‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.’ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Green eyes inspect from over the wine glass rim. It touches her lips. Full. Lowering, tasted, glass moves away.
Her mouth says, “Hi, I’m Salome, with an e
“Me too” into the fray
“Hardly”
“No, the e, Damien”
“After the Omen?”
“Leper curing priest as it happens”
“Perhaps a bar too high”
“Impossible”
“Was that you, out there, in the yard?”
“It was, I run a sideline in yard tap inspections for the government”
“Really?”
“Important work” song words float through the open window of my mind you don’t have to say you love me I will understand, waiting a beat to continue, “but sadly no, I’m just another lowly auctioneer scratching around for the unwanted, you?”
“New to the neighbourhood, they’ve taken pity on me”
“Wrong turning?”
“Sort of, divorce”
“I’m very sorry to hear”
“Don’t be, relationship breakdown perfectly normal these days, why its practically the fashion”
“Hitting the odd fence the way of the world I suppose, but live horse and eat grass as my grandmother used to say”
‘There you go, that’s the spirit”
“The next’s the charm, what!”
“You got it”
“Sure as the hum of the honey bee I do”
“You’re funny Damien with an e, let’s toast to it”
Laughing glasses raise, we touch and chime as my compadre leans in to join us
“You’re divorced?”
“Yes, with just one more to go!”
“One what?”
“Divorce, silly!”
“Novel approach, up-side if you do up-side if you don’t. I’m Anthony by the way”
“Salome with an e
“A name to live up to”
“You should see me dance”
“Happens I’ve got some veils in the car”
“Another comedian”
“Words, Irish, we’re famous for them. Are you American?”
“How can you tell?”
“The fine teeth gave it away”
“Manhattan born and raised”
“Quite the change”
“Visited my corner bookstore, saw Ireland and thought, why not, for a while at least”
“No better place to repair the heart than the Irish countryside”
“The Mayo Clinic might disagree”
“Love injuries only”
“Will it take long Doctor”
“With your looks, I shouldn’t think too long at all”

Well well well, this was not going well, for me. At all. Self doubt swarms the mind. My worthlessness-o-meter gets busy, a separate beating organism within me it argues wildly with itself And really, what would someone like you have to offer such a woman it’s been over two years I’m not an ogre, an animal Jesus rest, but you’ve just regrouped after a mangle fine fellow you are, why go again two years two more won’t do you any harm but she’s so beautiful God to caress her she’s been hearing that her whole life, and from men better than you, save yourself the trouble we could have fun, I could take her to Europe, Salzburg, that little hotel I know expensive, you don’t have any real money right now stupid actually I don’t have any ordinary money either that’s right Dumbo, stay in your boat, when a good looking woman loses her currency it’s a sad sight to behold don’t start with the insults, tone it down, she’s clever look, don’t do it, they’re getting on, leave him have all the pleasure, and the pain when it comes to it but company, it’s nice, I’m alone you’re fifty, grow up but I’m a young fifty zip it, fifty is fifty Dumbo I told you, lay off the insults

So it went, inside the head then of the man who writes this now. And with just a few more internal kicks the door to love was shut, slammed. Nobody saw it and nobody heard it. There it is, where the mind goes the body follows.
Their romance opened before me that evening as my external body continued to bathe in the soft surrounding candlelight.
“So Damien, what do you think?” her words unfolded gently into my ears
Brain invasion instantly recedes, “I’m sorry?”
“About country living”
“Well, I suppose it’s sort of like what Bono said, ‘great place to live so long as you’ve always got the option of leaving it’ ”
“That I can understand”
“But you’ve just arrived!”
“It rains a lot here”
“Rain has it’s own beauty, sometimes. Have you travelled much?”
“My husband and I”
“Ex-husband,” I gently say, reminding her
“Sorry, ex-husband, I’m still not used to saying that, we travelled a lot for work, building the business. A lovely starter, what is it?”
“Mackerel, nicely laid out for it’s wake on Guinness brown bread”
“Very Irish, amazing how you guys even get the drink into the bread”
“That we do, helps lift those rain clouds”
Their chatting resumes, nil points my side, even with the attempted wit. I’m definitely a non-starter. Jeeze, that fifty came fast, should’ve had more fun. Maybe if I try a little harder with her and that, my Romeo, will definitely kill it.

This time I try to stay outside my mind. Not only do I have a tendency to mentally wander but drink consumption can sometimes be a handicap. Used to be, that is, but not now – totally recalibrated the relationship after a seriously disastrous Cheltenham Gold Cup Luncheon. Take to whiling away the time looking around the table at my fellow guests. Some comfortable in the space, others less so. A few with very straight backs respectably minding their Ps & Qs while looking out for everyone else’s. Possible socially aware private club members don’t start all that again they’re too much sometimes so are you pal, so are you Further along the candlelight, four chairs down, a once noted beauty now since grown stout and shaves her neck perhaps the warning what warning marrying solely for beauty nothing wrong with beauty and some men marry solely for it, a shallow swim you’re too hard, leave me alone
Tune back in to the conversation
“What do you do?” she asks him (American table etiquette, needless to say, differs from ours)
“I jump horses”
“Thought you were quite tall’
“Ha ha, no. On a horse, over fences”
“Really?”
“Yes, show jumping”
“Saw a competition in Palm Beach once, very sporting, exciting!”
“You’d be welcome to visit the stables’
“To see the horses?”
“And, to see the horses”

No doubt about it, he had the better lines.

Between the mackerel and the port they soared to Orion. Their days ahead filled with revelry and lovemaking. She attended every top level showjumping competition that season, horsebox pulled lovingly behind. But the fresh Irish air must have done it’s job too well because as quick as it took her to pack a suitcase she was gone. Four months. She upped and back home to Manhattan, ending it as suddenly as it had began. No telephone calls returned no deep explanations given, just over. Done. Our jumper of the horse was confused, bereft, hurt. One evening, soon after, a phone call, “Sure, come over, it’d be great to see you.”

The next evening his car, the same, pulls into my yard. Overall he was holding it together pretty well, given the circumstances. But graven, he’d had a few. Driving too. Quivering a bit, he’s smiling that hurt smile, one could tell he wasn’t getting much in the line of sleep. To cut it short he kept asking why? Why? Nothing echoed back. His why stretched into an empty void that made no sense. Ever the gentleman, he questioned himself. Again and again. Had he done something, offended her. Nothing. He made the decision that evening – against my counselling I might add – to fly over, talk it out. He had found out her address. A surprise visit in such circumstances is never, never, a good idea.
“But no, I have to know why, my life ahead without that answer is more bleak than I can face”
“Look”, I said, “if it’s dead it’s dead, we all have our time, just say nothing and keep the head up, you’re a handsome fellow you’ll meet another”
Wrong thing to say. A hurt man, he broke down in tears, crumpled right there in my favourite armchair. Knew the form, let him be for a little while.

A few minutes passed, he sort of managed to pull himself together. The shaking lessened, I just said, “Sure look, what’s for you won’t pass by you.”
More tears. Dear me. But won’t deny it, had the same disease once or twice. Actually had to lay down on a friend’s floor once like a curled dog. Done all that, but thank God I’m battle hardened now. Still, a terror to watch all the same – Loveitis, a full-blown case, right there in front of my eyes.

So, while I was there at their happy start, recorded it here, it also, sadly, has to be reported that I was there at their very end too. Their real end. Had to be, was called as a witness.

Damien Matthews

 

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