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Day 3 of 23

I’ve been here less than 72 hours, and I’ve already managed to embarrass myself. How typical. I’m in one of their convenience stores, trying to figure out how much money I have and what I actually want to buy. I’ve been on the bus, so at this point I honestly don’t know. But anyway, I get up to the counter with a bottle of water and one of those energy bars that tastes like a rice crispy trying to be healthy. And I’m fumbling around for the right amount of coins, getting the one-euro and two-euro coins mixed up and trying to decide if I can pay for this without breaking a paper bill, and it happens.

I blame my quick ear. I’m no musician, but I can pick up differences in voices, and—this is always the trouble—I wind up imitating them, if I’m not careful. Not a good imitation, obviously, but I can tell the difference in my voice. And I’m at the counter, finally handing the cashier the money and feeling like a tourist right down to my toes, when she hands me the food and says something. Probably their version of “Have a nice day,” but I don’t remember. Whatever she said, out pops that automatic “Thank you,” as Irish as you please.

So, like I said, barely three days and I’m already that obnoxious tourist.

Day 7 of 23

We’re back again, for—you guessed it—another embarrassing episode. I almost kept this one in the official book, because it’s amusing enough to most people, but even the best stories are a bit cringy. Long story short, I packed for rain, and it didn’t come. No, that’s not the idiotic part. What’s idiotic is what I did, precisely because it didn’t rain. A bunch of us are going down to the beach, to swim in the ocean, and I’m only going along because they promised not to call me “Davy-lad” if I did, and also Adrianne was there, and—you get the point. We all wade out into the bay, and the athletic ones start bodysurfing the breakers, but I’m about waist-high in this wet stuff and don’t want to go any further. And then, it happens.

I can hardly blame Adrianne, but she’s laughing and saying, “Come on, you’ve got to at least dunk once. Doesn’t count if you don’t.” So I take a deep breath and bury myself under the water like a rabbit doing a deep dive, and some of it gets in my mouth. I lasted another second or two, only floundering a little bit. Then I come up spitting it out and spluttering, and before I thought too much about it I said, “Is it supposed to be salty?”

Adrianne about lost it, but how was I supposed to remember about saltwater oceans?

Day 11 of 23

I’m not sure if the travel guides warned me not to do this, but guess what? I did it. Well, we all did, and I was the only one who managed to make a mess of it. In other words, what’s new? We’re at these ruins, which are everywhere in Ireland, and everyone caught rock-climbing fever. We’re used to having everything historical corded off and wallpapered with “this is why this old thing is important” signs, but Ireland’s way older and doesn’t have that problem.

Should I really blame the castle this time? Probably not. Anyway, we’re touring this castle, which is really just a tower with a wall around it, and we’re out in the courtyard looking at a low point in the wall, and somebody gets the idea that we should try to get up there. I’m not too excited about this, but Adrianne jumps up there right after all the athletic ones, and no one else really takes any notice. “Come on, David,” she says. “Don’t you read about these things all the time anyway?” She’s right, I admit it. Standing on top of a castle battlement is mildly awesome. So in the end I climb up there too and walk almost all the way around the wall and pretend to be like knights and all that. I’m almost enjoying myself, when it happens.

I jump off the low wall, just like everybody else, but something goes wrong when my feet hit the grass and my ankle rolls. Not enough to actually sprain it, but enough to be a nuisance for the next day or two. And then Aunt Colleen’s making a fuss and Adrianne’s trying not to laugh too much and the real rock climbers are laughing behind my back, I can tell.

Why can’t nerds with glasses and freckles be rock climbers, I’d like to know?

Day 17 of 23

If any of these is the page not to read, this is it. I’m surprised it didn’t happen on day 13, but how much sense is there in bad-luck-13 anyway? I’m guaranteed a rough time, no matter what. And today of all days, too. But there wasn’t much I could do about this one. We’re on the bus for at least two hours, and I actually survive. Even when we get on the ferry, I’m pretty optimistic. It’s probably going to be bad, but maybe it won’t be that bad. And for the first half an hour—what a shocker—I’m not sick at all. We’re on the top deck of the ferry, getting salt spray in our faces and hanging onto the rail to keep from falling over and singing like no one’s listening. Then we get a bit further out, and it happens.

