The Trouble with Angels


I remember the time my life flashed in front of me. It took a split second, everything in detail, crystal clear. It was just like a movie. I could even see the square holes along the sides of the film. It’s one of those things that stays in your memory forever. Like the heat off cousin Kate’s lips when she kissed me on the cheek. I now know what the term hot lips means from personal experience.

I was only twelve years old and she was twenty one but it instantly effected me. It transported me on a voyage to another land. It struck me that another life existed beyond the four walls that constituted my parent’s home at 41. Actually, it gave me hope, strange as it may seem. I’ve only met one other person who had hot kisses and she was twenty one too. Maybe, it has something to do with that age, but I suspect not.

The flashback happened when I was seventeen. I was crossing the road at Kelly’s Corner with three of my friends shoulder to shoulder. We had gone against the lights not looking out for traffic. It was the custom for bravado teenagers. Suddenly, a motorbike flashed across in front of us just as we were about to step onto the pavement. I froze looking down in disbelief at the shoes and the mere four inch gap between my toes and the safety of the step.

I can still feel the sleeve of his leather jacket brush rapidly across my t-shirt. Thankfully that was the only physical contact. There was a look of horror frozen on the pillion passengers face as she glanced over her shoulder. It hung in mid-air seconds after the incident. My memory can recall that picture with precise clarity even today. It’s like a photograph. I still don’t know how we weren’t all killed stone dead. It was a miracle.

Another time I was daydreaming stepping off the footpath while looking in the opposite direction. A bus full of passengers sped around the corner. I felt the full width of the back tyre stamp my foot into the ground. Again, I escaped without a scratch. A second earlier and I was tomato ketchup all over the road.

Years before I was on the old 19A, an open-backed green bus with the conductor standing under the back winding stairs. I was 8 years old and coming down the steps, hands in pockets, just as the speeding bus was taking the sharp bend at the National Boxing Stadium on the South Circular. My foot reached for the third step from the bottom but it never got there. Suddenly, I was airborne, catapulted like a stone from a gat out through the open door.

Flying past the upright bar in the middle of the opening, I automatically stretched my arms out and hugged it, my legs swinging free outside the bus. I scrunched up my body as I slid slowly down the pole. After what seemed like an eternity, my knees found the metal of the platform. Relief only lasted a brief second. The double-decker bounced along throwing me up and down the rod like a little red bead on a child’s counter. Hanging on for dear life, I was petrified and stunned at the same time.

The unaffected conductor looked blankly past me as if this were an everyday occurrence. Maybe, he thought I was playing a prank. He turned away whistling a vacant tune and struck the sprung brass knob beside his ear a wallop with the palm of his hand. The sweet bell reverberated down the length of the bus vibrating my eardrums. It filled the driver’s cab signalling a passenger’s intention to alight at the next stop.

Turning his back to me, the attendent stepped up in front of the two rows of passengers that faced across from one another at the rear of the bus. He clicked on his ticket machine as the bus came to a screeching halt. Sliding like a limp snake down off the platform and out the cave door, I landed on firm ground. Relieved, I felt like hugging the familiar telephone box at Donore in front of Murphy’s shop. Never so glad was I to see the friendly face of what seemed like a long lost neighbour ‘twinny’ O’Reagan (the taller of the two). I’d never paid much attention to him before but now he was a vision. Sauntering out of the shop, puffing on a fag, he had the Evening Herald stuck under his oxter for the football results. I was shaking all over. But at least I was returning to normality. A miracle had just happened to me and I knew it.

They used to tell us in school that we all had a guardian angel. I never paid much heed to that rubbish. But it got me thinking after that incident, maybe there’s something in this guardian angel business after all. Otherwise, how did I get away with half the things that happened to me? It must be true and I’ve been fortunate to know at least one or two of them in my life. My brother Eamon, for instance, was a live one that came to my rescue often.

Miracles happen, this I know, even when you’re not looking out for them. There’s no sense of any angels around me now but then again I don’t have the same troubles I used to get into either. Maybe they come together, trouble and angels.