Dean Mulroy is the kind of guy who needs room to roam and access to the stars, which is why he lived way back in the bog behind the house I rented in Inverin. Only a certain kind of guy would want to live as he did. At the time, he was unimpressed with technological conveniences, including a telephone, and the first thing he did when he moved into the lackluster, two-bedroom stucco house he rented beside the bog’s serpentine stream was rig the existing phone to such a pitch that people could call in, but he couldn’t call out. He had what he thought of as a reasonable explanation for this, but I didn’t learn it until much later, after our friendship had taken root and he no longer held me in suspicion.
It had been my habit to walk the endless bog behind my house after I got home from work in Galway. It was summer time, and sunlight hovered well until ten thirty during this halcyon time of the year. I ambled through the bog because it seemed to ground me to the soul of this particular region of Connemara. One foot after the other gave way to a rhythmic cadence that put me in tune with something soulful and unnamed. I did my best thinking on my walks through the bog because it gave my feet purpose and allowed my chattering mind to unleash into an impressionable, free-floating stream of consciousness. This is how I learned to interpret rural Ireland; by dreaming my way through, step after meditative step.
The third time I passed Dean in the bog, he abruptly stopped me. He’d had entirely enough of not knowing who this stranger was in his midst. A slightly built girl with long blonde hair and a pair of Wayfarers in rural Ireland must have been anomaly enough, but to see a face repeatedly in Inverin and not know the whole story was an unpardonable sin. People in Inverin don’t keep to themselves; tacitly, it isn’t allowed. By virtue of the fact that one lives in Inverin, they are automatically a part of a collective consciousness that operates under the assumption that all of its residents are members of the same tribe. And because the Irish are not prone to insinuating themselves upon a stranger, Dean Mulroy chose the colloquial way of introducing himself, which is to say that he cast his eyes skyward and commented on the weather. “Ah, she’s blowin’, all right,” he said standing firmly in my path with his hands on his narrow hips and an even stare. I’d been in Ireland for two months thus far and knew how to respond in the Irish way. I raised my eyes to his dark frame of wavy black hair and met his blue-eyed glare. “She is, yeah,” I said rhetorically.
We next got down to the exchange of names and I learned he already knew where I lived because there is no place to hide in Inverin. A single American female living in a holiday home on the side of the coast road is big news in a town the size of Inverin, but Dean still wanted the unadulterated facts. It took him all of two minutes to invite me to call out the next day for a cup of tea. I knew now that people in Ireland are always “calling out,” which shouldn’t be confused with just showing up, because calling out has a much bigger purpose. I turned his invitation over and jumped to what any American would immediately ask. “I’d love to,” I told him, “what time would you like me to come?” Dean looked at me for a heavy, pregnant pause, with a brow so knotted I thought surely it hurt. “Don’t put a time on it,” he said. “Come when it suits you.”
I had two thoughts as I continued my walk through the bog that day, and the first was about the weather. For a population that revolves around the vagaries of the weather, it’s easy to see why the weather in Ireland is personified as she. It’s because she is pervasive and dictates everything, so when someone in Ireland uses the word “she,” everyone knows what is meant. The second thought on my mind was how authentic and unselfconscious the Irish are as a culture. If I extended an invitation to anyone for the following day, I’d be ready and my house would be perfect, but that is not the way it is with the Irish. Dean’s lack of concern over the timing of my arrival demonstrated the open-armed way the Irish receive anyone: There is always an open door, no matter the time, and they are ever at the ready to put the kettle on and offer a cup of tea.
It was a thirty minute walk from my front door to Dean’s rented house, deep in the bog in Inverin. I took my time the next day sauntering through what came to be a habitual pattern along a quiet gravel path through turf and brittle bracken. When I arrived, it was two o’clock in the afternoon and I found Dean in his kitchen, freshly shaved and waiting. He held a guitar on his lap, looked up when I appeared, and said in a matter of course, “I’ve been singing me heart out all day.” We exchanged personal histories and drank tea until our heads were swimming. Dean told me about the dolmen that lay in the bog behind us and said he’d show me himself, but he wanted it to be my own discovery. He next told me that the ancient graveyard down the dirt road across from my house was haunted. “Tis a brave soul, it would be, who would walk that road at night,” he said fixing me with a challenging stare.
“Have you ever done it? “ I couldn’t help but ask.
“I have,” he returned, “but no woman would want to.”
The sky turned the color of bruised eggplant, releasing a torrent of mercurial pelting rain. Running for dear life to Dean’s tan-colored van, it took my full strength to pull the door closed against the rousing wind before we rattled the bog road to my house. Dean leaned his head through the window in the stinging rain, shouting as I ran to the shelter of my porch. “I’d call you, but I’ve cut meself off; too many late nights on the drink running me phone bill up. Unless it’s planning on bumping into me on one of your bog-trots, you are, you’re going to have to call in to me.” I told Dean surely I would then, ducked safely inside.
Later that night, after the rain let up, I put on a light coat and stepped outside my door. I stood in the darkened stillness until I’d made up my mind once and for all. There are no streetlights that far out in Inverin, but I had the light of a waxing moon. Cautiously, I crossed the coast road. I heard the gravel scratching beneath my steps and put one foot in front of the other in an intonation that sounded like a military march. A slight wind blew like a whisper, then rushed forcefully, just enough to startle me before it ebbed. I thought I felt a chill on the back of my neck and wondered if it was the night air or just my fear. Down the lane I continued, until the graveyard loomed on the hill to my left. Granite tombstones in varying heights crowned with Celtic crosses glowed eerily in the moonlight. It was a graveyard forever marking time, halfway down a lane all but forgotten. I walked steadily, not wanting to hesitate, not daring to stop; only wanting to walk the lane at night because Dean Mulroy had said no woman would want to.