It was a perfect Irish summer’s day; bright and warm with just a whisper of wind.
I stood on a bridge looking down at the River Erne with a hand in mine, smaller and perfect, with pale skin as soft as the breeze that brushed strands of restless red hair playfully over her face.
Days like this were created just for her. You’d think the Enniskillen Tourist Board employed her just to walk around the place.
I slid my foot forward and nudged a leaf off the edge of the bridge, following it as it drifted silently downwards and then, without a word of protest or splash of resistance, floated off into the distance to end up a world away from where it belongs.
As I write this it’s exactly one year to the day since I boarded a plane for Canada with a lump in my throat I genuinely didn’t expect. I had my reasons, I think. A myriad of personal, professional and historical rationalisations so daft that even sitting here in my room alone I daren’t say them aloud.
In less than a month, I will once again pack up my life and head back across the Atlantic. I don’t know if my relatively short excursion away from home qualifies me to be a member of Generation Emigration but I do know that it has taught me one thing; I should never have left Ireland.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with Canada. It’s a wonderful country that has given me many tremendous experiences and friends I will miss sorely, but for whatever reason I just don’t get it. I look around at the other emigrants, so happy to be here, slipping seamlessly into their new lives and I can’t understand what it is I’m missing.
Perhaps it’s because I am not really here. The best part of me stayed at home with her.
There was of course the initial excitement of a new city but in truth I’ve never been happy in Vancouver (not to say there haven’t been happy times), rooted here by the self imposed notion that to return home without having at least done a year after all my bluster would be to bring with me the stigma of failure.
Emigration can be an incredible and life changing experience but it is not a silver bullet for all your problems, especially when you consider that your biggest problem is in all likelihood yourself and no matter how far you go, or for how long, that’s the one thing you can’t leave behind.
And so I will return home, an exercise in damage limitation, with five squares to crawl my way through before I even get back to square one.
I’ll return to that lovely bridge over the Erne at some point but this time with nothing in my hand and probably as much chance of getting back what I had as that leaf does of finding its way back here.
What is my relationship with Ireland; the country I loved but thought I had to leave and then couldn’t wait to get back to? In truth I have no idea, but I intend to find out.