Sunday, January 5

Between the Attractions

BECAUSE HE AND McCarthy were work colleagues who had become good friends, they secretly wished to impress upon each other that that was so, but would have to wait until they were drunk before—as is such with Englishmen—they could express their fondnessn for the other.
Earlier that day they had visited site together and then McCarthy left to buy a fish from the market as it was Friday and fish was often eaten on Friday. The fish would make a good, if pungent, gift. McCarthy wrapped the fish in thick white paper, and then again in festive wrapping paper. The fish was a handsome specimen, healthy in the sea and now healthy on land, in a paper bag. Often people walk about in love, yet they don’t speak a word of it and the flower opens in darkness.
Drink flowed.
Around half-ten, McCarthy said from behind some cigarette smoke—‘Got some bad news, mate … I’m leaving. I got another job.’
‘Really?’
McCarthy told his friend to come and work for his new company, too, but the man declined. So, that was that. After a few more words, the men embraced. They stood tight to tightly, arms wrapped around, chest against chest; two men hugging beside an entrance. The man would probably die at his present company, while watching all of his friends abandon him. McCarthy was a slightly crazy one with bent teeth and manhole eyes, a trail of failed marriages in his wake. He told the man that he would miss him; he spoke it into his ear. The man told McCarthy he would miss him, too.
The man felt some tears coming; he held them in.
Taxis shot down the road, which was a quiet side-road, where the bar was situated; other groups of office workers stood around, smoking in the cold before returning inside; the doorman speaking on his mobile phone; the playful litter of alcohol atrocities sliding up and down the woodwork. The man was sad like a carnival is packed away on the final morning when all that’s left is a candyfloss sticks and worn tracks between the attractions.
‘But don’t tell anyone. I know you’ve got a big mouth.’
‘Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.’
The two men went back inside and the night carried on in the street without them and inside the bar with them.
The next morning, his head hurting, the man remembered that McCarthy was leaving. He was used to staying and to watching people going; they would carry on doing so as though they were advertisements for women in a telephone box. He made himself a pot of coffee and stared into space for some time before he got into the shower.
On Monday morning McCarthy would hand his notice in and the two drunks would never again express their love as they had done outside that bar. Some things are best said once.

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