Monday, December 22, 2008

Better Late?

I wrote this on the airplane coming back from Ireland. I thought I should get it up and book end the trip a little before posting anything else. Although, I had been awake for over 48 hours at that point and I have little to no memory of what I wrote, so I apologize in advance.

I saw a falling star last Saturday.

In transit:

The same way that I never let myself get excited about a trip until I see the place out of the airplane window, I found myself not really realizing that I was leaving Ireland until I watched it fade out of sight through the window of my first flight today. I probably won’t ever really realize how I feel about leaving; I’ll just mope around for a couple of days, never admitting to myself that I’m actually sad.

I sat in the Heathrow airport for a couple of hours today, fighting self-induced narcolepsy and trying to piece together my emotions. I really didn’t think I was going to cry last night. As much fun as I had in Ireland, I never really felt attached to it. I’ve left my heart in many places, San Francisco, Paris, San Sebastian, Honduras, but I don’t think Ireland it one of them. I did however, as I realized painfully last night, give little bits of it away to people I met there.

Cork isn’t a beautiful city. It’s not quaint and it doesn’t have quite the number of hints towards its humble beginning as Dublin does. Maybe Cork didn’t have humble beginnings; maybe it’s always been a port town which comes with all the cold, non-nostalgic trappings of business. But as I wandered aimlessly through the city in the past few days, I saw it as more a part of Ireland than I have at anytime during the past three months. On Sunday night I went for a walk down by the water. I followed the path to the left out of the city center and when I reached the end I started down the highway that stretches out of Cork to who-knows-where. And then I kept walking down the road, almost oblivious to the cars rushing by with purpose and direction. But suddenly Cork was connected with Ireland, connected with the countryside where culture (not “Culture”) thrives pure without as much of the pollution of international communication.

And then it grew dark and I turned around and walked back as the ice formed on the ground beneath my feet.

The next day I wandered on the other side of the river, up in the Shandon area, looking for the hostel that Laurel and I stayed at two years ago, and the Cork-experience I’d had during our stay. The steep hill of Shandon, the discount stores and dim-lit bars all framed in doorways and window panes coated with shiny, sticky paint with hand-lettered signs across the top, was more like an Ireland I had seen before, more like the Ireland I’d expected. And after sitting outside the hostel for a while in the same spot where Laurel and I had taken pictures two years ago, next to the same graffiti mural that I'd watched grow, I descended back into the bustling center of fashion and metropolitan life that is Cork’s City Center.

“Hey, smile and enjoy it! You know, merry Christmas and all that.”

We’ve all been talking for the past week about how sad it’s going to be to say goodbye and how we’re really going to live it up for the last week of out lives in Ireland. We’ve been going out every night to hear music or to visit our favorite bars and to spend as much time with our new-found friends as we can.

And I realized for the first time, the niche we’d each carved out for ourselves. From the bar where my Sacramento friend sits in with the live music every Sunday night, to the bouncer who knows us at the bar we always end up at, to the people I can expect to find in every place we frequent.

So last night, I carefully parceled out my time to make sure that I got to see every friend who I truly valued. I rushed out of the birthday apartment-party where I ate and laughed, then shouted apologies and promises to return when the bars closed, as I raced to catch the bus which had just passed. I jumped into a taxi with some people I didn’t know and arrived in town with two hours left to say goodbye to everyone else, all of whom I knew would show up at the Brogue sooner or later.

I’ll never forget bumping into one of my roommates by the bathrooms and have her embrace me and look up with teary eyes and tell me that I was one of the best roommates she could have hoped for and how she was going to miss me.

And that’s when I realized just how hard it was going to be to leave the people, friends, I’d made. Saying goodbye to the people I truly valued as friends was easy because I know I’ll make an effort to keep in touch, because somehow I just don’t believe that we are really saying goodbye forever, believe that we’ll meet again someday. Saying goodbye to the three Irish friends I’d made was more shocking than difficult because it was as I said goodbye to them and realized how grateful I was that they had happened to be at the Brogue that night, and I'd happened to run into them and been able to say goodbye, and I realized that I actually had Irish friends to say goodbye to. But again, people I plan to keep in touch with, and who I will definitely visit again when I get back to Cork. Because I will of course be back. (I may not have left my heart there, but it’s still become a part of who I am. It may not have been my favorite place, it may not have lived up to my expectations, but it is my Irish hometown.)

The hardest part about saying goodbye last night was the people who I never will see again. Ever. The people who I was friends with, but more casually. Not the people who I would seek out, but the people who I’d been brought together with because of our shared American identity. And it was made all the more sappy and emotional because that particular group of friends was PLASTERED and therefore not capable of softening the harsh reality of goodbye.

Maybe the reason why I’ve been having such a hard time finding the tears, even with the exhaustion brought on by a total of three hours of sleep within the last 48 hours, is because I don't really plan on loosing people I should be crying for. I mean, I can’t right? Because the people I’d cry for are the ones I’ve given little bits of my heart to, and I’ll never loose those little bits of heart.

No comments: