The Good German
Christmas fifteen years ago, I was as depressed as anyone could be. An incontinent man with an overflowing colostomy bag couldn’t have felt worse. Oh sure, he may have smelled worse, but so what? Everyone knows it’s better to reek of shit than to feel like it. But enough about my uncle and his overflowing nappy, let’s get back to me – being too poor to afford counselling or psychiatric help, yet being wealthy enough to buy alcohol, I went out on a freezing cold St. Stephen’s night and got drunker than a Polish bus driver. The night was long and ugly and by the time I consumed my seventh Guinness I started to make that face most Irish people make which looks like they’ve just suffered a stroke. My conversation became a series of farmyard noises and around 3am with the snow falling, I made for home.
Halfway there, at Taylor’s Hill, I went down like a pair of cheap socks and slumped in heap beside the entrance to Connolly’s Pitch and Putt golf course. I don’t know how long I lay there, but when I woke I was covered in a pale blanket of snow and a man was gently slapping my face.
‘You’re going to die you know…’ This is what he said to me. ‘Come on, wake up or you will die…’
His not-drunk accent told me he was German and for this depressed, drunk, freezing-to-death Irishman, it was all I needed to pull myself together and stand up straight. Why does the German accent have that effect on us? They really are the alarm clock for all us lazy nations. Okay, okay, no more digressions – I thanked the man who introduced himself as Paul, and I made to go home. But Paul wouldn’t have me walking alone. He was genuinely worried and no matter how I protested, he wanted to accompany me on my unsteady journey.
Of course, being lonely and depressed and in need of help, there was no way I wanted to walk another four kilometres with a sincere, helpful German. So with true drunken Irish assholery, I came up with a solution: I lied and told Paul I lived in one of houses near where I had fallen asleep.
‘Great!’ said Paul. ‘I will walk you to the door!’
…And so I was forced to pick a random house and walk towards it. She-it.
Paul kept beside me, even as I opened the gate and staggered up the driveway of my fake home.
‘Thanks,’ I told him. ‘You can go now.’
‘Only when I see you open the door and get inside safely,’ he said with benign, Teutonic assurance.
I took out my house keys and fumbled them around the lock. Paul thought I was too drunk to open the door, so he took the keys off me and started his attempt at opening the door. There’s nothing quite like the rattle of the wrong keys scratching at the wrong lock. The only thing louder is a drunken Irishman trying to tell a German to fuck off in the nicest way possible. Oh hold on, there is something louder; a retired policeman waking up and coming downstairs to see two men wrestling with keys and rolling around his snowy garden.
The Good Irish
If that story concerned my past, then the next one concerns my future. What I mean is, it hasn’t happened. But it’s something I plan this Christmas. And it’s a secret so don’t tell anyone…
Most of my neighbours don’t talk that much to me. Some do, but I can tell it’s painful for them. I can’t really blame them. I’m raising my daughters to be lesbians, hiding three Jewish families in the basement and my PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE is running an abortion clinic from our kitchen (forceps!). We’ve got little in common.
But maybe I’m wrong. That’s why I plan to give them a little gift this year. There’s seven other families in the building so I can vary the presents; a poem, a cake, a photo of me, a hot water bottle, or some Challah bread? Maybe then we’ll get to know each other better, we can chat, share stories. Something tells me my neighbours may have loads of tales about annoying Germans too…