Chapter 11: Friendships Built on Nights Out & Strange Meetings

“I just can’t believe the nerve of her to comment on my clothes! I mean, I’m just fashionable, I’ve got style - she doesn’t. Not my fault.” Kate walked furiously - with purpose and anger. Ellie had taken up Kate on her invitation to walk after lunch. It had soon, after the first day, become a ritual. That day the branch boss had criticized Kate’s fashion preferences.

Ellie nodded. Kate did have style. It wasn’t Ellie’s but it was a style: a sort of fancy street meets skater style. She wore bright colors and patterns, often mixing and matching everything. Her jewelry was often bold. It reminded Ellie of the 80s and grungy 90s.  

It was definitely not the type of fashion-forward style Ellie was used to from Montreal where hipsters roamed free, but she hadn’t seen many own that kind of fashion in Dublin. People either wore full business attire or completely casual outfits with sneakers. Sometimes, often, those sneakers were worn with track suits. A more proper style, she had come to understand, meant neater looking jeans, a nicer shirt and clean sneakers or boots. It was either or at work places.

But Ellie appreciated the more casual vibe the Irish adorned. She still didn’t fully fit in and whenever she saw someone who sported a more business casual look like her (the most casual she could muster for work), the person would end up not being originally from Ireland.

Everything was different for younger girls though - they followed the latest Instagram trends to the dot. She had never seen so much mismatched foundations, faked bronzed look, fake eyelashes…

Kate stopped short. “I need a night out. Let’s go.”

Ellie turned back toward her, “like clubbing? Or drinks? Because remember we’re going for drinks tonight with everyone.”

“Clubbing. Also, I don’t want to drink with that witch. I want to dance. What are you doing Saturday?”

She thought for a second, “I’m moving in tomorrow so I was thinking of going to Ikea to buy a desk and other things.”

“Great. So we have a reason to celebrate!”

“We do?”

“You’re finally going to be settled into your own room. Invite your new flatmates.”

***

 

The sturdy black leather suitcase rested in one corner of the room. Inside it, its smaller version. It hadn’t taken Ellie long to unpack all of her belongings - most of those were clothes that she had struggled to downgrade to business casual. As long as she looked fabulous.

Under the window, there was the big, now empty, Ikea box that once hosted the desk, accessories and decorations she had ordered online with Kate’s input during a work break the day before. Ellie had finished assembling the desk, all alone, with only 3 swears screamed and no meltdowns.

It was only 8pm, she had done enough for the day and the week had been a particularly long one. She headed to the kitchen to retrieve the bottle of wine she had purchased from the shop earlier that evening.

At the kitchen table, Camilla and Lonán huddled around a laptop.

“Elena! We were just going to get you. We’re ordering Chinese food, do you want some?”

She hadn’t actually bought food, only alcohol. “Sure, get me anything that includes chicken and rice. Wine?”

“I have cans in the fridge.”  Lonán got up and pulled out a tall green can of Grolsch.

“I’ll have some, thanks.”

Ellie took out two wine glasses. She loved that the kitchen was seriously well-equipped. It even had a deep fryer - not that she would ever use it.

“Cheers, to new roommates!” Lonán shouted.

“So tell us about yourself, Ellie.” Camila scooched a bit closer to her.

As they waited for the food delivery, they shared their life stories - quite easily too. That’s how Ellie found out Camila was originally from Spain, had come to Ireland on an Erasmus exchange years before, and had decided to stay. She graduated, got a nursing job and had found herself a boyfriend.

Lonán worked as a producer for a local radio. Camila and him had met at university during a sociology class they had both been forced to take. They stayed in touch - by stalking each other once in a blue moon on social media. One day, Lonán had bought the apartment and he needed roommates. Fortunately, Camila wanted out of her basement room, and that was that.

Lonán, according to Camila, was always in-between heartbreaks because “he’s such a softie! Falls in love so easily, gets attached by the first drink, heartbroken by the third.”

“What about you? Who’s the fella who’s been texting you all night?” Lonán asked.

Diego had been texting her. In fact, they had been talking regularly since she had landed.

“Just this guy I was kind of seeing before I left.”

“So your boyfriend?”

