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We honeymoon in the Wicklow mountains, in postmodern Palladian splendour. Our room has a view of the Sugar Loaf, framed by a soaring portcullis of spruce. I snap photos of the mountain whenever I can, uselessly, for no photo quite captures what I remember, the solidity of the mountain wreathed in cloud or crowned in sunlight, the serene king of this realm. We wander gardens: painterly, Japanese, geometric, walled, folly-adorned, all shadowy in the crepuscular light. There is even a pet cemetery, set in a hill-slope. We eat like ogres, on pounds of flesh, with chips, served by blonde village girls with rosy cheeks and dreams of heading abroad, ideal sacrifices for the mountain god.

Later, while he watches telly, I sweat alone in a small hot round room, as stars flicker in the black domed ceiling and steam unfurls from beneath a great crystal set on a dais. I remember how we had argued on Sunday, and then again on Monday, for no good reason, except to excise residual, ineffable emotion. Of course we made up, of course we forgot why we fought. Nothing had changed. Yet the crystal, scintillating in the dim tidal light, was an apt image for the strange joy I've known since that day: irradiant, raw and jagged, so acute, it pricks.


Afterwards, we go to Dublin for a boozy Christmas lunch at one of those members-only clubs, another useless relic of the Celtic Tiger age, and wake up late the next day in a guesthouse owned by the wife of Tom McFeely, the IRA hunger striker turned bankrupt developer, and wonder what had happened. Soon, it is time for me to leave him again, to go home alone, to the West, to the disaster of our neglected apartment and the ever-perplexing conundrum of my dissertation, to a future at once bright and uncertain.


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