Airport/Groceries on the Dancefloor

Airport

London Gatwick. I find the boards and scan with tired eyes. My flight doesn’t jump out at me and I feel momentarily vexed. Has it all been one big mistake? Wrong date? Wrong time? (In airports I always feel like I’m on the brink of a huge blunder). Then I see it. Bilbao. VY7293 19:55. Boarding gate will be announced at 19:05. Grand.

I head towards Departures, negotiating the wheelie bags and fond farewells. I queue. The guys at security have an impatient air and seem perpetually mystified at the hesitancy coupled with stupidity that comes over the passengers. Every day the same. I take out my laptop and place it in a tray. I pull out another tray and drop my bag into it. I remove my jacket and stuff it alongside my bag. I stick my wallet and belt in the sides. I dig my hands into my pockets and feel for loose coins. None. Grand.

I pass through the metal detector without a beep. I meet my bag on the other side and refill my pockets, slip on my belt, place the laptop back in the bag and heave it onto my back. Passport, wallet, ticket, phone, keys, boarding pass. Grand.

Shiny shops in a busy thoroughfare. I find the food hall. The stench of coffee greets and entices me. I pay for an overpriced coffee and sandwich. The coffee feels good. The contents of the sandwich conspire to create zero flavour whatsoever.

I go down to the seating area. People are reading or pushing buttons on their phones while intermittently checking the boards. It seems a numbness has come over us all. We are in-between, waiting for our lives to start again.

Portugalete, Bilbao

I drop my bag in my room, splash water on my face, reapply some deodorant and go outside. I tackle the hill with purpose. It’s been a long numbing day of travel (3 hour bus journey, airport, flight, airport, flight and car ride) so my energy surprises me. I guess my legs are relieved to be finally set free out of doors.

It’s a big night here in Bilbao. The bars are heaving. Jessica and her friends are in the ‘Why not?’ I’m excited to see Jessica as we’ve been apart over Christmas. I’m also a little nervous as I’m about to meet her friends for the first time.

The bouncer nods at me. The bar behind him seems like a busy cave of activity. He pulls the door open and I step inside, and inadvertently, into a group of eight or so people standing in a crescent formation. They all seem to be looking at me. They must be Jessica’s friends. Meekly I scan the group but I can’t see her anywhere. Then I see her sister Andrea. I smile, kiss her cheeks and wish her a happy new year. This confirms to the group that I am him, Jessica’s new fella. I feel the eyes switch from curiosity to appraisal.

Finally Jessica appears at my side. We kiss, hug and say a few words. A drink is handed to me.People from the group step forward to introduce themselves.  Marie Luis, Alvaro, Luis, Martha, Mirren. We speak in Spanglish. We have to lean into one another to be heard above the Reggathon blasting out of the speakers. Everybody’s nice. Everyone makes an effort. Nervousness has me tilting back my glass with speed.  Aritz, Akine and Ane. After a whirlwind of introductions I’m relieved to be back standing next to Jessica. Another drink is handed to me.

‘I’ll get the next,’ I promise.

I spot a plastic bag on the floor. It’s filled with a box of breakfast cereal, a litre of milk, eggs, apples, bananas and mandarins. How curious it looks! It seems as though  it has been transplanted from somebody’s kitchen of a dreary Tuesday morning to this limitless Friday night of disco balls and lights.

‘It’s for you,’ Jessica says following my gaze.

My face clouds with puzzlement.

‘Tomorrow is a holiday and all the shops are closed,’ she explains. ‘Seen as you were arriving late I thought I’d get you a few things.’

I smile at the bag of shopping and then at Jessica. My fondness for her deepens.

 

Nocktoebenaughto

Something Similar? What is she like?

Something Different? Bilbao Metro 4am

 

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Interview

It murmurs when it’s weak, hisses when it’s ignored.  I wake it each morning. It’s near me every night.  I cradle it as I move from room to room. It connects and imprisons me. It saves time. It wastes time.  It brings delight, sadness, frustration and relief; My laptop.

I place it on my desk. I plug it in. I open Skype. I check the wall for anything that could cause distraction. Of course the wall is bare –  it’s not the type of room where one puts up pictures; it’s the spare room, the laundry room, the just throw it in there room. A lot of rented houses have one and it’s a bit of a mess but it has a table and my housemates aren’t likely to breeze through so it’s fit for purpose.  I tidy the minimum I can get away with.  I move the table to the centre. I check the screen, check the wall, fiddle with my tie.

The screen plops and blops. I take a deep breath and accept the call. A man in shirt and tie appears on my screen. He is bald, thin, straight backed and straight faced. He introduces himself and explains the format of the interview. I smile and nod like he’s listing the itinerary of a dream holiday. I see myself in the corner of the screen and force myself to stop nodding.

‘So tell me a little about yourself.’

A straight forward question. A little warmer upper. I start and stop and stutter and start and sweat. I’m distracted because I feel my face isn’t screen centre enough. I want to grab the screen and pull it down a little but decide against it as it’s probably a major Skype interview faux pas, akin to grabbing his head and pulling it towards me in person. I prattle on until I can’t think of anything else to say and then I stop. He is still.

‘So..em…Yeah!’

This is how I wrap up every answer. He asks more questions. My throat feels dry.  As I answer he doesn’t nod, smile or take notes. It feels like I’m constantly missing the target. As the questions get more difficult I can barely get the arrows out of the quiver.

Fuck it. He’s not even listening. The job must be sewn up.

‘So, tell me, why do you want to work in this particular school?’

‘ Why this particular school? Well, when I happened upon your ad on the website, I thought to myself why not send my CV to that school? I mean it seems no different to the other schools I have applied to in Sevilla, Malaga, Barcelona, Madrid, Galicia and Bilboa. Well, actually, what sets your school apart is that the website sounds a little more up its own arse. But I didn’t let that put me off. I need a job, so I applied. That’s the why.’

That arrow jolted him out of his stone faced indifference.

For a second I thought it could be like in the films.

‘God dammit kid! In all my years as principal nobody has ever spoken to me like that. I gotta tell ya – ya got moxie, ya sonofabitch!  I never liked that website neither. I could do with an honest voice ’round here. Ya got the job!’

But this ain’t no Goddamn movie and I don’t get the job in that particular school.

But, after a few more interviews, two offers trickle their way to me; Galica and Bilbao. Another decision has to be made. The pendulum swings back and forth; Tick- go here. Tock- go there. When I boil it down to the facts the deciding factor isn’t money; it’s a fear of being lonely. I have a connection ( a girl from my hometown ) in Bilbao so I decide to accept their offer.

Late one night, with sweaty palms and beating heart I type up an email and press the send button, officially closing the door on Galicia. I then send a message to Bilbao, opening up that door.  I sigh and hope its the right decision. Within minutes a message arrives from my connection in Bilbao.

‘… you’ve a ready- made bunch of friends here.’

It’s precisely what I need to hear. I switch off the laptop and tuck it into its bag. We’ve been seeing a little too much of each other lately and need a break.