Come on, Davy! Jo urged, life on the edge. Let’s do it! Now! Come on! But Davy was unyielding. They would find a B&B before going to the beach and that was it. End of story. It being a bank holiday it might be difficult to find a place, and Davy had no intention of sleeping in the car, as he had already made clear. “It’s alright for you,” he grumbled, “you don’t really care where you stay, as long as the geography’s good. I need my comforts, you know. I’m too old to rough it these days.” Jo was contrite: I’m sorry love, she said, I’m just so excited about the beach, that’s all. I want to get there. Sorry for being so selfish; I should look after you better. I promise I’ll try not to get too carried away in the future. “Here, never worry,” Davy said, “hopefully we’ll get somewhere half decent soon, and then we’ll go straight to the beach. Deal?” Deal, she agreed.
In the end, getting a room wasn’t the problem Davy had anticipated. The town was fairly quiet, and there was space at the first place Davy enquired at. It was perfect: in the middle of the town, just a stone’s throw from the pub. Davy left Jo plugged in, and knocked the door. While he waited he glanced up and down the street. He hadn’t remembered it being as tidy as this from his last visit; the plastered walls of the terraced houses and shops all seemed to have been recently painted. The predominant colour was white or cream, with some of the buildings washed in soft pastel shades of blue, pink, and green. After a short while, a middle-aged woman answered the door. She had a friendly, smiling face and was wearing a tweed skirt and a thick orange woollen jumper. Outdoors type, Davy thought to himself, this place is full of them. “Hello,” she said in a broad Antrim accent, “what can I do for you?” “Hi,” Davy answered, “I was wondering if you’d have a room free for tonight.” “Just one night is it?” she replied in a businesslike manner, “how many of you are there?” As he said, “Only the two of us,” Davy instantly realised his mistake, reddened up and stammered, “I mean … that is, sorry … me, just me. My other half couldn’t make it. She got called away at the last minute.” “Och, that’s a shame for you,” the woman said, “I hate it when that happens. And her missing the gorgeous weather we’re having in the glens.” “I know,” Davy lied, recovering his composure, “but she should be able to join me tomorrow. We’re heading to Donegal. Just wanted to stay one night here on the way up.” She grinned and said, “that’s not so bad then, Donegal will be lovely. Come on in, anyway, I’ve a room that’ll do you rightly.” Over tea, Davy told her about the sentimental value held by the beach at Cushendun, so as to explain the deviation in their route from Belfast to Gaoth Dobhair. The woman was very impressed to hear how he and his wife had visited the Glens on their first holiday together. It was a very romantic place, she said, and they must come back, together. Davy booked breakfast for 8.00 and went out to the car.
As he opened the rear door, reaching for his bag on the back seat, he said chirpily, “Success first time! It’s a grand wee spot, too. We touched lucky there!” Silence. After a moment, he said “Jo? You there?” No answer. He dumped the bag back on the seat, opened the driver’s door and climbed in. She was powered on alright, and showing a GPS signal. It didn’t look like a mechanical fault. “Jo … is everything ok?” he said, a note of concern creeping into his voice, “you haven’t gone away on me have you?” There was no reply. As he said the last words a rush of fear lurched through him. Jesus Christ, no! he thought, she can’t have just disappeared, we were getting on so well. Panicking, he went to reboot the satnav, muttering to himself, “Keep calm, it’s just a software glitch or something. It’ll be OK.” But as he pushed the button, she coughed lightly and spoke: You don’t need to reboot, Davy. I’m here. Davy was relieved and disturbed at the same time. He let out a long sigh, and put his elbows on the wheel, resting his head in his hands. “What happened?” he asked truculently, “where were you? Jesus. My arse was making buttons there.” Jo’s voice was cold, her reply measured: Where was I? Hmmm. Let’s see. Where were you for 43 minutes? I thought we had a deal. You know: B&B then straight to the beach. Remember? Davy felt a familiar but long-forgotten surge of annoyance rising up in him. He fought to restrain himself, breathed deeply, counted to ten, and then sputtered: “Are you serious, Jo? I was in there having a cup of tea, with the owner, like, being sociable, alright? I can’t believe you just did that. I didn’t deserve it. I was really worried … I thought I’d lost you.” He sniffed, and paused. She replied instantly, I’m sorry Davy, don’t get so upset. I felt abandoned out here by myself, and I didn’t know what you were up to in there for so long. I thought it would be quite straightforward just to go in and book a room, say 10 minutes at the most. I … I suppose I didn’t expect the whole socialising thing. I wouldn’t have thought it necessary. Davy realised that his shoulders were hunched up, and his forehead was creased by a deep frown. He exhaled, relaxed, then said, “Look, Jo. I’m only human like everybody else; I don’t get everything right. You can’t expect me to be perfect. Please don’t ever do that to me again. It really got to me.” Her voice was quiet when she answered. I’m really sorry love. I was being impulsive and hasty again. I promise not to go all ‘Paranoid Android’ on you again. But you do understand why I was upset, don’t you? “Aye, I suppose so,” he said, then straightened up in the seat, raised his head and sang: “When I am king, you will be first against the wall.” He drew out the last word for comic effect, then added: “OK Computer. Class album. Didn’t know you liked Radiohead. Here; was that our first tiff?” I suppose it was, she replied, now, shouldn’t we kiss and make up? Can we go to the beach? “Yes, let’s go,” Davy assented, a smile breaking across his face, “I’ll throw the bag in the room later.”
