A Love in Dublins City. About Passion and Romantic.
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Special thanks to Lucia, Tom, my Children Vivian and
Benedikt and my lovely Husband. You will never
The small airplane’s engines drone inexorably in my ears. The wind is blowing briskly, pulling at my head like it is trying to put my thoughts through the wringer. And it does. Here I am at the airport, my small suitcase in hand, awaiting my departure. My heart does not yet want to go home. But my head urges me on. I need to leave this place, so dreamy yet so crisp, with its endless, fleeting memories. My heart aches and my eyes fill with tears. I let them run silently down my cheeks. After all, I had wanted all of this. Hadn’t I? Thinking about it, not really. Yes, I had always had the dream to go on this journey, but never quite this way, or with this result. My feelings are all over the place. Those eyes! No, Elara, don’t think about him, it will only hurt you. What this is about, you ask? Of course, true to the common cliché, at the heart of the matter is a man – and an island. Ireland. Oh, what am I even saying? Let me start at the beginning.
My story ought to begin at the moment of fundamental change. Of course I could start out with nonsense – I was born in such-and-such, grew up in so-and-so, nurtured by my parents from x until y, fell in love, got engaged and yes, married. Divorced. Now too old and too frustrated. But no, it should not be like this. Of course the short version is entirely accurate. Sure, I could go into more detail now and talk about my marriage and its problems, but the details will come up in this story soon enough. As I said, it all begins with me sitting in front of my computer on a day like any other, doing research for a small newspaper. I had been chosen to write for them as a freelance columnist. Here and there, a small travel journal could be slipped in as well. It was sadly not going to make me rich, so I also jobbed in a supermarket. Ever since my divorce, I could only dream of distant countries. But I was not going to give up on my hopes and goals. One day, I would make the journey to Scotland, England, the USA… or Ireland. Of course this was the dream destination of every romantic, but somehow, I felt a deeper connection to the island. My heart swelled when I thought about it, and every day the longing grew stronger. My best friend Ellis, who had faithfully stood by me after the divorce, used to say: “Elara, Ireland is calling out to you. Why don’t you just go?” But she knew that money was the real issue, not determination.
That, I had in abundance. Anyway, the divorce marked the beginning of my life as a loner. I don’t want to say that I was feeling old, but I did think that I was. I don’t want to say that my relationship to my ex-husband had gotten better, but I did think he had become more approachable. Now I no longer had to listen to his constant accusations and paternalism. At the end of the day, we had simply grown apart. Now, icy silence reigned. Our interests diverged further and further. While I focused on my writing, his attention rested solely on his football club. My small newspaper column had often been target of his scorn. It wouldn’t bring any money and was only read by frustrated housewives. As if. Well, I had known for a long time that divorce was the only solution. Somehow, once the decision had been made, I had felt like a weight was lifted from my chest. I finally knew, could finally escape the daily grind of marriage and the monotony of everyday life. Nobody had said it would be easy. After all, I was already well past the forty and was, in my own opinion, ready for the scrap heap. And my ex-husband could hardly believe my decision. He was convinced that I would not make it three months before crawling back to him, and that was a fact. Of course he could not have been more wrong. At this point, we had long crossed the one year mark and I had finally signed the last papers yesterday. I had to admit that I felt lighter for it, freer. Yes, there was a tinge of bitterness to it, but I was sure I would overcome it with time. Mike, my ex, walked out with downcast eyes, looking ready for the chopping block. For a change, he was the one who didn’t know what to do. Well, now he had all the time in the world for his buddies. Of course they were there right away to greet him in style. Ellis had stayed by my side the entire time, and we celebrated the final signing with a ceremonial glass of champagne.
“Now you finally have time to travel,” she told me. But it was not that easy. Money was forever the issue. Even though Mike called every day or even showed up at my door, wanting to help me out, as he put it. But that was the last thing I wanted. It would only end with the old status quo, minus the wedding certificate. I would be dependent on him, and he would like it a little too much. I would have to forever pretend that nothing ever happened and smooth the waves.
Today at least my day was Mike-free. He was thankfully out to see a game with his best buddy. I had to stress that he was under no circumstances to show up at my door afterward. The situation was complicated. He promised the sky and usually ended up at my door regardless, tipsy, happily reminiscing about the good old days and the glories of our oh-so-happy marriage. All the way to “how could you throw it all away”, to “Let us try again”. Erm, no! For me the situation was clear.
