It was during the usual Sunday night weekend post-mortem, sitting with a few cans of problem-solver when we realised we needed a holiday.
We were a tight group of mates, all in our 20s and were getting too old for Balearic package holidays. Our other mates were settled down and spent their holidays stretched out on Portuguese beaches with their steady girlfriends or God forbid, wives. We had disposable income and decided to give somewhere more exotic a go.
Growing up in Northern Ireland doesn’t prepare you for Mexican humidity. The four of us stepped out of the air-conditioned taxi from the airport, checked into our hotel and got changed to go out. We hadn’t even left the hotel complex when we had to turn round and shower, and change into something lighter. Denim was not the order of the day.
After a week of acclimatising and having bought more appropriate clothes, we decided to try a different club on Cancún strip. Aside from margarita stains as a result of some brawling Uruguayans and heavy sweat spots on our backs, we were coping with the thick hot air and watered down drinks.
The sun was coming up and the atmosphere at the clubs was fading. We weren’t ready to go back to bed. We stood on the hot pavement weighing up our options when we twigged that there was a group of sunburnt girls with thick Dublin accents in the same situation. We hooked-up with them and went back to their apartment on the promise of Bacardi, Jose Cuervo and Corona, and the outside chance of improving cross-border relations.
One-by-one, my mates started pairing off until there were only a handful of us left in the kitchen.
I went to get one of the girls a refill and made my move.
She tried the door to her bedroom, but it was taken, so was the next bedroom. Locked. I kept trying doors until one worked. I pulled her in to join me in what turned out to be a cramped closet. We turned the suitcases on their side and squeezed the door shut. We were laughing as we bumped teeth, drunkenly struggling to undress each other when one of the bedroom doors flew open.
Drunk mate number one stood, swaying, framed in the doorway calling my name. We watched him through the diagonal slats in the door as he stumbled from room to room looking for contraception.
We giggled as he walked up and down, pausing in confusion outside the cloakroom, before slowly realising he was being watched. This was too much for my giggling little Coleen and she burst out laughing.
My mate went for the door, which I instinctively grabbed a hold of from the inside. We wrestled with the door until he gave up declaring he was going bareback. We eventually secured more comfortable coupling space on a lounge.
I had a good half a day’s drinking in me and was going to take a while. The sunburnt beauty told me that I had had enough. I told her she would know when I had had enough and after further encouragement made a not-to-scale map of Hawaii all over her stomach.
I was woken by my mate a few hours later. We snuck out of the apartment and were met by one of the girls coming back in with a face like thunder, swearing randomly about our third amigo. We got back to our room and found him holding a wet towel to his face, trying to stem the steady flow of blood from the bridge of his nose.
He had brought her back from the party and tried for a repeat performance after a few hours sleep. She wasn’t comfortable with “being treated like an animal” and belted him. Somehow, her necklace had snapped and I was despatched to return it. I went back that afternoon and the door was open. All the girls were in bed together. I wasn’t invited to join them.
I bumped into my conquest the day after on the beach. She smiled sheepishly, blushing deeply, concentrating hard on making lines in the sand with her freshly painted ruby toes.
She was a different person without the mask of confidence, Señor Bacardi had afforded her. She appeared quiet and embarrassed as she snuck a sideways glance in the sunlight. I said hello, and she seemed surprised to see me. Her chubby friend called her. She waved over and said she would see me around.
The following week I bumped into her in Orlando Airport. She was struggling with her rucksack and bags of duty free cigarettes.
She had no makeup on.
Her hair was greasy and straggly and she was wearing a hideously garish turquoise shell suit patterned with Gaelic script and St Patrick’s crosses hanging off her thin frame.