I walked into the bar and there was Trev standing in front of a giant screen showing Germany v. Italy and chatting up two overawed teenage girls with his usual aplomb and startling frankness. Pleased to see me after all this time, he dismissed them with a kind word and we went to the bar to start drinking. He had voted to leave, he said.
Then his cousin Danny came in with Tina, Danny’s latest, with whom he is head-over-heels in love. Danny falling in love with someone has been a big shock to the local community, and it was indeed sad to see him so abjectly enamoured with my own eyes. ‘Since I fell 30 feet off the side of a house and landed on my head, I haven’t been the same bloody bloke, Jer,’ said Danny, perhaps feeling that I was owed an explanation. ‘And my memory is shocking. I can’t remember what happened two minutes ago.’ Danny had voted to remain. Tina said that her short-term memory was also shot to bits. Tina works in the café at Asda and she was wearing her Asda fleece. She bungs a customer’s meal in the microwave, she said, then she goes away with the fairies and forgets about it. Yesterday she had a formal warning from the store manager about her plated nuclear disasters. Her customers rarely complain, however, and she loves them dearly — and she loves working in the café at Asda. Did she vote to stay or leave, I asked her? She couldn’t remember. She had gone into the booth with nothing arranged in her mind. She thinks she might have voted to leave. I wandered over to the giant screen to watch the penalty shoot-out. The misses were farcical. I realised that I was watching the shoot-out with indifference so must be quite drunk.
At last orders, Trev asked me if I wanted to join him and the usual posse who were going on to a club. They were going to the club that stays open the latest and has the most bouncers on the door. If I perish, I perish, I said. Before we set off, Trev told me all I needed to know about the other half of our clubbing team. Sean was 18, he said, and an ‘unbelievable shagger’. Simon, on the other hand, was a virgin. His tone implied no criticism of the latter’s virginity, only mild incredulity. He introduced me to Sean and Simon in the taxi queue. Sean was tall and fit and handsome and riding the crest of his monster wave of testosterone. Simon was tall but inarticulate and unconfident and all that was left for him at 18, it seemed, was absolute humility. Sean had some ready-made MDMA bombs, and he kindly offered me and Trev one each. ‘Sergeant, take that man’s name!’ said an observant old rocker in the queue behind us.
When the taxi came, Trev got in the front; I climbed in the back with Sean and Simon. In the darkness Sean told me, in a deliberate attempt to humiliate, that Simon was a virgin. ‘Is that so?’ I said to Simon, trying to sound like a caring curate. Simon affirmed it, his slight stammer becoming more obvious. ‘I don’t want to lose it to the first woman who comes along,’ he said with forlorn dignity. ‘I want to find someone special and for life. Shagging anything that moves hasn’t made you any happier, Sean, has it?’ Sean writhed in his seat with a sort of orgasmic delight. ‘Tonight we’re going to find someone to bust your cherry, boy, whether you want to or not,’ he jeered. From the front seats, tribe elder Trev broke off an intense political discussion with the taxi driver (who voted to leave) to adjudicate. ‘That’s right, Simon, bud!’ he shouted backwards. ‘If that’s the way you feel, good luck to you. Find yourself someone loyal. You’ll be happier in the long run if you do.’
Once through the scrum of bouncers guarding the nightclub doors, Trev and I carried our drinks to the edge of the lively dance floor to survey ours and Simon’s prospects. I’ve heard it said that the greater the enervation in the observer, the greater the appreciation of a work of art. Enervated by drink though I was, I failed to spot one presentable woman. But where were our young protégés? Sean and Simon hadn’t been in the club for more than a minute when they’d been threatened with violence. They had decided that discretion was the better part of valour. By the time Trev raised Sean on his phone, and heard all about it, they were at a party back in their home town.