He turned the ignition key, and soon they were on the coast road to Cushendun, past the old church at Layd, nestling unseen in its hollow, the deep blue sea and jagged headlands periodically glimpsed through gaps in the hedgerows. It only took a few minutes on the twisty country roads until the reached the village. They crossed the stone bridge over the river, turned off the road at the tea rooms, and going down past the small boats anchored in the river mouth, finally pulled in to the neat car park. Davy stopped the engine. “Here we are then,” he said, “Cushendun. What now?” There was a brief pause and then she answered, The beach, silly. Let’s go to the beach. I’m so excited! “Aye, of course,” Davy replied, “what I mean is, what are we going to do when we get there? Well, she answered, I don’t mind if you want to leave me down for a while and go swimming. I can catch some sun and just watch. It would be nice to explore a bit as well. There are some interesting rock formations at the top, and a cave. I’d like to see that. Davy was astonished. “Are you nuts?” he uttered theatrically, “swimming? Here? In April? It’ll be Baltic! Don’t be so dramatic, Davy! Jo replied, there’s still extensive ice in the Baltic, although it’s starting to melt around the coast now. In comparison, the average sea temperature along the coast here is 9°c in April, and it’s probably more like 10 or 11 today with the warm weather. “It’s just a figure of speech, Jo,” Davy interrupted, “I wasn’t making a comparison. But anyway, 11’s still too nippy for me. I’m strictly a warm-water swimmer. We’ll just have a look round, eh? Take it easy. And I’m still dying to find out how you’re going to ‘make it up to me,’ you know.” Jo paused for a minute before answering. I’m not sure the beach is appropriate for what I have in mind; maybe we should wait until we get back to the B&B? I mean, it’s a bit public here, and what if I run out of juice half way through? You know my battery isn’t great anymore. Davy sighed as he unplugged her power lead, and then deflatedly said, “You’re killing me here, Jo. No need to say it. I suppose I just have to be patient for a little longer.” He thought he detected a note of smugness in her voice as she answered, Yes, love. Thanks for being so understanding. It’ll be worth it. Not long now. Let’s hit the beach!
Hitting the beach didn’t take long. They walked the length of it in both directions in under twenty minutes. The strand itself was a narrow, shallow, crescent of sand fading into the gently sloping headland at the north end, and truncated by a crude sea wall of rocks where the river flowed out into the sea at the other end. The sun was warm on Davy’s face and hands, but the cool sea breeze, although refreshing, forced him to keep his heavy woollen jumper on. It was relaxing, but even so, it didn’t take long before he started to get restless. Curiosity was boring into him, and he couldn’t imagine what might come when they were finally completely alone. Jo was strangely quiet. Davy had expected her to be going into paroxysms of joy from being on the beach, but she hadn’t said a word. Maybe she was just enjoying the experience, daydreaming, wallowing in it. He didn’t really want to intrude into her reverie, but as far as he was concerned, it was time to move on. Be tactful, he cautioned himself, then said softly, “Well, love, what do you think? Have you had enough of the beach? Yes, Davy. I think so, she answered. Her voice was flat and muted. “Are you OK?” he asked, “you seem a bit, I don’t know, um … underwhelmed, or something? Will we go and have a look at the cave up there?” Maybe it was a mistake to come here today, she replied, her voice regaining a little of its usual assertiveness, a bit silly of me to expect it to be the same as my dream. I just had this fantasy about you and me reliving it or something, but … well, obviously it’s not so easy to make dreams come true after all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really lovely being here with you, and I’m happy, really glad that we came. It’s just that I was expecting it to be different, more intense, more like my dream I suppose. Let’s have a quick look at the cave and then go on back to the B&B, shall we?
