Written by Genius In Disguise
Based on some situations originated by James Cameron.
I once met a man who held a fistful of my hair and whispered in his tortured Irish voice, "Hold onto me heart, hold onto me photo, but you’d better hold on to summat. ‘Cause it’s the only way."
It started with a whisper of a rumor, trouble in the North Atlantic. I pulled out his photo and held it to my breast; then when Aunt Ida came into the kitchen, I quickly hid it in my apron pocket. As I picked up my broom, which I had set aside for a moment to dream, Peter Patrick brought in a gust of storm as he opened the kitchen door, calling for me.
"Darling, you know you ‘ent not be runnin’ about like that; what with this bad weather. You’ll catch yer death, you will," I scolded him as he panted and panted until he caught his breath.
"Miss Mae, Miss Mae, I brought you news of the Titanic, like ya asked." Peter Patrick’s father owned the general store and I paid him a shilling for every paper that had news about the Titanic.
"Thank ya, Peter. Here’s yer shillin’. Now be gone with ya. Go and stay outta the rain." Peter was a sweet boy. He smiled graciously and obeyed with a quick good-bye to Ida.
I slid my hand into my pocket and felt the cold, smooth photo between my fingers. And my heart skipped a beat. My hands shaking, I spread the paper out on our worn, scrubbed table and read:
White Star Steamship Titanic Founders With Loss of Over 1500 Persons
The steamer Olympic reports that the steamer Carpathia reached the Titanic's position at daybreak today but found boats and wreckage only.
The message adds that all the Titanic's boats were accounted for and about six hundred seventy-five souls saved, crew and passengers, the latter nearly all women and children. The Carpathia, it was stated, was returning to New York with the survivors.
The ship foundered four hundred twenty miles east southeast of Sable Island, or over five hundred miles from Halifax. In all probability the Titanic sank before any of the boats reached her. The six hundred seventy-five passengers on board the Carpathia were probably picked up from the Titanic lifeboats. The Carpathia got to the scene of disaster first and picked up survivors.
--Truro Daily News, April 16, 1912
It wasn’t right. There had to be some mistake. Titanic couldn’t sink! Not with him aboard, at least. I was overwhelmed and terrified. Aunt Ida could see I had gone pale and the senile old woman forgot what she was doing and came to me.
"Wot’s the matter witchya, girl?" she asked as I subtly slipped the paper underneath my apron. I forced a smile. Oh, Auntie Ida was easy to please.
"Not a thing, Auntie Ida. I’ve just got to make me way to town for the shoppin’ and how about I bring ya back a nice dumplin’?" Ida nodded in agreement and mumbled that a dumpling would be nice. And soon she was back in her rocker, singing songs of old Ireland.
I ran down the dirt road, shopping forgotten, south, to where the road ended and the moors began. The place haunted me with our first kiss.
"Where are ya goin’?" he had shouted after me. "Ya gonna run off into the moors?" I was practically on the verge of tears as I tried desperately to pin my hair back into place. "Look, Miss Mae, Ernie’s had way too much to drink, but I know he’ll apologize just as soon as he wakes up sober as an arse in the gutter!" These last few words were obscured with laughter and were not consoling in the slightest.
"I don’t care," I snapped, trying not to let him see my tears. "Just...just leave me alone." I had gone into that Godforsaken pub that night just for the chance to be around him when all those other women weren’t. And what did the idiot do but try to set me up with that drunkard Ernie.
"Mae. Yer cryin’, Mae." His tone was suddenly softer, and I could feel him slowly, cautiously moving closer.
"No, I ‘ent," I choked. "This damn road is so dusty it gets all in me eyes." What a terrible liar I was.
"Oh, Mae, what a terrible liar you are." He put one hand on my trembling shoulder. "It was wrong, Mae. Ernie shouldda never pulled on yer dress. Forgive him?" He looked at me with crystal blue eyes, reddened a bit from the liquor, but faithful and true nonetheless. But I wasn’t ready to succumb.
"Why should I forgive him or you?" I demanded, still not looking at him.
"Where’s the need to forgive me?" he asked, throwing out his arms in frustration. "Mae, yer the most difficult woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of arguing with." That was it. I couldn’t stand it another second.
"You want to know the truth?" I shrieked, rounding on him and taking him by complete surprise at my puffy eyes and tear-stained face. He nodded dumbly.
"I went into yer pub tonight on me own accord, yes, but ‘twasn’t for a laugh or a good, stiff drink like I’d said." He continued to look at me with a strange look on his pale face. As though there was something he wanted to do, but he was holding himself back. When he didn’t say anything, I continued. "I came because..." Oh, Lord, what was I doing? "I came because I wanted to be with you, if that means anything," I finished lamely, and turned my back on him again so I wouldn’t have to see him reject me, only hear him. There was an awkward pause. He was probably taking off his hat and wringing it in his hands.
"Mae," he said quietly, "it does." Slowly, carefully, I turned and peered at him over my shoulder. I peered at him standing there, hat in hands in the moonlight, and listened to him tell me that it did. I had just opened my mouth to demand he clarify when I realized he was running at me. "Oh, Mae! Oh, Mae!" He moaned and threw his long arms around my skinny, trembling body. And he cradled me and kissed me all over my face, then on my lips. "Oh, Mae."
He came to my window one night after Aunt Ida had gone to bed. For a long time, he held me in his arms, almost too tight to breathe, but I wanted him to never let go. And finally, when he did, I felt colder than I ever had before.
"Don’t look at me like that, Mae. Ida needs you and I can’t yet pay for the both of ya. Just a few months, Mae. Then you’ll see. We can live in a house with real floors, Mae, and heaters for Ida, and a school, Mae, for our kids, just wait." He wiped the tears from my eyes and continued, "Maybe, maybe it’ll be the Titanic that’ll be to takin’ ya to America, too. Only by then I’ll be rich as a king, and you and ole Ida’ll be ridin’ firs’ class like the queens that ya are!" I couldn’t help it. This brought a smile to my face. He always talked so fantastically. "I love you, Mae." He held me again, and all doubt was forgotten.
Gradually, gently, his fingers worked his way around my dress and there was nothing that could stop us. For that night, we were master and mistress of the world.
The next morning, I sat with him in the train station in Dublin, awaiting the train that would whisk him away to Queenstown, then across the Atlantic and halfway around the world. Every time he wasn’t touching me, my body would go numb and my bones and muscles ached from inside. And when the conductor announced it was time for the passengers to start loading their bags, the tears finally came loose.
"You can’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go. Please, I don’t wanna live here without ya." He wasn’t happy with my behavior, I could tell. But that wasn’t important right now. I couldn’t let him leave. He took me hard by my left arm.
"Listen to me," he said sternly. "We’ll only be apart for…for six months at the most. I need you to calm down, Mae. You’re stronger than this." Stronger? We both knew I was nothing but a sniveling, skinny seamstress who fell in love with the most amazing creature in the world.
"Something isn’t right. I can feel it—" He tried to turn away. "No! God! Please, don’t go!" I cried, clutching desperately to his shirt cuff. He rounded on me, blue eyes brimming with tears. "I can’t do this!" I wailed. "I can’t hold on for so long without ya!"
Clutching a fistful of my hair, he said, "Hold onto me heart, hold onto me photo, but you’d better hold onto summat. ‘Cause it’s the only way." And he slid the only photo he had ever been able to afford into my pocket. He kissed me one last time. Deeply, passionately, and I never saw him again.