I just left Nice airport,” I said.
“I have the best news ever,” said the heartbroken Russian. “I have found a new place to live in Wicklow. It’s paradise, it’s a wooden house in the forest like a fairy tale with badgers, foxes and singing birds. ”
“Really?” I say, I am overjoyed both at the heartbreaking news of the Russians, and for myself, I might say more.
“Will you come and visit?” tell him.
“Which place is closest to you?”
“Avoca Café, Kilmacanogue.”
“Grand, see you tomorrow at One.”
The next morning, I drove to Avoca and wait for the Russians. I prepared his three-cup espresso and a slice of his favorite chocolate cake. Despite the stormy weather, he’s not still jogging, wearing tight shorts and T-shirts, cool sneakers, rain on his forehead. He was drenched.
Yet he looks like a new man, I thought. That was the first time I saw real peace on his face. The transformation is amazing. He is, I think, his happiest knack for landing on his feet.
“I love this bungalow,” he said, “it’s in the middle of nowhere, off the grid, just the way I like it.” Surely I just want to die when I see his new whereabouts.
“Leave the car there, Biddy,” he said, “we can walk. It’s in a lovely location. ”
Me too. The wind whipped our backs as we passed through a wet forest. And here it is, a round house of wood and magic core, set in the middle of a sunny winter field surrounded by trees.
“Come in,” he said, as he stepped forward to unlock a heavy wooden door. He showed me the new NATO emergency military folding shovel – a tiny thing that can go through the ground like butter – his black and brass double bed, covered with a white reflective sheet and green.
A rug hangs over the headboard: ‘Jesus watches over your sleep.’ “Even he is protecting me,” he said.
That’s for sure, I think. The embers in his wood fire stove still burn orange when he refills it. ‘Twice so cozy, I think looking at the walls packed with insulated fleece.
His familiar, unique possessions were neatly laid out on the shelves. His Turtle Comb, His Poetry by Turgenev. He’d put his sports gear in a drawer, his sweatshirt and jacket hanging from a freestanding oak rail. His little red Le Creuset pot, a dark gilded photograph of his grandmother in Siberia, dressed in black and holding a large sturgeon, was placed on a stand made of raw logs.
I turned and looked at him. He was very happy. Proud. Then I sat back in the kitchen armchair and looked around me, as he made some coffee.
Two newly caught rabbits are hanging on hooks near the sink. “Dinner tonight,” he said. “I caught them at dusk.”
By now, the wind had calmed down, and it was cold and clear outside. He stood by the small window and covered my eyes to listen to the birds. No more thinking too much. No drama. Just peace. Another twist in his story.
“Don’t tell my Lithuanian ex-girlfriend I’m here,” he said.
“As if,” I said.
Tuesday is my big day. I finally Turn off to Thyme Out to collect my letter from Mr Valentine. Elizabeth-Sarah, the owner, said: “Sit there for a minute and enjoy some coffee and gingerbread, I have to find the key to the safe.
I grabbed a high stool near the window. The suspense is killing me.
All I know is that Mr. Valentine is a horse trainer who regularly visits Dalkey to visit his mother in the nursing home.
“Do you mind me asking, is he easy on the eyes?” I say.
“Well, put it like this Biddy, you won’t throw him out of bed for crisps,” Elizabeth-Sarah laughing.
Finally, she gave the letter. I was intrigued. It was simply sent to ‘Biddy.’ The handwriting is beautiful, I think, and it’s written in ink, nothing more and nothing less.
Now readers, to be fair to you, I cannot reveal what he wrote, nor his name. I mean he deserves some privacy – but I can tell you it was such a witty letter that I agreed to meet him at Queens in Dalkey last Friday.
He was there, as he said, waiting for me in the corner to my right. Ah sure he’s totally better in real life. He’s tall, full of hair, beautiful teeth, and a great smile to go with them. Not bad, not bad at all, I thought, finding myself almost blushing.
He held the chair for me, took my coat, then ordered a drink. He is polite and funny. We talked about horses, Cheltenham. We even had common friends.
Just as he left to get a second pint for himself and a glass of vino for a real friend, I bent down to fix my stockings. What I saw under the table was only a navy blue leather handbag with a gold zipper on it. God, I hope it’s not his, I think. That’s all I need.
“Someone must have left this behind them,” I said as I returned. “I’ll leave it with the manager at the bar.”
“Oh, that’s Mother’s,” he said.
“She went to the bathroom with Dolores, her Filipina nurse. She’ll be back in a minute. I’m very weak now and I’m getting old.”
I looked at him in horror. Aside from the fact that I met his mother on our first date, that’s how he says ‘mummy’.
And just as he said it again in that really nasty way, I spotted her, slowly limping towards me with a stick. She’s not purple withered, I can tell you. I can see my future in five minutes.
“Get me a Dolores blood pressure monitor,” she told the weary-looking helper.
“Mom, this is Biddy,” he said, “Biddy, this is Mom and this is Dolores.”
Oh, if only I had a shotgun for every time he utters ‘mummy’. His voice pierced me like a knife.
The mother is about 90 years old and still as alert as she goes to sleep, her wrinkled feet weighed down by giant diamonds and emeralds.
“Oh, you bite your nails,” she said. “Horrible habit.”
Arra, I can think of worse, I said, spilling my wine. God, she’s dead, I thought as she asked me a hundred questions while he listened as she interrogated me with attentiveness.
You know that feeling you get, of something sliding dangerously toward an impossible straight line? Yes, I’ve got it. I quickly realized that the only horse this young man was keeping an eye on had two legs and was sitting across from me on two legs. Our meeting was quick. Very fast. In fact, it lasted exactly one hour and 10 minutes.
The last thing I heard, as I passed the punters in the Queens bar were the words, “Cheltenham, Biddy. Cheltenham? You must come.”
“Are you going too?” Run back faster than a horse in the country toward Coliemore Road, I said.
I hobbled home rejoicing with myself. Honestly, there’s nothing like the peace of your own company. I put my feet up near the field fire, a glass of Barolo in one hand, and thanked the good lord for independence and peace. Phew.
https://www.independent.ie/life/brighids-diary-the-only-horse-this-lad-had-being-minding-had-two-legs-and-was-sitting-two-feet-across-from-me-41386139.html Brighid’s Diary: ‘The only horse this guy cares about has two legs and is sitting across from me on two legs’