Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap. Now in its fifth year, Summer Soap is a daily fictional serial run over 12 parts, which began on Monday and runs for a fortnight. Called Cork’s Quick Coupler, this story, set in the world of speed dating, was written by Jessica Militante, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. You can catch up with previous episodes at echolive.ie.
Episode 6: Pedantic Paul
In between not wanting to come here and wanting to leave immediately, I had gone and done a stupid thing: I had gotten my hopes up.
I mean, I knew that this wasn’t going to go well, but some teeny, tiny part of me had hoped that maybe I would find a match to go on a real date with.
You’d think that after the unsanitary epidemiologist, the guy and his mom, and an actual child, the speed dating gods would look down on me and give me a break. I really didn’t think it could get much worse.
Then Paul sat down.
Paul immediately gave off a vibe that said, ‘My parents may have given me a small loan of a million dollars but I’m self-made’. He had on an actual three-piece suit, which would have been nice if we were at the Met Gala and not an event in a pub that smelt like Guinness and nervous sweat.
The amount of time it took him to sit down after taking off his jacket, uncuffing and rolling up his sleeves, and loosening his tie, had me wondering if we’d have any time left. I hoped not.
“So, I heard you talking earlier, and I noticed you’re not Irish,” he said, his own accent quite familiar.
“No, I’m from Chicago,” I said. “And it sounds like you are, too.”
Paul waved his hand like he was shooing away a fly.
“I don’t consider myself to be from one place. I like to think that I am a man of the world.”
Was he for real?
“Oo-kay, so what brings you to...”
“Listen,” he cut me off. “I’m going to save the both of us a lot of time. I’m only here to find an Irish girl, have a little fun until St Patty’s Day, and then be back on my jet to Dubai before the end of the quarter.”
He strangely over-pronounced the t’s in ‘Patty.’
“Are you serious?” I laughed.
His expression told me he was.
“Well, good luck with that, I guess?” I said. “But you should know that it’s St Paddy’s Day, like with two d’s.”
Paul had been looking at the next table over, probably trying to see who his next date would be. He barely glanced back at me.
“No, it’s not,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure it is.”
My insistence irked him, and he turned to face me, shaking his head softly, like he couldn’t believe that I could be so dumb.
“No, sweetheart, it isn’t. It’s called St Patrick’s Day. Patrick is shortened to Pat or Patty. Thus, it is also known as St Patty’s Day.”
His smile was smug, and I got the feeling that he would argue with me about my own name if he thought he was right. Now seemed like a good time to escape to the bathroom.
“That’s fine, you can believe that if you want to.”
In my attempt to flee, I stood up too quickly and knocked the table, dislodging the wad of napkins under one of the legs that had been keeping it balanced. Our wine glasses teetered dangerously as the table wobbled beneath them, but Paul reached out quickly to steady them. Thank god they didn’t spill on him, there was no way I could have afforded to get his suit cleaned.
“I need to pee,” I announced and then all but ran into the hallway beside me that led to the toilets. Once I was safely inside, I went to the sink to splash some water on my face.
“Rough night?” asked the girl reapplying her lipstick in the mirror.
“Dating sucks,” I said, and she snorted.
“Ya here for the speed dating event too?”
I nodded and patted my face dry with a paper towel from the dispenser. The girl had long brown hair and bright blue eyes. Her expression was soft and understanding. It didn’t seem to me like she needed one of these events.
“They get easier. Once ya aren’t so worried about getting matches, ya learn to have a bit of fun with it,” she said.
“Thanks, but I definitely don’t want to have fun with my last ‘date’. Look out for Paul when he gets to you.”
“Ya just had Paul? I started out with him and he told me that he wasn’t interested in brunettes. I’m gutted, like.”
“I wasn’t the right nationality for him. Something tells me he won’t be going home with a lot of matches.”
“He’s an eejit, but don’t let that stop ya from enjoying yerself here. The night isn’t over yet.”
She popped the lipstick back into her black clutch and checked her smile, rubbing the tiny bit of red off of her front teeth. She turned to me and stuck out her hand.
“I’m Siobhan,” she said.
We shook hands and she gave me a bright smile.
“Well, Julia, now in a minute I’m sure ya will meet yer perfect match.”
“I doubt it. I haven’t been having the most luck with dates tonight.”
She looked me up and down.
“Nah, I don’t believe it, like. But, hey, if not, give me yer number and we’ll go out for real one night.”
“That sounds good. I don’t really go out much but I’m sure you’d like my friend, Ciara.”
“Bring her along!”
Siobhan typed my number into her phone then narrowed her eyes at me.
“Wait, did ya just have Paul?”
“Yeah, I actually left him sitting...”
Siobhan shoved her phone into her pocket and pushed me towards the door.
“Get back out there; that means yer gonna have Theo next!”