rue story: late January, I put a phone call in to a friend I haven't seen in just shy of a year. I find out he's working as a bouncer now, so instead of rolling out on a Friday or Saturday when he's throwing Northampton's undesirables down the staircase at Revolution, we agree to hook up on Sunday and spend the last vestiges of our pay checks on as much Navy rum as we can afford. (It's the only alcoholic substance that mixes better with Pepsi than it does with Coke. Fact.)
Anyway, eight hours into the session, we land at this run-down but functional faux-Irish bar just out of town centre, around a quarter full with its usual clientele: people who just don't have the time or inclination to become alcoholics and lower-tier office workers.
So we roll in. The boy hits the bar to order drinks, and I head straight to that integral part of any down-market pub—the video jukebox. God bless these things: for two pound you can chose seven of an increasingly depressingly poor selection of music videos to aurally and viscerally entertain you. But there's some pearls on there, so I make the usual selections: “This Charming Man,” “Ignition (Remix),” “Together in Electric Dreams”... over my shoulder I hear a voice.
“Oooh, put The Cure on.”
I turn around. Behind me, dishevelled on a bar stool, is a woman I'd have guessed at being in her early 30s, dressed far too well for a pub that has three fruit machines in it. In her hand, teetering in slapstick-drunk fashion, is a glass of what looks like total bitch-piss white wine. I shoot her a “Buh?” look.
“I'm sorry, what did you say?”
“Put The Cure on! “Fridays I'm In Love” is an amazing song, it's one of my favourites.”
I put “Typical Me” on instead, and she pulls one of those over-exaggerated sulk faces where you push your bottom lip forward and look like, to all intents and purposes, a smacked arse. It's at this point I realise that I'm being flirted with by someone who looks like my old science teacher. OK, steel myself through all of this, it's just some drunk slapper who's played the same cards with 17 other guys this evening.
Oh, fuck, she's joining me at my table.
I can finally see her face now. She was obviously quite something ten years back, but now she just has a washed-up sexuality, smoker's skin—the eyes of someone who cries a lot. And I get her life story. I don't want it, I don't need it. You don't either. Potted highlights include her claim that Jonny Greenwood was her boyfriend when she was a student at Oxford Brookes, and then... yep, here comes the husband problems. Her man is ten years older than her, married to his job, he doesn't give her the affection she needs (by this point she's tracing circles on my hand, and has somehow already entangled our legs together without really moving that much)... it's kind of pathetic, really, to see someone who had a youth with such vigour and promise reduced to flirting with a fat guy in a blazer-and-scarf combo in an Irish theme bar.
She leant over to kiss me. It was like snogging Mick the Miller. Wet, graceless. By this time I'm alternately feeling really sympathetic towards her, and worrying that she's spiked my drink, so desperate is she for some physical contact.
“You know, my husband's away in Chester for a few days and we could go back to mine and....”
At the very moment she was about to offer drunken depressed sex, God and that bottle of wine she'd necked intervened. She vomits all over the table. She literally paints it with spew, before lolling her head around in the manner of a comical zombie. I made my excuses and left.