Second Date

I text my cousin to say the date’s going well and I’ll be late. One hour. No probs, he says.

We are not going anywhere, Maria and I. I’m returning to Spain mid-September and she’s returning to Mexico in April. Still, here we are, snogging on our second date. It’s a long, slow one. We part and smile at each other. Our dancing eyes seem to ask the question; where can we go?

‘We should get a hotel together,’ I say.

‘When? Tonight!?’

‘Uh, next weekend; Saturday.’

‘Okay.I would like to see more Ireland.’

‘Wicklow maybe?’


‘The following weekend I am returning to Spain.’

‘I know. It is sad. Can I visit you?’

‘Uh, yeah. I mean it is expensive and there are no direct flights after October, but yeah.’


We kiss on the lips, drain our drinks and stand. Tonight we are going separate ways. I’m sleeping on my cousin’s couch. She shares a bedroom with a Brazilian housemate.

We walk down Dame Lane. It’s Friday night and the place is buzzing. She links my arm. I consider crooking my elbow but don’t want to look like Lord of the Shire, so I hold her hand, loosely. Ahead I notice another couple holding hands. The man looks at ease but I feel like an inadequate actor playing a role. I’m also anxious we will bump into someone I know. I mean here we are on a second date acting like an engaged couple in Paris in Spring time.  Kissing and staying in hotels is one thing but holding hands? It feels like we’ve jumped a few levels here.

None of us take the reins and we end up squaring up to the couple. After awkward laughter Maria and I walk around them. I tell her how, in many African countries, a man and woman holding hands is frowned upon, as it is seen as an inappropriate display of affection. I use both hands to tell her this piece of trivia.

We arrive at the bike stand. She points out her bike. It’s a crock with tiny wheels. I tell her off for cycling with no lights or helmet on the topsy-turvy streets of Dublin city. She laughs off my concern and reassures me everything will be alright. Again, it feels like I’m playing a role alongside a more convincing co-star. We say our goodbyes.

In the taxi I send a message to my cousin telling him I’m on my way. Then I begin to wonder if a hotel is such a good idea. Sure, the plush, cosiness would help take things to the next level, but is it financially viable? On the two dates I had paid for everything and not once did she present me with an opportunity to brush aside an offer to pay. It’s a Mexican thing, apparently. Finance aside, I feel that, once I go to Spain that will be the end of our courting. She might have the impression that a weekend away is the beginning of something. It would be unfair to indulge this notion.

I’m not sure.The fact that she’s nice doesn’t help. I’ll let it sit in my gut for a couple of days and see how I feel.

I pay the taxi man. I ring my cousin to let him know I’m outside. There’s no answer. He hasn’t read my last message. I ring again. Nothing. I find the apartment buzzer and give it a little push. I listen for the clunk of a key from the bowels of the building but all I hear is a TV with the volume up. I give the buzzer a longer, angrier push. Then I try the phone several times. Ring, voice, beep. Ring, voice, beep. My battery is dying. Time for a new plan.

I walk out onto the street and hail a taxi. The taxi man puts a bit of juice in my phone. He takes me to Smithfield.

‘Any beds available?’ I ask the man on the door.

‘It’s 1 o’clock in the morning on a Friday night in Dublin,’ he deadpans.

On the quay we stop at another hostel. The taxi waits while I run in. Full.

‘Jaysus, course. It’s fuckin’ All Ireland weekend an’ all,’ says the taxi driver.

Next we go to Gardiner street.

‘If ya don’t get one here ya may as well through yourself in the Liffey. There’s loads of hostels. Start at the bottom, work your way up.’

I give him a tip and he turns the taxi back towards the heart of the city. The first hostel is full. My phone burps a message. It’s Maria! She’s still up. My phone then gives another squeak to remind me of the battery situation. Better do this before it’s too late.

A sleepy hello.

‘Maria! Hi! Okay, this is very unusual but my cousin did not answer the door. He is asleep. I am looking for a place to stay. I’ve tried three hostels but they are all full. I am going to try more hostels but if they are also full, is it possible for me to stay in your place? Just on the couch for a couple of hours?’

A pause.

‘I am asking now because my battery is dying. If the other hostels are full I am stuck.’

