catherine’s friend and I’m here in the house. 

However by the time its now taken for me to come up with a line to introduce myself with, the landlady has now returned downstairs. 

That’s when it hits me.

‘Oh god, by me not introducing myself when she was up here, she’s now going to assume that she’s here in the house alone’ I realise. 

‘So If I go down now, she’s going to wonder why I didn’t just introduce myself when she was right next door to me upstairs, she’ll think I’m sort of…weirdo’ I panic. 

‘I can’t let that happen, it’s be too awkward if I went down now so…think Fergus, think!’

Brainwave!

‘I’ll just sit up here, quiet as a mouse, until Catherine gets home/or even better, the old lady heads away again and I can sneak out unnoticed and walk back in like I’ve just arrived’. 

‘I mean realistically, how long could Catherine be gone for…’

What follows is some of the longest SEVEN hours of my life as I sit trappedin complete silence, in a creaky floored bedroom, in an elderly landlady’s house, in Kimmage of all places. 

Here’s how it all looked on Facebook at the time:

The Woman Downstairs

“My life is a sitcom right now”-Fergus Dennehy, 2015

During these seven hours, I occupy myself by staring at the ceiling, using up all of my mobile data, reading the instructions on for a laptop and watching the sunlight through the window as it disappears slowly away into evening time.

This eventually leaves me sitting in the complete darkness of nighttime, unable to turn on the light or indeed even try and reach for the light switch across the room, for fear it alerts the woman downstairs to my presence. 

‘I can’t remember the last time I spoke…’ my now addled mind rambles. 

‘I can’t remember life outside this room…’

‘This is the longest anyone has ever gone without moving, ever…’ my mind now descending further into the deepest depths of madness. 

The landlady meanwhile, has not left the house.

Instead she has, by my hearing anyway, cooked dinner, put on the laundry, cleaned the house and is now watching Coronation Street. 

There’s no sign of Catherine, my texts to her going unanswered so far.

Hearing the start of a new show downstairs, ‘I’m going to be here for a while yet,’ I inwardly groan.

Fast forward: it’s now midnight, I’ve been trapped been here since 5pm and I’ve lost all sense of time and the outside world. 

Suddenly though, a glimmer of hope appears as I hear the landlady switching off the TV, heading upstairs and into her bedroom and the sound of a bed creaking.  

Hearing nothing for a few minutes, I decide that now is the time to move. 

I grab my spare clothes out of my bag and very, very, very carefully change on top of the bed. 

‘I’m getting out of here, I might actually pull this one off!’ I think proudly. 

With everything ready, I move to grab my phone from where it’s been charging and without even thinking, I pull the phone charger from the socket: 

CLICK, CLICK. 

I’m almost home free when suddenly: 

“Hello? Who’s there? Is there someone here?” comes the elderly voice in the bedroom. 

I’d been rumbled. 

‘All of that, for nothing…’ I mumble, finally getting to exercise my vocal chords again.

The landlady is out of bed now and after introducing myself, (and making up a story of how I was napping the entire time I’ve been here) this lovely elderly woman in Kimmage, whose house I’ve been trapped in all evening, brings me downstairs, makes me a sandwich, some tea and we watch a full of episode of ‘The Fall’ together. 

It was magical. 

 

This has been ‘My Awkward Life’, if you like it, please share or tell your friends and if you have any recommendations or queries, please get in contact. 

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