I woke up at 2:40 pm today. My bedroom smelled of beer and regret.
Yesterday was the last day of the first course I was teaching in Ljubljana, and the halfway point of my time here. It was a busy but pleasant day. After the last lessons had been taught and the last paperwork had been signed off on, we went out into the school garden, where the school’s owner had bought a few bottles of pink champagne for us and we had a little celebration, while she told us all how awful socialism was and how people should be more grateful for the glories of capitalism.
The course trainees presented my colleague and me with a box of chocolates to thank us for training them for the last four weeks, and, especially for me, a signed picture of One Direction. Unfortunately for me, it was signed by the trainees on the course and not by the band, but it was a lovely thought.
My colleague and I disappeared into our office to send the course results to Cambridge and promised to meet the trainees later.
An hour later, we met them at Ljubljana’s Friday evening street market (a place hopping with tourists, Slovene hipsters and nosy elderly locals), where I bought a beef sausage sandwich, which is apparently a Slovene national dish, and a can of beer. More champagne was produced by the trainees. After a while, feeling pleasantly sozzled, we all walked together to find a pub with enough space for fourteen people to sit together outside. And we did.
I drank a lot more beer. It just kept on coming. Every so often, someone would call out “Beer?” and I would put up my hand and a new beer would arrive in front of me, regardless of how long or short a time ago my previous beer had arrived. I was taught some adorable Slovene swear-words. Apparently, they usually use foreign words and phrases when they’re really cursing and all their own swears are really innocent and cute. The two I learned are “The street is white!”, which sounds wonderfully tame, and the adorably cute “Three hundred hairy bears!” Poor Slovenes. It must be really hard to take them seriously when they’re angry.
As the night went on, my colleague left, and then, one-by-one, the trainees left, some tearful after the intense experience of the course, some not. Eventually, when the bar was closing, there were six of us left. As well as me, there were two women from New Zealand, one American man, his Slovene girlfriend and a Slovene man. If you had asked me which four of the trainees from the course would be still out at the end of the night, these are the four I would have chosen.
We headed to Metelkova, a kind of hipster paradise. It’s the kind of place you might find in Berlin or Barcelona, but I didn’t know it existed in Ljubljana. It’s a former Yugoslav army barracks, which was taken over by hippy artist squatters in the early days of independent Slovenia and never given back. It now has a hostel in the old prison part where each bed is in a prison cell. It has studios and museums. And of course, it has bars and clubs.
You enter a car park where every surface is covered in graffiti or colourful rags, and walk past a few small buildings into the main courtyard area, which is huge. The first people I passed were a group of black men (a rarity in Ljubljana) playing the drums. There were a lot of tourists. And a lot of locals. And an excitement in the air. All of the buildings are really colourful, with art and/or graffiti and the courtyard has benches and a fountain and a few trees with fairy lights strung between them.
I went to a hipster toilet – a mixed-sex bathroom with a urinal. Thrilling. In order to get to the toilet, I had to pass through a wall of marijuana smoke. Not a mist, not a fog, not a cloud – a wall of smoke.
I went drunkenly and excitedly back to my former trainees to tell them about the hipster toilet and the urinals in full sight of women’s eyes and the wall of marijuana smoke. The second I said the word “marijuana”, a man in a leather jacket appeared next to me offering to sell me some. Miraculous. I tried calling “Enrique Iglesias” out into the night air, but no one turned up offering him to me.
Beer in Metelkova is very cheap. At one stage, I bought two beers and got change from three euros. We chatted about One Direction, and good places to visit in Croatia, and funny things that had happened on the course and how much I love Ljubljana. I could feel myself getting drunker and drunker.
The Slovene guy we were with, let’s call him Adam, had been on and off the phone all night. He was very happy to be finished the course and was very drunk. Some of his friends showed up. One of them had very dark eyebrows. The moment I knew I’d passed the point of no return was when I told him that his eyebrows were the best thing in Slovenia. I also had a chat with one of the guys about how much testosterone he must have to have grown such an impressive moustache. Adam’s friends loved me, or at least Adam’s friends found me very funny. One of them told me he’d heard a lot about me, but what he’d heard, he didn’t say.
Myself and Adam then got locked into a very “serious” drunken conversation about how much we’d meant to each other over the previous four weeks. Adam is a really smiley, friendly young man in his mid-twenties, who had a lovely tan and pretty eyes. We literally got tearful discussing one of the lessons I had assessed him teaching. He told me how much I’d scared him in the early part of the course. We hugged. A lot. We looked into each other’s eyes and talked about how amazing I was at my job. What the fuck was I doing?
We disappeared for a while and he introduced me to another friend of his, a Bosnian giant. I bought Adam and myself another drink, but neither of us needed it. Everything was very drunk and intense and I felt like I used to feel when a lot when I was ten years younger. We continued telling each other how amazing we both were. I was excited and emotional and I did what I always do and started talking about penises. I offered him so many blowjobs. We never resolved whether or not he was straight, but he had certainly at one stage in his life been in love with an Irish girl. He found my love of penises hilarious, but we didn’t stop holding each other. When we got back to the main group, the American man and his girlfriend were leaving. It was Adam, me and the two girls from New Zealand. We went into one of the clubs (all free of course) and started dancing. I could feel the alcohol lurching around in my tummy and I knew this wasn’t going well. I staggered outside to breathe some sober air. Adam followed me out, grabbed me and told me I had to promise him not to just leave. I promised and he went back into the club.
But I was very, very drunk and everything was swirling. My bed was a ten-minute walk away. I left without saying goodbye. I didn’t know what I could say. I walked home, my back excruciatingly itchy from last weekend’s sunburn beginning to peel. My last memory is of stopping on my walk home and rubbing my back on a fence to scratch myself, like I was a cow. A drunk cow.
I obviously made it to bed, sometime around 4:00 am, and woke at 2:40 this afternoon. My bedroom smelled of beer and regret.