THE QUIET MEN
If I haven't mentioned it before, this story is dedicated to my magical Irishman, Brian, who is still away. I've always loved Ireland, but after meeting Brian, I realized just how great the people are who hail from that little island. Compassionate, funny, beautiful and spiritual, Brian is Ireland to me.
Chapter 7: Brian's POV
Well now. My cousin. She's beautiful and she's black. Not sure which impresses me first or most. I decide to be gracious to her. After all, this forced reunion is not her fault. I can kill Justin later. I stick out my hand to her, but she rises and gives me one of those European cheek-kissing things. I've never been sure how to react to that. Too American, it just makes me uncomfortable. I sit down at their table, and order fresh coffee and a croissant from the waiter. I can't take my eyes off of Ronan. I see some similarities, something about the eyes, her height, a shadow of familiarity in her smile, but the differences are more intriguing to me. I hear her story of why my uncle left America, and I must admit I have renewed respect for him. He had the balls to thumb his nose at the family. That means a lot to me. I did the same thing, in my own way.
I want to smack Justin who is beaming like he brought home the Holy Grail. He'll be crowing about this for days. "Is your family here in Dublin?" I ask and she shakes her head.
"No, they live in Connemara, county Mayo. My older brother, Jimmy, lives here in Dublin, but no others. You have a sister, I think, Justin told me. Is that right?"
"Yes," I say with an impassive look fixed on my face. Claire and I haven't had much to say to each other since I told her to go fuck herself when she believed her brat's accusation of sexual misconduct against me. Even after he admitted he was lying, point to Justin on this for nailing him, she never apologized. Fuck her and her evil spawn. Leaving Claire in the dust, we talk about Ronan's job, my job, my son, her father, my mother, our deceased grandparents. In fact, we talk so long the maitre de is giving us the evil eye. Breakfast has long since ceased being served and I know they want to set up for lunch. We move this love fest up to our suite.
I like her, damn it, further arming Justin for his successful quest. I even enjoy talking with her. She seems to feel the same way, and Justin joins in enough to be part of the conversation, but not so much that he interferes with his goal of reuniting me with my roots. We share a similar, jaded sense of humor, Ronan and me, and an edge of cynicism. She speaks her mind, I like that in a person, and she pulls no punches. At the same time, she seems much more compassionate than I am, and less guarded about her emotions.
"Can we please go out for lunch?" Justin interjects and that's my first realization of how much time has passed. Man, I can't remember the last time I talked this much with a relative stranger. Funny that phrase, "relative stranger". She's the first "relative" of mine I haven't felt strange with.
"We could order in," I suggest and he glares at me.
"Brian, we've been here for a day and a half and we haven't seen anything but this hotel! Ronan, isn't there a place within walking distance where we can see something of the city and at the same time, get a bite to eat?"
"Of course there is, fella. Grab your coats and let me take you to one of my particular favorites. It's not fancy, but it's good Irish cooking and it's only a few blocks from here, as the crow flies. A mere stretch o' the legs."
We leave the hotel together, and I end up between them, with each of them looping an arm through mine. I glance at St. Stephen's Green, and the nightmare returns to me. I can picture the lake, not visible from this street, the benches, the trees. How would I know that detail if I haven't been there? The human dragonfly, who left this gift in my pocket, the tall woman, shining blue. The one who called herself, "She."
"We're in the Southeast of Dublin now," Ronan explains as we walk. The park is always on our left, as if to mock me. It seems to go on forever. "To my mind, it's the best of Dublin. The Green, Trinity College, where I work, Grafton Street, some of the best shopping to be had, Merrion Square, where both Bram Stoker, who wrote Dracula, and Oscar Wilde had homes...I could go on and on."
We duck into a pub, and allow Ronan to do the honors since she seems plugged in with the owners. Mussel soup, wheaten bread, and a collection of Irish cheeses: Cashel blue, St. Killian, and Carrigaline are ordered for the table. We wash it down with some Guinness stout. It's all delicious, fresh and plentiful. You can smoke in here, thank God, and I light up when we finish and ask if she can read the words on my thimble. Justin giggles. "I tried that," he says with a smirk. "She doesn't want to touch it."
