by Luke Otley
We stood at a junction wielding golf clubs, our dress mixed and perverse. My self tie-dyed t-shirt was loose fitting and covered in human grease. Sam and Elliot looked like they had just finished a hard 9-5 on minimum wage at SanTander. Smartly dressed – but with something odd about the whole scene that you can’t quite put your finger on until you’re real close…like a monkey in a 3-piece. The driving range was closed, inevitably. We faced the closed doors with the stubbornness akin to Jahova’s witnesses, but eventually were politely asked to leave.
“A man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, but then fail all the more completely because he drinks.”
Oh Orwell, your words echo airily around my empty skull even today… what a curse hindsight can be. Irrespective of George’s fine advice, we hit the off-license in search of liquor. Two cold tinnies please guv’nor, and serve it with a smile. Nothing wrong with three country gents, still with the fresh smell of the green on their shoes, swaggering into their local marché and kindly requesting a few cold beers for the walk home is there? Especially not at the late hour of three, by god. The cashier was lucky we didn’t stechmarsch through the automatic doors roaring “мире, о земле, пиво!, мире, о земле, пиво!, мире, о земле, пиво!”* with all the air in our combined lungs. Thankfully, we received our delicious cold ones with minimum conflict, and the cashier was in fact gently accommodating, which is a lot more than can be said for the golf club. I also purchased a pack of One Direction stickers for my younger sister, which she later threw straight onto the floor with disinterest before my back was even turned.
The plan for the evening was this: a few friendly drinks at home before moving to Toast (a small bar on the high-street) to meet James Massey, a visiting felon. James stands tall and lean, much like root of liquorice, at 6ft1. His neatly trimmed beard is only slightly thrown off by multiple small wounds on his neck, incurred at the hand of Colchester’s finest Cutthroat Turkish Barber. James takes pride in his appearance, but bizarrely trusts all his cosmetic needs to the Turks, who are infamous for the most insane of haircuts. Using several techniques foreign to Western barbering, a Turkish barber may at any point use controlled flames, razors and stencils with little to no direction from the customer.
At 8pm we were sitting at my living room table playing cards, drinking beer and taking swigs out of a bottle of Jack Daniels. Not four hours previously Sam had received the whiskey as a gift, which was flying out of the bottle at a rate of knots. Predictably we became more raucous, and I noticed my mother out of my peripherals, trying to lean towards the television in the hope of drowning out our vile noise. Eventually, like a flock of wild sea birds, we left the house. We flapped our arms and leapt in the air, pointed our beaks at the swirling night sky and screeched as loudly as possible. My mother rocked in her chair, hugged her knees and braced herself for yet another sleepless night. The door slammed behind us with such a sonic boom that the sound of glass violently shuddering against wood followed us halfway down the street.
We were still passing around the end of the whiskey when we encountered the harsh lights of the high-street. I rang James but got no answer. To our dismay, there was a queue outside of Toast that stretched past several neighbouring venues. We made a partition in the crowd, which composed mainly of students, and entered Bayside Grill. Presently we began stuffing our greasy faces with hot cheesy pizza covered in onions, chilli and red meat, which is an excellent appetiser to any social evening if you ask me. We gorged on slice after slice in the embarrassingly well lit Kebab House. The decor gave you the impression that you were being studied for private amusement.
Back on the street, the queue was growing in both length and girth. It had begun to rain, and it lashed down on the idiots relentlessly. I noted that the bouncers were operating a strict 1-in-1-out policy, and no one was leaving. Cursing, we left for 5-below, seeking rum. Naturally 5-below was empty except for a group of hippies that had presumably ventured out of a nearby commune, hunting pot. We took to the bar and ordered three house rums. The barmaid, who I later fell in love with, sprayed us with sticky coke and apologised by giving us the round for nothing. With almost sexual ecstasy we grabbed, snatched and pawed blindly at the drinks. We eyed each other like a colony of vultures round a fresh carcass. We took brief, nervous sips, showcasing the same taut alertness that comes to an animal that knows it is eating out of a trap. Sam wanted to go out for a smoke, and away from prying eyes we had the excellent idea of adding what was left of the whiskey into our drinks, rendering them almost undrinkable. The barmaid came out, probably to check we weren’t trashing the place, and inquired about the empty bottle that had suddenly appeared on the wall next to us. I was about ready to sink to my knees, clutch desperately to her skirts and moan “No no please it wasn’t me, honest officer I never knew what kind of crowd I was getting mixed up in, I’m a good boy I never skipped school…” but the guilt gripped me like a vice, and Elliot simply stated “No, it’s not ours” and she took it away with no fuss.
After the instance with the bottle my memory gets very hazy. I have horrible jagged flashbacks of Sam and I getting boxed into a corner of the dance floor like trapped rats. I remember staring at a tall fellow with a large bushy beard, who I repeatedly complimented under my breath in a monotonous chant. I also recall speaking to a short red headed girl in a ridiculous hat, who I offended by geographically misjudging her accent by several thousand miles. At midnight or so I received a text from James, who had gone back to his friend’s house. The dream was over. Our only raison d’être had vacated the immediate area. I roared, and stuck my arms out. I began spinning, slowly at first, but with a steady and methodical increase in pace. My knuckles began brushing against my neighbours. Elliot and Sam had already taken a step back, as they are knowledgeable of my rages. I began an inhuman bellow, which started in baritone and rapidly accelerated through tenor, then countertenor, before blasting right off any scale easily identifiable by even the most skilled vocal pedagogist. I tore the shirt from my back and revealed a bloated grey gut, packed to capacity with various liquors, syrups, meats and cheeses. As I began to gain momentum I knocked an unsuspecting girl to the ground, who promptly shattered like a glass statue. Instantly I was seized by the bouncers, who had evidently seen enough, and tossed halfheartedly into the cold night. Our evening ended like any other… I lay, sobbing and dry gagging in the gutter, the freezing rain pounding the back of my head like the drums of some ancient and forgotten war.
*Trans. “Peace, land, beer!”