The bells of Christ Church were striking the three quarter hour; the rain fell steadily and an autumn chill filled the air. Walking northward on Patrick Street, passing the west door of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, spray from passing cars made the pavement’s edge an unpleasant place. The street ahead was almost deserted, any tourists at this time of year having long retreated to the comfort of their hotels or the warm conviviality of an inviting bar.
The street was almost deserted, a young couple were walking southward . They were walking without coat or umbrella and seemed in a buoyant mood. We passed outside the cathedral west door. As they were passing, the young man went down on one knee, despite the rain and the puddles and said something. The answer received seemed to satisfy him, for he sprang to his feet put his arms around the young woman and lifted her bodily into the air. They then continued down the street smiling and laughing.
There was a moment’s inclination to call after them and ask what the question might have been, but to have done so would have been grossly intrusive, a prosaic interruption of a poetic moment. What inquiry was necessary, anyway? The seeking of permission to attend some overseas sporting fixture, or other male indulgence, might have prompted his kneeling, but would hardly have filled her with such delight. One could only assume that there was a proposal of some commitment, which might or might not have entailed a ring.
One might have wondered if the couple were even aware of the street around them. Perhaps there was some significance in pausing at the west door of the vast medieval building, perhaps it was intended as a foreshadowing of a walk up an aisle and a walk back down together, through a west door somewhere into the bright sunshine of a summer’s day. Perhaps it was just the area in which they met. Perhaps it was just that it was that moment when the young man decided to ask the question.
Seconds later, they had crossed the road and were out of sight; the brief glimpse of their story had passed in an instant.
In years to come, they will remember a wet September evening in Dublin 8 and the joy of the moment. Maybe from the corner of the memory’s eye, they will notice a grey suited, grey haired priest with a battered grey suitcase and wonder if there were really someone else present in that moment, or if his presence were no more than a trick of the sub-conscious; a figure conjured by the presence of the cathedral; a figure from a past Ireland.