The hustler

What you might call our first date was, I believe, an arrangement to meet up at our university (in the last week of Easter break) and play some pool. With a friend, probably. To the uninformed viewer it might have seemed casual in the utmost. We might have had lunch in the totally unromantic UCD canteen first. Or maybe we pushed the boat out and got one of those little pizzas on the second floor. I should remember, but I don’t.

What I remember is the pool table. We went down to “The Trap”, which is what everyone called the pool tables and juke box in the basement of the Arts building, beside all the lockers, and put some coins in a table. I think we found our mutual friend (through whom we had first met two weeks earlier) down there; we certainly weren’t alone. It being the holidays, the place wasn’t thronged with students avidly avoiding lectures, but it wasn’t deserted either. Some people could reliably be found in The Trap no matter what the season or semester.

Now, don’t be imagining I’m some sort of pool shark. Tom Cruise and Paul Newman would wipe the floor with me in half a second flat. But ever since my friend and I used to push the white ball around the empty table in the Dunlaoghaire Motor Yacht Club with our hands, or watch the coloured balls lining up with those lovely clicks through the little window to the table’s innards, or even when my late lamented Uncle Brian tried to show me how to hold a cue at the age of about seven, I’ve had a sort of affinity for the game.

(My granny used to watch the snooker on TV. That took some concentration, before she got the color set.)

So B was the one who showed me how to play. (I won’t say “taught me” becuase that would imply that I have learned and am now able to do it.) I know the rules and can slide the cue towards the white ball and almost always make it hit one of the others. Something usually goes in a pocket eventually. I don’t really care. I love watching the skill of others, the ones who do know what they’re doing. I love the almost-frictionless roll of ball towards pocket, watching an engineer calculate the angles, or pretend to, hearing the satisflying click (or the rumble when the white goes down and you wait for the table to send it back to you).

So there we were on our date, having a nice game of pool, not exactly knowing where this was going or how to move things forward. I leaned on the table. I put my hand a little too close to where his hand was also leaning on the side of the table as we waited for our friend to take a shot. The sides of our little fingers touched, and a tiny electric shock went through me. That was enough. The direction was set. Fate was on notice.

Wednesday will be our ninth wedding anniversary, by the way.

We used to play a game of pool now and then, whenever we were in a bar with a pool table, with a couple of friends or just the two of us. I didn’t get any better, but I still enjoyed it. Last week on our vacation we had an early dinner one night in a not-very-Italian restaurant attached to a very American bar. We passed the pool table as we walked through the bar to our booth seats. I made a mental note of it. When dinner was over and ice-creams had been screamed for and ordered (politely) and said thank-you for (politely) I suggested we might just see if the pool table was still unused on our way out.

It was. Probably we should not have stopped for a quick game of pool in a bar with our seven year old and our four year old, but we did, and nobody cared, and it was fun. It was fun to impress the kids with this thing they had no idea we would ever do. It was fun to let them chalk our cues and retrieve the white ball and suggest what we might aim for next. They were just about old enough to keep their hands off the balls and the other cues for long enough for B to wipe the floor with my pathetic effort (it takes me most of a game to get my eye in, and it had been a few years) and clear the table, clonk clonk clonk, like a pro.

Or maybe I’m still just easily impressed by some people.

Mini pool table
Not to scale

5 thoughts on “The hustler

  1. Office Mum

    I love this post – feeling nostalgic for UCD canteen and pool and first dates…. we got married same year too though not till October. Happy 9th!

    Reply
  2. jazzygal

    Lovely story, really enjoyed reading. I laughed at the reference to black and white TVs!
    Happy wedding anniversary. It’s our 16th next week too 🙂

    xx Jazzy

    Reply

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