Well, after Ellis fell asleep on the sofa - she was like a guide dog, always worried about my well-being - I found myself surfing my social networks. I really ought to be researching the old city butchery, but I procrastinated. As always I got stuck on the website of my favourite band. I have to say that I was always blown away by them. I had found the band online by chance, right below a link about Ireland. They played good old folk music with Irish influences. This band was so popular that they had even made it all the way to Hollywood. I liked their music so much because it was about old myths or, typically Irish, traditional pub music. Ellis did not care for them too much, but let me be. I secretly had to admit that I quite liked the lead singer. To me he was classically Irish. Dark, wavy hair down to his shoulders, combined with grey-green eyes. Ellis always talked about Irish people being naturally small, but this was not the case for him. I felt like a teenager. It was admittedly silly to fall for some guy and his music. My friend always teased me: “Elara, what would you do if he suddenly stood in front of you?”
She then smirked a little, and I knew exactly what she was thinking.
“Oh please, Ellis, I wouldn’t do anything. These things don’t happen. I would maybe ask how he came to do music. But that is all.”
Sometimes, I had to admit, I did dream of him. However, I knew that these dreams were based on nothing except the fact that I had been alone for a year now. That had to be the reason. Either way, Ellis slumbered after drinking a Piccolo and a long tirade on Mike. In the meantime, I had put on my headphones and was listening to the deep voice of my hero. At least this way I wouldn’t hear Mike, should he knock. I did not worry about Ellis, who slept the sleep of the dead.
Night approached. Before I knew it, I was asleep on the keyboard, my headphones still on my head. I sank into the land of dreams with Kyran, the lead singer. The land of dreams was mine.
His hands stroked my hair and he pressed me close. The grin on my face was priceless. Languorously, I pressed closer. Yes, Kyran, sing for me!
“Of course, my cutie-pie,” I heard his voice as if from far away. Wait a second, I wouldn’t dream something like this. Especially not with him speaking to me like that. Wake up, Elara! Wake up! He demanded. What now? To wake up in the middle of my dream, oh, that was not fair. My eyelids refused to open. The other reason might be the keyboard I was glued to. What felt like five hours later I managed a glimpse and surprise, it was of course not Kyran but Ellis, who grinned at me.
“Awake, cutie-pie?” She smirked at me.
I just about managed a nod before I stretched my painfully stiff neck. Good thing that I did not need to go to work today. It would be too embarrassing to explain to my work colleagues where the G, L, B, and N imprinted on my cheek came from. My computer was still flashing, but I thought it better to turn it off.
First I had to get my face under control. A full twenty minutes later my skin was wrinkly and the letters gone. Ellis had had to go to work in the meantime, but promised to come straight back afterwards. As our holiday was approaching, we were saving up together. Big leaps were outside of our budgets. She suggested that, if I had nothing else to do for the day, I might as well check for bargains a la Mallorca or Turkey. Sun, beach and ocean were the goal. My personal tendency rather went in the direction of a north sea holiday, at a stretch the German Sauerland for three or even four days. Great! I had initially meant to muck out my flat and see what I could find for the flea market, but the weather was not in keeping with my intentions. It was raining cats and dogs, and to top it all off the phone was ringing off the hook. I could see Mike’s number on the display. Which to me was cause to turn up my music and ignore the permanent ringing. It went on for well over half an hour, after which I lowered my volume to the happiness of my neighbours. So far, so good, I thought and turned the computer back on. The blue flashing showed my computer was booting up. Then a “WELCOME” and my desktop loaded. Since my second boss was constantly bugging me about my newspaper column, I had to bite the bullet and check my mail first. It wouldn’t do to have a final notice waiting for me. I mean, I liked the job, but to be honest, a column in a newspaper is not really a challenge for me. My email program opened, and I started to read.
“You have five new messages,” it said. Beginning with “Congratulations, you have won a shopping voucher of 5€” to “Someone hacked your bank account, please verify your details by blah blah blah”. Thank goodness no new message from Robert, my second boss. Maybe he had given up. When he didn’t like an article, he always dug up one from ages past and pretended it was news. I quickly closed my messages and began scrolling through holiday bargains. Of course I got stuck on Ireland again. Who knew, maybe my chance would come today. Even if my hopes dwindled. To make things worse, my phone was ringing again. What would it take to shut Mike up?
On second glance however, I was curious after all, I saw an unknown number. Should I answer? Whatever, probably a survey. It rang again. Fine, I thought, if I didn’t answer these people just got cheekier. So I answered the phone. It crackled softly, until finally a voice became audible.
