Ní Mar A Síltear A Bítear
I didn’t know the plane was going to crash. If I had, maybe I would never have boarded. Still, that was how I met him so maybe I would have. I don’t really know anything. I know that I loved him and I’d like to think he felt the same.
I met him on a Thursday, my least favorite day of the week. He sat next to me on the plane. He was gorgeous; the guy every girl fantasizes about
meeting. Well, maybe he wasn’t because he had the gruff, unshaven look and his nose was a bit too large. Still, I think it was one of those corny, cheesy, love-at-first-sight moments. We talked the entire flight. We talked about everything, random things. Then it started. The plane hit turbulence, major turbulence. And then those oxygen masks popped down from the ceiling. He put my mask on for me, thankfully. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it myself. After that, he whispered a phrase in my ear before he put on his mask: Ní mar a síltear a bítear. That’s the last thing I remember before I blacked out.
I woke up with a headache. It might have been due to the sun blaring in my eyes, but I thought I had just forgotten to close the blinds the night before. I woke up with sand between my toes. My cluttered mind just thought I must have spilt something on my bed last night. I woke up to terrified screaming and a burning airplane. That, I couldn’t explain away. Many people died. Too many. After all was said and done, there were only seventeen people left. He and I among them, alone on what seemed to be a desert island paradise.
After a month on the island everyone gave up on any hope of rescue. We began to actually settle; we built shelter and set up ‘governmental’ systems. He and I grew to be very close, but with seventeen people, everyone was close. He and I became good friends; we learned everything about each other. I learned that he grew up with his grandfather, a true Irishman, and was fluent in Gaelic. He learned that I couldn’t say the word ‘orange’ properly. I knew that he loved Ernest Hemingway. He knew that I hated Ernest Hemingway. I also knew that we were completely incompatible yet somehow we clicked. We fought about everything. Every night we fought; I really don’t know how we ever stayed together for so long. Once, I asked him how we suddenly became the best of friends, yet the best bantering partners too. He only said one thing: Ní mar a síltear a bítear. It was probably because there was no one else, no other options.
All we really had was each other. Our prison was lonely and the entertainment sorely lacking. If I had known of our exile before the crash, surely I would have brought something to occupy myself. However, all I had with me were three bottles of nail polish (none of which matched any of my salvaged outfits) and an outdated issue of Cosmopolitan. After a while, the nail polish ran out and the dog-eared pages of the magazine began to fall apart. I don’t know how many times I read the same articles and did all of those ridiculous quizzes. Well, all except one, but I refused to even look at that quiz. It was mainly because of the first question: What item would you most want if you were stranded on a deserted island? Stupid Cosmo! There is no way I’d ever bring a) an unlimited supply of soap and deodorant, b) reading material, or c) a friend! I’d bring a way to get off the damn island.
Survivors occupied each other on our island. He and I tended to do just fine together. He kept my attention better than anything I had ever encountered. He was a smart man, much smarter than I. He was infuriating in that respect! He was always right and he always knew it. To this day I’m convinced he knew everything there ever was to know. He knew outrageous, random facts that no one should ever know. He knew that someone could track the sun’s position with an ‘analemma,’ and that rats were the first animals to be beheaded and dissected in space. He knew that four of every ten U.S. tornado victims lived in a trailer. Who knows that kind of stuff? I asked him that exact question one time, his reply was simple. “Ní mar a síltear a bítear.“ Still, with all his ridiculously nerdy and somewhat mysterious ways, I grew to love him.
The days seemed unendingly long on the island. Somehow, looking back it doesn’t seem long enough. For three years we went through the same routine. It was never anything exciting really; the small isle didn’t have much to do. We would be awoken at sunrise, do the day’s chores of things like gathering food or water, and then go to bed. All of this was done with our constant companion whispering in our ears; the sound of the ocean never left. We grew to hate it. It’s funny really because before the crash, in order to go to sleep I always had to have my CD of the ocean playing in the background.
Three years of that monotonous cycle and then everything appeared to change in an instant. It was a normal day, yet I could have sworn I heard a message being whispered the entire day. I knew it was the wind, but it seemed to be saying “Ní mar a síltear a bítear.” He didn’t come back to our shelter that night. He never came back. I suppose he couldn’t take the isolation anymore; he just walked into the ocean.
I cried for what seemed like years. In reality it had only been three days. I didn’t eat; I didn’t sleep; sometimes I wonder if I even breathed. The other survivors on the island came to me after those three days to tell me there was a boat, a rescue, an escape. We left the island that day and I never looked back. I went back to civilization, a surprisingly difficult transition after being alone on an island for three years. I turned down the TV interviews and the book deals; I didn’t want to remember. The only thing I wanted to remember was him and that damn phrase: Ní mar a síltear a bítear. I finally found out the meaning about a week after I got off of the island: Things may not be as they seem.