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I like to write and I like to party, but mostly just the writing. Disclaimer: A lot of these stories are true ones. The memory of growing-up in and around Killybegs. When you hold a mirror up to small communities, sometimes there are those who don't like the reflection. Capote knew this only too well. If you find the refraction just a little too much and would like the angle of incidence changed in your favor, please email me at georgevial@hotmail.com and I will be happy to make a name change here or there.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Whirl Wind Romance in Galway and Not a Yellow Brick Road in Sight

Love comes, love goes, love for places, love for work, love for people, it all comes and goes. I was once at a stage in my life when it all seemed to have gone. Stuck in a rut, feeling powerless to get out. It felt like another person was living my life and I was passively watching it go by. Studying Marine Science for someone else, in a town because it wasn’t home, wanted to get away on my own, prove myself to the world. This was not the life I had imagined when I was first set upon my voyage into the unknown.

I once told a friend how I envisioned the perfect life with all my goals achieved. He replied with total disillusionment, there was no such thing as the ideal life and we must do what we can with the slice we are given and enjoy it as it comes. His pessimism stuck in my thoughts like a painful splinter for months.

However, a moment was to come and change my path, lifting me out of that wrongful rut. A brief second when two perfect strangers connected and something passed between them which can never be explained. From that point on their lives are forever intertwined. So let me tell you my story of when this moment seized upon me:

It was a Saturday night in Galway, the student Mecca in the West of Ireland. For pubs and the craic it left Dublin sitting. As usual, the drinking had started early, about two in the afternoon while watching Bay Watch and Night Rider, a Hasselhoff double bill the best in cheesy TV. Budwieser flowed like water and went down as easily too. On the session with the lads, nothing like it to escape the banality of the real world.

We were in the Skeffington Arms Hotel in the town center, a fine watering hole by any standards. All in the group were pretty well oiled by eight o‘clock that evening, a collective thought formed somehow. We decided to move further down the road to the King’s Head. The best pub in Galway, with its big open fireplaces, wrought iron chandeliers, wooden floors and ice-cool beer. It was the definitive drinking place.

We caught a rick-shaw for the 300 meter journey to the King’s Head, nearly breaking the back of the poor fella who was desperately trying to carry all four of us in a three seater rickshaw. The doormen outside the Pub looked at us wearily as we dislodged ourselves from the seats. I think they were too stunned at the sight of us, to refuse entry. We sailed passed them like we were the Kings visiting our country home, not the lowly students on a session that we actually were.

To the bar first we went, four pints of Bud’ and took them up stairs as the pub was very crowded. If you had a cat handy you would have had a problem swinging it! Upstairs we found it less crowded and anchored ourselves at a nice birth.

The craic was good and the beer was wet, what more could a student want on a Saturday night. After a few, nature called, to the jacks I went meeting half the people in Ireland I knew on the way. It took forever just to relieve myself. On the return trip of my expedition I met one of my friends. He had just a little too much to drink and came tumbling down a step to meet me. He kind of bent over with the elegance of a drunk baby giraffe and went head first in to the lower back of some poor bystander.

Whack! The dented guy turned around to see my friend slur an apology and stagger off in the other direction. To save face, I apologized to the wronged person and offered to buy him a drink.

We began to talk, turned out he was from Long Island, New York. He was studying in London for the year and decided to come see Ireland at the end of his Spring Break. So this was to be his one and only night in Galway. Well I told him it should be a good one then and bought another round. We talked freely with the ease of alcohol, jumping from one topic to the other, not noticing time go by until various members from our respective parties came searching for us. We did all the formalities of introduction and generally carried on the conversation with each other.

That was until this girl came along to check up on the guy from Long Island. Instantly my focus switched from him to her so quickly my rudeness never occurred to me at the time. She was the finest looking girl I had ever seen. I was caught off guard by her arrival. To compensate, I jumped on the sarcastic wagon to conceal my surprise.

Her name was Jill, I asked her “how’s Jack?” She told she was from Kansas, USA, so I asked her to “say hello to Dorothy and Toto from me” when she got home. I became witty and charismatic. For every smart answer I gave her she threw one right back at me. We were just hitting it off like magic. Never had I met a girl before who I had taken to so quickly. For the rest of the night we talked and talked almost engorging everyone else lost in each other’s company, not that we even noticed. Her beauty was of the classical kind that many a writer spends a lifetime trying to capture on paper, a painter on canvas, musician on chords, but all failing desperately short of the mark. In a word, her beauty was ineffable. I was captured by her, Cupid had just shot me in the ass with a passionate arrow and I was loving the sensation!

All too early closing time dawned on us, the bouncers came around clanking their bottles signaling closing time, sounding their primeval call “are ya right their folks this is a pub not a Nightclub. Ya can drink all night but ya can’t drink here”. I had no desire to finish my talk with Jill. One of my friends decided there was to be a party at our apartment and all were welcome. I invited Jill and her friends and they said they would love to go. I had to go grab my coat, go to the toilet and since I had been so entranced by the company of Jill I just couldn’t get myself to leave her. As I parted, our fingers touched for no more than a fraction of a second, our eyes caught each others, and then. The moment was gone and I was on my way to the restroom.

As I washed my hands at the sink, I looked in the mirror, saw my own reflection staring back with a big smile on its face. I thought to myself, “what just happened?” That moment, that feeling, what was it? I had never felt anything like it in my life before. I had heard about electricity between people before, I only thought of that as a metaphor. Something definitely had just happened. Quickly I dried my hands and walked back to see the beauty.

