'What you think?' Gus asked as we stepped out of Linda's car. The cold morning stung like the government. Attempts to wean residue from my eyes only made matters worse. Before I could answer, I was off. One, two ............. seven.
'Better than sex,' Leon used to say when ever he sneezed. I never got that. Not the sex! The comparison.
'God bless you,' Linda said. I wish He'd hurry on sometimes.
The morning had barely turned nine. I'd already been in the car for what seemed like an eternity. The sun began to paste the trees a sad orange as it rose. It didn't do much for my eyes either.
'I think you have cold in your head,' Gus said. It was looking like it. More and more I've been waking up like an old tractor. Starved of oil. Coughing and spluttering - crying to be fed. Smokey. Rusty, tired and worn.
'No shit, Einstein,' I said back. Gus didn't know what I meant.
'Come on,' Linda said. 'We'll show you around.'
She slipped her hand around Gus' elbow and they began to walk toward the door of the house that stood no more than ten-feet away. I cleared my nose. My throat hurt as I attempted to go higher - into my head. See could I clear it a little. I must be coming down with something. That green belongs on the wall of some swish contemporary apartment with an nice red abstract contorting itself across the surface.
I began to follow them.
Word of this early morning nuisance had reached me the day before. Gus doesn't really ask. His way of asking comes across as telling. Like he's doing someone a favour by interrupting the lack in their lives. I wasn't even sure why I had been asked to come along. They don't need a chaperon.
They reached the door. Linda bent down and took a key from beneath a Mat outside the door. She opened the door. Good job the house was a little remote.
'So, what you think?' Gus asked again. Give us a chance Gus. Books and covers and all that.
'Looks (struggling for a word) big,' I said.
It was big. Five bedroom dormer bungalow at the end of a quite cul-de-sac in wooded surroundings. Dining roon, reception room and a Gordon Ramsey kitchen. Conservatory and large decked area. Office. Upstairs and downstairs relief quarters. All rooms en-suite. Mature gardens.
They were mature. Sort of grown up around the place. The house, cold and empty - like the heart of a government minister. Abandoned almost. Apart from the three of us and a distant wood pigeon there was little sign of life.
'I'm thinking of buying it,' Linda said. 'Needs a bit of work, but it's going cheap.' She didn't part with a sum. I didn't ask.
'You could do worse,' I said, starting to imagine it lived in. It definitely had potential. Lots of potential. Bit big for two, though.
We went outside and out around the back. Large garden leading down to a wood. The grass was long and wet so we stayed close to the house. At the bottom of the garden lay the shell of an old house. It looked a hundred years old. It must have been the old dwelling before it got its modern makeover.
'You smell that,' Gus said, breathing in. 'Peace.'
Linda laughed. So i joined in.
'Is it not a bad time to be buying?' I asked. Apparently not. Linda had bought her own house before Ireland thought it was Manhattan for a while. She told me that she could sell her own, buy this place, and hopefully have enough leftover to do this new place up. Sounded like a good plan.
'If I don't do it now, I never will,' she said. I'd heard property in Spain and Greece was going cheap. Had climate not figured in her plans? Or does this climate not bother everyone?
'Don...' she said - looking at Gus, who seemed excited. 'Would you think about moving out here with us - if it all goes to plan.'
'Maybe rest you need is a change,' he added. His enthusiasm waned when i didn't answer. A hundred thoughts going through my head trying to seek an answer that might buy me some time and not kill off this unlikely friendship. Were they taking pity on me? Or after my rent?
'Well have a think about it,' Linda said. 'There's nothing solid yet - no rush.' She beckoned us back to the car.
'Yep, that's best,' I said. 'There's lots to think about.'
The drive back to town was quite. I figured it hadn't quite worked out the way they had planned. But how could they expect an answer, right there, on the spot. This is a life-changing decision. Moving so far away.
Twenty minutes later Linda had us dropped off. Gus yawned.
'I better get eye-shut,' he said. 'I have work tonight.'
'Might grab forty myself,' I said. He scooted off into his own house. I stood outside mine. Looking at it. Over 40 years written in her walls. In grime. Never painted. I could do with cutting the grass myself.
Bed is usually a good place to avoid having to think about stuff. Not this time. I've been sleeping with the enemy lately and the enemy has been keen on keeping me awake. Nights are long in the dark. In that silence. Writing might help. I used to be one. Back in the day.
It only usually happens once a year. For a week - give or take a few days. It's been a month now. Not quite insomnia-tic in nature, but not too far off it.
Ever get those jumps? An excited nerve ending - reacting to something - while you sleep? Or when something or other made the veins jump randomly. I put into down to posture.
'Nah. You're on the way out,' as Leon used to say.
These jumps though, they're like a lightening bolt. Usually happens in that micro-second - the one you take between the cross over from the waking to the dead - of night - of course. Bang. From Brain to foot and back again. Too quick to know for sure. It's usually enough to keep me up for the rest of the night.
It's funny the things you notice when you're wide awake in the black dark. The attic window gives much away. A kinda moving picture frame. Big. Live. Slow.
Take last night. I'd just got a jolt and up I sat.
'Jaysus, thought I was gone there,' I thought to myself - swallowing water like I'd rambled in from the desert. I lay back down, my back perched high on the pillow. Uncomfortable - like Eamon Gilmore. I wasn't risking another one of those shocks.
I didn't do much night-sky watching in my time. The odd glance up maybe - after they expelled smokers from pubs. Walking home from hovels with Leon now and again. No - maybe not. That time was usually spent following our feet with our eyes. Wondering why they wanted to wander off - following them, hoping something was still functioning that may get us home.
I watched it last night. As the sky above moved around. Or should that be the universe? Or is it us? You don't really notice it moving. I mean who watches the night skies for hours on end in unemployed Ireland? I got up and opened the window and peeked out. I don't know much about what I'm looking at - Big Dipper I think they call it. Taking up the right side of my view - along with the rest I could never name. Orion - half in view to my left. It's belt open. Another few million stars keeping him company. Planets out there too somewhere. Pulsars. And big black holes.
They reckon there are as many planets out there as there are grains of sand on a beach. Always wondered what beach?
Still, if you think about, that would mean an infinite amount of planets for every single human on this planet at the moment. And for non-humans too!
Assuming of course all those billions are vacant. And resource rich - can't forget the resources. We'd need a reason to, em, take care of it. Couldn't imagine us invading them. Could you?
Pity we don't think about it that way sometimes. The size of it all - the potential in it all. How we could trade - not on rare commodities, but on abundant spheres, and minds that wander and wonder like a child becoming conscious of everything for the very first time. Each discovery made- a derivitive to be traded. Freely. Too further knowledge. Longevity. Perhaps, even form.
The tempeture soon had me running back between the sheets. I think it's time to get out the extra blanket. Must be just above freezing out there. The grass is still green. For now. Anyway.
Perhaps it is time for a change of scene. Still the same sky out there! But little worse than that record, you know, that worn one. That lie in attics.