I started drinking at midday.
I stepped out of Joyce’s Fast Foods into the blinding Cape Town sun, caught a taxi to the V&A Waterfront, and got out of the rusted Mitsubishi Lancer in front of the local brewery where the beer is cold and the waitresses sexy.
I checked my watch. It felt like I was time travelling. I had been shagging Little Man not longer than twenty minutes ago.
‘What’s your name?’ I asked the taxi driver, handing him the fee (and two folded notes to indicate a modest tip) through the driver’s window.
‘No, that’s for you, Harim. Keep it, really. You drive well. Can you pick me up at two?’
‘Sure. I make time for you only.’
‘I like that. Cheers, Harim. See you at two.’
At three O’clock I was slow dancing with an English guy from the south of London (he pronounced it south, /saʊf/, and at first he was a sugarcane farmer from Durban). We slow danced to Cutting Crew’s 1986 smash hit (I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight. He had both hands on my arse and I was drooling on his shoulder. Not a pretty sight.
I remember that clearly—well, that, and the fact that he had really bad teeth.
‘Rosie!’ I shouted at the barmaid, a wee Irish lass, smoke bubbling from my nostrils. Play that song again.
‘Christ, D. Not again. People will think we’re mental in here.’
‘Argh!’ I sounded worse than a drunk sailor, ‘We are mental! Woohoo! It’s Monday and we’re going mental, forfushakesh!’
Keep your voice down, D. There are kids in the playground not far from here. And there will be some customers in here very soon. Have some water to sober up a bit, all right. I don’t want to have trouble with security again. And it’s Wednesday, not Monday. Don’t you work?’
‘I’ve known you for two years, Rosie, and you’ve never asked me that. And don’t ask me again. It’s none of your bushinessh.
I felt guilty for saying that. South London pushed me away. ‘Be nice,’ he said, ‘Otherwise he wouldn’t dance with you anymore.’
‘Well, fuck right off, then. You’re a shit dancer, anyway. An anorexic Fred Astaire with bad teeth and terrible timing. I’ll dance with someone elshh. Play my song. Rosie, and pour me another!’
‘Calm down, D. I think you’ve had enough.’
‘I will say when I’ve had enough.’
Now this is another weird part about alcoholism, right? I didn’t want to say these things; I didn’t want to be a bitch to Rosie because she’s helped out more than a few times in the past; and I didn’t want to be a bitch to South London either. He was all right if you take away the corn-on-the-cob-nibbled-at-by-field-rats teeth. I was hurling insults like confetti.
‘Fucking hell. You’re a nightmare, woman,’ said South London, ‘Good luck to your husband.’
‘You have bad teeth. I wouldn’t smile if I were you. Ever. And my husband’s dead.’
‘I’m not falling for that one,’ said South London.
‘No, really. Her husband’s dead,’ said Rosie, ‘Missing, anyway.’
I love Rosie. She poured me a water and lime.
I was dancing with a barstool.
‘No wonder. I’d be loooong gone, too.’ South London looked uncomfortable.
‘If I were you I’d make like my husband and get lost, then.’
‘Is that a threat?’
‘Welcome to cliché hour, folks!’ I think I was standing on one of the tables, or maybe it had been the barstool I’d been dancing with. ‘Let’s welcome … Bad Teeth from Souff London!’
‘Right. I’m getting out of here. You’re fucked in the head.’ South London grabbed his backpack and jog-stepped out. ‘My mom warned me about South Africa.’
‘Hey! You haven’t paid!’ shouted Rosie after him. ‘Will your mom send us a check?’
He turned in his step and gave us the finger. When he turned back at the front door he walked into a man entering the bar. It happened like one of those YouTube Epic Fail videos, you know the compilations where people fall, or hurt themselves really badly. It isn’t funny, but you can’t help laughing.
What happened next reminded me of a video of a a man and a woman running towards each other, holding yoga balls in front of them, all cutesey, trying to bounce off each other.
Russian Rolette is safer.
South London was the woman: she bounced off the man and flew about ten meters back, crashing into the the bar counter.
The man at the door didn’t do much. He just rubbed his belly. It was Harim.
‘Can we go now, madam?’ Harim asked.
‘Shit! Look at the time. Sorry , Harim I losht track of time there. Rosie, I have to get out of here.’
‘You’re not paying either?’
‘I bent down and picked up South London’s wallet.’ He grunted where he was sprawled on the floor. ‘There. Make sure to include a service charge.’ I chucked the wallet and Rosie caught it. She was smiling again, those Irish eyes lighting up like emeralds. God, Rosie, if only…
‘For what I said earlier.’
‘Don’t be silly, D. You’ve said worse.’
‘I’m going to sort myself out, Rosie.’ I felt the mother of hangovers hovering behind my eyes.
‘I don’t mind if you say bad things, D. I’ve been working in bars since I was twelve. I know you don’t mean it. But it’s when you tell lies like that—it … I don’t know. I guess it pisses me off because I feel sorry for you.’
‘Fuck you, Rosie.’
‘See you next week, D.’