It had stopped raining but the mist still clung to everything and the pavers and footwalks were wet and polished under the streetlamps and I said, “hey, this was fun,” as her bus arrived and she leaned forward and kissed me, the fingers of her left hand just touching the back of my neck below the hairline, igniting me. “Ring me tomorrow,” she said, then spun in an elegant twirl and climbed aboard.
The bus pushed through the fog and disappeared. I stood there on the silent, empty street thinking about the moonlight shining down on the tops of this enormous bank of clouds. And then I walked all the way home.
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
Photograph from Tsujiru.net Gallery
The border rises out of the water in a place wholly as expected. The “British” side, as it is, Warrenpoint, Scottish-looking and a little bit urban with the castle-keep rising over the rivermouth, and the Republic side, somewhere east of Dundalk, as it is, green and Irish in that obvious way.
We stand in the field that smells of midsummer and a way of life a thousand years old and I point across the landscape and tell her this, and she smiles, and says, “sometimes you could just shut up and listen to the world,” and I suppose that she might have a point.
These are false divisions, of course, created by mapmakers looking on from afar. Is a river a centerpoint as the French would tell you? Or a dividing line? The English split New Jersey from New York and Pennsylvania because they found rivers as dividers, but in Derry they ripped the Foyle from Donegal because it held a port they needed to control. So I guess, well, power does as power can do.
So now I am silent, and kneel down in the field, spreading the blanket before me, unpacking the bottled Guinness, the cheese, the thick brown bread, the tins of oysters and salmon. The wind rides across the top of the tall grasses, bringing whispers to both of us. She tries to apologize, “I do love listening to you, but sometimes I need to hear, well…” I stop her, holding my finger to her lips, trying without speaking to tell her there is nothing wrong.
This does not look like an international border to an American like her. They are used to walls and razor wire and armed security, and none of that is in view. I think about that. How Americans are scared of the present, and terrified of the future, and define the world always as “us” as opposed to “them.” And how here we trust the future but fear the past, and though we surely have “them” – we are also desperate to find more of “us” – no matter what the others of “us” sound like or look like, because when you are fighting ghosts you need all the help you can get.
She spreads cheese on bread and puts salmon on top and puts it in my mouth. I open her Guinness for her, and take a long drink of my own, and light a cigarette, and inhale. I think of all that I could try to explain to her. How far memory goes back in places like this, how shared all our memory is, how this looks from this place which is not just here now, but which holds all of its history alive… but she is right. The whispering of the wind, the distant roll of the sea, the occasional scream of the gull, and the sound of her beating heart as I now lay down, my head against her chest. All this says more than enough.
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol