“Wu-wu-would you . . . Shit,” said Luke. He tried again. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Can I buy you a drink? Can I buy you a drink? Can I buy you a drink?”
He laughed and looked from the photo of Máire Ní Mhainnín on his laptop to the mirror of his dressing table. He grinned at himself and said it again: “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Good man, Luke,” he said to his reflection. “Good man yourself. The best shop man in Limerick city or county.”
He laughed at his imitation of Francie. He was buzzing. He had never spoken so clearly or confidently.
“I’ve been watching you,” he said to the photo of Máire. He laughed once more. Nothing could have been closer to the truth.
“A lot! You’re a beautiful woman. What’s your name? Máire? Luke. I’m Luke. What do you do? Oh. Sociology. Wow. Me? I manage a shop. Oh yes, I think I met you before. Senán. Yes, Senán. A good worker. Red wine, you’re having? OK. I’ll be back soon.”
He looked back at the mirror.
“You can do it, boy. Keep it simple. No big words. Be sure of yourself. Soci-ology. Soci-ology. Soci-ology. Soci-ology.”
He picked up the laptop, lightly kissed the photo of Máire on the lips, and typed in a search: Hipster formal wear. When the results came up he clicked on Image and browsed the photos of bearded men wearing suits with waistcoats, sometimes with top hats and carrying canes. After a few pages he modified the search, adding the name of a department store in the city centre.
“Much better,” he said.
He was trying to talk out loud to himself as much as possible. That was what a stuttering website had recommended. He was filling the air in Francie’s lockup with his talk, giving his opinions to unhearing radio hosts as he drove to and from Monaleen, and, when his house was empty, as it was that Sunday afternoon, having conversations with his reflection or an imaginary Máire.
“What a fun way to spend a Sunday af-af-afternoon,” he said in a deliberately maniacal voice. “Fun way to spend a Sunday after-noon. Looking at shirts and pants and jackets. Instead of fu-fu . . . Instead of fucking Farrah. Fucking Farrah. The little tinker’s git of a hoor. Forty-four ninety-five. Men’s shirt. I’ve seen that one for forty in River Island. Do you like my River Island shirt, Máire? It cost me forty euro. And I bought new underwear too. Hugo Boss. And do you like this pair of trousers, Máire? Jesus! A hundred and twelve euro. But you’re worth it! And a jacket to go. What do you think, Máire? Blue serge. What the fuck is serge? Look at the price of it. Nearly as dear as a Brazilian. Two hundred bucks to get your fanny shaved. I’d do it for free! Free gratis. And then I’d lick you out. And then I’d pound it. Hard. And come all over it. Look! This one is half the price. Cord.”