We walked arm in arm back to the hotel. I wasn’t self-conscious, and neither did Armin seem to be. We were in a capital city in Western Europe; if we couldn’t be ourselves here, then where could we be? And to my delight, nobody seemed to give a shit. People walked past us and didn’t give us a second glance.
‘I seriously love it here,’ I said, clutching my new t-shirt in my hand. ‘The liberal vibe reminds me a bit of London, but Dublin is way better.’
Armin laughed. ‘You think Dublin is better than London?’
‘Definitely! Without a doubt!’
‘But we haven’t even been here for twelve hours yet. How can you come to such a definite conclusion so quickly?’
‘I just can,’ I said. ‘My first impressions are always correct.’
‘Oh, what was your first impression of me?’
‘Actually, that was the only time my first impression was wrong, cos I thought you was a twat.’
Armin laughed. ‘That was very judgemental of you.’
‘Hey, I was wrong. I only thought you was a twat for the first few minutes.’
Laughing and playfully arguing with each other, we were crossing the Liffey again. The temperature had dropped a little, as the daylight was beginning to fade. The blue sky was darkening and a cool breeze pushed against us, as we rounded a corner and found ourselves back at the hotel.
We were both a little fatigued, a consequence of our early morning flight, and slept again for a while on the surprisingly comfortable hotel bed. Then, upon awakening, we were ready for a night out. But not before we had a quickie again. And this time we did it in the shower! It was fucking amazing!
I was starving by the time we found a place to eat. Armin said he wanted to find an Italian restaurant, which I was reluctant about. I love Italian food, but I was on holiday in Dublin. I wanted pie and mash and a pint of Guinness!
As we strolled through the dark streets, we saw a chalk board outside a huge pub on a corner, advertising their all day carvery! I was in heaven!
Chicken, roast potatoes, broccoli, carrots, mashed potato and gravy. I seriously love gravy! It was delicious! I even went back for seconds! And I washed it down with Guinness, which was probably a bad idea as I started to feel a bit heavy and bloated. But I didn’t care, I was on holiday! And my new Book of Kells t-shirt was quite loose fitting, so my pot belly didn’t really show, anyway.
‘You’re gonna be a right fat bastard when you’re older,’ said Armin.
Then the hypocrite ordered a dessert! Apple crumble and custard! Grasso bastardo! Even I didn’t have room for that. I was coveting it all the time he was eating it, though.
I noticed that two young women at the next table were looking at us. They were both very pretty. They kept glancing over, and I got the impression they were talking about us. Then one of them leaned over to Armin.
‘I just have to tell you, you’re very good-looking,’ she said to him. ‘I’m married, so don’t worry, I’m not coming onto you. But I’ve got to tell you, you’re stunning.’
‘Don’t tell him that,’ I said. ‘You’ll give him an ego!’
‘When I see somebody who’s beautiful, I just have to tell them,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female, I tell them.’
Her friend was giggling demurely.
‘Thank you,’ said Armin.
‘You’re both very beautiful,’ I said to them.
They both smiled and thanked me. I meant it, they really were gorgeous.
‘Are you on holiday?’ asked the one who had complimented Armin.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘We both live in Leeds, and we’ve just come over for a long weekend.’
‘I love Leeds!’ she said. ‘One of my friends went to uni there, and I used to stay with her sometimes. It’s a really good night out in Leeds.’
‘It’s ok,’ said Armin. ‘Where are you from? Do you live here?’
‘I don’t,’ she said, ‘but Shabnam does.’ She nodded to her friend. ‘I’m just visiting for a few days. I’m from Edinburgh. My name’s Baljinder, by the way.’
I can be quite anti-social sometimes, but I got the immediate impression that Baljinder and Shabnam were nice, friendly people. It was in their eyes and smiles, an unmistakable kindness and warmth. I’ve got to admit, if I wasn’t into men then I would have fancied both of them! Baljinder was the most talkative of the two, and she asked Armin and I what we thought of Dublin. We spoke highly of it, and told them the things we had done and seen on our first day here, and what our plans were for the rest of the holiday.
‘Are you two a couple?’ asked Baljinder. ‘Tell me to mind my own business.’
‘Yes, we are,’ said Armin. ‘Are you two a couple?’
They both giggled. ‘No, we’re not a couple,’ said Baljinder. ‘I’ve got a husband waiting for me back at home. I hope you don’t think I’m being nosy, I just love meeting new people and hearing about their stories. That’s how I met Shabnam. I was a nosy cow and barraged her with questions.’
‘We met in Barcelona,’ said Shabnam. ‘We were both on holiday there and got talking in a bar. And we’ve been friends ever since.’
‘How long ago was that?’ asked Baljinder. ‘That must have been, like, four years ago now. Something like that. Wow, I can’t believe we’ve known each other for that long. Time flies!’
‘What do you do here?’ I asked Shabnam.
‘I’m a nurse,’ she said.
‘Have you always lived in Dublin?’ I asked.
‘No, I’m originally from Riyadh.’
‘Oh, Saudi Arabia,’ I said.
She nodded. ‘I came to Dublin to study medicine, and then decided to stay here after I graduated.’
‘That’s so interesting,’ I said. ‘I’m from Italy, but I’ve lived in England for two years now.’
‘Oh wow,’ said Baljinder. ‘You’re from Italy? That’s so cool. I love Italy. Well, I love Rome. That’s the only place I’ve been to in Italy. I thought it was the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. Where are you from in Italy?’
‘Lucca. It’s near Florence.’
‘Oh, I’d love to go to Florence,’ said Baljinder.
‘Your English is perfect,’ said Shabnam.
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘So is yours.’
‘I’ve got so many questions for you,’ said Baljinder, ‘Like, why did you move to England? And how did you two meet? And what’s Florence like? I told you I was a nosy cow. Look, we’re going to a bar just around the corner. Shabnam said they do great two for one cocktails. You’re welcome to join us. No pressure.’
Armin and I looked at each other.
‘I quite fancy a cocktail,’ he said.
‘Me too,’ I said.
I was happy to stay in the company of these two women. I liked Baljinder’s openness and gregarious personality, and I wanted to hear more from Shabnam about Saudi Arabia, what it was like growing up there, and why she decided to stay in Dublin. Baljinder wasn’t the only one out of the four of us who was a nosy cow.
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