This is a story I’d written based on Smitten, a play. I guess it was a way to flesh out the play back in 2007 but it took on a bit of a life of it’s own as a story. I performed it during a reading called Beaver Fever back in Toronto in 2010. Here it is in it’s spoiler edited form.
Who is she?
Tommy had no idea who this girl was. But apparently all his friends did. Local talent, right?
Sitting in Ryan’s, men be telling tales, tales of near misses and catches that got away:
Apparently one time Skeet Keating actually walked up to her in the Market Cross shopping centre and just asked her out. She was 16 at the time with dark hair tied in pigtails and baggy Hobo jeans and she had her nose pierced but that’s not what matters. What matters is that little Skeet plucked up the courage to ask out Daffney Molloy. And she just looked at him with those piercing blue eyes and asked him why on earth would he want to go out with her and could he give her 3 good reasons why he was asking her out. And he coughed and he spluttered and he couldn’t think of anything. And with a little smile and a wink, she just left him standing there, like a muppet. And as she left he wished that he could get accustomed to that face.
Motion. Slow motion. That’s how she moves. Kevin can remember the time he came home from college and went straight into Dunnes Stores to buy deodorant for his sweaty Bus Eireann afflicted armpits and he saw her shopping with her mother. He saw her move through the fruit and veg section with a grace he’d never seen before in a girl, like she was floating or something. It called to mind what a wise man had a once said, that the motion of the world rested on a woman’s hips. How true he contemplated this as he watched this beautiful creature who had messy brown hair with blonde streaks spread through it and who wore a bright yellow and green sweater. He watched her holding that head of lettuce, and he swore she swayed its little green trestles into her mother’s trolley with the daintiest of moves. That’s how she travels. With the motion of the world in her body.
Well, that’s how she moved the time Dave saw her one winter’s night in Cleeres pub. He was drunk as usual so he stared all the more. It was rare enough to see her out socialising but she just waltzed through the place without a care in the world as if she’d been out for years. Maybe she was looking for someone, a lucky fella, but maybe, just maybe, she was waltzing for waltzing’s sake. Maybe she just liked to waltz alone? She had long straight red hair and big glasses and a chunky sweater and tattered jeans that hung nicely on her hips or so Dave thought. Before he could even get his bearings, she had waltzed away on her own. And a Greek chorus of male eyes went back to their pints, or even worse, their girlfriend’s refrains of ‘What the fuck?’ And even though he kept an eye out for the rest of the night, Dave never saw her or indeed, any waltzing girls. The rest of them just didn’t waltz. Dave went back to the seat at which his girlfriend Bronagh waited for him. He put down her vodka and coke and laid his own pint on a beer mat. Perching himself on the stool, he realised how distracted he was. Bronagh had her eyes fixed on his. Before he could even feign alertness she said it to him with a wry grin: ‘If there’s one thing I know, it’s when a man has just seen Daffney Molloy.’ He mumbled an answer, shuffled uncomfortably on his seat and then started bitching about the length of the queue at the bar.
The funniest thing Tommy thought, was the music. These boys didn’t know musicals well but everything they said harkened to a musical. It all started with the song. They all said the same thing about the song. As if she herself gave them some form of synaesthesia. There was a song that’d play, when you’d clap eyes on her and that’s how you’d know who she was. Not because of some physical description, oh no. But a song. It was close to you. It appeared every time she were near. And just like she, that song would be close to you. It mightn’t always be the Carpenters version, it might even be the Dusty Springfield version, but it would play in your head and as she disappeared, it would fade down. Apparently, she herself was like a walking musical, or so they said. Suspension of disbelief was necessary when she was around for how else could a man qualify all the song and dance and jigging and dancing he’d do when she appeared. Because even if you’re not Gene Kelly, she’ll make you feel like you are.
Tommy was enthralled, interested, why even, alive! Yes, he felt alive! But the question still remained… who the hell is she?
And at the exact same time Tommy sat at that party, a girl stood at the centre of town, on the Parade, in the lashings of rain, sheltering herself in the entrance way of the Left Bank bar. She was staring out at that pissing rainy night with a smile on her face. People were running for cover into pubs, doorways, taxis, anywhere they could to protect their sodden bodies from the thumping power of the rain. Cackling hen nights getting their devil horns soaked and checked shirts getting drenched and dolly girls having their well kept hair doused. Everybody wants to be dry. And why oh why would they want to be dry, thinks this girl.
And with that, she jumps down off the steps, pulls her umbrella up and swings it everywhere but over her wee head. She starts humming and doobie doing to herself as she puts her hand out to feel the rain drops. People look very confused at the sight of a pretty young girl, dancing happily through the lashing rain, as they cursed it and shouted the swears of the world at it.
With a kick, she sends the umbrella into the air, it spins for an age before landing right back in her mitts. And with that, she launches herself onto the road and spins her brolley as if she were a one woman merry go round. Cars beep and honk at her but she’s not doing any harm is she? Oh no, it’s only dancing, isn’t it? She balances precariously on the footpath outside Goods shop and kicks all the puddles up into the air. Up they go! Splish splash splish! Kick, kick, stamp, stamp in the puddles and she’s soaked through and through and doesn’t care, not a jot. She’s happy to be home and with all the sadness and sickness and depression and rain everywhere, isn’t it so much better to be dancing?
A guard stops in front of her, a big thick necked country bullock and he folds his arms crossly, with nothing but tut tut written on his face. The girl stops her splishing and splashing and looks apologetically at him. Those big baleful eyes that could be any colour just stop him dead and a song begins to play in his head and he stands there, smitten. She shrugs her shoulders and turns and hands her umbrella to a passing elderly man, who takes it bemused. And with that, she saunters off towards the Town Hall, as if she were the spawn of both Rodgers and Hammerstein themselves, were they able to procreate with each other of course.
And who is she?
No one knows.
Daffney Molloy will possibly appear in Smitten when it opens in Cork on June 16th and plays Kilkenny from June 26th – July 2nd.