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To Great Blasket Island

County Kerry, Summer 2003 —

We got bread and cheese and went to catch the fast boat from Dingle Harbor. The 11 o'clock boat full, we bought tickets for the 1 o'clock. Walked further out on the promontory and sat on a bench overlooking the harbor.

Kim told me that she lived in Nijmegen the Netherlands, where she's from. Her mother is schizophrenic, her father totally blind. She had grown up in a series of foster homes from the time she was five. Her mother had once burned down the kitchen at home. The fire was beautiful, she'd said. There came a time when she was dreadfully afraid, scared that the neighbors were out to get her. She became unable to care for the children, Kim and her two brothers, older and younger than herself.

I put my hand on the back of Kim's neck; she turned her face toward me and we kissed. This is just for right now, she said, and I said okay. She had a boyfriend, and they'd been together for about four months. He lived in Tilburg, in the south of The Netherlands.

On the boat we were mostly silent. The other passengers watched us, alright, but we were enough in a world of our own that we didn't care. People noticed us because Kim was young — younger than myself.

The smallish boat skipped over the waves.

Tall cliffs topped by rolling grass hills, farm houses cows and sheep, fences made of hedge or stone.

No dock at the island we passengers took a motorized rubber dinghy ashore, climbed up a natural stone rampway. Kim and I set off inland. 12-15 stone ruins, the old houses of the Blasket Islanders. One small cottage had been roofed in modern times; it was empty and dilapidated. "We could fix it up," Kim said.

We stopped a little way up the high grass hill. We ate bread and cheese, took some photos of each other. Laughed, and watched people.

Hiking further up and around. A butterfly followed us along. Beautiful dry calm warm day.

Sat on a hillside padded mossy ground cover. We took a couple photos. We cried together.

Caught the 6 o'clock boat back to Dingle.

We stayed that night in Dingle, at the hostel. The Americans and English made it clear that they disapproved of our being together. But we didn't care. The one American guy, a strange talkative fellow who found his stories dramatic and important, and who slept in the same room as Kim, tried to warn her about me. I'd been chatting up other women, he said. But Kim didn't care. The women just acted frumpy and disapproving, and stopped speaking with me, offering their disapproval in case I cared about it. I did not.

I had a pocketful of return round-trip tickets, through Tralee to Killarney to Kilkenny. I asked Kim if she'd like to go to Killarney with me, and she said yes.