Monday, September 17, 2007

upon the side of this mountain of mine


Saturday, you get a call early in the day. Can you come in early? You settle on six, but a rash of Morris Men distracts you on the way so you don't get there til half past. Apologise profusely, then realise that the pub is dead, so grab yourself a packet of crisps.

Discuss new members of staff with your co-workers and finalise names for them (smoking hottie; flaming hottie; cutey pie; nice but stupid; lanky pleb). Explain for the fifth or sixth time why you won't be moving away quite as soon as you thought.

Clean the cappucino machine, polish some glasses, retell the story of the family that left dirt nappies on table 39 to your friend who just ate at table 39. Clean the ale-lines, flirt with one customer, twat tax another for calling you 'darling' more than six times during a single transaction.

Realise that you've called your area manager a wanker on your Facebook profile page - the same page where you've named the company you work for. Shit.


The evening picks up, you sneak out for a cigarette and chat to Cider and Black, who just got some bad news, and Smiths in an Abbot Glass who wants to know why Old Rosie in a Chilled Glass and Carling (Fosters on Mondays) got barred. Explain, get upset about the whole thing all over again.

Crack on, serving ten deep at the bar, cut your finger on a broken glass, drop ice cubes down someone's back, start to develop a weird sense of ESP with people's orders.

She wants a pint of Fosters, a glass of Rose, two apple sours, a Summer Fruits Kopparberg, a pitcher of Vodka Red Bull and a double Jack and Coke/Archers and Lemonade/Malibu and Diet Coke....

Either that she's just weird, plain weird, and she wants Bells and Ginger or Malibu and Milk or Absolut Appletise or one shot Bells, one shot Amaretto and one shot Smirnoff in a glass with two ice cubes, half a slice of lime and a dash of soda.

It wears on, you're shattered. There's time for a sandwich, sat by the food lift, flicking cherry tomatoes into the bar, into the ice dumps; time for a fag on the roof, resting your head against the railings, counting to 100, screaming.

You close early, bouncers roaming up and down "Les-be-aving-ya ladies and gents please!" and people whinge, as always, the same way they whinge at quarter to 1 in the morning when they should've been gone half an hour ago and they think you're stupid enough not to notice that they light a new cigarette everytime you come outside to yell at them.

"Ah just let me finish this darling.. I ain't getting kicked out in the middle of my fag.. you want me to leave you oughta give me another fucking fag innit.."

Hold the door open for the last one. Shout FUCK OFF as you lock it behind them.

Hours pass. You scrub the tables, sweep the garden, take the furniture back out, clean the ashtrays, wash and shelf every glass in the place, recycle every bottle, wipe the bar, the taps, take down the Pepsi hoses, soak the nozzles in soda, empty the drip trays, count the wastage, buff the fridges, wank the wines, decant the spirits mop and sweep and scrub and empty and -

at half 2 in the morning realise that a rotary club is coming in tomorrow for a Sunday lunch and you need a table set up for 50 people so

at half 4 in the morning sit down in the garden with a pint and a fag and the three out of six of you that made it to the bitter end shoot the shit for a while until

half 5, get the bones from the rack of ribs you ate and hide them in the fridge for the morning shift manager then

climb the stairs into the flat, two of you, hear boss setting the alarms and curl up on the sofa beds under the jacket and blanket you found.

Half an hour later you hear the morning manager taking off the alarms, hear the beer delivery coming in.

Half an hour later you realise your colleague is a snorer.

Four hours later, get up and pull back on the blouse, the trousers, the hideously painful shoes, put on some make up, sort out your hair, eat the shakiest bacon sandwich you've ever had and by 5 to 11, get back behind the bar and pull the first pint of the day.


Saturday you get a call early in the day, will you come out tonight? You settle on 9 but dinner with your parents distracts you so it's more like half past. Buy a bottle of wine and some tobacco on the way, listen to Kanye West up the street and allow yourself a little dance under a streetlight. Night off, yeah.

Arrive at the house and discuss Mutual Friend's Hair. She's devastated, says she's never had it this short, she went there with a picture and everything, pixie cut, she said, she thought a pixie cut would look good. Friend has messed with the cut, snipping at it and bigging it with mousse until it actually looks lovely, just a million miles away from what she wanted.

