[Part 2 HERE]
Back in his hometown. Back from a misspent year in drab Johannesburg. Heâ€™s drunk, drunker than Iâ€™ve ever known him to be. Definitely a problem supporting each tall, quick drink. I donâ€™t want to know what it is. I know that Iâ€™m being selfish. I absorb myself with more happy hour draught. For some reason, the beerâ€™s golden colour has mutilated into a sickening yellow. Like piss. I take the biggest swallow that I can.
The Monkâ€™s Inn, or the Hole as we fondly call it, is our refuge from work (that is, when weâ€™re employed and the pathos that we sometimes become. Although, there are the occasions where it does the reverse, like thrusting a mirror in our nose so that our brain can look at everything but vanity.
But it doesnâ€™t help to begin the evening with any thought but that of escape. After seven years of been a regular, I discover no problem with initiating that. Soon Iâ€™m lost in that time poised between the stroke of a cue, the observation of breasts, a sip of brew and the crack of the white ball against objectives.
Then Iâ€™m with the actual events and the band plays to the throng thatâ€™s us. As usual, the musicâ€™s too loud but no one asks for it to be lessened. We rather shout for conversation or sing along to The Cure and its ilk.
Itâ€™s four games before I foul on the white and watch my weed-high opponent attack and deposit his balls. Iâ€™m ejected from the arena.
My drunken timingâ€™s immaculate. I follow Johnâ€™s gesture to see Linda arriving with husband in tow. I wave wildly and they head towards us. The B.F.Q.â€™s complete.
â€œHowzit Linz. Hi Barry.â€
â€œAnd Frankyâ€™s back!â€ Linda yells. â€œGod, itâ€™s good to see you.â€
She hugs him hard so that half his drink spills down his shirt and onto his pants.
â€œWet dick,â€ John offers.
â€œPisshead,â€ I join in.
Franky ignores us. With his first genuine smile of the evening, he stands quickly, pours a little beer onto Lindaâ€™s blonde head, and, before she can move, hugs her and plants a kiss on her lips. From the far side of the table, I have a view of the grimace on Barryâ€™s face. Good. John noticed as well and is right behind me to repeat the affection.
â€œIâ€™d better buy some drinks before happy hourâ€™s over,â€ Barry excuses himself.
â€œYouâ€™d better hurry,â€ I warn. â€œThereâ€™s only fifteen minutes left.â€ I tell him this with the knowledge that the five jugs beneath the table are probably sufficient for all of us. He rushes away. Without a friendship with the overworked barmaids, thereâ€™s no way in hell that heâ€™ll get drinks in time. Inside, I smile nastily.
Franky decides to brave the toilets for a piss that makes John conscious of the same desire. Linda and I are alone in the midst of a table rocked by over a hundred and fifty drunken spirits. I cling to my half-empty beer glass and when she grabs for hers after a particularly hard bump, Iâ€™m again grabbed by how pretty she is. Her left sleeve spoils that thought. As she reaches for that betraying glass, it stretches and pulls back. The bruise is ugly.
â€œFuck it, Linz,â€ and my glass topples as I lurch for her other arm and pull at her other sleeve. Snap. â€œIâ€™m gonna kill that bastard!â€
â€œBullshit â€˜shut-upâ€™. Heâ€™s walked to the end of this rope. Iâ€™m your friend. We all are, goddamnit. We love you.â€
â€œStop it â€¦ now.â€ I hate it when she cries. â€œWeâ€™ve been through this before. This is my life. Mine, you hear. My pain. My choice. Let it alone â€¦ please.â€ She swabs her tears with a hand. â€œHeâ€™s a good man. He just has a few problems.â€
â€œYeah, me. Problem uno fucking numero uno.â€ We only use twelve percent of our brain (although Iâ€™m confident that some use less) and itâ€™s probably alcohol that unlocks the storage bin of swearing. Fuckinâ€™ A, I affirm.
â€œPlease,â€ she begs.
My attitudes smouldering. Sheâ€™s right. Weâ€™ve been here before. Donâ€™t like it.
