After more years than I care to count, Kieran has resurfaced. The last time I saw him, it was raining; it was one of those gray Galway days on New Castle Road, and I’d sleuthed Kieran out, after swearing to Adrian I’d never tell who had told me where I could find him. Sometimes relationships get complicated.

It was fate that brought me to Kieran’s fold. It unraveled in increments, like breadcrumbs leading the way to The Galway Music Centre’s door. I was a newly arrived American, staying in a B&B on Eyre Square without much of a plan beyond spending a little time in Ireland. The nice woman who’d shown me to my room had left me with a copy of “The Galway Advertiser,” and I’d opened its pages to discover a singular sentence announcing the opening of The Galway Music Centre on New Road. There’d been no statement beyond the Centre being open, and, spurred by the lure of the word music, I’d walked round the next day to investigate. The Advertiser hadn’t lied. The Galway Music Centre was open, so I walked in. Then I found Kieran.

He was standing in the loft of The Centre, tacking a poster of the singer Daniel O’Donnell on a bulletin board, on which he’d drawn a mustache and horns because that was Kieran’s idea of humor. I stood undetected, watching him before he noticed me on the worn, redbrick floor. Scattered about were hammers and nails, scraps of plywood, four mismatched chairs, and a fold-out card table, on which sat an electric kettle, a box of Lyon’s tea, and a pint of Oranmore milk. Kieran came clattering down the wooden slat stairs when we finally saw me. He moved with such sprightly agility, he seemed airborne, and when he landed in front of me, he held out his hand and said, “Can I help you?”

I had no way of knowing that moment would be the beginning of a relationship that would set the tone of the year I spent in Ireland, but then everything about Kieran was unpredictable. He was a vortex of frenetic energy; a twenty five year old, rapid talking, plan making youth from Derry with an unintelligible accent, who was the product of an Irish mother and a Chinese father. He was tall and neatly compact, with jet-black hair he wore in a high pony-tail that bobbed behind him with every step of his bouncing stride. He had olive skin, a devilish smile, and upturned oval eyes that could either twinkle like starlight or bore a hole right through you, depending on his mood.

Kieran had moved into Galway to make something of himself, but after knowing him for a while, it occurred to me he had moved into town to take over completely, which in many ways he did. Kieran couldn’t walk down the streets without something happening, and when he wasn’t out prowling around looking for the craic, the craic had a way of coming to him. It’s anybody’s guess if fate works similarly, whether it lays in wait preordained or we meet it halfway. But it seems to me some things are meant to be, for were it not for Kieran, I can’t say for sure that I would have stayed in Ireland for as long as I did, but Kieran’s job offer at The Galway Music Centre was too good to refuse, and one thing led to another, the way things do when you have youth on your side and life by the tail of its unlimited potential.

We were four that worked at The Galway Music Centre: Keiran and Shannon and Darren and me. We operated out of an old iron forge on New Road with the intention of creating something theretofore unseen in Galway: a musical haven aimed at furthering the careers of the local musicians. We had no business plan, but eventually created something notable as we went along. In time, we soundproofed a room downstairs and built the only rehearsal studio in Galway City, which sent word out on the cobblestone streets and put money in our pocket. And all the while, Kieran was the hub of the wheel the rest of us revolved around. He was the man with the vision, the face of the Centre, and everything hummed along nicely for a solid year, up until it didn’t. When everything fell apart at The Galway Music Centre, it was predicated upon things I now see as avoidable: misinformation, miscommunication, and the mishandling of funds, which explains why I had to wrangle Kieran’s whereabouts from a young lad named Adrian, for in fine old Irish tradition in the face of conflict, Kieran didn’t feel like talking about it and simply disappeared.

There are more enviable positions to find oneself in than to be an American in Ireland without an income. I had a score to settle with Kieran. All I was really after was the decency of closure, so I’d been grateful to Adrian when he’d said, “Well, I’m not telling you where he is, now; I’m just pointing the way.”

Armed with the full knowledge that the Irish see Americans as direct to the point of pushy, I figured I had nothing to lose. I walked to New Castle Road in the pouring rain, lifted the latch on the low iron gate of a four bedroom guesthouse, and knocked on the door. It was the setting of the last conversation I had with Kieran, and at the time I would have confessed I really wasn’t that mad. There was something so likable about Kieran that I forgave him his capricious edges, and there was no pretending I didn’t have a soft spot for him in my heart. Yet words had been exchanged that catered to our individual ego, which is to say that we never found a bridge on which to meet each other halfway. I wasn’t surprised years later, when I set out to write a novel set on the western coast of Ireland, that Kieran came pouring through my keyboard, traipsing in that bouncing walk of his all over my story. I know now that when something between friends is left unresolved, it will take on a life force all its own and find expression one way or another.  

Although I still think it was fate that brought me to Kieran’s fold in the first place, the thing about fate is there’s no way of telling when the story is completely told.  

I’m thinking about this now because yesterday I was tagged on Facebook by Shannon, with whom I’ve kept in close touch these many years. I clicked on the notice to see a picture of her with Kieran and I outside a pub in Kinvara, taken during the time we all worked at The Centre. I looked closely at the tag and realized somehow Shannon had reconnected with Kieran without telling me, for there he was tagged in the same picture. And as anyone would, I clicked on his name to find a picture of him standing beside his wife, who held their baby in her arms somewhere in County Antrim. Shannon’s dual tag has given Kieran and me a reason to reconnect, and I couldn’t be more pleased.  

Now I’m thinking of the adage: what comes around goes around, even though it’s prone to take its sweet time. And with regard to the unpredictable hand of fate, it’s interesting to realize it didn’t forget Kieran and me; that it found its way to Ireland via social media. 

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Tags: Galway, Irish, Opinion, arts, friendship, literature, living abroad, memoir, music

Comment by Fran Reddy on December 3, 2015 at 10:24am

You tell a story with such alluring charm Claire!

Comment by Claire Fullerton on December 3, 2015 at 10:36am

Proud as punch to hear that from you, Fran Reddy!

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Comment by That's Just How It Was on December 3, 2015 at 11:10am

Ia there going to be another episode Clair --- as we Irish woudl say 'I'm dying to hearwhat happens next ' !!

Comment by Claire Fullerton on December 3, 2015 at 11:33am

I've been sharing stories from my novel, Dancing to an Irish Reel with my fellow Geese here on TWG. The stories I post here are the true, unadulterated versions, and my novel is "contemporary fiction." But I pulled much from real life when I wrote Dancing to an Irish Reel, yet I also weaved in scenes, changed names and settings in order to make the novel flow.  If you'd like to hear what happens next, then read Dancing to an Irish Reel! It's available at all online bookstores ( US and UK) and has been reviewed by one critic as "A sensitive and lyrical tribute to Ireland and the wonders of falling in love." Thank you so much for asking!

Comment by Jean Sullivan Cardinal on December 16, 2015 at 12:42pm

Wonderful Claire!

Comment by Claire Fullerton on December 16, 2015 at 12:43pm

Thank you so much, Jean Sullivan Cardinal!

Comment by Mark Bois on December 20, 2015 at 9:25am

You are a fine writer, Claire; well done.

Comment by Claire Fullerton on December 20, 2015 at 9:39am

Slainte, Mark Bois!


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