“No we just… casually met. We agreed that we’d see where things are when I get back.”

“Who’s Max then?”Camila pointed at Ellie’s unopened texts.

“Max? The manager here actually,”

“So your manager is messaging you on a Friday night about having fun this weekend?”

“Right. It’s not what it looks like. We’ve known each other for a while actually. From uni.”

“Oh! And things are moving forward now eh?”

“No! Not at all. He’s just checking in. He’s friends with my brother and ex so… I think he just feels a bit protective.”

Camila wiggled her slender finger in front of her face. “You know what? This smells incestuous to me. You need to meet new men. Forget all the ones back in Canada.”

“I mean… sure. Where? Point me in the right direction.”

“Tinder.”

Both Camila and Lonán stared at her with grins; Lonán was mimicking swiping on an imaginary phone and pointing at her.

“Orrr…” she elongated that word too much, “we could go out tomorrow night? My friend from work wants to go dancing, so how about it? To celebrate?”

“Always down for a party.” Lonán said.



***

 

A red shirt poked out of place. She tugged at it. Her very low cut (read: the cut went below her boobs), laced red bodysuit fell. She had bought it online, on a whim, during one of those moments she wanted to feel sexy. She had never worn it, but had always packed it “just in case” whenever she went away. That night was the case.

She quickly looked up on YouTube how to tape her boobs in place. It had seemed easy, but she ended up using triple the amount of tape the girl had in her video in an effort to hide the lines the toilet paper she had used to cover her nipples made.

She shyly walked into the living room where Lonán was playing video games.

“How do I look?”

He gave her two quick glances. “Hot. Good.”

She nodded, “thanks. You’re still coming, right?”

He nodded too, “we should pre-drink.”

Camilla entered the living room, “I already got us beer and wine. Damn, papi! Huni.” She exclaimed when she saw Ellie - which she couldn’t understand because Camilla herself looked flawless. Ellie wondered what she could do to get legs like hers.

“You look amazing Camilla,” she managed to say.

The girl popped open the first bottle of wine, “thanks huni.” She pronounced it with a lot of emphasis on the “huh,” almost like she was grunting mid-squat. Camilla handed her a full glass of wine and Lonán a tallboy can. She raised her own glass, “to our new roommate!” Lonán and Ellie echoed her. They all took a sip, and before she - they - knew it, they had opened the second bottle of wine, and four cans of beer were already gone. Lonán had changed shirts three times, asking each time which looked better.

Ellie couldn’t remember the last time she had had that much alcohol.

Camila had called them a taxi. They met with Kate by the Spire, then walked across the river to Temple Bar. Ellie wanted to focus on where they were going but she was too busy looking at all the people - girls in particular: in stiletto heels, very short dresses, and thick makeup. She wondered how they didn’t freeze to death.

She did however realize that they had walked outside the bounds of Temple Bar - outside of the social area Ellie knew best.

They had all - minus Ellie - agreed to go to a place called “Pig.” She wondered why anyone would call a club after an animal that produced bacon. After a couple of twists and turns through the small streets, they reached a corner and the club. The lights were purple, and the big, round, black sign showed in pink and white font: PYGMALION. Ah, thought Ellie, that makes much more sense.

They went down a flight of stairs, in a room that gave off the feeling of a cave. All the walls were rocky. One of the smaller rooms housed a booth and a DJ mixing house-techno. They walked to the back, in the long but narrow room that was more of a hallway with some tables stuck to one side and a long bar on the other.

The bartender looked at them; the girls shouted they wanted a gin & tonic, Lonán a vodka Red Bull and Ellie… “white wine please.”

It wasn’t a club per se. There were no light shows as she remembered from her university days. The lights were dim, the music loud. There was a heated outdoor patio with tables on the long side of the lounge that was populated with smokers and people who just wanted a cozy, relaxed night. That wasn’t them.

Drinks in hand, they all moved to the dancefloor in the crowded DJ room. From then on it is an intemporal mosaic of pictures as they —

Dance. Back to the bar. Dance. Drinks. Someone suggests shots. Jameson. Tequila. Or the other way around. A vodka shot? The lights are purple. Everything is purple. Smoke clouds the room. Is it real? Doesn’t know, doesn’t care. All she hears is music. The bass beats through their bodies. Dance. With each other, with others. Blurry selfies; foggy mind.

