Sitting there in isle-seat 9D, he was. A smallish fellow, buckled in like a scout ready for adventure. I gently motioned my interest to occupy seat 9F – you know, the one against the window. Gave a smile intended to soften the imposition… when he furrowed his brow and snapped, “I was hoping that seat would be empty!” He caught the pull-back in my gaze, looking directly at me with those piercing blue eyes, he winked. I had no idea how it would feel to receive that bit of Irish magic, nor did I know when or how it would happen. You see, I had never been to Ireland before, nor had I met a leprechaun. I’ve just heard stories…
Next thing I know, without notice he was out of that seat and inserting himself between me and the overhead bin as if to cut in on the dance I was having with my hiking-stick-laden backpack. I struggled to create a space big enough to accommodate the bulging compartments, straps and so forth. He took that fully-stuffed backpack and stowed it neatly into a space made for a pocketbook! “Ye don’t have anything to worry about now, a ghra – see it’s all tucked away – and I’ll get that down for ye when we land.” Lickety-split, hands spanked together – job-well-done.
Admittedly, I did worry about what might be happening to the lovely little paper bag of wild flower seeds deep within the main compartment. You see, I wanted the perfect hostess gift for Rachel’s mam, Marjorie. After three full-rounds in the Made-in-Washington store back in Seattle, I chose the creatively bagged Washington’s wild-flower seeds with the simple bow. Perhaps it’s now smashed appearance won’t take away from the anticipated appreciation for her hospitality during my stay in Ballina.
Hard to adequately capture how anxiety can weave its way into a fully fabricated sense of “can do” all the while pretending that traveling alone is no big deal! Afterall, I’ll be learning to bake in Marjorie’s kitchen, and soaking in seaweed baths, and walking the Baleek Woods…all manner of never-been-done-before, dip-your-toes-in-the-water, “willingness is the dance partner of life” sort of self-acquainting… which begins as soon as I spend five days in a writing retreat with 11 other people I hardly know.
So, rather than notice how I must have lost my mind sometime back in March when I agreed to all of this, I’ll hyperfocus on the current state of the crushed bag of flower seeds intended for Marjorie.
The flight attendant’s flitting disrupted my concentration on all things irrelevant, “Yes, my seat belt’s buckled.” Purse stowed under the seat in front of me. Phone switched into airplane mode. Jet leg hijacking my patience and my social skills…
I turn back to my new airplane acquaintance in seat 9D and firmly clarified with a measure of seriousness equal to his (pointing to the empty center seat by an upward nod of my chin), “It’s this seat that we both hope remains vacant.” His quick smile accompanied by those eyes easily acknowledged the successful delivery of a well-played retort. Friendship and respect had landed. I took a breath and awaited my settle. The center seat filled with a business man in a suit.
“What makes eyes sparkle like that if it isn’t other-worldly?” I wondered. He must be a leprechaun.
Intriguing to me that he wore a brown derby with a tweed ribbon – clever not to wear leprechaun hat in public, I’m thinking. How tiring to be constantly probed about one’s heritage – instead he could hide his secrets under the derby. And dole out those ocean-blue winks as he saw fit. His glisteny cheeks and reddened nose told me there were many stories packed away from the highs-and-lows of a life not always kind. Guess no one ever said that the twinkle in a leprechaun’s eyes assured an easy go, now, did they?
I drifted off to sleep – a quick and easy flight from London. The backpack rested in his empty seat as I left the row – just as he had promised. A touch of the Irish.