Tag Archives: life

First Meet of the Season

6 Apr

First meet of the season

Sat outside gazing onto a shimmering, rippling sea. It’s glistening back at me like aluminium in the early evening light. It’s a cliché, how a gentle moving sea can evoke a calming sensation, yet as I sit the gentle wind that’s stirring my hair and chilling my hands; calm is how I feel.

This is at jarring odds to the soundtrack from the 80’s disco. Blaring out as I write we have “Bat Out Of Hell”, preceded by “White Wedding”. The sheepskin bomber clad fifty plus dad, sporting Saville-esq glasses is trying his best to promote some entertainment for the early season bikers who’ve begun their soon to be weekly pilgrimage to Knott End’s Wednesday night bike meet.

The season has been a late starter this year. Since November 2012 through to the Easter bank holiday 2013 there has been snow. White frozen rain has besieged this isle like an outbreak of dandruff plagues a Goth. The isle has been covered with it, sometimes blanketing the roads, other times hiding on otherwise innocent looking stretches of tarmac incognito as it’s silent assassin cousin “black ice”. Most bikers during this stint were tucking their pride and joys away, under heated brick supported roofs, waiting to square of their virgin track rubber in the safety of the summer sun on heated, sticky tarmac.

Me? I’ve been out on those harsh roads all throughout this arctic length winter, wresting my numb digits into service whilst suffering the torment the biting tundra winds were subjecting them to, Blue from a misplaced faith I had in a sunny day glimpsed from the safety of my warm house window. Summer gloves had no place worn this early. Rod Stewart and his Lucy in the sky with a girls best friend blasts across the air, over the sea wall and into my ears; God this music gets more dad disco clichéd by each turn of the decks.

I’ve come out tonight to begin my entries into a new notebook I’ve decided to keep about my person, a veritable travelling thought box; seizing momentary thoughts as they occur. The ulterior motive, as I’m oft reminded I have when I set out on these jaunts is to build a collection of musings to publish on this blog.

So tonight’s thoughts; don’t be so quick to judge a book by it’s cover. I pulled up to the meet, a smattering of bikes parked along the run up to the jetty. Including some police bikers. Damn. My heart invariably sinks at the sight of uniformed authoritarian figures, those public instigators of government laws, pigs to the everyman. However I thought to use this opportunity to strike up conversation with one of them. He was a stereotype of his breed, tall with a stern visage. This was, however, metered out with a peppery shot beard and upon meeting his gaze, youth.

I wanted to find out if my knowledge on bike parking laws was accurate, and if those bastards at the local city hall had a rasher of bacon to prop up on. I discovered, much to my chagrin, that Lancaster Council, a green party fanatical with as much in common with fascism as the BNP, had decided motorbikes could no longer park in the areas with push-bike stands, which we’ve all used for years, and never to any complaints. Now we’re being made to share the parking spaces of the four-wheeled cage plague blighting good ole’ Blighty.

According to my level-headed new-found friend, the law was, and still is, a motorbike can park anywhere so long as no obstruction is caused. He used the analogy of, on a pavement, enough space for a two-berth child’s buggy to pass unhindered. On the road it’s a fire truck. My friend in hi-viz yellow then went on to say I should check out a website called pepipoo, a place, in his words, where all the Bobbies and barristers hang out and will help you to argue that parking ticket miss-issued to you. He carried on to mention how not all the police have a ‘them and us’ attitude, and proceeded to lament the way the force was reducing the number of bike police, as two of his colleagues had been laid off that morning. His opinion was the forces were going to be centralised in the next city over; some 25 miles away.

I had to feel a certain barrier had been broken down during this chat; he was slowly dissolving the façade of authority. He was a biker first, like the rest of us, policeman second.

Funny, I’d come to the seafront meet tonight with intentions of writing an entry on indecision. Oh I often find myself suffering indecisiveness; presently it’s over a new push-bike. But, alas, that’s for another time. My fingers are suffering the telling numbness and indigo colour that says I need warmth. No indecision tonight, just a surprise encounter with an open-book officer.

