“What time’s our flight at tomorrow morning?” I say.
“Well our bus is collecting us at 5.00 so we’ll have to take it easy Tony,” he says before taking a swig from his beer bottle while on our way to the club.
When we arrive at Babylon we’re no longer subjected to the usual bouncer pep talks or cover charges as having been here 14 nights on the spin-we’re part of the furniture.
Pepe’s first to greet us from behind the bar.
“Hey if it isn’t my two favourite Irish pigs,” a ritual we’re well accustomed to. He then speaks directly to Matt “Hey whitey you still get no sun? You like Dracula.”
“Just get me a damn beer,” Matt says jokingly.
“You hear that Rui? Dracula’s sissying out on us-he only wants a beer.” Rui marches straight over and begins pouring four shots.
“Oh wait maybe sissy boys no want shots tonight.” We down our shots as well as the shots intended for the bar staff.
“Oh so you’re tough guys now? How about a motherfucker?”
The last thing we need is a motherfucker which is what the guys concocted after the third night to try and get us wasted. There isn’t exactly a science to it and taste is certainly not one of its virtues. It basically just consists of every nasty high volume alcohol thrown together in a long glass. I know there’s definitely Pernod, JD, and absinthe but the only distinguishable taste is fire.
“Rack ‘em up Rui,” Matt says and already I’ve got pre-drink regrets. I can tell by the manic grin painted onto Rui’s face that he’s taken this as a personal challenge-we’re not leaving here unless we’re completely fucked up. More foul drinks than usual flow into the glass and this time he’s even thrown Aftershock into the mix.
The drink presented in front of me is evil personified-tar brown bile with the smell alone enough to make me sick. I close my eyes and down it in three huge gulps-the first stripping my taste buds, the second burning my throat beyond recognition, and the third ripping apart my stomach lining. We complete our drinks to a great round of applause with Rui ringing the bell, and Pepe clapping in recognition. A German tank at the bar gets caught up in the excitement and orders another three motherfuckers. I thank him behind gritted teeth still trying to come to grips with the first firebomb.
Over in the corner some English lout is getting leery. I can’t quite make out what he’s saying but catch enough to get the jist.
“Fack those IRA cants, I show them how it’s really done.”
Our drinks come but the German tank makes a point of waiting until the English guy is served.
“Okay now we go,” he says challenging the hate-filled Brit. The German goes first downing his drink with admiral aplomb not even wincing in the process. The English guy follows suit but on his second mouthful ends up spitting it back out all over the floor.
“Your eyes why they condensate?” The German directs at the English guy who is too busy coughing to respond. The bar erupts into laughter leaving the emaciated English guy with no choice but to fade away into the background.
We spend the rest of the night getting pissed with the good-natured German tank named Dieter and although I’m fairly wasted I can still function pretty well. We exchange our goodbyes with Pepe and Rui and I’m amazed when they give us the Portuguese flag from behind the bar. It’s only on closer inspection that I realize they’ve signed it-“to our two favourite pigs”.
“Look our own personal testament,” Matt says.
And the more I think about it the more I’m unsure if it’s a compliment; out of all the hundreds of thousands of drunks they’ve met over the years-we are the biggest.
Back at the hotel the coach has already arrived with families robotically putting their luggage on board. We sprint up to the room and shovel as many clothes into our bags as we can and settle on “as long as we have our passports and wallets we’ll be okay”.
The coach ride is painful with everyone else’s sobriety making me feel very self-conscious. Matt’s voice bellows at least ten octaves above everyone else’s and his booze-filled breath causes me to recoil every time he speaks. I can feel the drink seeping out my pours as the adrenaline wears off and I slowly crash and burn. Matt, however, is the complete opposite-fuelled by Red Bull and vodka-spitting out sentences at a dizzying rate to further compound my misery.
Our flight is of course late and by the time we’re seated I’m in a total vegetable state. The airplane is hot and the seats are so compact that I have to shift position every two to three minutes in order to stave off cramps. The air makes my skin incredibly clammy and is contaminated with the unmistakable presence of children-regular coughing, high pitched screaming, and round the clock tantrums.
“What time’s it bud?”
“I don’t have a watch but I’d say we’re about an hour through the flight.”
“Have you not got your phone?”
“No I have it turned off. I don’t think you’re allowed to have your phone on during flights.”
