My new friend and source of inspiration, Ada Ireland, http://unashamedwriting.com/break-my-heart-thoroughly-a-poem/ wrote a beautiful poem: ‘Break My Heart Thoroughly.’ Ada and I had decided – okay, I hassled her into it – to do a short story that was no-holds-barred.
So far, I’ve uploaded a lot more dark stories than the lighter ones I’ve written. That tradition is sort of going to continue with this story, but I’lll get to the sweeter ones later, I promise. Before launching into this one I’ll just note that some years ago I used to do mixed media stories. I’d find a song I liked on YouTube and I’d write a backstory to it. I’ve done that here. If you’re interested in experiencing this mix there’s an intended format. Please read the story first and then play the video. To do it the other way around will spoil the intended effect, and I’d like you to ‘get’ this as I intended it. Humour me; it’s not going to cost you anything but a little self-regulation and patience.
Here’s the vid link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pDBuPK0_DU&list=RD6pDBuPK0_DU
So, here’s ‘Stay With Me.’
“Faith can move mountains. Doubt can create them.” So said Howard Wight and the hospital chaplain who was quoting him to me. I suppose chaplains mean well, and for some they even do well, but my folk hark back through a line much longer and older than Christianity. I knew why he was there, even if I found it unsettling. He’d given up on her even before she’d given up on herself, and a lifetime before I would. ‘Molly’ was, and is, and will always be, the absolute love of my life.
An overcast day, gusting and grit-filled, had been my companion as I walked down the cobblestone streets of Dublin. There is so much to love in Southern Ireland that being there transforms me from what I am into the greater potential of what I could be. If only that feeling could endure in my life outside of its borders. My body was born in Wales, and therein lays my heart, but my soul belongs to Ireland.
I crossed the road, bustling as it was with buses, cars, and insane bicycle riders seemingly obsessed with the idea of receiving a huge insurance payout, and I turned right, aiming for the park. It was then that I saw her, and she was such a beauty I could only catch a half breath, and the short half at that. In something best described as a euphoric daze, I walked toward her then stopped, completely spellbound. Was it me, or was it her, or was it both of us? Something emanated from her. My senses saw it flowing from her and to me, just as I had sensed the deepest and purest in me floating out to her.
The statue of Molly Malone, ‘wheeling her barrow through streets broad and narrow’ had a magical effect on me. Standing there before me was the girl in the song I’d sung in school, half a world away in Australia, where my family had moved when I was a child. I never knew she was real, until the moment I laid eyes on her. The tendrils of colour I saw flowed around her, and it shocked me that I could feel such a surge of love for a statue. I laid a hand on her cart and, I swear, a small arc of energy leapt between us. Pulling my hand back quickly, I was more shocked at myself than at the situation. Objectum sexuality? The love of inanimate objects? That genuinely shocked me. It was then that my eyes followed the tendrils more closely and I noticed they were, smooth as silk, riding the currents around the statue to its other side.
Hidden from my view, she’d been standing there looking up into Molly’s face, as transfixed as I had been. She and I rounded the statue in unison, again taking in a short half breath as our eyes met and locked, and the tendrils of colour, uninterrupted, glided from heart to heart. “She died of a flavour, and nothing could save her,” she said, “and that was the end of sweet Molly Malone.” “Her ghost wheels her barrow, through streets broad and narrow, crying ‘Cockles and muscles, alive alive-o.” I continued.
“I’ve always wondered what a ‘flavour’ was,” she said in her small and lilting voice. “Well, at the risk of completely destroying the moment, I think it means she died of food poisoning, possibly from eating unrefrigerated cockles and muscles,” I replied. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. “Kind of takes the charm right out of it, doesn’t it?” I said between spasms of laughter. From that day to this, more than twenty years later, I’ve always called Kate, Molly.
Our life has been blessed in many ways. We, that is, I, could never have children. Molly always said I had plenty of cockle but very little muscle. It meant that we were in a position to live well and travel often, and we did it very happily together. If you’re lucky, and if the gods smile on you, you find that one person who makes you feel like the sun rises and sets on you. We had our moments, but they were only moments, and our life together was a charm.
