So, where do people who are drinking alone, drink alone? Do they go to the club? Or the bar? Who knows, and Alex certainly didn’t, but he wasn’t going to let that ruin his night. He had his newest jacket on, and his newest trainers and his cleanest jeans – these jeans weren’t crisp clean, but they were tidy enough to be worn. He came down the stairs of his parents’ house and opened the door and was straight away hit by the wind that was growling outdoors. This wasn’t going to stop him. Not today.
He walked down the street, the street that had become his new home. It was what you would call a ‘new estate’, his parents had moved there when Alex had moved out 4 years back. They clearly wanted to save the good stuff for themselves, so they stayed in the family home for 24 years, waiting for him to leave. This new place – bigger, warmer, cleaner – was a step up in the world and Alex, secretly, quite like living there. The street was your classic, English middle-class street. All bends and curves, houses and garages each side, no pavement to speak of but driveways that fit 3 cars – the standard middle-class amount of cars.
The streetlights were moving in the night and the reflection on the floor swayed and bobbed, as if Alex was in the club already. The cold of the evening made him walk quicker, faster, to the beat of the music in his headphones.
The decision had been made by Alex to go to a bar called The Lighthouse, his new beacon of alcoholic hope within the current shitstorm of both his life and the outdoors. It was a 20 minute walk or a two-minute drive. Alex didn’t fancy the “did you see the game today?” and “this weather is dreadful, isn’t it” from a taxidriver who would no doubt end up asking what Alex’s situation was. A conversation that would go something like this:
“Hi mate, where to?”
“The Lighthouse bar down the road, please”
“Ah yeah, no problem. Can do. So, had a good day? I don’t suppose you saw the game? Damn, the Reds really blew it didn’t they?”
“Na, I didn’t see that particular game. (or any game, for that matter, Alex would think) Erm, yeah, my day’s been alright thanks, how about you?”
“Yeah, just been on the job most of the day. So, that your house? Lovely house, that, mate”
“Erm, no, that’s my parent’s house. My house is, erm…”
“Go on son, spit it out, your house is..?”
“It was set on fire this week”
“Jesus, I bet you lost everything. I would hate to have lost everything, mate”
“No, yeah, I bet. Can we stop this conversation please, kind of trying to avoid it all really”
“Alright son, I was only asking.”
As you can see, getting a taxi wasn’t ideal (as that conversation would happen, verbatim), so walking it was. Alex thought about his life on the walk, where to go from here and what to do. He was currently homeless and hadn’t got much by the way of prospects. Although he wasn’t poor, he was barely well off. He didn’t have enough money to buy a house, but couldn’t stay with his parents much longer. The house he was previously in – the one with the fire – was rented so he was essentially homeless. The insurance covered his possessions so he could get a little bit of money back, but he was essentially starting his life again. His parents had said to him that “you’ll be better for the experience, Al” which, even though that’s kind of what they’ve got to say, is massively unhelpful and a little bit cliche. As though there’s a benefit from his situation. His parents had just made him mad and he hadn’t even seen them today.
By the time Alex had chance to calm down, he was at the bar. If there’s one bonus from having a mini-breakdown in your mind, it’s that it really passes the time on a walk. So things were beginning to look up. Alex passed a bouncer as he walked into the bar who looked at him like he knew he was drinking alone. The joke is on you, Alex though, because you’re working alone, and that’s worse. Alex knew that was a terrible burn, even if it was merely in his head. Good job he didn’t say all of his thoughts out loud, because life would be much less funny and his ego would probably be much more deflated than it already was. Tonight wasn’t a night for laughter, though. It was a night to forget things. All things.
Moving through the crowd that seemed to be forming near the door, Alex directed himself towards the bar right away. There was a queue, but it wasn’t too bad. The thought that he didn’t have to buy a round for anyone else but himself made him happier than it probably should have done. And although the music was loud (wasn’t it always?) he was enjoying the vibe: stinky vodka Redbull with a hint of sticky floor. Nothing screamed ‘English high-street bar’ like these two attractive features. It helped him know he was on a night out. A stinky, sticky night out. Excellent.
From the look of things, Alex was next to be served. This made him happy, and he decided that tonight was a gin and orange juice night. Was this what Snoop Dogg was rapping about on the track Gin and Juice? Ordering drinks for yourself in a stank-filled English bar? Probably not, but still.
As the barman was about to head towards Alex, he got a tap on the shoulder. If this was the bouncer and he had somehow read his mind from earlier, that would be just rotten luck, he thought. And well in line with how this week had panned out. The only known man with telekinetic powers spotted in Ormskirk, Lancashire, after smashing young loner’s head in. That would be classic.
Alex turned around and flinched, automatically. It was a girl. It was a girl. Who the hell was this girl?
“Erm, hello? Do I know you?”
“No. Do you wanna buy me a drink?”