Originally printed in the Bangor Uni newspaper in 2011, after being written for a class, Showing & Telling with Professor Lisa Blower. This was later edited by myself and Professor Arthur Johnson till it turned into "A Welsh Affair."
Angie and I, both being Americans studying in Wales, needed a Mexican and Movie night. We shortened it to “M&M night,” to which we brought M&Ms. It was a monthly event with countdowns on Facebook and she’d text me the day of, asking “U pumpd 4 2nite?!!!”
I’d reply, “Of course.”
She cooked tacos and quesadillas, and I ate a bag of nachos while waiting. We complained that nothing tasted right. I told her, “It’s the ingredients, not your cooking.” We ate sitting on her quilt. It was white with colored circles and I’d always sit on the orange one at the foot of the bed. She didn’t have any plates so we ate from paper towels on our laps. She warned me if I spilled I’d better only stain my pants and not her quilt. It was a present from her boyfriend’s nana.
She set the laptop on a purple circle and tilted the screen and asked, “Can ya see alright?” She wriggled closer so our knees touched. I could smell the salsa on her breath.
During The Strangers, a horror flick, she’d squeeze her plush bear Jimothy. She’d hold him up when the eerie music signaled a killer or kitten to spring from the bushes. She’d flinch and bang her head on post cards of castles and cathedrals in Dublin and Cardiff that were taped to the wall. Sometimes Jimothy wasn’t enough so she’d clutch my shoulder. Her fingernails would dig in.
I’d snicker at the cheesy effects or clichés or at the truly scary moments when I didn’t want her to know how desperate my lungs were to breathe again.
The movies were online and we could only watch seventy-two minutes before the website made us wait half an hour. But she found that after closing the browser then reopening it the wait time was only ten minutes.
“Why they gotta do that?” she asked.
“Probably bandwidth restrictions.”
“Something technical,” I said. “Hard to explain.”
During the break she gave me a tour of her room. Seated next to me she’d wave her arm like Vana White and present each spectacle. “The litter bin’s under the desk. That’s also where I study. Over there’s the toilet. Gotta potty? Do it now. And you’re sitting on my bed.”
“Awful tour. Give me some history.”
She said into my ear, “Okay, you’re sitting on my bed and I haven’t had sex in it yet.”
I got up and looked at the photos on her desk. The frames sat on wrinkled and grease-stained syllabi for classes. When I picked a frame up, a diet coke can rolled down the desk and clattered on the crumbed carpet. “Your boyfriend?” I asked.
“That’s my dog.” She snatched the picture from me. Our hands touched. “That’s my boo. And that’s Mommy. She looks like me, doesn’t she?” She held up the photo by her ear so I could see them side-by-side.
“She’s very pretty.”
“Aww, so that means you think I am, too.”
I stuffed a cold taco in my mouth and sputtered that she was gorgeous (“Yo go-gwith”) but she just asked, “What?”
“So, have any photos of your dad?”
“We’re not close,” she said, staring at the photo of her mom. She wiped at a water stain but her thumb just smudged the glass. “He was kind of abusive, ‘til we kicked him out.”
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know.”
Through the walls we heard her flatmates stumble into the kitchen and slam the fridge. One yelled to the other, “Wer muh crisp-pat?” And the other shouted, “Dunno!”
The heater was on and broken so it wouldn’t turn off. The needle pointed at thirty Celsius—it was boiling. She stripped off her fleece and I got a peek at her bellybutton. It was an innie. I sweated in my hoodie until she noticed my flushed cheeks.
“Why don’t you take it off? Put on a little show for me.” She winked and laughed and I said I was fine. I scrunched up my sleeves though.
“How much do I owe you for the tacos and stuff?” I asked and tossed my napkin in her litter bin. She lobbed her wadded-up napkin at it, too, but missed. I threw it back at her and she chucked it at my face. It went back and forth until I tipped a stray throw and she hopped up to spike it like a volleyball player. Instead we collided and the napkin ended up in the bin.
“About eleven quid,” she said.
I patted my pockets for my coin purse but had left it in my flat. “All I have is a ten,” I said with my wallet open.
“I don’t got any change and that’s too much for the tacos but not enough for the night.”
I insisted she take the ten and when she had change, a couple of two-pound coins or a handful of one pounds or even four hundred pence pieces, then she could pay me back.
“Naw, I’ll forget. Just pay me on our way to Clan-whatever this weekend.”
“Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?” I had been practicing that word since I first saw it, and I was happy for the chance to show off my hard work.
“Yeah, over on Anglesey,” she said. “The movie’s probably ready by now.”
“I need the toilet before we start.” I had been holding it all night but too many sodas had ruined my plan to wait until I got back to my flat.
There was hair in the sink and the tile floor was still wet from her last shower. Her room was small, and with the toilet separated only by a plastic door, well, I was kind of shy. I let out my stream slowly, careful not to aim at the water. I drained my bladder as silently as possible and five minutes later I was done. I washed my hands using her raspberry soap that scented the bathroom. I walked out taking a big whiff of my hands.
“I could hear you, ya know.”