Gripping the Play he forces its pages wide open, pushing the centre of the book down and breaking its spine. He turns pages ten at a time. They tare and fold under his snatching and grasping. Nails catch and rip paper, pages are pulled from gluey bindings, the book will not be the same again. On reaching the final scene he reads then re-reads the last page but it offers him no certainty and no answers. He picks up his glass and throws back another whiskey before inhaling hard on a smoldering cigarette butt and exhaling blue swirls from his nostrils and mouth. He thinks of the end that the Play has written for him, his broken and twisted body under a car outside of a cafe in front of her. He spits out a piece of skin torn from his lip and lights another cigarette. To die like that, before he is ready with so much to see, so much to do. He shakes his head, tears well up. He punches the desk and the pain feels good. He swigs whiskey from the bottle instead of refilling the glass, his red knuckles grip its neck. Is there nothing he can do to change his destiny? Is it going to be a miserable, predetermined and unavoidable end? He kicks the chair and it spins away backwards before crashing to the floor. He boots it again catching his shin on the leg. ‘Ouch fuck’ he winces in pain hopping around the room before aiming another kick at the seat of the chair sending it into the coffee table spilling cold tea and unopened letters onto the floor. ‘Arrrrr’. He grabs a pillow and bites down hard on it. It tastes musty. He releases it and spits out fluff and dust before sinking back into the sofa, sobbing.
After a little while his sadness subsides but not his anger. ‘Right!’ another cigarette lit, another swig of whiskey ‘Right so that’s how I’ll die and it is going to happen soon so fuck it all.’ Whiskey and spittle sprays from his mouth. His arm swings around, spilling drink from the bottle. He staggers a little. ‘If I am going to die like that under a fucking car, outside a cafe and there is nothing that I can do to change it then until it happens I can do anything! Any-fucking-thing I like.’ He is shouting now. Prodding himself if the chest before throwing his arms wide open, head back he spins in the centre of the room. ‘I’m fucking free to do what every I want. This is my leaving party and the drinks are on every other fucker else!. Now where is that fucking credit card?’
* * * * *
A quarter of vodka mixed with a 99p energy drink is gulped down a greedy gullet. His face screws up with each swig, he should have mixed it with apple juice. It was vile but it was getting him where he wanted to be. Some would say he should not be drinking it at all but it made good use of the tube journey and was both cheap and effective
‘I don’t think Alexandra played any hockey before coming to college’ the young, well dressed blond woman announced to her friends. The words coming down the nose before passing through her plumb filled mouth.
‘Wow that’s so amazing’ her friends exclaim.
The three of them sat opposite him, long faced, big nosed and chinless. Their family trees must have a branches of thoroughbred racehorses in there. Great Aunt Agatha strapping her self under Shergar for the horizontal mile one dewy morning when hubby was too busy out shooting grouse on the estate to tend to her needs. The women all had big thighs grown thick from clutching ponies as girls and bucking ‘rugger’ playing farm hands as young ladies. He wanted to punch them in the face. This was of course uncalled for and revealed the chip that he had nurtured on his shoulder. An inverse snobbery that festered and stank of bitterness towards awfully posh bosses inserted above him, all connections and no clue. A fat diary, busy social calender, constantly ringing mobile phone and booming voice with no depth other than ‘Daddies’ bottomless pockets. He turns up his MP3 player, chomps on a chewing gum and attempts to accentuate his working class heritage. They alight at Kings Cross probably to catch a train to Surrey, safely enclosed in a cosy first carriage with cappuccino, croissant and the Daily Mail.
He stares at his shoes, the stitching on the left had burst and the insides were folding out, entrails exposed revealing the soft vulnerability of his sock. He scratched at a substance on his jeans removing the crust but leaving a stain, no matter it would be dark in the club.
