The pavement is too narrow for them, half-blocked by parked cars. They need the full width of the street to tack and weave, for they are completely blocked; snottered. These two culchies have ventured out of the student ghetto of the Holylands, and are in the less familiar territory of Ballynafeigh, on the other side of the Ormeau Bridge. It is not yet lunchtime and their eyes are rolling in their heads. They have obviously been up all night: you couldn’t get as drunk as this without having put the hours in. Moreover, their jeans and GAA football shirts look like they haven’t been slept in yet. Slumber will come later; someone’s bed will be pissed in. For a moment, their antics are comical, like something out of an old silent movie. I imagine a wavering piano soundtrack counterpointing their stumbling gait as they cross the road and continue on behind the bakery. Of course, they’re far from silent. They slur loudly across the road at each other, but I can’t be annoyed trying to work out what they’re saying. They soon disappear from view and I return to my desk, wondering briefly about their safety.
Fifteen minutes later they are back. I get up to look out of the window at them once more. They have gone full circle and are coming back up the street the same way as they did earlier. As they get past my house, one of them wobbles unsteadily and then sits on the pavement in the space left by a departed car to take a swig from his near-empty 2-litre Barrack-Buster of cider. His mate stands swaying in the middle of the road, urging him to get moving, then gives up and slowly moves off; they have somewhere important to be. After a few uncertain steps his mobile rings. He hokes in his pocket for an eternity, then pulls out the phone and lifts it to his ear; too late. He stares at the device in bewildered disgust, and starts poking at it. As he approaches the junction with Ava Avenue for the second time, the connection is made. Arrrrrright there! he gulders, whaa’s happ’nin’ boy?
Concentrating as he is on the task at hand, he doesn’t see the small black Micra turning into the street. It’s not going fast, and manages to stop. A fortunate sideways stagger takes him well out of the car’s path anyway. I don’t think he’s even aware of it. He keeps going down Ava, roaring out his location. His companion runs shambolically in front of the motionless car to join him. As he passes, he lifts his left paw and then clubs the wing mirror a hard dig. It folds back with a thud, but surprisingly doesn’t break. The driver, a girl who lives across the street, sits frozen at the wheel. Even from here I can see that she’s gripping the wheel tightly. Her face is pale, and her mouth is twisted up. After a few moments she dabs her eyes with a sleeve, pulls the car onto the kerb, straightens the mirror, and goes inside.