Part One: Donuts, Margaritas and Waistcoats
Part Two: Airports, Adoption and the Kindness of Strangers
Part Three: Binkies, Babes and Bathtubs
Part Four: Carbs, Catamarans and Cast Away
Part Five: Baronesses, Orations and Foreign Gems
Part Six: Mushroom Brains, Front Naps and Tuna Smashing
Part Seven: Entree, Main Course and Dessert
Part Eight: Periodicals, Pool Hops and Australian Units
The restaurant we were at last night printed its menu on crisp thick card, using a delicate script font. White space was used effectively to set an elegant mood. The menu noted where the steak was raised, how the broccolini would be prepared, and what region the wine was from.
The restaurant we are sitting in now has laminated its menu, presumably so you can also use it as a placemat. It features pictures of the burgers and uses exclamation points liberally. If you don’t want tap beer you can select something from the cocktail menu, which must have been created with a google search of “genital synonyms”.
I love it.
Sadly, the tacky fun comes at a price. My beef burger is bad. I feel pretty confident in declaring this, because even though I’m drunk, I’m not enjoying it. During other nights out I have declared BK chicken burgers to be god’s greatest crowning achievement, I have made audible moaning noises into a kebab, and have directed a taxi driver to “keep going until we find a McDonalds that’s open, price is no issue, friend”. If I’m drunk, and eating a burger, and I don’t like the burger? It’s probably past a point that most people would deem ‘edible’.
Annie is keen for a big night out with table dancing and raucous adventures. We’re drunk, and sitting at a table, so this is a good start. However, the mood’s all wrong. We’re surrounded by families and sleepy looking couples, all content to eat their soggy nachos then go home. I can sense Annie’s frustration. Annie doesn’t like frustration, and I know she won’t wear this for long before she makes something happen.
During dinner, a group in the restaurant sing Happy Birthday to someone at their table, and everyone applauds. Annie looks at me, something flashing behind her eyes. It feels like she’s asking permission, but for what? Then she turns to the bartender and says, “Amazing! It’s my birthday too!”
Obviously yesterday’s celebrations were not enough.
Though I’m sure they’re skeptical about how likely her story is, the bar staff lavish her with attention. As soon as we’ve finished eating, out of nowhere, two fabulous gay boys with narrow hips and fitted black shirts appear to take her to the dance floor. It turns out they work here, but they aren’t waiters or bartenders… it seems their job is to just be charming and encourage people to spend more money. Annie is twirled around and dipped while I snap photos. I’m grateful that she changed into a longer skirt.
After the song is finished, Annie clambers up to sit on the bar, and we “share” a birthday sundae (Annie eats the cherry and I hoover down the rest) and then pay the bill. Then we’re sort of adrift. We need more people to have adventures with, and it’s slim pickings at this bar. Seeing some potential in the women next to us, I strike up a conversation. I’ve barely gotten their names when I’m interrupted by Annie, wanting to introduce me to her new friend David.
David is a short, middle-aged, bespectacled Asian man with two large moles on his nose. He’s tucked his shiny blue shirt into his khakis. He is basically the opposite of everything Annie looks for in a man, and so when he asks if we want to join him and his friends for drinks, I expect her to decline. But she looks at me, eyebrow raised. We don’t have any other offers. It’s sort of her birthday. Why not?
Annie follows him outside and I say goodbye to the women at the bar, joking “I think I have to go be a fancy prostitute now”. Their stunned expressions make me wonder if maybe they think I really am a fancy prostitute. I won’t lie, it makes me feel pretty.
When we get outside a waitress asks David if he would like to buy his new friends some drinks.
“Beer!” David says.
The waitress cocks her head to one side. “Are you sure? Maybe some cocktails? For the lovely girls?”
After a moment he nods, and the waitress looks at us, guessing on the first try what cocktails we’d like. I’m flabbergasted at how smooth this whole operation is, and wonder how often groups of rich businessmen end up with silly drunk white girls at this establishment.
Meanwhile, Annie’s talking solidly without breathing about her birthday and winning this trip and what we did yesterday and what we’re doing tomorrow and her job and snorkelling and what she thought about The Rum Diaries. When she leaves to go to the bathroom, she leaves us silent in a giant conversational black hole.
