I’m outside the Molly Malone Bar when I see them, the pair of them in Charlie Chaplin costumes. They’re not pulling faces or doing funny walks – just enjoying their fags. I ask James for some tobacco, quickly assemble a cigarette and walk over to them. Six steps.
‘Tienes mechero?’ I ask, with my thumb working an imaginary device.
‘Si,’ says the taller Chaplin, opening her hand to reveal a lighter. I light up, take a drag and ask what’s with the Charlie Chaplin costume.
‘We are not dressed as Charlie Chaplin. We are Dupont y Dupond.’
‘Who?’ I ask.
‘Thompson and Thomson,’ says the smaller Chaplin.
‘Who are they?’
‘They are from Tintin.’
‘Fuck yeah! The detectives.’
They nod enthusiastically, relieved I get it.
‘Billions of blue blistering barnacles!’
They look at me.
‘Do you know him? The sailor captain fella…from Tintin?’
They nod, but I don’t think they know what I’m on about.
‘So, why are you dressed as Thompson and Thomson?’
‘It is our cousin’s Detective Themed Birthday party,’ says smaller Thompson.
‘And everyone thinks they are twins but they are not even brothers,’ says taller Thomson.
‘But we are sisters,’ says smaller Thompson.
‘But not twins,’ adds taller Thomson.
James comes over and we end up going through the conversation again; this time in Spanish. Then, we pair off. I’m talking to the taller Thomson. She is studying engineering in Santander. She lives in Sestao. Her sister’s name is Vane. Her name is Jessica. No it isn’t a typical Basque name but there was a trend for English names around the year she was born. As she talks I nod and nod. It’s not that I strongly agree with trendy English names; it’s more that I am in accord with how she comes across. There’s something about her – and it’s not the moustache.
She asks about me. She listens.
I become aware that James and Vane’s conversation has dried up. The cigarettes are finished and feet are shuffling, eager to move on to the next moment. For James and I that’s finding somewhere to eat. For Jessica and Vane – back inside to be enveloped by their friends and the general tomfoolery that costumes engender.
But I don’t want to let Jessica go just yet.
‘Let’s get a photo!’ I say.
Jessica and Vane agree.
I give my phone to some guy. The four of us stand together. The photo gets taken. We separate. James walks over to our friends. Vane starts to walk inside. I walk with Jessica towards the door.
‘Where are you going later?’ I ask.
‘I don’t know. My cousin will decide. What about you?’
‘I don’t know. Café Antxokia maybe. Do you know it?’
‘Yes, yes. I like it.’
‘I might see you later then.’
And then we are at the door. There is nothing left for her to do but walk through it and she duly does. It’s unlikely I’ll see her later, or ever again for that matter. Bilbao, with its 1million inhabitants, is a big and small place at the same time. Some people you bump into. Others, well; different circles, same fishbowl.
It’s said before I have time to think myself into inaction.
She stops in the doorway and turns around. The two of us move to the side so we are not getting in people’s way; this creates an odd sense of privacy that emboldens me.
‘Are you single?’ I ask.
‘Maybe, sometime, like next weekend, we can meet for a beer?’
A pang of joy!
‘So I’ll take your number then.’
I produce my phone. She begins to call out her number but James, who is hungry and oblivious to the delicate matter at hand, comes over and presses me about going for some food. I fear the interruption will give Jessica a chance to review the situation and change her mind.
‘I’ll be over in a minute,’ I say to James. Whether it’s through my words, my tone or the look in my eyes I don’t know but, thankfully, my message is received and he ghosts away.
I look at Jessica. She nods and continues to call out her number. Joy and relief! I carefully type it in. I enter her name but my finger slips and I spell it Jessicq. No matter, it’s there now.
‘Okay. Great. I’ll call you now so you have my number,’ I say.
She takes out her phone, looks at it and shows me the screen. There it is, my number.
‘So. I’ll text you to arrange a drink or something.’
I put my phone in my pocket. She drops hers into her bag zips it shut. I lean in and kiss her on both cheeks. She goes into the pub. I go back to the lads. I have trouble keeping the smile off my face.
Six steps; a light, a chat, a feeling, a photo, a question, a number. The start, maybe, of something.
Something similar? A Bit of Romance
Something different? The Karaoke Delusion