Wednesday, November 30

Merry

I HAD LOOKED forward to Saturday night since everyone in the office was sent the invite. This is my opportunity to get the girl, I thought. I lay in bed thinking of all the possibilities; what would happen, how it would happen, how good it would be. Every night of the week leading up to Saturday night I had trouble sleeping as my mind was so busy with these imaginations of mine.
The man had an Indian accent and kept telling me I was a young man and that I had a thick neck. He asked me if I had just had a cigarette and I said that I had. Then I told him that I wanted to buy a dinner suit. He fitted me out and agreed to tailor it for a small fee so that everything fitted right. I wanted to look good. I wanted to stand out. Not very many people at all were wearing dinner jackets. I wanted her to notice me. It was the first dinner suit I had bought and it seemed, as I looked at myself in the dressing room mirror, that I looked very good in it.
I booked a haircut, too. It was important that I look as good as I could.
Then, on the Friday, I found that she had been with a boyfriend for some months. He installed expensive kitchens. I could not install a kitchen. “He’s in town today,” she said, “down Westminster.”
That is when I told myself that nothing mattered and I accepted my fate. As she continued to talk to my friend about her boyfriend I stared off around the train station and at the people walking past. There were not many thoughts inside my brain but I was looking everywhere as if there were.
That night I had more trouble sleeping. Very faint light came in from the streets, my bed grew hot, and again my imaginations kept me awake.
I got something to eat and then went to get my haircut. It was very windy out. A strong sun shone at intervals through the cloud. I took the C—l Line to H—t and thought I could walk the rest of the way, as the map showed just over one mile to the hotel. It was all uphill. I watched the cars pass and a group of police officers making an arrest. The wind still blew strong. I was very excited. Perhaps, after all of her behaviour, she is conflicted about how she feels about me and tonight will swing it as I have imagined it to for the past couple of months. Yes, I could feel somewhere that the night would be a good one, a great one.
My room looked from the top of a hill over the sprawling suburb. There were many trees & rooftops. I rang her and she told me where she was and we laughed.
Some of my friends were checking in, so I went to the bar and waited for them to come down. I had a beer and it went down easily because I was very thirsty so I had another. Some friends joined me. I was in good spirits. New people were introduced and I asked them many questions. I kept ordering drinks.
She text me—“I’m here. Let the party start!”
We drank. She leaned back in her chair with a thick woollen scarf around her neck and I believed that she looked somewhat like a Klimt painting that I had seen, only there was not a scarf in the painting. She went up to get ready. Everybody left to go get ready. There was an hour until the minibus would take us from the hotel to the venue. I shat and showered and checked myself again and again in the mirror. Steam wafted around the room. The TV set was tuned to a music channel and I danced to the music as I got dressed. She text me telling me that she was almost ready and she told me her room number.
I was on the second-floor of the hotel’s labyrinth. That is when I saw her walking down the hall towards me.
Her dress was purple and showed off her legs and bared her shoulders. Her blonde hair bobbed in the lights that shone down the corridor. She wore tall purple stiletto heels. She smiled. I was hypnotised. I cannot ever describe how good she looked.
You will always see something that takes you a while to regain yourself and that was it for me. The two of us, a company director, his wife & son, all five of us walked down to the hotel bar where everyone else was. More people wore dinner jackets than I had expected so I went outside for a cigarette and to think. The minibus driver began talking to me. I told him that I would round them all up. It was a task that would occupy my time and would stop me doing anything else.
My friend abandoned his pint to get in.
“You ain’t drinking that?”
“No.”
I drank from it what I could and hurried every one into the bus. We locked the doors and set off.
All around were Christmas lights lit up, nailed to houses. Illuminated roads blurred in the distance. The bus wound onwards. There were fifteen of us in the vehicle and I listened to them joking and talking. I felt as if things were changing for me though not positively. There is not a moment to blame such times on, but a gradual shift in one’s mood and one’s troubles.
It was a country club that joined on to a golf course. Trees all around. Cars and taxis came to a halt on a large gravel driveway. Polished shoes and heels crunched the pebbles underneath. Music could be heard.
We went to the bar and ordered our drinks. My anxiety & nerves caused me to drink very quickly. I wish I had known that things were getting out of control, but I didn’t. Other members of staff showed up. As a big surprise to me a friend—who had left the company a month ago—arrived with his girlfriend. I was very happy to see him. I ran and hugged him and he told me to get off. “Big surprise, eh?”
“Yeah, right!”
The more people arrived, the more excited the room became. There was loud talking. Another company was sharing the hall with us. I kept ordering drinks. I kept emptying them down my throat and getting another. To get along, I thought, I must try
