The car bomb had exploded not far from Trinity only a few days earlier, and the city was still largely on lockdown. Even the churches near the bomb sites were mostly empty. Only the young like me who didn’t know any better and the professional drinkers would venture out to huddle close together at the usual hour in the sour-smelling, dimly lit, smoky dens and parlors of the pub around the corner from my flat. A smoldering turf fire added to the cigarette haze around us and above us, making us all seem apparaitional to each other as we talked in low voices about what had happened and why, and when the next attack would be. Nobody yet had claimed responsibility. Some believed the Provisionals were behind the bombings, killing their own to show us that the troubles up north were here now, and there’d be no escaping them, not anymore; others thought it was the doing of the “fooking” Brits and Ulster Volunteers masquerading as Provisionals to show the world just how barbaric the IRA could be, how you can’t negotiate with bloody murderers. What was I doing there, the naive Yank, an Irish wannabe, living an ex-pat’s life far from the middle-class Jewish suburbs he despised. There was a priest who drank with us, I don’t remember his name, let’s call him Father Frank, who found me amusing, in my new white Aran sweater, with my curly, long blond hair, my infatuation with all things Irish, pub life, poetry, and song. He liked to mock me in a good-natured sort of way about my speech habits, tics he called them, so bloody American, how I peppered my sentences with you knows and rights and I means. He liked to tease me gently about my insouciant lack of faith, my Jewish heritage, and how we Jews can stand to live without an afterlife, no heaven or hell, no living on except in the fallible and transient memory of others. If you’re not there to know you are remembered, what bloody good is it? Better that, I’d shoot back, laughing, than, I mean, you know, burning for all eternity in fire and brimstone, or plucking a stupid harp, right? We’d banter like that each night till he’d finally say, “Drink up, lad, we can settle this tomorrow.” But this night he stared into his shot glass saying nothing, the sleeve of his black suit dusted with ash from the cigarette he absentmindedly was either lifting to his lips or lowering to the ashtray without ever putting down. “Well, Father,” someone said, “sure there’s a place in hell for the likes of them.” “I believe in hell,” Father Frank said to no one in particular, adding softly, almost to himself, “But tell me now, lads, who did Christ die for, if not for them, sure, especially for them.” He took a sip of whiskey. “So then what’s hell for?” I asked. And he replied, “Why, to show God’s love and mercy.” “But how can that be, Father?” I prodded, happy to be bantering again the way we would on any normal night. “How does hell show God’s love and mercy?” “Because,” he said, looking up and smiling now at everyone, “there’s no one in it.” And everyone, including Father Frank, roared with laughter, and I laughed too, not knowing why, and blushed, as if the joke had been on me, as if I were what was funny.