A Wedding Gift
Dublin weeps like a moody middle-aged woman, her tears cascade in a saccharin sleet of cherry and magnolia, the park littered with the detritus of her tears. Spring is so untidy. The erupting greenery alive with chat and chaffing of finches and sparrows. The breeze is cutting in directly across the Mourn Mountains, fingers of Baltic ice biting red and raw. I wear a scarf across my veined cheeks and whiskey nose, a curmudgeon on his return home from a morning of tormenting both staff and stockholders.
It is early yet, the city still in the daze of a somnambulant Saturday morning. The streets are quiet, an occasional dazed chap or a stumbling couple making their way back to cots in which they will waste the manna of freedom on sleep and rutting. Spring Goddamn it!
Stephens green leads me eventually to the lanes around the civilized quarter. The reassuringly wealthy and the staff of various embassies live in this tangle of leafy lanes.
My own residence is a mile or so further on. I could have hailed a cab of course but I hadn’t the mind for verbal jousting with a halfwit with a grasp of the rudiments of sport or politics and a burning zeal to deliver a deficient list of the rights and wrongs of Ireland and thus educate me.
I yearn for the days when drivers sat atop a handsome car with a pair of ponies in harness thus leaving the passengers to their rest and leisure, failing that, at the least a glass partition between the driver and his unfortunate hostages. So a walk I feel it is a better way to fritter away the hours before lunch, it will give me both exercise and appetite.
I meet her in a laneway that connected two main roads. A nameless byway of public service buildings, sheltered in its orientation from the bitterness and the flurries of hail.
She steps out of a black car onto shining wet cobbles, her glorious red hair lose but for a white band and her green eyes luminescent. Pale cream skin that has been lightly brushed and blushed in that way that ladies do. I know nothing of those arcane arts. I have been a bachelor all my life and seldom regret it. The sight of her took my breath away. She is radiant in the way of a bride, and more. Our eyes meet by chance or perhaps it is a meeting divined.
Her smile, sublime. Her eyes alight with youth and joy and a frankness that reminded me suddenly of home and bad decisions I have made, roads I should have taken but didn’t.
I feel my habitual scowl slip and an unfamiliar smile takes its place. She smiles in return and I feel as if I have been forgiven every wrong I have committed upon God’s green earth.
Her eyes are pools of ancient wisdom and untold secrets and yet she is a child only. Young enough I think to be my granddaughter were that a possibility. Eighteen or nineteen I would judge, certainly no more.
Her smile and her attire, a white wedding gown, simple but elegant, all spoke of a future. Her young life `then precious to me, on the cusp of change. And there was more, a swelling behind a bouquet of blue. She was with child, I knew this because I was for years a physician. I smiled and I could see in the depth of those green eyes that her secret was now shared knowledge.
She was carrying a boy I imagined, the blue of the flowers suggesting it to me.
Our eyes lock for an eternity of moments, a past a present and a future combined and then the man steps from the opposite side of the wedding car. He was everything I would have hoped he wouldn’t be. Handsome in his way no doubt. Dark and swarthy of complexion. Hands that spoke of the land or the sea, not a man of words or high thinking I am sure. His hair is slicked back with oil or gel, plastered to his head in a manner I detest. I think immediately of grease slicked pillows in a bed where a bride lies, disappointed.
He is shaven but stubble is visible, untidy. His suit is fine, no doubt expensive, it hangs well on his muscular frame. Black and well cut. His shirt is white, collar open and the shocking reality of no tie. I am disturbed by this lack of decorum and decency on his own wedding morning. I look back towards the girl who is composed and beautiful and I know she deserves better, I am on the periphery of the wedding party, just a stranger walking by.
They are children only to my ancient eyes, I have seen four times as much life and ten times as much living as either of them. So immature and yet they are embarking on this wonderful adventure that I shunned all of my life.
I am still troubled by the groom’s appearance, I can do little about his rough jaw or his hard hands but I can at least fix one glaring omission. She deserves this, the memories and photographs of the day would have to stand the test of time.
I reach for my own tie. It is black as always and silk of course. It is new and I like it but I do not hesitate. I step forward and offer the groom my hand and my tie. He looks for a moment bemused, trying to place me no doubt, a distant relation perhaps. He looks around and as he does the girl comes forward and helps him with the tie.
So on that day just before I step away I look once more into the depth of green. I grin like a teenager and she rests a delicious hand on my arm and smiles in return. I nod, happy as I turn away, a pact has been made, a wish exchanged for a happy life and I am satisfied with that.
I walk on as they step into a grey building. To exchange vows or sign papers to make their union legal, I am unfamiliar with this thing now. In truth I never knew much of them. I was never the type to attend weddings. I walk on carrying with me the memory of a smile and deep green eyes.
The sun erupts in a clearing sky, heat brings birdsong from the hedges. I am happy now I chose to walk. I am happy too to have the rest of this day before me.