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 begins today 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. In this first episode, we meet the main character, Julia, as she complains to her friend Ciara about her barren love life...
Episode 1: Mopey D**k
It is a truth universally acknowledged that online dating f***ing sucks.
“What happened this time?” Ciara said, unlocking the doors to her car.
“Just the usual. An unsolicited picture of a potential suitor’s nether regions,” I said. Ciara laughed as she opened the door to the backseat and dropped her bag in. I tossed mine in behind hers and opened the passenger door.
“Let’s have a look then,” she said, waiting for the car to warm up.
I tapped the screen on my phone to bring up Tinder and opened my messages.
“I think this one falls under the ‘startled breakfast sausage’ category,” I said, turning the screen for her to see.
Ciara studied it briefly. “Julia, I think you found the elusive ‘mopey d**k’.”
I laughed as she winked at me. Then she flipped down the mirror above the steering wheel. It was her after-college ritual to check for non-existent smudges in her eyeliner, swiping under her left eye for good measure. She fluffed up her ginger curls, a style that I’ve never been able to replicate on my own brown locks. Not for the first time, I wondered how it must feel to be hilarious and gorgeous.
“At least this one said hello first,” I said, suddenly less amused.
“Mm, yes, what high standards, Julia. What happened to the lad with the hair?”
“Your one from Waterford?”
“The baker who wanted to teach you how to make a real biscuit?”
“Him? We had a nice chat. Then he sent me a d**k pic.”
“Well what about the...”
“No, that’s it! I’m just going to bite the bullet and become a mail order bride.”
Ciara gave me a sideways look.
“Is everyone from America this dramatic, like?”
“What else am I supposed to do? I’ve tried everything! Tinder, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel!”
“What about actually leaving our apartment every once in a while? Be open to experiences! Your man’s not going to just magically appear in our living room.”
“I’m open! Not everyone can get a guy’s number from just walking past them on Grand Parade.”
“How would you know?”
Ciara started driving while I stared out the window in misery. I’ve never thought of rain as romantic, but it seemed like there were only couples out braving the weather, holding hands or sharing an umbrella or even kissing beneath the shelter of a bus stop. I fantasized about the 208-bus whipping past the smug lovers, tearing through a large puddle and soaking them in the name of justice.
“Are you wearing any concealer?” Ciara asked suddenly.
“Your dark thoughts are showing again.”
I flipped her off and she laughed, pulling into the garage of our apartment complex. Ciara parked and got out both of our backpacks, handing me mine as we trudged up the four flights of stairs to our apartment. Someone’s bin bag had broken in the elevator weeks ago and it still smelt like a spoiled milk and rotten egg smoothie.
“When was the last time you even went on a date?” Ciara asked, climbing the last few stairs with ease. I took a couple seconds to answer, trying to hide how out of breath I was. I should really start going to the Mardyke more often.
“Are you still on that?” I asked, once I had control of my breathing.
“Just answer the question, Julia.”
“January,” I huffed, “...two years ago.”
Ciara stopped short in front of our apartment and I ran into her. “Please tell me you’re having the craic.”
“Ouch!” I rubbed my forehead where it had hit the back of hers.
“Ciara, we’ve really got to talk about your crack problem.”
“Hilarious, but you’ve used that one before,” she said, opening our door.
I followed behind her, slipping my shoes off at the door. It was one of Ciara’s many house rules: ‘no outdoor shoes in our indoor space.’ That was right up there with ‘no re-boiling the water already in the kettle’ and ‘no looking at your phone at the kitchen table’. To be fair, she’s broken that last one more times than I have. I started heading towards my room when Ciara pointed at one of the kitchen chairs.
“Take a seat. I want to show you something.”
“Is this going to take long?” I asked, my feet already moving to comply with her demands. Has anyone ever said ‘no’ to Ciara? I doubted it.
“I was really looking forward to lying face down in my bed and never getting up again.”
“It won’t take long, I promise.”
“Really?” I said. “Then why did you put the kettle on?”
Ciara ignored me and took out her laptop. After a few seconds of typing, she revealed the screen with all the drama of a game show host.
“Speed dating? What is this, the early 2000s?”
“It’s tonight! Seven dates, each three minutes long. It’s like in person Tinder without all the d**k pics! Well, at least hopefully.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
She pushed her laptop closer to me. “Come on, just take a look at it.”
“Come join us for a night of rapid coupling,” I read aloud the description for the event.
“No way am I doing that. It sounds like something out of a Regency era erotica.”
“Well then, grab your corset, Miss Bennet! I already signed us both up!”
TOMORROW in Episode 2 of our Summer Soap: “Swiping right or left on someone is a lot different than actually having to talk to them.”
Regardless, everyone looked excited and confident.