“Elara Jackson?” the voice said.
I nodded, then realised what I was doing. “Y...yes?” I asked in return. That was the signal for the voice to cut loose.
“Congratulations, you have been chosen as a winner in our competi--” beep, and the line was dead. Whoops, had I accidentally pressed the red button? I laughed. Hopefully this would be enough. But no such luck. The phone rang again. I really wanted to give them a piece of my mind, but this time it was a different number. Hmm, I thought, those buggers probably had several lines to bait people. Fine. I answered again. At first, all was silent, until a male voice spoke up.
“Elara?” he said carefully. The hairs in the back of my neck stood up. Mike! He must have gotten a different number somehow, probably from one of his friends. “Elara, I know you’re there. Please let us talk like two reasonable adults.”
My patience was really put to the test. If I hung up now, he would show up at my door within minutes. “Mike, what do you want?” I asked him irritatedly. Embarrassing silence at the other end. A soft sniffle. Dear Goodness, was he crying?! Hopefully not. Another sniffle and he continued, his voice softer and thinner than before.
“Elara, please, let us talk one more time. We can go to a cafe if you don’t want me to come to the house, or we’ll meet in a park. Please! I mean, that can’t have been it, right? Let us talk.
Dear heaven, was he drunk again? That happened way too often. Especially when his friends edged him on.
“Elara? Elara, please, say something!” Mike pleaded.
I just snorted. “Mike, listen. Is it possible you had a few drinks?” I said, being straightforward.
“Oh Elara, just a couple of beers. Okay, maybe one or two schnapps glasses as well. You know how it is. Thomas his kid won the first game today, you know, in the club.” Of course I knew. This used to happen on a daily basis. There was always a reason to have a few. “Oh Elara, Elara, do you even know how beautiful your name sounds? I just… Do you remember the first time we met and you told me your name? It was like a dream… Elara…” Oh, now this should be fun. While Mike cried his heart out, I scrolled through websites on the computer. It was no use interrupting him now. Two minutes later he would be back and blaming me. For now all I could do is hope he would get it together soon.
Something crackled in the phone line. Someone was trying to call me again. Probably those sales reps again. In the half hour conversation with Mike, someone tried contacting me three times. It couldn’t be Ellis. She didn’t call people, she only sent texts and whatsapp messages. How persistent were these people? And my email was similarly at daggers drawn. Three new messages again. I only read the subject.
“Congratulations. You were chosen…” well, wasn’t that new. I deleted the messages without reading them. I really had to do something about the spam. The sniffles at the other end of the phone line were getting quieter. The conversation was drawing to a close. To top it all off, my mobile was vibrating now. What was going on today? Ellis was probably bored and sending me one of her cat pictures. Whatever. Open… Oh, she had had time to write something. Oh, oh, I had six messages from her. Atypical. “El?” Asked the first one. Then a smiley. The next one. “Elara? Are you not reading your messages?” Then, “HELLO?” in all caps. “Goodness gracious, Elara, put Mike down!” the fifth demanded. She knew exactly whenever Mike called. And the last one. “Booh, read your messages. Not the phone ones.” But I deleted them all, I thought. Then I realised which ones she could mean. Social networks. All right, who or what was trying to communicate with me this urgently? To the log-in. Waiting! Loading… and there they were. The same as on my phone, three messages again. The first one once again began with “Congratulations. You were chosen…” Impossible! A hacker, in my computer. But my phone vibrated again. “READ!” Ellis’ voice demanded. Fine, fine. The second message!
“Hello Ms Jackson,
Unfortunately, we were unable to reach you on the phone. Nonetheless, we would like to congratulate you on your win. Please confirm your consent with your email address.
Your Ireland Team”
What the… Oh, I had completely forgotten about Mike. He was still on the phone. I tried to listen in and found out that he was in the middle of our engagement. That could take a while yet. So I read the third message, or at least tried, as my notification bar showed eleven new popups. Ten people had tagged me. Why? I tried to regain control. Until the realisation hit me like a thunderclap. It really was a message from Kyran himself. Sweet Goodness gracious, what had I done? Sure, years ago I sent him a friendship request, which he had at least accepted quite quickly. What followed were numerous likes and a few odd comments, but this, now, was unbelievable. A sniffle at the other end of the phone. Mike was blowing his nose. I had to get rid of him now. Quickly, I scanned Kyran’s message. My heart was racing.
