I Fled from Killarney, but where to go? I hadn’t made a note of Helena’s itinerary. Why should I? I hadn’t expected her to shoot through. I had no idea what Bonnie had said to her, but whatever it was, it had prompted Helena to leave, without even talking to me first. There were other things bothering me too.
Waking up that morning with Bonnie in my bed had prompted an enormous internal struggle. Habit, even that developed over the past few months, was very difficult to resist. Bonnie was there, soft and warm and inviting, as no doubt she had calculated. She was, as always, intensely physical. I could feel the chemistry. My hormones were surging but it was all too much; somehow I felt manipulated. It was almost in desperation that I had thrust her clothes into her arms and bundled her into the corridor. Emotions suck! I used anger to cauterise my urges and got the hell out of there. With vague memories of Helena’s itinerary, I headed North.
County Clare in the spring is a marvel of wildflowers and heather. A marvel too, it is, how these tiny rocky fields have sustained life for more than two thousand years. They are fenced with dry stone walls put together without mortar, and suddenly I felt a surge of homesickness. I was transported back to Pirron Yallock near Colac in western Victoria. The walls were similar, but the sere brown paddocks were here replaced by the green of Ireland. Perhaps some son of Clae had lovingly built the walls on the Stony Rises near Colac, driven from his home by the great potato famine.
But who am I kidding with the travelogue stuff? The lazy days of post-Dublin wandering were gone forever. I found myself scuttling from one tourist attraction to the other, paying scant attention to the scenery. I was scanning faces for Helena. Several times I imagined that I had found her. I even pushed into a group of tourists gathered ’round a guide to touch a woman on the arm. She turned in surprise as I babbled apologies. But I could have sworn … The colouring… The hairstyle… But it wasn’t Helena.
Each night and morning I’d boot up the Notebook and establish a net link with the mobile in the hope of a message. One morning, the third I think, my email program played its merry little tune and announced: “You have mail”. Hastily I clicked OK. Up popped a new line in the ‘In’ window. Subject Charlie, Where are you? But the sender was email@example.com. Bonnie was after me! I never should have bought her a modem!
The message was brief. “Please contact me soonest via email. Important business to discuss. P.S. Don’t be a silly boy!”
Ah, I thought, the Trust is after her. Tough! As for the postscript: for a ‘people expert’ she has a heck of a lot to learn about motivation. I clicked Reply, and typed a very rude acronym. There, I thought, work that one out!
Helena, though, remained silent; to her, a systems analyst, a week really was a week, probably to the millisecond. I would just have to be patient.
For an Australian, Ireland is a small place, and I often felt in danger of falling off the edge. In my mad search, I constantly found myself at the end of one-way-streets so to speak. The trail, and the road, would halt abruptly at the top of a cliff. I would perch my little car close to the edge and gaze across the sea to misty islands.
I have never had a problem with heights and could stand at the rim and look down at the surf crashing on the rocks below. Not so Barnie, a college friend. He and I had taken a drive along the Great Ocean Road. I was driving West, so the passenger’s side was nearest to the two hundred foot cliffs with their sheer drop to the sea below. My eyes were on the road, but he…All he could see was the drop. It was strange. He asked me to pull up for a moment, as he wasn’t feeling well. The funny thing was, he didn’t know what the problem was. He wasn’t used to experiencing fear, so he wasn’t able to put a name to his feelings.
Sitting on the Irish cliff, I thought back to that time; to how we had finally identified his acrophobia. I thought about my present situation; about the disturbing feelings I was experiencing, and somehow there seemed to be a parallel. I too was suffering an unexplained disquiet, an inner unhappiness to which I could not give a name. Then it hit me. I have never been a lonely person. But could this be loneliness? Thanks Barnie!
I was getting nowhere fast. After five days I was convinced that if Helena was in Clare I would have found her by now. The next logical step was to move on. I decided to go to Galway city. The political and commercial capital of the West of Ireland, Galway, they told me, ‘is chock full o’ dem multy nashernals’. My Clare host was adamant, ‘Tis the tax breaks y’know. Attracts foreigners like flies. Buyin’ up the land in all directions, beggin’ your paedon sir. Though its not as though you are a foreigner, not with a name like Quinn. One of us, you are, no doubt about that!’
‘Thank you Mr O’Loughlin’ I said. I detected a note of envy. If the foreigners wanted to spend money in Ireland, what was wrong with good old Clare!
Galway city is a bustling place. A university town, its students were looking forward to their summer exodus when their accommodation would be snapped up by incoming tourists who filled the town in their absence. It was a bit early for that, so I found a comfortable but unpretentious hotel and settled in. I set up my computer and found a message. The message
‘Meet me in Kenny’s Art Gallery and Bookshop, High Street Galway City. Time: 11am Saturday. Dress casual. Love Helena.
It was Friday night and I was in Galway. What good timing!
© Copyright H.St V.Beechey March 1997
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