Falling into the Slipstream: A Manic Adventure in Galway’s Nightlife

The Slipstream

The Slipstream - green-lit river at night, slow shutter speed

July 29th, 1:21am

Without any conscious command from me, my heel hammers to the tempo of the music. My left hand is clutching a Soco-and-lime. The ice quivers, clinking against the shaking glass, in time with the reverberations of the bass. In this moment, I feel a little less like myself. And I smile.

I think of how terrified we all are. Of how desperate we all are to dissolve.

I think of the God that dwells at the bottom of the bottle. Of that perfect moment when your spirit slips open, and the whole universe comes toppling in.

I am part of a world of light and sound, of mania and madness, where everyone is just looking for something to dissolve into.

Someone to dissolve into.

Anything. Just so long as that shattered self, with all its serrated edges, can fall from our frightened grip.


July 28th, 8:04pm

A part of me wants to collapse. A part of me wants to keep pushing.

My day has been a “sum zero.” I wrote one article. Then I spiraled into plans for how I could afford accommodation at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I look at my watch. I’d been planning on going to bed in just a couple hours.

I search for the will to want something, but it isn’t there. The only response I can think of is the one that brought me here in the first place: I need to keep moving. I need to get out.

I need to run away.


July 29th, 1:56am


Fergal leans toward me on the dance floor, so I can hear him over the music. “Is it much different in America? I bet it is. No one in Ireland knows how to dance.”

As if to demonstrate, he waves his hands around and dances in a way that resembles a puppet being tossed around haphazardly by its puppeteer.


July 28th, 8:52pm

I come to the end of the Galway’s city centre, but my mind still feels too tightly lashed. I could simply turn around and go back to the hostel. But that strange wanderlust element tugs me down an unfamiliar road.

It’s the unfamiliar that makes a thing seem beautiful. It’s not that it is more beautiful, but you haven’t gone numb to it yet. The newness makes it all re-awaken—makes the colors fresher, makes the shape more elegant.

The unfamiliar road takes me to submerged trees, ivy-laden canals, and simmering sunsets.

I am glad that I am surrounded by beautiful things. I am happy because I am seeing them.

July 29th, 2:14am

I am trying to dance like I’m really free.

Everyone here is ridiculous. The woman who dragged me onto the floor must have been fifty, but showed no shame in grinding against me. Every so often, a man who looks to actually be trying to dance makes his way across the floor by doing the funky chicken. Girls keep throwing their hands in the air. Boys keep pretend to swing dance. And when I do “the scuba diver” and “the twist,” the two girls next to me follow suit.

I feel self-conscious about dancing. About what these strangers are thinking of me. I am still clinging, clinging to that last shred of dignity, of “good enough”—of that thin rope that keeps me tied together, when all I really want to do is disintegrate.


July 28th, 9:17pm


My wanderlust guides me down the winding paths of Galway until I reach the in-roads to the city’s university. 
I walk past notice boards and brightly painted walls. I walk through unlocked doors into empty hallways. I discover photographs by artists whose names I will never know, rooms illuminated with will o’ wisp lights, and—through a narrow glass pane—an audience with eyes fixated on a trio of dancing girls who are lit up in green and blue.
My feet have led me into a world of dreams. 

July 29th, 2:32am

Sweat drips down my overheated skin. My arms are bronzed over, my shirt dampened, my hair slicked. The DJ starts another track, and I realize I’ve been dancing like this for five songs.

For am moment, I think of “exercise.” For a moment, I think of my over-plump body, sweaty and illuminated on the dance floor.
I’m starting to ache from it, but I’m not willing to stop. I am getting nothing, getting nowhere, getting no one, through this. No one here will fall in love with me. No one will want me more. No one will save me.
By morning, everyone here will have forgotten that I exist. And I will still remember.
I ache into the music. I ache into the movement.
I ache.

July 29th, 10:14pm

A river right by NUI Galway



“Sing us a song. An American song.”


“Sure. What’s an American song?”


“Sing the Star Spangled Banner!” one of them suggests.


“Yeah. I … don’t really know that one.”


They laugh and scream at me. The one across from me has had enough to drink that he’s lost volume control, and suddenly he rambles off about some star athlete I know nothing about.


