My burgundy boots know this street well. Its curves, bumps, potholes, shops and pubs. All the red brick houses under the patchy grey-blue sky, now perfectly reflected in the numerous puddles left behind by yesterday’s rain.
We might need canoes over the weekend, my boss said as I was finishing work for the week. As I come down to the Liffey, the ground is soft indeed, grass and leaves wet and slippery. A misty veil of dense, quiet rain, brought by the passing clouds, is barely visible. It’s not like yesterday’s rain, whose big, loud, heavy drops made me feel wet to my bones. This morning’s rain is ever so gentle; if its tiny, cold drops weren’t touching my face, I’d hardly know it’s there. None of the people jogging, or walking their dogs, seem to mind it. The rowers keep on training.
I wonder what would Mr Bolger do? He used to sell second hand furniture and appliances. It was an old, unkempt shop extending to the footpath of the street well trodden by my burgundy boots. “I’ve been here forty years,” old Mr Bolger told me, “I sold the first washing machines to this neighborhood! Different times.”
He lowered his voice then and quietly added: “There was no single person of color around here back then!” At first I wasn’t sure how I should take this remark. Of all the stories and trivia from decades of shopkeeping in the same street this was the first thing Mr Bolger wanted to share? The way he said it though, wasn’t tainted by hatred. In fact he had an Indian man working for him. Someone to help him move sofas, tables and washing machines off the footpath, back into the shop when the rain got too heavy. Everything would be out again as soon as it stopped raining.
Passing by the shop, back on the street, I see a locked door. A ‘for sale’ sign is up. Yes, I recall, Mr Bolger retired. So too will eighty-two year old Mr Boles, who took over a pharmacy fifty years ago, just across the road from Mr Bolger. The place is very old Dublin, a bit scruffy, with dark wooden cabinets, no fancy cosmetics, lotions or potions but a history lesson on the street and surrounding area comes free with whatever you came in for.
Will my favorite burgundy boots get to meet any other part of Dublin so well? Am I in transition, the same as the street I live on?
The old ways are vanishing slowly, with new ways slow to replace them.