The Dragon’s Horde

By: Mikayla Meyers
Dublin is a dragon and on my first night, I rode atop its
head. Pairs of feet still stained with United States soil
flitted across slick cobblestone streets. The night hung
as a black curtain above warm lights—string lights strewn across
street alleys, lamp lights, storefront signs, pub lights. The air
tasted sweet with an earthy metallic. Street music reverberated
between brick and called me over to stay awhile. But there was too
much to hear, too much to see, and the body of the dragon curved
on. We skipped down the streets, a flock of wild, adrenaline eyes
and parched lips. Air-weary travelers, the pub lights lured us in to
music and drink. Once we tired of one, we rushed the streets in
search of another, and another;
The International Bar, Temple Bar,
The Hairy Lemon.
Our hearts were insatiable. After two drinks,
the dragon called me back to its streets. This time, alone. I found
my way back to the music and stood in place for a while to feel
the moist air settle on my cheeks. The first night is what I pictured
it would be like, but it was only night, and I had yet to see Dublin
under the scrutiny of day.
In daylight, the hypnosis of city lights is quieted. The city
becomes something new altogether. In the daylight, I realized that
Dublin is a dragon.
Let me elaborate.
Its body, scales of uneven cobblestone, snake and glide beneath
the untrained feet of a visitor. As feet walk on and familiarity is
lost, the body bends below and guides one street into another, and
another, and another, until bearing has returned. Webbed spines
fray along its jaw, and when the wind blows past, tight and quick,
it makes music. Dusted with bar-light stars and dew from misty
rain, Dublin’s flesh shimmers. It is a dragon with a 120-meter-long
lance for a heart. This lance has many names:
The Spire, The Monument of Light.
The lance has a magic about it.
Light never ceases to shine from its peak. It is the vision of one, unified
Dublin. Butas most hearts are, this one is still conflicted.
Dublin has scars over old wounds. It has notches in its bones from bullets. Their
remnants stare back, blasted into the pillars of the General Post
Office, a building that sits along the dragon’s spine: O’Connell
Street Lower.
If Dublin is a dragon, then what might be its horde? I say “horde”
and not “hoard” because this dragon collects live things. They sit
in heavy jackets and thin jeans on O’Connell Bridge and the ends
of Ha’penny Bridge. Their sleeping bags gather by storefronts and
crosswalks. One man sits and reads from dawn till dusk every day,
another woman asks tirelessly for just enough euros to rent a
hostel room for the night. They take turns with a tub of chalk and
write poetry on the sidewalk.
They write;
Some people look down on me
Because I am Homeless
But who are they to judge
For I bleed blood and
I breathe the same air
So! How can anyone judge
For no one in life is…
—and it sits unfinished in the minds of passersby. They only
looked because suddenly, the concrete was colorful beneath their
feet.
Splitting between the scales are buildings as spikes, meticulously
groomed at a maximum of 60 meters high. The buildings are
full—fit to burst, leaving its horde to camp in the streets. In the
cold and mist of December 2017, the dragon counted 2,385
children in its horde. It counted 3,712 adults and 1,028 families. The
horde continues to swell.
I ventured this dragon alone often. My tastes had changed.
Before, I had preferred a second mind around as back-up in case
my own failed. But in Dublin, I found a comfort in being lost. It
helped slow my world down. It taught me to walk with purpose in
the present, instead of rushing to something in my future. When I
slowed down, the city felt like a dream—real, yet just beyond my
comprehension. Lost, I met with beings from the dragon’s living
horde. Some were on feet consumed by a nervous pacing. Some
sat coiled in their sleeping bags, staring a week into the future. At
the crosswalk by Christ Church Cathedral, a woman rushed to me,
her hair thin and oily, her eyes red from exhaustion.
“Spare some euros please, please, spare some euros please!
Please!”
My response was robotic, trained; it was all I knew.
I’m sorry,
I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
“Just enough for a hostel for the night, please! My father is in the
hospital and I have to visit him, please, only enough for the night!”
I’m sorry,
I have no cash on me.
I’m sorry.
She heard me. She nodded and continued past without a word.
Before Dublin was a dragon, it was a tiger. Crisp businessmen
with eyes trained towards a new frontier brought their dreams to
Ireland. They expanded their companies on Irish soil and watched
as the country’s capital flourished. Ireland became the
Celtic Tiger.
Its citizens, for the first time in a long time, felt secure. They
felt fearless as they shopped in stores, ate out in restaurants, made
down payments on houses yet to be built. The Celtic Tiger assured
its people that they and their spending were immortal, even as the
nation’s economy began to stagger under the weight of progress. It
was a denial that led the nation into a crippling recession. Houses
