I have the sort of job that sometimes you just can’t walk away from at five-thirty. It involves things that sometimes can’t be left until the morning. The morning will be too late.
This is one of those sometimes. The public transport system in the city I work in tends to think ‘fuck it’ after business hours in the assumption that anyone needing to travel after six is either a drunkard or a pervert. As such I have a wait on my hands.
Raymond Chandler wrote an excellent passage about the alchemic pleasure of a bar that had just opened for the evening. ‘Farewell my Lovely’ I think.
It’s not the same now. They never really close. But there is still something about a two-thirds empty bar early in the evening – usually populated by disoriented commuters far from home, burnt-out business types and hard-core alcoholics. A stillness, a melancholy. A place to reflect in peace, populated by people who want nothing more than that themselves. People who want to be elsewhere but are either temporarily or permanently stuck. It can be quite soothing if you know you’re only visiting.
Having half an hour to kill I decide to visit a quite-nice one near my bus stop. It’s either that or the only other place open is Starbucks and I’m not that fucking far gone. Those cunts are really lost.
I push through the glass doors to be greeted by a wall of noise and approximately eight million braying lumps of flesh yowling at a plasma screen as though it were some sort of vengeful god.
Having stepped through the doors I am past the point of no return. No man in history has ever walked into a bar and then promptly turned around again.
I order a drink, making a point of not purchasing a big pint of idiot juice. Fortunately I’ve been here before and am aware of the perpetually empty ‘snug’ area which I promptly make for.
It is removed from the main bar, contains big leather chairs and only a couple of tables. The ‘wall’ facing the street is plate-glass. It is relatively quiet. I take a comfy leather chair and sit, determined to ignore the gurning festival of homoeroticism in the main room. I place my drink on a glass table-top that turns out to be one of those old arcade machines. I find this not amusingly ‘ironic’ or ‘retro’ as I’m sure I should but actually faintly depressing.
I sip my drink and stare at the skyline. My thoughts are far from here.
A man the size of a small outhouse comes barreling in and looks directly at me. He is wearing a football shirt which is puzzling as his physique is not one of an athlete. Or indeed of most normal humans.
Random Man: Thank fuck for that!
As he has not introduced himself I can only assume he imagines he has known me for some time. This is, however, not the case so I do not reply. I am not about to be involved in some nightmare scenario in which two strangers act as if they have been acquainted for years. That would just be weird. We’d be wanking each other off next.
Random Bloke: [Undeterred by my lack of response] Did you hear? [Insert name of football player here – I don’t know any] just scored! Fucking brilliant!
I gaze levelly at him and don’t respond. I can’t say if I actually shrugged, but it sounds like the sort of thing I would do.
Random Bloke: [Showing a firm grasp of the available evidence] You’re not watching it then?
He physically staggers for a second, but I think it’s the drink.
RB: So what you’re saying…. You’re…. Is that you just don’t give a shit about the football?
Me: Yes. I suppose so.
He steadies himself on a table. Must be the booze.
RB: But….. Fuck, man………Just trying to be friendly…….Christ……..have a bit chat and that. Jesus. Don’t have to be a CUNT.
He staggers away, his face a mass of confusion. I swear there were actually tears in his eyes.
I finish my drink and wait for my bus outside.