Some weeks before, Stephen had asked me about my favourite place in Galway. We rattled through a few beauty spots but I wasn’t keen. He wanted a Howth to do it; well I thought as well him as an other yes yes I will yes kind of job but I was never as Andalucian as all that. Instead I chose a quiet stony little beach, close to our home, between Blackrock and the caravan park. It reminded me of Curracloe summers and the sting of sand whipped on cold hairy legs. It was a seaside thoroughfare clutching the infinite coast.
Seven days before Christmas we dressed nervously for our walk. He shaved his head. I avoided his eyes. He pulled my hand when I went to leave and he asked me on the hard stones. As two golfers fussed ahead, I lumbered to my knees too. I thanked him because he trembled and shook in a way I had never seen. In that nervous moment, he was more like me than like himself and, in grace and hope and confidence, I was more like him than me. We laughed and kissed and made our way home as grey sheets of rain lurched in.
The storms were bad and within an hour the beach would close for seven more months.
Less than two weeks later we set out again. I was wearing a bright red prophylactic raincoat I has bought the day of our engagement. Tk Maxx, €80. Sure I would need it and didn’t I deserve protection and shelter forever more. As we walked the gales blew up again. Stephen picked through the crab pools and I took greeny pictures of him.
My father rang me. Over the wind I could hear his upset. What’s wrong? What’s wrong now? I thought it was the floods that had impeded our Christmas, returned in consternation. But it was a quieter yielding. Karl, our funny friend since I was a lonely angry girl in a room of petulant boys, had died the night before. I started to cry openly and people peered into my new red hood. Stephen came to me and took my hand hotly. He walked me home and made me toast and spaghetti hoops. He held my hand all through the funeral, the other hand protectively placed on Dónal’s chair. I still have not told many about Karl’s death.
We came back to the beach to show friends where he had proposed. He was hurt by my embarrassment and I was too proud to tell him of its new meaning. The news of Karl’s death was now traced on the implacable shore and all the waves and floods and force cannot undo that noise. All summer, I walked the other way and swallowed the hot fear down.
I returned to the spot today and it is grey and windy and full of birds still. The summer is in its demise and everyone has their hoods up. I am back now, finger girdled by a ring of warm frail gold. The wandering rocks have been returned too but now they are moored by concrete.
(20.12.1991 - 5.1.2014)
it’s not a sunday unless you completely waste it then feel really sad around 8pm