“I have no idea how to work that thing.” Mum was clutching the steering wheel in a manic fashion, stealing glances at the navigation system while she maneuvered the caravan along Ireland’s winding roads. It was eight in the morning and we had only just said good-bye to Mrs Alroy. I had shaken her hand and told her how wonderful our stay had been, forcing myself all the while not to notice how much Fred resembled his mother.
“It says Coph there.”, I said, pointing at a sign that had just flashed past. I covered my mouth with my hand and yawned. I had only fallen asleep at four in the morning, fidgeting under the bedcovers while mum snored in the other room. Rubbing my eyes, I returned to my book. To be honest, the book was really just a stage prop, an excuse for my silence. I hadn’t seen Fred this morning and I would never have guessed how much I minded. Apparently, a part of me had hoped for a twist in our story, anything that would lead to a happy long-distance relationship. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. I had only known him for a week after all. He had been the centre of my thoughts for one short week and I had been right to end it. It had been a sensible thing to do. Elinor Dashwood would have been proud of me.
Determined to see some of Irelands more known places, we took a short break in Cork to play the church bells and walked around the Rock of Cashel before we reached Coph at noon. We maneuvered the Caravan along the narrow roads down to the harbor where we parked in line with other caravans. Mum got out at once, but I remained seated, eyes closed, forehead pressed against the window. I felt sick.
The day passed in a haze of tiredness. Nothing mattered, nothing could capture my attention for longer than a minute. I talked to mum only to communicate issues like hunger. At least she still had her phone. I had a shrewd suspicion as to who was sending her hourly texts.
That night, I crossed the river and entered the industrial part of Coph. Having found a place to sit by the water, I stared across the river. The street lights were beginning to light up one after the other in beautiful regularity. Regularity. Remembering something, I turned on my phone for the first time in days. I want regular updates. I had never bothered to give them. It was too late now. Both Emma and Mariam had texted me, their last texts sounding slightly worried. Within minutes, another one arrived.
Are you alive? What the hell is happening in Ireland?
There was a lump inside my throat. I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t draw breath. What was happening in Ireland? Nothing I could transport through a text.
I’m fine. That was a lie.
Too much Guinness. What’s your name again? How humorous.
Sorry, mum and I had a phone-agreement. Send. Sent.
Mum was half asleep when I returned to the Caravan at 11pm. I climbed up into the top bunk, my eyesight fogged up.
Breakfast. Coph Heritage Centre. Fish’n Chips. Ice cream. Coph Titanic Museum. Coph Cathedral. Coph Skyline. Dinner.
Breakfast. Coph shops. Coph post cards. Coph Sweet Shops. Coph Harbor. Dinner.
Sleep was washing over me in great waves, tossing me around my bunk and waking me up every hour. Be sensible, I told myself. This won’t last. You’ll be home in a few days. Fred. I lay awake in the darkness. It had been three days. He was probably with Jenna. Telling all his friends what a silly little girl I was.
I clicked my phone to check the time. Six in the morning. I stared unseeingly at the glowing screen until a motion on it caught my attention. An unknown number had texted me.
Talking to you
after a long day
is like putting the icing
on a birthday cake.
– in tribute to Nizar Quabbani
It was beautiful. My eyes obscured by tears, I climbed out of bed and put on a hooded pullover over my pajamas.
It was a breezy morning. The sky was covered in pearly grey clouds. The warmth of my tears stood in sharp contrast to the crisp sea air. I tumbled to the water’s edge, swinging my legs over the edge of the platform, throwing little stones into the river. I couldn’t even make out the opposite bank. It felt like the end of the world. I closed my eyes, overwhelmed by my own feelings. There was something rough and warm on my neck and shoulders. Knee caps were cracking as someone knelt down beside me. Lips touched my ear. An arm snaked its way around my shoulder.
“Why so sad?”
My heart began to race. I would’ve fallen into the water in surprise if he hadn’t held me.
“Why?”, he insisted.
“A hundred reasons.” And they’ve all got to do with you.
“You’ll have to go into detail.”
“You left. You sneaked away. You went back to the party. I’m just your side-dish.”
“A very tasty one.” And he kissed my neck, creating a warm sizzle up and down my spine.
“Stay serious, will you?”
“What else is there?”
“Jenna.”
He kissed the tip of my nose. “You’re remarkably stupid for such a bright person.” He kissed the corner of my mouth. My hand was searching blindly for one of his. “Why would I ever prefer Jenna to you?”
“A hundred reasons.”
“You have a minority complex, Mag.”
“Say my name again.”
“Mag. Am I saying it right? Mathilde de la Rangottière. If I had ever seen anything in Jenna I wouldn’t have jumped on my bike the moment you were gone. I wouldn’t be asking forgiveness. That was the first poem I ever wrote. Did you like it?”
I let myself fall against him. “It’s beautiful.”
“So that’s why you cried.” His lips found my mouth.