A Dreaded Evening

People go to another city where nobody knows them, or knows their family.

They don’t know about the time you called your teacher “Mum”, or the time you drank a two litre bottle of cider in the park and “had an accident”. You can change your accent, or shake off unwanted nicknames.

It was Boxing Day, early 2000s.

The usual crowd was out at the sweaty indie disco, drinking the same drinks in the same corner of the same club, wearing the same band t-shirts, the same torn jeans and the same Converse All Stars, dancing to the same music: Sonic Youth, the Breeders, the Smiths.

Some mates who were home for Christmas had come to recapture their youth, which we were still living disgracefully. They had moved on to fancy London with their glamorous jobs (and pokey bedrooms in overpriced house shares) new friends, new drugs. We were still working 9-5 Government desk jobs, failing University, or occasionally turning up to apprentice jobs.

One of the guys, Gonzo, was home, although we had to call him Tom now. Only his family called him Tom before. It seemed weird. Tom was “London” now. He had a money clip and a place in trendy Camden.

He saw Amy Winehouse in pubs and stepped over a comatose, Pete Doherty on the way to buy milk.

Tom went to Amsterdam for the weekend and holidayed in Bangkok and Los Angeles. He had come home and brought a friend back to experience a quaint Christmas in small town Ireland. The friend was female and mates with Tom’s exotic Thai girlfriend who was working over the holidays and couldn’t make the trip.

I tripped over some Goth chick in a Cure t-shirt and too much mascara, who was sitting on the edge of the dance floor spilling a tray of fizzy lager in plastic glasses over Tom’s friend. I apologised, but she hardly noticed.

I got talking to her and was transfixed by her cherubic face, porcelain skin and thick dreadlocks. I had never met a girl with dreadlocks before. I spent the night buying her shots and we all went back to a house party, where she passed out.

The next night, a group of us went to another club to see some DJ. Dreadlock chick was back and she was drunk. Capital “D” drunk. Her eyes were swimming, half-closed and her dreads flicked as she swayed, struggling to maintain equilibrium.

I danced with her and caught her when she lost her balance. She thanked me and asked for my name. Never mind I had spent the previous evening buying her drinks.

At chucking-out time, we headed back to the house party again.

Everyone was on Day Three or Four of a Yuletide session, so the atmosphere was becoming flat and tired. One-by-one, people passed out on sofas, under coats – anywhere they could find space to lie down.

Tom announced he was going to find a bed and maybe I should look after Dreadlocks.

I lived round the corner, so we went back to mine for cheese on toast. One thing led to another and…

I woke up the next morning on my own. I called her name, but didn’t get an answer.

I staggered down the hall and saw the mess of dreadlocks in the spare room. I went in and noticed she was awake half-dressed with her eyes swollen and cheeks stained with tear tracks.

She started apologising and told me over and over that she wasn’t a bad person. She had a boyfriend.

I don’t think I smirked.

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