His alarm woke him at 5.30am, bang on sun rise. He knew that as he’d checked the morning sunrise time the night before, via the online weather channel. In the past he would’ve called the meteorological office in Glasnevin and requested a specific time for dawn. This was it, the big day and he was not going to be late.
He got out of bed and turned on his en suite shower, before passing water and then flushing. Then the shower began. He washed carefully, attending to every detail, behind his ears, crotch, behind his knees, his bottom, between his toes and his fingernails. He even washed his hair, what was left of it. Thoughts of the day ahead flashed through his mind. This is it, twenty years waiting for this moment and now it has arrived.
Would they know? He was 35 years old, a successful man of the world, a leader in his field but would they know this was his first time? He couldn’t, wouldn’t dwell on it. He resolved there and then to banish negative thoughts from his mind and his actions.
Dried off, he applied a stick deodorant, underarm, then dispensed some exotic body lotion and applied it to his arms, legs and torso. He shaved, first with an electric razor, the Philishave with the three rotary blades, then he wet his face , applied shaving foam from an aerosol can and wet shaved. He ran the back of his hand over his face, admiring the smoothness he’d achieved. He completed the entire ritual by sloshing a handful of aftershave into the palm of his right hand, rubbed his two palms together, before slapping his cheeks with his palms, issuing a sharp intake of breath, before rubbing the tincture all over the freshly shaved area.
Next, he dressed. His wardrobe , for the day’s adventure, was chosen with some care and not a little deliberation the night before and was all laid out carefully on the bedroom armchair at the foot of his bed. First, his underwear, Paisley patterned boxer shorts and black, lambs wool socks, all his socks were black because there was less confusion if one went missing as they inevitably did.
His next item was a shirt, bought new the day before in the menswear shop on the High St. It was blue, like all his shirts, but this was not his usual shade of blue, being lighter and he felt it would highlight the summer colour, the farmer’s tan he’d acquired from working in his garden in the past fortnight.
Next, he put on his new slacks, a pair of cream coloured chinos, the label said were ‘linen enhanced’. He wasn’t quite sure what that meant but the man in the shop had assured him they were all the rage and that he cut a dash in them. He wasn’t quite sure, either, what that meant and would’ve questioned the man’s motivation in telling him, but he was quietly chuffed by the compliment.
His shoes were new, too. He’d treated himself to a smart but casual pair of laced nubuck shoes in a understated shade of chocolate brown. They were comfortable and complimented his new chinos perfectly, he thought.
Finally, there was the jacket, the piece de resistance of the entire ensemble, he told himself, a dark blue Blazer. It had two bright brass buttons, single breasted and notch lapels with a double vent. The fabric was classic serge, navy blue and the pockets were flap style, more classic and traditional, in the English style, that man in the shop told him. He thought he cut quite a figure once the entire outfit was assembled.
He stood in front of the wardrobe mirror and admired himself, sucking in his abdomen so the jacket’s tailored cut could build out his chest and give him a distinguished, he thought, military profile. He decided not to wear a hat. He had bought one, a light grey, wool trilby, the man assured him was very smart and would complete the debonair look of his outfit but it didn’t feel right and it wasn’t the Panama style he wanted and he knew, the man had foisted the grey hat on him because he just didn’t have a Panama. No, this was the perfect set-up, this was power and confidence. The hat would overdo it, gild the lily, so to speak, diminish his power by making him look like he was trying too hard.
He looked good he told himself, good enough to take on the task at hand and impress all those who beheld him. Not for him the dodgy raincoat or the hooded parka, sensible shoes and a grubby notebook. No, he was a man of method, power and style, yes, but he was also a man of passion.
He decided to forego breakfast, he was too excited. He wouldn’t hold anything down, his stomach was already a flutter with a cobwebbed ecosphere of its own that would defy description, butterflies were the least of his problems. No, he told himself, he’d get something there, something light and manageable, like a ham sandwich.
Having locked his front door, he pressed the buzzer on his electronic vehicle lock and his top of the range, Range Rover lit up like a puppy primed for a stroll in the park. First order of business was a systems check, a/c was go, every dashboard indicator told him he was ready for takeoff with a full tank of gas and oil, optimum water levels, air pressure and yes, he remembered , he must set his route on his onboard satellite navigation system. His vehicle carried its own broadband server so he had no fear of losing his route or getting lost.
Satisfied, although he knew the route by heart, having travelled it many times before, he started his engine, reversed carefully from his driveway – mindful of his neighbours’ children whose number appeared to have multiplied in recent years – he paused before engaging power and drive and taking off from their enclosed estate.
It occurred to him then he might think of moving and the thought depressed him. After all he bought the first house on the gated estate, straight off the plans, as a favour to the developer, to give him a leg up but getting a good deal for himself into the bargain. In his ordered fashion, he saw it as a solid foundation stone for his future and, some day, his family.
Not that his ventures in that field had yielded fruit, as yet. Finding the right woman was a priority, just not a pressing one, as yet. If he were honest with himself and this was one aspect of motoring that sometimes bothered him, the daydreaming, his efforts at pursuing a romantic agenda had been dismal. He had a successful business, the vehicle he wanted, the house he needed to suit his status and lifestyle and to pursue his hobbies. There was no room, he concluded, for anyone else, particularly children.
The last woman he dated turned out to have a complexity of domestic problems he found himself ill equipped and unprepared to deal with; she was engaged in a bitter battle with her ex-partner over possession of a cat, having disengaged and sold their mutual possessions, including a city apartment and small Spanish villa. She was an attractive woman but required, to his mind, constant reassurance. When he dropped her home, following their first and only date she tried to kiss him when he offered to shake her hand.
‘You are an automaton,’ she wrote to him in response to his email requesting another date, ‘you have all the passion of a bag of gutless herrings,’ she wrote, unnecessarily, he believed.
He has passions, he told himself, reassuringly, just as he arrived at his destination. ‘This is it,’ he thought, carefully parking his vehicle before checking his appearance, yet again, in the Range Rover’s rearview mirror, ‘my first time, I’ll show them passion.’
He checked his watch. He’s bang on time. It was 10.43am. In two minutes he’d be in heaven on rails, a GS&WR Class 101, The Portrush Flyer, and he was taking the extra excursion, all the way to Coleraine. This was the culmination of a lifelong ambition. He could hardly contain his excitement.