Around Here

Before

The café is busy today, but I have a spot. It’s along the narrow, horizontal windows that look out over the green post box and Garda cars driving by. I’m at seat nine; it’s marked by a red sticker. My eyes are itchy, from the pollen, and my water bottle seems to glow a bit when I look up from a refreshingly long blink. Someone’s leftover Galway brand sparkling water, gathered from some unknown municipal pipe, wobbles as I nudge it with a misplaced elbow.

There’s a long line to get into the theatre and I’m on the wrong side of the volunteers. It’s okay, I think, because that guy, in the striped shirt must be in the cast. He looks Producer-ish, whatever that means. He says, “I don’t know why I’m nervous, it’s not like I can change anything.”

I make conversation with the guy from the Screenwriting Masterclass this morning. He asks, “Do you use any software to write?” I assume that he’s not talking about Google Docs or Microsoft Word. He starts telling me about a program that starts with ‘s’ but I’ve never heard of it. He says it again, “Scrivener, are you using Scrivener?” I know what that is because of the Longform podcast with the writer who talks about living ethical or aesthetic lives. I can never remember her name.

“I’m not using Scrivener, but I know what it is.”

After waiting a polite amount of time, I slide into the line, from the wrong direction, and drift into the theatre. I pick a prime row, closer than where I sat for Skull of Connemara a couple of weeks ago. “I’ll just sit on the edge,” I decide. Except, the angle is really quite severe. Alright, I’ll move towards the centre. “I’m just going to squeeze past you,” I say to the woman three seats in from the right.

She assures me that it’s no trouble. She’s already made a similar judgement.

Her son has a film in the Fleadh, a short. It’s supposed to debut tomorrow, but it’s not going to be done in time. I’m surprised that the film isn’t finished; she is too. She has an accent, like mine. That’s a long way to come to see an almost-debut.

My parents would do the same.

The guy in front of me is writing, neatly, in a little notebook balanced on his knee. I wonder if people notice me, with my yellow sheathed, blue capped, Bic, scratching in a logbook.

People around us are taking photos of the screen, “Around Here.” This feels like a home game; a hometown crowd.

I like being the visitor. Away from the home crowd, I’m testing out new labels, sinking into new identities. The screenwriting masterclass tells me that I can do this, write, that is. The conversation with the woman next to me, about our office jobs and making changes, makes us realize that we know some of this stuff, just from another context. I think, “I’ve never critically analyzed Men in Black before” and then, “Ed Solomon has perfectly white hair.” I’m pleased, a couple of weeks after sitting in the backroom of the pub in Listowel, to still be “a writer from Canada.”

I’ll have to email Billy and thank him for that.

The Director, Martin Beirne comes onstage. He doesn’t say much, but I hear myself, from a songwriting session with Nathan Piché and Tom McIntosh when he says, “Let go and enjoy it.”

It occurs to me that I haven’t seen any documentaries yet. It’s strange that I haven’t seen anything about The Troubles.

I’m not opposed to it.

The screen goes dark and I think, momentarily, about the word ‘we’, the film We (Wij), and the danger of the word.

“Who is the we?”

After

I love it when people clap at the end of a movie. There is cheering at the end of this movie. I love that too.

Martin and the cast walk onstage, ready for the post-film Q & A. They were working on the film until two days ago. I think, “what an accomplishment, just to finish a feature film, let alone make a good one.”

That’s what the cheering was all about; recognition of accomplishment. What a thing to have achieved.

I linger, as I walk out of the theatre. I’m caught in a gaggle of cast members, embracing for the first time since shooting the film. I shake hands with the guy who played the dad. He’s the one who looked kind of Producer-ish. He’s looking quite actor-ish now.

There’s a crowd in the lobby so I push towards the doors that lead out into the glare of another sunny day in Galway. My eyes adjust to the light and all of the characters start to come into focus. The woman who plays the mother is standing on her own, maybe checking her phone. The girl who played Helen is surrounded by family and friends; I think there’s a bouquet of flowers in there. Oh, and over to the side is one of the bullies. I’m not ready to talk to him yet.

I drift to the right, towards the woman who played the mother. We make eye contact and I stop to congratulate her. We start talking and keep at it, longer than either of us plan. We have nowhere to be. “How realistic is the role of women in the film,” I ask her. I want to know about how men are starting to express their emotions in Ireland. It seems hard sometimes. I feel like I have too many sometimes. She says that women are always caring for the men, always drawing them out.

I mention, for the first time in a long time, feeling bullied on the bus home from school. I didn’t like riding it at the end. I walked, whenever I could. I had more feelings than a boy was supposed to have, I think. She tells me that she’s sorry. I gently brush her empathy away. “It wasn’t that big of deal, in the great scheme of things.” Why am I walking it back? I’m not lying. It made me cry, at the time.

We keep talking. She’s in an Irish soap opera called Ros na Rún. It airs on the Irish-language channel. “It’s amazing, the way that you’re actively preserving the language,” I say. She speaks casually of knowing the language, fluently.

It’s no small thing.

She plays a Detective Inspector on the show. “A DI,” I supply, as if I know what I’m talking about. They shorten Detective Inspector to ‘DI’, on Broadchurch, so I figure that I’m ready for this conversation.

We go in a deeper direction, “We’re not entitled to anything as actors, none of us are really.”

Isn’t that the truth?

The conversation ends with a handshake and a slow-paced goodbye; two people who know that they’ll never see each other again. We teeter on the edge of exchanging contact information but decide to leave the moment alone.

I take a few steps in the direction of the road towards Eyre Square, then make a quick detour to congratulate the girl who played Helen. We talk briefly, about rural boys being drawn out of their shells by Snapchat and social media. There is a good side after all.

I carry on, past the impatient driver in the Audi, the bakery that I’ll never go into, and the girls tanning in Eyre Square. I find a spot, a few feet away from the base of a tree. My dad’s voice is in my head, “You know who else likes trees? Dogs…dogs like trees.”

I sit an extra couple of feet away.

I think about the women who have helped me to be who I am today. I start to make a mental list.

I play the scene from the film, where the girl finds the boy, crying in the woods. I want to be found in the woods. I’m sure that I’ve been found in the woods before; maybe even by a girl. When though? I can’t quite decide.

I remember getting off the bus, riding my bike up the hill, finding her sitting on the couch in her garage, and talking on her driveway until she stopped crying.

I probably should have cried too. Maybe then we’d have found each other, in the woods.

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