It was one of those slow-motion falls; the kind where there is a palpable amount of time during which no part of your body is on the ground. A banana-skin fall. A Chaplin fall. A gobshite fall.
Just moments earlier I had been waiting impatiently at a red light. I had taken the opportunity to glance at my phone. It was 2.48 and I had a missed call. No time to return it though as according to the blue dot, I was only halfway back to the embassy. It’s not like I hadn’t been sprinting but if I was going to make it, I was going to have to dig deep and find another gear. The light turned green, I took one step out onto the wet road and up I went. As I waited for gravity to take effect, I remember thinking to myself: ‘I really want to go home. I do hope I haven’t just fucked my chances of getting home’.
An older man offered me his I outstretched hand and helped me back to my feet. I got up gingerly – a bit of whiplash but nothing broken and no time to be embarrassed. I thanked him and set off. After a few blocks, my right leg was getting weak. Possibly the endorphins had worn off and I was hurt worse than I first thought or maybe my body was finally giving in after all the rushing around. Either way, I didn’t have it in me to keep running. I took out my my phone, tried to dry it with my sleeve, made it wetter doing so, rubbed the screen off the only dry bit of fabric under my armpit and took momentary shelter under a tree. It was 2.53. I refreshed the Google Map. The embassy was still a five minute walk away.
Nicoleta greeted me as I ambled somberly into the embassy, a wet mess, dripping all over their carpet. I gestured to the clock on the wall which read 3pm.
“I did my best but I presume it’s too late?”
“You didn’t answer your phone?”
“Oh, was that you? Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I spoke with Dublin and the lady there is already working on your letter. Also, the ambassador said to send everything by courier so they’ll have what they need by first thing tomorrow.”
“So your letter should be here the morning after.”
“Did you get the letter and photos?”
I handed her the wet envelope.
“I hope they’re ok.”
“I’m sure they’re fine. I’ll call the courier now.”
The ambassador emerged from the other office.
“There’s nothing more you can do now David. You may as well sit down and have a cup of tea.”
“That actually sounds really good.”
“Derek Feely is my name, by the way.”
We shook hands.
“Thank you so much for sending all my stuff by courier.”
“That’s no problem.”
He ushered me to the back office and a small adjacent kitchenette.
“Do you take sugar?”
“Yes please, just one.”
He rummaged through some presses.
“I don’t think we have any.”
“That’s ok. Without sugar is fine.”
“Don’t be silly. You’ve had a bad enough day already. And this is the Irish Embassy, for God’s sake. We can’t be giving people bad cups of tea here.”
While he was gone, I wrote a tweet comparing myself to Tom Hanks’ character from ‘The Terminal’ – something pithy about being a man without a country – and sent it. Derek returned moments later with a bowl of sugar, claiming to have caused an international incident whilst getting it from the German Embassy upstairs. He joined me for a cup of tea and we got chatting. In typical Irish fashion, it didn’t take us five minutes to make a connection. Not only did his sons go to my alma mater but it turned out that I used to coach one of them in cricket. I also discovered that as a child he was my step-mother’s neighbour, at which point he excused himself rather abruptly.
“Hang on a minute David. Nicoleta!… NICOLETA!”
Nicoleta appeared in the doorway.
“I’ve been chatting with David and I was just wondering if there isn’t more we can do. Do you remember that machine? The one that we used last year for that lad from Roscommon?”
“Do we still have that?”
“I don’t know.”
They disappeared into the other office and I checked my phone to find a message from Saron telling me she had just landed and asking me what time Dara and Mireille O’Kearney were arriving to our house tomorrow. In all the rushing, it had completely slipped my mind. They were on holidays in Rome and Dara was coming over for the Unibet Open Malta. I told her that they were due at lunch time and that there was a decent chance that I would get there the day after.
Derek returned and we continued our chat. I was curious as to what might be going on but thought it rude to ask. I didn’t have to wait long. Less than ten minutes later, Nicoleta came in bearing what looked like a small green leather-bound notebook. She handed it to Derek and he flipped through it, nodding with approval.
“Yeah… yeah… that’s good. You know what, you’d get away with that. David, what do you think?”
“Eh, what is it?”
“It’s your new passport.
“Your new passport. Nicoleta just made it for you.”
“She made it?”
“Yeah, we have a machine in the back. We’re not supposed to use it because your identity is supposed to be verified through the proper channels, but after our chat, I’m happy that you are who you say you are.”
I looked at my apparently legal travel document incredulously. It was wafer thin, the pages were like that 1-ply toilet paper that you get in pub toilets and while my image was that from the photos I had gotten made, it was black and white and weirdly super-imposed twice over the personal information page.
“Wow, so this is a real passport.”
“Well it’s just an emergency passport but we put the maximum amount of time on it – 11 months.”
“So I could go to the airport right now and fly with this?”
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much.”
I turned to Nicoleta.
“It’s brilliant. Thank you so much.”
I immediately got on my phone and found a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul at 6am with a connecting flight to Malta, getting me in before midday. I rang Saron to tell her the good news. I was going to arrive home just 19 hours after her, a pretty amazing result all things considered. Derek told me I could have dinner with him and his wife and stay in their home until my flight but I felt like he and Nicoleta had already gone above and beyond the call of duty. In any case, my pal Dave Curtis had heard about my misfortune and had offered to buy me dinner back at his hotel. While I was fairly sure this was an invitation to an hour of ridicule, I was starving and I figured that when he saw me in saturated clothes, he might let me use his shower and loan me a t-shirt.
Did he fuck!
Dave is one of my favorite people in poker but he’s also a total bollix who revels in a good wind-up. My clothes were still visibly wet when I arrived to the hotel, I mentioned how sopping wet I was as soon as I saw him and I must have segued the conversation to my wringing wet trousers at least six times. After a nice chat, he gestured for the bill and I made a last gasp reference to ‘probably catching a cold’. When that fell on deaf ears, I could only assume that there was a rent-boy handcuffed to his bed.
With plenty of time to kill, I sat down in the lobby, plugged my phone into the wall and tweeted a picture of my new passport with the caption ‘Check out my brand new passport! #TheThingsTheyCanMakeInBucharest’. Five minutes later, my phone rang from an unfamiliar number. I answered. The voice at the other end told me he was from Turkish Airlines.
“I see you’ve had quite a day Sir.”
“You are David Kilmartin Lappin flying from Bucharest to Istanbul tomorrow morning?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“I see you’ve had quite a day Sir.”
As the gravity of what I had just done dawned on me, I remember thinking to myself: ‘I really want to go home. I do hope I haven’t just fucked my chances of getting home’.
To be Concluded…