‘I’m glad I didn’t get a hair cut.’
‘Because it’s cold.’
‘You’re wearing a hat.’ Annabel pointed at my tweed cap for effect and humour.
‘My ears would be cold.’
She looked at my hair, especially the parts that drifted over my ears. ‘You should get a hair cut.’
At this point the guy behind the bar distracted me. He began talking about mixing drinks using words like interpretation and technique. I became convinced that he enjoyed his job more than people enjoyed his drinks. Then the couple behind me sounded like they were on a first date, as they were impacting on prolonged periods of silence by talking about things on the barman’s back shelf or if either of them liked a sports team. I suspect the silence parts were their favourites, though it is nice that they were making the effort to talk.
‘I’m glad you brought me,’ said Annabel. She could read my mind like only a figment of my imagination could.
‘I shouldn’t have.’
‘I know.’ She was only a speck in my brain. The chair next to me held light luggage. ‘You were saving this experience.’
‘How is the internet dating going?’
‘I’m glad you brought me.’ Her voice was softer. She would have looked at a cocktail if she had a drink.
At this point a man, a real man with strong arms and a real actual girlfriend next to him said, ‘How are you going tonight cobber?’
Suddenly I realised that part of the above conversation, which I am semi-accurately transcribing, was being had aloud. Not Annabel’s half, only mine in a sort of mumble. I’ve noticed it now happens around the three hour mark of solitude.
‘Oh yeah thanks,’ I offered. Looking at the man I expected to recognise him. The unprovoked talking was unsettling. He smiled back. I looked at my beer and tried to think if this was a moment I could use to make a friend. I decided it wasn’t, mostly because the moment had past.
‘He’s only being nice,’ said Annabel.
‘I know,’ I said in my mind. ‘I’m glad you came.’
We had a moment of silence. The couple behind me were also silent. Then they started talking about boats on the water.
‘What can we talk about?’ Annabel put a hand to her cheek. He attention was, as they say, undivided.
‘The bricks on the wall,’ I thought. She looked at the bricks. I added, ‘But I suppose you can’t offer anything new about them.’
The barman was talking about pouring a whiskey on the rocks. Real rocks were disappointingly absent. Instead he used ice as a makeshift substitute, or perhaps as a creative interpretation. The bar music was a studio recording of a blues cover band. They were also a makeshift substitute, though less creative. The bricks were uncovered and poorly laid. The wall was straight but the mortar sparingly used. Annabel smiled at me. At least, I imagined she did and so she complied. I looked at the people in the room. The couples, both the existing and the trying. I wondered how they did it. Their being together, the with someone, it seemed to them an unconscious event. Even the newly forming couple had an air of expecting the other person to be there. It is an astounding accomplishment which they probably never consider.
‘Sometimes I feel I need a hug.’ I looked at my beer. It wasn’t drinking itself so I had some. Annabel spoke without pause, but she did so slowly so her brain could think about the words.
‘It’s not all that good.’ She said of hugging. ‘There’s a lot of squeezing involved.’
‘Like get a play bite from a dog?’
She had to think about this. We were both working from record rather than exposure. ‘Not really. It’s more like a warm blanket wrapped tight.’
‘Oh, I hate that.’ I said, not aloud.
‘Yeah, see, you didn’t need to bring someone here, Dean.’
‘No,’ I agreed and looked at the beer. ‘I suppose you’re right.’