My friends were all there with their coats and Long Island was standing with them. But no sign of Jill, or any of the other Americans. Long Island said, “Jill said to say good night. Sorry she couldn’t go to the party. She was beat from all the traveling.”

So there it was love at first sight or what ever it had been, gone in an instant, before I even had time to figure out what it was. Surprisingly my mood for partying shot up about 20 points. Earlier today I was not in love and right now I had no love, nothing lost nothing gained, all was in equilibrium.

First to McDonald’s for food. Drinking is one way so work up a good appetite and since we had Long Island still with us we thought we would give him a taste of home even if it was 12:30 at night on a rock flung to the periphery of Europe. The doors of the King’s head flew open and the wind blew us straight back in. Since we had been last outside a terrible rainstorm had brewed up and it was coming down in buckets. We dashed across the road to Mickey D’s.

While I was sitting munching on my fries, the others adopted my American friend for a while. I began to think about what had just passed. A girl, just across from me a work acquaintance of my roommates, noticed my gloom and inquired as to the problem. I told her of the moment, the second when our fingers brushed each other’s and how I felt. She with her years of wisdom the kind of wisdom only a stranger at one in the morning in Mc Donald’s can give you, told me if I really thought that I had experienced love at first sight, then I had no other option but to find this girl and find out if she felt the same. I thought for a second, nodded my head and mouthed “O.K.”

I disrupted Long Island from his cultural talk and asked him how far it was to his B&B and was he prepared to take me there. He replied in his Long Island drawl “ well I don’t know its kinda late and the rest will have gone to bed.” I told him I had to go, please just take me there. Reluctantly he left his conversation and the chance of going to a good Old Irish session, which fore told of drinking ‘till morning and again for breakfast in the Skeff’. The rain was really pelting down when we went outside. The address we were going, was about fifteen minutes from the street we were on. After about five minutes walking we no longer sought the shelter of shop canopies and alleys. We just let the rain come down on us. I was in such jubilant form and Long Island was enjoying it with me. He was laughing at the thought of waking up Jill at this time of night and being yelled at! As we crossed the park in the town center, we came across a puddle about the size of a small lake. We were already soaked through, so I grabbed my new friends arm and jumped right into the overgrown puddle. We splashed up and down like four-year-olds, our clothes clinging to us. Before leaving the park I picked a flower for Jill, should she be awake.

Finally we reached the B&B, with “O’ Sullivans” signed above the door. Silent and careful as two elephants in an egg factory we tiptoed through the lower hallway, dripping water all the way along the floor. Up the stairs we crept Long Island leading, me behind with flower in hand. Then the moment of truth was staring me right in the face. Her door was only a hand’s stretch away, I dug deep into my courage that lay knotted somewhere in my gut and summoned the will to knock. First, no answer, second, no answer just when I was going to knock for the third time before giving up, the door opened and there was Jill, in all her beautiful glory, with the most wonderful smile I had ever seen. She was shocked and not at all, and all at once! I stretched out my proffering hand and said. “I picked a wee flower for ya.” She came forward and hugged me. I knew my earlier feelings had not been misleading. We held each other for an eternity, like two halves coming together for the first time in millennia, proving Plato’s allegory. I inhaled her sweet smell and lost myself. An embarrassed cough came from the third party in the hallway, Long Island! We bade him goodnight and thanked him for guiding us back to each other in the B&B.

Alone we stood in the hallway. Jill in her pajama bottoms and PI-PHI shirt, me in my dripping clothes. What a pair we must have looked as we came together for the first time, in that hallway of O’Sullivans B&B at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Grains of sand, was our time in Galway slipping through our fingers, both of us already knew that our time together would be brief, less than a full day. That night we talked to the small hours of the night, hardly believing the situation that was unfolding before us.

Next morning I called around early and we spent the time walking down by the sea shore in Galway, finding out as much about the other as we could. We laughed at the gulf that lay between our homes, about 4000 miles of sea-water and a good thousand miles of land. Such things did not matter to us, we were living for the here and now, living the moment.

As we sat opposite each other in a small coffeehouse having lunch, the aroma of fresh ground beans and good food made me light headed and Jill’s beauty added greatly to the affect. I felt like I could just about achieve anything, there was such a good feeling about this girl. Being an old romantic at heart, I slid from my finger a Russian wedding ring my Mother gave me three years previously, told me when I found the person of my dreams I should give this to them to mark that moment. So yet again I seized the moment and gave her the ring with the story from my mother. I could see forever in her smile. I could see an everlasting peace in her eyes. I was truly for the first time in my life in love and what a sea of emotions that was. No sonnet could ever capture this, this was beyond words beyond tangibility, it, just was.

All the grains had passed through the glass it was time to be washed once more into the sea of life, the mass of unknown from which we came and found each other. In this little cove of love we had found in one another.

We sat facing each other on a bench in Eyre Square, a lonesome tear trickled down the side of Jill’s face. She feared in her heart, we would never lay eyes on each other again. For some reason I was assured we would and very soon. I told her this and she could see that I was sincere in my conviction. What just happened between us could never pass in a lifetime again. I was not going to let something like the Atlantic Ocean get in the way. I never before felt so sure about something in my life. I was steering my ship. I was at the helm and could see the waters ahead and they looked good to me. We ambled over to the train station not caring about C.I.E.’s schedule. They could wait for us.

In line for the train I held her tight and whispered in to her ear for the first time “I love you,” looked at her beauty one last time, turned and walked away holding my heart in my hand. I never watched the train-depart, but I know she left the station. And with her she took a piece of my heart, swollen with love.

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