One last tip; don’t believe the sun.

Ground Zero: The World Beer Festival 2013

22 Mar

 

The card read “Monarch Dread Design”- grass greens and organic vine designs seemed to suggest calm and balance. Funny that was exactly what I was searching for at 1 am near the local supermarket.

 

Let’s roll the reel back some, back before I ended up in this situation, blind drunk and playing the negotiating agony aunt between my best friend and his emotionally flayed girlfriend, fuelled by the drunken bullets we’d both been swallowing down like the gunfire from a Tommy Gun.

 

Tommy Guns and the 1920’s, Fedoras and ball gowns with feather topped tiaras and classy piano black cigarette holders. We were all being ferried to the promised land of over 100 different ales and ciders in the back of a silver Mercedes Estate. Black leather interiors and the slight tint to the windows brought to mind the sensation of being a mobster in some classic guys and molls movie. And that was precisely what Sarah and me were chatting about whilst Mikes mother tried desperately to get some petrol before depositing us at the house of kegs.

 

Pulling up to the Marine Hall on the coast, all the brave souls about to embark on a voyage of taste and booze induced discussions left the Mercedes time warp criminality interior and meandered up the entrance ramp. Once inside we were greeted with a series of greyed masks in various states of mental senility and care home cunning. These veterans of the CAMRA were the gatekeepers to my soon-to-be over indulged taste buds and rapid inebriation.

 

We all paid our entry fee of £3, after which the greying beer buzzard produced a wristband, proceeding to tag us all so the other wrinkled stallholders could identify us and serve. Moving up one table towards the free flowing amber liquids, we were given the option to purchase a cute half-pint beer stein, free to use throughout the night and a souvenir of the event. Why not?

 

And with that we entered into the main hall- immediately to the front was a quadrant of stalls surrounding around a hundred beer kegs. To the left leading round was the beer token stall: currency of the night, peeling into a cider stall with around 12 varieties of fermented dementia juice. This tailed off into a small homemade chocolate stall and ended with the International beer fridge. To the right were the young members kegs: flavoured oddities and newer breweries. Graciously of our hosts, chairs had been ploughed in-between the young members stall and the final stand of the night, the hot and tasty cooked meats stall.

 

Beers and sausages- the Kaiser would be proud.

 

Dark Star. Those two words would prove to be my Pied Pipers flute to the alcoholic rat of my subconscious. Wandering around; separated from those I was selfishly relying on to keep myself level headed, drinking at a steady pace for the night. The kegs lining the central fortification of beer had some fantastical names, all piquing the rat’s whiskers; ‘Cunning Stunt’, ‘Saddam’s Insane’ and, curiously for Fleetwood, ‘Single Blonde’.

 

Now a ‘Single Blonde’ can quite easily lead a man to a ‘Dark Star’, and that little run around was how I settled on my first half of the night- the ‘Imperial Stout’. I’d probably best state now that I’d made a false rationale that the bigger numbers for the alcohol content equalled bigger flavour in my beer book thanks to a discovery of American Ales like the ‘Raging Bitch’, a budding hop fest of an IPA that clocks in at around 9%. Oh why did I not question; this is 9% of AMERICAN ale.

 

‘Imperial Stout’ was the strongest ale on offer. “Ladies and Gentle boozers, making his way to the lower colon, weighing in at 10.5% proof…the short of vision and heavy of taste, we have ‘Imperial Stout’. You would have been forgiven for thinking the Dark Star brewery was located over a tar pit, as the colour and texture was widely commented on as being akin to that pre-historic war starter-think Bush- and had a heady, medicinal aroma. Happy days indeed for a man like myself who thinks Germolene is a pleasant aroma.

 

So whilst we were all sampling our first beers, getting used to the notion that all our nights spends were located on a single piece of bingo card, we started to debate which of the next beer stalls we would target. The eponymous Mr B joined us at this juncture, and so the japer could begin.

