Leaving the café, I am tossed headlong into a tide of smartly dressed people on the sidewalk. The air is heavy and wet. Sprinkles of moisture whisper against my face, catching in my eyelashes. The buildings rise like watercolour paintings out of the thick mist, their edges blurred by nature’s paintbrush. I am in the business centre, and although I have been awake for about forty-eight hours and ready for bed, it is early morning, and everyone is heading to work. Heads down, serious faces still puffy with sleep, hands red from the brisk morning air, clutch briefcases and coffee cups, the women’s heels clicking with importance on the uneven cobblestone streets. I wonder briefly, before I’m swept along with them, how they manage not to twist their ankles and fall.
Buoyed somewhat by my caffeine infusion, I want to sightsee, make the most of the full day that I have in front of me, but I don’t know where I really am or where I want to go. Pulling out my map proves futile. I am pushed along with the waves of people, unable to find my bearings let alone a street sign or a place to sit. I pass colorful pubs with their sandwich boards advertising delicious meals and cheap pints, and although I long to sit, I’ve already eaten. Novelty shops for tourists with Riverdance blaring from speakers, flaunt shirts saying “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”, or “I Heart Dublin”. Rows of sheep adorned mugs and silly leprechauns line their walls. But like the stereotype of any North American traveler with Irish roots, I came to Ireland looking for an authentic experience, without knowing exactly what that would be. At any rate, I’m not interested in silly mementos, so I let the crowd push me past.
I walk and walk, exploring the cobbled streets and snapping pictures. I pass the colorful Temple Bar with its cheerful red walls, petunias spilling from hanging baskets; the bright yellow façade of the Oliver St. John Gogarty, a pub and B&B, advertising traditional music and food, with its colorful flags. I pass bakeries and gift shops, and zig-zag across the city. Exhausted by competing with sandwich boards for the already narrow sidewalk space; I finally see a place to sit.
In the middle of an intersection surrounded by four trees, stands a statue with a stepped base, so I cross the road and plop myself down. The morning sun is starting to break through the mist and it is getting warm. The heavy air makes my clothes stick to my body uncomfortably. I strip off my jacket and let the light breeze cool my skin. I’m suddenly swept by a tidal wave of emotion and unbidden tears prickle behind my eyelids. This was supposed to be a grand adventure, a spiritual rediscovery, but all I feel in this moment is lost, lonely and foolish.
I stretch out my legs and back, and close my eyes, feeling the warm sun on my face, and I inhale, filling my lungs with the barley-scented air…I need to re-embrace the adventure! My logical mind is telling me that I’m only exhausted and overwhelmed, and that I merely need to breathe and remind myself how amazing it is that I am here, but my emotions are struggling for control. I open my eyes and look around. There is a girl with a pink backpack, sitting around the corner from me, reading a paperback, a couple across the street kiss a farewell as their destination takes them in different directions for the day. In their human-ness, I begin to feel less alone.