They keep making suggestions for songs, followed by wild tangents to topics that I only understand the margins of. They apologize for not having a drink to offer me, and one of them gives me the last of his Southern Comfort to finish off. I tell them I know a joke about Irishmen, and they ask me to tell it.

“An Irishman walked out of a pub,” I say.

Five of them burst out laughing right away. One of them needs to have the joke explained to him very slowly.

They ask for a song again, so I stand and sing “Feel Good Drag,” screaming we can just pretend. Screaming everybody’s tired of someone. Screaming your lips, your lies, your lust. Screaming was this over before it ever began

They applaud loudly—but, then, everything about them is loud.

Then they do their part, and sing for me. These are sporting songs—fight songs, I think. They shout mostly about “Liverpool United.”
As I walk from the university grounds, the one with a tattoo across his face tags along. He tells me he got out of prison just six months ago. He says he wants to see his son, but his ex won’t let him. He says the only way he can see his son at all right now is to look down at his arm—where he has a tattoo of his boy, six months old, the way the child looked when he’d last seen him. His son is two now.

July 29th, 2:49am


The passion in the kiss of the first duo I saw made me assume they had come here together. As more and more of those on the dance floor couple off, I realize this isn’t true.


The emotions at play are varied. One girl kisses a man who has been clinging to her like the plague, then she instantly turns away, the look in her eyes begging for the right to spit—to shout—to take it back. Worse is the woman with platinum hair, radiant in the light. She kisses a man like the act lost its meaning farther back than she can even remember.


But sometimes, a pair come together in a starstruck moment that nearly glows.

Hubert has started slow-dancing with the girl his eyes locked onto. Quietly, gently, his head rests down against hers. She looks up at him, a blaze like hope rising up in her. You can see the light of anticipation soaring across her eyes. When their lips come together, there is no hesitation. Only a fearless fervor that mingles with a strange sense of safety, ebbing beyond their tides, found in the simple way they hold onto one another.
Dissolving into one another.



In this moment, I see something beautiful—something good—that I know I would want, if I ever had the chance to have it.


July 29th, 10:49pm

When the sun goes down, everything changes.


Certain sounds become more intense. Some colors over-saturate in rebellion to the night.

red, red roses at night

Rivers gain greater majesty. Their midnight movements bestow the water with new depths.

Galway canal - slow shutter speed - night



Buildings seem ominous, like their golden flood lights could cause the stone to catch fire.

Galway cathedral at night.
When the sun goes down, everything changes.

July 29th, 3:04am

I spiral around the dance floor, trying to make a fool of myself so I don’t have to fear looking foolish anymore.

I want to shake off shame. I want to be open to every possibility that hovers in the air around me. I want to see everything that’s here.

I want to keep going until my body stops burning.

I want to keep going until this all makes sense.

I want to keep going until I am no longer terrified.

I want to keep going.


July 29th, 11:37pm

My curiosity tugs me down seedy-looking back streets. Just looking toward he dimly lit space makes me feel a subtle fear creeping in under my fingernails.
My instincts tells me I have something to be scared of here. My wanderlust tells me that’s precisely why I wanted to wander this way.

I navigate parks that echo with the sounds of drunken exploits. I tour through graffiti-stained alleys.

When I finally emerge, I find myself wandering alongside a stream of tourists, all walking to the pace of Galway’s late-night pulse.
“Do you want to buy my book?” says Fergal. “Or, wait, no: Do you want to sign my book?”
I agree, trying to be enthusiastic. Trying to stay open toward everything. I sign:
Thanks for the amazing night! 😉
xoxo
Rob

He tells me he’s trying to become a tattoo artist. He’s had too much shitty wine tonight, and he’s been asking people to buy or sign his book of sketches for an hour now.
I ask to look through his sketchbook. As people wander by, I ask them to sign his book. A few are willing to take part in the weirdness. Amidst the flood of pub-goers, there is a brief counter-current of people stepping over to sign a sketchbook—with some getting pulled into the inked beauty on the pages.
Movement of art on the streets of Galway.

July 29th, 3:29am

Exhaustion starts to settle in.



I lean against the bar, hand hovering over my empty glass. I see the time on my watch, and feel surprised that they haven’t stopped the music yet.


A part of me wants to collapse. A part of me wants to keep pushing.


