Shadow and City
by Daniel O'hEidhin
Rubbing my hands off chalky old walls, the grit of yesterday comes off easy, leaving its fresher face gleaming on a cool Dublin evening. Winding down cobbled streets, bowing and nodding to familiar faces I meet, breathing the scene in deeply. In the air hangs the sweet smell of sawdust and tavern ale, mixed with fragrant perfumes and tobacco smoke. The chatter and bustle fills the street with merriment, accompaniment and solace.
My own face, wizened but pleasant, betrays my spirit, young and vibrant. The youthful rush past, sparing an odd glance, but ultimately I am a walking ghost. I had my chance. I danced and sung. And drank. I courted and loved.
In my youth I walked these old cobbled streets looking toward my uncertain, yet exciting, future. Now I look nowhere but to the past, because the future terrifies me. Then I see an old friend, stooped and creaky. “Not long now!”, he says. We laugh at the ridiculousness of it. We recount old days, pity the youth, and we part feeling better.
Walking in the shadows of ghosts fills me with hope, and pride. There is Kavanagh by the canal, Wilde overlooking the square, Burke’s and Goldsmith’s ruminations, and O’Connell’s firm gaze.
I inhale deeply, sucking as much of Dublin into me as I can. The cool night air refreshes me. If I could bottle some of this jovial old city and carry it with me through the out door I would never fear leaving. I would sup it eternally, and tell stories to make other souls green with envy.
Part of me I’ll leave here, in these living stones. I helped with this, I built that. I ate here, I studied there. My first job was over there, and I met my wife over here. We kissed for the first time over there, under the orange lamp glow.
Rubbing my hands off chalky old walls, the grit comes off easy. Renewal comes naturally to brick and mortar. I am not of a thousand layers; my layer is one, and it is now cracked and frail. But my soul remains whole, and unfettered. On it will glide towards its next destination, never forgetting home.