The Gathering of Space-Gypsies
By A.C. Johner
In the summer of 2003 I was living in Dublin. At nineteen years old, it was my first time out of the United States, and I had left with latterly nothing but a spoon, toothbrush, a knapsack filled with science fiction novels, and something like 1000 dollars to live off of for the next three months. I spent my first month living in this run down hostel for only forty dollars a week in what I suppose was the seedier side of Dublin. The back half of the facility had been burned away by some fire years before and left the entire back half of the place in a pile of black rubble that had been moved to the back of the patio. One of the toilets in the upstairs of the building leaked and every afternoon would begin to drip down a rusting chandelier that hung over the pool table in the rec room, there were blood stains on the floor, and my first week someone died in his sleep from a heroin overdose. The people who occupy this ramshackle place, were not young zesty tourists, they were vagabonds, drug addicts, misplaced Scotsmen looking for work in Dublin, and penniless travelers from the shadier sides of Europe who never told you their actual business. I made good friends with a man named Conrad. He was in his late thirties and looked like a washed-up rock star that had been homeless or beaten to near death a few times in his life. He had deep dark swollen eyes that he always wore a pair of shades over, and always wore the same raggedy flannel shirt. His story was that he had been some narcotics king-pin up in Northern Ireland who landed seven years in prison and had only been out a month. He removed his sunglasses when he told me the story and made me look at his face so that I knew there was no lie that he had been behind a fence for nearly a decade. He claimed he was in Dublin now looking for work and a new life. So far he had seemed to have only gotten himself into drinking....
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