Sat between Romayo’s chipper and Dunphy’s carpet shop, the bank building’s wrought iron gates, matured red bricks and oxydised copper roofing was a handsome sight. The polyester of Conor’s socks chirped within his chunky loafers as he made a show of skipping two at a time up its wide granite steps. He wasn’t so proud as to assume the two girls chatting outside the chip shop had looked up from their spice bags to observe his ascent, but you never know.
Only the bank’s two side-doors were open. The grander main entrance, with its double doors large round knockers had been permanently shut for reasons which he guessed were a mixture of security, modesty and laziness. He would have removed his jacket were it not for the beads of sweat he felt on the slight hunch of his neck, many more of which he assumed would be violently darkening his light blue oxford shirt under his arms and around the hill of his back. It was one of those Summer days on which the coastal wind forbade the bearing of any skin yet did nothing to relieve the slow draw of perspiration from bodies cocooned within wind-cheaters.
Inside, the bank building looked like the lobby of an accounting firm with aspirations to make a list of “Great Places to Work”, but the old protected semi-stained glass and peeling plaster of the high ceilings made no secret that this protected structure was of the same ilk and era as the run-down courthouse where Conor had just sworn an affidavit and pocketed fifty quid (not bad for five minute’s work). But while the courthouse had inadvertenly maintained it’s integrity through lack of funding, the bank’s interior, despite its old bones, had undergone several “modernisations”. The wooden furnishings and surfaces of the bank had been ruthlessly stripped back and all that remained were a large screen silently rolling advertisements for the bank to those already captive; a white plastic central podium, embedded with a large screen but covered in forms, brochures, and a cup of tea; and, on the right hand side of the room, three pods, back to back, each closely enveloping a desk, a phone, a touch screen and a small stool. Conor took his place at the back of a short queue leading to the podium and, becoming aware of some action up ahead, he observed the its attendant - apparently the bank’s only employee - nodding, smiling and raising a diplomatic finger while manoeuvring across to one of the pods where an urgent stare communicated that the occupant should deliver his query expediently.
Conor thought the man inside wastoo large for his present confinement. Probably anyone would be. His head, twisted around the pod’s plexiglass door to call for attention, reminded Conor of a bull in a trailer on the motorway: a creature out of place and in wild ignorance of it’s destination, whether the abattoir or the mating pen. His right leg, too, had breached its confines and was vibrating its disembodied impatience outside the pod. He could tell this man was a standard local: Bryclreem, bootcuts and black leather slip-ons. The only thing to distinguish him from any other lad leering at schoolgirls outside the chipper, selling overpriced carpets to aul wans, or having a smoke outside the courthouse, was something even more anachronistic than the rest of his get up - a pair of thick sideburns, the brawn of which were undermined by the panicked face they framed.
Still at the back of the queue, and sensing the frantic air, Conor lifted his chin both to observe the encounter and to put himself above it. He removed his bluetooth earbuds to catch whatever small drama might be occurring. Still she said nothing, but he attendant’s close lean, wide eyes, and parsed smile beckoned the man to speak now.
- Said they want to talk to you?
- Oh they’re asking after me are they? Tell them I’m grand and thanks for asking.
Conor smirked at the cruel humour of this as he admired her quickness, and his eyes remained fixed on her as she leaned into the pod and took the receiver from the man without needing to be asked again.
- Yeah. Yeah. No he doesn’t. He does yeah. Sure I dunno. That’s not one for us.
She was half inside the pod now, and its inhabitant leaned back to allow her to reach the touch screen as she continued to discuss whatever administrative banalities Conor assumed had confused the man. He felt a twinge of anger towards him, either due to the inconvenience he was causing to the rest of the bank’s customers, or perhaps out of envy, because as she leaned into the pod, her bright blue branded t-shirt had riled up above her low-rise jeans to reveal the dimples of her tanned lower back. Catching himself, Conor reflexively averted his gaze downwards to her ankles. Still worth admiring, he thought. Equally tan and and slim, but less weird to stare. Anyway, he wasn’t into ankles in that way, he congratulated himself.
Acknowledging the reflex in this way reminded Conor of why, in the first place, he had cultivated such a habitual misdirection of his objectification. It was a ploy to trick his wandering eyes and to maintain the intensity and longevity of his attraction to Her. Because where She had any other woman beat were those delicate protrusions which so delightfully attached foot to calf and allowed such a brilliant range of movement - almost every direction if you thought about it. He hadn’t even minded that her feet were a couple of sizes too big for his liking. And so he was comforted that his adherence to this practice had made his habitual floor-level admirations not a pervert’s compulsion but a pious act of fidelity.
A sigh brought him back
- No, no. No he’s sorted now, we’ll leave that for another day. He doesn’t mind.
Three rapid biro taps finished her mission. And she snapped back. She pulled down the hem of her tshirt and Conor felt satisfied he hadn’t availed of the opportunity to stare.