My fingers still smelled like a mix between hashish and Mrs Patel’s honey when I tried opening the door to Joyce’s Fast Foods.
After my impromptu rendezvous with Mrs Patel, I was really motivated to kick the old booze in the twat. I had seen a certain pureness in Mrs Patel’s eyes that you hardly ever see in the corrupt face of adulthood. She was smooth. Mentally and physically. The old butterflies fluttered every time she spoke (or even blinked, for that matter).
I, on the other hand, had bloodshot eyes, unshaven pits and a rash on the inside of my thighs (to be honest, that was Mrs Patel’s doing), but still, I had become bored of drinking, although I quite enjoyed getting smashed with a few AA buddies now and again.
That’s the problem right there, see? I’ve come to dislike it and I enjoy it. How fucked is that?
God only knows why I was standing in front of Joyce’s in the first place. I’d had an Indian breakfast three hours before and could still taste the vegetarian pulao and red chutney. On a subconscious level, I guess, all I wanted to do was veil all signs of alcoholism: the dull (but pounding) headache over my left brow, the smoker’s cough that comes with alcoholism. It’s a given, isn’t it? A bit like a free table spoon taped to the side of a bottle of soy bean sauce on promotion—you expect it to be there. And so the ‘sub’ in ‘conscious’ evaporated and I knew I was facing the facts.
I tried the door but Joyce’s was locked, even though there was an OPEN sign dangling behind the bullet-proof glass panel. The opening- and closing times were printed on the sign, in the bottom right-hand corner.
OPENING TIME: 10:30am
CLOSING TIME: 21:00pm
It was 10:48am. I knocked.
I hate wire.
I also hate people who don’t lift their feet properly when they walk. Such a person was now approaching the front door, left-shhht, right-shhht.
Oh, here we go, I thought, I can feel an altercation in the atmosphere.
“Can I help you?” said a shrill voice.
“Excuse me for asking, but are you Oscar Pistorius’s lost twin brother or something? Have you perhaps misplaced your blades? Because from where I’m standing it looks like I’m talking to a man that’s only about a meter tall. I’m talking to a head of hair,” I said.
“That’s not funny.
“What? Did you misplace your sense of humour, too?”
“What do you want?”
“I want to come in and have a hot sausage roll and a cold Coke, if that’s not too much to ask.”
“We’re not open yet.”
“If you crawl back into your basement, put on your prosthetic legs, and then sprint back here in record time, you’ll notice that the sign on the door clearly reads OPEN.”
“I can see it very well from here, and it says CLOSED.”
“Now, that’s funny. Touche. Now, open this door.”
“Look, come back at lunchtime. We’re not quite ready yet.”
“Little man. I’ll make a scene. I can be pretty convincing if I have to. Didn’t quite make it through drama school – didn’t quite make it through medical school either, to be honest – but I can make a scene if I have to, especially if denied my sausage roll and Coca-Cola.”
“So what happened in medical school? Did you fail?”
“Look, I don’t want to talk about it right now, okay? I want something to eat.”
“Well, there’s a great Indian place just around the corner. Why don’t you go there?”
“Are you showing away a customer? Just wait until old Joyce hears about this. And I had Indian for breakfast, fuck you very much.”
“You can never have enough Indian. Joyce is just a name, by the way. Businesses aren’t necessarily called after their owners. Just think of Prick & Pray. It’s not some couple called Prick and Pray, now is it?”
“Right. Gotcha. So, what’s the owner’s name, then?”
“His name’s Kallie Brink. Ex-soldier. Look, lady, tell me what happened in medical school and I’ll open the door at exactly eleven O’clock. We had a few problems with the gas ovens this morning. Truth.”
“I can’t believe I’m having this conversation through a glass panel in a fast food joint with a … tuft of hair.”
Little Man reached up and showed me the CLOSED side of the sign. “It’s ten-fifty-two. You can either tell me what happened in medical school and I’ll open the door in eight minutes, or you can bugger off and have a curry on the corner.”
“What about Kallie Brink?”
“Fuck Kallie Brink. He doesn’t pay me enough to care about Joyce’s.”
“Okay. Jesus.” I took a deep breath. I’ve never told anyone the truth about medical school—not even my mother (I had to blow the bastard who kicked me out in the first place, just so he could tell her that my grades weren’t good enough). “But you have to promise you’ll quit dragging your feet when you walk.”
I guess now was as good a time as any to tell the truth.
It’s always a little easier talking to strangers.
It’s always easier when you throw a hangover and a light at the end of the sausage roll pastry into the equation.