His brain swims in the fume pickle of his cost cutter cocktail as he straightens his posture under the glance of the doorman. Money paid and coat on a hanger he grabs a beer at the bar and leans against a pillar. His head nods and foot taps to the beat that booms from the bass bins. Bodies buck and bump on the dance floor, buttocks and breasts bounce. He eyes them greedily. He feels the urge to join them. Unsteady on his feet he circles towards the writhing mass. The energy intoxicates. A mass of people moving together in darkness and pulsing lights. An awkward hop, step, jump starts him. He twist and turns his way deeper into the crowd trying to join them, to become one of the mass. He struggles to forget himself in the undulating, swaying and gyrating crush. Brushing against jumping backs and pumping his arms in the air, staring around and around to catch a face, a beautiful face to lose himself in. A step left then to the right turns into a stumble and fall into the woman next to him. He grins up at her, all alcoholic sweat and yellow teeth. She returns a filthy look and moves away, swallowed into the press of the throng. The beat picks up racing, pulsing relentlessly carrying the crowd that swim on it’s swell. Swim or fall by the wayside and drown on their own, off the beat, off message, alone. He kicks for the surface feeling the thud of bass in his lungs, moving his head from side to side, throwing out his limbs but he is off the beat not dancing but drowning. He feels lost unable to get back into the swing. People move away. He starts shouting ‘Come on’ pushing his hands up to the air, punching the sky. Bouncing up and down on both feet he slips on some spilled beer and falls shoulder first into a post.
‘I think you’ve had enough mate’
‘Fuck off’ he snaps.
Sweet curves move up and down, arms caressing the air, an apple of an ass invites him. He slides up behind dancing at her back moving from side to side in opposition to her. Trying to catch her flow, her attention. He moves closer, his hand brushes her arm. She does not flinch but carries on, her seductive shape silhouetted in the light and dry ice. He is closer now. Softly he places a clammy hand on her waist. She moves away only turning halfway towards him as she shakes her head. Her body still in time. He closes the distance between them and leans forward
‘Hi, What’s your name?’
Hot breath and spittle hits the back of her neck. She winces and holds her hands up. The beat carries on without her. She slips between two people escaping her pursuer.
‘Just trying to be friendly, miserable cow’
She is gone. He turns around and spots a woman at the bar a tight, low cut blue dress clings to her curves. He dislodges himself from the throng and careers towards her knocking and butting past people ungraceful, not aggressive but inconsiderately. He sends elbows and arms suddenly unexpectedly out of his way. Drinks slop over glass rims, spilling onto shoes.
Their annoyance goes unnoticed. His lusty, clumsy focus remains unbroken. The woman spots him heading in her direction and turns quickly to her friend. He taps her on the shoulder and leans in a little too close. ‘Can I buy you a drink?’
‘I have one thanks’
‘What is it?’
‘I like white wine’ the sentence stretches out into a thin curved sound and sloppy smile. Eyes flicker and roll up, head wobbles forward and for a moment his awareness of self is not there. It returns.
‘Really?’ she turns to her friend, they exchange a tired look.
‘You want to dance?’ he prods a glistening thumb over his shoulder.
‘Actually I was just having a conversation with my friend’ He grabs her arm.
‘Aw come on’ she tries to pull away. He does not let go. He smiles at her and tugs a little harder. ‘Just one dance’
‘Get off me’ she yanks back her arm. He stumbles backwards and landing on his backside. Spilled beer soaks through his jeans leaving a wet patch. He can feel people watching him now, sneering, laughing.
‘He walks back towards her, red faced ‘What the fuck did you do that for’ someone steps in-between them, He tries to push them aside, looking beyond them to the woman in the blue dress. She looks scared and it is in that same moment he realises what an asshole he is being when the fist connects with his face.
* * * * *
His thumb throbs, cuts and grazes cover his fingers. It hurts when he has to retrieve his phone from his pocket. His has a black eye, yellow and purple. His lip is split and swollen. His ribs are sore and his foot hurts. It is uncomfortable for him to sit down and his head spins when he lies on his bed so here he is walking, staring at cracks in the pavement ahead. He is unsteady on his feet, swaying slightly he tries to avoid the path and gaze of others. Alcohol oozes from his pores. He can smell it on his skin. He cannot face the complexities of ordering a coffee or any social interaction. He can not turn up at work in the state that he is in and he can not face himself at home so he walks down the street waiting for his body to recover from the shock of the condition that he has put it in. He walks in no particular direction avoiding busy places. The cold air feels good. He walks and waits to feel better.
He walks under the subway towards the river wanting to go and look at the water for a while. As he is climbing the stairs a group of kids run, bump and jostle passed him. The announce their presence at volume showing everyone how alive they are and just how much fun they are having. He walks on. People seem to stare through him, not in a hostile way but worse, they seem almost oblivious to his existence. This tired battered man is more of an object than a person. It is in their way, something to be avoided or sized up and pushed aside. He reminds himself that they cannot see how he feels, they cannot know his vulnerability from his face alone or see the skid marks in his pants. He frowns back at everyone and everything and pushes on.