This time, I blame the ocean. There’s been a storm a few days before, and what the sailors call “swell” is still coming off the Atlantic. There wasn’t anything swell about it, as far as I’m concerned. If I tell you that the boat was rocking side-to-side and pitching forward-and-backward simultaneously, you’ll guess what happened.

Adrianne happens to be standing right there, so she’s making sure I keep my miserable mess to myself. I’m hoping she doesn’t mind, but I’m not really thinking about her under the circumstances. Aunt Colleen’s holding onto my glasses so they aren’t lost forever in the ocean, and I’m hanging onto the deck rail like my hands are superglued there, and the whole time the boat is twisting like a corkscrew. Finally, we make it to the island.

Don’t get me wrong, the island wasn’t the miserable part. The sun came out, and Aunt Colleen insisted upon getting me a cup of tea. Apparently tea is just as much a given in Ireland as it is in England. So I drink the tea with plenty of sugar, and it’s actually rather nice. Then we take a little walk past all these houses with red or yellow flower-boxes and find a ruin. There’s no roof, and the walls are mostly worn down, but it’s so warm that she doesn’t object when I shed my sweater. I think she fell asleep for awhile, and I almost did.

But the misery repeats itself on the boat back, and on the bus. Just my luck, of course.

Day 21 of 23

All right, I think this will be the last one. I better not let Aunt Colleen see these pages, otherwise she’ll think I was miserable the whole time. They probably all think that, but it’s not true. All the ordinary days were just fine. No one was really bothered by my occasional Irish accent, and I only went swimming that once. We trekked up and down plenty of ruins and hills that did not involve an almost-sprained ankle, and I was only on a boat those two times. All the other days? Grand, just grand. Not the aftermath of the boat trip, though. I was green for a day and shaky for about two more. But Adrianne was nice about it, so that was also fine.

No, this was the day we climbed a famous mountain. They don’t really pave things here, and most of that mountain—I guess it’s more of a really big hill—is made of this slate that’s really easy to slip on, even if you’re wearing the right shoes. And we’re jumping off the bus and walking up to it, and Aunt Colleen says to me, “You know, David, I don’t think you should climb all the way to the top. That ankle’s still bothering you, and the boat—”

“My ankle’s fine,” I tell her, before she can finish. “Really, I’m fine. I can do it.” Adrianne glances sideways at me. I’m much better at climbing things than I was three weeks ago, but I can tell she’s skeptical. The athletes have given up making comments about me, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. “Just part of the way,” I plead, like a little kid who wants candy really badly, “and then I’ll come back, I promise.” Adrianne volunteers to stick with me, which I think tilts the scales in my favor. Aunt Colleen, who’s climbed the mountain before, goes off to do some shopping, and the rest of us set off.

It doesn’t take long for the others to outdistance Adrianne and me. We trudge along, and the mist gets thicker. I manage to sound like an idiot every time I try to talk to Adrianne, but I’m hoping she doesn’t notice. We’ve just decided to turn back when my shoe meets an especially sharp piece of shale and comes away in tatters. Well, not tatters, but it did just miss my sock. That’s right, I’m blaming the rocks now.

Adrianne’s trying not to laugh again, but she digs out her extra pair of sneakers from her pack—we’re leaving in two days, and she’s on top of things, hence the extra shoes—and gives them to me. They’re a size too small, but I can deal with that. They’re also neon pink—enough said there. “I’m sorry, David,” she says, still laughing, “but it’s either that or go barefoot. It’s lucky they even fit at all.” Right. Aunt Colleen would have a fit if she found out I did this without shoes, so I lace up the sneakers. Do I need to elaborate the shame here? I don’t think so.

Trust me, this trip was amazing. Just don’t read these pages!

April 06, 2020 01:27

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