‘But it is not possible.’

I wait for an explanation; something regarding her complicated living arrangements and housemates.

‘You cannot because I am falling asleep.’

‘Okay. I’ll let you go. Thanks anyway Maria. Goodnight.’



It gets off to a bad start…

Portugalete train station. 927am Sunday. The platform is empty. I look up the track – nothing. I listen for a toot or a chug – nothing. The screen is a blur of red letters, but I don’t need it spelt out for me; I’ve misread the timetable and there’s no train coming. Fuck. I exit the train station and start running towards the taxi rank. The clouds are heavy and low and it’s humid. I picture what will happen if I don’t get to San Mames on time; frantic messaging, my friends annoyed faces, hasty rearrangements. I run faster. I feel sweat teasing through my skin. My bag bounces on my back.

The taxi gets me to San Mames bus station on time. My mistake costs €22.

I’m relieved to find that Paul and Bren are also hungover. Their faces are shiny with sweat and there’s a wiff of stale beer.

I throw my bag into the luggage compartment. We board the bus.

Then it gets worse…

Paul spends the journey with his head in his hands, saying very little, except ‘I wanna die.’ Then he announces that he needs a plastic bag. Bren says he has one. Perhaps Bren has forgotten that the moments before puking, with the cold sweats and the stomach’s rising bitter soup, are awful. He seems in no rush at all.

‘Now, which bag do you want? I have a BM bag and an Eroski back. Mind you the Eroski bag has my runners inside. They’re a little smelly so maybe we’ll go for the…oh wait, I have another bag here…’

Paul drops his bottle of water to the floor and pokes his hand through the gap in the seats. Bren gets the hint and provides the asking hand with a bag.

I try to ignore it. I stare straight ahead. I hear the retching and the plopping as the bag fills with the contents of Paul’s troubled stomach. I feel a new film of sweat forming on my skin. I feel my chest tighten. I take deep breaths and hoover in the sickly aroma from the plastic bag. I feel like I’m gonna have a panic attack or something. When we arrive in San Sebastian I hurry off the bus.

I stand against a cool wall and calm myself.  The bus to Biarritz is in thirty minutes.  I’m coming round. I pat down my pockets; passport, wallet, phone, raincoat. Bag?

‘Fuck. My bag!’

I run out to the bus bays but the bus has gone.  On the way to Biarritz, I feel jolts of regret every time I think of something in my bag.

‘No! My new shorts.’

‘Nooo! My swimming togs.’

‘Noooo! My glasses.’

Then it gets a little better…

We stalk the streets of Biarritz like vampires, seeking out shade and wincing in the sun.

‘This is France for God sakes, there must be a good place to eat.’

‘Well, you say that, but I haven’t seen one McDonald’s yet.’

Eventually we settle for a burger bar near the beach.

‘Fuck me,’ Bren says with a mouth full of burger.


‘There are so many hot women.’

Our eyes follow another arse down the street.

‘Yeah. Fuck.’

Fed, we go for beers. Bren is extremely positive.

‘It’s great to get away’

‘I can’t wait for this festival in Bayonne.’

‘These beers are going down nicely.’

The beer and Bren’s positivity steer us out of the hangover towards good times.

Then it gets better again…

Bayonne. The streets are full. Machine gun carrying soldiers walk by in twos and threes. There are snipers silhouetted on the rooftop of the town hall.

We are appropriately attired with white t-shirts and red handkerchiefs. We swagger up to a stall and order a pitcher of beer. The bar man explains that they are about to close so we can have two pitchers of cider for the price of the plastic pitchers; €2. He becomes our new favourite person in the world. We tell him he’s wonderful, Bayonne is wonderful, France is wonderful, the French language is wonderful. He reacts by crinkling his forehead, pouting his lips, shrugging slightly and rocking his head, slightly. He is nonplussed.

Next, a firework display. Its awesomeness shoots energy to our bones. As soon as it finishes the DJ takes the party by the reins. Everyone dances. Everyone sings. The sniper watches over us.

We hold our red handkerchiefs aloft like defiant football fans.


Bayonne 2.jpg
Bayonne festival (Fetes de Bayonne)


And then it gets a bit mental…

The party veers away from the town hall towards the back streets. Bren hooks his arm around a passing girl, swings her in close and plants a kiss on her lips. She pulls back in shock, appraises him, then tilts her head in for more.