David breaks the silence, turning to me and asks, “are you sisters?” I want to make a joke about how Asian people think us Westerners all look the same, but I’m unsure if my new role as drunken geisha includes race-based humour. So I just say “no, we’re friends” and take a sip of my drink. He says, “you’re quiet. Not like your friend”.
I think David must want some sparkling repartee, so I ask where he’s from.
“Oh, I’ve never been. What do you do, for work?”
“Oh, wonderful, what sort?”
“That’s exciting… do you find it interesting?”
I want to say “you’re quiet, not like your friends”, but his friends are smoking and passively staring at the band. So I ask what his friends do. This one, he’s the boss. From Korea. That one, assistant. From Japan.
I’m bewildered about how much geographic diversity they have in such a small group of people, and wonder if this is some sort of business punking, feeling like I’m going to be accidentally racist at any moment. When Annie returns I have never been happier to see her. She takes over the reins of the discussion and I slump in my chair.
At some point we’re joined by an Australian in tight black jeans and an open, loose white shirt. He sidles up to our table and seamlessly joins the conversation. I assume he knows David and David probably assumes he knows us, and I wonder how long it takes for everyone in the group to realise that we are all just a bunch of drunk strangers.
It turns out I’m rubbish with accents, and the Australian is actually a New Zealander. His name’s Alan, and he’s staying at the resort next to ours. Just like the new James Bond, Alan is a fan of Heineken, and he makes sure that there is a steady supply of green glass vessels at our table. Soon we’re feeling very happy about the world.
The fabulous boys from earlier have joined us, talking the men into buying more drinks and telling Annie and I how delightful we are while twirling us around the dance floor. It’s fun, and weird, and I don’t know who is being exploited or if maybe we all are. Or am I overthinking it? Why do I overthink everything? I have to start living in the moment. How do I do that? Should I start like, yoga? Ellen does yoga, I should talk to her about it. Or maybe meditation? I should probably write this down.
The only thing that shuts up my inner monologue is talking, so I leave the dance floor and approach David. I try to chat with him about language, explaining that from what I know of Mandarin, the intonation is just as important as the pronunciation. He leans in and says your friend, Annie – she is perfect. Yes, I agree, but why? He says, the lyrics. She might not know them, but she moves, so naturally. He steps back to watch her appreciatively, and I think maybe I’m fighting a losing battle with this one.
I turn to his friend instead, who I still only know as ‘The Boss’. I introduce myself and he replies, “oh, Kate, will you marry me?” Tired and beginning to lose interest, I shrug. He says “Buy you diamond? Buy you BMW?” and then leans in to kiss me.
I manage to deflect it and his puckered lips hit my cheek. Worried he’ll try again, I keep talking.
“Where are you from?” I ask, and he replies “Korea”. Something in me clicks, and I say, “ooh, like Gangnam Style!” I say excitedly, and he looks at me, baffled.
I look around for Annie, and see her at the end of a table, hanging off Alan. I shout “heeeeeey, sexy lady” at her, and without missing a beat she immediately starts hopping from foot to foot, singing “whoop, whoop whoop”. Looking at The Boss, this is a delightful surprise, like when you mention your favourite weird 90s movie no one saw and someone pipes up with a quote from it. The gay boys start dancing too, and Alan’s attempting it, and The Boss is clapping his hands in glee.
A silly K-pop song has helped us cross a cultural divide, and I feel like the evening has peaked. I ask Annie if she wants to leave and she shakes her head, declaring that beer is the BNE and she’s staying out. I think about my Jilly Cooper book at the resort. It’s sitting on my bedside table, next to a bottle of water, and suddenly I can’t think of anything more delicious.
Five minutes later I’m in a cab, alone.
At 3am I wake up to room service at the door. Annie’s asleep on the couch and I have to shake her leg to get her to move. She hauls her eyelids open and points her eyes in my direction. Then she says, “I’m ok?” I say “yes, you are. Your food is here”. She just repeats “I’m ok” and closes her eyes again. Minutes later I hear the scraping of fork against plate and I go back to sleep.
In the morning I roll over and see she’s made it to bed. “Good night?” I ask.
She replies, “so, apparently biting is my new thing? And I think I’ve lost the camera.”
To be continued…