Someone is picking my pocket, he thought.
For Colin Coyne, the beginning, those first days in Dublin were indelibly suspended in time, always as immediate and vivid as a movie.
Maybe it wasn't a pickpocket, Colin thought, standing at the two-deep bar of the Shelbourne hotel, gagging down a pint of Guinness. Maybe it was just an accident, a bump in the crowd. He clutched the mug in his big right fist, hungover and jet-lagged after his first night on the town in Dublin.
Then he felt it again. Right cheek of my ass, he thought. Under my fucking wallet. His buttocks were sensitive from flying coach, sitting in a middle seat, sandwiched between a fat nun who'd mumbled the rosary all the way across the Atlantic and a snoring old farmer with hairy ears, who smelled like unwashed feet. Colin had squirmed for a position of comfort and wound up pinching a sciatic nerve in his right ham muscle, which now made him very sensitive to someone touching him back there.
He waited for a second touch. It didn't come. Colin shrugged, took another sip of his stout. This was Holy Hour, that terribly thirsty time in the Dublin afternoon when the regular pubs shut for an hour in supposed deference to the Angelus that peals from every church spire in the city. The hotel bars were exempt from the Holy Hour rule so the afternoon barroom of the elegant four-star Shelbourne was packed. Smoky. Loud. Cross-pollinated conversations, a jumble of American, British, Irish, French, German voices, simultaneously gabbing about the always fragile peace in the long troubled North, the booming Irish economy, starvation in Africa, and the latest White House scandal.
Colin was in Ireland to research a movie he wanted to direct about a young Irish-American filmmaker from Queens, New York, who has failed miserably in every relationship with American women, and so travels to the land of his parents to find and marry a girl-just-like-the-girl-who-married-dear-old-Dad -- or some half-formed horseshit idea like that.
And while he was there, Colin was hoping his life might imitate art, maybe meet a beautiful Irish chick, a young Colleen who would jump at the chance to do the town with a promising twenty-five-year-old film director who had won all the NYU film school awards and whose most recent film short, First Love, Last Love, won awards at the Seattle, New York, and Hamptons film festivals. Who might even be nominated for an Oscar. Who already had an agent, and who just sold a $15,000 option on his first feature-length screenplay, Death Dunes, a big-budget murder mystery set in the Hamptons. Unfortunately, the studio wouldn't let Colin direct that one but he was using the option money to finance this trip to Dublin.
On the flight over, while ambling up and down the aisle to relieve his aching ass, he'd even hounded a pretty Aer Lingus flight attendant for a phone number. Finally, after the plane landed, she slipped him a phone number on a piece of paper torn from the edge of The Irish Times. When he called the number later in the afternoon he discovered he'd reached an animal rescue shelter. Great sense of humor, these mickettes, he thought. Have to get that into my movie.
Now he felt the hand on his ass again. Fingers deftly positioned under the bottom of his wallet. Tapping it upward. Pickpocket, he thought. Aha. Drama. Let it play...
Colin was determined to use the option money from his first script to finance the development of his "Irish roots" script. Maybe he'd direct this one himself. According to his agent, two independent film companies were interested in having him direct a very low-budget feature film if they liked the script. So he was in Dublin to fill his notebook with locations, customs, textures, images, anecdotes, idioms, dialogue, stories, songs, and history that could bring his embryonic idea kicking to cinematic life....
There it goes again, he thought.
Now he felt his wallet moving up a half inch from the back pocket of his snug jeans. Half amused, Colin took a big gulp of his tepid stout, the black beer bucking down like medicine. There! A third tap on his wallet. Still he didn't react because his money was in his front pants pocket. And he wasn't sure he wanted the confrontation, a bar brawl in a foreign city: cops, jail, lawyers with white wigs, calls to the embassy. Plus he was interested in seeing how the whole incident turned out. Maybe I'll use it in the script, he thought.
Colin was sweaty under the heavy Irish wool sweater and Irish tweed jacket that he'd bought earlier across from Trinity College. Now the hand on his ass made another tap on the bottom of his wallet. Then another. Inch by larcenous inch, Colin felt his wallet climbing along his sensitive butt.
Finally, his amusement turned to anger. He'd shot documentaries in the slums of Brownsville, student movies in Alphabet City, transported Arriflex cameras from Washington Heights home to Queens on the subway and the Long Island Railroad at three in the morning and never once was robbed. So I'll be fucked if I came to the land of my parents to get pickpocketed during Christmas week, he thought. I'll lay this asshole right out on the fuckin' floor.
He gently placed the glass on the bar, leaving both hands free. As his wallet slowly left his pocket, Colin, without turning, quickly reached behind him and clutched the wrist of the pickpocket. A thin wrist, soft and covered in jangling bracelets and bangles, jerked abruptly in Colin's strong grip. He spun to confront the thief, fist cocked. And found himself looking down into two huge brown eyes, adorned with long dark lashes, set into a small, lethally beautiful face. He felt himself instantly aroused.
He saw her in flashes. Jump cuts. Angles. Bright curly blond hair. Floppy brown felt hat. A choker of pearls. Long thin neck. Tiny pearl stud earrings. Flawless olive-tinted skin. Cheekbones like the Jersey Palisades, he thought. Full lips twisted into a wet red snarl. White gleaming teeth gnashing. A fucking man-eating plant, he thought. More Mediterranean than Irish. More young Brigitte Bardot in...And God Created Woman than Maureen O'Hara in The Quiet Man. Sexy as mortal sin.
