I wake up to the sound of my own chewing.
I remember the inadequate dinner served on the plane the night before. I remember a bus driver greeting us with an accent I had later decided could only be understood if I were smashed, and even then only every third word. He talked nonstop on the hour-long drive to a tiny triangular cabin that stood naked on the sandstone plain of western Ireland. There was not a tree in sight for it to cover itself with. The college dean gave us a brief and perfunctory tutorial on burning peat moss in the fireplace when we arrived. I remember the frenzy in my knees of having just arrived in a foreign country for the first time in my life. The energy it took to consciously remember everything I saw without the aid of a handheld camera.
I search for the glass of water I usually keep within arm’s reach. It is missing. I must have been completely exhausted to have forgotten that part of my long-established nighttime routine. My belly rumbles. I hear chewing again and am surprised to realize I am not its source. I look up and to the left to find a muzzle just clearing the top of a dainty lamp resting on an even daintier doily. A cow’s grisly muzzle juts out between lace curtains–the exact material I would want to chew if I were myself a cow. It occurs to me that the lamp, the doily, the bedside table are set about two feet away from the wall. Apparently, it is not the first time the cow has inserted herself into the doings of this household.
I look to the clock on the wall across from the cow, across from me. 7:48 am on my first day of a semester studying art in Ballyvaughan. The cow huffs (I imagine from the sheer disappointment of finding a confused American in his room), then backs out of the window, and I put my feet down on the hardwood floor.