they say that “even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day”. and people are no different…
the drones come in their droves to this watering hole. they come for many reasons. reasons unknown to me. but they have their reasons, and they make them apparent.
the sun has brought them out and they are here, all short-sleeves and smiles in this first tantalising glimpse of a Scottish summer. the drink is cheap, as is their talk.
they sit, huddled together around tables, in groups of five or less, talking… incessantly. their conversations are relentless. talk talk talk talk talk. i am sure they are uttering words but it sounds like “mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble”. the drone of their voices pickles my brain as i sit, nursing a coffee, casually observing their behaviour. people are, mostly, predictable. people. sheep. sheople.
i look around and i am both surprised and, yet strangely, not surprised to see the same faces. i wonder why they come, here, to this watering hole. for some, it is social – they come in parties, on their way to somewhere better; for others, it is respite – found only in the company of other drones. for many, it is addiction – enslaved by the lure of cheap gargle. when alcohol costs less than a bottle of the purest water, ‘Society’ clearly has a time-bomb ticking in its hands.
i rarely visit this watering hole because it has nothing to offer me. cheap coffee? maybe. yeah, that’s it. cheap coffee and time to kill. i have one hour until my bus departs. time to kill with cheap coffee. oh the thrill.
there is nothing new here since my last visit – same faces, same smells, same drab patterned carpet.
i have one hour. one coffee, one notepad, one pen. i am fully submersed in this watering hole. i am deep amid the drones and drowning in their mumbles and moans.
unlike other watering holes, there is no music here. only the atonal drone of stumbling conversations.
a man, in his late forties/early fifties, walks in with a blonde woman on his arm. he is super-skinny and she is twice his size, and very well-dressed. they sit at a table to my right. he gazes out the window, and fidgets – alternating between sighing nervously and sipping his foamy beer; she sits opposite him – alternating between taking a sip of chilled white wine and masturbating the condensation-moist stem of her glass. she stares at him. aware of the weight of her stare, he continues to fidget and faff with his fingernails. he reaches into his pocket and takes out a manilla envelope and furtively slides it across the table in her direction:
“it’s all in there…” he says.
she does not open it. she swiftly stuffs it in her gold lame clutch bag and smiles at him.
“thank you” she says, politely.
she is not from around here. her accent is not local.
“d’you want another drink?” he asks her, sighing.
i can hear the relief in his voice now that that ‘business transaction’ has cleared.
she sips her wine and flirtatiously toys with the Jimmy Choo from her right foot, while lasciviously wetting her lips.
i think she’s a prostitute.
she takes another sip of her glass of wine, leaving a red smear of lipstick on its rim. images of her greedily gobbling down on the skinny man’s cock leaving the same greasy red smear on it as it rests, flaccid, stuck to his thigh flash through my mind.
jesus fucking christ in a whorehouse! i have too much time to kill.
he gets up and heads over to the bar. she reaches into her gold bag and momentarily fumbles. i see her open the envelope and count the green inside. money. she IS a prostitute. she takes out a lipstick. it is the same blood red shade as smudged on the glass. she re-applies it, straight from the bullet, smearing it on thick in slow circular motions. her mouth looks like it has just given birth, red and swollen and bloody. to some, this may be casually inviting.
he returns to their table with another pint of beer and another dripping glass of chilled white wine. i watch as he sits back down and continues to fidget and faff with his fingernails. she puts her hand on his thigh and leans into him. he whispers something in her ear and she laughs, a fake yet somewhat cultured laugh. did he say something funny? i must have missed that.
a group of eight girls appear with a goldfish bowl filled with some intoxicating concoction and throng around the centre table. the centre of attention, naturally…
they are dressed for summer, they are dressed for boys. so much bare skin. bare and orange. the girls spend their initial time together conversing about how good each other looks – consciously comparing themselves to each other and adjusting their minimal clothing. they talk excitedly about their new nails, their fake hair and spray-on suntans. i watch as they fluff up their hair, pull at their push-up bras, pull in their bellies and straighten their skirts. they talk at one another – not really listening – while continually eyeing each other up and making those bitching self-comparisons. the loud alpha female steers the conversation to the subject of sex: ‘who is fucking who; whose ‘ex’ is a cunt; and who they hope to ‘get off with’ tonight’.
bored with them, my attention turns elsewhere.
