Her bulbous nose was booze red. Without it she’d have been attractive. I think she knew this because she was dressed to compensate in revealing clothing. They say you always end up with a mirror image of yourself, and that was sort of true in this case because her partner had an identical nose. But similarities stopped there; he had a huge underbite and a large lower lip that drooped and made him look like he was slobbering.
There was a storm outside. The pub was almost empty. They were sitting eating a cheap meal when I came in and sat at the next table. People were talking all around us and sometimes they’d join in. They knocked the alcohol back quickly, as I did. There is nothing like a booze rush in the early afternoon. It beats all other times of the day, even in winter when you have to sit inside and where the conversation is less easy to escape. She finished her wine in maybe three gulps and sent him back to the bar for more. He lisped the order through his jaw with its slobber and smiled without a break until he sat back down.
People engaged them, mainly her, in shouted conversation from the bar to the tables where we sat. She laughed it up, despatched advice, or reprimand, and moved silkily in her chair as if to hypnotise the guys pouring the cheap lager down their throats who were watching her out of the corner of their eyes when they weren’t plucking up the courage to shout something amusing and throw it her way. Even the landlady’s tits weren’t enough to turn the heads today. They bounced up and down behind the bar with flicked blonde hair crossing over them and caressing their milky cleavage. It was for nothing. The bulbous nose held some form of spell over the crowd.
A woman in old dirty white trainers came into the pub and the tone changed. She sat with the silky woman and started to cry. I heard snatched phrases “Dead…. Too many times… Funeral… They would only give me paracetamol but I need more to help me… he was expected to go but I need drugs.”
I guessed it was her father who had died. Silky woman had an arm around her and was saying things like “If you ever need me….” Her words fell like royal favours out of a golden carriage.
“I know you will, Deborah, you’re the kindest person I know,” the crying woman said. She stared straight ahead and shook. They talked for ten minutes more then the crying woman finished her orange juice and left, walking unsteadily, twitching at something unseen by anyone else, ever. Deborah laughed a little.
She finished her drink, got up out of her chair and passed me by, draping a hand on my shoulder and leaving it there, moving her fingers a little as some kind of signal. The eyes from the bar watched with jealous expressions. Then she moved off with her slack-jawed partner, wiggling her peachy ass as she walked down the length of the pub.
Somebody plucked up the courage to ask me if I knew her. I didn’t, but I felt knighted by a serious pro lush who’d been around long enough to know what buttons to press on old drunk guys with nothing in their lives except alcohol and the thoughts of maybe, coulda. Dreams in the guiness haze.
I sat on my own and drank and popped tablets until the storm died down outside. Had I had an horrific glimpse of my future? Sitting in pubs and bars waiting for scraps of body language or half-meant words to be tossed my way for me to use masturbating later, drunk? What was Deborah’s purpose? Did she care? No. She was too good at what she did to care. Caring meant you wouldn’t carry on that way; that you’d be so disgusted in yourself you couldn’t bear to be that way. She was a throwback to gin palaces and dive bars near freeways, truck stops, seedy 70s discos, and the wrenching coldness of the human condition. I wondered what had happened to her to make her that way.
Eventually I got drunk.