‘AND we both like Minstrels’, I heard myself add.
Immediately I knew it was the most tenuous link of them all. Springing to mind was the episode of Friends where Phoebe and her biological mother believe that both of them liking pizza is further concrete proof that they are indeed related. Bloody.
Alice’s face was melting with joy. ‘But… you’re a husk?!’ she correctly recalled. It was true. I had been dead inside until quite recently.
‘I know!’ I sipped my half pint. ‘But I won’t be surprised if we’re sitting here next week, talking about what a dick he is because he didn’t want to make me his tiny wife after three dates.’ Alice sipped her half pint.
We were both glad that the ice statue of misery inside me had begun to drip away slowly, but we were also aware of the death trap that is liking someone.
‘I thought you were going to be like that forever’, she said, gazing at me with her big cocoa eyes. Cocoa. Chocolate. Minstrels. AND we both like Minstrels. I wondered if Alice could see Snow White’s tiny bluebirds fluttering above my head.
‘I thought I was done, mate.’ I motion running my hand across my throat. ‘But now I’ve got it bad’, I say, running it back the opposite way.
‘Is this it?’ I half shouted at Alice, before she’d even sat down. She was actually barely through the door of the pub. I was louder than I expected. People looked. I continued. ‘Is my life resigned to always being sad about some boy?’ People looked away. They’d hoped for a more interesting topic. Shouty proud girl upset about guy who pulled the rug out from under her just as she was letting her guard down isn’t the most original of topics.
Alice walked past me, to the bar and then returned with two full pints. She was such a good friend. We can’t afford full pints. She unwound her scarf. ‘Yeah, probably. How do you feel?’
I felt like I’d been driving down a highway at full speed in the bucketing rain, forever, barely able to see through the windshield. The weight of the downpour was so heavy; it felt dangerous to be driving in it. I thought it best to stop, but you can’t on a highway, can you? The rain hammers my car, it sounds like hundreds of angry golf clubs against a sheet of tin. Golf always seemed like a peaceful hobby to me. I couldn’t see it coming, but all of a sudden I passed under a bridge. For less than half a second, I was under cover, protected from the chaos. The hammering stopped, the belting ceased and there was quiet, serenity. Although too quick, it was truly glorious and welcome relief. I felt, if only for less than half a second, harmony. But in the time it took to realise it was happening, it was over and growing smaller in the distance behind me. I was navigating my way through the storm once again.
I didn’t say that.
‘Cool girl, I’ll hit you up next week or summat!’ He winked. Hewinked. Fuck off. He put his phone back in his pocket and strutted back to his man-group, from which there was a chorus of ‘WHEYYY!’ echoing. Pints clinked. The seven seconds of flattery I felt at being asked for my number were over. I was a prize. The lights and music hurt my head, I had to leave. I couldn’t find Alice. She’d understand. She understands.
As I drunkenly shiver at the bus stop, I imagine myself being attacked by a shark. Pulled under the black water by the strong jaws of death, I’m prepared to be wrestled, rolled and ripped until my soul is freed from my skin. Instead I float to the surface, somewhat spared by the great predator. I stare at the sky while I wait for help, wondering what all that was for if I manage to survive.
I’m on television being interviewed for 60 Minutes. Liz Hayes and her kind, sparkly eyes are asking me how incredible it feels to be alive after such a terrifying ordeal. I think for a second. I look down at what remains of my left arm, nothing below the elbow. And then I cry about being single. Woeful sobs. On national television. It was hard enough before, who’s going to want someone missing half an arm?! If I had a boyfriend before it happened, he’d never be able to leave me. That paraplegic guy you had on last week, his girlfriend is now his carer. She’s not going anywhere. He’ll never have to explain his disability in a Tinder bio! It’s so unfair!
Liz Hayes looks down at her lap and purses her lips. This is not what she wanted. I need to get out. I struggle upright, pull my mic off and the interview with the heroic shark survivor girl is over. As I flee the studio, I accidentally knock the camera man’s side with my new stump of flesh. He looks mildly disgusted but mostly sad.Sorry! I shriek, sarcastically. It’s fucked with my sense of spatial awareness! Can’t wait to explain that one when I’m trying to pull on the dance floor!
I burst through the double doors and immediately into flames.
My phone buzzes as I swallow four Nurofen. I don’t want to check it. It’s never the one I want it to be. It’s 5am. Plus I hate everyone. At least I know it won’t be that tit from an hour ago. I changed the last digit of the number I gave him. I pick up my idiot phone. It’s Alice.
The hammering stopped, the belting ceased. If only for less than a second, I felt harmony.