She took me down to St. Stephen’s Green and we walked beneath the limes. Her apricot hair gained a certain Venus-like quality in the early-Autumn gale, and I wondered what it would be like to be born inside a scallop. I guess my mind was trailing off to any odd place at the time, trying to ignore the announcement she had made earlier at The Temple Bar.
We trailed down the path, me dragging a little behind, emulating the contemplative pace of an Athenian student. In a city filled with sacred spires, the holiest of holies seemed to lie somewhere between the swaying willow branches that would bow their heads each time Saoirse turned to give a quick glance. I too hid from such gestures, even knowing that any further avoidance could possibly lead to an eruption anytime soon. And sure enough, when she again saw my hesitation, that apricot jam turned into an incendiary lava-flow.
“Oh, for fucks sake, Tony! Aren’t you going to even congratulate me!?”
“I’m happy for you Saoirse, I am.” I lied, hiding my face from her polygraph gaze. “I just think yo- well, we – ought to think about what this’ll mean for us”
“Seriously, man? I’ve been offered my dream position and you see it as an opportunity to have a little pity party in ‘our’ honour? Oh, give it a rest, will ya?”
I breathed a slow visible sigh into the drifting afternoon atmosphere and stopped to prepare myself for what lay ahead. The endless foaming sky was a curious backlight to the scenery, injecting each instance with a dream-like happenstance and wrapping our lives up in a big moody glove. I could tell she was fuming but I couldn’t really muster the same energy; my mind floating from freckle to freckle along the corner of her chin. She had just gotten these new monstrous black frames the day prior and they seemed to lend her stare a further degree of severity.
“It’s not your ‘dream position’”, I breathed.
“I’ve been working the last four years of my life for this opportunity,” she spat back. “Do you have any idea of how important a spot at Roosevelt would be for my future? I could be at MIT in a couple of years. Do you know how much I could end up making?”
“Ah, and I’m just the poor writer? So, you’re going back to the US after everything?”
“Seriously? Why are you so damn pathetic about thi- Look,” she paused. “I’ve been thinking, and I just don’t know if I can do whatever this is anymore.” She took a breath as we entered onto the large southern lawn, “it’s not you, it’s just that I ne-“.
“Really? Give it a rest, wouldn’t you? ‘It’s not you?’ Oh, come on, I’m the only one here!”
“Jesus Christ, Tony, I’m just trying to be polite here. Yeah of course it’s been impossible having to deal with your bullshit. Playing the part of the cold calculating bitch while you float down your endless stream of hopeless romanticism under your brow of self-aware woe. Love’s great martyr forced to swim alone against your sea of troubles. How many times have I had to place my ambitions in the backseat for you?”
“For me? I moved halfway across the world for you! I left my course, my job, my family; everything! Just to move to some country I’d never seen in my life!”
I stood silent as the leaves fluttered around our pointed opposition then I reached out for her pale wrist; her skin hesitating, until my fingers found their place between hers. “I don’t regret it ok? I love being here with you.”
She hardened again, pulling away a little and sitting down on a neighbouring bench that stood across from Joyce’s bust. “Then why can’t you support me here?”
“I just don’t think you’re honest with yourself, Saoirse. I mean of course I don’t see you as som–well some kind of robot, but when was the last time you talked about acting. You told me that was your dream: to write and star in your own musical about all the bullshit love songs our parents showed us, right?”, I said as I sat down beside her. “The way you sung could’ve made Björk blush. It was half the reason I decided to uproot myself so utterly to be here.”
Her spotted upper-lip smoothed into a small theatre of reminiscery as glasses glazed over with la-vie-en-rose. I held her hand again and we watched some little ginger boy chasing his golden retriever through the tulip paths, shouting in Gaelic as the sun lowered behind him. However, before I could loose that breath of repose, her face once again shifted into some twisted portrait of betrayal.
“Why would ya bring that up?” she sighed, as the weight of her hand began to feel a little cooler in mine. “I really don’t need that in my life right now. Do you think I do biochem just for the craic? Of-course I love theatre, but I have to be realistic here, Tony.” She stood up, straightened her jacket and shot a look back. “Also, fuck your grandiose romantic performances. I understand you’re just trying to be your own kinda John Wayne here but that puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on me. You’ve just placed me in this position where I’m expected to be eternally grateful for your insanity. I’m sorry but I just can’t be your Juliet or your Celine.”
She began to walk off towards the pond and cobblestone bridge in her frustrated yet eager to allure stride and, as if there were a pull on my strings, I shot up and put on my best ‘reconciliation’ face. “Saoirse please. You know I love you; I’ve made my whole life rotate around your every gesture.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t ask for that shit. God, I feel so suffocated around you. Can’t you see that?”
“Well you sure seemed to be pretty appreciative when I turned up on your doorstep.”
“What was I supposed to do? Send you all the way back to fucking Iowa? Tony, don’t you understand? That trip was my getaway. My chance to explore and adventure in this crazy fantasy land I’d only ever seen in the movies. I admit that what we had was special, and I did love you,” she stopped walking and looked over with those big Brutus eyes, “But, I think you made a big mistake buying that ticket.”
I kept myself steady as the layers of romance, which I had tacked up around me so carelessly, began to cascade down towards my feet. The trees surrounding us were bulbous and melting like the skin of a leprous cripple; each elephantoid branch jutting out in every defiant direction.
“And I’m sorry but I’m going on that plane. What you do from now is completely up to you.”
Having felt the curtains close, Saoirse turned and walked away, up and across that narrow bridge. I took a step in the same direction but was caught by the gaze of O’Donohue’s swans who had captured the last traces of sunlight amidst their glistening wings. I was planted in place like that of the growth-riddled maples and I saw the last lick of her flames reaching out to the leaves above before vanishing fast behind the foliage. I stood there and waited for a good while but, eventually, I placed my hands my in pockets and left St. Stephens for the north-side.
I found myself walking through the harsh evening, shoulders slumped, finger-nails scraping against the iron of the Ha’penny. I was reminded both of the absent little poems I’d trace along her forearm as well as this recurring dream I’d been having; one where a strange little French boy was trying to scratch out my eyes with his nails as I slept. Well – despite it all – I was glad I had my vision as I looked out at the city lights dancing across the Liffey, balancing precariously along each ripple. That water which seemed to flow right through me and out to sea, carrying my burdens out towards the land I had escaped from.
And all at once I heard the call of Venus along that flow, singing like a gentle siren of the deep and beckoning me back into the confines of that deep-sea clam; this world a slipper one size too small. Therein we would bask in the folly of our passions and I would bleed into her salted embrace. To go with her and to house my heart in that prenatal perfection seemed to be the only thing that made any sense. But – as usual – I measured my steps, climbed down from the railing and cursed my runaway organs. The chill blew in, the northern city lights glared down, and I continued on my journey. This city had swallowed me whole and I wasn’t going home.