There’s a guy dancing on top of a barrel. He’s topless and his trousers are down around his ankles. A girl stands under him, arms aloft in praise of the fucks he is not giving. Suddenly, she jumps up, grabs his jocks and tugs. The jocks get stuck around his thighs so he works them down. The crowd respond with a mixture of bemused cheers, laughter and shock at the sight of his penis that hangs there like the trunk of a shy animal. The French girl next to me indicates with a thumb and index finger that she is not impressed with the size of his penis.

There are loads of hands supporting me. They take my weight. My feet leave the ground. I am hoisted up. My feet feel the top of a barrel. The hands leave me. I stand shakily, not quite trusting the barrel. It’s secure. Naked guy is on my left. I give him the thumbs up because I admire his balls. Bren is on my right. I give him the thumbs up because he is making it okay to be here with your trousers still on. Jackson 5 I want you back chimes out of the speakers. I howl approval. The street howls back.


Three buses and a metro join the dots between Bayonne and Portugalete. When I get to my room I close the door, drop my bag on the floor and sigh. How else was it going to end?

Something similar? The Karaoke Delusion Something different? Glimpses into Classrooms

A Black Star on the last Day of School

The 3332 bus pulls up. I board, swipe my card and walk down the aisle. Same glum faces. Dee smiles. I sit next to her.

‘Yaaay! Last day!’ she says.


‘You don’t sound too excited.’

‘Well, I don’t really like the last day of school.’

‘Of course you don’t.’

‘I like the holidays, don’t get me wrong, it’s just the last day. The kids are wired, there are always loose ends to tie up and the kids are wired.’

‘You said the same thing twice.’

‘It’s a salient point.’

‘So what? Entertain them for an hour and then ‘Be Gone Bitches.’

‘Yeah, I suppose.’

We stop at traffic lights. Dee sighs.

‘Only you could be depressed on the last day of school.’

‘It’s just experience. I used to expect to feel this huge rush of relief once the kids walked out the door but I just ended up feeling empty.’

‘It’ll be easy.  We haven’t seen most of the teenagers for weeks. They’re not even gonna show up today.’

‘That’s the other thing. We’ve been teaching them all year, gone beyond the call of duty for some, and then one day they just stop showing up.’

‘Well what did you expect ‘Oh Captain my Captain?’

‘No but a goodbye or thanks would have been nice.’

 ‘I suppose.’

‘I mean not even a shrug or a pout. They just don’t bother showing up.’

‘It’s just teenagers being teenagers. Don’t read too much into it.’

The bus curves a roundabout.

‘I remember when I was teaching in Ireland. It was the last day of sixth class. The kid’s last day in the school ever. And as one of ‘em was leaving he came up to me to say that he didn’t think it was fair because he didn’t get as many sweets as Colm did. I looked at him like ‘Really? Those are your parting words? Eight years in the school. Two with me and that’s all you gotta say.’

‘Well there are lots of jobs where people don’t get any thanks.’ 

‘But –  they all left and I was there on my own. Next thing, two of the girls came back into the class and hugged me.’

‘What did you do?’

‘I said thanks. They said thanks. It was a goodbye. It was lovely.’

‘That’s sweet.’

‘Yeah. ’

We get off at our stop and go to work. Later, we meet for beers.

‘Did you have many?’

‘I had all the kids.’

‘How were they?’

‘Grand. I didn’t expect much, so grand. You?’

 ‘Had the kids. None of the teens. You had Asier and Endika, right?’

‘Yup. They showed up every class this year. Nice lads. Asier is going to study film next September. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a famous director one day. He’s so passionate about film and music. It’s mad that they’re such good friends. I mean Endika isn’t really into music or film. He’s sporty. And he’s tall and thin whereas Asier is- Holy shit!’

I notice Asier and Endika walking up the road. I smile and wave. They wave back and walk towards us.

‘Hi guys. How are you? We were just talking about you two.’

They smile.

‘Brian, we went to the cinema and afterwards we went to the music shop and got you this,’ Endika says and gestures towards Asier.

