I've decided to go ahead and jump over Part 2 and talk a little bit about what happened after my exams. Not immediately, mind, but about three days after. I've decided that part 2 is going to be more a treatise about the feasibility of defending several Dublin locations in the wake of phase 3 of a Z-virus outbreak. Not much to do with debauchery and adventure, more of a strategic exercise.
There was the usual panoply of end-of-days roleplay: the goodbyes, the sincere (and patently not-so-sincere) promises to keep in touch, the many retroactive wishes that "we'd gotten to know each other better" and the inevitable messy leavers dos. All par for the course, and suitably corrosive on the old liver. I had been unceremoniously thrown out of my old gaff on campus (the cell that overlooked the methadone clinic and the homeless shelter that I'll talk about later) by the day after my final exam by the putrid, money-grabbing whores of the TCD administration and my pal R's boyfriend let me crash in his super man-pad while he stayed over. Serious comfort. I caught up with some of my 'tribe' and discussed zombies (stay tuned for all this later...) and after a few days of hazy post-exam delirium, I found myself at 8.30 am at the architectural beauty-spot that is Dublin airport.
My parents, in one of my occasional telephone talk-conversations, had somehow gleaned that I was somewhat stressed and that I needed a break. When they suggested this, I had of course growled at them, but they were astute enough to realise that the exams were taking their toll. Thus, they gamefully paid for air tickets to the Czech Republic, so that my swashbuckling (quote hottie unquote) older brother, Ruairí could get a visit from...well, me.
What follows is a three-part attempt to chronicle what happened when I went to visit my brother...
Day 1 - Monday: Homophobe-Baiting in Transit and Operation Anthropoid.
The flight was the typical affair. Ryanair doing their absolute best to treat everyone like complete shit in some weird form of Pavlovian conditioning designed to make us feel claustrophobic and greasy when we hear ice-cream van, funboy europop, but I was seated in an exit seat and there was plenty of space for my legs. I settled down to listen to my TERRIBLE TERRIBLE SECRET in comfort and watched Ireland zoom away, dreaming about someday meeting Ilyana Kadushin...
As I listened, lazily watching the beleaguered cabin crew telling us how not to die, I noticed the man sitting two seats away. He was one of those 50's-born midlanders, made mostly of devout Catholicism and fried breakfasts, and still high on the fumes of Brylcreem from his tame, agrarian youth. He sat, his bushy beard quivering, a look of puzzlement on his face as he stared at the tanned, toned and very camp steward. The 'how-not-to-die' class ended and soon the food was rolling up and down. The steward, a lovely guy (as much as over-worked, under-paid air staff can be lovely) who looked like the 'Hallo? Salut!' guy from Ozone (and possibly was him) bustled past us with his cart, when the bearded prick beside us muttered 'faggot'. I say muttered, but in the sense of someone trying to mutter during a gale, beside a rock concert, whilst riding a Vincent Black Shadow, and to an elderly relative, expecting to be heard clearly. The poor guy stopped, his shoulders dropped, he gave a shuddering breath, and then slowly walked on, clearly hurt.
I was pained to say (a brief) farewell to Ilyana, but a plan formed in my mind, and I was hell-bent on giving this guy the most uncomfortable flight of his life, so I had to stop listening. I dug deep inside, channelled my inner culchie-baiter and camped up:
-First of all; I thought that if I kept leaning across him, ordering lots of food and drink, getting things from my bag in the locker, going to the bathroom and loudly clearing my throat, he wouldn't get too comfortable.
-Secondly; I gently touched his arm, shoulder and, once, his knee, each time I did this.
-Thirdly; at the slightest shiver of turbulence, the horrible prick clutched the arms of his chair in terror and began to sweat, a lot. I began to giggle loudly everytime this happened, saying 'Oh my goodness me' in a slightly camper version of the carrying whisper which he had previously used.
-Fourthly; when the turbulence got really bad, I put my ipod up to full volume so that he could clearly hear me listening to (and harmonising and air drumming with) one of the few pop songs I actually have, 'Since You Been Gone', through my earphones. On repeat.
That flight was lots of fun.
I arrived in Prague, got my stuff and walked to the kiosk for a bus ticket to Karlovy Vary (where my bro lives) and see if I could get a student rate. The first thing I noticed was the police. Most European airports now have the usual staff of part-gorilla neckless wonders, sharking about with submachine guns and suspicious eyes. In Prague, they seem to have supermodels doing the job too. Leggy blondes in high heels walking about with MP5s and Glocks, accompanying the brick-shithouse gentlemen and looking equally tough...but also a tad really sexy. Most distracting. It was my first induction to the Czech laws of how couples appear. The men look like bouncers, the women look like models...very unfair for a Casper-white cross between Gollum from LOTR and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.
Anyway,I had been standing at the counter for about five seconds, looking at the kind assistant in a sort of post-security-babe daze, when I suddenly realised that I wasn't saying words. Also, that I spoke basically no Czech, and still wasn't speaking.
Somehow, i managed to buy a ticket, then went for a pint of (ridiculously overpriced) airport Pivo and a smoke to get myself relaxed before the bus. Bright yellow, it was a bit of a weird experience; watching 'Chicago' (I was having a very gay day) and sipping coffee in utter comfort as the Czech Republic zoomed past. When I reached KV, I was more interested in what was going to happen to Roxie than get off.
Big bro/Hugs/Skoda/Apartment/Shower/Drinking excursion.
Drinking with my brother is almost intimidating. He is one of those people who can drink beer...really drink it. He writes his own blog about Irish pubs abroad, and is a connisseur. I can go on the rip as good as the next bloke, but I was always more spiritsy and cocktailsy (NB: seriously, gayest blog post ever) in my drinks...and this was the Czech Republic, one of the birthplaces of our modern beers. The bro took me first to a small bar (that may very well have been the seediest place in the world) for our catch-up chat, then we went on a walk through the bars. We had tankards at a 'pour-your-own' bar, (apparently) ate a meal of meat and dumplings in a weirdly wood-pannelled bar. Took shots of Becherovka (the devil) then, inevitably, went to an Irish bar. We apparently went by cab, and I apparently insisted on speaking to the driver the whole way. FML.
We met Hannah, BigBro's girlf, in the Irish bar, along with her class. She and BigBro both are TEFL teachers, and I had the best crossed-wire conversation (with a bunch of frankly mental Czech forty-somethings) that I've had for a long while. Hannah (who I was meeting again for the first time in like six years) is a very sweet Welsh girl with the most amazing Valley's accent and a great match for the bro. Conversation flowed.
More Becherovka, more beer. I started a conversation with one of the class about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, that lasted for a few hours, and Ruairí wandered home. Finally, Hannah led me back to their apartment and (when I wasn't leaning out of the fourth story window, smoking and admiring the Soviet architecture) I dozed off.
Hell of a first day.