This guy just came to the window and asked if I was busy. Not busy, no. Would you take me to Ardmore, he asked then. Where’s that, I said. Just past Youghal, he said. Man, I don’t know outside Cork, I’m not from here, I said. Ninety euro the maximum fare. Ah come on, you’re doing nothing, he said. I have the money here. I’ll give you more than enough. I’ll show you where to go. It was Monday and the line wasn’t moving, so I said yes and he got in. First thing he does, he opens up a whiskey bottle. Ah man you can’t drink that in here, I said, slowing down. Ah go on, the sun is shining, he said. Have some. I don’t drink, I said. Then I had some. Just to taste. It burned my mouth, I coughed. He laughed. There you go, he said.
We drove down Lower Glanmire Road then across the skew bridge. You better fill up, he said at the petrol station. He came out with two ice-creams with chocolate sticks in them. I’m driving, I said. You’ll manage it, he said. He held them both while I steered out. I ate the ice-cream until we were passing signs for Midleton. The taste of the ice-cream with the whiskey was good. The road was wide, only a few trucks and vans. Everybody was in the city or at home with babies.
After Midleton is a village, Castlemartyr, which has a seven star hotel, then Killeagh where there is a thatched house. After Killeagh the road went on and I asked him how far away this Ardmore was. I was thinking that Ireland is a lot more spread out and peaceful than you would know from the city. It’s only up the road, he said, drinking more whiskey.
The turn for Ardmore came after we drove across the Blackwater River, which is dark and flows into the sea there. The road got small again, and when I drove around one corner the man shouted. Look, the sea, the round tower, he said. I see the sea and the sea sees me. I saw a stone tower and the blue sea, like something out of a film. I parked the car beside the sea and the man got out. Are you coming, he said. He was bending to take off his shoes.
We walked along the beach, it was empty. There was a cold wind near the sea. The man walked into it. The sea was a long way away. He carried his whiskey bottle in one hand. I walked down a little bit, then I wet the hem of my work trousers, so I came away. I sat in the car for a while. The shoes made a small bump when I reversed over them.