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A Mallow Flower in Ireland

Mallow flowers in the Atacama desert of Chile. Photography by Carlos Aguilar. AP Images.

One night in Dún Laoghaire, I met a Czechoslovakian man with green eyes at an Irish pub on a rainy, cold night close to the Irish Sea near The Royal Marine Hotel. After we started talking, each of us guessed where the other was born. He said my voice sounded American, but I looked foreign, especially my brown eyes. (People either pinpointed me as American because of my accent, or they had no bloody clue where I was from because of my Lebanese eyes and Latino descent. A lot of people even thought me to be Irish. It was fun being a mystery.) When I guessed that he was either German or from a Slavic country but couldn’t tell which one, he smiled. It was like a guessing game for adults. “My name is Petr,” and in return, I extended my hand and said, “My name is Nicolette.” And we shook hands.

As we got to talking, he discovered I am an artist, a writer. He googled my writings and looked me up on Examiner. Suddenly the man asked me in his Czechoslovakian accent, “Why do you have an Irish last name if your father is Lebanese?”

“Oy. He’s smart, and he’s got a Slavic accent. No wonder I was attracted to him,” I thought to myself. Suddenly I am thinking of the Romanian soccer player Leo; I dated briefly a few years ago. And I was wondering why I have this innate attraction to men with Slavic accents. Very few other foreign accents get to me, meaning they’re all beautiful: American or foreign. But I seek to discover what is in a man’s heart instead of where he’s from or what he looks like.

Frankly, I looked at Petr for what felt like a long time but was only a few seconds. I struggled with whether to answer honestly or dishonestly. I chose honesty, well, mostly honest, as nothing I said was a lie but did not go into the full truth. After the long pause and I said to him while giggling, “Sorry, I was choosing which version of the story I was going to tell you. But you seem to be too observant for me to lie to you and not get caught in my web. I am too tired to make up a story today. The truth is that I do not know my actual last name. My great grandfather’s birth records say ‘Born at sea,’ and there is no trace of the name before changing it. Twice. It says he was Lebanese but then traveled to Argentina before coming to the states. All I know is that the Lebanese men in my family were into some dirty business. And the name was changed after my great uncle was gunned down with a machine gun outside his home. So, that makes me great-granddaughter to the Lebanese mob. Why they chose an Irish name, I do not know. But one thing I like about my name is that there are Mallow flowers, and they’re beautiful and come in pretty colors.”

He went silent, and I thought he was scared of me. But instead, he tells me that he’s going to Mallow, Ireland the next day for business. And he said that he would bring me back a flower from the town. “I’m not a romantic, but I will bring you back a Mallow flower for a Mallow girl.”

I blushed, and after I finished my Rose Kennedy drink, I left and never saw Petr again. He emailed me that night but never called the next day after work. No hard feelings considering I hadn’t even exchanged a kiss, and in hindsight, it felt like he was working a line on me about the flowers. You know, those lines that all us girls want to hear even if us smart girls are sharp enough to catch onto the bullshit. Because I knew he found me attractive and he liked me. But I had no idea why he never called, but I figured it was either bad timing or something in his life that he wasn’t ready to go on a date with me. Or maybe he became scared of me because I am smart, and I told him about the Lebanese history. Who knows. I didn’t take it personally whatsoever. A few nights later, while wearing face paint and listening to Irish music at O’Shea’s in the city centre of Dublin: an Irish man named Kieran comes up to me. After we do the basic chit chat, he said, “When you walked in the door, the whole room lit up, and I couldn’t take my eyes off you. Your face paint is adorable and you’re so pretty I had to talk to you.”