His wallet dropped from her right hand. Colin bent at the knees to pick it up, still clutching the stunning young woman by the wrist, never breaking contact with her big angry eyes. He waved the wallet in her face, cleared his throat, smiled.
"Buy you a drink?" he whispered.
"Fuck off, Yank!" she shouted in a voice twice her size, which was no more than five foot three, bringing the entire barroom to a gawking hush. "If yeh touch me bum again I'll have yeh charged, I will! All yous Yanks is the same. But in Ireland there's laws about touching up a woman's privates in public. The cheek of yeh, yeh pig's melt, offering me money for a durty visit to yeh room."
Colin panned the room, saw dozens of eyes on him as he gripped the small beautiful woman by the wrist and his wallet in his other hand, realizing he looked like a propositioning john.
"Jesus, you're gorgeous," Colin said, smiling.
"And you're a right swine, you are," she said. "Good Irish women don't need your durty Yank dollars."
She wrenched free of his firm grip, the recoil sending her reeling backward and crashing into a small round cocktail table, which overturned, spilling pints of Guinness, glasses of whiskey, club sodas, and smoldering ashtrays onto the laps of the five incredulous customers who sat on the tiny stools around it. In the commotion, Colin noticed a thick buff-colored envelope drop from the pickpocket's coat. Colin stepped on it with his cowboy boot. As the customers gasped and cursed, Colin bent to help the pickpocket to her feet. Her hat had fallen off and now Colin could see more of her fiercely attractive face and the full mane of blond ringlets.
"Go way outta dat, you moldy eejit!" she shouted, slapping away Colin's hand and pushing herself to her feet.
The hotel manager, a thin man in an oversized suit with purple spider veins crisscrossing his bony cheeks, wedged his way through the transfixed crowd. Customers murmured to him as he passed.
"Yank was propositioning the young wan, sir," said the barman.
"Very sorry, madame...shall I call a guard?" the manager asked, glaring at Colin, the veins in his face darkening with anger.
"I can handle one lousy wanker Yank meself," the pickpocket boasted, brushing ashes from her long wool coat and adjusting the floppy hat back onto her head. She proudly made her way through the crowd, bumping into people as she strode. Colin closely watched her hands as she moved, saw them darting in and out of coat pockets like ferrets into holes until she located at least one billfold, which disappeared professionally up the sleeve of her coat as if on a spring. She turned once to look at Colin, a devilish glare in her eyes, and then she hurried away in a confident flourish, her floppy hat bouncing across the crowded lobby.
"Hey!" Colin shouted.
She raised the index and middle finger of her right hand in a V and made upward thrusts as she pranced on.
Colin picked up the buff-colored envelope from under his boot.
"I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to leave, sir," the manager said as Colin slid the envelope into his jacket pocket.
"I'm a guest here, pal," Colin said, looking at the floppy hat bobbing for the street exit.
"And we'd like you to check out altogether."
"Fine, then ring up my fucking bill," Colin said.
Colin hurried through the afternoon crowd, trying to catch up with the pickpocket. He rushed out to the street facing the wide winter-bare park called St. Stephen's Green and looked to his left down Baggot Street toward the black-and-white sign of O'Donoghue's pub, where he'd drunk himself sick the night before listening to traditional Irish folk music. Then he looked to his right, up St. Stephen's Green North toward the top of Grafton Street, one of the city's busiest shopping hubs. He didn't see her anywhere. Gotta find her, he thought, as he felt himself growing aroused. Makes no sense, but I gotta find this one. She's perfect fucking casting. Like Selznick finding the real Scarlett O'Hara, except this time she found ME!
Then he saw her, across the street. She was bouncing up the steps of a moving double-decker bus crammed with wool- and tweed-wrapped bodies. She came into view in the rear window as the crowded bus groaned away from the curb and sped along the side of the park. Colin fiddled with his cock as it grew along his thigh, straightening it. When the bus stopped for a red light, Colin bolted through the moving traffic. He looked right. Brakes slammed from his left. Tires screeched. Horns honked madly at him. "Feckin' eejit," someone shouted. Colin sprinted after the departing bus along the park side -- his erection slowing him down -- waving the buff-colored envelope the lady pickpocket dropped in the bar. He glimpsed her momentarily in the steamy window of the bus. Is she looking at me? Please, look at me, babe. He paused, arms akimbo. Look what you're doing to me. The lady pickpocket fiddled with her golden hair in her own reflection in the windowpane. She didn't notice Colin. He was a panting flailing twenty yards from the rear of the idling bus when the light changed green. No! Shiiiit! The bus turned wickedly left, rattling off into the labyrinthine city.
Colin stood in the middle of the busy street, gulping big breaths, horns blaring at him, adjusting himself as he looked down at the envelope in his hand.
"Arsehole," shouted the driver of an Irish Independent delivery truck that swerved madly around him.
You're right, pal, Colin thought. I must be an asshole. Fuck logic and common sense. Something tells me that crazy broad is meant for me, for my movie. I gotta find her. She found me; now I gotta find her. As they say in Hollywood, she was born for the part.
Copyright © 2000 by Denis Hamill