Barely a week after she’d been told her liver was failing, I asked the doctor about donating mine.
Of course, it’s not a simple process, the doctor said. There was tissue matching to be done, where a perfect match would be great but a near miss would be acceptable. I volunteered immediately, convinced that as close as we were emotionally, we must be a perfect match physically, too. As it occurred, I wasn’t quite as good a match as Molly and I had hoped for. Her chances of survival with a piece of my liver plummeted, even with the very best anti-rejection medication. “But there’s a chance, isn’t there?” I asked the doctor. I could see the pain in the poor woman’s eyes. She’d had this conversation before. “Ryan, we’re talking about a less than 20% chance. Of survival. The complications mean that ‘success’ really couldn’t be considered to be anything less than a world of pain for a short period before Kate’s body gives up.”
I wanted to argue with her, to argue for Molly, to clutch at any straw that, to me right then and there, would look like the Queen Mary sitting high on the waves and coming to rescue both of us. “And if I eat a bullet? Would she get the transplant then?” I growled. “Probably not,” she said with a tired sigh. “With such a low match rate if we could save your liver we’d use it in someone with a much higher compatibility score. I am sorry, Ryan, but that’s how it is.”
There are three times in your life when you’re truly helpless. When you’re a baby, when you’re so desperately sick you can’t care for yourself, and when the person you love is dying and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“I want you to marry again,” Molly said, right out of the blue one evening soon after. “You’re such a catch that if I can’t have you I don’t want you to be lost to someone else.” I looked at her for a few seconds before asking if she wanted a cup of tea, which she did. Upstairs, I put the kettle on, sorted the cups out, and went into the bedroom where I grabbed a pillow and buried my face in it. The screams that came out of me came from deep inside me, from millions of years ago and every one since. It was primal, guttural, the sound of pain an animal makes when its partner dies and it calls out in that one last hope of being heard just one more time.
I felt her arms around me. I felt her tears, wet and warm as they soaked into my shirt. I felt her heartbeat. I turned and held her in my arms. “I will love you through lifetimes,” I whispered. “Wherever you are, wherever ‘out there’ is, I will find you and I will love you. This doesn’t stop for me when you’re gone. I love you now, and I will be in love with a ghost when you’ve gone, but from my earliest memory to this one right now there has never been anyone I’ve loved like you, and there never will be again.”
Her pain soon became bad, and then it became really bad. We stayed in our home for longer than she really should have. Molly knew my commitment to her was absolute, and so she held out through the blood and shit and pain until it overran her and her consciousness collapsed. Every day, a hundred times a day, I prayed to the vast intelligence I believe is out there, and in us. I no longer asked for her life. The time had passed for that. I prayed for her comfort. I think, somewhere in the vastness, my prayers were heard. She seemed more at peace, as if she had found the shoulder of God.
In her last moments her eyes, so clouded by morphine, completely cleared. Together, and weakly, we sang ‘Molly Malone’. She died in my arms soon after. I saw the tendrils again, at first connecting our hearts and then, as her spirit left her body, they trailed up until they touched the ceiling before vanishing.
After the service for my wife I took the car ferry from Wales to Ireland. Along the way, I emptied the urn at the mid point. My Irish girl had become half Welsh through me, and I half Irish through her. It seemed fitting to acknowledge that, and I believed she’d have liked it. I kept just the smallest amount of her ashes, safely sealed into a Celtic cross I’d had made. “Look, Molly. It’s Molly,” I said as I returned to the place where the magic had begun all those years and decades earlier. I felt a glow in my heart and I knew beyond doubt that love stories never die, because love never dies.
So, here I am, with just one more thing to do. The pain inside me never stops. It never goes away, and it hasn’t healed. I love Molly, and I made her a promise, that I would find her. This is the ‘note’ I’m leaving behind, to help you make sense of me, if you can. Please forgive me. It’s not that I don’t have the strength to go on. It’s that I have the strength to leave here and go find Molly, just like I promised I would. She always hated it if I kept her waiting too long.
Before I go, do you want to know what a broken heart sounds like? Somewhere out there is a girl, looking at a boy, and those sounds don’t exist anymore. Faith can move mountains, of that I have no doubt.