It’s one of those nights in which I miss things – big things, little things, tangible and intangible things. Most specifically, tonight I’m missing Galway.
I just finished reading an acquaintance’s book of poetry [Mark Brewin’s collection Scrap Iron, which is in fact phenomenal and you should all run out and buy it], and some of them draw pretty heavily on this Irish town I love. And it made me miss, in a visceral sort of way, the feel of the air coming off the river, the smell of fish at the morning market, the gaudy storefronts with Gaelic lettering, and the people – oh, people.
If I were to wax poetic for a moment, I’d tell you about the merry, ruddy-faced man my friends and I met in a pub. He spun us all around and taught us to dance something snappy. Or I’d tell you about the barmen – Sean, Ronan, Aongus, the bouncer Johnny – and how they made us feel at home by throwing cardboard coasters at our heads. I’d tell you how, the night the pub was so busy you could barely stand, I snagged a stool beside the musician’s corner and didn’t come up for air for hours, face in my hands and staring at fingers moving across strings and buttons and accordion keys. I’d tell you about making friends with Enda and Lorcan, best friends who had a penchant for hitting on the same girl and thus royally cock-blocking each other (there is no polite way to put this, I don’t think). I’d tell you about closing down the pub and having a lock-in, and the boys fussing at us for helping gather the empty glasses from the ledges ’round the walls. I’d tell you how intelligent they were, how interested they were in our opinions, how we talked about literature and politics and religion.
It was all so good-natured and friendly and fun, and tonight I am in love with those memories.
Tonight it feels like I’ll never get back there, like it won’t ever be the same. And while I know the first bit’s all in my head, the latter bit’s spot on. I won’t be a student visiting again. I won’t be studying there. I’ve got this basket of preconceived notions I need to figure out how to throw out the window, because the next time I’m in Galway will be so different than the memories I’m so fond of.
But I’ve got some ideas for it, for those future trips I hope to make. It’s a city that feels like home to me, more so than anywhere other than the Blue Ridge, and I can’t imagine never being there again. Maybe next time I’m there, it’ll be with a certain Englishman I’m fond of. Maybe it won’t be so cold. Maybe it’ll be summertime on the islands and the sky won’t really get dark all night, and we’ll stay up so long that we can watch the grey bits turn pink over the River Corrib. Maybe next time.