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  • Saturday, August 16, 2014

    The Monastic City at Glendalough

    The restaurant was empty except me and a couple sitting a few tables away. I had my head in a book with a plate of crumbs and cup of coffee sitting in front of me. I had been looking forward to taking pictures of the sixth century monastic settlement and cemetery in Glendalough for a few days. When I arrived it was pouring, so I went into a restaurant to wait it out.

    Another couple came in and placed an order at the bar. They looked around at the empty tables then made their way straight toward me.

    "Is anyone sitting at this table?" she asked. The table she referred to had been pushed against mine, presumably by a party larger than four who all wanted to sit together earlier in the day.

    "Uh, no," I said and they sat down next to me.

    Maybe they just wanted to sit by the window? The radius of personal space I normally prefer in life is not as substantial in Ireland. Apparently.

    I didn't want to overhear their conversation, but it was impossible not to with them so close. I wanted to continue reading my book, "The Martian."

    "Look at that boy with the ice cream," the man said. A boy outside the window licked a big ice cream cone with a glob of it stuck to the tip of his nose.

    The man smiled. He looked at his wife. She wasn't smiling. Her face was heavy with sadness. He put away his smile.

    "Are you okay?" he asked.

    "Yeah," she said. "It's just... You know."

    "Yeah." He said in a comforting voice. He reached for her hand and held it in both of his. It got quiet.

    Really quiet.

    I continued reading about an astronaut stranded on Mars. How would he survive on a planet not habitable by humans? I tried to focus on my book, but then I heard sniffing. Somehow the silence became too loud for me to concentrate on the book. I don't know why I looked, but I did. The man's eyes were red and shiny with tears.

    Awkwardly quiet.

    Should I get up and leave? Was that table so significant to them that it didn't matter if I or anyone else was already sitting there? How would it look if I just moved everything over to a different table and sat down? In life, whenever I don't know what I should do next, I usually just keep doing what I'm doing. I quickly shifted my eyes back to my book.

    After a morning and afternoon of non-stop rain, it finally cleared up. I looked out the window and saw blue sky poking through the clouds. I packed up to go take my pictures in the cemetery, where the rules about personal space are more clearly defined.