Introspection is a series in which my current nineteen-year-old self has imaginary interactions with my fifteen-year-old self. For more information, click here.
Going through the door I have multiple flashbacks to my teen years. I actually spent an awful lot of time in this pub. A mix of boredom and rebellion meant that my life and that of my friends very often revolved around drinking.
I turn a corner and feel relief upon seeing that my old spot is still available. Well it would be more apt to call it our spot, because I never came here on my own.
Our spot is a dusty, private little booth right opposite the bar. The fact that we were underage was overlooked as long as we kept to ourselves in this quiet spot of the pub. The only time we ever got refused was when someone else had taken our spot and we ended up sticking out quite obviously.
I gesture for him to sit down and I walk up to the bar, standing tall as I wait for the barman to spot me. When he eventually does I order a glass of merlot and after a moment’s hesitation, remember that my companion will probably want a glass of blue WKD.
The barman hardly even glances at my fifteen-year-old friend. He’s lucky in that his height and his general confidence makes him seem a bit older, or at least makes people more willing to overlook his age. As I carry the drinks back to the table, I see his eyes focus on the glass of wine for a second.
He’s probably surprised. He’s only had sips from his Mam’s glass of wine every now and again and even though he pretended to like it, he didn’t really. I, on the other hand, drink wine like it’s my religion. I suppose somewhere along the line I actually began to enjoy the taste.
As I pick up my glass and swirl it in my hands (a habit I adopted when I first began drinking because I thought it looked sophisticated and now can’t stop), I try to remember whether he’s drank here before. When I ask him, he shakes his head.
“I mean we come in here sometimes to hide from the cold or the sun and I’ll sometimes get a diet coke. But no, we never drink alcohol here.”
As he pours the little bottle of blue WKD into his glass and lifts it to his lips, I have to stop myself from wrinkling my nose. I never want to be that older person who scoffs at the habits of a younger person. Besides, blue WKD tastes delicious and it would probably still be my drink if it had a higher alcohol content.
He only recently drank his first bottle of the stuff with his friends. He agonised over where the hell he was going to get himself some drink and after thinking about it for a long time, he decided to politely ask his Mam to buy it for him. He told her that he was going to a supervised party and all of his friends would be drinking.
He asked her would she buy him some alcohol for the party if he promised to be responsible. He said he’d rather ask her than risk sourcing it for himself and getting caught and destroying her trust. His Mam agreed and seemed grateful for his honesty. They had a nice moment before he went and ruined it all.
Because once he was actually dropped off he didn’t go to a supervised party at all. Let’s just say that himself and his friends chose a very unwise spot to drink and they ended up getting reported by somebody in the village. For some reason, it was decided that he had been the ringleader of this particular rendezvous (which was necessarily true, but wasn’t necessarily untrue either) and the touching moment with his Mam was destroyed.
But for now, he thinks he got away with it and he’s looking forward to a Summer of experimenting with drink with his friends. I want to laugh when I consider some of the things that he’s going to get up to, but I’d hate to give him warning for any of it. All of the times he gets caught and all of the trouble he gets in will be very necessary (more on this later).
I take another sip of merlot. I feel quite surprised. I assumed that I’d desperately want to avoid this conversation, but I feel okay about discussing it. I suppose there’s no more appropriate time to discuss love and romance than with a glass of merlot in your hand.
“Love is like… a really strong warmth inside you. I know that sounds clichéd, but it’s the only way that I can think to describe it,” I announce, continuing our conversation from earlier.
“Falling in love was the most out of control I ever felt. It really affected me in a huge way. The heartbreak was something I never could have predicted and I still feel it from time to time all these years later. It sits on my heart, like a scar.” I bite my lip and look out the window for a moment, trying to keep emotion out of my voice.
“The fact that it was unrequited was really tough. Even though I knew it was stupid, I couldn’t help but feel rejected in a big way. It’s so shocking to discover that something you feel so, so strongly isn’t reciprocated in the way you hoped it would be.”
He reaches out and takes my hand. He’s good at this, at comforting people. He’s actually a source of comfort for a lot of his friends.
“I think the strangest thing was that I didn’t feel even the slightest hint of regret. I was almost grateful for the experience. Even though it was the most agonising thing I’d ever been through, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I think I recognised that it was changing my life in a big way. And I was ready for a change at that point.”
I see his eyes glaze over. He doesn’t understand wanting anything to change. I’ve lost him. Time to change the topic.
“Since then I’ve had a pretty carefree time when it comes to men. I wouldn’t say I’m traumatised or anything like that, but I’ve had no real desire to fall in love again. So, I haven’t really been on the prowl.”
“Do you date?” He asks eagerly. He’s barely touched his drink he’s been that engrossed in what I’m saying.
“I’ve been around the block on the dating scene. I’ve had some interesting experiences, but none of it has ever lead to anything serious. I’ve never had a proper boyfriend, but that’s not something I feel even the slightest bit of shame over. When I lived in the country I found that there was this huge pressure to be seeing someone. But when I got to Dublin I met loads of people my age who had never been with anyone and it made me feel relieved too.”
At this he looks disappointed. He has a dream that a boy is going to sweep him off his feet and help him figure out all of the confusion in his head. But he’ll do that on his own. I won’t patronise him by informing him that he absolutely needs to spend the next years being single but he does. A boy would distract him from everything he needs to do.
“Do you get lonely?” The question is full of nerves. He constantly feels lonely and in turn feels guilt for that loneliness. I consider my answer for a moment.
“Of course I do. Loneliness is a very prevalent and necessary emotion in my life. For a number of confusing reasons. But I also have an amazing support network around me and I keep very busy by seeing all of my friends on a regular basis. I’m open to the opportunity of meeting a boy but I have stuff to work on until then.”
“The truth is, I form unhealthy attachments quite often because of my mental illness,” he looks surprised at this but doesn’t interrupt me. “I’m working on myself a lot right now and I don’t exactly trust myself to be with a man in a healthy way. But there’s no hurry. I’m young and I often forget that. But I’m still figuring out an awful lot about myself and it’s okay that I’m not ready to fit a man into that picture. Believe me, there’s a lot to figure out.”
At this he looks worried. I could reassure him that everything’s fine etc. but I don’t exactly feel like it. He had a long road to go in terms of figuring out his mental illness and he’s going to need a lot of strength for that. I’d hate to act like it was any less excruciating than reality. I can see he wants to ask me about it, but I’m not ready to talk about it today. I drain my wine glass and gesture for him to also finish his drink. Scooping up my handbag I turn around to him. “Come on, I’ll walk you out. I have to go back to Dublin so we won’t be able to meet for a while, that okay?”
He looks disappointed about this but he nods. I sense he needs some time to process all of the information he’s learned over the last few days.
To read about the men I meet on nights out, click here.
Watch a video about the men I have sex with below: