I must’ve told the story of where I’m from, why I came here, nearly every night for the first few months. Most people do, when there’s a new person that’s the first thing we usually ask them, “So how did you end up here?” As I became more known and recognised faces I would only talk to tourists about it, if I’d already had a few drinks and they’d asked.
Truth is I had no choice. When I say that I don’t mean I was in danger or anything, I wasn’t forced to move out here. I had to because I had nothing else. These days, most places won’t even look at your CV if you don’t have any A levels, because most people have degrees and stuff. And I left school after my GCSE’s, to study beauty at college and then dropped out after the first term. It wasn’t for me. Seven years later, I was still living with my parents, only making enough to afford a night out on the weekends and buy a new pair of shoes sometimes. Not enough to afford my own flat, or even share with anyone who wasn’t married or had kids. Even if I’d saved it would take years to be able to move out. There weren’t any jobs around where I was and moving somewhere else in the country seemed pointless.
When a mate of mine who I went to school with, Ashley, messaged me to catch up she told me where she was, even said I should join her. I’d looked through some photos online and went on to Skyscanner straight away to book the cheapest and soonest flight to the island.
I stayed at Ashely’s for a bit, while I looked for work and a flat. She said she wanted to share with me, but she’d just signed the contract for another six months, she did set me up with a job, though. Ashley’d been a shot girl for about two years. She liked it, it paid her rent and lifestyle. In the summer it was slower, she said she usually earned enough at peak time, so it all worked out. Anyway, she introduced me to the owner, Jay, a Moroccan guy who owned two clubs on the strip, Ashley had already told me what the deal was, that I’d work on commission, but Jay explained it to me again, “Tree Euro per shot, six for yegerbom’, balloons are five,” he held his hand out and made a ripple with his fingers. “Wear short skerts and be pretty.” I wore clothes similar to Ashley: Shorts and a crop top and she’d lent me some fake tan. She said Jay preferred it when you wore shorter things. I wore heels most of that summer, thinking it would make a difference, but now I just wear Converse. People don’t look at your feet much.
It seemed easy enough and some nights it was, some I’d earn nothing. My first night I made 100 Euros. It was a Saturday and a week in to the summer holidays, it was supposed to be busiest in August but since it never got cold here it would go up and down in the winter, too. I had to give 15% to Jay, which Ashley said was the most fair price down the strip, some owners took nearly half.
Working as a bartender back home I knew how to speak to people, especially guys. I knew what to say to them to make them feel flattered. It really wasn’t that hard. This helped when they asked me to sit down with them, to chat, which most of the other shot girls did, we would often spend a while at certain tables. Stag do’s were the best. The longer you stayed at the table, the more drunk they’d get and the more shots they’d buy. I’d even talk most of them in to buying me some, faux flirting with the one who wanted to impress his mates the most. It got weird a few times. A guy wouldn’t stop touching me, grabbing at my belly and trying to stroke my leg. He was drunk, laughing about it when I told him that I had a boyfriend (I didn’t). Eventually Jay had to come over. Jay was always watching us, you just never saw him. Another time a guy who I spoke to, who bought two Jagerbombs, one for me, one for him, waited outside my work at the end of my shift. Me and Ashley left through the back door that night.
I’d always liked drinking. I started at fourteen, with WKDs and cheap wine at a friend’s house whose Mum was never home. We’d spin around when we drank from the bottle to get more drunk. But here it was different. There wasn’t ever a day off and these people had been doing it for years. I found it hard to keep up, I watched myself put on weight and my skin got worse- that could have been the social smoking. Most of the girls had beer bellies, or Vodka cranberry bellies. It was easy to see because everyone wore crop tops or tight bodycon dresses. We went to work with hangovers and got drunk again. Most nights after I’d finish and collect my money, in hand, the workers, one’s that worked on the strip, would go to the late, late bars. The one’s that open when all the other’s close at six in the morning. I realised that most people who worked here took drugs in those places, because I was offered some almost every night. I didn’t, though, because I stopped doing that shit when I was 19, after I took too much one night and spent the next few weeks recovering. Everything scared me for a while, even the sound of cutlery against the plate made me panic.
