Arriving at the bar half an hour late I point out, “I’ve ended up looking sort of Russian,” and the two of them laugh. The garb is bootleg stretch denims with a dragon design down one thigh, and a silky knit v-neck in fresh wound red – sexy, of a kind, but neither classy nor current. There’s a comment from Alison that she’d forgotten how tiny I am.
I’d got dressed on a wave of overtired mania, after a week spent packing boxes, moving, then unpacking. I insist on champagne. When have I ever done that? But I’ve a home to toast. Am answerable to no-one. And emerging from the subway into gold evening air, the pavements teeming, it was apparent that while I’ve been indoors, Glasgow has been having a moment: a 75 degree hot spell and host to the Commonwealth Games. The bar is wall-to-wall with people making the most of it.
It’s ages since we’ve managed the same bar on the same night. Pouring. Cheers-ing. There’s a bringing-up-to-speed before the conversation turns to men. “Can’t remember when I last reached a third date.” Lianne looks deflated. “They come, they go.”
“At least they come before they go,” I offer.
Tipsy on fizz I put it out there, “Maybe not sleeping with them right away would make them more likely to stick around.”
She freezes mid-glass-lift. This could be the end of the evening.
“If the current model isn’t working,” I qualify, “no harm in reconsidering the model.”
Alison piggybacks my courage, “Yeh, make them work a little, so they appreciate it when they get it.” And we’re all laughing, not because her suggestion was that funny, but because it’s obvious to Lianne we’ve been waiting to say this, and she’s left the pit-bull in its cage and allowed us air time.
Lianne sets her glass down. “Fine, bitches. Can I kiss someone who buys me dinner?”
“Not for a few months,” I tell her. “Till you’ve gauged if he sees you as a keeper.” I am finding myself hilarious.
“If you’re worried his interest is dwindling,” Alison’s saying, “you can get involved in occasional kissing lying down.”
“You told me no sex.” “It’s just kissing. But lying down.” Which is the stage after upright kissing, according to Alison’s gran. “The drawback,” I warn, “is that once you’ve done that, no-one else will marry you.”
The bar doors are wide to the tail end of today’s heat and second-hand tobacco smoke. We’ve been sharing opposite ends of a sturdy table with another group of three but the group has gone; replaced by a guy with the weekend paper spread in front of him. There’s no weighing it up, I simply do what comes naturally and rescue the poor soul – he can’t read a paper on his own, not on a Saturday night. And that’s what I tell him, to bring him in, and when it’s achieved I glance back, head cocked; And that, ladies, is how easy it is to meet men. I excuse myself to the bathroom. When I return a second man has joined him. He hadn’t been a poor soul after all, he’d been a guy waiting for a friend.
Our attention is back on ourselves but we don’t find our rhythm, can’t seem to settle. Alison and Lianne talk towards me while their eyeballs dart. Alison was at the Games’ opening ceremony; she’s trying to persuade us it was better than it looked on TV. Lianne’s having none of it. She’d switched off at the singing janitor.
“My dad’s a janitor,” says newspaper-man.
We haven’t been left alone. I pivot to address the neighbour, and see that two have become three. A third guy’s in the seat to my right.
I’m calling bullshit on newspaper-man. “Is that right? Where does he work?” And he’s laughing.
Lianne’s mid-flow, “…I don’t have Tunnocks in the cupboard and I don’t country dance.”
“Shame,” the new guy replies. “Was going to ask if you wanted to strip… the willow.” From his lingering grin, I clock ‘pished guy’ and chuck in, “Anyone notice that a reeling drunk was missing from that jamboree of all-things-Scotia?”
I don’t do wasted and don’t care for wasted next to me. Booze alone or Class A side-effects? Or just the way his face works – blank, possibly guarded. One ear’s on him, one ear’s for the rest of the table. He’s been away. He mentions jet lag. He’s back to use his vote. He might stick around if Scotland becomes independent but if not, he’s off again.
The guy seated on the end is having to work harder not to be left out. He grabs his chance to play the chivalry card by asking our names, then informing us that he is Keith, the newspaper guy is Sean and the one next to me is, “A total knob”. He’s a man jockeying for top spot.
Noticing that each guy is wearing a washed-out cotton tee with a faded band logo, I flick my head in Keith’s direction. “What’s going on with the t-shirts – they ironic?”
“Ironic? Nope. Is your jumper an antique?”
“I was thinking it looks a bit Russian Brides dot com,” I answer, standing up to dis