I live on a what, at first sight, looks a very quiet, small street. That’s what it looks like if you walk there and are only there for a couple of minutes, maybe an hour.
If you stay any longer, like me — I’ve stayed there for almost 10 months now — you will notice that this small street is far from being quiet; it’s very noisy in fact. It is noisy because of the huge trucks that drive by all the time. Sometimes I just have to walk to the window to see if England hasn’t invaded Ireland again, because it sounds like enormous tanks are driving past. Sometimes I walk to the window to see if haven’t ended up in the medieval times because I hear horses with carriages driving past.
But it’s not the case.
Everything I need here in Dublin is at the right. When I walk out the door I walk my not-so-quiet street in the right direction and then often directly to the left. My store is there. My university is there. My friends live there. The city centre is there.
Trucks and cars, however, most often drive to the left. Not to the right. I was never there. I was never where the cars and huge trucks and horses go. I always walked to the right. Nothing I need is at the left. I sometimes looked to the left but there’s not much to see. You see some houses and there’s a left turn. I never went there.
Until a couple of days ago.
A couple days ago, I don’t remember exactly what day, I decided to have a look what was there around the corner, to the left. Why did all the trucks, cars and horses always go there? I put on my shoes, took my iPod and there I went, out the door, to the left until the end of the street and then around the corner, again, left.
What I saw I hadn’t expected. Everybody who has spent some time in Dublin and visited London before has the same feeling. Dublin is a little bit like London, but smaller, tighter, narrower, uglier. The streets are narrow. Almost everywhere the streets are narrow. My street is narrow. However, the street around the corner was hardly narrow. It was really wide in fact.
Ridiculously wide. I don’t see why. My street was the main street leading to it, although from the looks of it there were some more small streets leading to the big, wide street. And there was nothing there but a street. Just a huge wide street. At the left there was only a wall. Across the street there were some shops, but they all seemed closed and abandoned. You see a lot of such shops here, many still have the names on them but it is very apparent that they haven’t been open for years.
The atmosphere in the street around the corner was strange, really strange. Completely different from my street. If this would have been a science-fiction story, curious things would be going on. But it is not, and I don’t like science-fiction.
My phone rang. Only once; the sign that my girlfriend was waiting with the phone in her hand in Oxted, waiting for my call. She works there as an au-pair right now and only has dial-up internet so I have to call to her landline number from Skype. I was close to home still so decided to walk back and make the call. When we were done I kept thinking about the street around the corner.
I decided to go back.
Not much had changed since I was there about an hour earlier. Except one thing. There were two cars parked at the left of the street. For the rest the street was completely empty, which was strange in my opinion because I have the feeling all day long big cars, trucks and horses go there. But they were nowhere to be seen. Except for those two parked cars. I decided to walk the street and see where it ended up.
As I walked the street I passed the first car. A man was sitting inside. I looked at him. He didn’t look at me. He looked at the empty wall at the side of the street. I looked at it too, there was nothing to be seen. I continued my walk. When I got closer to the second car I saw there were two people sitting in there. In the front there was a woman. In the back there was a child, a boy I would estimate around six years old. Neither of them looked at me, even though I looked at them. They too, were looking at the empty wall. It was strange. If this would have been a science-fiction story, curious things would be going on. But it is not, and I don’t like science-fiction.
I walked on. This was a strange street. There were some other side-streets that led into it, but all these streets seemed empty. There was a whole row of closed down shops at the other side of the street. A barber shop, a fruit store, some store where you could buy tiles. But they were all closed and seemed like they had been closed for many years.
And I couldn’t stop noticing. The street was abandoned, abandoned! How can that possibly be!? I heard cars, trucks and horses go there all the time and now that I was there — nothing. Nothing at all. It was like they disappeared as soon as they entered the street, invisible for anybody to see. If this would have been a science-fiction story, curious things would be going on. But it is not, and I don’t like science-fiction.
I got to the end of the street. It turned back into a normal narrow street there turning to the left. I decided to follow it. I would take the street to the left and then continue to walk straight ahead, eventually I would have to end up in the street where I knew there was a super market and I had to buy some items there. I followed the narrow street. This one was less curious and there even were some people there. I kept walking and walking. I walked from one street to the other, one turning slightly to the right, another slightly to the left. I got a bit worried. Although the route should be really simple I expected I should be at the street with the super market by now, but I was not. Finally I ended up in a street that was wider and had more traffic. I didn’t know the street but decided to follow it to the left, which in my head would be the wrong direction, but a safe direction. I walked and walked. Eventually I ended up at the street where I had to be. And there was the store. Curious. Very curious.
If this would have been a science-fiction story, curious things would be going on, involving Escheresque street transformations. But it is not, and I don’t like science-fiction.
Orientation just never was my strongest point.