Dublin as a video game is no more complex than Dublin itself: avoid the teetering drunks on the streets that make you want to shout, “Timber!” and maybe you’ll get out alive, or at least uninjured. Looking back on all the famous alcoholics (therefore writers) who escaped, it’s evident that some part of them–the part they had to stamp out and numb away with lager–must have died in Dublin: Wilde, Beckett and (as one is obligated to say) Joyce. For it was clear to Sara that checking out mentally was required to function in a place whose logic deems it appropriate to forbid the selling of alcohol past ten p.m. in grocery stores, thereby essentially forcing people to stay out and make fools of themselves in order to continue numbing the pain away under the pretense of “having fun.” Yes, “having fun” was but a ruse created to power through this existence called “Dublin.”
Dublin with its stout buildings, mediocre churches and strange affinity for Italian art featuring heavy Catholic motifs. Generic in its European cityness and certainly in its very UKness: cold, gray and caring not for your comfort. Unless you glean comfort solely from moderately priced alcohol. But even Dublin has fallen prey to overcharging for its drinks, its cover charges for a club where you’ll hear a worse dance version of some electropop song that time long ago made irrelevant (think a deepened voice using a vocoder on Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”).
And though the nearby capital city of sin and debauchery known as Amsterdam similarly prides itself on being “a place to have a good time,” there is somehow more dignity and organization to the Dutch way of “getting fucked up.” Whereas the Irish (and all they attract) appear to take the sloppier elements of revelry to new, previously uncharted heights.
Sara somehow blocked out any unpleasant memories of Dublin from her first visit almost five years ago. It was possible that, despite her more youthful state at that point, she was hazier then. Maybe even more prone to falling down the rabbit hole of drunkenness that Dublin was so fond of espousing. Recovering from the end of a relationship, the end of a period in one’s life they somehow foolishly believed would never end–that’s what Dublin was good for. Though Sara supposed if you actually lived in Dublin, you’d be in constant recovery, hence unable to ever actually recover. Or, if you were as adept as the inebriated street zombies she came up against, in a constant stupor. That was the healing power of alcohol, after all. The reason so many surrendered to the cult of addiction. Why think about your pain when you can simply drink your problems away?
But this phenomenon of imbibing to the point of staggering-wobbling–home was something different in Dublin. Something altogether tied to centuries of cultural resignedness. As though generation after generation of Irish people had decided, “Fine, this will be our thing. It’s the easiest, most universally relatable hobby.” And so tradition they carried out, not thinking anymore about whether it was the pastime they truly wanted to exemplify their country–just drinking. So it was that all who entered their fold became susceptible to the disease, a plague on every tourist. As though insisting, “If you don’t get fall down wasted, can you even really say you’ve been to Ireland?”
The answer seemed to be a resounding fuck no as Sara treated the roads and sidewalks and alleys teeming with unabashed lushes like obstacles in a video game. Although it had been many years since she had dabbled in the likes of Paperboy and Super Marios Bros., the skills of evasion apprehended within these contexts were still innate in her. A natural dexterity in circumvention both literal and virtual. When she examined it, she had to admit that playing video games at such an early age had possibly formed her avoidant personality disorder. For these video games of the twentieth century were less about confrontation than an aptitude at eschewal (see: the visual of Mario constantly jumping over cacti to avoid them).
That was at the core of every objective, every “win” of a game. So it was for getting back to her hotel room (thank fucking Christ she talked herself out of a hostel) after a day’s stint in Malahide. Malahide which was far more civilized and, in Sara’s opinion, what Dublin ought to be–all quaintness and the ability of its denizens to walk upright. But no, Dublin was “gritty,” “for the working class.” Except this wasn’t the 50s and people that relished partying in Dublin didn’t exactly exude an aura that screamed “strong work ethic”–or any kind of work ethic at all for that matter. They weren’t imbibing to cope or blow off steam after a hard days’ work shoveling coal in the mines or some shit. They were doing it because they had nothing else to do with their lives. No concrete ambitions other than to make their youth last as long as possible–even if it had already blatantly passed them by.
But if you drank enough, of course life was going to pass you by without even realizing it. In so many ways, that was the entire point of drinking. Forget time, forget yourself. And wasn’t that what everyone wanted to do when they knew that they were nothing? Knew that they had never and would never achieve anything of grand significance? That all they could do to even make an attempt at such significance veered toward getting married and having children. Which, as we all know, is of no grand significance but merely the everyman’s best attempt at a legacy. Because that’s the only boilerplate meaning anyone can seem to glean from what “life’s purpose” is supposed to serve.
Yet the only purpose it served to Sara in her current state of survival by evasion was to accent that all of humanity was a scourge. Useless and content in their uselessness. In fact, elated by reveling in the muck and the mire of it like swine. Swine that swilled. At every turn she was met with some new freak show (whether a gaggle of cackling bachelorettes or a bevy of belching bachelors).
And just when she thought she might have won against her opponent, this non-city called Dublin, she came up against her final and most challenging enemy yet: a bona fide belligerent drunk of an Irishman. One who, when faced with Sara’s deliberate aloofness, was pressed to a point of further rage. One that made him leer at her with an intensity made more pronounced by his unsteady swagger. All she wanted to do was pass him without any incident. To jump over him seamlessly like that cactus in Super Mario. All he wanted to do was continue to goad her in his unintelligible Irish brogue. “Where ya goin’ then, lass? Got somewhere important ta be?”
She refused to answer him, hoping that he would interpret her silence as an inability to understand English (or rather, Irish). Though she had always viewed the Irishman as rather impotent, something about this one made her bristle with fear…down there. As though her vag could intuit some impending affront that she herself could not. And as she persisted in trying to dodge his inconstant yet ever-present gait toward her midst, she could sense that Dublin as a video game might not be something she could come out of as the victor.