Meant To Be
Fate, meant to be, coincidence, whatever you want to call it, I strongly believe that it is a driving factor to what happens in our lives. Not to say that we don't control our own destinies, but if I miss a subway or something causes my plans to change, I like to think that there's a reason.
Meeting Sean was certainly part of a "meant to be" experience. When Jessie (my college roommate/travel buddy) and I arrived in Ireland, our trip was fully planned. We were scheduled to do a half day in Dublin when we flew in, and the next day drive to a few sites outside of the city. However, exhaustion overruled our itinerary and so we opted to stay and explore Dublin on the second day. We ducked into a pub in Temple Bar during an afternoon rainstorm, crowded with drunk twenty-somethings, singing off-tune to a man playing the guitar. After the skies cleared, we went in search for a place where we could sit and have a conversation with some locals.
Earlier in the day, we passed a quiet street, lined with flags in the color of Ireland. "I think I noticed a few of pubs on that cobblestone street from this morning," I told Jessie. While we walked, the once sleepy street was alive with the sounds of locals cheering as the horse race played on the television. We came to a cross street, with a bar on each side. Which one should we go in? We looked at each other and chose The Dame Tavern .
As we walked in, we immediately felt the vibe was exactly what we were looking for. Groups of friends and couples were spread around the benches that outlined the room. Our eyes caught two empty stools at the end of the bar, the perfect place to sit and chat with the handsome bartender. We ordered drinks, made small talk and started to people-watch the groups around us. There was a couple at the end, talking sports with the stranger next to them. There was a man in an Irish cap next to us, a new pair of sneakers on his feet, his rosacea starting to gradually darken as he finished pint after pint of Guinness.
A man walked in from the door on my right. He was tall, his head was bald and his face was the kind that makes you feel like he's one of those rough exterior, soft interior kind of men. He ordered a drink from the bartender. "Can you watch my coat?" he said to me, indicating that he was stepping outside for a smoke. Sure, I tell him. His accent was thick, but not to the point that I couldn't understand him.
When he returned, he sat down and started to ask us the typical questions that we received from every person we encountered on our trip. "So, where are ya from?" We told him New York and he went on to share about the years he spent working in Boston, how he now travels throughout Europe for work, in somewhat a nomadic lifestyle that I find lonely, but also exciting.
Living in New York, Jessie and I know better than to look anyone in the eye. When people stop to ask you a question, you know your best response is no response at all. Pretend that you can't hear them over the Spotify playing in your headphones. In New York, I would have thought that a man my father's age trying to converse with two young women at a bar was doing so with bad intentions. However, as Jessie and I admitted to each other after we left, we both had an overwhelming feeling that he was a good person.
If you're still reading, I promise I'm getting to the point of the story. We continued our conversation with Sean, telling him about our impending road trip, exchanging details of our itinerary for the recommendations that only a local could give. Jessie asked him where we should eat for dinner, something "traditionally Irish". He explained that since he doesn't live in Dublin, he would have to call his brother. He stepped outside for the call and a smoke, and of course, we were tasked with reserving his seat.
When he returned, we could tell his demeanor was slightly different. Nothing that anyone in the bar would notice, but some slight change that we could feel when we resumed conversation. "You know, you look just like my sister." He says to me. I laugh, because we had just come from Copenhagen, a city where I pretty much looked like everyone's sister.
He told us a little about his family, his brother who lives in Dublin, who he told on the phone that he was talking to their sister's doppelgänger. "Where does your sister live? In Dublin?" I asked, although the pause in his response gave me his answer. "She passed away in December." He went on to hesitantly tell us the sad story of a family member taken too soon. With every movement I made, he would interrupt his thought to comment on how my mannerisms were the same as hers.
We took a picture with Sean before getting his Facebook info so that we could keep in touch. After we said goodbye and thanked him for sharing his Ireland expertise, Jessie and I headed in search of food. We didn't have to say what we were thinking to know it was the same thing. We were meant to cross paths with him that afternoon. Had we stuck to our schedule, we would have been having an afternoon coffee in Kells. Instead, we met Sean, who exclaimed that meeting us was like getting to have a drink with his sister one last time. Fate brought us to that random bar, to sit on that random bar stool, to talk to the random man who asked us to save his seat.
Everything happens for a reason. I used to roll my eyes when my mom used to tell me this after some sort of life disappointment. But, as I've gotten older, I've seen this to be more than a cliché. Perhaps we were meant to provide some sort of closure for Sean, or give him an outlet to share a story that he has been holding on the inside for too long. We'll never know for sure, but hopefully fate allowed us to bring a little bit of joy into the life of someone else. After all, isn't that the ultimate goal?