Kilkenny, Ireland, 2001 - '02
Soon after I arrived in Kilkenny, I got an apartment on Rose Inn Street where I lived alone for a bit more than a year.
I met K_ at the local pub. He was a friend of some people I had met. One of those friends introduced me to K_, asking if he knew of any place that was for rent. He did, because he was still leasing an apartment that he and his girlfriend had left.
K_ was among this group of friends, and still is though it must be said that the Romanians generally keep to a rather insulated circle of themselves, even often when many of us are all at the same pub.
K_ had some reason that he wanted to maintain the lease, and he maintained a pretense with the landlord that he was still living there. That didn't bother me, and his reasons were his business. Each month, I would give the rent money in cash to K_, and he would transfer it to the landlord.
As an arrangement, there was nothing wrong with it.
I did come to resent the certain factors.
K_ was good to me, allowing some leeway with the timing of some of my payments, and in at least one occasion granting me the "amnesty" of a few quid, that poverty-stricken winter.
Even that benevolence, of course, planted a seed of resentment; and there were times that K_ sort of acted as if he still had the run of the place. Once, he said that a friend of his needed to stay there for a while; he assumed I would say yes. I did not.
Overall, the setup was nothing to complain about.
The flat was not beautiful by any definition. The place was a dump. A kip. There was a hole in the ceiling in the kitchen, where the water sometimes ran in a heavy drip-stream. Not often; just sometimes, for no apparent reason.
Disadvantages aside, I lived alone in peace, in a good location. I didn't really have to hide from the landlord, just to be discreet. In time, he figured out that I was living there, and he didn't say anything about it.
I never personally liked K_ too much, but that's all one. I always thought he was a fast-talker. The difference of opinion was never disruptive; hardly serious.
I was in love with his girlfriend, and that's just a plain, sad fact. It's a part of the story, and can't leave it out. It's not something I'm proud of either, and I would like to dismiss it except that it's a part of the story.
The factor was important both for its play in the larger incident, and in the guilt I have felt for the arsewise manner in which events played out.
I was never comfortable with my attraction to M_, that's for sure. It's a feature of my life that I could have played a lot smarter. It was dumb, and a guy's got to have more respect for the fact that a woman has a man. I never tried anything with her, of course. And I did try to show respect to her. I did not respect the principle of the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, though, and that was a mistake. It was awkward.
No matter. But it made a lot of people talk in a small talkative community. I never did anything wrong, per se, but my thinking was off.
Enough of that. Clearly.
K_ had to go to Romania, late Autumn 2002. That was more of his own business, and none of mine. He was to be gone for six weeks; again, that was his business (he was away for more than a year.)
Relevant to me was that he would no longer need to maintain the lease on the Rose Inn Street flat.
K_ told me that he had arranged with the landlord that I would be staying in the apartment. I could pay my money directly to Tom. I would be able to bring the cash to the antique shop on the same street, and give it to the fellows there who are associates of Tom.
That was fine with me. I'd have to make the rent, as tennants do; but I was working, and well-established in Kilkenny. And I would not have to worry anymore about the arrangement with K_. I'd be free of that, and that was good.
On a Friday in November, I went to the antique shop to pay my first installment of the rent. But, there was a problem. The guy I was talking with told me that Tom had asked him not to accept rent money from me, because K_ had not paid the rent for four months.
Well, that was a funny thing.
The funny part was that it didn't really bother me.
Sure, on principle it's outrageous. K_ had taken the rent money from me, and had not paid the rent. It doesn't seem like I have to even express an opinion about that. It seems a universal; you don't do that.
But no matter; and I didn't really believe that any harm would come from it anyhow. Tom wouldn't evict me, for something that was not my fault.
I went for a walk, across John's Bridge and about town a bit.
I went and talked with a friend. I asked him not to tell anybody. < And I thought, too crossing John's Bridge, just walking to comprehend a bit of it that this would make it more comfortable for me to chat up his girlfriend. That's putting it crudely, and in fact my feelings were exagerated to the other end of the spectrum, where I took this fairly seriously. I thought "he gets the money, I get the girl." That didn't happen. But I did relax a bit about talking with her, and feeling some attraction for her. >
That night was M_'s birthday. The usual band of misfits and miscreants were up at Brennan's pub, our "local." < organized a cake for her, something nobody else had done. Not many people even knew it was her birthday, until I had J_ talk it up a bit. > It was a good evening of drinking.
After the pub closed, we went back to the Romanians' apartment. < After an initial milling-about, I ended up sitting next to M_ on the floor in front of the fireplace. We remained sitting there for the five hours or so before she went to bed. > Good conversation and laughter. Comfortable. General behavior in the room was of the normal sort amongst our Irish and Romanian friends when together drinking, talking and laughing. M_ and I sat on the floor by the fireplace and talked for about five hours. It was the last time we would be comfortable talking, before the air got fouled by complications.
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I had a good argument the other night part of any decent evening out, here in Ireland.
Late May 2006
I told K_ that no; this was between himself and myself.
But here's where the problem comes in. What was unfortunate about that promise that I made to K_ was that I had in fact already told one person.
Hindsight being what it is, I've often thought about how I would have loved to work this one differently. I would do one of two things: either not tell my friend what had happened, or not promise K_ that I would not tell anybody. Promising to keep a secret and then not keeping it is dishonorable and cheap and while that's not what I did, there was a scent of that dishonor afterward.
I suspect that if I had a chance to rewind and replay the dynamic of the incident, I would quite simply tell K_ that I was going to have to talk to my friends about this or, flat as a plank, that I had already told somebody and that the matter was out of my control.
Kilkenny is not a large town. People talk a lot. The friend I told talks a lot compulsively, one could say. And the story was volatile, in the sense that it was not likely to stay under a lid of secrecy. Just too good, in that sense of "good."
Gossip. Rumor. Speculation. And a story about one of us goes around through the rest of us like a drop of ink in a vortex; mixing throughout and losing much of its original form. You hear stories about yourself that have little or no basis in reality and a little dose of real event, especially of an emotional tone, and you can bet the jaws will be wagging. The story will go around, change, live and grow.