I don’t know what I feel right now. I know I feel tired. And lonely. And sad, I guess. It’s a feeling like I want to cry, but I know I wouldn’t be up to the feat.


July 29th, 12:04am

“So, should we just rape him now?” says Hubert.
“Yep. Now that we’ve got him in the alley, we can just tell him that all the rest has been an incredibly elaborate ruse.”
I laugh. “All right. But fair warning: I have aids.”
“Oh, no, guys,” says Fergal. “He’s got one up on us.”
“I like the sense of danger,” says Hubert.
“Plus, we could always use a condom,” says Jack.
“So the next time you rape someone, be sure to use a condom,” I say, imitating a PA announcement. “Practice safe rape.”
“Srape,” says Fergal.
Jack turns to Hubert. “Do you use a condom when you rape girls?”
“Of course!” says Hubert. “I’m not a monster!

July 29, 3:38am

The music keeps blasting, but I am fixed in place, leaning against the bar. My legs are already angry at me for the way I pushed them. My ankles ache. My stomach is burning along the edges.

People around me are talking, but I can’t hear them. The light and sound keeps thudding against me.

I look at my pedometer, curious of how much of my dancing was picked up by it. Since arriving at this pub, the pedometer has clocked 10,000 steps.


Five miles on the dance floor.


July 29, 12:39am


“This never happens,” says Hubert. “Not in Galway.”

My eyes stay on the four “garda” squad cars that are outside the club we were headed to.

“So it was really a bomb threat, then?” asks Jack.

“Yeah,” says Frankie.

“Galway is like Switzerland,” says Hubert, explaining to me. “We’ve never been a part of the troubles with the North. We’ve got nothing to do with it.”

“I bet it’s just a hoax,” says Fergal. “I bet you anything that it’s just payback. Cascade had to close at one last night because of licensing, and we stole their crowd. I bet you anything it’s just payback.”

“Why would they even bomb a club anyway?” says Jack.

“From what I hear, a lot of clubs in Ireland got bomb threats tonight,” says Frankie. “All from some Northern number.”

“There’s no way this is real. It’s just a hoax.” Hubert shakes his head. “Come on. Let’s go someplace else.” He leads us on to another club he knows, where a few friends of his are celebrating. “This never happens,” he says. “Not in Galway.”


July 29,  3:43am

Hubert keeps wandering off the dance floor. I can barely understand what he’s saying, but I get the idea that he wants to go to different parts of the club, and the area around it. He’s asking me if I want to come with him.

Kelly's bar in Galway



We step into the nicotine haze of the smoking room, but Hubert leaves after twenty seconds. We step into the cold noisiness of Galway at night, and wander through the drunken crowds, back up toward the quays.


“I’ll walk you back to your hostel,” says Hubert. “But then I’ve got to go back. I’ve got to find that girl.”


July 29th, 1:21am


Without any conscious command from me, my heel hammers to the tempo of the music. My left hand is clutching a Soco-and-lime. The ice quivers, clinking against the shaking glass, in time with the reverberations of the bass. In this moment, I feel a little less like myself. And I smile.


July 29, 12:21pm

When Fergal and Hubert see me, they cross the street to say hello. Both of them are cringing at me through the sunlight with shadow-sunk eyes. They speak in hushed voices, trying not to hurt their own heads.

“What are you up to?” they ask.

I explain that I’m just killing time while waiting for a shop to open. I’m buying a tent today, so I can camp out at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.

Thinking of the night before, I ask, “Did you ever find that girl?”

“No,” says Hubert. “I’m pretty annoyed by it, honestly.” He cranes his neck to avoid the glare bleeding down from the bright sky above us. “But at this point, it wouldn’t matter. I wouldn’t recognize her if I saw her.”


I hesitate, contrasting my memory of their sparking moment in the dark with the numbness found in today’s warm noon.

Hubert shakes his head, a placating smile on his face, like it’s a bad joke he’s heard before. “I don’t even remember what she looked like.”

I think of how terrified we all are. Of how desperate we all are to dissolve.

I think of the God that dwells at the bottom of the bottle. Of that perfect moment when your spirit slips open, and the whole universe comes toppling in.

I am part of a world of light and sound, of mania and madness, where everyone is just looking for something to dissolve into.

Someone to dissolve into.

Anything. Just so long as that shattered self, with all its serrated edges, can fall from our frightened grip.

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