Having had a long day yesterday I retired early, in affect taking my seat for the theatre of a Saturday night. I have lived between the town and the ‘late pub’ for so many years that I see this as entertainment rather than annoyance, well mostly. Around 11pm the walk started and I know it would be a busy night. The two young women walking unsteadily past would need to move from shots to juice if they intended to retain what faculties they had. But behind them, like some unbalanced stalker, came a group of men discussing the merits of their view. It would seem that the drunken lurches synchronise so that, to the drunks, they seem sober.
Then came the couples, the second time around couples that is. Overweight older men with slim younger women who have clearly never studied physics. They can’t support the weight of their partner when he lurches into them but years of experience has taught them to roll with him, rather a bruise than a broken heel. Common sense would say it was far better to call it a night but these women know that they can enjoy the rest of their evening while the men disintegrate in a corner.
The youth quintet were keen to declare their love to each other. Not the insincere proclamations of lotharios or the heartfelt statements of lovers but the over earnest pledges of groups of girls. Nothing could break these bonds, no man could come between them, sisters against the world, for now….
Bringing up the rear a trio of confused pre-loaders. Already drunk they were still convinced that they needed more alcohol to avoid the costs ahead. Despite the desperate protestations of juvenile livers they necked retail alcohol rapidly, discarding bottles like a trail of breadcrumbs to be followed home later. I would point out that I didn’t sit and study the crowds, these were just the voices that made me look up over my book.
There are some nights when I hear a returning group, after closing, and smile. There are some nights when I hear a returning group and growl. Just occasionally there are the nights when I feel the need to check off the groups, last night was such a ‘bingo’ night. In ascending order of proximity to dawn, the scale will make sense later, I watched them return and alcohol was no longer their friend. By the early hours of the morning alcohol was the voice at the back of their head that scorned them for losing all their money or for not keeping up, laughed at them for the stains on their clothes and spun their internal compass at every opportunity.
The early young girls were in a bigger group in the return. The hair, makeup and clothes that had taken so long to prepare for the evening now disheveled and streaked. Hanging on to each other they stumbled forward avoiding the more lewd comments from their drunken stalkers. Whilst clinging to their strength in numbers they were clearly not as emboldened as they once were, eyes forward they marched on ignoring the calls.
The stalkers, for their part, were more confused than emboldened. Like a scene from Cinderella the pretty girls who they had been buying drinks for and dancing with had become a crowd and disappeared as the lights came up and the bar closed. Having convinced themselves that they were making inroads they were each convinced that if they could get ‘their’ girl alone she would stay with them. Of course whilst this made sense to drunken minds it looked like a pack of drunken hyenas looking for any sign of weakness in the pack.
The youth quintet was next but now as two groups. Stopping regularly to exchange abuse and yell at each other about lost money and dancing with ex partners. The proclamations of sisterhood distant memories as they offered to tear faces off and ridiculed each other’s dress. Their tantrums will either be forgotten in the cafe in the morning or will develop into a growing chasm as they feed an anger based on nothing more than confusion.
I nearly missed the pre-loaders as they crawled along the sea wall but then the sound of vomiting alerted me to them. Like an assassin with hiccups they slid along the shadows of the sea wall to avoid contact with other people. Successfully hiding from the fight club that the quintet had become until their stomach let way and, as if caught in a searchlight, all eyes turned to them. Brilliantly fight club was too drunk for much more than a leer and some shouts, if they had crossed the road I’m not sure that they could have made it back!
The couples, older so always last to leave stopped outside my flat. Holding their shoes protectively the women tried to convince the men to get a cab. They may as well have asked the tide to change direction, drunk men always dial up the macho after all. None of the men were prepared to acknowledge that the stroll home was too much for them and they set off at a lurch again. Not quite at the running stage but at the point where the kerbstone seems to be at least two foot high.
As the street scene quietened I settled down for the night listening to the uninterrupted sounds of the ocean. I was awake at 6am to a glorious breaking dawn and I realised then that I had missed one of the returners. One of the two young women that I had seen early I had not been in the crowd. Was this my photographic memory at work or some subconscious ‘lassie’ call that somebody was in trouble? No it was the hurried but wobbly footsteps rushing past the flat, the walk of shame. No makeup, hair a mess, last nights clothes and shoes in hand the need not to see anyone was almost palpable. Somebody didn’t switch to juice, somebody didn’t wake up in a happy place or certainly not a place they could stay.
David Attenborough could get a series out of my views of the world from here. For me it suffices to watch the ocean and the disappearing back of that young lady, drink my coffee and say a silent thanks for not being young anymore.