Breakfast Paranoia

Breakfast Paranoia

1998

Dublin

26 October

A strange, unsettling outbreak of paranoia in the renamed Billboard (“Leroy’s”) on Camden St: I was upstairs, waiting patiently, admiring the voluptuous new waitress. Thirty-something, a dyed blonde, bobbing up and down the stairs she came and went.

Three guys sat quietly at the table behind me, the farthest one back, in a raised corner under a translucent skylight. As I was eating the indifferent brunch, one of the other staff below discreetly called the lady in charge about an issue upstairs. Whatever the problem was, I was suddenly keen to find out. I just felt that I should know what the matter was but it wasn’t being broadcast.

Looking down I could something of a contagion spreading among the black-attired waitresses, an almost silent but visible effect like the chill in The Masque of the Red Death.

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I wanted to know more. The problem created a paralysis, like it was frightening, at least to women. I wanted to know but all I managed to make out was a simple exchange.

“Have you been up there?”
“No, I haven’t been up there,” replied the one in charge.
“Well, there’s something up there.”

It didn’t get any more appetising, what was on my plate. Those three guys behind abandoned their table and didn’t pay. When they had left, I was alone in the eye line of the anxious women in black, down below. They couldn’t stop themselves raising their eyes in my direction, in that of the skylight. Remember Harry Dean Stanton and the cat in Alien.

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Don’t look back. It was time for me to leave. I paid but wouldn’t be back. If we only knew, we’d go nowhere. Start a panic. If I’d turned around before the door and demanded to know what was going on, I’d have been the one to start that stampede.