Aren't your feet cold, people had asked all the time,
their eyes on my Chacos. Not often in August but
September, then they started, and when we drifted into October
Galway went cold and cloudy. Then it was just me,
the only pair of sandals, while all around me wool socks with
rain boots that made snick, swick noises on the pools of water
collecting in between the cobblestones.
Just buy walking shoes when you get there, Mom had said
and I did, eventually. Brown, with red accents on the laces and
waterproof, which is a must, they can't get fussy in water,
not if you want to wear them in Ireland.
First walk with the shoes was down the coastline, bright
fall day with seagulls and cardigan families, early enough in the semester
for divers at the pier, thirty feet up, hanging in the air-backlit
by sunlight filtering through the clouds. Then they would drop:
fall into the shadow of the rocks where the temperature changed, fell,
from the sun to the ocean, the split between dry and wet.
I kept my jacket in hand, to put it on every time the wind picked up,
take it off every time the sun came out. Water vapor off the Atlantic,
I figured, that seeped through hats and coats,
clung to the skin and made you feel everything, wind and sun,
all at once. Seemed like the ocean infused the country, covered
everything, and I never smelled salt on the air but
that was probably just me.
The blisters started on that first walk. They got better but
still, I didn't wear the shoes if I could help it. I wore the Chacos,
spilled beer on them in the Quays pub, the Raisin Dubh,
stepped in gum and dirt and puddles, left them on
beaches of sand or rock when I went to jump into the frigid
Atlantic and then break the surface, shout, swear,
and suck in that first breath - cold and pure, just like the island,
bursting with sunlight and salt.