I raised my head to Ian who stood over me.
“Ian?” I said. He knelt beside me and pulled me into his arms.
“What is it, lass?”
“I…” The sobs stifled my voice. “I’m lost.”
“You’re right here, in me.”
“I don’t know who I am anymore.”
How could I explain? How could I find all the words I needed to say?
“I love the rain,” I said. He listened. “I love the rain. It’s all all I love that I know I love for all the right reasons.”
“Can there be a wrong reason to love something?”
“You don’t understand,” I said. “I don’t know if I love my cats.”
“Of course you do.”
“I don’t. I don’t know if I love them because I empathized because of the abuse.”
“Elizabeth,” Ian said. “You love cats.”
“I don’t know! Everything I love came about because of the abuse. Except the rain,” I said. “I do so love the rain.”
We listened to the rain outside.
“I love Ireland… but I don’t know if I love her because of my mother. I love cats, but I don’t know if I love them because of the abuse.”
“You love music,” Ian said.
“To spite my brother who beat me.”
“You love dance.”
“To spite the church that banned me.”
“You love books,” he said.
“To spite the church!”
Understanding dawned on Ian.
“Is that all I am? Abuse, resentment, and spite? Do I not love anything just because?”
“Why does it matter if you love Ireland?”
“Because I don’t know if I love him,” I said. “Or if I just love the idea of him. All of this is contingent on if I love Ireland. And why.”
“You’re thinking too much about the why’s and wherefore’s.”
I pulled away to look in his eyes. His black eyes.
“It matter why you love Ireland. It only matters that you do.”
I thought about this for a moment and studied my hands.
“It is our loves and our hates the define us.”
“And you still don’t know who you are.”
I shook my head. A tear fell.
“He asked me that once. Who am I?”
“You still don’t know.”
I looked at him.
“Think about Ireland.”
I saw the cliffs of Moher right away.
“What do you love about her?”
“The green,” I said at once. “Such green so green as if it’s blue. And the contrasting yellow in the forests. The simplicity of her. So plain. So simple. A long dreadful history, but they still know how to laugh. As if the land savors it. As if the people there truly appreciate joy, love, laughter, and a good drink.”
“And the Cliffs of Moher you saw last?”
“Oh!” I gasped. The excitement flooded in me. The best views are always taking from the North so it looks like the Cliffs of Moher are on the East side. But they’re not. They’re on the west side. This picture I saw was taken from the South view so I could see the Cliffs as if I was looking North. So beautiful.” And Ian smiled.
“You love Ireland.”
“I do,” I whispered. “So much.” My heart ached for me to touch her grass. To feel the wind. I did love her so very much.
“Does it matter why?” Ian asked.
I thought of my mother just then. Dancing a jig with me to Lanigan’s Ball. Singing Danny Boy and When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.
We’re Irish, she would say. If ever I could see my mother, it was through Irish joy.
“It doesn’t matter why you love,” Ian said softly. “Only that you do.”
I thought then of Raven. How so many people told me I didn’t love him.
Did I love him? Or did I love the Ireland in him?”
I thought then of his love for Poe. His words. His humor. His games. How he played with me. His love for music.
“So like me. You are I. Come and fly with me,” I muttered. “If ever two were meant to love, ‘twould be you and I.”
“I miss him,” I said. “And knowing he’s happy…” I smiled as a peace settled my sorrows. “Nothing gives me greater happiness than his.”
I looked up at Ian.
“He brought out the best in me,” I said, and Ian smiled.
And then I knew.
“I love him,” I said. “I always will.”
“It doesn’t matter why.”
“I think… I think this is way we are meant to love.”
“How’s that?” he asked.
“To love so deeply, so pure, so completely as to only desire the happiness of the other. Even at your own expense. Even when their happiness requires that you leave them. I’m smiling, Ian. I miss him. I may never speak to him again. But he’s happy, and that alone is all I need to fall asleep with a smile on my face.”