In the pub

The pub is empty apart from a young couple sitting at the other end of the room. It’s a grey afternoon, boring beyond belief, I tell X. The publican stands behind the bar staring into space. It’s like being trapped in a Hopper painting, I say. I tell him he’s embarrassed for the young couple, and the publican too, for that matter, embarrassed by what awaits them, what already engulfs them. And for us too, I say, I’m embarrassed on behalf of all of us. I strain my ears to catch snatches of the couple’s conversation, and it’s as I thought, I say. It doesn’t inspire confidence. They’re talking about the girl’s parents, it seems the mother has a skin problem, but it doesn’t matter, I say, and it certainly doesn’t appear to matter to the young man. The girl looks flat-out bored now, and who can blame her? he says. They’ve stopped talking now, they’re looking down at their mobiles, which are lying on the table. She sits back and plays with her hair. He sips from his drink. They say a few words that make no difference to anything, I tell X. I say I hate it when people look bored, but even more when they say they’re bored, that’s when the embarrassment becomes most acute. People should have the decency not to mention it, I say. After all there’s nothing anyone can do about it, this embarrassing tedium. I hope she doesn’t mention it, I say, women are always saying embarrassing things. I can’t help her any more than her boyfriend can, I say, I have no reason to be here myself, I’m just trying to get drunk in peace, please don’t say it, I say, let’s just try to ignore it in peace. How will this young couple fight against what awaits them, I ask him, against what already surrounds them? They’ll try but they can’t, I say, that’s what’s so embarrassing and so sad, the tepid life that awaits them, that they’re already living, and the fact that there’s nothing I can or want to do about it, even if God forbid I were asked. I suddenly feel disgusted, I say, we have to leave. We have to go, I say, gulping my pint. Imagine if they started talking to us, I say, what if the publican comes over and wants to chat, he’s looking at us now as if he’s wondering why we’re here, I can’t stand it! Holidays are hard work, I say as we leave.

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