I am not a woman prone to open sentimentality or open declarations of love. Sure, I often experience massive feels, but for the most part I keep them well to myself behind a placid facade. So, allow me this moment. I’ve been embarrassed lately by people around me accusing me of having “a thing” for Ireland. It’s as though they are reading my diary. It’s odd that I feel this way given that I blog and put my thoughts all over the internet anyway.
Perhaps, it’s because the first time I went over there, I came back bitching about it endlessly. I whined about people staring at the person with whom I had traveled and me like we were the last people of color on earth. I whined about people being cold and rude in general. (And yet I returned…within less than a year?) I considered unpasteurized milk and nature to be the only bright points on the whole island. I guess I’m experiencing this embarrassment then because I’ve been proven wrong, and my pride is taking a blow.
“How do you feel about Dublin?” My friend and I were walking back to our apartment complex when she posed this question. We had both been confined within the walls of a college for the majority of daylight hours, and in our rooms working at night. I responded that I couldn’t be sure, that I hadn’t been out and about in the city enough yet. I asked her the same, and she responded that she didn’t know either. She had recently been in another European city with an immediately discernible character, and Dublin wasn’t like that.
Flash forward two weeks, and I had spent more time in Dublin. I was celebrating the completion of my course, drinking Guinness, and exchanging stories with other students. When it was time to go, I decided to walk back to my apartment.
Moving along, I felt strange, suspended between a life that I had built quickly in a country that did not belong to me and my everyday life back in the United States. I stopped in a well-lit, alley-like street and leaned against a brick wall. Anxiety with a hint of anger pulsed through my body. What was happening to me? I took a breath and listened to the sounds of my immediate surroundings. They soothed me for a moment until I realized why. It felt like I had heard these sounds my entire life. It felt homelike. But I knew that Dublin wasn’t home, and that I had only lived in it for less than a month. It made no sense. Even in the briskness of night, my cheeks grew warm, and I became incredibly uneasy. I needed to keep walking.
So on I went until I came to an old wall, jutting out of the middle of the sidewalk, and looking completely out of place. (I found out that it’s one of the walls that used to protect Dublin from invasions some centuries back.) I touched the wall, and considered Dublin’s contradictions. It’s a city with an old soul and history, but current problems on a local and global level. It contains millions of people, and yet if you’re a lifelong Dubliner, degrees of separation just barely exist. And just beneath Dublin’s chill, fun-having exterior with all of its new ideas on display beats the heart of a village with a sense of tradition. I turned around, leaned against this wall too, and listened again. I allowed myself to kind of relax, and then something made me come to a realization for which I was not prepared: I love Dublin. And not in a “oh this place is cute” kind of way, but in a “my soul feels like it’s in the right place” kind of way. I was horrified. When? How? What? When did it happen? How had this happened/how had I allowed it to happen? What was going to happen when I went back to the States? Obviously I needed to get to my apartment faster. So, I got off the wall and kept walking.
Then I found myself in front of a church. I sat on the steps, and looked up at it. Suddenly, I was having a full-on internal conversation with the universe. Maybe I could miss my plane, and not have to go back so soon? Maybe I could figure out a way to stay longer? Maybe I could figure out a way to fly back to the US, but then come back to Dublin? No, actually, I don’t want to go at all yet. Do me a solid, and let my flight get cancelled? I got up and kept walking, knowing that all of my requests would be denied.
When I finally made it back to my apartment, I was exhausted, but wired and could not sleep for hours. From my bed, with closed eyes, I listened as Dublin settled in for the evening. I took in slow breaths of air that I knew I soon would not be able to breathe until I finally fell asleep.