20 Year Leap

by Daniel O'hEidhin

           ‘I can resist everything except temptation’

‘Life is too important a thing to be talked about seriously’

           ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’

– Oscar Wilde

          Waking up the morning after the night before, and not being able to remember where the hell I am, was somewhat of a speciality of mine. I kinda’ pride myself on my ability to wind up someplace inconceivably far away from the bar stool of my first drink. Some guys throw javelins, well, this was my olympics. Finding myself twenty years away from last night, however, was a new record. Even for me.

           How did I get there? Good question. As always is the case it started with a lick of brandy, off a stripper’s stomach this time. Peachy. It was a particularly quiet night when I met with the soon-to-be-hitched Marl. It was supposed to be a relaxed night of reminiscing. Jovial conversation. Misty-eyed, barrel-laughed, squeeky-clean fun between two old college buddies who had seen less and less of each other as their hairlines receeded and their guts expanded. Fuckin’ nightmare. Instead I took him to a strip club and hoped for the best night possible. Marl was a real good guy, the type with a healthy bank account and a well thought out savings scheme. He had tried to get me onboard with the whole ‘plan-ahead’ thing, but the thought of planning for being old was, to me anyway, morbid and repugnant.

           Marl had a good lady too, a teacher, cute as hell, but dressed like shit. For a thirty-something to wear so many beige cardigans and ankle-length skirts has got to be a crime someplace. Someplace with sense. A sense of life, and living. You can imagine that I wasn’t particularly fond of slaving either. I had jobs. I just never found the job. Y’know… the one that makes you want to get up out of bed in the morning?

           Instead, I wasted everything that had ever been given to me by anyone who had ever cared about me, and I drank myself into a good time.

           Marl ordered himself a beer, a light beer, as we walked to the smoking area outside the club’s side door, and took a seat. Being enclosed in a circle of waist-high barriers, advertising Dutch beer, was supposed to make you feel like you were still in the realm and spirit of the club. It didn’t. Making smokers sit outside always felt like exile to me, particularly in a strip club. Was it because the strippers were afraid of their tarty delicates reeking of tobacco? Or maybe they felt the cloud of smoke provided too dense a veil of secrecy for the many husbands of many, many wives to hide behind while they ogled some guy’s writhing, oily daughter.

           The sky was clear; completely black. A sort of awe-inspiring, big blackness. A ‘look at how unimportant and small I am in the grand scheme of things’ sort of blackness. We took long drags from our cigarettes in between shit conversation. Nothing he said made sense to me anymore. I still loved him, he was still Marl, but Christ he was boring. Twenty years is a long time, and people change, and their lives change.

           A lone star glinted in the otherwise empty black sky. It was exceptionally bright, or maybe I was exceptionally bored off my tits. I passed a look from the star to Marl who was still talking bullshit, to two ugly, lecherous individuals up against the wall outside the club, and then back to Marl, who was looking for my opinion on something. ‘You know it buddy’, I said unconvincingly, taking the last swig from my almost empty bottle of beer. Stale, lifeless beer. Stale, lifeless Marl.

           We went back inside the club to get another round of drinks. Marl got a gin and tonic, and I got a whiskey. I thought of asking for cola as a mixer before realising that the longer it takes to get wasted, the longer I have to listen to Marl talking about late-night shifts at the company, and broken water-coolers, and shirt and tie combinations, and dental care benefits, and the bits of coffee in the sugar because people don’t wash the fucking spoons after themselves.

           I knocked back the whiskey in a gulp, wiped my mouth, and ordered another one, and another gin and tonic for Marl.

           We threw some cash at the girls, drank from their greasy navels, and slowly the world peeled back around me, and it started to spin a little, and I was happy.

           Back outside for another smoke I threw another glance to the two uglies, still at it. I looked up into the great blackness as I lit my cigarette, and the world twisted in my state of blissful intoxication. How bright that solitary star was! It wouldn’t sit still. I tried squinting and focusing my eyes, but I was too far gone; it danced a wonderful dance and blazed a trail right into my drunken stupor. Then it disappeared. My wonderful companion!

           It shone again. ‘Join me!’ I cried to it. It was gone again. I was alone. The feeling of dejection was full, and damaging. I sobbed into my coat sleeve, until, wiping the tears from my eyes, I seen its merry glint. Brief celestial friend!

           I followed it, and followed it. Wanting it to be mine. I chased it, running and twisting down the street as it glinted, winking flirtatiously at me. I barely saw the Nissan Micra as it smashed into my body. A fucking Micra. I woke up twenty years later, unable to move much and my hair had grown grey in parts. I feel cheated to this day, it was Marl’s round to buy drinks, and the asshole choked on a scone seven years ago.

           The last thing I remember from the night I was put in my twenty year coma was the look on the driver’s face, and her fucking beige cardigan.

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