I feel like it’s another line, but who cares? I liked the compliments. While we are talking, I discover he’s 21. Way, way too young for my tastes as I prefer men to be a little older than me, but he was so polite that I kept talking to him. For two hours, I met his entire family, including his mother. They were all visiting from the west side of Ireland. Country folk. At one point, Kieran’s sister took off my rose-colored prescription glasses and the entire family was gawking over my brown eyes, and I didn’t know what the big fuss was about. Everyone kept wanting to see my eyes and you’d have thought my eyes were made of rubies or something. But I guess sometimes we don’t see ourselves the way others do. As I was leaving, Kieran invited me to join his family in another pub. But I was tired and hungry. Secretly, I had also been losing a lot of blood from ovarian problems and that’s why I kept saying ‘no’ to shots. So I went to my flat near Mount Joy Square instead. Disappointed but hopeful to see me again: Kieran gave me his number, and I gave him mine. He asked me out on a date to see “Deadpool” the next day at the cinema. Yet I never heard from him either. Again, no hard feelings because there was nothing to feel sorry for. However, I did think my calls were being screened because many other foreign numbers could reach me via mobile phone: all-female callers.

None of the men could reach me. I started to get suspicious at this point. Last year my iPhone was hacked into by two different American men that I knew of. It was a considerable debacle dealing with my entire life being surveyed and feeling as if I had no privacy anymore. Both got caught because they couldn’t keep their mouth shut about what they were reading and listening to. And I soon realized they were on my phone because they were feeding me intel from the private conversations I thought were secure… This is a whole other story in and of itself, but the bottom line is that I lost my right to privacy. So I changed numbers and changed phones. Alas, the same hackers hacked right back in… I still don’t know whether to be impressed by their hacking skills or outraged by their violation of my right to privacy. It’s not the first time someone became obsessive and stalked me, but with this new age of technology, I admit I am still adapting. New number, new phone. Same hackers. To resolve all this, I would’ve had to file with a national company to trace my phone and the hackers. And I decided that I would rather have two ex-lovers in my phone than a national security team. I didn’t want to deal with all that noise. And I can always get a company phone for work if need be, because they aren’t concerned with anything but my personal life and what I am up to in my personal life.

Anyway. The third man I met in Ireland who couldn’t get through to me on my phone was a guy I met at a restaurant called Murray’s. A Bulgarian who is also part Italian and goes by another name, Killian. His legit name is Kaloyan, and I have no idea why he goes by an alias name because I like the name Kaloyan way better than Killian. No offense to the Killian’s out there… Anyway, I have the most to say about Kaloyan out of all the men I met in Ireland. Even after I left, he and I wrote him letters from across the ocean for several years. Yet, he was always lying about the fact he was single, and after lying to me about two different girlfriends: I stopped writing him flirtatious notes in the summer of 2018. I knew it was never going to go anywhere, but I was single and bored and it was nice to have a penpal. Finally, I decided that I wanted no part, even writing a man cheating on several women. Woman to woman, I felt for the girls he was deceiving and cut that off. Before all that, when he and I first met: it was an adrenalin shock energetically and it scared me at first so much I snuck out and left without a goodbye. The Irish goodbye… I’m happy I bolted and trusted my gut because that was my intuition, sensing this was another womanizer that was not worth my time. Like the robot in the movie screaming, “Danger! Danger!” Those instant attractions for me have often proved toxic. When I was younger, it was like being under a spell, now that I am wiser and more experience. I deflect that bad ju ju and keep it moving… But of course, I was still curious (human nature) as it had been a long time since I felt a connection so intensely with someone I didn’t know. Usually, those intense feelings build up inside me like watching a fire grow.

In the past two years, I’ve loved, and I had a boyfriend, but it was a love that came with a price I could not afford nor was willing to pay, figuratively speaking. This is why this instance in Ireland was all the more disappointing and seemed like a joke from the Universe to torment me: meeting someone that turns out to be a dead-end rather than a new road. Another womanizer bad boy that will hurt me in the end… Nonetheless, when I looked at Kaloyan that first night, it was as if a magnetic force between him and I collided. Like two magnets that got close enough to connect. A slight wave of energy followed by a collision of the two magnets: Boom! Both of our brown eyes widened and we just stared at each other. The last time I felt something so extreme was when I was 18 and I met a Marine in Savannah, GA, whom is from Texas with one green eye, one blue. As I talked to Kaloyan: I discovered he served in the military, including the Marines.

“My first love was a Marine” I said to him.

Eating a grape, he says with his thick Slavic accent, “I’ll bet it was your last, too.” Then he offered me a grape. Suddenly I wasn’t hungry. I couldn’t eat the grape, even if I ate the chocolate he gave me the next day.

