Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Seedy Tree

I can’t recall exactly how the note went, but it was something like this:

Tall, dark, handsome man seeks love in the shape of a small chubby woman with leather trousers and nice hair for games of pool and pints of lager. Call me on ––––––––––.

I remembered it being a bit better, but that’s the general gist of it: like a spoof of a lonely-hearts column. I was too nervous to give it to her myself. I’d seen her just about every weekend but we’d never spoken. She was always with her friends and I was always with mine. My friends were all guys, and her friends were all guys, all with skinheads, all from the local estates, not as rough as other housing estates, but certainly rougher than anything I knew.

She was small and plump and wore a checked shirt and leather trousers. I felt a kind of love for her. She kept on looking at me. I kept on looking at her. Large and beautiful, come to bed eyes, blue, checked shirt, always looking tired, eyes heavy, a tired come to bed beauty. Sam called her a slag, not to her face, of course, but to me. I thought that was a bit harsh, but Sam’s scared of slags. I couldn’t get enough of them.

The pub was called the Cedar Tree, but we called it the Seedy Tree, not to be funny or smart, not even because it was particularly seedy, but because that’s what we called it. It just sounded right. It was old fashioned and a bit run down; it must have been the only pub left in town which hadn’t been renovated into a bland chain pub*. We only went there because of the pool tables. It was also the only pub left in our part of town which had them.

So there’s this one Friday when I’ve written the above note. I’m too nervous to give it to her myself, so I give it to Mike to give to her. It takes a few pints for Mike to pluck up the courage. By which time I’ve walked out of the pub and walked a bit up the street, perhaps always realising the possible backfire of the plan. A few seconds later Mike comes running out of the pub shouting to me ‘Run! Run!’ I start running. Mike overtakes me. My legs feel like they’re running in wet concrete. I glance around. Not far behind there’s a bunch of skinheads running after us, shouting. Luckily I live just around the corner, and we both make it back safely.

Mike was about to give her the note, but one of the skinheads had grabbed his arm (her boyfriend, I believe), and asked Mike what he was giving her. Mike gave the skinhead the note, who then let go of his arm, and Mike ran out the pub.

At about midnight, me and Sam are watching TV up in the loft when the phone rings. I know it’s her, and when I answer it, it is. She says she’s just split up with her boyfriend, she’s lonely, she likes me, and she’d like to meet up. She sounds incredibly insincere. My heart sinks, but we agree to meet on Sunday morning, outside the petrol station opposite the estate where she lives. Not the most romantic of locations, but what can you expect from a working class lass?

The next morning I was all set to hop on a bus and meet her. Then my friend Chris phones me just before. I tell him the situation and he thinks I’m insane. He thinks it’s a set up. He says he’ll take me in his car. We take a baseball bat, just in case. As we slowly drive past the petrol station, my girl isn’t there, but her guys are, also armed with baseball bats, just in case.

I left town for about a year, then ended up returning. I went back to the Seedy Tree with Sam one day. The bartender said he didn’t think it was a good idea me having a drink in here. He said the guys still come in, and they were still looking for me a year later. I thought it highly unlikely, but didn’t argue with the bartender, a big man, and excellent at pool.

(London, 1996)

*It has now of course.

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