Asier dips his hand into a plastic bag and produces a CD. David Bowie – Black Star.

I stand up.

‘We had a very good year with you,’ Endika says. Asier nods in agreement.

‘ Jesus. Thank you so much! This is the album we talked about in class – remember – when he died?’

‘Yes. We remember.’

I don’t say much on the bus home. I just keep staring at the CD. I think about them discussing the whole idea, counting their money after the cinema, picking up different CDs in the music shop and the light bulb moment when they saw David Bowie. I think of them going to the academy first to find me. I think of the embarrassed way they approached me. I replay the sentence ‘we had a very good year with you.’ I think about them pushing themselves through all those stages. I’m so glad they did.

David Bowie -Black Star
Something similar? Glimpses into Classrooms Something different? The Karaoke Delusion

A Day at the Beach

PE Store

I’m looking for tools to fend off the two words that I have come to hate the most these past few weeks of summer camp; ‘I’m bored’ (In fact, that’s not true; ‘I’m bored’ would be a welcome use of the English language. The two words I have come to hate the most are ‘No quiero,’ Spanish for ‘I don’t want to’.) I choose six tennis balls, four bats, two softballs and four Frisbees.

Today is our first excursion to the beach and I am hopeful it will be a success.

Take your Seats

The kids arrive. The bus arrives. Excitement grows. Feet move fast. Seats on a bus can be the source of anxiety for kids. For some, it’s where you sit. Squares up the front. Cool kids  at the back. And if you’re in the middle, you’re in the middle.

For others, it’s a fear of sitting on their own.

‘Can I sit next to you?’

I look down at Sofia’s worried face.

‘Of course you can.’

For the three BFFs it’s who is going to be cut loose?

‘I like the two of you the same,’ explains Enara, ‘but we can’t get three seats together.’

Enara understands the unwritten rule regarding bus seats which states; if you are a senior kid with a loud voice and a bullying streak then a backseat is a God given right.

But not everybody is schooled in the rules.

Two little lads are first to board the bus. They are all set for the beach; peak caps, shorts, bags on their backs and smiles on their faces. Their eyes widen as they see all the empty seats.

‘The back seats are free!!’

They run the length of the bus and settle in. Their classmates amble on.

‘Look. Look. It’s us! We’re back here. Come on.’

But their classmates aren’t as keen. They choose a seat near the front or middle.

Then the big boys enter. They are a little late. An absolute dick of a summer camp leader held them back because some girl was crying, or something. The five of them clamour, push and laugh all the way to the back. Three of them take seats.

The other two loom over the little lads. The little lads’ facial expressions have changed from ‘Ain’t life grand’ to ‘Oh Shit!’

Despite this they stand (or sit) their ground. By the time I arrive the big lads are shouting and baring their fists. The bus is moving. I calmly tell them to find another seat. They ignore me and continue shouting at the little lads. I get right up in their faces.

‘Did you hear me? Find another seat! How could you shout at them? They are half your age!’

They skulk off to another seat.

I am an absolute dick of a summer camp leader.

Teacher – Pupil

I take my seat next to Sofia. I’m addled after the back-seat dilemma and I’m hoping the next words out of her mouth will be;

‘Clearly this isn’t a good time for you. You gather yourself and what I wanna do can wait until later.’

Nope, instead she launches into a Spanish lesson.

She points at her hat and says ‘Gorra.’

I say ‘Gorra.’

‘No!’ she says. She shakes her head and wags a finger in my face.



‘No!’ she says and shakes her head and makes a tch, tch sound, as if I’ve been a naughty boy.

I let this pupil –teacher role reversal carry on for a bit and then I hammer her pronunciation of ‘slaughtered’, just to remind her who the grown up is.

La Salvaje Beach, Bilbao


The Beach

The kids are happily occupied, for about twenty minutes. Then the bats, balls and Frisbees get tossed aside. A group approaches me. I brace myself for the dreaded words.

‘Can we do sandcastles?’

‘Yes! That’s a great idea.’

The group walks towards the shoreline. They find their spot, drop to their knees and start clawing at the sand with their hands. There is feverish work with instructions being issued back and forth. I peer over their shoulders and see a drawbridge, a moat, a high defensive wall and a dome tower taking shape.The group consists of boys and girls, a mixture they sometimes resist when I suggest it. Their aim is to build a castle that will stand up to the incoming water.