 

A quick conference between Sarah and me, agreed upon along with Mr B that the Young Members stall should be swooped on. This was a trip to the land of dessert ales and funky flavours. Their options read like a local Brewers Fare dessert menu.

 

“Oh honey, should we have the chocolate porter or some of that banoffee bitter?”

“Non for me. I’ll just have a coffee stout.”

 

So we all dived in and got some halves from the dessert menu. Chocolate porter was a good call. The trouble with flavoured beers like these was they either ended up being overpowered with sickly sweetness-banoffee I’m looking squarely at you- to just plain wrong. The “Coffee Stout” was a major let down for me. I’m a huge coffee aficionado. I spend more a week on the bean than most people spend on clothes. So I was eager to taste the mating of coffee and stout. Man, was I glad we had a sampler!

The taste was like someone had mixed the leftover Nescafe from the office with some chilled Mackeson Stout. Not pleasant.

 

I suppose I should mention that by this point we had been in the halls of the Festival for around 40 minutes. And on a sliding scale rapidly descending into the gutter I was screaming towards a helter-skelter of vomit.

 

“Oh Wurzzle, look. C..i…d…..e..r.” Slow motion, it was like the conductor for the last train home of the night calling to all the wayward souls on the platform. Mr B had spotted the cider stall and with a mischief in his eye he suggested we go get ourselves some scrumpy. At least that was what I saw in his eyes. The words that flowed from Mr B’s mouth, following my eager assertion that, yes indeed cider, seemed like a good idea were “I’m not mixing ale and cider.” Sensible words. However these were sensible pearls falling from an oyster that had spent its time at the Mad Hatters tea party during a particularly heated debate on why the teacups had to have saucers with mice in them.

 

It only took a small prod of “come on, we’ll go and test the strongest they have” Ah. Challenged male ego has no chance of surrender or sensibly walking away, especially under the influence of alcohol. So onward we pressed. It must have been something in the purpose of our stride, or possibly the air of two men about to do something foolish, but the rest of our party decided to accompany.

 

Two gentle looking older ladies, all granny smiths’ apple pie and Sunday roasts staffed the cider stall. There was about 11 different ciders available, various hues of golden tang and sweetness. But there, shining bright, like a stick of dynamite to a demolisher crew was Ruby Suzie. All 10.5% of her baiting us both to see if we would fall; my god what in Neptune’s crusty kelp keepers was in this fuel! The taste was sweet but firm and went down, down so fast I think my vision dialled forward at least 20 years. Myopia seemed to be Ruby Suzie’s party trick.

 

Loose tongue seemed to be the number scrawled on the napkin she hurriedly stuffed in my pocket; it was now that Porn Star chose to engage me in conversation about my life and it’s mediocrity.

 

This pompous embodiment of arrogance that seemed to embody the spirit of 1900’s gentleman’s clubs, was beginning to assert on me the importance of trying to keep my house, as it would be foolish to rent property when you can be paying off a mortgage. Yeah, like how your son rents eh Porn Star. I can’t remember the exact take on what pearls this particular half baked oyster was trying to give me (must have been another oyster from that damn tea party) but it’s been an ongoing trial of mine for as many years as I’ve been friends with his son to absorb his ego and disappointments left by his two sons. Blind to the fact that in many ways my life was travelling along a fairly successful path compared to his gifted son, he continued to give me advice on what I should do. I was so close to my tongue being let loose by booze, but mercifully his son, Mike managed to spot someone to speak to that he and Porn Star knew and ushered him away.

 

Still nursing the latter half of the cider and considering my next tipple, I started on a conversation with Mr B and Sarah about babies. Not long ago Mr B and his partner had their first child together, a little girl. And it has revolutionised his life. The most unlikely of our group to have been seen as suitable to sire offspring only went and succeeded. Movie studios take note- if your looking to reboot the Omen series with a modern twist, contact this man in the coming years, as should she have inherited half of his mental state she will be the coming of Lucifer as prophesised in those classics. For now she is an angelic faced bundle of wonder. And so we got talking about having them. I’ve always said, as long back as I can remember, that I wouldn’t want children till I’m knocking on 40; may seem too old I know, but the rationale for this was that I’d been raised by older parents, and the financial support they were able to give me left me with some great stories to tell and a lot of good experiences.

