Anna's Odyssey



        It isn't the cold that bothers me the most about Ireland. It's the flesh-eating damp. My expansive Canaries-induced thoughts immediately contracted on arrival at Dublin airport. It is freezing. My ashes will not, and I repeat will not be scattered here after all. I have to fight the urge to throw myself on the runway and bawl my eyes out. The travel brochures donít mention the awful feeling of returning home with the sudden drop in temperature rather like a cake being taken out of the oven before its time, making you feel sucked in and hollowed out. This perhaps explains the rather obvious poster in the terminal advertising the Samaritans just as you collect your baggage.

        Thatís the thing about going on holidays. It makes you think and do things you wouldnít normally do at home. It was easy for Edwina to have elevated lofty thoughts about love when she was living on a sun blessed Island. Ireland let me assure you has a very different energy field that does things to the men here.

        To begin with, if a woman in her early to mid thirties is still unmarried she has missed the marriage boat. The men here become more suspicious with advancing age and do not want a wife that has gone unclaimed for so long. Grace who has never been proved wrong with her theories so far knows this for a fact, hence her overwhelming need to have me married before I reached the Irish sell by date. Also its harder in Ireland to have all this romantic stuff that Eddie was filling my head with cos here you tend to shrink back into yourself and the only lofty thoughts you do get come through novels or movies. Love in a cold climate is different thatís all.

        Itís not fair though. I hate seeing what other people have. It invariably makes me unhappy and disgruntled with what Iíve got myself. My mother says itís a virtue to be happy with what youíve got so now Iíve got to be virtuous on top of everything else. Ainít life a bitch. Still I was lucky. I was a wanted woman, wanted for marriage and whatever that involves. For the first time in my life I had a love that was based on commitment and partnership making it real and tangible. Instead of taking life as it came I was steering my own course, rather competently I might add.

        A part of me was glad to be back on terra firma, back to the world of planning and decision making. I get too unfocused and scattered left to my longings and imaginings. Here at least there were things to do, decisions to make, like how many figurines I want atop my cake and if itís ok to invite Uncle Patsy and his Philippine bride, half his age to the wedding only I know heíd give me a great present unlike some of my other relatives.

        My poor thighs had taken an awful scalding on the last day. Assumpta said that not using sunscreen was the same as having sex without a condom, stupid and irresponsible. Still at least my burnt thighs were like an in built radiator insulating me from the cold. I just had to tolerate walking with my legs apart for a while as the pain of my thighs chaffing together was excruciating.

        Connor was unable to collect us from the airport so there was nobody to meet us in the arrivalís hall. I absolutely hate that. Everyone seems to have people jumping all over them, kissing them, welcoming them home so I feel most deprived and unpopular.

        Back home I survey the damage to my thighs. Mmmm. Iím afraid to show them to Assumpta as sheís so anti ozone damage it borders on obsessive. She might refer me to the burns unit so I just have to doctor them myself. I feel a lot better when I plaster them in cooling aloe vera gel, in fact after a while I think theyíre changing from a scalding red to a reddish brown.

        The entire afternoon stretched ahead of me. Goodie Assumpta had to go into work so I make myself some cheese and picked onions sandwiches and crush some crisps on top of them and lay on my bed. Sure its like Iím still on holidays. Right wedding thoughts. I had to start thinking wedding thoughts. This was what I wanted after all wasnít it? Yes it was but there was a high percentage of me, in fraction form ĺ that still had an urge to live dangerously but not in some mad kamikaze self destruct style. You see I thrive on spontaneity and change for I have a pathological fear of being solidified in stone like some poor unsuspecting jelly trapped in a mould.

        Come to think of it Connor and I actually were opposites when it comes to seeing things in different ways. Still you know what the well worn clichť says that opposites attract. Iím his opposite but Iím not so sure heís as aware of this fact as I am. Having fallen for the "good " Anna he, and this is not his fault as I have hidden maybe the same fraction ĺ from him, is unaware of just how opposite I am.

        But why should I feel guilty? Women have been doing this for centuries. It could well be part and parcel of evolutionís little mysteries. A throwback to some ancient mating ritual. You have to put best foot forward to trap the most favourable genes and then and only then are you guaranteed success. Hell Iím sure there is a lot of Connor that remains hidden to be revealed at a later date like when weíre married and tough then that you didnít see it beforehand. I mean itís so obvious youíre going to be nice in the beginning. This is natureís way of the survival of our species thatís all. I can only hope he wonít react to the real me in manner of toxic insect repellent to a buzzing and about to die wasp.

