The bar was full of older gentlemen and women dressed in expensive looking suits and dresses, all with wine glasses in their hands and a kind of skewed, uneven look about them.
The men reclined in leather armchairs and looked drunk (and dying) while the women huddled in groups. Each group was the same, one woman talking while the rest listened (or pretended to listen), slugging their drinks and eyeing each other up and down. Their eyes darted over each other's shoulders and bounced off mirrors at everybody else, seeing everything and never resting in one place.
They were gathered for the (secret) Christmas Carols and Dinner night at one of Dublin's most exclusive sailing clubs. For some reason things all seemed very strange, and I had a feeling I probably wasn't welcome.
It's the kind of place that smells of money. A very strong stench of money, in fact. Not all members have as much as some, but they all pretend to have more than they do, and everyone else plays along. The car park is full of shiny Mercs and BMWs and Jaguars, and inside the door a refined looking gentleman in an expensive suit takes overcoats and obsessively enforces the dress code: Jacket and tie are required for the dining room, and icy glares meet those who venture into the bar without a collar. Mobile phones are forbidden, and a huge MEMBERS ONLY sign warns off people with inflated ideas of their own importance.
Nobody worries about lower class or new-rich sub-species joining the club - all members are scrupulously vetted, you almost have to be born into membership... and I, like most people, don't have the right kind of blood-line for such a place.
Dinner was announced by the banging of a huge man-sized gong that seemed to act as a sheepdog for the well-dressed herd of almost-drunken sheep who immediately filed into the dining room to find their tables. And I followed along with the herd, hating being a sheep but acting like one still.
I won't mention who brought me there - or why I agreed to go - but I knew it was a mistake after my first trip to the toilets where, instead of the usual stifled grunts followed by horrible-sounding splashes, I heard unashamed sniffing and snorting from the cubicles on both sides.
It was hard enough fraternising with these horrible, pretentious old bastards in the first place without having to put up with them on an apparent cocaine binge. These are the doctors and dentists and solicitors and politicians (and even clergymen) of high-flying Dublin - nearly all over the age of fifty - reverting to states of animal savagery right here in our city, right here in exclusive and eminently respectable 'clubs' like this, right under our noses and god knows where else.
The little Filipino waiters zoomed about like hypnotised dancers, serving and clearing before anyone had time to notice. The men and women joined each other at their large round tables, all grunting and roaring, the women in a higher pitch letting out piercing, painful whines of evil pleasure. Their eyes continued to survey everyone around them, like weird South Dublin human-form robots.
Food was piled casually onto the tables by these little waiters carrying huge silver trays, everyone eating from the same mound of food in the middle of each table, using only their hands to stuff expensive fillets and exotic vegetables into their mouths, chewing it up and spitting it out into the shiny metal buckets that had been strategically placed around each table.
They sat in the same kind of armchairs that were in the bar, lounging and reaching for handfuls of food from the now-filthy tables and then regurgitating it into the buckets, which were re-positioned (with astonishing accuracy) by designated waiters who leaped into action each time a guest would start to wretch. It was like some sort of horrible re-enactment of a lavish Roman banquet.
I followed suit, of course, and politely vomited what I could manage into the buckets like everyone else. I didn't want to stand out. I was surprised I had been allowed to join such an esteemed and secretive gathering. I was intrigued. I had walked in on some kind of secret high-society gluttonous orgy.
But I was scared... I wasn't one of THEM, and I was sure they would realise soon enough.
It was sometime after the vomiting had started that the drugs began to openly appear. Two women at my table who looked about three hundred years old each, crumpled and withering behind bodies entirely composed of deep wrinkles and liver spots, produced quaint little snuff boxes from amongst their creases and passed them round. It was no junk, it was fine stuff - It obviously pays to have high-society contacts when you buy drugs, and it's worth paying for the good stuff when you can.
In somewhat of a daze, I looked around and saw a waiter being held face down across a table with a fat, huge old man sniffing this fine cocaine from the small of the waiter's back. The rest of the table were standing up grunting in appreciation and excitement, while the poor Filipino waiter tried to squirm free. There was an almost deafening din of grunting and roaring, and manic laughter now too. The other waiters seemed not to notice, showing no concern that it might be them next. Each one would eventually be pulled into the same nightmare and abused several times over by a multitude of completely loaded strangers, and they seemed resigned to this eventuality.
Everyone was wired (in a strange upper-class kind of way), while everyone else grunted them on. I needed to get out.
It was too strange, and after an hour or so it was getting stranger. It brought out the paranoia in me.
Is it some well-known secret that huge groups of rich old men and women get together in well-known clubs just like this each Christmas and act like deformed feral savages, grunting and gorging and each getting through grams and grams of cocaine, abusing the help? Do they do this regularly? How does something like this happen? Who sends the invitations, and do I want to be on that list again? I can see why they would keep this a secret... not that they need to, because it's completely and absolutely unbelievable, even to me now.
After a while - I don't know how long - I found the door un-noticed and went out to a balcony overlooking the boat yard for a smoke. It was empty except for a waiter slumping on the deck with his shirt unbuttoned and ripped and newly emerging bruises on his face. I had seen him earlier, being held on the floor by a group of men while red-faced women force-fed white powder up his nostrils before converging on the little man with a crazed feverishness until he disappeared completely under a mass of flailing limbs. I wondered how long this poor little man had worked at the club, and if that night would be his last. Did he find this gathering slightly strange? Completely fucking warped? Was this what he expected when he bought the plane ticket from Manila to start a new and better life in Ireland? Maybe...
But probably not. Maybe I imagined it all. The thought that maybe I did imagine it all is in fact more worrying to me than the thought that it all DID happen, and that large crowds of upper-class, respectable people DO regularly have sordid cocaine and sex orgies in Dublin's exclusive social clubs.
I still am unable to put into words the savage and despicable acts of depravity that had begun to happen when I finally escaped. I've seen some strange things, but what went on in that dining room was unholy. Have I been missing THIS all my life? Am I better off not knowing? Are you? I just don't know, but I try my hardest not to wonder.
I eventually hurried out with my head bowed, hoping that none of these animals would spot me absconding. I couldn't make myself stay and find out where this secret and filthy little get-together was ultimately going (no matter how much a small and almost too-curious part of me wanted to). The carols hadn't even begun.
How would the night climax? Even now I desperately wonder. How did it finally end? I pictured animal sacrifices, followed by human ones. I pictured sex and murder and necrophilia... I pictured myself being on the wrong end of it all.
Unlikely, perhaps... but so was walking into this strange upper-class orgy in the first place. Maybe I did imagine the whole thing. Maybe it was all paranoia. But there's no room for paranoia when you find yourself mixed up in a carnival as strange and fucked up as that.
If the thought that you're being paranoid creeps into your head, then you're just as fucked as all those poor little Filipino waiters with their freshly violated bodies and now-permanently shattered minds, because these animals can smell your fear, and it makes them hungry.