Guinness and Dublin were made by and for each other. A black drink for a black river that gave us the name Dubh Linn, Black Pool.
When you’re pulling a pint of the black stuff, you only go half way, then you leave it settle before you finish it, allowing the cream to rise to the top. It’s the drink of the working man from old, slow Dublin. You can’t rush a Guinness. A true Dubliner will know that a good pint is one where you can rest a coin on the head and the coin won’t sink. The saying is that if a pint is pulled right, a mouse should be able to Irish dance on top of it.
In the autumn the smell of the hops spreads out from the old Brewery like the spirit of Dublin’s past. You smell it as you walk through the Liberties and you realise that somehow, for all its problems, for all its grimy chaos, this city has gotten into your blood and if you leave it, you will take some Dublin with you and leave some of you here. The traditionalists love it of course because although things get mixed up sometimes, the white always comes to the top in the end.
She was Irish through and through, and wild. He was Irish, of a different kind. She drank Guinness by the pint even though ‘tis well known that if women drink it at all they should ask for a glass. It raised more than a few eyebrows when she ordered a pint of the black stuff and drank it like a man while he sat there, quietly adoring, with his glass of orange juice. She wore her long black hair in unruly curls, smoked and swore, and didn’t care a damn what they all thought. He pressed his shirts every day, and was careful never to interrupt or disturb, which in Dublin meant he never got to speak at all. Listening to music in Peader Kearneys, she would clap and stomp along while he would sit there quietly, a shy but sincere smile on his face. He was from a good family, Protestants from down the country somewhere. He had to be Protestant – there was no other acceptable excuse for his strange teetotalism. No one really knew her story. She was always writing the story of here and now, so that when you were around her you forgot that there ever had been a past or would be a future. Whereas he was a careful man. You knew by him that he came from a long tradition of fathers and grandfathers just like him, and that he would one day inherit their farm and their traditions. He probably started saving for all of his marriage, his pension and his funeral as soon as he started in the Civil Service, while she busked and sold paintings to American tourists in Temple Bar, neither her finances and her spirit suited to saving for a future any further away than tonight’s pint of the black stuff and the session in Kearneys.
She was her own woman, through and through, but you could see his mother in everything he did.
You wonder what strange set of circumstances ever brought them together. There was something that felt both wrong and right about seeing them as a couple. Sometimes the unlikeliest pictures are the most beautiful, as long as life doesn’t destroy them.
She was his freedom and he was her stability. But the longing for freedom and the craving of stability don’t belong together, and happiness will never come if we must always find in others what we are missing in ourselves.
I wonder what became of them.