        Elliot comes home around six after a Jewish wedding in the Burlington hotel. As usual heís well fed and watered, although exhausted from all the dancing. Over a few glasses of sangria, I like to recapture the holiday atmosphere, I fill him in on the uncut edition of our holiday. Actually I was only a real disgrace for two nights, the rest of the time I just got off on teasing guys and letting on I was free and available. Elliot says thatís mean but I say thatís just fun. He tells me I look fabulous with a tan and then I try on my new white sundress and he says yes heís absolutely certain that itís I have an even tan and I say what about my thighs and he says to put the white of a raw egg on my thighs to stop them from chaffing.

        Connor arrives at seven and takes me to my favourite sea food restaurant in Dun Laoighre The Lobster Pot. Thatís the thing with Connor, he seems to do all the right things. He compliments me on how well I look and to make up for our week long absence heís bought me a solid gold bracelet with my name engraved on the inside with the date. I think he forgot to add his name butís ok.

        I just so love the fish at this restaurant but it freaks me out to watch the lobsters in the tank. Poor things they mate for life so when their mate boils in a pot they have swim around and around and stay bored and celibate for the rest of their lives. I have to ask for a seat away from the tank and order the sea food platter of the day.

        Zoe and Elliot are going out tonight and Assumpta is working all night at the hospital. Yes, Connor and I have the house to ourselves. Tonight I have some white wine with my meal, not too much, just enough to feel chilled out and mellow. Thighs are now cooling down so just feel a nice glowing feeling. Going home in the taxi Connor kissed the back of my neck and my sun kissed shoulders. Love, no adore those warm fluttering butterflies trying to escape. Mmmmm. I hope I remembered to change the sheets. Will we fall straight into bed or will I have a shower first to freshen up?

        I had forgotten how wonderful is to make love to another person. Having remained celibate for so long, apart from the elevator incident has changed the way I think about sex. When I allowed myself to be freely available to he who was gagging for me sex wasnít precious or special. A bit like coffee after a meal, a habit. No big deal. I guess itís a bit like food, you canít appreciate it until youíre hungry. Right now I was starving.

        I had not forgotten how sex makes me feel. I love everything, foreplay, the act itself and then slumbering together in manner of one big happy sleepover. In that moment of fusion and release I can step outside and beyond my bodily confines and not feel so alone after all. Tonight I feel warm and tingly like some love struck teenager about to take the plunge for the first time. Any girl in her right mind would give anything to be right now.

        I light some candles and sprinkle some Ylang Ylang oil on the pillows. Donít think Iíll bother with music or will I? Connor might think Iím too seductive. No best to keep it simple. Pink or lemon negligee? Pink, shows off my tan better. I turn down the covers and slid under the sheets.

        This will be what itís like once weíre married. Connor in the bathroom doing his toiletety things and me all nice and smelling fantastic hair fanned out on the pillows. Yes I could certainly get used to this.

        I like to watch men when they take off their clothes, itís a real turn on. I watch Connor as he takes off his clothes and strips down to his boxer shorts. He neatly folds each item of clothing and places them on the chair by the wardrobe. My clothes are underneath all strangled and meshed together. Still one of us I guess has to be the tidy one. Amazing ones thought processes when you love somebody.

        Suddenly Connor was beside me on the futon. Much prefer the word bed. The orchestras start to play in my mind. This is it. This was how it was always going to be. I know I tend to get carried away but I had waited so long for the right one that I couldnít help but sing along to the dream.

        Connor lifts my negligee, love the word negligee and we kiss and cuddle and begin the long process of exploring each otherís bodies, a bit like Iíll show you me and youíll show me you. I love a fit manís body, every part, thighs, buttocks shoulders.

        Connor was a proficient lover, responsive to my needs, prolonging my pleasure until we both climaxed together. His love making techniques were perfect just like everything else he did. I know that sex is different with each lover and its not fair to compare when each person brings out different aspects of my sexuality but and yes I hate to admit a but and sound ungrateful cos Iím not ungrateful that is, but all the time I felt like I was performing, as the woman that that he wanted me to be in bed. We kissed and cuddled some more and I did feel wanted and warm inside but Ö.