“That’s only during takeoff and landing.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, now hurry up and tell me what time it is?”
I power up my phone and show Matt the screen which reads 11:22.
“Excuse me Sir but you are not permitted to use mobile telephones aboard airborne aircraft,” an angry looking flight attendant informs me.
“Oh I’m really sorry I thought that was just during takeoff and landing.”
“No sir it’s against aviation law and is not permitted at any time.”
“Again I’m really sorry I was merely checking the time, apologies.”
The battle-axe immediately disappears and judging by her body language you’d swear I just told her to fuck off. A few minutes later the captain buzzes through onto the intercom, “Hello this is your captain speaking to remind everyone that no mobile technology is permitted at any stage of the flight including takeoff and landing. Anyone who has a problem with this will be dealt with upon arrival by local police, thank you”.
“Fuck Matt does that mean they’re going to arrest me?”
“Don’t be stupid, that bitch is probably on her rag.”
“But the captain…”
“Tony it was a mistake, relax.”
I immediately scan through the plane’s health and safety and am relieved to find it states that “mobile phones are not permitted during takeoff or landing”. I wave it in front of Matt as if I’d uncovered the Holy Grail.
“There’s no way they’ll be able to press charges against me.”
“Calm the fuck down. You’ve just overreacting because you’ve got a bad case of the fears.”
“Overreacting? Am I the only one who heard what the pilot said?”
Matt gives up trying to reason with me and starts reading the in-flight magazine without a care in the world.
The next two hours are the worst of my life. My mouth is so dry I can’t even generate enough saliva to swallow accentuating the stench of my warm lifeless breath, while continuous floods of sweat wash over my face. My deodorant packed in shortly after our arrival leaving my clothes and skin to fuse and become one. My head and heart hammer in unison vying for my attention as I struggle to come to grips with the situation. I envisage myself in a whole range of scenarios but the one which haunts me most is of ending up on the front page of the tabloids. I can see it now-“Mindless yob abuses cabin crew and endangers passenger lives” with a picture of me looking the worst for wear still in the previous night’s clothes. The masses will immediately say “no smoke without fire” and that “he certainly looks the type”, while ex-neighbours and former classmates will sell exclusives fuelling the hyperbole to such a degree that even my lawyer will throw my case for the good of mankind.
As we approach Dublin airport the tension becomes too much causing me to rock back and forth in my seat.
“Seriously Matt if I do go down you’ve got to promise me you’ll help clear my name.”
He initially laughs-which is all well and good considering it’s because of him that I’m an airborne fugitive-before reluctantly agreeing. Fuck it maybe I should just give him up to clear my name…
“This is your captain David speaking as we approach final descent towards Dublin airport. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will not be able to land for an additional twenty minutes. I apologize for any inconvenience caused and hope you have enjoyed your flight with Aer Lingus, and that we will see you again in the not too distant future.”
“Fuckin’ hell did you hear that? This is all because of me.”
“What’s because of you?”
“Don’t you see what’s happening here? They’re trying to delay the flight to make sure the police are ready upon my arrival.”
“Fuck sake now for the thousandth time YOU-ARE-NOT-GOING-TO-JAIL.”
“Easy for you to say since you’ve made me your patsy.”
I desperately want to throw up but I’m afraid to leave my seat in case the stewardess adds it to my file.
The plane eventually arrives and I wonder how they’re going to play it. Will they swarm the plane and take me off in cuffs or wait until I’m off? The plane door opens and with it my moment of truth-not a Garda in sight. I feel so stupid for my previous thoughts-of course they’re not going to jeopardize passenger safety or cause undue concern-they’ll wait until I’m off the plane before quietly pulling me aside to apprehend me.
“Come on bud you right?”
I grab the plane’s safety instructions and stick them down my jeans while concealing them with my shirt. If Matt’s lack of basic empathy is anything to go by I’ll need all the help I can get.
Upon disembarking the plane I make eye-contact with the air stewardess Nazi for the first time.
“Again I’m really sorry about the phone.” She smiles weakly looking right past me.
“I’m ever so sorry about the phone,” Matt says before waving me the international sign for cock sucker, “Schuulpppppp”.
I walk down the steps surveying the area for potential Garda but none seem present. Would they use plain clothes?
“See what did I tell you?”
“I was winding you up the whole time,” I say fooling no one.
“What time’s our flight at tomorrow morning?” I say.