Some memories fade with age, becoming frail and full of holes, less and less real with each recollection. Other memories are etched in stone and you will take them with you to the grave. Such is my memory of that night so very long ago. I must have been barely 14, just a lad. My cousin had dragged me off to a céilí, to keep her company. I had no business being there—I couldn’t dance to save my life!
But there I was. Sitting with my back against the wall, a warm mug of beer before me that I had little interest in. Bigid had been quickly recruited by one young man after another to join them on the dance floor, where everyone wheeled about to the reel being played by the band. The music was grand, so I had succumbed completely to my natural glumness.
I looked about after this last round of dancers hit the floor and suddenly noticed the most beautiful redhead I had ever laid eyes upon. She sat two tables away and had to be close to my age. Her eyes were fixed upon the stage and I followed her gaze to the young man playing the fiddle with such skill and instantly felt a twinge of jealousy. Unreasonable, I now know, but there it was, me wishing that I were the one to whom she had given her attention.
I don’t know how long I sat there staring at her, lost inside my own imagination. It took me a moment to realize she was speaking to me. I snapped out of it and asked, “What?”
“I said,” she said, “Are you going to stare at me all night, or are you going to ask me to dance?” Her voice was as melodious as the music and it enthralled me to hear her speak. It took a moment to realize the meaning of her words.
“You want to dance with me?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t want you to put yourself out,” she replied sharply, a spark in her eyes.
I have two left feet, but my response to her is to shake my head up and down, at which she holds out her had to me. I found myself moving from my chair to her side and taking her hand, a lovely hand, and following her as she led the way to the dance floor, already beginning to twirl to the music and laugh the most spectacular laugh that ever left the mouth of a human being.
Here’s where memory fails me, for I cannot tell you a bit at how I performed that evening as a dancer—I’m sure I was terrible. I don’t think I mimicked the dancers around us, for I never took my eyes off of her. She moved with such grace and abounded with such joy! Heaven had come and landed right here before me, an angel with red hair, green eyes, perfect lips, graceful curves and music in every move.
One dance after another went by, the evening stretched out and we never left the floor until it was all over. Only then did I ask her what I should call her. “Caitlyn,” she said, “With a Y.”
“I’m Finnigan. But my friends call me just Finn.” I said.
“Thanks a million for the evening, just Finn!” she said and smiled.
She left with her companions. I left with my cousin. And I never laid eyes on her again, though I have often wondered what became of her and if she’s still alive, whether she married, was she happy, did she still dance?
I will never know. But I will always have the memory of a heavenly creature coming down from above to spend the most lovely evening with me.
I will always have that.