Talking Shit (I)

It had reached the shouting part of the evening. There was too much talking and other noise to make yourself heard at a normal conversational pitch, and so it was advisable to speak as loud as possible, with your mouth close to the ear of your hearer, and then still be prepared to repeat yourself.

The two friends had met hours ago and had been drinking since. The sheer effort of spending this much time chatting produces a certain weariness of throat, as well as an ache, and the effect feels a lot like the result of sustained yelling. And now they were yelling, because they had to, and occasionally the sounds were muffled and indistinct, and sometimes they just didn’t make much sense because the two history students had already consumed eight beers each and were likely to have a tilt at a few more.

When they got together, Juan and Lukas would talk about a range of things, all of them pointless, and it was as if the entire conversation was made up of sidetracks and asides, while the point of discussion was neglected or even forgotten completely. The two young men were interested in several arcane topics and would often find themselves talking about philosophy, using examples from episodes of the Smurfs they had both seen, or politics, or novels they had read after hearing a reference to the book in a TV show. Sport amused them and kept them entertained for most of their waking lives, and when they aired their ideas Lukas and Juan would end up spending time on some genuinely pointless aspects of fandom. They once got into a heated argument over whether WG Grace should have shaved off his beard, and it was a subject both had agreed to never revisit for fear of something acrimonious flaring up again.

The pair had been at the races, enjoying mixed success, which really means walking away with less money in your pocket than you start with, but not a lot less. They made their way from the track towards the city, determined to seek shelter from the biting late autumn wind. It was a long way to the first pub through the cold grey, skipping across lanes of slow traffic here and there: for it just wouldn’t be right to wait for lights to change when men are making their way home from a sporting event en masse. The group snaked along under high black branches of the dark grey trees which lined the road and bats screeched overhead. In this way Lukas and Juan found themselves standing at the bar in establishment, downing the dark brown liquid – Guinness seemed the right drink for the occasion – with some haste. They were thirsty and cold and the stout was warming them, and so were the people and their voices.

They finished and left. They kept walking. And so they came to another pub, and another, and another. And they were not cold any more, but felt hungry now, and realised that their last meal wasn’t even really a meal, it was just eating something, and not even something very substantial, and that was this morning, and now they were here, with beer, and food seemed very important, and not having eaten it seemed an oversight. Juan disappeared – to the toilet, Lukas thought – and he returned with a bowl full of potato wedges and little pots of sweet chilli sauce with sour cream. They were hungry, they thought. And they started eating, and they were ravenous now, they realised, and they used their hands to shovel wedges mouthwards, and they were satisfied. They finished the beers they were drinking and Lukas bought a couple of replacements, and now they could enjoy the flavour again, they were connoisseurs who tasted their beer and noted the flavours, and had strong opinions about the kegs and pipes that some pubs used, and flatly refused to drink in others because their pipes weren’t clean, and this was better – when they finished this one they would leave and have another at the next place. It was the life. The only life they wanted and the only life they knew.

And that’s when they recognised him. A man wearing a long, black overcoat stepped past the bouncers and made his way towards the bar. They didn’t know him at first, but he seemed familiar. There was something about his walk: he stood up straight, but shuffled as he went. He ran a hand over his head and ordered a brandy with a little shudder. He looked up and said: “Hello boys. It’s been a long time.”

It was Stevo’s brother. They both remembered his name when he spoke to them. Neither of them could forget it.

Published in: on May 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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