Corgi is already outside waiting for me. I sometimes wonder where he goes when he’s not with me. He never really mentions his home or family, though I know he has them. He feels almost like a side character in my life, always waiting on the sidelines for somebody else to appear. Maybe I should ask him. I know he hasn’t been having an easy time recently.
“You linger like a bad smell,” is what I end up saying though.
“Yeah, and your attitude stinks, so that’s probably why we get along.”
I snort and give him the middle finger, which he returns like a patriotic salute. I start down the road and he trots behind me to catch up. Even at this time the streets are busy. The sky is black and a fine drizzle hangs in the air, but city life never slows. I notice that most of the beggars are gone though. I wonder where they go when crowds die down and the nights set in.
I take the path that I’ve walked so many times that I could retrace it with my eyes closed. It’s a good job too, because coming back I’m usually so far gone that I might as well be blind. We don’t really talk as we walk. Most of our store of conversations had been drained during the morning. Thankfully though, it isn’t long before we are back in the shadow of the Wetherspoons.
Larry and Toto are already waiting for us inside. They’re sitting at the same table we had occupied hours earlier. The place is much busier now. Steak nights always draw in a good crowd. I slump into the chair beside Toto while Corgi goes to the bar to get us drinks. Again I vaguely wonder where he gets his money from, but know I’ll never bother to ask him.
“You are looking well, all things considered,” Toto tells me. “I worry about you at times.”
“Life is just the interconnecting tissue between moments of misery. I accept that, so have no reason not to live it to the fullest. YOLO and all that bollocks, you know?” I answer with a smile that rivals Toto’s. “Alcohol is just the mortar to fill in the cracks in that confidence.”
“To be fair mate, that sounds like something an alcoholic would say,” Larry quips.
“An alcoholic probably wouldn’t have the coherency required to articulate philosophical theories regarding the ephemeral nature of existence,” I answer, my brain working in overdrive to pull out the most pretentious chain of words possible and speak them without fucking up. My brain fails me on most things, but any attempt to be a dick usually succeeds with flying colours.
“That’s proper good mate. It’s almost like you should be a poet or something.”
It’s at this moment that Corgi returns, placing an orangish pitcher down in front of me.
“What the fuck’s this?”
“It’s a cocktail. Sex on the Beach. The bar lady recommended it.”
“Corgi, under no circumstances do I ever want to drink cocktails with you, let alone one named Sex on the Beach. Sex is the last thing I want to think about when I see your face. And why would you ever do it on a beach? Sand gets everywhere. That’s real uncomfortable. I can only imagine it’s like tossing off with sandpaper. Awful. So why have you put these thoughts in my head?”
“Because it’s fruity and filled with alcohol.”
I take a sip and it is indeed very sweet and filled with alcohol. I shrug and drink more. “Fair enough.”
Larry leans across the table and lowers his voice. “How’s Steph doing? I heard she’s been ill.”
“You’re as subtle as a sledgehammer to the balls. I want you to take any thoughts in your head involving my sister and thoroughly wash them away with bleach.”
“Hey, I’m only asking. It’s not like you care.”
“I care by association.”
“What does that even mean?”
“It means that I don’t care what she or you do in your own lives, but I don’t ever want to imagine anything involving either of you, let alone together. I have enough nightmares as it is. I’m pretty sure that she finds you disgusting though, so thankfully I don’t really have to worry about it.”
“The truth hurts. What can I say? It’s only the flu, so don’t worry your little head about it, okay?”
“You just don’t like to see people being happy.”
“True enough. I wouldn’t surround myself with miserable bastards like you lot if I did. Except Toto. His outlook is as bright as your pasty skin.”
“And your thoughts are as dark as mine,” Toto adds merrily. “Yet somehow you gather people around you like a mother hen. Fate laughs at your attempts to push people away.”
“Yeah? Well fate can take a long walk off a short pier. Let’s not get the wrong idea here, I don’t hang around you for your optimism or company. You just make good food and are generous with your portion sizes. It’s purely a selfish, one way relationship.”
Toto just laughs and drains his drink. He isn’t wrong though. Somehow it’s me that holds this little group together. None of the others knew each other before me. I’m the common denominator. I guess that shows how desperate they all are if I’m the best option to spend time with.
“Tink say’s he’ll meet us at the house. He’s heading there with his brother,” Corgi says into the lull between banter. He has his phone in one hand and the cocktail pitcher in the other. “He expressly states that nobody is to cause trouble.”
“I wonder why he felt the need to specify that?” I say innocently. “At no point have I ever started a fight when Tink has invited us to these little gatherings.”
“You did draw a dick on that fancy painting when we were at his uncle’s BBQ. I’m pretty sure you spent most of his cousin’s wedding reception flirting with the bride.”
“Look, this is an invitation from little Po, and frankly, I’m not going to do anything to get on his bad side. I’ll be on my best behaviour. Scouts honour.”
“You were never in the scouts.”
“No. And from what I read in the news, they don’t have much honour, so it all works out in the end.”
Next – 4.