 

For now though I’m happy to indulge in Mr B’s reverie at the magic of life. And this conversation isn’t lost on Sarah, who is wistfully concurring, wants to have a kid or two with Mike. My thoughts stray a touch from the current topic as I try to imagine Porn Star and Frau Nurse coming to terms with their precious bloodline being tainted with the modern equivalent of Oliver Twist’s loveable street urchins. I can almost see them deliberating over the baby shower gift-a crystal encrusted rattler or a syringe with some premium latex and half a gram. I’m almost certain I started to hack and choke on Ruby Suzie’s tart golden nectar as I stifle a giggle that threatens to flow into a Brian Blessed bellow.

 

I think people are starting to notice my inebriation….

 

Inebriation, it’s only a slight change of letters to sound like hydration: dehydration that speaks to me of a thirst for my next beer. Time to head on down to Boston and experience some of those good ‘ole American Ales.

 

Except these ales are anything but old. The names are fresh and full of fight on some; others are trying to remain modern whilst hinting at heritage and classic scenes of the states. Zest and zing describe the fizz these babies splash across your palate. And a zing develops in my stride as I swagger over to the stall with Mr B and Sarah at my sides…I think. I think this is clearly a good time for me to reminisce with Mr B about why we spent so much time not hanging out- past altercations involving that cliché of friendship destruction; a mutual woman- and realise fully I’ve paid my admission and skipped through the turn-style onto the vomit coaster platform.

 

Emotional truths that we keep sealed inside our conscious have a habit of breaking out through the chips and cracks of the cupboards we keep our skeletons under lock and key in once we consume enough alcohol. And I’d say a few of my old bones were trying to paw there way forward.

 

Along with the slight blur that was accompanying my vision by this stage I noticed I was experiencing a heightened sense of ignorance- surrounding noise was easily subdued, the faces I didn’t want to gaze at were becoming featureless, it made that rest at the world beer stall all that more comforting.

 

Sarah and me were both neck and neck in the cue to get on the vomit coaster. Does this make her more of a man than a woman of me a man…. you may have gathered by now my mind was starting to lose some of its edge.

 

Deliberations are never an easy thought process when your blood is sharing it’s oxygen with alcohol molecules, and every sluice gate vein opening into the brain as the body does it’s best to pump that blood to the thought factory is compounded by the rationale inhibiting effects of the booze. So trying our hardest to decipher the menu was taking some time. I suggest that Sarah tries one of the American pale ales I’ve been raving about since my taste buds first encountered them, whilst I sought the advice of the custodian of the beers.

 

The lady that was serving was a bespectacled older dear, a short bob of grey hair to accompany the rounded glasses and lines of wisdom. Think your granny and mine, as with most of the staff in service tonight there was clearly a running theme that all probably remembered aspects of a time when speaking German was not part of the national curriculum. After a brief Q & A on what my taste preferences were, she had located a lighter hop loaded Belgian beer for me to sample. Why or how I proceeded to waffle about the importance of a varied taste on the palette and how good wheat beers were, I’ll not know, but it seemed to have the magical effect of transforming woman into man. Norman Bates had made his grand reveal, and somehow I found myself discussing this same topic with a genteel faced older man. At least so he seemed. Still had those rounded glasses though, and that was to be beer goggled with suspicion.

Transgender pensioners or not, my discussion’s with the bartender had netted me an Erdinger bar towel. Take note of this important event, as that he-she did me a kindness I’d be grateful for in a short while.

The end of the night was fast approaching. In the course of my whirlwind tour around the various stalls, I’d used up all my beer tokens. Yes, this was indeed confirmed when I realised the friendly Boston Brewery bar was propping me up. There’s this point that seems to find you when your drunkenness reaches a plateau, somewhere high in the cumulous binge-ness that allows you to see the world with a hazy clarity. Touch the objects around you and experience a sensation close to those early brushes with sensation we have as a child. And an ability to think clearly in a way only those touched by madness claim to have. This is all before you take that freefall over the edge and hope you packed your parachute.

