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From “Real Estate,” which was published in the Summer 2023 issue of The Dublin Review.

the village

When I was around twelve, we moved to an estate in Newbridge, which was arguably the second-most significant town in County Kildare. Newbridge was called Newbridge because it was once the site of a new bridge. That new bridge was very old by the time we moved there. Halfway into the estate, near our house, there was a green, and beyond it a line of well-tended fir trees. On the other side of those trees was a single tennis court. The court spoke to the estate’s class aspirations. Lawyers, doctors, businesspeople, teachers, and army officers lived in the Village. The Village was posh. When asked where I lived, I’d often say, “I live over in Ballymany,” which was a vaguer name for our part of town. 

st. ignatius road, dublin 7

The house on Ignatius Road was a terraced three-bedroom with a jerry-rigged extension. It was my first home away from home. Yes, the windowpane in my room was broken and the landlady never fixed it. But I had a parka. Unlike my flatmates, on weekends I would go home, where I ate properly and had my clothes washed. When I’d get back on Sunday nights my flatmates liked to come up to me and smell my clothes. They stopped trying to smell me around midweek.

Josephine avenue

Josephine Avenue was a Victorian redbrick terrace in the north inner city. There were three official bedrooms and a fourth unofficial one accessed by rickety narrow stairs to the attic. The landlord warned us about the steepness of these stairs and then promptly fell down them. He didn’t mind what we did with the place. To the drawings on the wall he said: “Very artistic.” We thought we were very artistic. Angeline’s boyfriend, Maurice, who more or less lived with us, was a conceptual artist. Every morning for a month he left the house wearing a high-vis jacket and traveled to Waterford. There, he would run around the city, following the same route every day. This was for a well-funded project called Marathon Man. One day I came home to find a glowing loaf of bread on the kitchen table. “Help help, I’m a little man and I’m trapped in the bread,” said a voice from behind a pile of coats. He had hollowed out a loaf of bread and put his bike light in it. He did that art project for free.

the house in which i will likely die

Marino was the first major public housing development completed by the new Irish state in the Twenties. They were designed for working people who had been living in inner-city tenements. But over time, the Irish state grew less willing to invest in housing its people. And the Irish middle classes began confusing homes with investment opportunities and status objects. Eventually the state concluded that housing was not its responsibility. I have now lived here longer than anywhere else. I’m pretty sure I’m going to die here. I know that sounds morbid, but it’s meant to be a happy thought. It means I’m content.

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October 2023

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