First thing I open my eyes to in 2015 is a poster of One Direction. I roll over in one of the two twin beds Cerian, Emmie’s fifteen year old sister, has generously loaned us for the weekend. Her room is warm, a few trinkets shy of meriting the word “shrine” (to aforementioned boy band, respectively). And it feels good to be in a home after two weeks of hostels. I stretch and decide I’ll buy Cerian some cider and chocolate as a thank you. But first things first, the new year…
First new year abroad- Hellooooo Wales! Who am I that I got to ring in the New Year with Barry’s finest?! Emmie, her fam and friends are fantastic, full stop. I get to wake up this morning in a Victorian home--it’s precious.
I kind of don’t accept that it’s a new year. I’m not feeling renewed, just slightly hungover (victory that I’m only slightly hungover) and already behind…
I haven’t made any resolutions. I’d hate to start the new year off on an undecided foot…If I run, does that count as seizing the new year? It’ll have to do… After coercing myself to run all of one mile down the street and back, I come back reeking of last nights’ gin. Mmmmm.
The day moves slowly; the house awakens in stages: the boys, the couples, the parents… All shuffling about with eyes half shut, mumbles and grumbles the common tongue.
As the daylight wanes, hunger pangs overtake laziness and we all agree we need food. Good, greasy, hangover food. And in Barry that means Wetherspoons. So we set off on foot.
In an old theater around the block, a jack-of-all-trades sort of restaurant has made its home. The menu is a small novel and boasts everything from burgers and fries to curry. We walk in and manage to slump ourselves around a long table in the very back corner of the very back room at the very back of the building. We’re in no condition to be seen. At this point there are about eleven of us. So we take it in turns of three to go up and order at the counter. For such a fancy looking restaurant it’s an odd set up. You order at the bar, take a number, and a runner brings you your food. There’s a small table of condiments and silverware, help yourself style. Emmie, Marissa and I maze our way to the counter. Behind the bar, his sole charge taking orders, is a tall open faced guy our age. He smiles, so happy, so… damn happy.
“May I please have a regular burger with fries crisps and an extra side of mayo with a diet coke to drink?” I venture. It feels good to order shit food in its mother tongue. He cocks his head, his wavy brown hair falling to the side.
“Whereabouts’re ya from?” His face has lit up. I start to answer “los Estados Unidos” but realize I can just say “the US.” He nods in acknowledgment and opens his mouth like he has something incredible to say…
“The US? I. LOVE. IT, I do. I myself, I’ve been to Orlando, Disney ya know, FIVE TIMES!” he emphasizes the “five times.” I smile and nod. This is a feat I suppose. He certainly thinks so.
“Yeah, Disney is fantastic,” I offer, “I went all the time as a kid. But it’s a good eight hour drive from where I’m from.” He looks utterly fascinated. He just nods, eyes wide and repeats, “Five times.”
“Wow, that’s incredible!” I try to match his enthusiasm but honestly don’t think it’s possible. “So I just take my number and someone will bring me my order?” I ask, trying to veer away from such a passionate subject. Bless him, he’s a sweetheart. And he is cute.
“Yes, Miss. We’ll bring you your food shortly-” and he stops short, probably another repetition of “five times.” I smile. He’s sweet.
Back at our table, the cashier’s earnestness is matched only by the greedy little hands awaiting their food. They don’t have to wait long. Within five minutes a little blonde waitress makes several runs bearing all the food… but mine. She does a little head count of our table, nods in approval and heads back to the kitchen. Everyone digs in, ravenous. It’s good we’re hidden back here. We look like vultures.
…But my food?
I don’t know why I worry, Mr. Five-Times has left his post behind the bar to bring me my burger. And it is colossal. Bless him, he’s all smiles and starry-eyed.
“Here you are Miss, your hamburger and crisps. You said extra mayo, so I’ve brought you some but anything else and there’s a cart just there with all the condiments you could need.” I nod and try to take the plate but he’s still holding on. “Do you have it, love? Careful there.” I smile. ME WANT FOOD. GIMME DAMMIT. “There you have it,” he’s smiling so earnestly, “and here,” he gently places a set of silverware by my plate, “is your cutlery. Knife, fork, spoon, all you’ll need right there. And, like I said, the condiments are right over there. All the ketchup, mustard, salt or pepper you could want…” Not a fork is moving, nor a mouth chewing. Everyone at our table is staring at the poor guy. “Is there anything else I can get you, love? Anything you need?”
“No, thank you very much, I’m fine, thanks,” I smile as big as I can. He nods a few times too many and points to the bar, “Well, if you do, I’ll be just there.”
“Alright, thank you very much.” The poor boy hasn’t yet turned his back when our table erupts in laughter.
“MATE! Come onnnn!”
Emmie is in tears. She turns to me wiping pity from her eyes.
“You alright, love? Do you have all your cutlery?” She mimics before collapsing back into hysterics. Poor thing… I look over at him behind the bar. So earnest, so happy.
“There’s your EU citizenship, Em,” Emmie quips, ribbing me.
And he could live out his days in his beloved Orlando… But it just wouldn’t work out.
I’ve only been to Orlando four times.