Saturday, March 1, 2014
I sat down and ordered a beer. Nobody was there, the barman appeared a personable dummy: 'The Nobarman.' He put the money in the till and continued to dry pint glasses, absently. I gave myself up to observation and looked around at the familiar layout of the room.
Everything had changed. No matter, my memories were enrolled to reconjure the minutest wisp of Old Holborn.
Behind the jukebox would be the cigarette dispenser where Dave would buy his Lucky Strikes. My memory bent down and caressed the carpet. There was surely still an embarrassing stain where his drink had been spilt in an angry fight.
To the corner, there was a gap, that nobody who hadn't been part of the story would have remarked.
Rocky, who had spent his feathered existence biting children's fingers had vanished. His cage was nowhere to be seen. No matter, Rocky, invisible, on holiday, or dead as a proverbial Norwegian Blue, was alive in a story which ignored present 'reality'.
Daily Mirror drossed out their pleasantly anonymous MP's, enjoying their centre-spread of infamy; offering, for a very reasonable fee, their light-hearted entertainment for a weekend. They were a reliable shield to existential questioning.
Gazing too intently at marble makes the best of us anxious.
Does anyone really care if they eat Yorkshire Pudding on Sunday? Hell my friends, pudding trivia saves our souls.
Reverie, revealed broad strands of conversation, unfolded determined and learned argument. All for nothing, nothing had its present importance. Other yarns built to crescendos of hilarity, unravelling inevitably to that pitiful confession after last orders. It was mine with my pint to embroider...
Hours, or was it years had passed. These 'friends' had become subjects, malleable, disposable or available on call.
As I sipped the bitter, I opened and closed the door to random stories with child-like abandon. Now I hear you, now I don't.
Chronology, I remarked, had been shown up for what it was: an imposter.
With the last dregs, I was reluctant to leave the table, should I lose for ever my ability to reach out to them, absent that they were.
I raised my glass triumphantly to our dumb connection.
"To Present Friends."