You don’t think about how claustrophobic a narrow spiral staircase can be until you duck your head to enter (my god these Irishmen must have been little people back in the 15th century) and then you try not to think about it at all as you slowly take a step at a time with large bodies directly ahead and behind you. Try not to imagine what you would do if the large lady grunting and panting ahead of you collapsed in the stairwell; don’t even imagine how you’d be trapped for hours if you had a heart attack half way up. It will only make you sweat even more and your heart beat faster than a rabbit running from a hawk.
I can’t breath, says the large woman above me. Her daughter, large on her own, has her mother’s elbow in her hand and is half pulling and half willing her mom to continue going up. Just stop for a moment, says the daughter. Mother huffs and puffs, pulls out a Kleenex from her purse and wipes it across her forehead. No rush, no rush, I tell them. Take your time.
Meanwhile, I feel like I’m having a panic attack myself. Staircase so narrow both my shoulders touch the cold damp stones on either side. Everyone has stopped climbing. All of us looking up the dimly-lit staircase, trying to catch a glimpse of the large woman holding things up. Finally she starts climbing again. I start climbing as well.
Eventually make it to the top of the tower and gawd, has fresh air ever smelled so grand? Just take it in by the lungful. And lovely view of the emerald green countryside all around. Worth the climb, I suppose. But there’s still the matter of kissing the stone. Line snaking around the battlement like visitors at Disneyland waiting to ride the Matterhorn. All so we can get down on our hands and knees, roll over on our back, stretch out backwards under the parapet—feet held down by a bored young lad—and kiss a moldy stone in hopes it will magically confer us with eloquence. Ridiculous. Yet here I am. No wonder Mr. Lynch refused to do this.
My turn now. Down on my knees. Roll over. Push out beneath the parapet, grabbing at where I hope the wall is. Bend my head down and out. Kiss something cool and smooth. Must be the stone. Lad gives a yank to my legs to pull me back in. And that’s it. I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone. An Irish baptism. Wonder when I’ll start noticing the eloquence?
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