When I first arrived in Ireland, I lived at my friends’ place, on the north side of Dublin. The area consisted of indistinctive dark gray houses that must have been built back in 70’s, and small gardens that weren’t much to look at in late autumn. Once I found a job, I moved closer to it, and for the next eight years I became the resident of Dublin’s south side.
The view at Three Rock
Every day, I walked to work for 25-30 minutes. Back then, one of Dublin’s two tram lines didn’t go as far south as my house was, and buses were too unreliable to risk waiting for them, so it seemed more reasonable to just walk, even in bad weather. Then, in the evening, I’d be going back the same route.
Walking was my thinking time. I’d mentally prepare for a difficult day at work, or wind down after it, changing my mindset from professional to creative. And each day, I’d look at the mountain that stretched beyond the hilly area, and it’s characteristic three peaks. Further down south, the range of Wicklow mountains stretched, but this was beyond what I could see during my daily “commute”.
That’s why Three Rock Mountain became so special.
During my 5 years in Dublin’s far south areas, I moved 2 times, but I always stayed within the view of the mountain. And as I walked, brainstorming new ideas or pieces of scenes, the sight of Three Rock Mountain fueled many of those thoughts.
The story idea
Among scraps of descriptions and vague flashes of ideas, one stood out. With each walk and with each weather change, it developed more and more, until I had a fully-fleshed out story in my head. Other ideas might have been interesting, but they weren’t nowhere near as solid, complete with a title: Zawsze jest cena (There’s Always a Price) – back then I wrote only in Polish.
I didn’t have much time to write back then, the demanding job eating away both my physical and mental energy, so I wrote it bit by bit in those rare moments I felt focused enough. Sometimes, it would be on my lunch break, and sometimes waiting in a coffee shop for a dance class.
I already had the habit of carrying a notebook with me, jotting down random ideas in it, or – in this case – a whole story. I wrote it slowly, but I liked how it was coming together, every word weighed and carefully placed.
The high price for a moment of not paying attention
That weekend, I was meeting my friends in a busy cafe in one of the Dublin’s shopping centers. Since I haven’t seen them in months, one of them studying in London, the other one being busy with work and college, I focused on the conversation and paid too little attention to my messenger bag, for the first time in my life.
Before I realized, it was gone.
For a short time I believed it still could be found, maybe without the cash and credit cards, but I would get my bag and my notebooks back. Then, living through the stress, I went about doing what an adult would do: phoning my bank to block my cards, getting a new SIM card for my phone number, and borrowing money from my friends, so I had means to get home.
Things restored and things lost
In a way, it was a disquieting experience, and I wanted to put it behind me. I got new cards from my bank. Instead of getting a new phone and a new mp3 player, I made the leap to switch to an iPhone instead. I picked new notebooks to accompany me, and on top of that I started saving some of the ideas into the cloud. Then I bought the same model of a pen I love to use. I even reordered the bag I loved so much, cutting it close to get the limited edition design from a small company back in Poland.
But there were things I couldn’t get back. A few pictures I didn’t save from my phone. Inq’s first ever “I love you” that came unexpected in a text when I was flying back after my fist visit to Texas. And, of course, two notebooks with ideas I carried around with me for good ten years.
The story still untold
Over the years, I attempted to start this story again. I’d sit down and rewrite the beginning, basing it on what is still vivid within my memory. But each time I stop with the realization, I won’t choose the same words – I might not even get close. It’s so different than revisions, when the story rewritten is still there to be fixed or reverted to its original whenever it’s needed.
In a way, if I ever write it again, it’ll be a different story, and that makes me long yet again for what was lost. Sometimes I think that maybe it’d be better if I’d forgotten about it. After all, it’s been 6 years already.
But I can’t. This story is still as vivid in my thoughts as it used to be when I first thought of it, and I can’t seem to be able to let it go.
Every now and then I ponder going back to it, and then I give up, haunted by the words I’ve already written once. But now, I have a request from my editor friend to write a story in Polish, with the theme that Zawsze jest cena fits perfectly, I can’t help thinking about it again.
Maybe it’s finally time to give it life it’s been asking for nearly a decade?
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.