“Hello Elara, thank you for taking part in our competition. I wanted to congratulate you personally. You won a seven day trip to Ireland. I am looking forward to meeting you. Lots of love, Kyran.”
Attached were the terms and conditions. They proved that I had indeed won a trip to Ireland, including a personal guided tour with Kyran, plus a pub concert and a holiday home in the countryside. On top of it a dinner with the band and a tour through Dublin. My jaw dropped. I could only whisper into the phone.
“I can’t believe this. I think I’m going mad.”
Immediately, Mike bellowed back. “But you agreed when we bought the house. I really don’t know…” he began, but I had to cut him off.
“Mike… Mike, please, I can’t right now. Listen, write me a text when you have the time. I’ll get back to you then. Take care!” And just like that I simply hung up. Again and again I read the message. It couldn’t possibly be true. It had to be a fake with the worst yet to come. I had meant to make it my goal never to open spam mail, and especially not for competitions. Where was I supposed to have taken part, anyway? Before I made my way through the terms and conditions, I first scrolled back to my activity feed of the last two weeks. I didn’t have to search long. Just yesterday I had joined a competition at the last minute. At least that's what it said there.
My memory of doing that was more than foggy. The time, however, told me that I really had joined - while I was sleeping. Damn, I must have knocked the keys while asleep at my computer. I really needed to stop doing that. Who knew, one day I might end up with a house or a luxury car. So now it was time to read the conditions. There had to be a catch. But even after several reads I couldn’t spot one. Everything seemed perfect. Journey to Amsterdam by train, then a ferry over to Ireland to be received by Kyran himself. All inclusive. This had to be a dream. When Ellis dropped in after work, she was flabbergasted.
“Oh goodness, that’s what I call fate. Totally. Absolutely incredible. You… you are going, aren’t you?” Ellis squinted at me. She knew me. When it came down to making decisions, I chickened out. It wasn’t really my thing. And now to Ireland on my own. I was already starting to feel queasy.
A little hesitantly, I shrugged and focused on the message. Again and again. Ellis could see my head spin.
“Oh no, you don’t,” she warned me.
“What? I didn’t say anything yet,” I muttered. Of course my thoughts were racing. And the more they did, the more scared I felt. I was already half leaning back when Ellis snapped at me.
“Goodness gracious, no, you don’t. You are not giving up this trip. That is your chance to finally get out of here. Ireland. Goodness, it can’t possibly get better, and on top of it all you get your Kyran. What do you have to lose? I’m telling you now, if you cancel this trip we’re over and I swear to you I will sic Mike on you every single day,” she threatened. She was serious. Sure, she was right. What did I have to lose. I could always write my column during the journey and I had some holiday left at the supermarket anyway, which wasn’t busy right now. I just had to confirm the mail.
My fingers shook as they moved over the keyboard. Ellis looked over my shoulder and saw me hesitate. In a moment of inattention her fingers flew over my keys and the mail sent. “Done!” I stared up in the grinning face of my friend.
“Say, can anyone else come along on that trip?” she asked a few minutes later. Sadly, this wasn’t the case.
Secretly, I wished for her company, then I wouldn’t be so alone. Nonetheless, I was excited. I felt like a teenager.
The time until my journey stretched for two endless months. Finally the day came. My bag was packed with necessary and unnecessary bits and bobs. Ellis took me all the way to Amsterdam, as she wanted to reward her holiday with a grand shopping tour if Ireland was out of the question. Of course Mike had caught wind of the trip and had been making digs at me the entire time. Things like “Are you trying to catch up on your lost youth now?”, or “Do you really need some young shag buddy now? He doesn’t want you anyway. It’s all just a scam,” all of which hit me hard below the belt. On the other hand, it reinforced my decision to go.
Two hours later we finally arrived. The boat was already in the harbour and people were rushing back and forth. Now it was time to say goodbye. Ellis hugged me close and joked around.
“Hey, I could hide in the suitcase. I’m small enough. Oh, and don’t you dare text less than three times a day! And you better take ten thousand pictures of you and Kyran. Come here, sweetie!” she demanded and pulled me close again. Tears welled up in her eyes. “Oh, just go and get yourself a hot guy.” I hugged her one more time before she took off in her little red corsa. Here I was, with my suitcase and bag. On the one hand I felt like running away, on the other I felt the thrill of adventure. The ship’s bell rang. It was time to go aboard. I pulled out my boarding pass and was given directions to a small cabin, which I had to share with another woman, else I would have had to pay extra. For now, I was alone. That meant I could choose my bed. They were bunk beds, nothing special, but enough for my needs. The ship had a breakfast buffet, and I wanted to eat a bite. Before the trip I had taken a pill against the nausea. It was working well, which was why I felt a small pang of hunger.