At that moment, I just looked at him, suppressing my anger at his comment about the lack of love in my life, and replied calmly, “No. I’ve loved and felt love since the Marine. He was just my first love, and you’re right. He wasn’t always easy to love.”

He changed the subject, realizing I was not amused. “I’ve noticed you coming in here all week,” he said to me as we were talking and even though I heard his Bulgarian accent. I also felt he was Italian.

So I asked him, “Are you part Italian?”

He laughed and said before eating another grape, “Yes. How you know?”

This is where I will end the story about meeting Kaloyan in Dublin. After I left Ireland, Kaloyan and I kept in touch for a while, and I did see him a few times after this meeting. However, neither of us got what we wanted. But while I was in Ireland, he did tell me that he tried to call but couldn’t dial out. So we started using Facebook Messenger to talk instead… Mind you, he could’ve been lying, or he could’ve used another form of technology to reach me, ie, email, Facebook, Skype, etc.. But, the fact no other man could contact me either. It seemed Texas was finding its way into Ireland. And it was three for three. No coincidences.

Even now, back in Texas, my phone still acts strangely: emails don’t arrive from men, messages I read come up as unread, messages I haven’t read are marked as read, the phone echoes while I am on a call, and it sounds like interference tapping in. My iTunes will fast forward and skip songs. And I just don’t understand any of it anymore. I don’t even know how it works, just that I know it’s happening, like Phantoms following me everywhere I go.

Nicolette Mallow with face paint from Temple Bar area in Dublin, Ireland.

“And, despite the care which she took to look behind her at every moment, she failed to see a shadow which followed her like her own shadow, which stopped when she stopped, which started again when she did and which made no more noise than a well-conducted shadow should.” – Gaston Leroux
(Le Fantôme de l’Opéra/Phantom of the Opera)

Published by Nicolette Mallow

‡ Nicolette Mallow is an Artist: writer, dancer, vocalist, thespian, model, and (amateur) photographer. Writing is Mallow’s strongest artistic skill. Internationally published in the United States and Europe, Nicolette has obtained 110+ publications thus far. Mallow has interviewed an extensive list of talent and collaborated with companies and PR teams from Texas Monthly, National Geographic, Prevention Magazine, HBO Films, The Hollywood Reporter, SXSW, The David Lynch Foundation, Cine Las Americas, The University of Texas at Austin and more. Presently her portfolio entails 12 national awards or scholarships, including both individual and group projects. Working with Press and Publicity teams from companies like Sunshine Sachs, Fons PR, Frank PR, and CW3PR — Mallow can liaise with publicists, entrepreneurs, and their brands. Since 2005, for 17 years, Nicolette Mallow has covered numerous press, corporate and red carpet events as a (dyslexic) writer. Mallow has interviewed talent far beyond her years, including Jimmy Chin, Greta Gerwig, Bob Roth, Dr. Travis Stork, Joan Lunden, Larysa DiDio, Lauren Handel Zander, James White, Jay Roach, Naomi Whittel and Roc Chen. Once, she was a public speaker for a national business conference. Her career is diverse and transcends a vast array of industries, but the focus is always on the arts. Nicolette Mallow does enjoy all forms of writing, but her favorite writing genres to create entail editorial, arts & entertainment, literary journalism, travel, magical realism, nonfiction, technical and promotional publicity. Over time Nicolette has attained Press Credentials to events like Texas Film Awards (hosted by Austin Film Society), The Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin Film Festival, Euphoria Music Festival, and The Blanton Museum of Art. She also wrote for Savannah Magazine, a radio station operated by EMMIS Communications, District newspaper, and the Thinkery (formerly Austin Children’s Museum). In her spare time, Nicolette creates a magical realism novel and turns her nonfiction memoirs into short story novellas. Obtaining two degrees from the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), she has a Master of Arts degree in Arts Administration (a graduate degree now recognized as Creative Business Leadership) and a B.F.A. in Writing. Born and raised in Texas and NYC—Nicolette Mallow is also a world traveler that lives for art and loves to learn. “L’art Pour L’art.”

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