Last updated on July 27, 2020
Journal entry from 2016. Gloucester, England.
Jack’s face was tanned and etched with thick purple scars that cracked their way up his face and over his bald head.
“I might look older than you, but I’m actually three years younger,” he told me as he leant over my shoulder from behind. He picked up two glasses of whisky from his table and moved them over to mine, offering one as a gesture of friendship.
“I normally start at 4am, see, but I start at 8am tomorrow so I’m celebrating.”
He picked up a lowball glass of clear liquid. No ice, no lemon, just the clear liquid and the condensation dripping down the glass. “Bosh it!” he instructed me, nodding at the unknown substance, but I was happy with my pint of Guinness and my newly acquired whisky.
“Oh God,” he winced, before gulping it down in four messy mouthfuls, gagging and squirming around in his chair like he’d be punched in the gut.
“You know your grandparents, yeah? And your parents? And when you see them at home, and they’re old and happy and they’ve been together forever. Yeah?”
I nodded along, although I didn’t have a single memory of my parents even being in the same room, let alone being old and happy and together forever.
“Well I had that, see, and I thought that was it. And then she left me and took my two kids.”
He riled a little more in his chair and I could see he was holding back tears. I could smell the sweet fumes on his breath now as he held his giant hands over his eyes. He picked up his whisky and gave me the nod to do the same. We said cheers. I took a sip of mine, he finished his in one go, following it with a pint of beer.
“Tell your misses to stop nursing that glass of wine,” he commanded.
“That’s my cousin,” I countered, “and I think she’s happy just sipping it for now.”
His buried his face in his big grubby hands again.
“And I’m driving at the moment! Can you believe it!” he said with a cheeky grin on his face.
“You mean tomorrow?” I asked.
“No, I mean at the moment. Tonight. I’m driving, see…” he said, pulling out a big bunch of keys.
“And what about your…” I stopped myself.
He stood up and grabbed me by the hand. “Come on! Let’s go to the bar!”
But I wasn’t budging and I knew if I started with him we’d never stop. My hand felt tiny in his and nothing I did to release my hand worked. He yanked and pulled and I slid sideways off my chair and fell on my arse on the damp, sticky carpet.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” he said, lifting me back into my chair.
I was, naturally, a little embarrassed and sipped slowly at my whisky hoping it would easy my discomfort. The bar staff were closing up and wanted us to leave now. I thought of my home back in Barcelona, of the warm nights and bright skies. It seemed like a dream, like a parallel universe that I would never be able to get back to.
“What’s your profession then, Ben?” he asked.
“Well, I suppose you’d say I’m a writer.”
“His hands went up over his face again, his bright white eyes rolling around in his little tanned face.
“Cover the sports do you?” he tried. “And where are you originally from. Gloucester is it?”
“No, I’m from Swansea actually.”
“But you don’t have a Welsh accent,” he said accusingly.
It was the story of my life. I feel like an outsider wherever I go.
“I live in Barcelona now, and I lived in London for a while before. I’m visiting because my uncle, our uncle, died three weeks ago and suddenly my grandfather looks like he’s going the same way.”
He picked up another pint and boshed it in one.
I tried to change the subject. “What about you?”
“White van man,” he answered, with a sort of ‘let’s just leave this conversation there and go back to the whisky’ look on his face. I was fine with that.
It was a cold night and I was glad for the whisky as my cousin and I shivered our way back to my uncle’s house.
I couldn’t imagine ever returning to Britain.