It was pouring with rain when Lisa’s plane landed at Dublin airport early on Saturday afternoon. When she’d taken off from London, she’d foolishly assumed that she couldn’t possibly feel worse, but one look at the rain-soaked view of Dublin made her see the error of her ways.
Dermot, her taxi-driver to the city-centre, only added to her grief. He was chatty and amiable and Lisa didn’t want chatty and amiable. She thought with longing of the psychotic, uzi-carrying madman who might have been driving her taxi, if only she was in New York.
‘Have you family here?’ Dermot asked.
‘A boyfriend, so?’
When she wouldn’t talk about herself, he talked instead. ‘I love driving,’ he confided.
‘Whoop-de-doo,’ Lisa said nastily.
‘Do you know what I do on my day off?’
Lisa ignored him.
‘I go for a drive! That’s what I do. And not just down to Wicklow, either, but a long one. Up to Belfast, over to Galway, or across to Limerick. One day I made it as far as Letterkenny, that’s in Donegal, you know… I love my job.’
On and on he went, as they inched through the wet, greasy streets. When they got to the hotel in Harcourt Street, he helped her with her several bags and wished her a pleasant stay in Ireland.
Malone’s Aparthotel was a strange new breed of hostelry – it had no bar, or restaurant, or room service or anything really, except for thirty rooms, each with small kitchen areas attached. Lisa was booked in for a fortnight and hopefully by then she’d have found somewhere to live.
In a daze, she hung up a couple of things, looked out at the grey view of the busy road, then flung herself out on to the damp streets, to inspect the city that now constituted home.
Now that she was actually here, the shock
hit her with unprecedented force. How had her life gone so horribly wrong? She should be strolling along Fifth Avenue right now, and not in this drenched village.
The guide-book said that it would only take half a day to walk around Dublin and see all its important sights – as if that was a good thing! Sure enough, less than two hours was enough to check out the high spots – read shopping – both north and south of the river Liffey. It was worse than she’d expected: nobody stocked La Prairie products, Stephane Kélian shoes, Vivienne Westwood or Ozwald Boeteng.
‘It’s total pants! A one-horse town,’ she thought, in mild hysteria, ‘and the horse is wearing last-season’s Hilfiger.’
She wanted to go home. She longed for London so badly, then through the mist she saw something that made her heart lift – a Marks & Spencers!
Normally she never went near them: the clothes were too dowdy, the food too tempting, but today she flung herself through the entrance like a pursued dissident seeking asylum in a foreign embassy. She resisted the urge to lie, panting, against the inside of the door. But only because the door was automatic. Then she immersed herself in the food department because it had no windows and didn’t interfere with her fantasies.
I’m in the High Street Kensington branch, she pretended to herself. In a moment I’m going to leave and drop into Urban Outfitters.
She idled in front of the fresh fruit. No, I’ve changed my mind, she decided. I’m in the Marble Arch branch As soon as I’ve finished here I’m going to South Molton Street.
It gave her a peculiar comfort to know that the melon salads in front of her were part of the diaspora of melon salads in all the London branches. She pressed slightly on a taut cellophane lid and felt a sense of belonging – faint but real