The water approaches. They watch eagerly.

A wave slides up the shore and casually destroys the castle.

Child Vs Sea

Their reaction seems muted at first. They walk back to our nest of bags and change into their swimming suits. Then, ten of them stand shoulder to shoulder and stare down the sea. On a count of ‘3,2,1 Go!’ they charge forwards shaking their fists and screaming.

A band of pebbles and broken shells, impedes their speed. They pick their way through the minefield. There is a cry of pain as one takes a tumble. I tend to the stricken soldier’s foot and notice the rest of the kids in the camp running past. But once the water wraps around their ankles they freeze. I watch on, fearing a hasty retreat, but soon they are completely engaged with the enemy. There are shrieks and howls and explosions. Their skinny bodies are knocked about by big brutes of waves.  They get back up after every pummelling, or lie face down in the shallows, playing dead.

They re-emerge from the water in twos and threes, cleansed and calmed and happy with what feels like a victory.


They are too hungry to make faces. They unwrap the tinfoil and start eating. They watch the beach scenes before them. A feeling of contentedness settles over all of us.





Cold Comfort

We were in Paula’s kitchen. She had a beer in her hand. She was more interested in the ring pull than its contents. My beer was drained. I wanted to grab another but she was about to say something. Her eyes, a mixture of confusion and sadness, were searching the crumbs on her plate as if they might gather to show her a way outta this situation.

Her throat admitted a trembling sound. Her lip wobbled. Tears rolled down her face.

‘I’ve been working so hard…but for what? What am I doing with my life?’

I had never seen her like this.

It had seemed to me that she never entertained negative thoughts.

Like me, she was relatively new to Bilbao. She moved into a large apartment in Casco Viejo in January and began a new life. She started working in a clinic and secured a side gig in a university.  She created a social life through couch surfing events, dance lessons and Tinder. She made new friends who showed her around the city.

 Then, into the stream of things that seemed to be flowing in the right direction, I jumped.

I liked her instantly. She was beautiful, smart and kind. On the first date my loves and hates of Bilbao made her laugh out loud. On the second she introduced me to two of her new friends. On the third, finally, she kissed me. It was a surprise how uninhibited she was; kissing me passionately in front of the people on the metro platform. I was dazed the whole ride home.

She brought me around Bilbao; to the old town with its labyrinth of narrow streets, to polished bars famed for delicious pintxos, to hidden restaurants stripped of any pretension, to hipster cafes along the riverside and to San Francisco Street, a place that pulsed with an energy more frenetic than anywhere else in the city.

But, in the kitchen that night, she was just bringing me down. She was upset because her career wasn’t progressing as she had hoped.  I tried to take the fact that she was dropping her usual assured optimism and showing a vulnerable side as a positive step forward, but something wouldn’t let me. 

She fiddled with the ring pull on her can. I moved to the chair next to her and put my arm around her. She pulled the ring pull off, dropped it on her plate and sighed. She fingered the busted mouth of the can. I was worried she might cut her finger so I took her hand in mine. She pulled it away and returned to the jagged edges. I felt sorry for her but my sympathy was overridden by a selfish fear – it wasn’t just work that was upsetting her – her feelings towards me had changed.

She wiped the tears from her face, took a deep breath and said;

‘In three weeks things are gonna change- for better or for worse.’

That night I couldn’t sleep. I lay next to her, burdened with an unspoken awareness that she would rather I wasn’t there. She couldn’t sleep either. I could feel her eyes searching the darkness.

 I replayed a conversation we had weeks ago.  We were talking about the dating scene. I was pessimistic.

 ‘I dunno – with all these dating apps, it’s like everybody’s looking over their shoulder – looking out for someone new, instead of giving their current relationship a proper shot. So we end up having lots of relationships and each one leaves us a little more scarred, a little more confused.’

She was more positive.

‘I think it’s a good thing because you meet lots of different people and you know better what you want.’

She threw the covers back and got outta bed. She stopped in the doorway for a moment and her naked body was silhouetted in the light. She looked so beautiful I ached with sadness and yearning. She went to the bathroom. When she got back into bed she sighed. I was losing her. I needed to do something.

