Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Emerald Isle

She loved Ireland.

She loved Ireland for no good reason at all.

Sure, she spoke wistfully of the relaxed atmosphere of a small-town Irish pub on a rainy afternoon. She waxed poetic of climbing the steps of ancient castles and hearing her footsteps echo off stone walls that had known both royalty and ruin. She could spend nights regaling me of her wild experiences across the pond, but that wouldn’t even begin to scrape the surface of her infatuation.

That’s because her stories weren’t genuine.

Yes, yes, I knew she had been to Ireland several times. I knew that she loved the people, the dialects, the attitude, the general joi de vivre. I knew all these things, but I could never tell what made her fall in love with the place. She would tell me fantastic tales of drunken revelries and sobering epiphanies . . . but what foreign land doesn’t make you do that? Those were by-the-numbers, run-of-the-mill postcard anecdotes that any tourist could deliver to their friends back home. I wanted something more.

I wanted the truth.

To be honest, I initially believed that she loved Ireland simply because it was Ireland. I understood that it was rumored to be a land of forgotten magic and lost secrets. From what I could piece together, it was a world where legacy and legend were united as one. The closest she came to hinting at this was when she described how green it was over there. She once told me that it was the only place in the world where she had seen one color run absolutely wild with abandon – a color so vivid and lovely and bright that it wrapped you up in a warmth all its own. When she informed me in all seriousness that Irish green was the color of camaraderie and kindness, I finally got a glimpse of how much her heart belonged to the Emerald Isle.

Alas, I couldn’t relate. I had never been to Ireland – never even felt the need to visit, really – and we both knew that I would never truly understand her passion until I’d seen it for myself. Thing is, I didn’t care about Ireland. I didn’t care about its rich heritage or the "eat, drink and be merry" attitude that possessed its countrymen. I imagined Ireland as being too settled in for my tastes. When I traveled abroad, I wanted culture shock. I didn’t want a rowdy pub experience; I wanted third-world border crossings where everyone spoke broken English and I needed to bribe the customs officer to stamp my passport. I wanted to be the only white guy in the room, not the only sober white guy.

I would never tell her that, though. It’s not like I was opposed to Ireland. It just wasn't on the top of my list. That’s why I wanted to understand her love for the country. I wanted to know what it was about the island that captured her heart. More important than purchasing a flight there for myself, I wanted to know everything about the land as she perceived it. Only then could I possibly understand how to make her feel the same way about me.

Only then would I know how to steal her heart for myself.


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