The mixture of sea air, restaurants and old wood felt familiar as we walked up Mainguard Street past the traffic pilings. I wonder how many cities would survive if they cordoned off their downtown area from motor traffic. I realize Galway has spread to more modern areas and this was really the tourist spot, but a huge proportion of tourists here would be American, and Americans hate being separated from their steel support systems.
It was disturbing as ever to see the McDonald’s on Shop Street. I don’t have anything against fast food; not much, anyway, but it’s like going to a nice Italian restaurant and they’re playing rock music over the sound system.
In front of the pale blue Wedgwood exterior of Bennett’s Treasure Chest at Castle Street, another cute redhead (there weren’t as many as you’d think, it being Ireland and all) was having her picture taken. Bennett’s was changing out their window decorations, and between the two completed windows was one with only a pair of shiny white nude-looking headless manikins. Womanikins, really. An older gent was waving the redhead back to pose for a photo. Just before he snapped it, she glanced over her shoulder to see two shiny white buttocks over each shoulder. I’ll never forget the look of affectionate indulgence in her eyes as she let dad snap the ridiculous shot which she probably knew was going to end up on his desk at work, or better still, his website. Not many teens would have tolerated it. She almost made me wish I’d started a family back before I was too old.
Siobhan’s face seemed to mirror the wistful expression I could feel on my own. I couldn’t tell if she’d seen the pair taking the photo or if it was inspired by something else entirely.
“Supper, before we talk.” No argument from me.
We ate at a touristy place called “The Quay.” Not that it was a bad kind of touristy, just not the authentic local place I’d have preferred. At least it wasn’t the joint I knew was down the street: “La Salsa Taqueria”, serving all kinds of Mexican items, and, according to their painted window, “Gringo Food” as well. Having spent half my childhood in Tijuana, I’d never had the courage to try Mexican in Galway.
The delicious smells of fresh fish frying and splattered with vinegar mixed with old leather and dead cigarettes as we noshed our cod and potatoes.
“Long drive; I’ll be right back.” She stepped into the hallway under the sign that said “Toilets Here.”
I had the urge to leave. So far she’d done nothing but avoid my questions, drag me cross country, and rebuff my advances. What kind of relationship was that?
I stood up. Checked my pockets—yup, still had 45 Euro. Thanks for the fish, Mr. American Tourist, but I’m moving on. Time to be proactive.
I was so close. So close to finally being smart. Or, close to smart finally doing me some good.
I hadn’t even seen them come in; I was getting comfortable in my environs and not paying attention, or maybe I was so focused on deciding whether Siobhan was dangerous or not that I didn’t have the mental energy to watch for other enemies, if they were enemies.
“Dr. Martin, please, don’t go yet. We should talk.”
The speaker couldn’t have kept me there if he’d wanted to; he was the second smallest man I’d met in Ireland, after the ex-Mr. O’Quinn. His compatriot was another matter. A giant, in acres of Armani, he had me sitting back down and slid against the far edge of the booth as if I hadn’t existed.
The big hard lump in his pocket had smacked my elbow hard enough to hurt. A big metal lump, not even in a holster. Sloppy, but probably effective.
I decided not to go yet. I didn’t decide whether we should talk.