I quickly fell in to the routine, that went like this: Get up in the afternoon, go and get something to eat, something quick and cheap, sunbathe, relax, get dressed up for work, go to the bar, greet/be met by the girls “Y’right Babe?”, work, have a few drinks, finish work, get drunk. Sometimes I’d get drunk during work, which wasn’t allowed but Jay wouldn’t say anything so long as you were making cash.
I knew there was drama before I got there. I saw Ashley’s tweets and she filled me in on all the gossip on my first night. She said that everyone slept with everyone, and everyone cheats with everyone, so don’t bother getting in to a relationship. She said that people count the number of people you’d slept with here for you.
There was this guy though, Joe, who was from near where I was from and who I would hang out with at the bar when it was quiet. He had stretchers and sleeves, he said he came here years ago when it was better, that now it was turning to shit and how he planned on moving back home, but Ashley said he’d been saying that since she got here. Still, I liked him. He stayed near me, in the apartments over from mine, and he invited me to come over a few times to smoke but I was always too nervous. One night, when I’d had too much to drink we slept together. I wore this black dress with a plunging back and when he told me that I looked nice and smiled at me, I knew then that we were going to sleep together. After work I looked for him at the bar, hoping he hadn’t gone home yet and was going to come out with us.
I could tell a few of the other shot girls liked him from the way they looked at me when I would stand near the bar. They’d whisper, like kids, trying not to look over but did anyway. Maybe they wanted me to see. Which is why I didn’t tell anyone, not even Ashley, when he wrote a note on his smashed phone, “wana come back 2 mine?” I told him I’d meet him at the taxi rank in five. I told Ashley I’d gone home with a tourist.
It wasn’t anything special, it was mostly shit actually. His apartment smelled of smoke and he slept in the living room on a pull-out sofa, the frayed mattress was so thin that the springs dug through in to my back every time he moved on top of me. He didn’t have any condoms but I’d had the implant for years. I went to the toilet after to get dressed and saw two cockroaches in the bath, they kept slipping as they tried to climb up and fell back to the same place. I walked back to the apartment.
I hadn’t had many one night stands in my life, because I’d had a long term boyfriend for five years, and on and off for a bit after. But they had usually been with people I knew or knew of, never someone who I’d met abroad. So, when I started feeling a sting, when I went for a wee, I just thought it was a UTI. I’ve had it before from sex. It carried on though. For a week I relied on alcohol and paracetamols to ignore it, then I started having to sit down at work from stomach pains. Ashley asked me if I’d used anything with the tourist after I told her what was wrong, then she said we’d go to the clinic in the morning.
She said it was normal, that even she had caught something, everyone does. I was still shitting myself when I gave the Spanish nurse who didn’t speak much English, my sample. Turns out I had tested positive for Chlamydia. It sounded the same in Spanish. Joe had given me Chlamydia. I felt stupid and wanted to punch him in the face.
When I told Ashley she was really pissed off with me. She said she would have told me not to go near him, he’s a slag, he sleeps with anyone, workers and tourists. I didn’t want to ask her if she’d slept with him because if she had she probably wouldn’t admit it. After a few days of avoiding each other I told him I wanted a chat. I wasn’t sure why he was ignoring me, maybe didn’t want to give off the wrong vibe, that it meant something or whatever. But I didn’t care, I didn’t feel embarrassed calling him over. He came and looked confused, like he was ready for me to start screaming in his face. Why the fuck have you been ignoring me?! He didn’t believe me, said I’d probably caught it from someone else and when I told him I hadn’t slept with anyone for months, he said, “Yeah, right.” And walked off.
I fell in to the pattern that most of us do here. I cried about it, then us girls hugged and swapped stories of similar things happening. I drunk posted a few statuses, Ashley even posted something that started an argument in the comments because we all knew who it was about, and we let the one’s that didn’t know, Joe moved bars. Then, I got with another person and another. Used a condom this time and tried not to get attached, though sometimes I still do. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sleep with guys every night, or week, I’m not like some girls here. But I’m single and having fun. Now and again I’ll start “seeing” someone, but it doesn’t last long, not on this island. I don’t think I’ll find my husband here.
Last week a girl from a few bars down went home with a new worker from Liverpool. She tried to leave when she got a bad vibe and he grabbed her face from behind and ripped her mouth open, you know, like one of those Chelsea Grins.
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