Country Roads

The landlords have a realtor called Patrick whose job it is now to troop prospective renters through my soon-to-be ex-bedsit. Sometimes he calls first, other times he doesn’t. I’m hungover one morning when I hear the timid knock on the door – hello? And then it’s all, dammit, because when falling into bed tipsy the night before, I only half undressed and am now in a bleary, disheveled, wanton state; scarcely fit to receive visitors. Two minutes! I shout through the walls. Patrick’s voice sounds hollow: We don’t have two minutes. And I’m, Well, I need two minutes! And he’s, Okay, grand. And I throw on last night’s pants and last night’s shirt and stick my face under the faucet and open the door. It’s himself, with two strangers in tow. I smile at them and tell them how much I love the bedsit, but I’m thinking Call first, jerk all the while I’m smiling but it doesn’t matter because the couple have decided at first glance of the flat – the living room, kitchen, and dining room crammed into one 10×10 space – that they’re not having it so they tell Patrick Thank you for your time and hustle themselves out, squeezing through the tiny door, but, whatever, that’s not my fault.


I’ve never seen it rain this much in Dublin. The rain wakes me up, clattering on the roof, and I use my umbrella two or three times a day. The puddles seep through my boots and the damp cold makes the metal plate in my leg ache. Everything in town is gray and wet, like a ruined watercolor painting. I don’t understand it. It wasn’t like this last September – then, it was great big red and yellow leaves drifting through St. Stephen’s Green and clear, sunny skies for days on end. It hasn’t even been like this all year, so constantly rainy and slick. For months, I’ve crowed to folks back home: All that talk about Irish weather? It’s nonsense. Why, it’s no rainier than New York. But when I tell people that I don’t understand what’s happening, why the clouds have suddenly gone angry and pagan, they tell me: You’ve had a lucky year. All this rain? This is what it’s usually like. I say: Oh. I say: I see.


I head to the Oscar Wilde Centre, hoping to use the computers and soak up as much of Oscar’s essence before I go. I say: I love that house. I will not leave until I absolutely have to. They will have to pry my lifeless fingers from the door jamb. Some of my ex-classmates come, too, and they say: You know, Oscar would never have approved of the color on these walls, or this carpet. A man of style such as himself! I’ve been so thrilled to even be allowed to enter the house for the past year that I never noticed that anything could be lacking. But my classmates are right. Oscar Wilde wouldn’t have had a tatty couch in the break room; he’d have had a champagne fountain. My classmate and I go to the centre. The secretary, who has been like our den mother all year long, says: Ye’ve handed in your portfolios. That’s you done and sorted. We’re shocked, like baby birds flung from the nest.


One day, Patrick calls and says he’s got a couple who wants to see the apartment. I say, Great. They come. The man is silent but the woman is all smiles. She turns on the taps and checks the water pressure. She peeks into the closets. She climbs up into the loft bedroom. She asks: Why are you leaving? I say: I’m moving out of Ireland. She asks where to. I say: Italy. She says: Hey! We’re from Italy. I say: Cool. She says: Where are you moving to? I tell her. She says: That small town? You are crazy.


Ryan Air allows me 20 kg so I ship my 7 books and my kitchen things to myself in Italy. Then I ship a box full of things like mirin, seaweed, and cumin. I pack my winter coats and my scarves; my Vietnamese leaf painting and my Korean mini chest of drawers. My perfume. My thesis. The poster from our book launch in Galway. Crap – where did all this stuff come from? I could have sworn I’d gotten most of it in Move to Italy Part One. I realize that this suitcase will be over 20 kg. More fees. More hassle. FML.


There is a magazine launch at The Winding Stair and we go. We drink white wine and listen to poets and a musician who slings a keytar over his shoulders and raps about RTE. The anthology my class put out is on one of the shelves. A book with my name in it is on one of the shelves.  I look up at the ceiling, then again at the tall towers of books. I think: This could have been my life in Dublin all along.


Barry’s tea and Jaffa cakes; chips and Guinness; Georgian doors and swans; rain and rain and rain.


We take the Viking Splash tour; something I’ve wanted to do for the past year but never did. The Viking Splash tour takes you on a tour of Dublin City Centre. You get to ride a big yellow amphibious vehicle and wear plastic Viking helmets. At the end of the tour, the vehicle goes into the river and you get to float along the Docklands. Our tour guide is a hoot and a half – he teaches us how to ARGH! like Vikings and says that each time he gives us a count of three, we have to ARGH at people on the street. People reading maps. People taking pictures. Ready? One… two… three – ARGH! We laugh ourselves silly each time. He drives us round. He points out that College Green has no windows because there used to be a glass tax and the architects wanted to prove a point. He cracks himself up, and us, too. Look there – those people reading a map. One… two… three…. ARGH! The people start in surprise, then smile at us. We’re in hysterics. This shizz never gets old.


I spend my last day in Dublin cleaning. My landlords say that everything’s got to be sparkling clean or I’ll get docked some of my deposit. I clean and scrub and scrub. I separate even more of my junk into piles to take down to Oxfam tomorrow morning. Then I’ll close my bank account. I’ll cancel my internet. When Patrick comes to give me back my deposit, he’ll read the electricity meter and I’ll call ESB and cancel that, too. I called the taxi company back in Terracina the other day. I reserved my taxi; the first time I’d spoken Italian in 2 weeks. The driver says he’ll come meet me at the airport. He’ll have a sign with my name on it. Bonus.


After dinner and drinks, we’re passing through Roddy Bolands and the guitarist – who’s played Irish songs all night – has decided to mix it up a bit and is playing “Country Roads.” Country roads take me home to the place I belong. I sing along, and as I do, I see that a man in the crowd is singing, too. We lock eyes, and he points at me. I point at him. He extends his hand, and I think he wants to shake so I give mine over. Instead, he turns my hand over and gently kisses it. I’m stunned, I don’t know what to do, but then he turns back to his mates and they’re back to yakking and it’s as though I have ceased to exist. And that’s fine, really, because we’re on our way out, anyway.

0 Replies to “Country Roads”

  1. Very moving. In the Irish rain even metal plates can ache…

    1. Thanks, Paul – from me and my metal plate.

  2. Ireland has been good to you I think, despite the rain 🙂

  3. This is really lovely.

  4. Something so melancholic about leaving a country forever, isn’t it… – even if you can come back, it probably won’t be the same. Very nice post.

  5. Ireland is weeping because you are leaving.

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