Sometimes I wish I was a different man. When I take a stroll up and around the hills and streets of Woolton or when I kneel beside my bed to read in the evening and my mind has space to wander, I imagine a different me. I meet every cue to laugh, to smile, and I never withdraw from anyone, however slight, because I feel depleted. Yet it seems, for all my thinking, that I remain who I am, whoever I am.
When I was in college I flew to France with my year for the 2011 Cannes film festival. We stayed in Nice and one night we smuggled beer and wine back to our hotel for a party. I shared a room with three others at the end of the hall and the party soon came to us. A girl from my class took a seat with her friend on the bed across from me. She carried a glow in her eyes and in her every movement. Before we flew to France she had asked me what I was like when I was drunk and my answer was either that I danced, which I didn’t, or that I laughed, which I didn’t. She stubbed her pinky toe the day before and now wore a plaster around it.
The party went on.
At some point she looked over at me. ‘Stu,’ she said. ‘Talk.’ She gestured to the room as if to reveal what I was missing.
‘I am,’ I said. ‘I’m talking now aren’t I?’ But I wasn’t and we both knew. I drank what I had and wandered out into the hall to see what the others were doing in their rooms. They smoked and drank and spoke and spoke and spoke. I lingered out of sight and drank the dregs of my beer.
When I came back someone left sand on my mattress and wine by my bed. I swept the sand away and drank the wine.
On the last day of college I was drinking shots at three in the afternoon. I had the others laughing, at long last. A guy from my class asked me if I would buy him a beer and I said I wasn’t that drunk. The girl laughed and high-fived me. My Mum and Dad were calling me but I didn’t pick up. When I staggered back from the toilet everyone had disappeared outside and I shoved myself back into their company on the benches. Then, in due time, the goodbyes. I wobbled upright to hug the girl and watched her turn the corner of the bar with her friend in tow. A two year course closed.
The corner. Her glow. Her glow.