She takes her bottle of wine home untouched. It's not her fault, says the Friend, if you don't have much confidence something like that can really kick you. You say, she should've come out, just said fuck it and had a laugh and reminded herself that she's a really fun person to be around.

You say, look at me, I'm over 12 grand in debt from a course I've never finished, I work like a dog for shit all money in a pub full of wankers, I'm starting uni in two weeks and I have no house, no job, no loan, no nothing, my parents are mad at me, my boyfriends mad at me, I've put back on all the weight I lost at Easter and my hair hasn't been cut in a year. Am I gonna let it ruin my night? Fuck am I.

Friend smiles. Cock it, shall we just get some pills?


In the car, towards Hawley, on the phone all the time "Left where? That field? Where... if you can't see us then we're lost."

Headlights slicing the darkness, a man appears, flinches, so you shut them off and don't see him til he appears by your window. Gonna let me in then?

He's got some but not enough. He can get more though, five minute drive, same price, £2.50, no problem. How many?

Well, he chuckles through his drink, his cigarette hanging out the window, he's picking up about 200 so - how many?

By the time it happens, there's four of you in the car and this man in the doorway, with a medallion. It's the medallion that does it for you, you've never been part of this scene, this meeting up in car parks and corners, it's always been friends and house parties and sharing alike and this man (he takes a swig of your wine and grimaces, 'you wanna get straight off that shit, darling') is not someone you'd want to be seen with.

Even so. It happens. You stare firmly out the window, as if you've no idea what's in his pockets, you hold open a plastic baggy and look up at the ceiling as if he's handing you a packed lunch but your eyes flicker down as he counts them out and he grins, all Cheshire Cat in the dark. "You girls can have one extra for your petrol money, yeah?"


At half eleven you drop, washing it down with red wine. It tastes more horrible than you remember and you sit in the car, reliving licking it off in the inside of a baccy tin at Easter, off the inside of your hand on a floral carpet in Surrey, choking one down dry at Reading. This one goes down easy, too easy.

Midnight is crunchtime. If they haven't sent you up in that half an hour then you know you'll lose your nerve. You're there finally, the club, after a nervy drive to arrive before the chemicals start working. Car safely parked, you sip some water, leave the wine for your mates who haven't dropped, head inside.

Half twelve and something is happening. Your cheeks are hot and swelling like a chipmunks, you could store food in there, or hot air, you push your hands slow and hard back into your face so that no one can see. You're on a rollercoaster, you're sick, you just feel bad, bad, bad and you think of Mutual Friend and her haircut and how bad feeling bad can be for you.

Black, red, yellow, smoke, green, lasers, beats, Faithless, friends, your whole world goes two degrees left, right, forward til you have to shake your head.

Twenty five to one you start dancing, working against it, you will not feel bad you will not feel bad, you will not. You pretend the drug isn't real, that it's a placebo and it's only you that can make it happen and you dance and you fake happy so hard and then suddenly-

Like a geyser, like a volcano happened beneath you and you were shot up skywards, like a net scooped you up and swung you, like taking off, like hitting the top of the ride, like standing on top of the mountain.

Oh. God.

Everyone is incredible. Everyone is amazingly beautiful and the feel of other people, their touch has never been so good. This vodka and coke is the darkest, sweetest, strongest thing, this roll up is the sharpest heat you've ever inhaled. You could stand or sit or run or dance anywhere for however long with anyone because you are absolutely invincible, you are strong and beautiful and happy and you feel in every inch of your body that you are having sex with the entire world and you love it and it loves you.

A couple more drinks, a couple more drops and you've made gold, defeated alchemy, found the magic combination to the meaning of life.

You stay on top of that mountain for 15 hours. You sleep on a dew covered lawn. You talk to strangers. You tell a taxi driver that you love him. You slump on a sofa, smoke a joint, spend minutes or hourse with a boy and a girl, running your fingers along the inside of her wrist, stroking his cheekbones while someone plays with your hair.

You sleep, briefly, then walk out across the town in blazing sunshine, sweating in your leather jacket, reach your boyfriend's house, give him a kiss and fall asleep while he watches the Grand Prix.

He doesn't want to know about the drugs; you don't want to know about the football. When he drives you home, the car jerks around a corner while the music is playing and you dig your heels in and struggle but gravity takes you back down the mountain and you hit the floor.

And go get ready for work.


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