“You’ll be back.” Jack said.
“What makes you say that?”
He put his hand on his chest and said, “I know you, same heart.”
Jack waived goodbye and left O’Connor’s Pub in the Salthill neighborhood of Galway.
Taking another swig from my second pint of Guinness of the night, I pondered his words,
I kinda hope not…..
Jack was referring to Ireland. After informing him that I would be returning to The States in two weeks, he seemed quite confident that I would be coming back to the Emerald Isle.
Jack was a Californian, in his forties, unmarried and didn’t seem like he had the slightest clue on what the hell he was doing with his life. He dropped out of a master’s program at Galway’s University and was now returning to California.
I suspect I wouldn’t be seeing him again in this lifetime.
It was just the three of us now sitting at the bar, Tecla, an Italian woman whom I met down in Killarney and Sophie, a tall, blonde Scandinavian woman in her thirties who was a friend of Tecla’s and married to a professor at one of Ireland’s National Universities. Her model physique and flirty demeanor triggered bad ideas.
We finish our drinks and then leave O’Conner’s to begin heading into downtown Galway. On the way, we join up with some other travelers whom we had met earlier at the hostel.
Darcy and Daniel, two South Africans, Amelia, a French girl and Fu, a Vietnamese German woman.
Besides Sophie, we were all in our mid to late twenties.
Walking from Salthill, we crossed O’Brien’s bridge all the while basking in the town’s vibrant bohemian energy. Joyful crowds of people packed the streets, the pubs were glowing and the river Corrib sparkled as it flowed into Galway bay. The ocean air by itself was cleansing and invigorating.
Continuing west towards Eyre Square, it dawns on me that the Latin Quarter of Galway is certainly, an Irish poet’s dream.
Entering our first pub, it was shots of Jameson. Then pints of Guinness. Then I chickened out and ordered a Carlsberg.
I was feeling a tad wobbly when we finally left the pub but was good and well, holding my own.
And for Christ sake, I’d better be.
I had been in Ireland for three weeks now, survived a night out in Dublin where afterwards, I was bedridden for three days and one week later, took a crack at climbing the highest mountain on the island in the kingdom of County Kerry; Carrauntoohil. Which in Gaelic translates as ‘Tuatha’s Sickle.
What ever the hell that meant, I didn’t know nor care. The Mountain was a son of bitch to be sure and tested my endurance.
Thus, my logic was, I damn well better be able to handle my drink at this point..
We walked back towards the river now, past the Kings Head on High Street. The Quays pub came into view, right in the heart of the Latin Quarter.
I immediately remembered a local Clifton woman’s words that were said to me a few days prior, while I was exploring the Connemara mountains, “The Quays is the best pub, you must go!”
We entered the Quays and immediately saw that it was large pub, with a dance area on the bottom level. The music was loud, the dance floor was packed and the people were largely homogenous; it appeared many locals were out for a drip of drink and a dance on this particular evening.
Darcy, Daniel and I, gather near the bar on the upper floor. They start having a conversation in Afrikaans. Daniel was upset. I think they are arguing about a girl. Listening to them speak is taxing to my buzzed brain.
The bartender hands them two shots of whiskey, while looking at them a bit puzzled and disgruntled. I imagined he was thinking the same thing I was thinking…
“What the hell is that shiite?”
Another round of pints, I go with a Rockshore. The Coors Light of Ireland.
I leave the South Africans to their bickering and head downstairs to the dancefloor, to join Tecla and the girls. I pass a consortium of couples, and groups of rowdy young men. Most likely rugby clubs and sailors. There are a few beautiful women leaning against the railing overlooking the dance floor. Long blonde hair, black dresses. Yet their energy repels me.
I walk around the corner and approach the stairs to the dance area, and nearly run right into a woman delivering a tray of drinks. I apologize and upon looking at her face, realize she is the receptionist at the hostel I am staying at.
“Its grand!” she quickly replies and continued weaving her way through the crowd of pubgoers.
I walk down the stairs and see my friends near the adjacent right corner of the dance floor. The music was even louder now but conversation was still not impossible.
I approach my group of traveler friends, most whom I haven’t known longer than a few days and then my gaze is seemingly yanked to the far corner of the dance hall.
Immediately, she catches my eye.
Long dark hair, tan skin, a white dress and magnetic, bright eyes.
What was she…Spanish? Portuguese?
“Bryce!” I heard my name through the loud music.
I turned to Tecla, “Bryce, this is Abbey.”
My eyes turned to the woman standing next to Tecla, Tall, Dark hair and Glasses.
“Hi, how’s it going?” I smile and nod.
“You are from the states?”
“I am from New Hampshire.”
“The White Mountains?” I reply.
My head turned again, my attention flowing away from our group and back to the dance floor. This time, she caught my glance.
There was something about those eyes…
“So, what do you do?!” Abbey yelled through the music, provoking me to turn back around.
“Ohh I…..depends on the season, and you?”
“I am wedding photographer.”
Tecla grabbed my sleeve, “Bryce we are leaving, are you coming?”
“Already? We just got here.”
“I have to catch a bus in five hours!”
I looked at my phone. It was about midnight.
“I am going to stay. I’ll catch up with you guys later” I replied without much thought.
We exchanged hugs, I sensed some disappointment in the girl from the White Mountains, and then I was a party of one at the Quays.
I let go into the strange, yet welcome romantic energy pulling me towards the far corner of the floor.
Again, we caught each other’s glances.
Right, I’m not wasting more time.
I started walking onto into the crowded dance floor, weaving through a jungle of bodies. Luckily, I seemed to be one of the more taller persons in the hall.
I broke through to the far corner of the floor and suddenly stood with her face to face.
Looking right into her alluring bright, brown eyes, I asked, “Would you like to dance?”
She smiled sweetly and reached out her hand.
The next day, I was sitting in the Galway Cathedral, admiring the high ceiling and numerous murals of Angels, Christ and Mother Mary. I examined the yellow and red windows and my thoughts unwelcomingly turned to booking a bus ticket to Dublin airport. I was traveling to Edinburgh tomorrow.
I thought of Jack and his peculiar last words to me. “You’ll be back.”
I pull my phone out of my jeans pocket and see a WhatsApp notification from contact with a Portuguese name.
That damn prophetic hippy. He knew and I knew now, there was no way in hell I was ever going to be leaving Galway.