‘Are you okay?’


‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes. Well, can you move over a bit please?’

‘Of course.’

I moved.


‘Yes thanks.’

I needed her to tell me that it wasn’t me, that she was just upset about work.

‘You know the way you said in three weeks time things would change?


‘I hope that in three weeks time – you and I are still together .’

She smiled, kissed me on the lips and said nothing.

If you liked this you might also like; A Bit of Romance

The Karaoke Delusion

It’s Karaoke night in the Donegal and the Irish rebel songs are being blasted out. I feel bemused, embarrassed and a little drunk. The bemusement is due to the fact that I’m watching two Basque men and an English man singing Irish rebel songs. The embarrassment is because I don’t know the words to said songs. And the drunkenness is because I ‘m keeping up my part of the Paddy’s day shtick by swilling Guinness. I’m also wearing a stupid Guinness hat. We’re all wearing stupid Guinness hats.

Suddenly losing interest in the song James walks off stage. The Basque lads carry on. The crowd don’t seem to mind. They are lapping it up – hands are slapping tables, feet are tapping.

 ‘We need to change shit up mate,’ he says.

‘How’d you mean?’

‘We need to try different songs.’

‘I agree. I’m tired of taking a back seat while you guys sing rebel songs.’

‘Surprise our audience, you know, like Dylan!’

I wave a finger in James’ face.

‘Don’t compare us to Dylan; he can’t sing for shit.’

‘How do you follow up a load of Irish rebel songs?’

‘Punch an English man?’

James ignores this. He’s deep in thought.

 ‘I got it!’ he says. ‘What about ‘Work’ by Rihanna?’

‘I don’t know it.’

Mick comes back from the toilet. He is enthused by the change of direction.

‘What about ‘Dancin in the Moonlight’ by Toploader?’ he suggests.

‘No ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ by Thin Lizzy,’ I suggest.

‘I dunno, I don’t wanna spoil a classic,’ Mick says.

‘It didn’t stop you earlier, what with your rendition of Billy Joel,’ James says.

‘It’s not my fault – the lyrics didn’t appear on screen!’

‘Billy Joel was turning in his grave.’

‘He’s still alive you dickhead!’

‘He’ll be fucking next, wait and see.’

Taking charge, James scribbles down a request on a piece of paper and hands it to the barmaid. She accepts it warily and casts her eyes about in the hope the next Adele is somewhere out there. The Basque lads aren’t too enamored with the choice of song and slip out for a cigarette.

‘You’re next,’ the barmaid informs us while we wince in the aftermath of shots.


We take the stage.

The keyboard pours outta the speakers. As we wait for the lyrics to appear James spots a costume inconsistency.

‘Mick, ye cunt. Where’s your fucking hat? D’ya think you’re better than us or something?’

‘I thought we didn’t need it, seen as we we’re not singing rebel tunes.’

  ‘Listen mate, those fucking hats are us. Without them, our audience-‘

 It’s time to sing. I slap James on the back. His microphone thuds off the ground. Mick is offstage looming over a table where the people are shifting and twisting trying to locate his hat. I stare at the yellow line which is charging through the words we’re supposed to be singing.

‘You prick!’ Paul says, once he’s picked up his microphone.

Mick bounds onto the stage with his hat. We make the chorus. Some kind natured audience members clap along. It might be saved yet.

An over enthusiastic Mick launches into verse two. He’s galloping ahead of the yellow line. James and I try to keep time but slur the words.

 James is the first to admit defeat. He pulls the microphone away from his mouth and slumps onto the stool. Mick and I struggle gamely on through the verse but it’s a bowl of soup and we are tackling it with forks.

By the second chorus no-one is clapping along anymore.

A lonely backing track plays verse three. Out of some strange loyalty to the norms of Karaoke we remain on stage and the audience keep looking at us. I’m drunk enough to muddle a song but not sufficiently drunk to feel impervious to embarrassment. James addresses the audience.

‘I’m sorry – we’re sorry. We fucked up. We were trying to do something different, but, you know, we should have just stuck with the rebel songs. But, anyway, while I have you there, I’d like to let you in on an amazing opportunity; I am selling a futon – it’s purple, perfect nick, €100 or nearest offer. I’ll be here until they kick me out or closing time; whichever occurs first. Probably the former, what with the looks the barmaid is giving me. So move fast people. Agur!’

