I was born in Dublin on January 3rd, 1862, Flynn Michael O’Connor, the second son of four children to Mr. And Mrs. Patrick O’Connor. I’m 20 years old and live with my parents in their house in Dublin on Grafton Road. They’ve lived in the same house since they were married 37 years ago in St. Michael’s Irish Roman Catholic Church. My father still reads the same newspaper and smokes the same pipe. His brother, Frank and his wife who live next door visit us everyday. Because their kids have grown, my Aunt and Uncle and my parents have dinner together at their house or my parent’s house everyday.
My life in Dublin hasn’t changed much since school. I’ve been trying to leave Dublin but so far I am still working at my father’s pub. I go to work, spend time in the pub after work with my unmarried friends and then go home to my parents’ house. My life sometimes changes a little on the weekends, but not much.
Gotham Road was the road Maria and I traveled together here in Dublin. Her parents still live in the same house, still attend the same Irish Roman Catholic Church and they still turn their lights out at ten. A lamplight stands almost straight across from Maria’s old bedroom. Her room has the same curtains, but I only see them by day now. The room sits empty only by the absence of Maria. Maria and I were going to leave Dublin together and make a life together, away from Dublin, in London. That was before she met Patrick McCourt. That was when Dublin seemed to change for Maria and then seemed perfect for the two of them to marry and raise a family.
My friends Jack and Joe Donnelly and I are meeting at a pub after work. Joe works with me but Jack has a good job. They are bringing some friends and some relatives of theirs. The Donnelly’s live on North Richmond Street. Their families have lived in Dublin as far back as my family—forever. Sometimes there is talk of going to London or to America but no one ever leaves. Dubliners are into tradition. They need each other, their Catholic Church, their Catholic God and their traditions. I feel like I’m going to be like them. I don’t want to be a Dubliner but neither did they. Dubliners talk about what they were going to do and where they were going to move, but I think they’re afraid.
Joe told me a secret after we left the pub. Molly, a friend of his from Dublin and Annie, a friend from London both said they like me. I think that I could like either girl but I know I have to make a choice. I will have to sleep on it and let Joe know which girl I need him to talk to about me. My father always taught me to sleep on big decisions.
I woke up this morning with an awareness, things were clear, my father was right! A thought occurred to me that made my decision for me. Since Molly’s family has lived in Dublin forever and Annie’s family lives in London and I want out of Dublin, it all made clear sense. I will tell Joe and he can tell Annie so we can start making some plans.
I went to the pub a little early because I wanted some time alone to talk to Joe before I started my working shift. I cleaned up, drank a breakfast-cup of hot piping coffee and made my way to the pub. The other fellows talked to me a bit but I let them know I needed to talk to Joe before he leaves. I found Joe in the back wiping some glasses dry. I didn’t want to waste much time.
“Joe, you know that secret you told me? About the two girls?”
“Umh—well yeah,” Joe answered kind of slowly.
“I slept on it and came up with my decision like my father always told me to.”
Joe had a half blank look on his face.
“I’m going to ask Annie,” I told him since he still looked puzzled.
“Uh…Annie returned to London and went back to her boyfriend. They have decided not to put it off any longer.”
“Put what off?”
“He asked her to marry her and they have started the plans for a big wedding in London with their family and friends there in England.”
“But I slept on it…it made clear sense.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know she would go back with him. I’m really sorry, Flynn.”
I could tell by how Joe was looking at me it was just because I had a pitiful look so I just added like nothing to it, “Molly’s a nice girl too.” I didn’t want Molly. Molly was a Dubliner. Dubliners marry other Dubliners and have Dubliner children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. It had all made sense. Something went wrong. Something went really wrong. My father was wrong. The whole Irish-Catholic Dubliner world was wrong and I was the one who didn’t belong here.
Maybe if I sleep again it will be clear it was Molly. Molly, the daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Cunningham whose parents, grandparents, whole world of relatives was born, bred, died and buried in Dublin cemeteries. Maybe my father tried to get out of Dublin and maybe my grandfather tried. Maybe they made a choice, they thought they had a choice but they really didn’t. Your whole damn life is planned out for you the day you’re conceived in Dublin. Nobody tells you that because then you’ll know they have lived a bleak life without choices. Old people don’t want you to think their life didn’t go the way they had planned. So they keep it to themselves and the young Dubliners find out on their own when girls from England don’t want anything to do with a Dubliner boy.