No sooner had I reached the buffet than I was rudely pushed aside. A younger woman with, well, let’s say heavy bones was approaching. She was huffing and kept having to cough because of the exertion. However, this was over as soon as she had reached the food. I didn’t even pay attention to her. My bread roll looked quite poor against her plate, but it was enough for me.
The ship horn sounded again and we soon left the harbour. Just like on the Titanic, I ran to the railing and leaned over it. I followed all the people that had grouped together there and waved at their loved ones. I didn’t care. But wait, wasn’t that a familiar face? Strike a light, it really was Mike waving at me. How could he? On the one hand it was soothing to see a familiar face, but internally I was boiling with anger at his intentions. Thank God he wasn’t on board. I quickly looked in a different direction.
The saltwater filled my nose and put a film on my lips, while the wind mussed through my hair. It was still quite cool here. For the time being I went back below deck, especially since it started to rain lightly. In one room I found several empty seats, surrounded by books and with a sea view. I grabbed a book on Ireland and paged through it while my eyes scanned the water surface. My eyelids grew heavier and heavier. Shortly before falling asleep, I decided to make my way back to my cabin to freshen up and potentially have a nap.
Even from quite a distance I could hear the permanent laughter of that woman from the buffet. She laughed and snorted and seemed to want to draw attention to herself. Not enough that she was dressed quite unflatteringly, no, she made sure everything went exactly her way. Everyone who stood in her path was flattened, and everyone who tried to flee was loudly called back.
“Where can I play some parlour games? Where can I watch TV? Where can I take a phone call without being disturbed? When do we arrive?” And, and, and. Add to that her shrill voice interspersed with the continuous coughing. I quickly fled into my cabin. It was still empty. At least I could freshen up. Ten minutes later I already felt better. The soft rocking motion lulled me somewhat and I lay down. I quickly started dozing, until a voice made me start up. The woman from the buffet was running down the hall in front of the door, yelling into her phone. I had to press my pillow on my ears. Which didn’t help much. Suddenly the door was slammed open and the woman stood in the middle of the room. I was flabbergasted, what was this person thinking? Seconds away from my outburst, she stretched her fat hand in my direction.
“Rachel. Rachel Kuhn,” she said abruptly, her phone still on her ear, only to continue yelling at it. “No, mother, I am not in the cafeteria. Yes, I had something to eat. No, there are no celebrities here. Yes, mother, I am in my cabin now,” and the door to the washroom fell shut, emitting the sounds of her struggle. The cabins were not very large. Wait a second, did she say her cabin? My gaze fell on the large suitcase on the other bed. The name tag made me fear the worst. Rachel Kuhn, it said in colourful letters. Fabulous, so that was my roommate. This was going to be fun.
Full of fear I glanced up, realising that I was laying in a bunk bed. I had to swallow at the thought. Loud, but hardly ladylike sounds were coming from the bathroom. This was getting better by the second. I was about to lay down on my side, when the door was slammed open and Rachel exited. Even though she had freshened up, I could see and smell her odours. Skeptically, she eyed first me and then the bed. I soon realised what her look was supposed to tell me.
Oh, I… I didn’t mean to be pushy. If you would prefer the bottom bunk, it’s not a problem for me.” I sounded almost whiny. The mere idea of sleeping in the top bunk made me uncomfortable. If I needed to go to the toilet, I would have to climb down every time, and every movement went through the entire bed. On the other hand, if Rachel were to climb down… No, the thought could not be finished.
“No worries at all, but if you insist… Erm…” She gave me an inquiring look, until I got what she wanted.
“Oh. Elara. My name is Elara Jackson.” I was about to offer my hand, but my bedding flew in my face, and before I knew it she had climbed past me into my bed. Ok, so I moved to the top one. I didn’t much care anymore and I gave in to my fate. No sooner had I put my head down that I heard Rachel snore. It wasn’t, how should I say, soft and thoughtful, no, more like penetrating and very loud, not to mention some sounds that were not coming from her mouth. My headphones were giving it their all, while I turned to face the wall and tried to sleep. Regarding the time, it seemed to pass in a blink. As soon as I had closed my eyes, Rachel woke me again.
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