A fateful meeting. He sits outside (red jacket forgetfully cool) rolling a cigarette, licking to wrap the black liquorice paper around the cancer; inserting, carelessly, that menthol filter into the cylinder – oh, that romance was too charming to resist. We were meant to be friends – me and Jack. So after the eye-contact sizzled, and since the seats outside the Union were nearly wet, we like all other lads that hunger for the intercourse of soul to soul, decided to head to the pub.
Which pub though? The Rule is too generous: you can be anyone inside, and the pesky paradox of choice makes for too much confusion, particularly for a first meeting. The Brew Co. is too imposing: its feng shui deliberate and strangling. We needed somewhere unobtrusive, but with a determined atmosphere (with dim lights and soft rock); somewhere, as a Londoner might say, that shoots off good vibes. After deliberation, off to Aikman’s it was.
Thinking back now I wonder why we chose to go to a pub, I mean, Jack’s flat was a three minute stroll from the Union, so why not head there to pursue our interaction, buying cheaper drinks from Tesco to get drunk. But, I suppose, there’s an attractive nostalgia that lurks in the pub.
The setting of the pub and the concept of romance are intertwined in our consciousness. The inviting Pub and the sweet shadows of melancholy and complaints of unrequited love that emerge from our tongues during conversation are concomitant. We go to the club for sordid kisses on the sticky mess of a dance floor, but we head to the pub for intimacy. The pub has no expectation, except for you to chat (which comes naturally as soon as that pint lubes your tongue up for penetrative talk). It’s a warm place where the background most always consists of older students; drunkards; and lovely locals laughing rambunctiously at that shite joke you can’t believe just splattered out of your slurring mouth (are they polite or are they just drunk?).
Jack and I buy each other rounds (a bonding ritual that prematurely thrust us into the puberty of friendship). And after rounds of lagers we begin to love the moment. The conversation prolonged by our blurry minds; song after song chanted in good synchrony, but in inconsistent octaves and keys. Fellow customers, forgive us, for we were, as a bourgeois might remark, royally carparked. I promise I sing real good when I’m sober.
We’ve been back since. Brand loyalty for pubs develop when you find that perfect one; an realise that it is in that habitat where you reveal your nighttime ‘deep’ self. It’s even the epicentre of social activity in some rural areas, which is something that makes perfect sense to me. After all, a pub can be a space where anything can happen. You see, a club forces you to dance, embarrassingly, I might add (since you only know that one move); but all a pub does is nonchalantly ask you if you’d like another pint (yes, please!). Birthdays; socials, first dates – really just about anything goes in a pub. It’s a coffee house, but for the gloam and the darkening hour.
You can drink as much as you want. After the third, or fourth pint, your knees begin to buckle slightly, like in the good old days before your tolerance was built, during the formative days of your self-annihilation.
It can be a private space too. One rarely leaves the holy place without the one that brung ya. And no mantra repeated in front of a mirror can make it easier to approach a group of strangers (no matter how pretty that boy is). Most of the interactions with randoms will take place at the bar (“What’s your poison?”, “Lager.”, “Ah, me too.”, “Nice meeting you.”, “Bye.”). And the rest of your interactions, beside the ones with your clan, are with the bartender, who can be either overly friendly or just bored. I always wonder what she thinks of us. I’m sure she can hear a thing or two, and we’ll say anything when we’re drunk. I apologise for any offense caused!
The pub is occasionally also an intervening space, fixed between your dinner and your going-out. A place where you can change into that going-out mode as you pre-drink with your comrades (Americans call it pre-game but that sounds just a tad bit too corny for me).
I love the pub. I just wish that it was more accessible for females, and that women who enjoy a pub and a beer or two aren’t termed mannish because of their tastes. Why can’t a “gals’ pub night” be mainstream as well? Do we ever associate the pub with a woman? Whatever.
Forgive the digression, but don’t let being ‘something else’, something different from a stereotype stop you from ‘doing something else’, when it is so much fun.
But let me close: next time you see Jack and me at Aikman’s, give us a shout, be you male or female or neutral, and embark with us on a drunken journey together.