A few minutes later we are invited to leave.


Something Different? What is she like?

Something Similar? It gets off to a bad start…




A Post-Holiday Whatsapp Crisis

Four people in a car, returning home after the Easter holidays. Trouble is, everyone else is too. There are traffic jams all over Spain. The same songs we heard on the way down, soundtrack the return journey. We don’t talk much. We sigh. 

I look through my photos.  We had a busy weekend of eating, drinking, sightseeing, hiking, eating and drinking. It was our first holiday together. We bonded well, but now we crave solitude.

I go into my whatsapp. A girl I’m dating was last online five minutes ago. She wasn’t texting me. On the journey to Salamanca I dispatched a little text reassuring her that my life was fantastic. She replied appropriately. Since then though, nothing. I don’t know what to say now. I feel far from fantastic.

It’s not just the end of a holiday, it’s the return of the hamster to its worry treadmill. At the start of the holiday there was no room for the bastard amongst the positive vibes created by getting outta town, breaking the routine and anticipating a weekend brimming with potential. The hamster was left behind on the motorway somewhere between Valladolid and Salamanca. The treadmill was blissfully still for a few days. But, the crafty little bastard was waiting for me on the return journey.

‘Wha’s wrong?’ D asks me.


‘You keep sighing.’

‘Oh. It’s just I’m trying to send a text .’

‘To who? Paula?’

I look at her

‘You told me last night.’


‘So. What’s the problem?’

‘It’s just – I’m not sure. Maybe I should leave it. I’m always texting her first.’

‘Text her. It’s nice. Let her know you are thinking of her.’

‘But surely she would understand that without me having to text it.’

‘Well I don’t know. How many times have you met?’

‘A few.’

‘It’s a nice thing to do,’ D says shrugging.

‘Maybe I should play it cool, you know.’

‘Ah – don’t play games. Besides, she probably knows you’ve been on whatsapp and maybe she’s wondering why you haven’t texted.’

‘But she’s been on whatsapp! Why hasn’t she texted me?’

 ‘You may as well just do it now, you’ve been thinking about it so much.’

‘Right. I will.’

I start typing.

Hi Paula!!

I delete one exclamation mark.  I don’t wanna appear too excited. Then I change my mind and put it back to two exclamation marks because what’s wrong with being excited? Then, I check to see how many exclamation marks she uses in her messages. One. Right, one it is. I start typing.

Hi Paula! How are you??

Then I delete one question mark.

‘For fuck sake.’

‘What?’ D asks.

 ‘Fucking…I’m 33, you know?I should be beyond this shit.’

I contemplate tossing my phone out the window. Then again, phones are what brought us together. And she’s nice.

 ‘I know. I’ll just send her a friend request on Facebook. That’s a good idea, isn’t it?’

‘Sure,’ D says.

‘She won’t think it’s weird, will she? That I wanna be friends, just so I can check up on her?’

D sighs.

‘If she thinks you’re nice, she’ll think it’s nice. If she thinks you’re weird, she’ll think it’s creepy.’

‘Creepy? Really…Well we’ve met a few times now, so she must think I’m nice, mustn’t she? I mean it’s weird that we are not friends when you think about it.’


‘If I can be friends with some lad I met on a stag and chatted to in a bar for five minutes, I can be friends with someone I’ve had sex with, right?’


But then I start thinking about my Facebook photos and I change my mind. Back to whatsapp.

Hi Paula! How are you? Would you like to meet up this week?

I press send and put my phone into my pocket. Done. One minute elapses before I check it again. Two blue ticks confirm she has seen my text. I put my phone away and try not to think about it.

A glorious beep. D looks at me. I can’t stop a grin. But it’s only a message from my Mom. I reply. I put the phone away. Why hasn’t she- It beeps again. It’s her!

Hola! Yes sounds goods. Maybe Tuesday night?’

I smile. Whatsapp suddenly seems more bearable. Same for the traffic.


A Boozy afternoon in a Portuguese Village

A Trip to Quirky Salamanca

A Bit of Romance