What to do

Alan Stokes

It’s Saturday, the day after Shaz moved back in. I’m not sure how I’m feeling. In a way I’m happy because I don’t have to deal with it anymore. The decision’s been made and Shaz has moved back in.

Actually, I didn’t decide at all. I gave in. I couldn’t say no to her. Shaz has a way of getting what she wants. The truth is I’m weak.

I sip my pint, looking around the room. Jesus, I hate this place. It never changes. Why do they insist on coming here? Nothing happens here. Nothing. Ten years ago, OK, but not now. Now it’s just full of old people. It’s too comfortable. There’s no edge to it. You can sit here for hours and no one will bother you.

And there’s no music. There was a time when this place was kicking. Pop stars everywhere. Even Bono came here.

Plus there’s a chance Shaz might turn up. More than a chance. It’s a fucking certainty. You know that. Why? Because she knows your movements. You’re predictable.

I light a cigarette.

What did you see in her anyway? Why did you speak to her? Your life was good back then. You should have let Ed go for her, like he wanted to. Shaz even said that. About a year after she moved in she said if she had gone back to Ed’s it would only have lasted a night. In other words, she would have fucked him if he had spoken to her. I could have been anyone.

–Come on. Let’s go somewhere else, I say, draining my glass.

–We’ve just got here, Ed says.

I shake my head, grimacing. I ask them to look around the room. I ask them to tell me what is so good about this place. I rant, moving from one idea to the next without thinking, without caring.

They give in. They have no choice but to give in. I’m crazy, wild, totally off my head now. People are staring at me.

We leave the bar and jump into a taxi. Along the way Ed and Mark talk about football in an attempt to relax me. It works. By the time we reach the next bar I feel fine. More than fine. I feel great, really great. I’m bouncing, man. I can do what I want now. I’m free. I don’t even have to go home. I can stay at Ed’s. In fact—I laugh—I can move in with him. Why the fuck not! You made a mistake, OK, so rectify it. People make mistakes all the time. You’re human.

Mark gets the drinks in and we go and stand over by the stage. There are women everywhere. Mainly students but who cares, who cares.

Ed points to three women standing by the bar. Mark looks but I can’t take my eyes off the woman standing directly in front of me. She’s a bit on the heavy side but her face is amazing. I keep staring at her, hoping she will notice me. But she doesn’t. I give up and look at the women standing by the bar.

–We going over or what? I ask them.

–Patience, Ed says.

I swallow a mouthful of lager.

–I’m not sure, Mark says. They look a bit...

I wait. We both wait. But Mark doesn’t finish his sentence. Mark never finishes his sentences. Ed reckons this is because Mark is stupid but I don’t go along with that. Mark just doesn’t like to commit himself. I know him.

I take a last pull on my cigarette and stub it out on the floor. Who needs them anyway? I work better alone. Always have.

Then again I met Shaz flying solo...

I swallow more beer. I need to think about this.

The woman has noticed me now, I’m sure of it. Probably she’s waiting for me to go over and speak to her. So there’s no need to be nervous. If anyone should be nervous, it should be her.

I swallow some beer.

Who says I’m nervous anyway? I’m not nervous at all. Who cares if she blows me out? It’s not the end of the world. There are women everywhere.

Besides, she’s not even that attractive. Her lips are the best thing about her. Take her lips away and she’s nothing.

It’s a van. You’re lying under a van. You hit the pavement and rolled under a van. This is a van you’re under.


So no one will notice you. Not unless they get down on their hands and knees and who’s going to do that?

Right. No one. So relax. Everything’s fine. You’ve nothing to worry about.

Plus it’s warm here. And if you roll your jacket up and put it under your head you’ll be comfortable, so fucking comfortable. You can lie here for hours, man. Days. In the morning you can sneak out and get yourself a flask and some sandwiches. Whatever you want. And if the van’s gone when you get back you can find another. Christ, the city’s full of vans.

I hear women laughing. I can feel them pointing at me. But I just carry on pissing. I need to let it out. Besides, how can you stop pissing once you’ve started?

I finish pissing and roll onto my back again. I wait for one of the women to come over and get down on her knees and howl laughing. I wait to be ridiculed. I wait and wait.

But nothing, fuck all.

I close my eyes and relax. Minutes pass. An hour maybe. Then my body starts to ache and I feel an impulse to move.

Return to Archive