to be happy or at least pretend to be. Truthfully something wholly unwelcome gripped me and I struggled to avoid it.
By the time dinner was called I was very drunk and distant from what I could see happening around me. Now recalling it I am unsure of what happened and in what order they happened. Some others were more drunk than me; they fell over, scattered glasses, turned tables, giggled, and were escorted out. No one was drinking the red wine on my table so I had it to myself and finished the bottle before dessert.
That was the beginning of the evening’s demise.
What happened after that is a blur.
Submitting to something I had admitted to myself the night before, I gave up thoughts of her. She moved around me, drank, danced, but I was not there with her. It did not matter anyway.
I took my drink and went for another smoke outside. There were small groups of people in the carpark, cigarette smoke spiralling upwards, talking. The golf course was just around the back so I stumbled round there. In the moonlight it could be vaguely made out—the rough, the fairway, bunkers, the tee, a flag or two. It was quieter out there so I paced in circles.
Inside they had cleared away a few of the tables to make room. The music was turned up and everybody started to dance. Dancing will clear so many of my worries. After all, I will dance all alone in my room without a care, just to clear my head after work. There were many of us on there, dancing roughly in time to the music and singing along.
I saw an unopened bottle of white wine. I unscrewed the bottle and downed half of it and took the other half to the dancefloor. The bottle was heavy and made dancing difficult. People tried to get the bottle off of me but I was having none of it.
After that bottle there was another. It was easy enough to find booze when not everyone liked the wine. It did not taste good but my mouth was numb and could not taste much.
I danced and then, at an almost definite point, the night, as I remembered it, was over.
Distant memories emerged when people told me later: I went out to smoke and crawled underneath a tree. It was dry on the floor under there and it was away from every one else. That is why I must have sat there, on the soil. Her friend came and talked to me. On nights out it is always her friend whom I talk to, a lot of time passing as we go into great depths over personal concerns and troubles. She was also drunk and we talked about Her. The Her endowed with a capital letter, rising up like a tower and visible for miles around. Perhaps discussing it and realising that some things in life are not yours to have—and of course the alcohol’s weakening of my subdued emotions—I broke down in tears. She rubbed my shoulder. A male friend was walking over so I wiped away my tears and dusted off my bottom as I stood up. It was a pine tree. Underneath the pine tree was the usual bed of fallen needles.
I remember nothing more, not even the faintest thing.
After that moment, there was a brawl that encompassed the entire hall. People fled. Chairs were thrown. Men fell unconscious. A woman had their head split open and was left on the floor, screaming, with blood dripping down her face. I stood in the middle of it, wobbling. People tried to get me out of there but it was too dangerous and I was abandoned. Somehow, I was left unscathed.
My phone rang. It was nine-thirteen. It was her.
“I feel like I’m dying,” she told me.
“Me too. You woke me up.”
“Come down for breakfast.”
“OK. Just lemme shower.”
I showered as quickly as I could. Then I blacked out again.
I woke up on the bed and it was ten-thirty. I asked her where she was.
“You never showed. I’m on my way home.”
The hotel seemed deserted. As I was walking down the stairs I vomited and held it in my mouth. My lips locked tight to make sure none dripped out. Once I was outside, I let it all spill out next to the front door. It was thin and clear and had bits of carrot in it from the Christmas dinner. There wasn’t any turkey in the vomit. Vomit on the front step would not do the hotel much good so I walked to the carpark entrance and vomited again. It streamed out. Again, it was thin and clear and had bits of carrot in it from the Christmas dinner. I sat down on a brick wall and vomited some more. Then I started crying but I did not know why. I was not upset. I was feeling too bad to be upset so I sat there crying and wiping the vomit from my lips and feeling it in my mouth. I looked at the hotel and it was all blurry. It was Sunday morning.
One of my friends was going back past a town near to where I live. I could get a lift from him if he was still around. Public transport with all its train changes and engineering—that always took place on Sundays—would kill me; for certain, it would finish me off.
“Are you still at the hotel?”
“Yes.”
“Fucking hell. Brilliant. Can I get a lift back, man?”
“Yeah, sure. We’re going to Ikea, though.”
“I don’t care. I just want to sleep in your car.”
“OK. We’ll be down in five minutes.”
I sat still, moving as little as possible.
Another girl from work came and sat beside me and asked if were all right. I told her I wasn’t. She told me all about the night before.
“She was really drunk, too.”
That did not matter to me anymore.
We talked and then my friend came down with his girlfriend. He put his dinner suit in the boot. She said hello to me. I got in the back. They asked me if I were all right. I told them I had been better. They laughed. I fell asleep and the car warmed up.

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