 

I was swept up in the wave of my friends as they ventured towards the seating area located north of the sausage stall. And thank God for the wake to ride from my friend’s wave, I felt like I was floating to the seats- all sense of direction and sense leaving my mind and body. I knew I wasn’t too far gone though, there was still the urge for conversation, and that is always a sign the brain hasn’t emptied the hat stand and coat rack and left for it’s cab to the downtown gutter. Taking an unsteady grip of the seat I plonked down along with Mr B and Sarah and we began to pick up on the conversational topic of relationships, in particular the quirks of who we choose and why. Now the intricacies of the chat were lost to the fog of booze that was hemming along the shores of memory, but piercing through that haze was the lighthouse beacon of discomfort we appeared to be causing a couple sat at the other end of the table. Much like the proverbial elephant, this entity had made its presence known, and was now being reassured that it need not worry about the inane discussions taking place at the party end of the table. And to that Mike rejoined the group.

 

It seems that Porn Star had left the building at some point, obviously having had his fill of ego stoking and booze, he had left to be collected by the Frau in the Mercedes. Somehow the wisdom brought with age clearly contained the ability to judge when to make a smart exit. Sadly youth and a weak constitution around beer make for a messy exit.

 

The crowds of booze sodden flesh bags started making an on mass shuffle towards the gateways and the sobering qualities of a cold nights breeze. Something I know my mind and body needed. With a solid shunt to get my limp frame up from the table, my cohorts and I made our way towards the promise of what the night laid in store. Mr B chose this point to leave and make his way back to his family and the warmth of a coupling in bed. I’d like to say I bid him good night, or gripped his hand in a friendly show. I’d like to simply say I saw him leave. No. I was so far gone with the cask pit gremlins and the alcohol they had spiked my blood with, I just knew he had vanished.

Fortunately I still had Mike and Sarah to head on my swaying way with. There was talk of town, and gate crashing the Tache; there was a ramp; there was also a tram.

 

I remember seeing the illuminated yellow outline of the carriage, few passengers, and a late night conductor. I even remember the seat with its curious purple and yellow fabric. What I don’t remember is paying for the ride or the soundless black that enveloped me as I slumped into the corner. Blackout drunk. I’ve experienced this once before in my life, admittedly that other time was a night of excess I can honestly say I would never seek to fully repeat.

 

This must be what it’s like to be dead. No thoughts. No dreams. Just the silent blackness that you aren’t even aware is there. There’s nothing that can simulate this experience, and I don’t recommend anyone go out of his or her way to sample it. However, if you do happen to find yourself caressing this blackness, it’s a calming experience. Oh how I see now it was all a trick.

 

My body had decided to shut down and conserve as much energy as it could, like a phalanx of troops armed with a battering ram ready to burst through the gates. And burst forth my body did. The nights drinking and at least the days semi digested food was making a fast track exit from my body, slamming my subconscious mind out from the black and into the haze yellow of the tram. I see the street lolloping by as my eyes roll towards my left hand. The beer stein was in it and empty. The beer stein was in it and now full. In a moment of genius reflex my hand gripping this receiver was thrust towards my mouth and capturing the flow of vomit pouring fourth in a thick beige sludge.

 

This wasn’t the end of it, and clearly I believe my friends had realised the follow up was to come. The tram came to a stop and the doors parted, thanks I believe to Mike who being reasonably sober hit the stop button. I staggered off, a small trickle of stomach slush leaking from my mouth as I stumbled forward. Concrete; grass; railings, I flung my mobile fountain towards them and released the flood. The collection of ales, cider and sausage that I’d savoured, guzzled and swilled down exited over the cold steel. Shame. I felt so ashamed by my involuntary reaction to the careless excess I’d forced upon myself earlier. I may as well have been caught with my pants down answering the door to a close relative. It wasn’t the act of vomiting that had caused my shame, or even the public location. It was the fact my body had betrayed me and done the deed with no prior warning, a pre-mature ejaculation of the stomach.

