What I remember
We left the Winter Garden, walking down opposite sides of the steps outside as we always do, she on the right and me on the left. She was wearing dark blue jeans and Vans, and her brown suede jacket, the one she calls an "old man jacket", and her hair was braided with small blue strips of cloth. I was wearing the same dirty blue jeans and two-tone shirt that I've been wearing for a week and a half, and by big blue coat, also dirty. Ten minutes before leaving we'd eaten hash yoghurts, and our plan was to go sit in the grounds of Trinity College and be high, and this isn't the story of how we planned to do something simple and ended up getting into amusing and worrying situations. This is just the story of how we went for a walk and came back.
She said "Bad things happen out there" before we left, because we knew that in half an hour or an hour we would be practically incapacitated, and I had wanted to go on safari, hanging around Temple Bar and Grafton Street and watching the insanity all around us. We compromised on Trinity - pretty trees, darkness and benches, and quiet. Lindsay hates this city, and the only way I can handle it is to go asleep - ignore the bad bits and focus on the good bits, ignore the fact that everyone just wants to drink and talk shite, and concentrate instead on friends, nice weather, peaceful parks, the cinema.
By the time we got to the front gate of Trinity the yoghurt was starting to take effect. "It shouldn't be happening this soon," I said, but Lindsay wasn't surprised - she says it only takes half an hour for her. I wanted to get water, but she wanted to go straight into the campus. "I've gotten into this nice frame of mind where I know exactly where I'm going. If we go in there I'll only laugh." "It's okay, they won't throw us out for laughing."
We bought water and biscuits, after spending a few minutes at the biscuit counter trying to decide which kind we wanted. I saw the security guard openly staring at the ass of a young girl who was paying for something at the till, a sleazy smile on his face - I told Lindsay about it when we got outside, and she said that she thought the guard was staring at us.
Even on Sunday evening, Dublin city centre is packed with drinkers, and we could hear the difference as soon as we stepped through the front gate of Trinity - the cars and voices were immediately muted, and the light was less harsh. Light from the old-fashioned lampposts made the cobblestones look wet. We wandered through Front Square, without ever agreeing where we were going. We both had some vague idea about trees and benches at the other end of the campus, even though it turned out later that we were thinking of different places. Lindsay was thinking of a little corner that I'd brought her to before, a tiny garden where I used to do Yoga a few summers ago, and I was thinking of another place, a group of benches enclosed by huge, old trees.
On our way through Front Square we passed by a duck. It was standing still on the cobblestones in front of the bronze statue of Mr Lecky, a 19th-century-looking man with a starched collar and an expression that said "Women? Vote? Yes, and perhaps carraiges will one day be propelled without horses, too! Oh, and please remove that duck from my vicinity, it offends me." I watched while Lindsay tried to make the duck fly by walking up to it, but it just waddled sleepily out of the way.
"Maybe ducks can't fly..." I began.
"...at night," she said, and I said, "...when it's dark."
We laughed. "When it's dark," she repeated with mock-gravity, and we walked on. There was a small, nervous-looking woman waiting under the campanile, who seemed to be looking at us.
"I think that woman is security," Lindsay said. I looked back, then forward again.
"She's just hanging around, I think she's watching us."
I didn't think she was security. Trinity College does not hire diminuitive undercover security operatives to patrol the campus at ten p.m. as far as I am aware, but I wasn't sure, and she did seem to be looking at us as we walked away, so I said, "...maybe."
Eventually (i.e. after a few long, stoned minutes) we sat down on a wooden bench in half-darkness beneath several large sycamore trees near the science end of college. Lindsay nudged me gently.
"Biscuits," she said in a low growl.
"Are you sure? If you start now, you may never stop."
"I'll only have one," she said in a cute-girl voice. I took the pack of Goldgrain biscuits out of my coat pocket, and I must have opened it because the next thing I knew, I was holding a torn piece of plastic and Lindsay was crunching happily. I sipped my water and looked around at the trees. The sky was the same weird orange colour that it always has been in Dublin as long as I've been old enough to notice - low clouds lit by street lights. We snuggled close to one another, and Lindsay put her head on my shoulder.
A cat walked slowly along the edge of the shadows near the treeline. I started to notice how peaceful and fascinating everything was - how detailed everything I could see was, like the ultimate virtual reality game. I wondered how much I would remember of all the detail I could see around me - the gradations of each fern leaf, the glint of each droplet of water on the grass, the slow, padding gait of the cat as it made its way wherever it was going. The more I thought about it, the more disturbed I felt.
"Hey Lindsay," I said softly. Lindsay was still munching.
"How much of this do you think you'll remember?"
She mumbled a little. "What do you mean?"
"I was just thinking - how much do you remember about most of the days last week?"
"Me neither. That really freaks me out - I mean, look at all the detail of everything here. There's so much to see and so much to remember - it's all so complex and strange, and I'm probably just going to forget it all. It'll be like it never happened."
She nodded slowly. I thought she was just really stoned, and then she said, "That's what you have to deal with. The good part about life is just being alive, and the bad part is that you have to deal with things like that."
"You mean the fact that we just forget most of it?"
"I don't want to forget this, though."
She looked up and gazed around the clearing and the trees. "Well, you don't have to. Just tell yourself you're going to remember it."
I thought about this for a while. I thought about last week, and how I did in fact remember some things very well, while other things seemed dim and blurred, with large stretches of time totally absent, especially time spent at work. I wondered if maybe Lindsay was right, and that the act of conscious attention
determines what we remember and what we don't. I decided I'd try it, and I looked carefully at everything I could see, listened to all the tiny sounds of leaves and footsteps and the traffic on Nassau Street
in the distance, and told myself I was going to remember it. It was almost fierce, the wish not to let the moment disappear into time and be lost.
A little while and a few hilarious conversations later, she said "I think we should go back home." I nodded, but said "Why?" anyway, and she said "I feel...unsafe."
"You mean you feel like you might do something unsafe, or you feel threatened?"
"I feel threatened."
I looked around. Trinity College is incredibly familiar to me, and I feel as safe there as I would in my mother's back garden, but I remembered that Lindsay wouldn't have the same associations as I did with the place. Looking around with fresh eyes, I could see that it was dark and a little spooky, with shadows and dark buildings everywhere.
"Okay, let's make a break for it," I said, and she laughed.
The walk home went past quite quickly, because I was deep in thought. I was thinking that intense memories come from being intensely present in the moment, whatever you are doing. I also saw that in being goal-oriented, and always looking forward to the next thing that you want to happen in your life, you are actively shortening time, collapsing memory and running one event into another in your mind. Things that should be attention-grabbing and wonderful - like tree-shadows, night-time breezes, cats in the dark - pass through the visual field and disappear, never to be remembered. You can't be a Zen master if you're always looking forward to your next meditation session.
We did the apartment routine - walking side by side to the door, opening it, hearing the alarm beep and descending the short stairs to tap in the code. I dumped my coat in the kitchen and poured a glass of water, and Lindsay went straight into the bedroom, dropped her bag and her coat on the floor, and turned on the heater. When I came in, she was lying on her side on the bed, staring into space.
"What are you thinking?" I asked her, getting on the bed and kneeling over her.
She shook her head. Nothing. I leaned down to kiss her, and she smiled and kissed me back. Her skin was amazingly smooth and warm. "I love you so much." "I love you too."
We snuggled and cuddled and kissed and fondled for a while, and then I curled up behind her with my arm around her waist, thinking 'In a few minutes I'll turn on the computer...read a book...write some poetry maybe...' and listening to John snore in the upstairs bedroom with his girlfriend. In a few minutes more I was asleep.