ASPIRE TO ASYLUM
Back to the quiet routine. Back to watching the dust and the bar flies settle in the reflection of a patterned mirror. Moments nuzzle up close to one another, leaving no personal space. Gruff John’s glass is empty. Specks of froth scatter the interior in a pattern which defines the last disappointed sip. He leans on the counter and begs the nurse for another dose. Politely first, then more insistent, sensing resistance to the logic of just one more.
In the corner Dog One is getting ratty towards Dog Two. They see each other every night and exchange the same old woes. Some time is spent with belly and jowls lowered on the floor, paws pushed forward as though diving towards an idle nap, eyes watching the feet that pass, drool leaving a small pool to mark the passage of time. Some time is spent greeting regulars and staff, tail uncertain in its waver, an empty wine glass caught as it’s nearly knocked from the low table. Some time is spent, like this time, re-establishing boundaries. Dog Two must know where he is allowed to sit, and who gets first dibs on pork scratchings.
The Rude Lady thumps the counter. She’s tolerated here. She takes advantage of this by being demanding. She demands because the world has never given her nothing. Least of all manners and gumption. The more she demands, the less is given. Nobody gives a shit for someone who gifts them nothing but grief. She has spilt cider on her table cloth skirt and loudly jokes about pissing herself. Nobody laughs. Her neediness fills the space around her. Those closest shift bum cheeks on bar stools.
The Intellectual Beard is preoccupied by the cryptic crossword, or at least he seems to be. Really he’s wondering whether his best friend has read his new book yet. It’s been three weeks and nothing has been said. He has grey hair sprouting from his ears but has yet to notice how it interlinks with the kinetic energy given off by the skittish nervous systems of those nearby. The whole room and its life forms are interwoven and yet the sharp tug of a single thread could pull the whole place apart.
But. No, nothing, it doesn’t matter. I never meant to say that, I’m just a bit pissed, mate.
Gog the Manager is not as old as he looks. But he still looks younger than Gruff John, who has the beetroot nose of a man who likes his tipple more than himself. Gog the Manager doesn’t judge, he has been known to match them all glass for glass, each new ale turning over his tongue. They are all connoisseurs here, except those who have resorted to habit and can no longer taste anything but the routine slug. But this is a nice pub, fights rarely break out here. Glass is smashed only with laughter, and a disorientated grace of being. You can take the pub from the community with beer tax and monopolising Pub Co’s, but you can’t take the community from the pub. Every man and woman is one-another’s equal here, and knows it. The outside world is the place where madness and insecurity rampage the streets and shout at the traffic. In here they are contained. A safe jacket with a tab where sandwiches can be ordered before 9pm.
There is no detached observer here. Even the man who only drinks soda water and keeps himself to himself. He scribbles in a notebook but if you look closely at the black boards his words are reassembled there.
TITANIC STOUT 4.5% £3.20 A JAR.
The door to the yard is propped ajar. Laughter and the chill breeze slip in through the gap. Two women smoking share the jokes and secrets only smokers understand. The heat lamp lasts three minutes and then Sheila with the Big Bum pulls the cord again. She always pulls the cord because she feels the cold settling in her mittens. Frances with the Curly Fringe forgets. Forgets how cold she is, caught up only in the laughter, in the promise of the night sky that squeegees away the dirt of daylight and leaves a clean surface on which tomorrow can be written, like the next guest ale off the draymen’s list.