Miracle glass. It never broke. I wipe the wasted brew off the Formica top. My handâ€™s gonna be sticky. I lick it and with the same hand grab a jug to change the poor condition of my full-empty glass. Down-down. Pour another and clink against Lindaâ€™s glass. â€œCheers, lady.â€ I lie with a thrown smile. Mollified, she relaxes.
Perfect (or imperfect) timing. Barryâ€™s back. A drink for him. A drink for Linda â€œLoveâ€. Bastard never bought us a round. Heâ€™s noticeably displeased at seeing Linda with a beer already in her hand. Good. That self-centred observation aids his failure in noticing her reddened eyes.
â€œFull price for these bloody beers,â€ he whines. â€œWhen they going to hire better barmaids. More â€¦ and fire those conceited bitches.â€ Iâ€™m sure that Cath and Ronel (the aforementioned bitches) would appreciate his concern.
My coin is next up on the pool table. Iâ€™m rescued â€¦ for now.
The boys are back. Franky nods that heâ€™ll partner me and brave the pool game with his alcohol-hazed head. Heâ€™s shooting well. Way above normal. I, of all people, know what this means. Bad thoughts are being unleashed on those poor balls. Frankyâ€™s always been the joke-filled one so Iâ€™d volunteer myself for a devilâ€™s braai if this never involved a woman. Besides, Iâ€™m experienced at this. Damn. Now the B.F.Q. was truly complete.
I regret what Iâ€™m about to do. Isnâ€™t self-wallowing enough?
â€œTell me whatâ€™s wrong,â€ I ask with my sincere, look-inside-you look accompanying. He appears to stay a dam but in his eyes I see the Red Sea verging on parting. â€œIâ€™m your buddy, arenâ€™t I? Telling me canâ€™t make things worse.â€
I am Moses. In-between shots, he opens up. What a damn mess.
â€œâ€¦ She wasnâ€™t like the girls Iâ€™ve known in Durbs â€¦ she was a woman â€¦ classy, confidentâ€¦â€ He misses the maroon ball so hard that the white bounces off three sides before sinking our blue ball. â€œI love her.â€ Another ball in the hole. â€œI pitch at her place one morning â€¦ it was a Tuesday, raining, early â€¦ I wanted to put a smile on my face before work. She was reluctant to let me in â€¦ said that she was tired â€¦ but I get inside â€¦ tell her Iâ€™ll give her a massage. Sheâ€™s wearing her Garfield nightie. The one that I bought for her. Real sexy in it â€¦ doesnâ€™t wear underwear.â€
A slice and another clonk into the centre pocket. The black ball is the last. It rests on the far cushion. Franky takes an enormous swig of beer, hands me his glass, positions himself, hesitates for some reason, and then, with a lack of confidence, plays the shot. The black ball gets hit but the white ball kamikazies onto the floor. Our opponents are grinning. Their balls are all set up.
Franky doesnâ€™t speak or move. His eyes are glazed. I take the cue from his hand and give it to the enemy.
â€œAnd then?â€ I prompt him.
He swallows the beer and a lot of air.
â€œAnother woman steps into the lounge. Sheâ€™s naked, Mike â€¦ unembarrassed. A real stunner. Iâ€™m stunned. I look away, pretend to Jacqueline that Iâ€™m unimpressed, that my eyes are only for her.â€
I try to imagine the situation. Can. Goddamn incredible.
He continues: â€œItâ€™s her face that fucks me over â€“ gives her away. I think that thereâ€™s relief there â€¦ like she wants to be given away. â€˜Frankâ€™ she reckons. This is Tamullaâ€™ (like Waltzing Matilda). â€˜Weâ€™ve being seeing each other for three months now. Iâ€™m sorry it happened this way. I wanted to tell you. Truly â€¦ I just didnâ€™t know how. I care about you but this is who I am. I know that now.â€
â€œBITCH!â€ he yells and reinforces his opinion with a hard punch into the wall.
He doesnâ€™t say goodbye. Iâ€™m glad â€˜cause I wouldnâ€™t know what to reply. He leaves hurriedly. The others look at him curiously.
He leaves me with a fantasy in my head.
The enemy sinks the black ball.
[Part 4 HERE]