        "Anna that was perfect. Thank you," were Connorís last words before he drifted off into sleep leaving me to my insomniac thoughts. Do not dissect and analyse a little voice said, otherwise the magic will never come. But I want the magic. I need the magic.

        So many times I had played the role of the whore in the bedroom, not that there was anything wrong with that cos it just made me feel sexually liberated. But playing the suitable about to be wife I didnít want to act like Iíd been round the block a few hundred times already. Ok so I held back a bit but I didnít want anything to interfere with my suitability as a wife or as a role model for my children.

        Get thee gone Nero thoughts. You only belong to the world of fantasy and elevators and fucking amazing sex. But no basis for commitment mind you. What I have is real and Iím going to be married and I donít want my future to dissipate into a great big puff of smoke now do I.

        I look over at Connorís handsome profile lying there peacefully content. Think of how lucky you are Moran. Look at the great catch you have, be grateful. I drift off into sleep affirming grateful thoughts and wondering if I should wear a full length wedding dress or a shorter just below the knee with just a matching half veil.

        I hate mornings. This morning in particular I would have donated a limb quite possibly an organ to stay in bed and remain unconscious But horrah we did it at last. I should be up and about singing in the shower but Iím not. Could it be that Iím putting too much emphasis on the magic of sex, having gone without it for so long. After all sex is supposed to be only 10%of a happy marriage but a little tormenting voice in my head said that itís 100% of a bad one.

        I get this horrible thought that the Gods are punishing me for not having walked with humility before them. Had I perhaps flown in the face of their cosmic plan while I tried to create my own destiny instead of just allowing it to happen. But if I was waiting for the Gods Iíd still be back in Dingle rotting in a fish shop so hang that for a crazy thought.

        Sure hadnít I all the time in the world to teach Connor a trick or two, til death us do part to be exact Besides our marriage was going to be based on love, companionship, economic advantages, potential children, shared income and resources, stability. I Anna Moran have hunted and chosen wisely according to family and friends. What on earth had I to fear.

        Thank you God for giving us the Sabbath day. Thatís the best thing about Christianity, all the Sabbaths and holy days of obligation and Xmas and Easter. I often ring home on a Sunday to check up on the Moran clan and this morning in particular I felt a particular urge to speak to someone. Not of course that there was anybody there that I could confide in but itís nice to know that they take an interest in me.

        From the onset Nuala and Mother were so in favour of the wedding taking place that they were doing their utmost to make sure it actually took place. According to Nuala I couldnít organise a bloody piss up in a brewery so various family members took it upon themselves to undertake certain tasks for the wedding. Grace had me booked into a bridal shop in Grafton street for a fitting Saturday week, my Mother was organising the flowers and wait for it Judas was roped in to find a photographer although I think Nuala is organising that also.

        "Hi Anna listen Iím glad you rang. We were just talking about the wedding here over breakfast."

        Dissecting me more likely. She launched into telling me how she and Mother had gone to Cork for their outfits and hats. Mam had ordered this magnificent brown hat with feathers in this wonderful little hat shop off Oliver Plunkett street. I could only think one thought "Jungle Book" but I kept that thought to myself.

        Nuala had taken it upon herself to choose some gold embossed wedding invitations that Connor and I would have to fill in as soon as possible. Mother had made a list of all the relatives that you had to invite for fear of insulting and there was no way it could be halved. Bloody relatives that I donít hardly know, not to mind like. I could hear my mother screeching in the background to think of all the presents and sure hadnít she gone to all their weddings. Iíve some relatives that refuse to speak English like Aunt Maire and Uncle Pol,. My mother thinks its great the effort they put in trying to preserve the Irish language but I know they are both as odd as two left feet and it exempts them from having to communicate with the rest of mankind. Still they might be a bit of comic relief in Dublin.

        Then Nuala dropped her bombshell announcing that she had booked us into a residential pre marriage course with Father Horgan and Mrs Noonan from the marriage advisory service of Cura. Residential as in we had to sleep somewhere overnight. Oh no Nuala informed me it was for two nights, a Friday and Saturday night. Sure wouldnít it be great to get it all over and done with next weekend. Aaahhhhhh. I want to strangle the cow.

