Coming Home
Author: Patrick McEvoy

Chapter 1
Coming Home

I forgot how bad the brickwork was on these backstreets.  It’s almost like cobblestones, but it’s not. This steep hill I am forced to skip down seems like fate pushing me in the wrong direction and the murderous hue of the orange streetlamps reinforces the butterfly effect quivering in my gut. I’m half-glad I didn’t wear my contacts so I only half-see half the people I don’t want to talk to and walk past them without an ounce of guilt. Half-wits. Half scared now though because each and every shadow lurking in these twisting streets might morph into a native Jack the Ripper and shoot out and that would be goodnight. Actually he would be doing me a favour but as he’s not about, I skip on.

The entrances to all the fine establishments on this street look the same in this light, deathly green with streaks of orange.  Luckily staying indoors this past month hasn’t completely ruined my spatial intelligence as I feel out the door of Fagans. There are two front doors and a side door. Sobriety segregates two groups going in, but at the end of the night whether due to sheer drunkenness or the management’s decision we all stealthily slip out the side door.

I apply my weight to the door assigned for my kind where I enter a small square chamber, a sort of pressure room, used by deep sea divers before swimming out into the abyss. The door behind me closes, signalling to me that I am in this for the long haul. I could turn back now but light creeping in tells me that I am not alone. A couple, a reach away, are in each other’s embrace. This makes my entrance into the pub a bit more difficult. I wedge open the door with my foot and squeeze through, sneaking into the beginnings of a somewhat uncomfortable evening.

A glance to the closest corner is reassuring as I do not recognise any of its patrons. Another glance and that reassurance has dissipated into the air. I look down at my shoes for the first time that night, take a few short breaths and brace myself for an incoming encounter.

‘Hey, how long have been home?’ a beautiful, busty, blonde inquires, sister to an old flame, that gave off a few smoke signals but never quite ignited.

‘About a month’ I reply, wondering why she is even bothering to waste her breath on me as I count the number of conversations we have had on one hand. The previous conversation she was having must have worn thin.

‘Did you see Dorothy just inside the door with...?’ I blank out the rest of the conversation, as I do not want to know any details, when she wishes me well and hugs me. I tense up as if her arms were monstrous tentacles about to compress the life out of me.  Dorothy is her sister, part of that couple I slithered by a moment ago. My heart sinks and I marvel at how low it can go.

I think it’s time for a drink, something to make this night a tad more bearable as the inappropriate friendliness of more acquaintances continues to infect my atmosphere.  I exchange nods and greetings with people of my past, all the while, avoiding eye contact as much as possible just in case they may be able to examine my soul, what little I have left.

For a moment, I enjoy some solitude contemplating making a dart for the exit. I have the best part of a pint left and after a moment of deep meditation staring into the creamy and black infinite, I decide to make my way to the smoking area, admiring the floor tiles as I go.

Situated beside the keg room at the back of building, the smoking area is lit up by a single bulb. It illuminates almost the entire area, apart from one spot in the corner with a little bench. The damp weather would dictate that this spot would be most unfavourable as it is unsheltered by the overhanging awning. I beg to differ.

Joined by a few good friends, we discuss the trials and tribulations of the past week. Smiles and laughs are exchanged but only a blind man would not notice that these superficial emotions were forced, synthesised merely for the speaker’s wellbeing. Our conversations once had the fluidity of a waterfall but now seemed like slop oozing out of sewerage pipe. Surrounded by such good friends and in an atmosphere that an objective observer could only deem energetic and lively, I have never felt more alone than this.

 

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