Today was the last full day in Galway for the other Linfield students and me, and we spent it cleaning, sorting, and packing. Because I'm the last one in my flat, I've been slowly cleaning parts of it for several weeks so that today wouldn't be horrifically overwhelming, and surprisingly it's been pretty fun. Over the course of the day we've passed from flat to flat to check on each other's progress and redistribute food or cleaning supplies. Defrosting a freezer in a neighboring flat became grounds for an impromptu party: Kira and Becca and I finished off a box of rocket pops and a tray of shrimp, and while we're always capable of eating strange things in large quantities (generally at bookend hours of the day), this was our last opportunity. In between sweeping, wiping down floors and counters, and cleaning the bathroom, I also had dinner in Hallie's flat and gave my excess food to a friend who is staying for a few more days. This has been an opportunity for all of us to share with each other: as we rifle through cabinets and pull out half-eaten jars of peanut-butter or jam or boxes of tea, one person's “I don't want that” becomes a way for someone else to squeeze out one more meal without having to make a last trip to Tesco. I think we're all grateful that we have each other and that we get a chance to go back together.
As I cleaned my room, lugging my bedframe to one side so I could sweep beneath it, I considered how I'm clearing away all traces of myself from every room, as if I had never been here. All that will remain will be the tiniest parts of my life: the fine dust that settles on my shelves no matter how carefully I wipe them down, my fingerprints on the kettle, a certain degree of air I've held around me and breathed in. While it gets easier all the time for me to pack up and leave a place, there's always the nagging feeling that I'm leaving a part of myself behind. In a very real (if insignificant) way, I suppose I am. I am in the cracks and corners. I am in the hardest places to clean, like the mildew under the shower-door tracks and the grit wedged far under the baseboards. That isn't to say I want to leave dirt just so I still have a presence: I don't need to be comforted for the life I'm leaving behind. Even so, I think there's something beautiful about it.
Tomorrow I'll get up and make my last bowl of rice porridge, take out the trash, and head to the bus station with my friends. It'll be a long trip home; for some of us it will also be a hard one. It isn't easy, sometimes, to leave behind the places that teach us things that become fundamental to who we are. Recognizing the role Ireland has had in my own heart and mind, I find myself glad to go home: I want to take what it has taught me and find ways to apply it. The future looks bright from here: I might spend my eight-hour trans-Atlantic flight with restless legs and a headache, but I will have a happy heart. I'm going home with strong friendships and skills that will be useful for the rest of my life... I guess a little bit of Ireland will never quite come out of me, too.