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How You Found It

How You Found It

Cathal Brogan

Alex Fortune

You’re on your own, waiting at a bus stop. The cold is getting to you because you’re going with Laura and she told you to dress up. That jacket of yours is keeping your arms warm but your legs feel numb and your shoes pinch your feet. The bus is arriving soon and you want to text Laura to hurry up but she’s already ignored your last three and you worry if you call her she’ll think you’re annoying. There’s a group of guys making noise by the other side of the bus shelter. You stare at your phone’s lock screen in case one of them tries to come over.

You think about how it’s not too late to cancel; to give up and go home. But you have no friends, haven’t for years, and when girls from your course invite you somewhere you need to say yes.

The bus she said they’d be on time for is just pulling into the stop. The guys file on board as you panic and send your final ‘Bus is here!’ message. You’re glancing around as you get on for any sign of the girls but they’re nowhere in sight. Now you’re pleading with the bus driver to wait but he’s telling you there’s another bus in an hour. He’s just about to start heading off when Laura and her friends round the corner. The four of them step on and sit themselves down in the first two rows.

You sit on your own in the row behind them.

They’ve said ‘hello’ and ‘you look gorgeous’ so now they turn their heads from you and start a conversation you don’t understand about people you’ve never met and places you’ve never been. You have to ask them what they’re talking about two separate times before they notice you. They say you wouldn’t get it and start talking about relationships you can’t relate to with boys you’ve never known.

So, you stare out the window at the cold October night. Blank and dark; the sky is naked tonight. The lads are getting noisy again at the back of the bus. One of them rips an echoing belch to great applause from the rest of them.

One of the girls, you think she’s called Hannah, takes notice. ‘Arseholes’, she mutters without looking up from her phone.

You get back to the window.

The bus pulls up to the curb and discharges everyone onto the pavement. By this point Laura’s noticed all the loud guys are going to the same club as you. Your groups intermingle in the queue and you all step inside the club together.

The noise is too loud. The lights are too bright. You worry the heat is making your make—up run. There are too many people in here, you can barely breathe, barely move. The group sits down and you sit down with them. Two boys disappear to go get drinks. You smile, and pretend to be part of the conversation you can’t hear the group having. The trick is to laugh when their mouths stop moving. Those boys come back with a tray of shots. You drink them because everyone else is drinking them. They taste terrible. You’re still making contorted faces when a song Laura loves comes on.

Because she loves it everyone loves it and they scramble out of the booth for the dance floor. ‘Mind our bags okay?’, she says before leading them out into the fray.

You sit there, alone with their bags and jackets. The floor is sticky. You think it’s all the spilt drinks from over the years. You watch the crowd. It’s a few minutes before you notice the crowd’s watching you back.

His hair is nice, this tall young guy looking at you from the edge of the dance floor. Clear skin, well—dressed and he knows how to carry himself too judging by the smile he flashes as he joins you in the booth. You smile back. He has a tattoo of a bird on his wrist. He leans across the table and you tilt your head to hear him better.

‘Will you shift my mate?’

You leave.

First you leave the booth and then you leave the club. You hope for cool and quiet relief out on the pavement, but instead you see some of the same lads from the bus taking a selfie with their mate. He’s passed out in the gutter and he has sick on his shirt. Hannah’s making out with that same one of them she called an arsehole on the bus.

The bus.

You start walking to the nearest bus stop. Let them mind their own bags.

The bus back is silent and there’s nobody there to witness your tears, let alone wipe them from your cheeks, so you simply let them flow.

The bus pulls into the bus stop. You thank the driver as you get off. It’s a quick walk back to Ashfield student residence.

You lean against the front door as it closes behind you. The apartment is empty. You are feeling very sad by now. You are awkward and you are broken and you are excruciatingly alone.

You’re also hungry. So, you go to the kitchen and open the fridge. There’s something new in there. You pull a piece of tupperware out and place it on the counter.

There’s a sticky note on the lid.

‘Hi future Orlaith! Hope it was a fun night out. We had some cake so we saved this slice for you!’

You open the tupperware. It’s a rather hefty slice.

You take a bite.

It tastes good.

Maybe you’re not as alone as you thought after all.