Two Fridays ago, I felt the need for a good night out; a few drinks, laughs and a dance. A few texts later, it transpired my friends, Shane and Brian, intended doing the same. I agreed to join them later that night. To offset the calorie value of a night on the beer, I decided to hit the gym before joining my friends. One must watch those sneaky beer-calories, y’know.
Following a brisk workout, I marched home to shower and change. Brian and Shane, already in town, instructed me to join them at my leisure. I showered, shaved and rifled through my wardrobe. I had few clean clothes. I threw on a shirt – too tight for my liking – that I had acquired in a sale for €7. I pulled on my jeans, tucking in the shirt, and fastened my ensemble with a brown studded belt. I ran for the door in untied brown shoes, intending to tie my laces in the lift.
Hogan’s was busy, filled with its usual mish mash of well dressed and funky characters. Shane and Brian were, as usual, in good form. We chatted, howling with laughter regularly. Two “swiftys” later, I crossed the road to the Dragon, to boogie until the wee hours.
Shane and I performed our usual ritual of flamboyant dance moves on a sparsely occupied dance floor. Brian watched and giggled. Now and again, I left the company of Shane and Brian to scope out the talent on offer. While standing on my own near the dance floor, a guy approached from my right and tapped my shoulder. He was average looking. His wrinkled shirt, which he had nicely paired with bad shoes, hung loose over his jeans.
“Hi,” I said in expectation.
“Hi,” he replied loudly, to compensate for the loud music. He moved in front of me, obviously determined to have a deep and meaningful. Despite his close proximity, he continued to shout. He bellowed “where are you from?”
“Ireland,” I replied shyly.
“Ireland?” he responded with obvious surprise. “You look Italian. Your clothes and dark hair make you look Italian.”
He attempted to quash my obvious confusion with a compliment. “It’s a good thing.”
I side stepped to the left. Fighting the urge to sprint, I maintained eye contact and smiled. “Grazie mille,” I called as I moved away from him.
I shared the details of this interaction with Shane and Brian. “Why would he think I’m Italian?” I asked.
“It’s the hair,” answered Shane.
Within an hour of my awkward deflection, another man approached me. This fellow was much younger than the last guy. He was tall and gangly, demonstrating a slight stoop as he leaned in to talk. He seemed inebriated. He blasted words into my ear as we made tedious conversation.
“Your English is really good.” He leaned back, smiling, in expectation of some appreciation for his kind words.
“I told you I’m Irish,” I said in an unfriendly tone. “I’m from Dublin.”
“I know, but I don’t believe you.”
We continued to talk for a minute more, before I used a well-practised dismissal. I touched his forearm and smiled warmly. “It was nice talking to you. Have a good evening.”
“Same to you.” He turned and rejoined his friends in the corner.
I remained near the dance floor. What the fuck? I asked myself. Am I giving off some Italiano vibe or wha? I ventured to the bathroom to make sure I hadn’t subconsciously painted the Italian flag to my face. I checked myself in the mirror. My hair, which I had earlier spent seconds spiking, sagged and appeared slicked back. This particular hair product has a habit of making my hair look darker. The ill-fitting, tight shirt, tucked into my jeans compounded my Italian appearance. I shrugged. Meh, what of it? I thought. I returned to my standing place near the dance floor.
Within minutes, another potential suitor, a man in his early thirties, greeted me. I checked him out. His cheeks were flushed and rosy. His hair had no particular style. I knew he was in the club alone. He resembled someone separated from his friends, during a night out in the “Big Shhmoke”, who happened to stumble upon a gay bar. I looked down at his feet, expecting to find wellies.
“Hello,” I said in return of his greeting.
He leaned in. He shaped his mouth into an “O”, as he over-pronounced his words, loudly, and slowly, in that unmistakeable manner only used by English speakers when addressing foreigners. “Where are you from?” I sighed and thought for a second.
“I am-a frrrrom Rrrroma” I cried enthusiastically in my best Italian accent, ensuring I used stereotyped hand gestures.
“Really?” he asked with raised eye brows.
I rounded my answer with a higher pitch. “Yesss-a.”
“Why are you in Dublin?”
“I am-a ‘ere for learrrrning my English-a.”
“Your English is very good.”
If I genuinely were foreign, I would definitely be insulted by this condescending fucker. I smiled proudly. “Grazie,” I said. “I learn-a my English-a in schooool-a forrrr five-a yearrrs-a”. I held five fingers in front of his face.
“It’s really very good. How long have you been in Dublin for? Are you in college?”
“I ‘ave-a been in Dublino forrrr two months-a. I am-a working ‘ere.”
“Do you work in a restaurant?”
“Yesss-a!” I exclaimed loudly, to stifle a laugh. “I work-a in-a restaurrrrant-a.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
I nodded. “Yesss-a, I ‘ave-a an Boyfrrrriend at home-a in Rrrroma.”
“Do you? And do you like Irish men?”
I held myself for a moment to give the impression of a pensive stance. I flicked my hand in front of me with an extended finger. “I like-a Irish men not-a-so-much-a.”
My new friend looked curious. He came closer. “Why is that?”
With my arms stretched both sides of me, as if delivering an operatic finalé, I proclaimed “they drrrink-a toooo-much-a”.
My companion, with no good bye or parting words, turned and left my side.