By Susan Browne © Susan Browne 2018
Ciara was expecting something more exotic for her online dream guy to work at than driving buses. However, the idea grows on her.
It turns out that the rugged faced Dub I have been stalking on social media for the past month is a bus driver. His profile speaks more of an engineer; lecturer; travel photographer; detective perhaps.
I still think his posts are brilliant and that he must be very smart. I accidentally liked one once, but usually I just quietly admire him, not commenting or interacting with him. My friends say I’m an idiot. I’m just shy I guess.
Nan says ‘you should never judge a book by its cover,’ as we sit here in the bus station having mushroom colored tea in thin paper cups. I’m not sure what she means, but I can’t ask her because she’s speaking too loudly and I know he could walk by at any moment. I still experience a giddiness at seeing him, even with the Bus Eireann uniform.
‘You could always ask him out on a date. What’s the harm in that?’ Nan smiles, triumphant. Her chihuahua, Baby, looks at me with his cute black eyes and appears to nod in agreement.
‘Nan, I can’t just ask him out on a date,’ I hiss.
‘You are so old-fashioned. In my day..’
‘Your day?’ I say, trying to imagine what Nan might have been getting up to in her day and then abandon the thought with a shudder.
My face reddens as he strolls right past us again.
‘I think he likes you,’ she says, using her outdoor voice.
He suddenly doubles back on himself and trips over Baby’s lead. Baby yelps with fright and hides under Nan’s chair as the bus driver falls to the white and green tiled floor.
‘Oh my God, are you okay?’ I say.
‘Plant Power Girl?’ He untangles himself from the lead and pats Baby gently, who sniffs him and then licks his hand.
He actually knows who I am. ‘Dara Redford?’
Baby, having made a quick recovery starts humping his ankle.
Nan says ‘This is my granddaughter, Ciara. She is at uni doing a Masters in.. what is it again, Love?’
‘Social Studies,’ Dara shrugs. ‘I saw it on your page.’
Wait, this guy actually reads my stuff. Looks at my profile. Creepy.
‘Well, it’s nice to see you in real life,’ I say, trying to sound aloof.
He strokes Baby’s head while ushering him off his leg, with expert panache. ‘I’d love to see you in real life again. Want to meet me for dinner sometime?’
‘I’ve loads of study to do,’ I blather.
‘No problem. Sorry for tripping over your lovely dog. Have a safe journey if you are traveling today.’
He tips his cap which I find a little cringy, but it makes me reconsider the Bus Eireann uniform. I like the hat and the shape of him as he walks away.
Nan looks at me with that stare she is so good at. ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth, Ciara.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘I mean why the bejeezus didn’t you say yes? He’s an absolute ride.’
‘Delete that expression from your vocabulary right now.’
‘I’m just saying, I would,’ she grins, wickedly.
‘And that! Disgusting.’
‘I just want you to be happy. He looks a nice chap. Go after him.’
Our bus to Dublin is being driven by our own Dara Redford. As we board, he doesn’t make any eye contact with me. I want so much to say something funny, but the moment is lost, and I work my way to the back of the bus with Nan and Baby following behind me.
As we approach Dublin, he makes an announcement that we will be arriving soon, and I go onto his profile and send him a message.
Are you free Friday night for meet up in Galway? Sorry. Awkward with my Nan there.
I hit send and feel my blood pressure rise through the roof of the bus. Before I can say anything to him, Dara has hopped off and is retrieving passengers’ bags from underneath.
It’s been three full days of checking my phone and Dara’s profile about thirty times an hour. I am now content about the bus driver detail. I’ve even idly followed Bus Eireann’s page. I’m beyond smitten, and now he’s replied:
How about fish and chips at Spanish Arch at 7?
I wait all of four minutes so as not to appear too keen: I’m vegan, so I’ll bring my own. See you there xxx. The kisses were by accident. Mortifying.
It’s quarter past seven, and my nose is stinging.
‘Sorry I’m late. Shopping took longer than I thought.’
He unfurls a smart, striped picnic blanket, and produces two very impressive looking salads from my favourite deli.
‘You’re so good. Thank you.’
I sit and eat, self consciously. Just then a miniature dog runs up and licks my hands. ‘Baby! What are you doing here?’ I expect nan is nearby spying somewhere.
Baby is not very impressed by the salad and looks down at the swans as though he is the boss.
Dara turns to me and puts his strong hand on the side of my face, looks into my eyes with those deep blue lagoons and long lashes. I lean a millisecond closer and breathe him into every cell of my body. He says in his Colin Farrell accent: ‘can I be extremely forward and ask if it’s okay to kiss you right now?’
I reply by kissing him first. The whole world disappears around us.
Next, on cue, Baby starts gyrating on his leg. Nan’s head appears close to mine and says ‘don’t mind me. Want me to get you some proper food, Lovey? No need to eat that salad stuff just cause she is, there’ll be nothing left of you.’