        Sudden disadvantage of Christianity, the pre marriage course. Oh sweet divine small Jesus shivering in the manger I had clean forgotten about it. A weekend residential with Father Horgan and his sanctimonious speeches full of religion. And Mrs Noonan the staunch pro lifer. Give me a break. I wonder is there like any legal loop hole that could get me out of the course. We could elope to Vegas and have a tacky Elvis Presley wedding or a Cinderella one and I could arrive in a coachÖ Calm I would have to borrow some of Gran Aunt mollyís pills to get me to through. She has a fabulous selection, calls them her jelly babies but I know its valium. Thank you God for letting me live at a time when you can chemically adjust in order to adapt. Survival of the chemically adjusted, that will have to be me.

        Thatís the thing with weddings, all the preparation thatís involved. The truth is that itís like some great big obstacle course and if you can last the pace well then you must really want to get married in the first place. A coupleís relationship to each other has to take second fiddle to the preparation for the big day. Iíd only thought about all the great presents Iíd get and instead I feel bogged down, although not too bogged down as Iíve delegated a lot of the duties to various family members. Well if truth be known they took them off my hands cos deep down they know I just couldnít cope. Thereís nothing spontaneous about weddings, nothing just happens without major planning. Christ who said theyíd book the band?

        Connor goes out and gets the Sunday Independent and while I read the living section, he reads the more serious part. This was so cosy and domestic, sure arenít we ideally suited. He also brings me a bunch of flowers and kisses me lots and lots, although thereís no time to make love again as we donít want to be late for Coraís Sunday lunch now do we? So I shower and get dressed in my respectable clothes, a long brown skirt with a cream high necked polo jumper, kinda like an Amish woman ready to look after her man and tackle the kitchen single-handedly.

        Just before we set off for Connor calls me into the kitchen and says that although weíre engaged he wants the world to know that Iím his woman and presents me with a small pink box. Inside is the most beautiful ring in white gold with a centre diamond and two smaller ones on either side. It looks very expensive so heís obviously sure of his affections for me. He must love me very much. Funny isnít it how we tend to get caught up in the symbols of love. According to my mother who, would be positivley swooning over this ring the more expensive the gift the greater the love. Jesus I hope her thinking wasnít rubbing off on me. Still I must say I was quite taken aback and flattered with the ring. After Connor placed it on my finger I was half way there to being his wife. Connorís wife. Hello Iím Connorís wife. Hmmm. Takes a bit of getting used to thatís all. Will be like a novelty in the beginning.

        Cora and Oliver always host Sunday lunch. Cora feels it keeps her at the pulse of the family but I think she likes to covertly control her sons and keep them at her beck and call. Oliver a Presbyterian vicar has learnt from experience that in order to have a quiet life its best to be a yes man and let her do what she wants.

        Cora and Oliver have three sons, two of them married with two children each and now thereís me to add to her list. Everyone says sheís great to go to all the trouble, sure isnít Cora a great mother, remarkable in fact. At first I thought it was sweet but now I think itís more like a boring as dish water duty. When weíre married I will no longer be happy to do the same bloody thing every Sunday but as for now I keep quiet and smile and say sure sheís amazing, how does she do it. Iíd have to hire an army of caterers.

        When her sons were younger Cora used to buy them a packet of rollos every Sunday and now has continued this tradition up til this day. No matter that her sons are in their thirties and forties and can buy their own rollos if they so wish. The Fitzpatrick household is based on rules, tradition and order.

        This is the home of the framed photos, the set dance trophies neatly arranged in a row. The only framed photo in our house is an aerial photo taken back in the seventies when the house was painted a dreadful canary yellow. My mother unknown to herself brought up her children as free spirits cos she was always too absorbed in her own life to be too neurotic about ours. As children we were allowed to eat whenever we were hungry but Connor was brought up with a more formal upbringing having set meal times. Still it would be a strange world if we were all the same, easier but strange.

        When Connor announces that heís bought an engagement ring for me thereís a lot of polite oohs and aahs. I watched Coraís face closely as she stared at the ring. I think the thought that her son will soon be entrusted to the care of another woman upsets her and deep down I feel she doesnít think Iím good enough so I always feel a bit uncomfortable and inferior in her presence.

