A shorter version of this short story was published recently by Woman's Way magazine.
The short term car park was a cauldron of bad tempered chaos. Negotiating slowly around pillars, cars double parked waiting for a family to load up and move out, and hordes of giddy, scantily clad young women who appeared to have returned to Dublin directly from the Spanish nightclub, did nothing to ease my already frazzled nerves. I sent a plea to the car parking angels to please find me a space and continued my search, as I tried to swallow my rising sense of panic. I was already late. Finally I found a space, albeit it on the roof and in the corner furthest away from the walkway into the terminal building. “Memo to self” I muttered “be more specific when lodging requests with the Angels of Parking Spaces.” It was blowing a biting, easterly gale which was whipping rain in horizontal spears across the car park roof. “Bloody hell, I will be like the drowned rat after she was pulled through the bush backways.” Bloody hell.
In the Arrivals Hall a quick glance at the TV Monitor told me that the flight from Amsterdam had just landed. Putting my faith in the laissez-faire Dublin baggage handlers and perhaps, if luck was on my side, a shift change about now, I made a bee line for the bathroom to attempt to salvage something of my appearance which had been so carefully put together before I left home. I tried valiantly to retrieve my hair from the dark side, dabbed powder to subdue my shiny face and re applied some girliness with more pink lippy and surveyed the result. “It will do” I thought. Although I wished I wasn’t so pale. Last time Pier had seen me I was wearing a honeyed Mediterranean tan. Gathering as much confidence as I could fake, I strode back to the Meeting Point.
I took up a position among the throng of expectant relatives and professional meeters and greeters, trying to look casual and control my jelly like legs. I wasn’t sure if I was suffering from nerves or excitement or both. I squinted at new arrivals luggage trying to spot an AMS sticker. None yet. My mouth was dry. I opened my bag and popped in strong mint into my mouth and sucked hard. Be calm, be cool, I told myself.
In attempt to control my nerves I concentrated my mind on the carved wooden box at home which contained all Pier’s letters. Pier’s funny, beautiful, and loving letters which I had been receiving for almost a year. He wrote English better than he spoke it and his words were full of colour, humour and sunshine. He described his life working for an Advertising Agency in the centre of Amsterdam, his flat which, naturally had a view of a canal, and his beloved bike which took him everywhere he needed to go. He made me laugh with his tales of smoking pot legally in one of the many hash houses he frequented. He wrote about his hippy parents who had retired to live on a houseboat with lots of cats and of the latest concert he had been to. In turn I wrote to him about Dublin, making it seem far more cosmopolitan than it was. My letters were sprinkled with references to Bono and to Phil Lynott, as though they were at least neighbours and possibly friends of mine. I made passing reference to my modest flat which had a view of a car park but from where I could smell the sea, which was not always a good thing. I told him about my job working for a holiday company and my great social life wandering around the pubs of the city which carried echoes of our literary heritage. He kept promising that he would visit Dublin and me soon. And now he would be here any minute.
Also in the wooden box were the photos of that great holiday in Ibiza. We met in an Irish pub in San Antonio and I couldn’t believe that I was having the clichéd holiday romance with a gorgeous blonde Dutchman. I pictured Pier’s long legs and strong arms. When we danced I felt so small, gathered into his tanned chest. He loved music and his funny English and mispronounced words meant we laughed lots during those two weeks. I smiled at the memories. This was going to be a great weekend.
I had a full itinerary planned with every intention of making Pier fall in love with my city. That could be the deal breaker. He must love Dublin. Because I did and I couldn’t really have imagined my future anywhere else. I had planned breakfast in Bewleys, a walk in Stephens Green, a trip on the new electric rail train, the Dart around Dublin Bay, a walk down Dun Laoghaire Pier. We would visit Davy Byrnes Pub and O Donoghues for a live trad session. And I had planned a big night on Saturday night in the Pink Elephant with some friends, and maybe a bag of chips from Leo Burdocks on the way home. He would get the very best of Dublin over 3 days and nights. On Sunday we would wander around the Guinness Brewery and he could buy some souvenirs to take back to Holland.
My two best friends, Niamh and Jackie and their men were joining us in the Pink. They were all almost as excited as me about this weekend and couldn’t wait to meet this Pier they had heard so much about. They had seen some of his letters and his photo and were, so far, very impressed. Although I was aware of a slight whiff of desperation in their enthusiasm. For too long I had been the spare wheel in our circle. Niamh had married her childhood sweetheart the previous year and it looked like an announcement from Jackie who has been dating Alan for a year by then was imminent. The 5 of us went out regularly and whereas it didn’t bother me much, I know that Niamh, in particular, felt that we are unbalanced. We should have been 6. And both of them felt that maybe Pier could just be the man for the job. I knew he was fairly keen on me, now I just needed my country to do its bit. Signs were good – he shared my devotion to Thin Lizzy and had just purchased U2’s War album and could belt out ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ with great gusto after a few pints. He had also been to a Rory Gallagher concert. He was tall, blonde and very handsome and was a graphic designer. And just a little bit alternative which I really loved. He ticked all the boxes. I just hoped he wouldn’t catch them calling me Louise Van der Beere which had been their latest big joke!
“Louise – hello” the suddenly familiar guttural accented English and my heart skipped a beat. Beaming with happiness I turned around and there he was. I opened my arms in speechless embrace. “Oh bloody hell, this could be a long weekend”