But for this thing to happen, in this particular location, I think you really need to be ‘me’.
Holy Communion Day, ‘Sunday before last, and the Armstrong Family Unit were not technically late but we were meant to be in our seats a whole 30 minutes before the event kicked off and we were the-hell-and-gone from being a half an hour early.
On the long walk up to the church door, we got trapped behind a slow moving family and couldn’t get past. I like to move fast when I move… whoosh, that was me. Eventually I got by. I accelerated up the gravel and looked back triumphantly. My family had not got by. Drat.
So I stood in the church porch and waited for my clan to catch up. As I waited, the slow family brushed past me – slowly – and headed up the centre aisle of the church.
So, reunited with family, here I was again, behind the leisurely family, looking for another opening to get past. Half way up the main aisle of the now packed church, I saw my gap and went for it.
I squeezed past and it felt like I got three yards onward up the aisle before some immense force stopped me in my tracks and hauled me back the way I came…
I should say that the family I was trying to get past were a Traveller family and the girls in the entourage were dressed up, as is customary, in bright, modern and somewhat revealing clothes. I should also add, for those who do not know, that Traveller families in Ireland, generally live quiet, socially separate lives from the so-called ‘settled’ community. A proud traveller girl, it is safe to say, wouldn’t really want anything to do with a damn-fool settled fella in a suit… particularly not today and particularly not here.
So, yes, I was hauled back.
In passing this youthfully-dressed twenty-something traveller girl, a button of my nice jacket had somehow become entangled in a stray thread from her black bra. The engineering of said bra was sufficient to yank me, Sam Peckinpah-like, back down the aisle and then there we were – this girl and me – all tangled up together in the aisle of the church on First Communion Day.
And if there is a single word to describe us both, it was this: Inextricable.
I think we were bound together for over three minutes as I tried in vain to get the bra-thread off my suit. I wound the thread one way and it started getting longer and longer, obviously coming loose. But then it would reach a critical point and start getting shorter and shorter again until we were back where we started off.
I would like to tell you about the hilarious reaction of the congregation, the cameras clicking, the older folk tut-tutting but the truth is, I know nothing of these things. Upon getting snagged I entered, as I often do in times of crisis, a highly-focused-shiny-forehead state of intense concentration upon which nothing intruded. There was only me and the bra-strap-thread… oh, and the girl.
With much respect to her, the girl was dignity personified. During the whole tangle-debacle, she spoke not one syllable to me. She stood tall and statuesque while I fiddled with her boobs in the church.
“I’m really sorry,” I said as I wound my thread. “Shall I just snap it?” There was no response, so I deduced from this that I shouldn’t and kept winding.
Trish, I now realised, was at my shoulder, giving customary support.
“You’ve got it now,” she said encouragingly. But I hadn’t got it, I was still a full 67 seconds away from that happy moment.
Neither Trish nor I mentioned the incident all day long – there were priests to stand beside, relatives to feed and cash money to commandeer.
That evening though, we had a Donnie Darko moment on the couch.
“How about that bra?” was all I said.
And we both laughed and laughed…