(In)visible cities: The Shore of Time

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Fireworks, lights, the buzz of the crowd watching the parade, a concert just round the corner. Everything was so intense and bright that she felt like the world around her was spinning at the speed of the light. The laughs, the little signs of surprise of the children and the little screams of joy of the kids didn’t match at all her feelings. It was July again: that period of the year where she just wanted everything to stop, but somehow it just got faster till that night was finally over.

“Breathe” – she said to herself – “Go somewhere else”. She walked towards the exit of the area. The smell of the Guiness and the buzz of food being fried made the world around her even more blurred. Click-clack, click-clack. The repeating noise of her silvery heels was the only one she could stand right in that moment. Left, right, left again and then all the way down to the Cathedral, but right before its parking area, she decided to make a detour towards Nuns Island.

She was aware that now she would need more time to get to her final destination. And yet, a little voice in the back of her mind seemed to tell her that this was the right path. Looking at the bank of the river, she could do nothing but approve; there was still a light chit chat of some people going to Fisheries Field and watching the upcoming shows. Now it was much more muffled though. The wind going through her hair made her dizziness less severe. She stopped for a moment to sit down next to the river, her sapphire dress on the grass.

The breeze was touching her bare shoulder and moving slightly the glimmery pashmina, witness of boundless joy and deep sorrow. The whistle coming from the branches, the crack of a leaf just stepped on, the pounding of the Corrib River injected into her a warm sensation, almost as if the elements in the surroundings were hugging her. She took her shoes off to let her bare feet touch the ground. She couldn’t care less of the people staring at her or of the mess she was doing of her dress. Her breath was much slower than in the Festival area. Still didn’t feel enough: her thoughts were too loud to let her truly enjoy the moment. Flashbacks of another July night kept haunting her.

That was it. She had to start walking again. Swiftly, she got up and gained momentum. “Keep going”. That was all she could think. Shoes in her hand, the pashmina the only detail that made her visible against the darkness of the night. She was almost running, passing building after building. The buildings made out of concrete at her right and the river at her left: she still knew that road like the palm of her hand, no doubts on where to turn next.

There she was: Quay Street, right next to the Tigh Neachtain’s, the pub of her teenage years. The decade passed between her last visit and this moment seemed had sorted no effect on that place: the blue walls filled with photos of the old Galway, the yellow signs, written with a script which sort of reminded of the Gaelic writing, the woody booths inside, the traditional music played especially when the outside world was more focused on contemporary creations. She threw herself in the crowd: the steps she had learnt as a kid always had a beneficial effect on her mind. They freed her from her worries and from her negative thoughts. She danced and danced till the moment when she noticed that the sky was starting to turn pinkish. It was time to stop escaping the sorrowful memories Galway brought her: she stormed out the pub and arrived at the famous stone right when the first rays of the sun were peeping out. She looked at that stone more closely, kneeled and gently touched it, just like it was the last caress she had never got to give to her máimeó.

Just a few meters away from the Seattle twin sister of that stone, a stroke had brought her nan away from her exactly ten years ago that night. And she was right in that spot when ten years earlier she had received that call. A kid and a woman, miles away but still looking at each other while the former was just about to start her life and the latter was saying goodbye to this world. Now that she had finally mustered up the courage to go back to her hometown and she got to visit that stone again, she knew everything would be fine. Her late grandmother’s pashmina would have been with her for all her life, just like it had escorted her grandmother from the night she got engaged till the night she passed away. The sun was finally up, and she felt a burden off her shoulders: all the grief she still had to process was finally mixing itself with the summer breeze. At last, only peace in her mind.

Laura Chilla

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