 

Somewhere nearby I heard Mike bemoaning the fact we’d had to jump off the tram miles from town after he’d already paid. Sarah was doing her best to take care of me. She had the Erdinger towel gifted to us by the he-she at the world beer stall, and was helping me to mop up some of the sick- brave girl. But then again my state was nothing compared to the sights she sees day in and out. Sarah is a carer, with a partial sabbatical from a university course in mental health nursing, and spends her usual days and nights dealing with all manner of bodily excretions. I’ve no doubt she has probably seen a veritable rainbow of coloured fluids exiting the human form.

 

There were some words of apology trying to leave my mouth along with the sick, but these wouldn’t do me any good- Mike knew what would do me good. Movement. I needed to keep moving and try and walk off some of the alcohol poisoning my body. So with Sarah as my crutch and Mike as our guide, we set off in the direction of town. Err, wasn’t it about 5 miles to the outskirts of town from here?

 

I was entering a dangerous place. Oh sure, the promenade was quiet, there was barely a soul around, and being a Thursday night, it wasn’t going to be full of revellers. But I was still conscious of my danger. I was feeling cold, sleepy and very ill. The vomiting was just the first stage. The initial knee-jerk reaction to the poisoning the alcohol was doing. This was the second stage and the third stage would be a return to the black, maybe for good. Had to keep up walking. There was a darkened shape leading my human crutch and me on, but he seemed distant, and of no more help than a carrot tied with string on a long stick. Sarah on the other hand was of extreme help. She continued to reassure me and also keep on a different conversation directed towards the dark shape leading. That’s what the sounds she emits suggest. I try to make some small talk back, let her know I’m feeling a little better. I think she hears.

 

We plod on in a slapping zigzag up the prom, and it seems I’m not the only body needing to discharge some unwanted fluid. Sarah informs me and simultaneously leaves my side that she has to pee. I suggest the lamppost, and it seems Sarah has the same idea and hurriedly drops her pants. I let her know I’ll tell Mike to hold up and start in a fast stumble towards our stoic guide. Telling Mike this he slows the march down, and we turn to see Sarah buttoning and staggering towards us, clearly feeling more of the affects of the festivals drink despite losing a good portion just now. Neither of us wants to continue the night. Our bodies have made their intentions clear.

 

We try to tell Mike and suggest we call it quits, mostly due to my extremely inebriated state. He grumbles but concedes the point. He lets us know he’ll call Corrigan, an all night taxi service and friend to the local partying crowd. He’s one of the curious citizens of the nighttime land, rarely seen far from his trusty Fiesta or a smoke.

Informed of this comfort, we make the trek towards Bispham village centre to meet our ride.

 

We don’t get to meet our ride; we get to meet an old friend; bitter resentment and his poisonous colleague Mr Anger.

 

Somewhere on the road words were said; words that had taken on a more urgent and harsh tone.  Sarah was talking. Mike was talking, and getting louder. His tone was gaining in aggression and it was building momentum. He was starting to surf a rising tide of resentments towards Sarah. Feeling his feet under the rising tide, he stands and surfs the wave of Mr Anger.

 

“You never listen. You never listen to any advice”

 

Sarah doesn’t see the trap lay by bitter resentment and wades into the tide; arms wide open to embrace the abuse.

 

“Well tell me, who should I listen to?”

 

Mr Anger crashes the wave of bitter resentment down on the hapless Sarah.

 

“Mike Roberts”

 

Washed clean off her feet, sweeping my human crutch away into the black, Sarah snaps and takes flight with a leaving screech of pain filled words. And that’s when she vanishes into the village, leaving me with a nonchalant Mike.

 

 

The shock from all this heated emotion has brought back some of my senses. I may as well have been slapped. This was why I didn’t go out on nights into town; drinking and partying hard. The fine line it creates is always tripped, setting off the inevitable explosion of trouble.