now sit vacant, cold, unobtainable to the people who then found
themselves scraping for some semblance of stability. When the
Celtic Tiger fell, Dublin resurrected as a dragon with a currency of
its own—a horde in the thousands.
At the corner of Parnell Square is a garden. A long pool of water
stretches down the garden and out at the sides in the shape of a
cross. Flowers bloom when in season, and the grass on the risen
earth is a striking green year-round. At the head of the cross, up a
small climb of stairs, is a monument. At its base are three human
bodies sculpted to appear to be clothed in loose cloth. They are
thin, dejected. The first, a man, lays close to the earth as if near
impact from a fall. The second, a man who looks like the same man
from before, but only at the start of the fall; as if rewound in time.
The third is a woman. She stands the tallest yet leans faintly to the
left. Forming from the backs of all three is a flock of large birds
taking flight. This garden is the Garden of Remembrance, and it
commemorates the lives of those who died amidst the struggle for
Irish freedom. The monument, atop its perch at the head of the
garden, shows the Irish people rising from the ashes of their past.
This garden is surrounded by a fence and locked at nightfall.
Next to the fence, a tent sits pitched into the grass, and clothes
hang haphazardly from a tree to dry.
I was not a stranger to the city at night, but I preferred it during
the day. I made 20-minute trips by bus from Dublin City
University to the city center in front of Trinity College. From noon
until late evening, I wandered the body of the dragon with no real
purpose or direction. In the back of my mind, all I was searching
for were sights, music, and a cup of coffee somewhere hidden
from the rush of jaywalking feet and double decker buses. A handful
of those evenings in the city, I came across the same man.
His hair was grey and ruffled, his beard sticky but not unkempt.
The clothes he wore were stained and torn. His skin looked faded,
wax-like. His eyes stared past everything—past the buildings, the
dumpster, past my body walking by. When I came across him,
he would mumble under his breath—caught in a heated argument
with himself and a phantom that sat not far from his own lips. One
evening, something about him had changed. That evening, he was
pacing feverishly back and forth between the curb of the street and
a locked storefront gate.
“No… No… No!… No…No! No!” He shouted, shaking his
hands like they were crawling with something. I kept moving. I
knew the man as well as a frequent stranger could know him. I
was used to passing him quickly. A step before passing him, he
lifted his arms and bellowed, “I’m not scared of you! I’m not
fucking scared of you! Come fight me, I’m not scared! Fight me!” He
crashed his body into the storefront gate and punched it with a
sharp hook. The gate echoed a light rattle but did not give way. It
was a sudden aggression that startled me. Where my feet should
have sped, they halted, frozen. I looked, but only for a moment.
He seemed to understand that the gate was metal, and he was only
flesh. The man went back to mumbling and leaned against the gate
in defeat. I walked on.
Dublin tries to hide its horde behind the Leprechaun Museum,
behind a bus tour, behind a Carroll’s gift shop on every street.
They sit, invisible, a few yards away from where people stand
daily with smiles on their faces, holding out pamphlets about
angels. Every so often, someone will notice a piece of the scattered
horde along the street. They will bring them a warm cup of coffee,
crouch down, and have a nice chat as if the day was warm and
home was waiting for them both. It is in those small moments that
you can see them smile. Their eyes are glossed from loss of sleep,
but the conversation brings a redness back to their cheeks.
Dublin is a dragon whose scales look different from afar. They
reflect like a mirror, and we see only what we feel we ought to see.
In case you were wondering: yes, I did drink Guinness; yes, I did
go to the pubs; yes, I went to the Guinness Storehouse; but I tire of
responding to an image of the dragon from across the sea. Dublin
is a vibrant city. There are stomping feet in its pubs, music in its
streets, and art blooming in bookstores and studios. Dublin’s body
is old, but its breath is young and changing. And yet, the horde is
still there: living things waiting for the warm season and counting
their euros to pay off a hostel room for the night. The horde does
not always look like defeated bodies strewn across the streets.
When they find themselves with 2.70 euros, sometimes, they take
the bus. Their children return from school to a hotel room shared
amongst two, three, four others. Dublin is a dragon with hypnotic,
fiery nighttime eyes, and with a horde ever swelling.

 

 

 

***
mikayla meyers is a 3rd-year Creative Writing, English Literature,
and Publishing & Editing major. She is from Frederick, Maryland and had
the pleasure of studying abroad for a semester in Dublin, Ireland. After
graduating, she would like to pursue hand book binding and book restoration.

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