These familiar faces surround me, they have returned from places far away, come back home for this festive stretch of time, to half celebrate the end of one year and the start of a new one, the closing of strange chapters, they tell me things I have no desire to heed, they remind me of the role I fulfill in their dark souls, they have made me feel more alone than ever, here at the end of the year.
I think of the water washing up at level with the bank in the cold evenings as I stare at the twinkling lights across the river. My stomach rumbles as I think of the fulfilling prospect of hot food. I am happiest when I follow my friends back toward the restaurant.
My favorite Pogues song came on so I asked you to dance with me. You wove your fingers through mine and flashed that devilish grin and I gave up. A couple of rounds later we were twirling around the floor like a pair of fools in love. People were cheering, laughing, kissing around us. I was intoxicated by your closeness, your warmth, your drunken lust. You tasted like cigarettes and mint. Your eyes were gray and full of pleading. You said I was cruel but flashed that smile all the same. I didn’t know what I was, I said. Still you held onto me, refusing to let go. Don’t go, you asked. Come with me, you said. Those gray eyes pierced me. I trailed my fingers along the line of your jaw as I contemplated my wandering stupor. Come with me, I asked you. You made a face at my not answering your question. But still we kissed and kissed and kissed until morning came.
A thousand miles later I stare out the window at the passing Irish countryside and you come back to me like a fragrance in the air. I realize it’s the clothes I’m wearing. I smell like you, your smoke and mint. I smell like that place. I smell like the dewy morning air in London and the brisk evening breeze in Munich. I smell like the smoky sweetness of the Christmas market in Marienplatz and the tangy spiciness of the Caribbean restaurant in Brixton. And now I smell like the salty thrashing currents of Galway, the insane winds sweeping me off my feet come sundown. I should wash my clothes but I don’t want to. You were the city I arrived in, the metropolis I inhabited for a time and the town I said goodbye to on that rainy afternoon. You were the bus I boarded before getting on the plane that would take me across the ocean and back home again.