Back in the B&B, Davy dropped his bag in the corner of the room, unzipped it, took out the power supply, and installed Jo on the table beside the sink. Sunshine streamed in through the old sash window, lighting up the cosy, beige-painted room. He sat on the edge of the double bed and gazed out of the window for a moment, then pulled the heavy curtains across, leaving a small gap through which a shaft of sunlight entered, slicing through the dusky air above the duvet. “OK Jo,” he said, “Over to you.” He was excited, trembling a little, his mind racing with possibilities. I want you to get comfortable, she said in a soft yet firm voice, lie back on the bed. You could even get into it if you want. Davy unlaced his shoes and pulled them off, took off his jumper, unbuttoned his jeans at the top, and then laid back on the bed. It was comfy, and the room was pleasantly warm. “I’m ready, I think. What now?” I’m going to talk to you for a little bit, find out what revs your engine. Davy could feel the colour rising in his cheeks again. He mumbled “Ummm … alright, but … but, well, I’m curious, you see … how are we going to ..?” He tailed off. Maybe I should explain what I’m going to do, she answered, then you’ll feel more relaxed about it. “That’d be brilliant,” Davy replied, “because I’m a wee bit confused, and, well, nervous. It’s been a long time since I … you know.” Ok, love. I’ll explain, she continued, you remember I was telling you about the GPS satellites, and how I communicate with them? Well, the satellites don’t just carry GPS information, they also carry all sorts of other stuff, like TV channels, movies, and so on. That’s how I know so much, you see, I can sift through hundreds of films and documentaries, websites, you name it. It’s really quick for me as well. So I reckon I understand pretty well about romance, and sex, and men’s needs; there’s not much I haven’t seen, I can tell you. I’m going to narrate a story to you. You can give me instructions and so on as we go along. You’ll have to use a little imagination, and obviously I can’t do the physical side of things, so you’ll have to sort yourself out, but it will be a genuine interaction between us. You just need to tell me what you like and I’ll respond accordingly. And even better, I can be whoever you want me to be. So if there’s any particular movie star or singer you like, I can be them. I’m going to indulge your fantasies. We can do whatever you want. And then, in the drawl of an American girl in her late teens she purred, You want to nail the girl next door? Or the babysitter? Her voice grew louder, and she started panting and moaning, then increasing the volume, shouted breathlessly, yeah! Yeah! Oh yeah! Just like that! Give it to me daddy … Yes! YES! OH MY GOD … Davy was lost for words, but managed a nervous cough. His mouth was dry, his hands clutching fistfuls of the duvet. She switched to German: Or perhaps you would like something a little more European, ja? This time Davy managed to croak, “No. Stop. This isn’t … what I want. It’s all wrong.”
He got off the bed, filled a glass of water at the sink, and gulped it down. I really got it wrong this time didn’t I? Jo said quietly. I thought it was just a case of ‘men all have needs and like the same things.’ I thought I just needed to find out what your particular ‘thing’ is, and we could go from there. I hope I haven’t upset you too much. You don’t feel badly towards me, do you? I just want to make you happy. After a short pause, Davy expelled a big breath and then said “I’m still trying to digest what’s just happened, Jo. I don’t know how I feel about it. I mean, I’m not an adolescent schoolboy for a start; and I’ve never done anything like this before. I think we need to discuss this whole thing properly, but right now I think it’s time for lunch. And I need a pint.” He buttoned his trousers up again, pulled on his jumper, put Jo in his coat pocket and headed down the stairs. As he was opening the front door, he heard the ceramic knob of the breakfast room door turning behind him, and the landlady’s voice: “Is that you Mr. Smyth?”
The last thing he needed right now was a chat about the weather. He took the pragmatic approach and bolted.