What started as a bad night ended on a beautiful high.
I spent this evening in the company of four men of varying ages, which sounds bad, but it was nothing untoward.
Tonight was my father-in-law’s 70th birthday.
To be fair, tonight only got dropped on me on Sunday. I was confused how we could ever be invited out on a Tuesday evening. A Tuesday? Most people are thinking about working on Wednesday.
Maybe most people are, apart from the ones who are retired.
Still, in a mass panic, I managed to grab myself a simple black top from Amazon, plus a lacy one for an event a little later in the month. Dress up the simple top with some accessories, I decided, and it would be completely pub-perfect.
Except that it was nothing like the pictures, and so in a panic, I had to find something else. I went for my staple – an oversized black t-shirt with a leopard print rhinestone heart on the front. It’s served me well on several occasions.
Standing in front of the mirror, my confidence wasn’t what it used to be. My hair needed work, my waistline was noteable, and my skin looked like I’d been bathing in grease. I shook my head in dismay – there was no way that I could go out looking like this.
“Go out without me please, Wolf?” I implored.
“No. Trust me, you look fine” he asserted. I didn’t feel fine.
Still, if I was going to go out, then I had to assemble a look that worked. I started with a brown smokey eye, added some black eyeliner, and then some gold glitter overlaid on top. Bit by bit, my look came together. The look that I knew he liked.
“Always about the black and the sparkle, this one” I smiled. There was that confidence back again. I completed the look with a cursory sweep of my brand new and highly rated black waterproof mascara – no more panda eyes for this girl.
I’d bought two different pairs of earrings to try for the night – both Sterling Silver and one also with Austrian crystal – though my whole look had been thrown into dissaray by the realisation that the top was no good. Would stars and hearts work together? I wasn’t sure. Heck, I’d give it a go.
I picked up one of the delicate starry pull-through earrings and slid the bar through my piercing hole. I slid the chain slowly, allowing the curved bar to come to a natural halt in the hole. Earring in place, I let it go to insert the other one.
“Yes! Perfect!” I grinned, standing back to admire the earrings in the mirror. The tiny silver stars hung perfectly, occasionally sweeping over my collarbone whenever I moved.
We arrived at the pub just before eight. As we enter, I become aware of a few lads noticing me and I present our clasped hands slightly forward, a non-verbal gesture of my ‘taken’ status. We spot James at one of the round tables and fell back into our routine almost immediately, back into the banter that had been only days before.
“I haven’t seen you in a while, James” I grin, “how are you keeping? Seventy-two hours is a long time!”
Like the true friend that James is, he matches my banter.
“I’m well thank you Helen, how are you? It’s been a while” he smiles. I love James. The camaraderie we have with one another, as a trio, is almost unrivalled.
Jokes were made, some of them politically incorrect, and a reference to James'”slaves”. The joke is that James is a such a quiet and gentle soul, he must have some skeletons in the closet somewhere.
For his part, James takes it all in his stride. He gives as good as he gets, too.
“My slaves, yes,” he says with a fluster as he finds his witty retort, “they call me ‘Daddy'”. Matt laughs, I blush and giggle, unsure what really to say in this situation.
I can’t say much good about the food – the brioche bun was dry and the beef burger almost wholly inedible. It was almost black and tough on the outside and pretty dry and tasteless in the middle, exactly not how a good burger should be.
“I feel like I need to read this burger its last rites, no amount of burger relish can save this” I mutter to Matt. Again he laughs.
My one regret from the night was not taking a jacket with me. I haven’t been out in the evening since pre-Covid, and sat by the door in early May was anything but warm. Still, I toughed it out for the duration of the evening, but I was also quietly counting down the hours and minutes until I could throw on some sleeves again. Short sleeves was far too ambitious.
“Come here, I’ll rub your arms to warm you up” Matt says, vigorously rubbing my arms. It helped, but damn the boy was giving me some friction burn.
“Not too much, you’ll melt all of my fat off!” I say, feeling rather rubbed. He laughs.
“You’ll be a matchstick woman!” he says.
“Do my legs too. You know how you draw a person in preschool with a round body and sticks for arms and legs? That’ll be me. It wasn’t a person you doodled back then, it was your future wife!”. More laughter.
We boarded the bus just after last orders and Matt scans his digital ticket, waiting for me to scan mine. Unlike his though, mine wouldn’t scan, so Matt came back and scanned it for me.
“There you go, it just needed some digital manipulation” he says. I raise an eyebrow.
“I’ll bet it did” I smirk as we take our seats. He buries his face in his hand as he stifles a laugh.
“Lucky phone” I whisper to further his embarrassment. He punches me playfully in the upper thigh.
“Did I really just do that?” I ask. “Did I really just get on one of those things and do that thing I used to do? The moving seat thing, with other people?”. I haven’t boarded a bus in years. We got so used to getting everything delivered during lockdown that I haven’t needed to. For a first time back to buses, I was hardly anxious at all. That’s quite unlike me and my amaoxophobia.
“You did” he says, squeezing me, “and I’m proud of you. Not only did you get on the bus, but you also got a taxi to the pub, and any time you felt the funnies coming on, you stopped it. You took control.” The funnies – a not-so-cute sense of impending doom and a need for control, experienced usually by being in a car or vehicle that I’m not in any way in control of. It’s even made me quite scary on a couple of occasions.
“Not today, Satan!” I say proudly.
“Not today Satan, indeed” he acknowledges.
As we walk home under the stars and the street lamps, Matt begins playing with my hair, running his fingers through it and pulling it lightly. I lean my head back against his shoulder and groan softly – he knows I don’t mind when he plays with my hair.
“Your hair is so long” he muses, “it’s all the way down to your bum!”
“Uh huh” I agree, trying my best not to feed his slightly tipsy Domly prescence.
“Good for Fridays” he asserts.
“Is it? I wouldn’t know.”
“Good for this” he presses, wrapping his hand in my pony and pulling my head back. My eyes meet his and I groan softly once more.
“Daddy, walking. It’s thing we have to do right now” I manage.
“Fine, until Friday” he warns.
“Until Friday” I agree. We walk a short distance further in silence.
“You know, my new mascara is waterproof and it hasn’t budged all night. I wonder if you’ll manage?”