I was tired of Siobhan’s cat-and-mouse game. As soon as I figured out how to get my identification away from her without tipping her off about how much I knew, I’d disappear long enough to find a garda station and turn myself in. It couldn’t possibly be worse than roaming the countryside, sleeping in fields, smelling like stale corn chips.
She seemed content to sit in silence as we rode the shuttle to the tiny hamlet of Carran. We couldn’t have discussed much of any value with the driver there anyway. So instead, we watched the scenery for the short trip.
Rather than going back to the larger valley of which the perfumery’s was an offshoot, the road ran down a parallel gully, with rock on both sides. The rock was never really solid; flowers, grass, and whatnot grew in tiny crevices everywhere.
Cassidy’s Pub looked inviting, but I realized I was just trying to avoid actually doing something. I was still struggling with the whole proactive/reactive thing; I’d been acting like a victim so long (had it only been three days?) I was having a hard time coming up with a strategy that didn’t sound like a bad episode of a TV show I wouldn’t have watched anyway.
“You still have money, don’t you?”
“One of us has to, ‘Man of Aran’.” She smiled, maybe at the thought of my spending my last bit on cologne. Looking back, it seemed like another classic bad decision, but it was a little late to change my mind. “What were you planning on buying out here?”
“Not here, but I desperately need a shower and a change of clothes.”
“Don’t know about that; I’m beginning to like that suit. I’ll admit you do need a bath, though.” She seemed to find it amusing. I wished I could. It should have all been something special, being out there with her. It should have been fun; the experience of a lifetime. But I just needed to get away from her as fast as I could. I really did want a change of clothes, but perhaps I could lift my papers from her coat during the process.
“We can’t exactly call a taxi out here. Closest bus is miles away. We’ll be walking to Lisdoonvarna unless you’re up to hitchhiking.”
“Doesn’t bother me. I’d just rather be moving than not.”
Taking the roads would make it almost 15 miles to Lisdoonvarna, but it also raised the possibility of getting a ride.
And the possibility of running into any number of people I didn’t want to see.
I wanted to give myself up in a bigger town, not a remote backwater, but I wanted to have my stuff back from Siobhan first. And I could stick her with the bill for a new suit of clothes in the meantime, that was okay.
A mile or so down the road a car stopped when we waved. It was a teacher from Kilfenora, coming back from some reconnaissance to the perfumery to plan a field trip for his students. During the upcoming school year he’d be having some foreign exchange students visiting and was excited about showing off the economic growth of the Burren. He talked quite a bit about the changes in legislation regarding housing construction, new businesses, and the government’s need to better protect the Burren. “The whole thing should be a national park—d’you realize less than five per cent of it is properly protected?” He was frustrated; I was surprised. Siobhan was silent. “They tear up the limestone, haul it away, and sell it for gardens. A national treasure is disappearing, and there’s really nothing to stop them.”
It reminded me of the way placenames had been continually replaced by conquerors over the millennia, losing bits of history all along. Killaspuglonane, near us in Liscannor, for instance, had originally been the more meaningful ‘Cill Easpag Fhlannáin’—The Church of Bishop Flannan. Lisdoonvarna’s name itself probably meant ‘the fort in the gap’—names with meanings felt better to me than nonsense words sloppily transliterated into another language.
His passion for the land wasn’t surprising in an Irishman. English parliamentarian Edmund Ludlow may or may not have loved Ireland, but he didn’t love the Burren, writing in his memoirs regarding his time hunting Irish guerrillas that it was “a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him.”
Our friendly driver apologized that he couldn’t take us all the way to Lisdoonvarna, but gave me clear instructions on which of the tiny country roads to take to get there, including tips on traffic patterns that he hoped would help us fetch another ride.
Either his advice was faulty or traffic volumes were down; we walked all the way.
“It’s so different here from where I grew up.” Pretending to be sociable, I asked where that was.
“Dublin City. City girl, all the way. My father was born on a farm, but he wanted a better life for his family and thought more money was the way to do it. He made sure we all went to university, and then we all ended up with jobs in the city, just like him. I’d have preferred this,” waving her arms wide as if she planned to embrace the entire countryside.
Why couldn’t she have been someone else? I’d known for a long time that I’d settle down in Ireland someday, almost certainly in a quiet little place like Carran, traveling when my research required but otherwise living out my days on my own land. I’d lived in cities like LA far too long; I knew, without specific memories, that I’d lived in the country as well.
I’d have preferred this, too.
“What about you? Do you remember where you grew up, your parents, any of that?”
“It must be maddening, not knowing. I wish we could get you to a doctor. There must be some way to bring it all back.”
She went on like that most of the hour we spent walking. If I hadn’t known she was lying, I would have almost believed she was genuinely concerned about my health, my family, my life.
I suspected what she was really concerned about was keeping me busy while she led me back once more into the lion’s den, whichever lion she was working for.
By noon, we were in Lisdoonvarna, and I was in agony.