Liam and Diane

We collect our rental car

he is a German in Spain

here 15 years

he tells me to slow down

not to speak so quickly

that my Irish accent is hard for him

I speak again

carefully enunciating

the words suddenly clunky

their corners on my tongue


I watch two cats sleep

long and luxuriously stretched

in the middle of the road below us

days pass slowly


drops of the melting sun land on us

browning skin

with whispered sizzles


then today, we hear it, echoed back to us

flat and splitting the air

as only an Irish accent can

they call to us

insist we come sit with them

at their balcony table

we do

introductions are made

Liam and Diane

recently retired

four children

one of them has a self-drive car

"we are living in the future", I say

Liam laughs

too long

we are warned of pick pockets

told of how they caught one in the act

I surprise myself by saying

"but for every one you see there are a hundred you don't"

a perfect small talk response

earnestly confirmed by Liam, "never a truer word spoken"


he had been wearing sunglasses

I couldn't see his eyes

it was distracting

we learned of their family tragedies

we discovered personal details about their close friends

they gave my daughter an ice cream

they never asked us anything


before we left as strangers

Liam took off his sunglasses

having learned of his sister's death at 37

"cancer, four children, beautiful singer, terrible thing"

and his struggle with retirement

"it was a shock to the system, make no mistake"

and the suicide of his oldest friend

"a mechanic, problem with the drink, never had kids, threw himself off Bray head"

he took off his sunglasses

and for the first time I saw his eyes

and they were old and tired

old and tired



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