The Whisky Blot
People everywhere. Clustered in tight groups around the tall tables spread with precision throughout the room. Settled into banquettes along the terra cotta walls. Leaning against the glossy, dark wood of the bar. Coming and going from the facilities. Passing by on the sidewalk outside the floor-to-ceiling windows lining one side of the raised, corner stage. Leaning against the wooden frame of the inner, double doors. Servers flit between them all, balancing black circular trays laden with glassware in various states of use.
Though I do not taste these elixirs, I know them by their scents. Guinness’s creamy chocolate, Smithwick’s malty caramel, Harp’s grassy yeast, Jamison’s peppery florals, and Magner’s apple-y bouquet. Together, they seem to alchemize this moment from a singular experience, to an eternal one.
Glassware clinks, and a babel of pleasant chatter competes with the basketball game on the flat-screen TVs. The musicians in the corner seem oblivious to the din. Sitting in a circle on the stage, drinks at their feet, instruments in hands, they are lost in their own conversation. Guitarists strum chords in time with the bodhran’s steady rhythm. Fiddlers glide out notes, playing a lilting duet with the penny whistles and flute. An accordion drones and tapping feet emphasize the downbeat as the musicians fly through a reel.
In the pause between tunes, the flutist stands, declaring time for a song, and calls me over. Unbeknownst to me, the other musicians do not share his enthusiasm. I am greeted with challenging stares as the musicians lay down their instruments and pick up their glasses. There is no microphone and the sounds of the pub suddenly seem loud to me. My heart beats swiftly as a flutter of nervous energy pervades my being. The flutist smiles and nods his head. I turn my back to the open windows and face the crowd, looking over the heads of the musicians in front of me. Ignoring their stares, I swallow my fear, take a deep breath, and open my mouth. Within three notes, a hush falls over the room. The servers mute the televisions, and time stands still. People stop mid-drink, holding glasses aloft. They freeze on their way to or from the facilities. They halt in, and by, the doorway. They stop on the sidewalk outside, and press into the windows. I sing on.
The nervous energy gives way to something else. Something ethereal and incandescent. And as I look around the room while singing a tale of love and longing, I am aware that everyone here in this terra cotta space, the sports-lovers, the craic sharers, the casual diners, the musicians, the people now crowded into the open windows and doorway, the barkeep, the servers – all of us are held in some kind of magic, woven by the song. Together, we are in a sacred moment, a shared experience. Transcending time. In this exact instant, I know in my blood and bones, I am not alone. My body holds a power older than time itself and I am not singing. I am being sung.
Sarah Dinan is a vocalist and author with a passion for storytelling and an abiding love for nature. She’s been a teacher, actress, martial artist, radio DJ, Turkish cuisine connoisseur, hair model, belly dancer, arborist, Celtic singer, and ropes course facilitator. She’s also an unofficial ambassador for hydration, and a fierce advocate for following your dreams. Her writing has been published in Ariel Chart Literary Journal and The Orchards Poetry Journal, and featured on Jericho Writers. Sarah lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, son, and battle cello, Tilda.
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