i spot a conservatively dressed couple seated at the table opposite me, tucked away in the corner. it figures. they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. or maybe they do? i watch as they ponder over a menu. their voices are hushed. he is a dapper little man. his polished bald head gleams beneath the spotlight. she sits, shifting her weight to adjust her pink floral skirt. i catch a glimpse of her white lacy stocking tops. maybe not so conservative after all.
but it’s all very civilised and polite, with just enough awkwardness to suggest it is a ‘first date’ or, perhaps, a reconciliation attempt.
the bald man goes to the bar to order food, i hear him say. she sits, as though she were on a church pew, her hands clasped on her lap and her pink mouth puckered tight. but, by God, she is ugly.
the man returns and sits back down at the table. he slips his chubby hand between her knees and gazes at her. his nose is red and abloom with gin blossoms. she brushes her hand through her hair and leans into him as his hand disappears up her skirt. she seems blinkered. God knows why. he looks like a gargoyle. but she focuses on him: smiling, playing with her hair, flirting… hanging on his every word. she giggles. he growls and guffaws- the deepest, dirtiest laugh. he glances around. is he hoping people are watching them? some people crave that.
out of nowhere, a fat man wearing blue plastic spectacles waddles over to me:
“hello. my name is Dick. I couldn’t help but notice you. and you’re on your own. can i get you a coffee or something?” he asks, quietly.
“hello Dick. that’s very kind, but no… no thank you, Dick, i have one.” i reply, politely declining his invitation to enter into a conversation i really did not need or want to enter into.
“what’s your name and what are you writing, miss?” he continues.
damn! he’s persistent. i want to be alone.
i can see him gawping at my open notepad, trying to decipher my writing. good luck with that, Dick.
“i’m a food critic” i lie. “i cannot give out my name, sorry.” i further lie, smiling politely as i do.
“okay miss – i’ll leave you alone” he says, clearly realising i am infinitely more interested in the dregs of my cold coffee than anything he might have to offer me in terms of conversation, or otherwise (Heaven forbid!), and headed outside to smoke.
i hear a moan…
i glance up from my notepad, and see the bald man quickly retract his plump petting hand as a waiter appeared with two platters of food.
“enjoy your meal!” the waiter says. the red-faced bald man nods back in acknowledgement- his mouth already stuffed full. his shiny head is beaded with sweat. he takes his blue paper napkin and mops his brow.
moments later, another waiter arrives and serves the couple to my right. i am immersed in food smells. my stomach heaves.
the skinny man gobbles down a hotdog, like a wolf after a long lean winter, leaving his ‘she wolf’ to pick away at her bloody steak. her pound of flesh. her fork is smeared with the same shade of blood red.
ten minutes and i am out of here.
i look over at the fumbling couple. she is eating with one hand – scooping up soured cream and guacamole in a corn tortilla chip, surreptitiously sucking her fingers after each mouthful. she lets him suck on her fingers. i feel sick. her hand is on his crotch and his face is reddening. tiny rivulets of sweat are trickling down over his pebble head and dripping onto his plate. fucking jesus. i feel sick.
suddenly, everyone’s attention is hijacked as a fight breaks out. one punch! SMACK! all eyes are drawn to a bunch of old men playing dominoes:
“you were fuckin’ cheatin’!” the doddery antagonist balled at a shape on the patterned carpet.
“you cannae cheat at dominoes, Dave!” said another, older and frail-looking, man.
“… and that’s nae excuse tae fuckin’ punch him!” another even older, bespectacled, man interjected.
we all watched, in amusement and with share pathos, as two black-clad bouncers helped a bony and humpy-backed man up off the floor and onto a chair – straightening his glasses and giving him a glass of water and a pat on the back.
“aye well… ah dae want tae see you again! ah hope ye die, ya cheatin’ cunt!!!” roared Dave as he was gently ejected from the premises. one of the bouncers took hold of his stick arm, the other took his walking stick, and they escorted him outside.
“that’s them at it AGAIN!!!” someone says.
i am guessing that’s the end of that friendship. until tomorrow perhaps, should they fail to remember this.
people. i have had my fill of empty crowds. that was my cue to get up and go, before my ‘get up and go’ is sucked from me down the plughole of this watering hole.
people are broken. we are all broken. like broken clocks, however, we often get it right. even if it is only twice a day, or on this occasion a (not so happy) happy hour.
(c) Kat McDonald 2014