A man of indeterminate age, somewhere between 30 and 50, strides up to the bar: ‘Shit, man, have I had a rough day.’
The baby-faced, slightly sleepy barman blinks and smiles.
‘Yeah? Sorry to hear that, man. What can I get you?’
The customer mounts a high stool and starts to unload his tobacco pouch, ancient mobile phone and various other nick-nacks, constructing a nest.
‘Half a San Mig.’
The barman pours the lager and places it on the bar.
‘Tell you what, I’ve had such a shit day… Sod it — give me a sambuca, too.’
The barman turns to look at the spirits shelf. The customer drinks half of his half of lager. The young man turns back. His eyes dart to the half empty glass.
‘Er… Black or white?’
The barman pours the sambuca into a thimble-like shot glass.
‘What it is, my wife — are you married yourself? — my wife, she was meant to meet me this morning but her train got delayed…’
He suddenly drinks most of the sambuca, chasing it with another gulp of lager.
‘…so I’ve been hanging around Temple Meads…’
‘Er, sorry, man, but, er, I’m going to need you to pay for those drinks.’
‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, of course, man, no problem, yeah, yeah, yeah.’
He finishes the sambuca.
‘My wife will be here in like two minutes and she’s got the cash.’
The barman begins to vibrate anxiously.
‘I really need you to pay for those drinks–’
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, no worries, man, no worries — I’ll just give her a call.’
The customer very obviously pretends to make a call on what, at second glance, might actually be a toy mobile phone. And are his shoes… Are they held together with Sellotape?
He stands up, pockets his tobacco almost as if by sleight of hand, and retreats to a corner, and then further into the corner, and then clear through the corner, out of a side door that we hadn’t noticed.
The barman deflates as he puts what is left of the glass of lager on the back shelf.
‘I’m so stupid,’ he says partly to himself, partly to us, but mostly to his own sneakers.
He makes sure to take the money before handing over our pints.