This isn’t the right drink. I asked for a vodka and lemonade but when I look down into my glass it’s cloudy and as much as I chase the little white straws around the glass, the clouds won’t clear.
They’re talking. Voices overlapping, growing louder. Music thuds over head and underfoot, shorting the three legs of my stool and making it harder to keep track of the chatter around me. The whole room is moving closer in and as much as I try to curve my shoulders and tuck my chin, still rough shoulders push against mine, making this unknown liquid slosh and slip onto the bar. The bar is not made of wood. Instead, a sheet of metal has been laid over the top and graffitied. The paint is splotchy, bubbling in places where there has been spillages. I run my finger over one little bubble as I nod my head in agreement, yes the Kardashians are wonderful, yes they’re too rich, yes they’re dreadful, they’re insipid.
I shake my head, no I don’t watch Eastenders. But they keep talking about the characters as though they’re real. I can feel myself frowning, momentarily stumbling and asking about the people as though they’re not made up characters.
One of them needs a fag. And reminded of the pull of nicotine they all follow her out.
This was a duty night out. A birthday of someone I once thought I knew, but probably never did. I could be at home, I could be out with friends I actually know.
I look at the bar again and it’s bothering me. That metal sheet. The number 932 and a few circles are written diagonally across its middle and I line my glass against one of the circles, as though I can make the circles budge over to fit my glass of cloudy something.
Someone nudges me, then again.
It’s not the jostling actions of someone pushing to order a drink. I glance round and a smile tugs at the side of my mouth.
I wonder what he’s doing here, not really caring.
No longer alone in a crowded bar.