10.30pm on a murky Monday night in Lisbon I had two options. One, I could go back to my hotel, stare at my ceiling for at least three hours and eventually submit my brain to sleep. Or two, try stay out, on my own, in a city where I know nobody and desperately seek somebody to be my friend.
After a couple of brutally awkward conversations with bar-keeps in themed bars I was taxi-rank bound. Then, as if planted there by a higher power, the answer popped into my head. "A pub crawl" I thought. That's the answer. Meet some people. Make some friends. Make a night of it.
You never know, you might even pull.
A quick google search and ten minutes later I was introducing myself to four English lasses and two Canadian broads at an organised pub crawl. All of a sudden I was the man in demand. I often amaze myself too how well I hold up in these situations where everybody feels so awkward. Funny. Spontaneous. Charismatic. I say things I could never come up with usually.
The first two bars I was on fire. The crew had now reached double figures and was rising sharply. The only difference this made to me was that I was becoming friendly with more and more people.
Alice was the first of the English girls I got properly chatting to. She told me about her Irish grandparents. She told me about her childhood visits to Ireland. She was nice to me and I liked her for it.
Deborah was a loud Canadian who completely latched onto the idea of me being a poker player. She was dramatic, she was excited, she treated me like a rock star. I didn't stop her.
Chris was a girl with a boys name. She was another of the English girls and had hair that vaguely reminded me of a girl I used to fancy. I never spoke to her much and I wasn't too bothered. I had so many options now that it didn't matter.
It's been a while since I've come up with one of those eureka ideas only to be told its a multi-million-dollar industry. You see, pulling on a pub crawl is about as original an idea as using a sightseeing tour to take photographs.
Bar number three and competition had started to thicken. Canadian's Greg, Tom and Mike were all boring as fuck but cool as hell. They got the Canadians girls laughing. They got them talking about Ontario. They got me as the afterthought.
"So what hostel are you in?" I get asked at one point to make sure I'm still alive. My blabbering answer was boring before it began and was responded to in kind.
Once we reach bar four I'm toast. People answer back. The sympathy laughs are spent. You're a fraudster. We don't know who you are so stop acting like we do.
You're not in the hostel.
With the Canadians all tied up I make my way back to the Brits. They're now joined by two guys who I assume to be their boyfriends such is their familiarity but who are in fact just two South Africans who've joined the crawl. They're obviously professionals as I've never seen two guys to be so familiar around two girls so quickly in my whole life. Hugs, hand holding, leaning, back rubbing, shite talking, peck-kissing, the girls loved it.
Onwards to the club and the end of the night. The sounds of Franz Ferdinand and Kings of Leon boomed through the room along with a host of cosmopolitan bodies. It was like a school disco that got to serve alcohol for the first time.
Deborah was still surrounded by her weasel-like country man. His needy dancing and constant eyebrow raising was desperate but distracting. She saw me and her face exploded but the weasel held her firm. I moved on.
Chris, the girl with the boys name was now shamelessly kissing the South African waving her nostalgic hair all over my space.
My last sighting in the club was Alice. Cheerfully talking to the overly-handsome South African, I can't help but feel he's left a beautiful wife and daughter at home tonight to prey on her.
What started off as something to do had turned into a night of blue.
I had to leave.