At some level, he always knew. It was what he hoped, but he had given up hope. He was glad when he was Portuguese, imagined himself on the beach at Estoril or Cascais. Imagination was free and unfettered, and he was a bronze god in those dreams, chiseled of flesh, wanted by all. You don’t imagine yourself short, barrel-chested, hairy and aging, there is no romance in that. He was happily Portuguese. You are happily anything really, after years of being nothing. He knew there was no hope of meeting his father. He knew he saw his father every morning. It was the only reason he considered looking in the mirror. Otherwise he hated mirrors. They refused to lie to him, to bend to his will. Actually they lied all of the time, for he knew the old man he saw wasn’t him, couldn’t be. It didn’t matter, he was finally connected to the land, plucked from the ether of ignorance. He was, in a word, cognito, and this suited him. It was early evening when the word came. You are not what you think. Estoril is a place to go only if you want to feel alien. The streets of Lisbon deny you. Your imagination has betrayed you. But listen, carefully. Do you hear the highland pipes? Do you taste the Talisker, the Oban, do you see the sky from Skye? For this is who you are, the person you always wanted to be but could not. But were. Now about that kilt . . .
They were meanderers, gypsies of sorts, but never Tinkers, never an lucht siúil. They never travelled far, preferring the comforts of where they called home. They knew they wheren’t liked, weren’t really welcome here. They would be tolerated here perhaps, never fully accepted in good company. But they’d grown too numerous to ignore. They walked slowly across the street, meandered. It wasn’t clear where they were headed, they gave no indication. They liked the privacy of their thoughts. Perhaps to the Pharmacy, but Market Street was the long way there. It might have been to Manions, but their ever so black faces said they’d be less than welcome in the public house. I paid them no real heed until they began following me. I turned, stepping off Market off the curb and into the street, turned, scratched the ewe behind her ears. I tried to tell her that a Scottish blackface had no business in the heart of Connemara, but a quick swipe of her tongue on my hand told me otherwise.