Wednesday 26 June 2019

A lonely pier walk in a sea of Valentine's Day couples


I STOOD at the end of Dun Laoghaire pier, exactly where we always stopped when we walked it together. At that moment I hated him. He had left me, abandoned and alone to chase my misery in splendid isolation. It was Valentine's Day and everyone on the pier seemed to be in couples, even the dogs walking their humans formed togetherness couplets that conspired to deliberately mock my shame.

I thought of the many years we'd walked that pier together, him tall dark and handsome, sauntering along in his usual relaxed mode, me, reaching only to his shoulders pitter pattering along madly trying to keep up. In the beginning, the walk was just the two of us hand in hand, chatting happily. Well, I chattered, he usually just listened, nodding appropriately at all the right intervals when I stopped to take a breath.

Then the two of us became the three of us, walking along pushing the buggy as firstborn son joined us. We spent many happy Sundays at the end of that pier, watching our lively little ginger toddler fall on his rear as he struggled to master the art of walking. Then the three of us became four, five and six as three sons were followed by our little girl. As our family grew and aged, the one constant was the Dun Laoghaire pier walk.

Our manner of getting to the end of it changed over the years too. Bus and Dart when we were too poor to afford a car, driving as our marriage and careers flourished. Sometimes we walked it just to pass away the time, winter in, summer out.

He sometimes dragged me down it by the hand, me whinging rebelliously that I was exhausted, in his efforts to help me stick to my weight loss efforts. But as soon as he let go my hand at the end, I'd catapult back to the entrance where the nice ice cream man took away all my pain.

Occasionally we'd walk it in cold silence when a row was brewing or in full force. The pier never seemed so cold, nor the waters so dark and crushing as on those days. But the sea became blue and the waters gentle when life was good.

As I stood there on that pier, hating him for refusing to give into my nagging to bring me for a walk, I realised something. The loneliest Valentine's Day is without him, and every day is Valentine's with him.

Sunday Independent

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