We used to talk about Sligo and Damavand more passionately than anything else in life.
Thanks to Google, Paddy and I found each other. It’s been decades between drinks. During this very long gap, weddings celebrated, babies have been born, family members have died, cars had veered off the road and smashed, X-rays, ultrasound and MRI tests done,various tumours, cysts and cancer have been removed, new physical ailments diagnosed and some friends and acquaintances have left us too early either by suicide, AIDS or in car crashes.
Some people just refuse to disappear from your memory despite life’s heavy blows. I had never quite left Paddy, but I don’t know where in me I have carried him all these years.
Paddy lives with his family in a small town in del Penedes, Catalan. It’s my first visit to Spain. After visiting Barcelona, I don’t know why I should live anywhere else. I blended in almost immediately. The friendly eye contacts with people on the streets assured me that I was not just a thing moving in time and space but a sentient being, with spiritual, emotional and physical desires. In restaurants I noticed people were saying good-bye to us on their way out – and they were not Paddy’s friends either – but simply following a Catalonian etiquette. I wanted to start all over again in Catalan. But I reminded myself, that Paddy was the purpose of my visit, not finding a ‘home’. It may be too late for that. But I don’t seem to surrender to the idea of residency alone. I want to feel the safety of home and the sense of belonging somewhere and see how long that lasts.
Paddy has aged more than me. Yet, his energy, drinking and smoking all had increased dramatically. He still does hundred different things every day and I can almost hear his hot Irish temper, which I thought he never had, bubbling underneath his charming smile.
He lives in a three-hundred-year-old house with his family. His living room alone is much bigger than my entire apartment.
The first thing I noticed was his Dublin accent which has become very neutral. But his unique tone of voice still there. It took me a while to understand his accent when I first met him so I just nodded to most of the things he said. Then I gradually became very good in understanding the Gaelic accent in general but still nodded to a lot of the things he said which I couldn’t make sense of.
‘Do you remember this, do you remember that Paddy?’
‘No, Christine was the blond one. the American jackass who stole the money from your till was Jeff, not Paul. Bob left to South Africa, not New Zealand.’ Names, faces, events flood my tiny memory cells. Paddy’s recollection of the past is sketchy. I have to accept the responsibility of carrying the burden of our collective memories for us for what’s all worth. All those details of what we did some twenty odd years ago. Why can’t we be in charge of our memory so we can clean it up every so often.
Paddy dug out the photos that he’s managed to hang on to. Lara, his daughter, asks us about the people in some of the photos. Alex, his son who has an intellectual disability watches us so non-judgmentally with the sweetest smiles.
It’s late, everyone has gone to bed.
“What do you want to do tomorrow?” Paddy asked.
“Every year after the harvest we go to the vineyards and collect the grapes that the farmers missed picking. Alex loves spotting them and he’s better than the rest of us. ”
We drove to the vineyards the next day in his immaculately restored Morris Minor.
“Have you found a link yet?” Paddy asked me as we drove through the sun-drenched landscape.
“Yes. I have,” I replied.
After my short discourse on Ziryab, we voted him the greatest cultural attaché of all times.
I slowly realised that we come from a long, line of people who left their homelands – either forced to flee or just left to greener pastures. The Celts perhaps were the biggest mobile population in Europe. Was that why Paddy and I hit it off so well I wondered? We had the gipsy, refugee, rebel, non-conformist, art lover, food lover, wine lover and the pagan in us, all brewing, and fermenting through the ancestral bloodline for centuries.
“I think I still got your garlic crusher somewhere,” he said to me.
“So, you took my garlic crusher. I turned the house upside down looking for it,” I said.
“I didn’t think you were going to take it with you when we all left the house. How can I make it up to you?” he asked.
“Give me back my garlic crusher,” I said.
“I don’t know where it is. I moved fifty times before settling here,” he said.
“How about a literary tour of Dublin instead?” I asked.
“You are on. We can stay at my sister’s. You don’t need to download the app to have a look at the Book of Kells, the real copy is on display at the Trinity College.”
Finally, I’m going to be inches away from that amazing book that I have been reading about, marveling at its intricate drawings.
Perhaps home is what we cherish most in our heart. And all our dialogues, in essence, are monologues. Hoping in vain, like music we would only be listened to one day.
Zyryab is a 1990 album by flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía and his sextet.