After waking up late, and sharing a breakfast (lunch?) of different breads and preserves with Alexandra, I hopped on the train into Zurich to meet up with Dave. As I made my way through the crowded station, past the Christmas market packed with stalls full potential gifts, I allowed myself to get lost in the smells of hot food and drink and the sounds of a language that I had no clue about. Finally Dave and I meet and greet each like brothers under the towering evergreen tree that dominates the market. Dave walks me around the city that I hadn’t seen for eight years, and the last time I saw it, it was concentrated with more flesh, fur, and piercings than I had ever seen in my life. The evening is clear enough that while we walk along the river trading stories we can see the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
“Can we stop by a Starbucks before we go back, I need to use the Wi-Fi to see if the materials for my model are in yet?” So we make our way to the least busy Starbucks and find a seat. I decide on a holiday drink, and Dave settles on hot chocolate. As Dave approaches the counter he turns around, “I’m going to order in English…that’s one of the reasons I like coming here.”
The plane leaves at five, which means I have to be there around three, which means I need to catch a taxi around 230. That only gives me a few hours left in Dublin. One last walk up to city center, and a few, slow, enjoyable laps around St. Stephens Green. Coffee at Bewley’s overlooking Grafton street, and a trip across the River Liffey to buy one of the famed Irish sweaters. Taking a nice leisurely walk back down to Rathmines to say good-byes at the IES center and turn in keys. “Young man, it’s been a pleasure. Take care.” “The pleasure has been all mine, you do the same, and keep in touch.”
“Bye Leah, tell everyone else I said bye.” Bags go into the trunk of a taxi. “Bye Brandon, keep in touch.” Checked in at the airport, bags have been put on moving belt that will eventually get them to my plane, and I have time to kill. One last Guinness in the Dublin airport. Good-bye Ireland, thanks for everything.
I’ve been at dinner for about fifteen or twenty minutes catching up with people I haven’t seen since the first month we were here. “Guys, bring it in, I just found out something in the bathroom. Closer, nobody can hear.” “Alright Eamon, what is it” “I just found out that…it’s Dennis’s birthday” Oh, here we go. For a while I’m given a hard time for not telling those that I haven’t seen in months that it is my birthday, but soon conversation moves away from it…well until dessert anyway, then…HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU…
Departure speeches are given, jokes are made, prizes are given for the photo contest, dinner wraps up, hugs and goodbyes are said, and before we leave for my real birthday celebration, all the administrators collectively turn their head as a shot glass topped by a blue flickering flame is brought my way with both of my roommates in tow. Sláinte.
It’s not easy to do this, not just because leaving is bittersweet, but because I need to keep a few days worth of clothes handy because I’m not leaving until Thursday, and then I’m going to be in Switzerland for a few days. So, I guess all there is to do is throw all the things that I know I won’t need for the next few days into a suitcase or backpack. Work out clothes (check), most t-shirts and jeans (check), throw a jacket, a couple shirts and a pair of khakis into a donation pile and a couple pairs of tattered jeans into a trash pile (check). Gifts, souvenirs, papers and books find their way to a suitcase, and soon the room is sparse and that makes departure seem imminent, but leaves tomorrow for departure and birthday celebrations!
Everything is in now. I have taken an exam and turned in a paper for the class that usually stands alone on this day; I have given my guidance to the U.S. Secretary of State; I have pounded out a much shorter paper that was much more frustrating; I have flipped through and dogged eared a play, while I clicked, rewound, and rewatched a movie all the time focusing on the unheard minority, and finally, I have created, written (and rewritten), edited, printed out and handed over three works of fiction. It’s all turned in now, which means we are all leaving soon. So many of us gathered in the apartment downstairs to celebrate a birthday, lament the ever-approaching departure, and speak excitedly of home.
Writing is rewriting. writing is rewriting. writing is rewriting. Right. Writing may be rewriting for two of my stories because they have been roughly hewed out for a few weeks now, but I still need a thousand words in the form of a new story to have everything done, so right now writing is writing, and rewriting will have to wait for later. Write a third short story…just let the pen flow and the fingers move for another thousand words. 2500 words later the story comes to an end, and it is time to go to bed. Writing is Rewriting, writing is rewriting…some other day. Goodnight.
I finished before the center closed today. Oh how wonderful the light feeling of having all of the final papers done this weekend, and the knowledge that after I make the walk back home I won’t need to sit down at the table to write. I can stand in the kitchen to cook or walk down the street to grab a celebratory beer either from my local or from the off-licence that only sells specialty beer and wine. Finished…well, except for the short stories that have to be ready for Monday, but that should be fun!
Today I feel like a regular college student during finals week. Paper to write today, paper to write tomorrow and neither of them started yet. So today I spend the majority of the day in the IES center typing away on a paper that formed as the words came from my mind, but all too soon the center closed. Take the computer, the books, and all the information I need back home to sit down at a different table to continue the process that has taken most of the day. Well, I guess we will do it again tomorrow for a different class.
It is Christmas time in Dublin. Decorated evergreens are spotted all around the city, and a particularly large one stands guard for shoppers at one end of Grafton Street. Even during the day on a Thursday the brick street feels the beat of hundreds of shoes as people walk up and down the shop lined avenue. There are fewer buskers out now, but the ones who brave the cold wear the signature hat of Mr. Kringle and blow familiar tunes through their horns. Evening comes upon the city quickly and by 4:30 the skies are dark, but the nets of Christmas lights that are strung across the street light the way and wish the shoppers a Merry Christmas (in Irish, of course). Yes, it is getting to be that time of year again, and the Irish seem to be doing a fine job with it.
“Dennis, sorry I’m late. I got caught up doing a few things” “No worries Stephen, I haven’t been here long.” “Perfect, how’re ya?” And that is how it goes for a while. We order breakfast and sip on coffee. Talk goes from plans after the semester ends to travel, from class to movies and music. The french toast is good, and the coffee is hot and well brewed. It is a nice little bistro, and I wish I had known of it sooner, but that’s okay because breakfast here, today, is really good. Eventually we’re joined by four others, and we all enjoy each other’s company for a while before Stephen and I head back to the IES center before class starts. After trading some music and movies for some time, everyone else comes in, and everybody ends up playing different songs on the computer for each other.
“Well guys, this is it. It’s our last class” “What are you going to do without us, Stephen?” “I don’t know. I truly and honestly don’t know. For the past few months, being part of and teaching this class has been the high point of my week.” Us too Stephen, us too. Thanks.