I’m not a fan of caves but when my kids wanted to go and see the Ailwee caves I agreed to the trip when they told me how educational it would be. I told them I’d been before and that I’d be happy to look around the Interpretative Centre and read about it over warm tea and a comforting scone while my husband brought them into the bowels of the earth.
The truth is I am afraid of being down under the ground in an enclosed space like a cave. Perhaps afraid is too strong a word, its more like a sense of unease, a feeling of the suspended earth overhead, its weight and mass. A sense of the fragility of the human body, of the delicacy of the veins and bloody runways of arteries racing along my highways. You might think my actions are totally selfish then since I am willing to allow those closest to me to go ‘into the lion’s den’ as it were, but it’s not that. I am aware of the ridiculousness of my irrational fears so I do not foist them on my family.
As I sip my tea in the café while I wait for their return I wonder if maybe there’s something there in my genetic history that has programmed me to be wary. Some macho caveman that shut me up in a cave until I agreed to have his dinner on the table every evening at six o clock, or should I say, to have his bloody hunk of meat skinned and roasted and on the slab at sundown.
Maybe he didn’t like the way I eyed up the hunter gatherers and waved my furry bits at them as I collected the berries for his wine. Or maybe he noticed the gamey look in my eye when I saw his friends helping to carry the bloody boar to our fire.
They might have been hairier, less advanced than him, but then I’ve always been turned on by excess body hair and sometimes brains just complicate things.
So he makes me stay in the cave when he has friends around and when I cry and won’t rut with him, he relents a bit, and moves a rock in the cave wall so there’s an opening like a letter box, and he lets me sit there in the evenings and watch them as they drink and have wrestling matches.
But then he has no-one to stoke up the fire and bring more food, so after a while he gets the idea of sewing some skins together into a kind of tent that he puts over my head and he cuts out a space for my eyes, and then he is happy because even if I have a gamey look in my eyes the lads don’t really see me any more and I have to retreat into my head and think up bitchy thoughts to throw at the other women down at the stream in the morning.
I’m stirring my tea and laughing to myself at what a crazy kind of mind I have when a man asks to share my table. He stares at me in what I think is a disapproving manner and I feel unreasonably guilty and anxious as I make my way to the exit of the cave. When my husband Tommy comes out with the kids safe and sound.
I throw my arms around him and hug him hard and tell him it’s his turn to make dinner this evening.