Lonán dances with another younger girl. Kate, Camila and she dance tightly woven.

Mandatory communal bathroom break. Hand-holding girl chain across club. Crowded. Fix makeup. Get dragged into a stall by the girls. Kate, “coke?” Confused. The drink? Look down. A small bag, white powder. Shake the head. Keys. Re-check reflection in mirror. Doors vibrate to the beat. Hand-holding girl chain to dancefloor. Feel the beat.

Dance. Spot a divine man. He shines through the dark mass. Stares back at her. Approach. Hands on each other. Join the convoluted mass of bodies dancing. Notices his tattoo on left forearm — the outline of a swan. The wing is a laurel; is the tip of an arrow. Trace it. Look into his face. His piercing gaze. Familiar. He smiles. Presses her body closer to his, arms around her waist.

The bass reverberates. Maybe it’s just them. The songs become one. It’s just them.


 

Until Camila came up behind her and shouted in her ear: “We’re going home. Do you want to come or are you staying?”

His eyes still on her, smiling, he leaned forward and whispered in her ear something she’d struggle to remember the second after she heard it. She sustained his stare before nodding at Camilla. “I’ll come with you.”

She linked arms with her roommate and walked through the crowd, turning her head once to look at the man - but he had already dissipated, him and his trail of light. She was drunker than she had thought.

The cold air whipped their faces, their ears rang. “Whoa girls.”

“Let’s go get some food,” Camila suggested. They all greedily agreed. As they made their way down the street, Ellie noticed a guy tagging along with them. He was walking by Camila’s side, holding her hand.

 

 

The next morning, she woke up in her bed, head pounding, with a trail of McDonald’s ketchup on her new Egyptian silk navy blanket. Her bedroom smelled like fried food because of the burger’s wrap and the remaining chips.

She couldn’t remember the last time she had drank and stayed out that late. She slowly sat up trying to avoid brisk movements. Her phone, which had been on her chest, fell into her lap. It lit up. She had tens of notifications.

Dread set in, “Oh no. Who did I message last night? Please not Jason, please not Jason.” She kept repeating to herself as she peaked at her home screen.

More than half of those notifications were from an app she didn’t recognize. Clicking one of them led her to… Tinder. She groaned. She had fallen asleep while messaging one of the guys she had matched with.

Her phone buzzed with a new message, from Max. “Hey, how are you feeling?” That was not a good sign, she was well aware. Scrolling up, she sighed with relief at the sight of her texts - a plethora of “come out with us!” followed by his concern at her well-being home.

She quickly answered him, “Hi! Good, just a massive headache, but nothing I can’t handle. Sorry for the texts last night. I hope I didn’t bother you.”

After wrapping herself in her cozy blanket, she walked into the living room where both Camila and Lonán, equally wrapped in blankets, were zombies on the couches.

“What’s the story?” Lonán asked after peering at her above his blanket.    

She plopped herself next to Camila, automatically shifting into zombie mode too. “Apparently I made a Tinder account last night. I have a date with a dude tomorrow.”

Her roommates hooted.

“What happened with the hot guy from the club though? The one you were dancing with?” Camila inquired. “Why didn’t you bring him here?”

Ellie squirmed. “I don’t know. I’ve never done that before. Also, that guy seemed,” she paused, remembering their last moment together, “weird.”

“Okay I’d say a lot about that guy, weird isn’t one of them. And I’m a dude.”

“He told me something right as I was going to leave. I can’t remember what but I know it was just weird. Like, I clearly remember him telling me to be ‘careful’ but like, what about? I dunno.”

“He just told you to be careful? Maybe careful ‘cause you’re too hot? Dayum huni.” Camila giggled.

“I wish! No, he said something specific. It seemed important but can’t remember anything else. Clearly drank too much. Never again guys. Never. Again.”

“We say that every weekend. Pizza anyone?” Lonán took out his phone to place the order for 3 medium pizzas.

And with that, they fell back into zombie mode and watched an entire season of First Date.