The Irish Exit Chronicles

by Elizabeth Baxa

Uncle Barry’s Sports Bar, 2:30 AM

I’ve been drinking with a bearded guy from Wisconsin all night, maintaining a steady conversation about his humble upbringing on a dairy farm, his work for an international human rights NGO, how much he loves his mother, etc. He pays for a fourth round of drinks, and I decide to ask if he remembers my name. He doesn’t, and when he asks whether I remember his, I scream “THAT’S NOT THE POINT!” and sprint to the nearest subway. Poor Alex (Andrew?).

Analysis: I’m an idiot.

Mechanical Bull Place, 12:00 AM

I attend a fancy holiday party with some friends. Afterwards, we go to this mechanical bull place, which is packed, and I’m quickly separated from my group. I begin chatting with some dudes in real estate. Then I meet some more dudes in real estate. Then I realize the bar is exclusively filled with real estate agents. They’re all men, ranging from slick and sleazy twentysomethings to paunchy, lascivious sexagenarians. Everyone is winking and wearing Aqua di Gio. I run straight for the exit, abandoning my friends.

Analysis: Twinges of regret every time I find a real estate guy’s business card at the bottom of my bag, which is constantly.

Randall’s Island, 5:30 PM

Thanks to a friend of a friend, I’m in the VIP area of a music festival enjoying free vodka cocktails and Kendrick Lamar. Suddenly, I remember a dream I had the night before about eating an amazing baked potato. I tell my group I need to look for someone in general admission but will be right back, not revealing that the “someone” is really a potato. After searching the food stalls and coming up short, I trek over the bridge back to Queens and find a steakhouse. I order a baked potato fully loaded, and I am not disappointed by it.

Analysis: Three out of five stars.

“Entertainment industry networking event,” 9:30 PM

I’m here with a lawyer friend who has promised to help convince people that I’m a legitimate writer worthy of being hired for legitimate screenwriting jobs. It isn’t going very well, as I’ve never actually been paid to write anything for the screen and don’t believe my friend when he assures me that this isn’t an issue. “You shouldn’t say aspiring,” he says after watching me struggle through a few fruitless conversations. “Just say that you’re shopping things around.” I try this out on a guy I meet in line for the open bar. “Oh,” he says, looking disappointed, “I just figured everyone here in a blazer was an agent.” I sneak out the side door while my lawyer friend is having a cigarette.

Analysis: Should’ve never gone in the first place.

Williamsburg, Lorimer subway station, 10:30 PM

I get off the L train with a gaggle of younger, hipper new friends. Someone is playing a banjo and everyone else is dancing and/or freestyle percussing on available surfaces. In theory I support this kind of creative spontaneity; in practice, I feel like we are a band of woodland creatures in a cartoon. I stop moving as the group rushes on towards whatever sweaty loft party awaits them, and then I go home and YouTube clips of famous musicians on Sesame Street till I fall asleep with my face very close to an open tub of hummus.

Analysis: Have you seen this clip of Paul Simon??

Da Club, 12:10 AM

A guy with broad shoulders and a strong chin saunters up to me. “Hi,” I say with a disarming smile. I look him up and down subtly, but not too subtly. “Great suit,” I venture, “Is that an Armani?” Impressed, he grins. “Yes, yes it is,” he says. “I thought so,” I say, then, “So, what do you do?” “I’m a suit salesman,” he says with what he hopes will pass for defiant pride. I don’t miss a beat: “Will you excuse me? I cut my foot before and my shoe is filling up with blood.” I hobble away for effect.

Analysis: This is, of course, a scene from Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

Cinque Terre, Italy, 4:00 PM

I’ve been shopping with my backpacking friend and her backpacking lover for the better part of the afternoon. Opting not to bother my companions mid-flirtation, I slip away to a seaside hiking trail. I make a wrong turn, somehow, and am soon climbing straight up a mountain. Initially I’m concerned, but I fall into a rhythm, listening to Radiohead. Two hours later, I reach the top of the mountain and discover a tiny villa at its peak. Lemon trees surround the house, and a Vespa is parked beside it. A bronzed guy with an earring, a ponytail and a gold lamé Speedo sits on the front step. I nod shyly at him before turning and heading back down.

Analysis: YOLO.

Colonial Williamsburg, 8:30 PM

I’m with my fifth grade class on a highly anticipated weeklong field trip. We’re on a ghost tour tonight and it’s pouring. Rumors have been circulating about my classmate John Smith (not his real name) and his intention to ask me out.

We’re all standing in a sodden graveyard, huddled close under umbrellas, when John approaches from my left. He asks if I want to hang back for a minute, and I nod solemnly. Our guide finishes her graveyard spiel and leads the way to the next haunted site, but John and I linger under an ancient-looking tree, unnoticed by our chaperones.

Neither one of us has an umbrella, but John offers me his hat: one of those jester-esque ski things that were inexplicably popular at the time, and I really don’t want to wear it, but I put it on anyway to be polite and show my interest. John asks me out, which is of course just a way of asking whether I want to hold hands in public and occasionally let him stick his confused tongue in my mouth. I tell him I do, and there’s a part of me that really means it. Rain is dripping from the drooping points of the jester hat, and the transgressive thrill of the moment is almost too much.

Half an hour later, we will get in huge trouble for ditching our group, and a month later, our “relationship” ends.

Analysis: This was the first time I was ever conscious of the joy of an unannounced exit, and the way that those moments before people find out what you got up to always feel like stolen time. Irish exits can be — and often are — reckless, misguided or selfish, but, in my experience, even the worst ones involve at least a tiny, fleeting sense of victory.

Elizabeth Baxa lives and writes in New York.