Why did it always end this way? The outcome was always the same. My mouth was dry and my head light. I watched as he cut repeatedly with the knife. I walked forward and waited stoically. He turned to me with the familiar mantra. "Chilli sauce, salad?" Another Friday night ended in the kebab house.
I looked to my right and could see his muscle bound forearms tattooed with the St Georges flag and an English bulldog. I twisted my dreads furtively. His hand was grasped vice like around the beer glass. Mine gripped tightly around the bottle of lager. There was silence in the pub as we both stepped forward. Then simultaneously we both jumped in the air and clasped our arms around the others shoulders respectively and then with clenched fists punched the air. Goal. Beckham. Enger-land, Enger-land! We shouted deliriously in unison.
I watched as the stony-faced leather-clad figure, shook his head in refusal. Looks of disappointment appeared on the faces of the two individuals now walking disconsolately past me. He flashed a grin at the two women in the figure hugging skirts and wonder bras now beside him and acquiesced as they walked past him. "You alright geez." He nodded in acknowledgement and let me through. Another Saturday night decided on the whims of a bouncer of whether I was coming into the club or not.
Tunde for a change was early as I entered the bar. My mouth was dry with anticipation after a hard day at work. The Jolly Butchers was a hive of activity for an early Friday summers evening. I looked through the mass of bodies and could see Tunde at the far end of the bar with an inane grin on his face. I was shocked. Could it be? Surely not. But to my surprise it was. Beside him full bodied and welcoming. I swallowed in anticipation as I approached and eagerly clasped my hand around the pint of Kronenbourg. He'd actually got the first round in!
The intermittent clanking of bars filled the room. It came with the territory. Along with sweat and pain. Occasionally there was a yell and a grunt. I had long since steeled myself. Herculean figures walked past me their hands wrapped in black gloves. Fellow comrades. We acknowledged each other without a word. This was not a place for talk. Everyone marking out their own territory. At the far side were a group of shaven-headed muscle-bound eastern Europeans. I was a solitary figure. I leaned back and pushed hard repeatedly. Sweat rolled along my brow as I contorted my face from exertion and gritted my teeth. I let out a primeval shout as I staggered leaden-footed to my feet. I stared at myself in the full-length mirror, my narcissism barely contained, as I smiled admiringly as I flexed my muscles. I looked every inch the gym junkie. As I endured my regular fix down the Harpers Fitness centre.
I exited the bar onto the street to be met by the hordes of Nigerian cabbies touting their exorbitant fares. It was an average night with nothing more to look forward to than a Stella hangover in the morning. What did they put in the beer to have that effect? Femi re-appeared with a grin on his face.
“I just met this girl her friends have left her and she needs somewhere to stay for the night.” He offered.
“And being the humanitarian you are, you offered to put her up eh.”
I threw a cursory look at his new found companion. It was dark; she was tall dressed in a slim skirt and a black leather jacket with long blonde hair. I was hungry so walked towards the chip shop. I walked slightly ahead. I threw another look behind me and could see they were engaged in conversation. The road was more brightly lit now and I caught another look of Femi's new found companion. She was very tall, probably about six, three with somewhat hard angular features. As I studied her face I could see the outline of an Adam's apple. Shit! Nah it couldn't be. Could it? A grin lit up my face as I found myself in a dilemma. Do I tell Femi or do I let it play out and see what are bound to be comic consequences unfold. We all entered the chip shop together and I ordered the ubiquitous choice of a weekend raver; small doner and chips.
"Geez, I gotta tell you mate."
"You do realise that's a bloke."
"Whose a bloke?"
"Your new found companion."
We walked over together to the back of the store where she was standing. The shop was well lit. A strained smile erupted on Femi's face. I offered her some of my chips. Big thickset builders fingers grasped some chips. No doubt it was a bloke. The three of us exited the shop. There was a pregnant pause before Femi asked:
"Excuse me my mate reckons…."
I ran laughing up the street looking back over my shoulder.