 

Calm rationale starts to take over, bathing me in a calm red and white glow…. wait that’s not rational thought, it’s thirst. I need hydration. Mike wants me to help look for her, so I barter a coke from the machine out of him. It’s sugar rich coldness helps to rain my mind back from the drink, and I hope it’s long enough to help find Sarah and get all three of us back from this steady decent into misery.

 

Mike is telling me that she brings this on herself, and that he is sure he can hear her sobs coming from one of the streets branching out from the phosphorous street lights into ally-way darkness. We march on towards the illumination from the local Sainsbury’s calling out to Sarah. No-one answers. People appear however. A small group of young people are milling about and seem approachable.

 

“Hey dudes, have any of you seen a girl with red hair…”

 

I stop as I realise that one of the group is Sarah. Another girl is comforting her, whilst two guys looked on. Mike catches up and I find out that in her distress Sarah called up some friends local to the area. Lauren she’s called. I get some brief introductions and mercifully before the agitations can rouse Mr Anger again, Corrigan pulls up out of the night in his trusty taxi for the lost and drunk. Mike suggests I try and sort Sarah out whilst he goes to Corrigan to greet him.

 

Lauren helps to fill me in. Straight talking, with a kind sounding voice and a grunge look complete with glasses. Sarah is apologising and babbling nervously she didn’t know what to do, whilst Lauren keeps her emotions calm.

 

This is almost too much for my booze-saturated mind to take in. What the fuck was I supposed to do to mend tonight’s broken bridges?

 

Talk. Must talk; talk fast, think, talk to Sarah. A drunken mind haring from solution to problem, hang a sharp left and back into the home straight for the final solution. I needed to calm Sarah and stop her from hurling herself like a maiden into the waiting volcano-I really didn’t fancy seeing the mountain blow it’s top.

 

I look at Sarah. She’s all running mascara, sobs and confusion. I feel for her, I know all too well what troubles have been swallowed down and kept boiling with the bile in her stomach. Don’t misunderstand me; she’s no blameless victim, who is? I’ve a fairly unique understanding into her and Mike’s relationship. I know the reasons why he can be an uncaring misogynistic Edwardian throwback with the emotional empathy of the T-1000. I also see what self-caused calamity seems to bring this girl’s troubles home and ignite the pyre that Mike sees necessary to mount her like a witch on. These two are worlds apart; yet share so many common bonds I know why they are together.

There’s a stubborn force that seems to magnetise them, and despite Mike’s misdirected anger from the past; Sarah’s clumsy adaptation to the responsibilities of life, they keep battling on.

 

It’s exactly for this reason I placed my hands on Sarah’s shoulders and look her straight; the kind of straight a chameleon can do when lunch is locked on, and try to snap some sobering points of clarity into the murky drunkenness of her hurt and confusion.

 

“I can’t take it any more, he can’t keep talking to me like this”

 

“I know”. Empathy, it’s the byword that all negotiators live by. The secret ingredient to being able to help a person feel like they just have to come back down from the ledge. Sympathy is the follow up blanket that comforts them.

 

“I know, he can be the most insensitive asshole we know, and the worst part is he knows all the buttons to press to hurt you. You’re pissed; I’m pissed. He on the other hand isn’t”

 

“ That doesn’t give him the right!” Anger is welling up, and with it love. Mixed you get heartache.

 

“ I know. But if you take him on now and tell him how you feel, you’ll regret it. Regret not being able to out-argue him or get your feelings out.”

 

I know-empathy, but followed by sympathy, it seems all that I can manage in my steamed middleman position.

 

I think I’ve reached a part of her mind and shocked some rational thinking like an iced chill down her spine. She stops crying. And then accepts the facts. Mike is no orator, nor a charismatic silver tongue. What he is is cold unquestionable logic tethered to a stubborn donkey of unawareness. He would bludgeon Sarah’s more emotional reasoning into the pavement with facts and figures. And she knows this.

