It is Thursday. Late in the week to cast my thoughts upon the faithful departed but I was never a one for ritualised prayer. Oh, I know the order, I just don’t heed it. I know on Thursday, when we pray for the departed, we think especially of those souls in purgatory, though – truth be told and thanks be to God – I can’t think of one suffering soul this minute.
Now that Spring is come, Paris is lovely and quite transformed. My steadfast departed, Noirin, walks the streets so hopefully now. Her little home on Rue St Denis is a wee box but it is her wee box and only minutes from Shakespeare & Company, how I envy her. She is learning, she is growing, she is grateful. It was harder in the Winter, she suffered then. She flew away from Dublin and fell through the void.
Pinpricked daily by unfamiliarity and the consequences that accompany even the right decision, she struggled in the dark days of December. I don’t think she’ll mind me saying, she was often alone or without someone who “gets her.” She was there to begin her PhD but her basic understanding of French left her feeling dumb and baffled and not quite the Kristeva scholar she is in her mother tongue.
The doing of life always involves so much more than we can imagine or prepare for. You think, “I’ve done it! I’ve quit my job at the taxi company and I’m moving to Paris.” So romantic, so much what you’ve always dreamed of. So undaydreamy when there’s a fire on the first night in your teeny tiny studio and you can’t find the keys to your locked door and every fear and doubt you had is instantly and dramatically confirmed and, now, you’re thinking: “Oh my God, I’m going to die in a crappy cold and smelly studio in Paris… what a shitty end to it all.”
She didn’t burn, she didn’t wither. She got out and, with that wry observation I admire so much, she noticed how well dressed the other residents were for a 1am emergency evacuation. It was so very Parisienne. Lovely Noirin, courageous departed, I will miss you when I go home to Ireland next week but I wouldn’t wish for you to be anywhere else than where you are right now.
I’m going home: returning having departed. I booked my flights yesterday, Wednesday. Soon after, I began to dwell upon the faithful departed. I thought of all the people I would see and I thought of all the people I would not see. In the weekly prayers to the departed, Wednesday is the day devoted to that soul which has the greatest merit. Christ, that’s a conundrum.
Setting the question of souls aside, I suppose that would be you, Mr. Blackwell: in Beijing now is it? Ontario, Morocco, Corsica, I’ve lost track. You’ve been departed so long and to lands so distant and various. And therein I award your worthiness. On this basis, you merit the title of the most departed of all my dearly departed.
You are so far gone, I wonder if you can ever return. There are universes and constellations and citadels of life and experience inside you; would you be content with a small patch of green and a low stone wall? Are you even a little bit of who you were? You don’t look it. You look incredibly… altered. I used to know you very well. Do I, still? Write and tell me. I would like it. I miss and love you very much.
I should write and tell you that. I fear I haven’t been very faithful in communicating with you through your latest leaving. Though I know you will forgive me because you are like me: a solitary socialite, traitorous to those you love most of all, or – in gentler language – prone to becoming waylaid. When I write, remind me to tell you that though you are the most departed, the streets of Dublin will seem a little less Dublin-like without you in them. You are so much that city, to me.
On Friday, we remember that soul for whom we have the greatest obligation to pray. To the most recent of my loves departed from Irish shores, I pray that every desire of your heart is met in the place – and in the person – you have leapt with all your faith towards. Words have always failed me where you are concerned, perhaps because I knew you never quite believed me when I spoke them. So, all I will say is that I know what you seek there. I have seen your longing heart that has so feared to hope and I admire its resilience.
No: all I will say is Trust, Believe. These things will take you anywhere.
Of all those who have gone, you will be the closest to me, a ferry ride across the Irish sea. So close! I know we’ll be closer once again. We’re inching towards it. Distance is only a state of mind.