        I can imagine what would happen in the Moran household if I showed my family the ring, there would be shouts of happiness and congratulations and its my turn to try it on and turn it around four times to make a wish, only you cant tell anyone or it wont come true. Here in the FitzPatrick family there was a lot of muted congratulations, heaven forbid any great big whoops of joy. Too much joy would threaten the peace and order of the house so best avoided unless of course its properly measured.

        Cora has prepared her usual Sunday roast. Today its duck a líorange stuffed with pistachios and herbs. The daughter in laws go on about how fabulous it all is and could they please have the recipe. Not me. I wouldnít be able to follow it. I just guess the amount and learn by trial and error but do not mention this fact to the competent Cora. The conversations are the same every Sunday. The women talk about their children and Coraís cooking and her new curtains and matching cushion covers.

        I miss my Sundays with my sisters where weíd spend our mealtimes discussing who was screwing who in town and fighting over clothes that someone bought and someone else stole to wear. This family was so civilised in comparison. I watched them as they chewed their food with their mouths closed. I wonder how they do that. I try but almost choke.

        Oliver is a good looking man for his age, and Connor obviously takes after him but Cora is rather strange looking to say the least. She has these giant puckered up lips that seem as if theyíre trying to run away from her face as quickly as possible. I think today she looks like a puppet, her jaw somewhat disassociated from her head chewing frantically within a closed space. I hope my children donít inherit her face or her manner or her pathological desire for rules.

        Connor was pleased that we were going on the residential pre marriage course as it would save us having to attend one for five evenings in Dublin and it wouldnít interfere with his work. He asked me to thank Nuala from him for having thought of us. Maybe I was born into the wrong species but my reaction to a pre marriage course does not include delight. I would prefer to give away half my presents if I could possibly avoid it but that was out of the question in good catholic Ireland where if you want to get married you have to play the game according to their rules. I wonder if I switched to being a Buddist at this stage could I escape. No I guess not. Iíd probably have to do yet another course to deprogram me.

        There was nothing to it but to grin and bear it.. I could escape in my mind while the priest droned on about budgeting and household expenses and whoíd be in charge of the family finances. When I didnít express an interest in doing that job Connor said that heís look after it. Great I hate figures and bills to juggle. What a relief for someone else to do that. I could take out the bins instead. Whatever it is about figures they constantly elude me and by pass my memory bank.

        Maybe this wasnít so bad after all, discussing the allocation of jobs. Connor said heíd cook and I could wash up and heíd vacuum while I did the laundry. Sure wasnít our house going to run like clockwork. I was secretly proud of the way Connor volunteered for the various household tasks. The other men looked most incompetent around the house and their fiancees had to all but say theyíd do it themselves.

        Mrs Noonan, a heavy unmarried woman in her fifties dedicated to the parish according to my mother spoke about family planning, emphasising natural family planning. And so it went on like that. Drivel, drivel, know all about that already. The other three couples seemed genuinely pleased to be on the course, meeting other people about to be married, discussing the problems involved, like you do when you have an illness and you like to know that others share symptoms.

        Honestly the preparation for the "Big Day" was beginning to bore me and to wear me down. So many details and planning to be done, I now only wanted the whole thing over and done with. I wished I could fast forward time and there Iíd be skipping up the aisle on my Dadís arm people staring and saying wasnít I just the nicest bride theyíd ever seen, her dress must have cost the earthÖ

        For the last hour, yes there was only an hour left to endure, Father Horgan started talking about the sanctity of holy matrimony and how the ceremony emphasised til death us do part. This was the most disturbing part. Til death us do part implied like forever. Well for the rest of this life anyway and the word forever is loaded with the word permanence. I react to that word in the manner of a vampire to a cross making me recoil in abject horror.

        In my determination to be married I hadnít really given much thought to the permanence of the bonding. And of course the church didnít accept divorce so that in the eyes of the church you would be married forever and ever amen. Doesnít matter what the state thinks once you decide to get married in the church it is forever and the only escape clause is an annulment where you make a statement saying you hadnít had sex with your husband. Sure what kind of a eejit of a wife did they think youíd be. I shall have to delete the forever part from my brain, otherwise I donít think Iíd be waltzing down the aisle too willingly.

        Neither the priest nor Mrs Noonan mentioned the word passion in relation to love so maybe its just me wanting more. Iíll just have to learn not to be too greedy. Looking at the other about to be husbands I felt glad I had the sophisticated Connor and that I hadnít settled for some mountainous Kerryman after all. Glad and smug.