 

Times up- Mike is striding over to collect.

 

With his usual cock sure gait, cigarette in mouth, he asks if we’re all done here and turns to Sarah to ask if she’s all right. The comment seems almost perfunctory after the twists the night took to get here. Sarah is starting to calm down, the friendly crowd surrounding her is lifting her mood; dampening the smouldering resentment in Mike and allowing us all to take in the chill of the waning nights air.

 

Whilst Mike is making with the small talk and trying to bring some tranquillity back to his and Sarah’s ocean, I find myself being taken over by the booze. Its temporary distraction made possible by the sugary influx of Coke Cola’s smoke and mirrors is over, and the alcohol is back attacking my senses and swaying my world. Swaying into view is Corrigan. The midnight cabbie is an on-off acquaintance of mine over the years, a face I’ve only ever known in cast shadows of the post midnight hours. Through the small talk we make he comments on my new hairstyle. The dreadlocks on my head are the last thing on my mind at this present juncture- last time I checked you couldn’t use dreads to soak up alcohol; though the thought crosses my mind they would excel at it. He mentions he has a friend who provides maintenance services and restyling for dreadlocks.

 

He produces a card.

 

The card read “Monarch Dread Design”- grass greens and organic vine designs seemed to suggest calm and balance.             Funny that was exactly what I was searching for at 1 am near the local supermarket and surrounded by close friends, strangers and the village drunk for the night. Damn shame I was the drunk.

 

Heading a few steps over to the gang, we make our excuses and get piled into the Corrigan Cab. Mike clambers into the front, leaving the two drunkards to support one another’s collapsing bodies in the back. Sarah leans into me and I support her, intoxication overtakes consciousness and she soon drifts off into my shoulder and I try to listen along to the music on the cabs stereo, wondering how long before I get to slip into the same black out power nap.

 

About fifteen minutes later and Corrigan is pulling the car into the cul-de-sac where Mike and Sarah reside. The fiesta tries to glide to a graceful halt outside the house, yet the 15-year-old brake’s protest then bite suddenly. With a jolt Sarah surges out from her slumber, along with a neat stream of bile laced vomit. She must have sensed the liquid seep past her lips, managing to cover mouth and dam the flow with hand. I try to comfort her; the girl has had enough admonishing for one night. Mike seems to sense this as well and apologises to Corrigan, paying him £10 with extra thanks. Corrigan Cabs is a humble experience and he says not to worry about it.

 

Waving him off, we embark for our final destination of the night. No more drink, no more cold; just the final safety of a warm home and somewhere to sleep the night’s excess off.  Sarah is away and into the bathroom almost without word in order to relieve her body of more fluids. I slump on the sofa and proceed to ramble with Mike whilst he generously pumps my air mattress up for the nights sleep. Mike is a fine friend, he may cause questionable reactions to his attitude with women and life in me, but he is peerless as a loyal cohort and will always be a lifelong companion. I’m contemplating the prospect of us playing some games and rounding the night off on a success, yet my body won’t calm. The churning in my stomach is suggesting I may be due a repeat of earlier; the last thing I wanted.

 

Mumbling my excuses I staggered to the toilet, with Mike mentioning something about Sarah’s previous visit a moment ago. I don’t hear him clearly. Nor would I care. I wanted so badly to get more of the toxic concoction from my body I could have been kneeling over a faeces stained bucket from a care home- I’d hoped any residual stains from nature would speed the process up. But it wouldn’t come. I was left with this swirling pit of a stomach trapping the eddy inside; only sleep was going to bring me comfort.

 

I’m told where I can find my sleeping bag for the night, a cocoon of insulated fabric to slide into and metamorphose into a sober human the next day. I can barely see, hear or speak anymore. When you find yourself this drunk only the blackout is left. I’ve been given a chance tonight to see the world once again like I was a teenager, a roller coaster of emotions, booze and friends that come out of the strange light of the post midnight hours. Mike is trying to talk to me, but the words no longer reach me.

 

Only the blackout reaches me. Lights out and good night.