The Unknown: The Red Line.
  ho was going to do what? He was having a vision, that much was clear.

Right there in Mulligan’s public house, over his pint of Guinness. Again, who’s going to do what? William looks at me and I look at Scott and Scott looks at William. To wake from a vision is as painful perhaps as being born, we know this from Dirk, so we’re standing there with our hands at our sides. William goes off to get us another round. Our stouts are low.

A crowd gathers, talkative Irish, speculating on the experience.

—My love, wait, I’ll join you, says one rather buxom red-haired Molly.

—Salute, says a dark-haired fellow.

—Where’s the light, where’s the light, slurs a gray-bearded old chap.

—A vision is folly, he’s thinking of his dolly, and how he’d like her to suck, and how he’d like her to, chants a fresh faced boy who’s cuffed on his head before he can finish by a man who looks like his father.

Dirk begins to move.

He wanders out of the pub and most of the people in it follow, carrying their stouts to the protestations of the barkeeps. He wanders over the River Liffey, or one of its bridges, past Trinity College, past a shop advertising fish and taters, and everybody’s following him. He appears to be drifting, and pulls a yarmulke from his pocket and a lemon, and puts the yarmulke on his head, and tosses the lemon in the air and catches it.

Somebody among the thirty or so of us following behind begins to chant.

—Sweet are the sweets, sweet is the sin, sweet are the sweets, sweet is the sin.

It’s an altogether clear night and glancing at the sky a star happens to shoot by and I make a wish.

—Sweet are the sweets, sweet is the sin, sweet are the sweets, sweet is the sin.

My stout’s getting low. I look around for William and see his head bobbing up and down, almost as if he’s floating in water. Scott’s holding two stouts and seems to be offering it to Dirk, or holding it at his ready, walking to Dirk’s right. Passersby look on curiously and several join the crowd. The person who’d been chanting is now quiet, we’re all a little hushed, looking on, following, as if being among the crowd is an alibi for some future crime, as if part of some regiment punishment for desertion which is automatic court-martial or demotion to scullerymaid. The only apparent noise, save the clopping of a horse’s hooves, is a blues guitar, which grows closer with each step. Dirk, having released the crowd from his mesmerizing visionary power, but still, apparently, in the vision, enters a men’s room, and shuts and locks the door.

Because suddenly we’re at another bar, I can’t see the name. Everybody seems relieved, as if released from an unpleasant duty, the alibi complete, and there’s a surge that takes me up a flight of stairs into a square room where a blues band does its best to make blues music. I find myself squished in a booth next to a dark-haired woman, and William, who smells of booze and body, pushes next to me. My hand finds the woman’s thigh and she looks at me and I look at her and she says,

—An Irish man would never do that.

Apparently, she knows who I am; people like literature in Ireland. The reading the night before at Trinity College had been packed with hecklers and serious literary readers and young men and women taking hits from bottles of whiskey, even the police were there at some point, although I was too drunk to pay them much mind by then, stealing, as I heard the story in the morning, whiskey from the young men and women.

The band is just awful. It plays out of time and the instruments don’t make sense together.

It’s loud, too, so that when the Irish woman must yell as she takes my hand.

—Your love line and your life line are far apart, but don’t worry, over time, the lines can change.

Scott, I notice, has disappeared. And William seems to be elsewhere, now, too. They’re always leaving me alone, I think. Fuckers.

The band stops. I’m aware of the redheaded woman, the one waiting for me in San Francisco, the one I loved. I’m aware I’m supposed to call her. I’m aware I’m flirting with an attractive Irish girl. Someone hands me a Guinness. I’m not soothed.

A new group, dressed like the Blues Brothers, steps up to the stage. Everybody falls silent. Everybody, suddenly, stares. It’s eerie. It’s the way they take the stage, the way they stand, holding their instruments. It reminds me, a little, of last night: the Trinity College reading, the command we felt when we had the stage, each individually, which we discussed into the early morning hours in the room we’d taken at Issac’s Hostel, cheap bunks, over a bottle of Power’s and another of Jameson. Command, we decided, was a kind of power, not absolute, not corrupted, but a power that came with clarity, that derived from thought, from whatever time we’d individually dedicated to thinking out what each of us in our separate rooms from our separate minds in whatever hours of loneliness and after passing through various and acute moments of ambiguity and uncertainty and weakness and fear, when all we really wanted was the unconditional and unwavering love of each other, our family, and the strangers that greeted us wherever we happened to be whenever we happened to be there, strangers who themselves felt as intensely or moreso what we felt, and different things, unknown things, from all of this we’d drawn and stood on stage with some communally created or individually created or uncreated manuscript and read it like we were insane, this was our power. It wasn’t us. It wasn’t anything we had that others lacked. It was what we lacked, perhaps, that others had. Or perhaps simply what was and what could be. We transmitted it and in transmitting made others know it could be transmitted, and this was power. Power was the human capacity to dream. It was the capacity to do what humans did, and to feel it—feel that it was being done. So I think somewhere in me I understood something was happening, and that’s why it was silent, and somebody, crazily, yelled out,


Dirk looked on unseeing into the eyes of everyone in the audience. William, eyes closed, held his drumsticks above the drums, like a cat looking intently at a bird hidden in a bush. Scott, his diamond and ruby ring flashing on his finger, held the neck of his guitar loosely, an ivory pick in his hand, a white handkerchief peeking from his vest.

Dirk lifted his hand, flicked thrice at his beard, and there was a kind of roar—we all knew the vision was complete, that we were it, that its completion was about to manifest itself in celebration. The cheer was the moment before the moment we knew we were going to get what we wanted but hadn’t realized we’d anticipated it and wanted it forever. It was a kind of conversion. We were all members.

Of what were we members?

Who could say with absolute certitude. It was a membership and by dint of being where we were on the precipice of an explosive moment of community, if that’s what we had, or human brother and sisterhood, which we did have, we were members.

And what about the insecurity in each and every one of the members of the audience?

It was and would continue to be profound but all defenses dropped, as Dirk began singing and strumming his bass and several of us in the audience reached for their horns and began blowing and Scott began strumming and William began banging away and Dirk sang:

—Do you know how you make a wish sandwich?

What is a wish sandwich?

Dirk continued:

—A wish sandwich is when you’ve got two pieces of bread, and you wish you had some meat.

—Ba ba ba da da . . .

And the bar just roared. Who was going to do what? We were going to party and we were going to get drunk and I took the Irish woman up next to me and started dancing a dance I had never danced before.

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