A Sunday night, a warm one. Living free and easy in my home 'hood of Black Rock, the far-west thumb of Bridgeport, Connecticut. A friend had mentioned of a dram or two at the Castle. I moseyed toward The (Fairfield) Ave.
The Black Rock Castle was a fairly new establishment, standing where once was The Colony, a shot-and-beer haven for local foundry workers. Now, it was a semi-upscale rendezvous for hipsters, yupsters and the like. The exterior had been rehabbed to that of a crenelated castle; inside was a riot of dark wood, darker walls and uninviting furniture.
However, one could find a decent pint there, which I did. A voice beckoned from the rear of the room, “ACE! Over here!”
Some friends sat a large rectangular table in an area even darker than the bar. I found the one open seat on a corner, plopped down and joined in the bar banter.
I didn't see her for about five minutes. Sitting next to me. Suddenly, she turned and said, “Well, who's this here?”
I don't know how long I stared. She was a bit short, not a pixie; slender, but not skinny. Skin that God chose to give to the people of Erin. A complexion that made peaches and cream look like Elmer's. Dark brown hair of a medium cut. And the eyes—dancing eyes, minty eyes (either blue or green), eyes with their own smile. She allowed the smallest of grins from a narrow, full-lipped mouth.
“Well,” she said, her velvety brogue feathering my ears, “ya must have a name, dontcha? I'm Aideen.”
Eye-DEEN. The silvery syllables toyed with me. She extended a hand. Alabaster, but warmer.
After an eternity, I released her hand and felt words tumbling from my yap. Sheer babble ending with “Tim.” I think.
She said, “Well, it's nice ta meetcha, 'uh Tim.'”
And then the rest of the room seemed to collapse, far from visual and aural accompaniment.
The conversation coursed swiftly and easily, a newly crafted stream, crystal clear and sparkling. I assayed some humor, remembering Joanne Woodward's quote: “... a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, that's a real treat.” Aideen was quick with that laugh, throatier and heftier than her build belied. She inoculated me with it.
She said, “So, I 'spose you're one of those Yanks who says they're Irish.”
Quick, Tim. Gin up something clever.
“No. I am an American who happens to have Irish ancestors.”
With this, she laughed again. And, ever so lightly, touched my left wrist with her right hand. A soft current careered through me, a delicious one.
That's when I noticed the band on her left ring finger. And Aideen noticed that I noticed.
She drew away slightly, clouds forming on her brow.
She said, “Now listen, Tim. I don't wantcha lookin' at that, y'hear?”
I nodded, feebly, “But ...”
“But, nothin'. Willya promise me somethin'?"
The Eiffel Tower? A bottle of Dom? A suite at the Ritz?
“Sure.” Somehow a sere sirocco blazed through the room. My collar tightened.
She said, “I just wantcha to stay right here, as long as you can. If I can be witcha tonight, that's all I ask.”
I was glad I was sitting, for my patellas had turned to Silly Putty.
And so it went. I wish I could remember the topics we covered; they were many. But laughter threaded the conversation, warp and weft. She kept touching my wrist, which had become almost numb. When I excused myself to use the men's and get some drinks, she admonished me to return quam celerrime.
That's when she must have done some homework.
On my return, Aideen purred, “Soooo, I see I'm keepin' company with a rockstar and a game-show genius? Is that it?
I so didn't want to go there. But I did, just to please her. I tried to turn the conversation to her homeland. I don't know how long we talked. Time pulled a Claude Rains.
Aideen had a better view of the front of the house than I. Suddenly, the storm returned to her visage, much darker and angrier than before.
I turned to see four big lugs tromping back toward our table. Lumps and linebackers all. Loud and loaded for bear.
“Jaysus,” she said. “It's me husband.”
[Insert a fusillade of silent curses colliding in a writer's already-addled noggin.]
I began to rise, wondering if discretion was the proper tack. She grabbed my left hand forcefully, hauling me back down.
“You're not goin' anywhere, Timmy. He don't care, the gobshite.”
I didn't know what the word meant at the time, but hubby was all of that. He barely acknowledged the rest of the table, his wife included. He and his mates had been overly served at an earlier stop.
He was bullet-headed and bull-headed. A neck like my waist. And he seemed to have a problem with his construction job. “Pakkies,” he yelled. “Fooking Pakkies takin' away our work.” At least he ignored us.
By now, Aideen, fully grasped my hand under the table, our fingers interlocking, thighs touching. I think I saw a chiaroscuro on the wall in front of me. It was Sister Hilda, wielding her yardstick like a scimitar, hissing at me, “Mr. Timothy, you are cavorting with a married woman. That is a thousand mortal sins.”
Get lost, Hilda. You never liked the boys, anyway.
Finally, Gobshite announced, “C'mon, we're leavin' this dump. Get ready, woman.” It was a command. I tried not to seethe. The lumps and a few other people made a move.
Aideen whispered, “Oh, I doan' wanna go, Tim. I wanna stay here witcha. But I can't.”
When she got up, I almost had to. I felt welded to her.
No this can't be happening. Think fast, dumbass.
I wanted to morph into James Bond and whisk her out to my Aston Martin, take her to my private jet and find a faraway turquoise place for us to live. I wanted to don a Cloak of Indesctruction and go beat the snot out of Gobshite and his minions.
Instead, I followed her meekly to the door. She stayed a good distance behind the men and beckoned me to follow her. It was all I could do.
On the street, the men took the lead down The Ave. to a group of cars.
Aideen once again grabbed my wrist and spun me around. We were close to the side of the restaurant, in relative darkness. I could see the tears, glimmering in the sea of her eyes. She pulled me close, melding her litheness into me.
Then she kissed me. Not a friend-peck, but a full-blown, fuel-injected, turbocharged kiss. It lasted five seconds. Or five hours. Finally, she said the last words I would hear from her, “I'll never forget ya, Tim.”
She wrenched herself from me, turned and fled. I stood as if pinioned to the Castle wall. She stopped once, hesitant, and looked back at me, then covered her face in her hands. Then she was gone.
After drying my own eyes, I returned to the table, where a few people remained. Jen the Hen, my friend and bête noire said, “Well, Ace, you seemed to get along well with that girl, whatsername?”
I could barely squeak it out, “Aideen.” Time for some detective work.
Before I could ask, Jen said, “Yeah, she came in with that other girl, Sheila something. I don't really know her. Does anyone else?”
Heads shook around the table.
No clues, Sherlock. And so I drank. Too much. Shots? Sure. Why not? Soon, my mind was too scrambled to think of where Aideen may be—or how I could reach her again.
Somehow, I ended up on a bench at Saint-Mary's-by-the-Sea. Looking out across the speckled Sound, I dreamed I could see Ireland. I dreamed of her hand in mine.
And then I cried. Long and hard. A parting cry. A cleansing cry.
I didn't have to dream of That Kiss. I could still feel it.
In fact, as I pen this long-locked-away story for the first time, she's kissing me now.
I did whatever research I could to find Aideen. This was not her real name, so if by a zillion-to-one chance she ever reads this, she won't be embarrassed. I will say this, without reservation: Those couple of hours with Aideen meant more more to me than entire relationships I've been in. To those women, I proffer my apologies. To Aideen, I fell in love with you that night, sure as the fields are green whence you came. To people (especially guys) who think you can't love someone that fast … you have no idea.