"Why not?" I ask, rolling it over and over on my palm. She sighs.
"Read me the letters and I'll see if I can figure it," she takes a pen from her backpack and writes down the letters as I read them out.
"The first word is capital S-i-d-h-e."
She looks up at me. "It's pronounced `shee'. It means fairy folk in Irish."
I meet her eyes. "That's what the woman in my dream said she was. She said, `I am she.' I thought it meant I am her, you know?"
"No, she means she's a fairy. Read the rest, Brian."
There's a 5 and a 3 and then, this word I can read, `Wellington' and the initials `b' and `r'. Bridge? Is it an address?"
She shrugs. "Don't know of a Wellington Bridge. Hold on a tic. Francis," she calls out to the barman, who looks as if he's as old as Dublin. "Have you ever heard of a Wellington Bridge in Dublin?"
"Aye, you've crossed it a million times your own self, silly girl."
"But you have. The Wellington Bridge is what they called the Ha'penny Bridge back in the day it was built. You know the one, links Liffey Street with Temple Bar. They may be calling it Liffey Bridge now, since they haven't charged that ha'penny toll to cross it since Hector was a pup."
She looks back at me and shrugs. "Ha'penny Bridge is a small metal footbridge north of the Liffey. But makes no sense to have a street address linked to it. It's merely a footpath, there's no numbers on it, no place to live."
I sigh. "Just my luck. The whole thing turns out to be some kind of advertising ploy. I go to this address and they try to sell me nose hair clippers or something."
"Not that you couldn't use them," Justin teases, ignoring my withering glare.
"Tell you what, gents. Why don't we hook up this evening? I have to go teach an afternoon class, and I'm sure you want to see something of our fair city. But there are some wicked clubs by the river, and we should go experience that side of life here, what do you say? While we're in that neighborhood, we'll look up your address."
I perk up at that idea. I haven't been clubbing in awhile. It's nice that she doesn't think I'm too old to go out. Of course the thought of straight clubs isn't that big a thrill, but Justin likes to dance, so it should be fun for him. We make arrangements to meet in the hotel lobby at ten, and then she kisses each of us on the cheek, and leaves.
"Well?" He's seeking my approval, not only of my cousin, but of his whole scheme to put me in touch with my family. I'm not ready to concede on his larger scheme, but I do like Ronan. Of course, that's just an initial opinion. She'll have plenty of time to prove me wrong. Not that I'm cynical. Okay, I am cynical. Especially where my family is concerned. They all blow, categorically. This one will self-destruct too, of that I have no doubt.
"She's a pretty girl, smart...she's fine, Justin. And certainly more exotic than I expected."
"Yeah, that's a cool fact that even I didn't have."
"Even you, Nostradamus?"
He punches my arm. "You want a piece of that apple pie?"
"No, and neither do you, whaleboy. Let's go."
We leave the pub and I look around to get my bearings while he pulls a guidebook out of his jacket pocket. Not cool. I glare at him and he shrugs. "I'm not ashamed of being a tourist, Brian. We'll miss so much if we don't know what's here."
"I know what's here. We can go to Trinity College and see the Book of Kells, and we can go to Brown something or other, the big store here on Grafton, and we can see the National Museum, or we can do what I plan to do. Find a cigar store and stock up on havanas, find a toy soldier shop and pick up some collectibles for Gus, and find an upscale salon and get a facial. My skin feels so dry."
He narrows his eyes at me. "You are seriously going to a spa for a facial?"
"Seriously, if I find one of sufficient merit."
"Could you BE any more gay?"
"I don't know. Do you have some suggestions to improve my current status?"
He laughs and veers into me, bumping me with his hip. "Maybe that fairy dust dried out your skin."
"Probably. It probably contains some vile curse that ages you ten years to the day."
"In that case, we should go to the hotel and fuck because by the end of this day, I'm out of here. You don't have that much margin."
I look at him and laugh, despite trying to look unamused. He really is a smart ass and I love him for that. "I could be convinced to go back to the hotel and fuck."
"Later," he insists with a harried sigh. "First, we are going to see something of this fucking city."
I let him lead me forward, deciding the distraction from the strange events of last night might be a good thing.
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July 25, 2004