“When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for awhile.
There’s a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
Keep me in your heart for awhile.” — Warren Zevon
As I’ve start to write about leaving “E”‘s I’ve begun to cry. Not for grief over having to leave him; the situation, as it was, could never last. I just miss the little world we shared together, though defined mostly by its brevity. I’m saddened by the the loss of what could have been if maybe we’d met at a different time when our wounds heal… or if maybe we’d made different decisions to avoid those wounds in the first place.
I’m skipping past a few of my Irish days in favor of recalling a few others as I write tonight. It’s been a tough couple days with my dad in the ER twice and contemplation provoked by my nearly-estranged sister’s wedding, and I find myself just wanting to remember the last time I had some really good days. And my days with E were, (mostly), really good days…
This time with E almost didn’t happen, simply due to fear. Fear of what people would think about me running off in a foreign country to spend time with a guy I’d just met. Fear of the unknown. Fear of people’s darkness. I was staying on the east coast of Ireland with friends, and E was on the West Coast, literally hours away by train. I don’t get in the car with guys for a few dates here in Chicago, and I’d actually have to let Emlyn pick me up from the train straight off. I’d have to stay at his house, and his one-horse-town had no available hotels or B&B’s. On paper, it looked like a semi-ridiculous venture. But I felt from his energy that things would be just fine.
I booked my train ticket and, before I knew it, I was navigating the Irish rail system. I have to say, Ireland has the nicest set of trains I’d been on in any country, with passenger names displayed digitally above one’s seat, free Wifi and truly clean facilities. But the falling exclamation points are a real hazard:
Before long, E: this tall, dark and handsome Irishman, was toting my luggage to the car and we were making our way through an adorable town to lunch. I was impressed by him: a professor at a local college, E has lived all around the world and seemed to have an excellent sense of it. He kept me entertained with stories and humor, his plans of moving to Canada and suggested that we visit the Cliffs of Moher on the way to Kilkee, where he lived. I’d fallen in love with the cliffs on my prior visit, and was all about his plan of hiking up them from a different angle, free from all the tourists’ boundaries and blockades.
We parked the car at the side of a narrow road and began our ascent up a rocky hillside, over a fence into a farmer’s field. I’d learned, at this point in the trip, to watch the feet of the person in the lead while hiking the rocks as, if a rock can hold their weight, it will typically hold yours. A certain stone, however, decided that his weight was all it wanted to carry that day, and quickly catapulted me into a barbed wire fence not ten minutes into the climb. E turned to find me face down and bloodied, laughing my ass off at how ridiculous my flight must have appeared. I earned a free souvenir that day, a scar on my hand, a forever-symbol of my bad-assness.
We continued on and it wasn’t long at all until I basked in the familiar, yet unforgettable sites. A lonely castle tower built overlooking the sea, the only structure along the miles of breathtaking, pastel, peaceful, frightening cliff walls. Alone in Europe, before, I’d bee too frightened to step to the cliffs alone, the unpredictable and fierce winds feeling a bit too unfriendly, and fear of falling from the edge overcoming me. But E and I, side by side, peered over the edges at the beauty of the sea, taking time to stare in envy at the birds who’d made their homes in the rocky walls. A father gull hovered in the strong wind next to his family in their nest, feeding them and having some sort of conversation in a language we longed to understand. This was epically beautiful.
We ran along the cliff edges, laughed along with the sheep who were running about and made our way to the castle Tourette. I’d wondered if there’d be any sort of romantic connection as the trip with E progressed, and began to appreciate his attentiveness to me: he made sure to show me all the nooks and secrets only the locals knew, stopped repeatedly to take pictures of me so “I’d have memories for home” and took such care of me with everything we did, even chasing my hat across the rocks as the wind whipped it from my head. This guy was all right.
We made a few additional stops on the way to his home, then arrived back at his house. He’d emphasized that this was merely a small vacation home, rough around the edges and not ideal for living year round. I didn’t know what to expect, but my heart literally skipped a beat as I saw the small town from his hill and walked through the front door.
The house was quaint, compact yet filled with warmth and character. The entire rear of the place was a glass sunroom, through which you could see the rock-framed backyard filled with gardens and places to lounge, canopied by the bluest of skies.
Scattered about the living space were tribal masks, books and artifacts from around the world — souvenirs of everything E experienced. In the corner stood a wrought iron stove, center of piles of wood and peat-bricks used to fuel it and heat the whole house, piping leading upstairs.
E led me to the guest room on the second level, a tiny loft the width of the two twin beds within it and no deeper in length. The roof was a skylight, opening up at night into the fresh air and clear night sky, a blanket of stars to woo me to sleep. His room sat beside it, two skylights gracing the angled ceiling. This house! Happy. Thank you. More please. I couldn’t think of a place I’d rather spend the rest of my trip.
The ocean whispered to us right outside his front door, and we walked along side it to a local pub for dinner. We ate seafood and finished a bottle of wine, discussed our studies and travels, laughed at each other’s accents (i.e. the Irish “fil-im” instead of “film”) and then made it back home. A true gentleman, E wished me goodnight and I tucked away in the guest room under the skies.
To be continued…