forty or fifty years
I glance at the clock: 3 a.m. Sleep is as near as the stars.
I dozed for a while but had a disturbing dream. It wasn’t a scary nightmare. More a haunting vision. It woke me up, and now there’s no way back.
I flip the switch on the bedside lamp, slide open the nightstand drawer, pull out the journal and then a piece of loose-leaf paper tucked inside its back cover. For the thousandth time I fold open the tattered printout of the e-mail. For the thousandth time I read it.
…i know you hoped for more for us. but i’m just not the one for you…don’t worry; she’s out there. you’ll find her. and when you do it will be perfect. better than it could ever have been with me…
…i hope you find a calm spot where you can realize you’re actually fine. seriously, as long as I’ve known you, you won’t just allow yourself to be OK…you have so much positive energy welling up inside of you; use it on yourself for once…
The wind is still howling outside. And now it’s sleeting as well. Ice pellets pepper the window like a barrage of bullets. Though I wouldn’t have thought it possible, the wind has grown stronger. It hammers the little cottage, whistling in through small gaps around the window, fluttering the tattered, patchwork curtains. It’s screaming like a banshee.
A sixty-something native down at the pub earlier tonight told me: “You get used to it. After about forty or fifty years.”
I lie here, staring at cracks in the ceiling, wondering if the same is true for lonely.
it looks like tears
“When Ireland is not a brilliant emerald land, sparkling and fresh, it is a dark country of brown bogs on which the heavy grey sky leans.” —Marguerite Mespoulet; travel diary,1913.
For the most part, there are only four Irish weather forecasts. One is the longed-for but often elusive, “Clear and calm.” Another two will work for about half the days of the year. One of these is “sunny with scattered showers;” the other, “showery with sunny spells.” Both fall nicely under the golden rule of Irish climatology: “Ifya don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.” It’s not uncommon for it to be raining and sunny at the same time. It is, after all, the land of rainbows.
The fourth forecast is the dreaded, “rain becoming widespread and persistent.” That’s the one for today. I sit in the kitchen, sipping my third cup of tea, listening to the wind-driven raindrops tap-dancing on the window. I wonder is it true what they always said in Sunday school: “It’s the angels crying.” I have to admit it looks like tears, and today the angels seem very sad.
I said “dreaded,” and if you ask around that’s what most people will tell you. “Oh, ‘tis a fierce day,” they’ll say. “A wicked old day.” They aren’t going to let on they actually enjoy it.
It’s the day you can justify doing nothing. It’s the day you can tuck yourself in by the fire and snooze, or have a chat with a friend, or read the newspaper, or watch a favorite DVD. Or better yet—if you’re lucky enough to have a view like the one out my window here—keep an eye on the bog-topped cliffs across the grey-green, white-capped bay performing their magic act: fading away to the faintest silhouette, re-materializing, disappearing entirely, re-appearing, cliff-tops waltzing with the clouds. A new performance every twenty minutes. Admission free of charge.
It’s a day to do whatever you please, so long as it’s indoors.
If you want to—or is it dare?—it’s a day to remember things past…
What was it like the first time he saw her? It wasn’t so much love at first sight as it was a familiarity. Kind of like the first time he saw a photo of his great grandfather. He’d never known the man but something very recognizable in the countenance made it almost seem like he had. It was similar with her. There was a connection. Almost a recollection. More like a memory than a first impression. Like he’d known her previously. Elsewhere.
Her first night performing at Sirens—the former fire station reincarnated as restaurant, bar and music venue—where he worked. It must have been Tuesday: live, local music night. When he found out management had booked her, he was excited. She’d recently been reviewed in the local fish wrap, and he liked what he’d read. He checked out her website and liked what he heard. Not to mention saw. The photos of her were easy on the eyes.
He was hoping he’d be bartending so he could check out her groove while installing hangovers; but the rota read “cook,” and he’d be stuck in the kitchen. The only remaining hope was that it would be slow enough to sneak out and catch a song.
No such luck. Evidently he wasn’t the only one who wanted to check out her music. It was one of those nose-to-the grindstone evenings with orders stacked up ten deep. He and the head chef were jumping around like madmen during a full moon, but it all went reasonably smoothly. Only the odd complaint about the food taking too long. Two cooks preparing meals for 200 people, and they complain about waiting for the food. More proof for his theory that everyone should have to work in a restaurant for a while.
So it wasn’t until later, at the end of the evening, that he finally laid eyes on her.
The kitchen closes at 10, but they were so busy they’d pumped out orders until almost 10:30. When the last steak was finally plucked from the grill and sided with a twice-baked potato and the last plate of pasta primavera was topped with a sprinkling of parmesan and sent out to the dining room, he pulled off his apron and rushed out to see if she was still on stage. But her set was already finished and some goateed dude with an out-of-tune electric guitar was covering the Stones “Satisfaction” about as well as a Speedo covers a fat guy.
He returned to the kitchen, then stepped out into the cobblestone alleyway beyond the back door to get some fresh air before beginning the arduous task of cleaning up.
It was the first truly warm night of the year. The one that hints of things to come: backyard barbecues, Frisbee on the beach, outdoor concerts, pitchers of margaritas with drops of condensation slowly trickling down the side…The one that declares with certainty that winter is banished once more. The city was abuzz with it.
He knew the muffled roar emanating from the riverside deck around the corner at the back of Sirens here in the heart of the old warehouse district was merely an echo of similar howls resounding citywide. He couldn’t wait to join the howlers. Where would he go? The Joynt to hear some jazz? Maybe the Bottom’s Up Brew Pub for a microbrew. Or the patio at The Lakefront for a refreshing cocktail with fruit and a paper umbrella in it. That place would be jumpin’ on a night like this. The options were many and varied. The city was pulsing with possibility.
He decided to walk around to the deck and take a quick peek to see if his girlfriend or any of his other friends had shown up yet, or whether any of his co-workers were after-shifting out there. See what sort of conspiracies they were plotting for the night.
That’s when he saw her.
She was standing on the far side of the deck, away from the throng. Alone. Sipping on something pink in a martini glass. Watching the moonlit river flow by. She was much taller than he’d imagined from her photos, but there was something light and airy about her. Like she was floating on a cloud.
He was captivated. Random words drifted into his mind, as if on the summery breeze. Luminous…Lithe… Slender. Sleek. Somehow serpentine. But not like a snake with forbidden fruit. More like a thin ribbon. Satin or possibly silk. Wound softly, silently round eternity.
With the moonlight behind her, she looked almost angelic—encircled by a golden halo. Ringlets from her long, brunette hair fell softly on bare shoulders left exposed by her wine-red strapless sundress. Yes, she was tall—taller than the average man. But everything else about her was all woman. Easy on the eyes, indeed.
But he wasn’t awed by her beauty so much as he was struck by a strange feeling of familiarity. Almost like coming home.
what was it like?…
not a notion
that they would become
that they already were.