Thirty seven minutes. I timed it. Thirty seven minutes is the difference between the time I started attempting to leave the pub, and the time I actually left the pub. And this was no feat of conviviality -no no. This was a very strange Spanish reluctance to leave a socially awkward and boring situation. I could not explain it, but was helpless against its power.
At 12:01, I announce my intention to leave. I have a gleeful moment in which I think I have gotten away with it, but before I have my scarf around my neck, Gabriela announces her intention to come with me. Just after she goes to the toilet. I am okay with this, and make further announcements about waiting ‘ici’, which are somehow misunderstood and she returns from an unsuccessful mission some minutes later to collect me for our joint bathroom visit. No no, says I, ‘ICI’. You can brave it on your own. She eventually returns with the next announcement. The other Spanish girl, Val, is apparently also going to come with us, and now she needs the toilet. More waiting. I realise that I am now helplessly embroiled in a social joint-exit situation that I cannot escape, as I have lost the right to leave independently. I panic and start wrapping more layers around me. However, Val is at this point very busy wrapping herself around her Iranian not-boyfriend, and looks like she has not got the slightest intention of going anywhere. No amount of disengaging from conversation and clutching my handbag can save me now. Gabriela finally puts a jumper on (not a coat yet, mind you), but becomes distracted by two young enthusiastic Venezuelans, who are dying to dance with us and speak anything but French or English. Gabriela has little to gain from this exchange, but still does not seem to be showing any desire to extricate herself. It’s bizarre. In the end I picked her up, threw her over my shoulder and garryowened her into a tram, sprinting the rest of the way home. And all of this took thirty seven minutes. That is a lot of minutes, when all you want to do is be at home in bed -alone -watching Netflix. In one language -not seven.
It might have been that I was intimidated by all these young people, having multilingual conversations and dancing to Europop, but I found it very difficult to see the appeal of such an event. No, methinks, international soirées are not for me. How they are for anyone I find very confusing, but Gabriela was most insistent that I should agree it had a been a great night, what with the dancing and all. (Or in my case, awkward shuffling). I tried to explain to a grinning Iranian that we are nicely repressed in Ireland and don’t do sober dancing, but he completely ignored me and bullied me into adding him as a friend on Facebook. This Facebook friending is also quite mysterious -Gabriela was adding people like a mad thing, and given her level of commitment to actually texting her Facebook friends, I just don’t know how she does it.
Another surprising aspect of an international soirée -and the expat community in general, which I had avoided mentioning until now, is the racism. Jesus Christ, it is alive and well. I have previously noticed a rather alarming amount of bitching about “the Chinese and the Arabs”, but I had hoped it was just miscommunication. But no, last night confirmed it. Oddly, a penchant for international soirées and stilted conversation is only a mark of open-mindedness if you are also white and European. And we wonder how the Americans elected Trump. (About which, incidentally, I am still so upset that I cannot bring myself to further comment on the matter).
So today was supposed to be about printing more cover letters and traipsing the town delivering same, but it is pouring rain and actually snowing outside, so I am finding it difficult to leave the apartment. Which is deliciously warm, as Karim is fully committed to recreating a Tunisian climate in our living quarters. Fine with me says I, and he paying all the bills. I do wake up most mornings in a somewhat sun-dried prunish state, but anything is better than the cold. Nothing a half a litre of Nivea lotion can’t sort out. But with all this rain and mankiness, I may even mop the floors. Which is about as appealing as chewing my own arm off, but I tried that and it tastes of Nivea. A bit of Radio France Bleu Isere and mop city it is.