queasy bromance

It was driving back through the blackened Wye Valley during a brief pause in conversation that I realised it:  I hadn’t spent this long in one person’s company, certainly not without the lubricant of alcohol, since I didn’t know when.  It’s sad that our social lives tend to revolve around it, are largely dependent on it; that we, or at least I, don’t do too many things where it doesn’t feature at all.

It had been around eight hours since I picked him up outside his flat and we started the two and a quarter hour drive in a north easterly direction.

Knowing my new friend’s love of film, I stocked up on review podcasts in case there was any lull in conversation, but there wasn’t.  Our chatter was easy and relaxed and required little thought.  Less than I would have ordinarily expected with such a new acquaintance, despite the substantial size of our already well -established common ground: football (played together), music (gigs attended together), film (not attended together – too much), alcohol (drunk together), terminal singledom and occasional borderline misogyny (moaned together).

His company was dryly amusing too.  I’d laughed a couple of times as our chatter inevitably turned to women and our mutual failures.  It felt strange and surprising to laugh like that, so spontaneously, candidly and widely.  To feel my mouth make that shape and noise was unusual.  It didn’t happen often.  Maybe only the company of other people can do that.

I’m not sure he actually likes women as much as he says he does, if there a requisite level of compromise exists in him, a much more extreme nomad than I.  He moans that ‘they’ look to change things about you from the very start, sometimes even before they’ve met you.  Fuck that.  If they want to do that then they’re not gonna be right for me.  Perhaps he did have a point that ‘their’ ideals are more specifically pronounced than ours – wear a nice suit, sharp clothes, have a smart haircut, smell nice; but I fancy I’m more willing than him to bend in some ways.

“I’m sure if we went out wearing suits and sat in some posh bar drinking champagne, we could pick up… you know,” he said.  In truth I couldn’t even imagine him dressed in a suit or drinking champagne.  Not him, the same man who said “I don’t know why Big Issue sellers and homeless people seem to target me.  I mean, I think I look as bad as them most of the time.”  You could see where he was coming from.  He has an odd line in questionable knitwear.

Thanks to his low-key, unexcitable demeanour, the nine hours were comfortable.  It felt novel to have company for such a long time, to freely voice anything that came into my head.  “Nice” punctuated approving nods as a young Mum walked across a zebra crossing in front of the car.

Now, added to the shared ground, we had watched a top flight football match together.  His family ties had secured us tickets for an away match at an ostensibly unglamorous yet still top level match.  And it was a particularly good game with plenty of goals, excitement and high quality play.

His unflappable nature only grated when Tottenham scored – any one of their three excellent goals – none of which made him crack a smile, even when I tried to shoulder bump life into him.  Quietly appreciative, didn’t really care about the game.  With no other fans to the left of me, I celebrated alone.

A small flicker of pride only briefly danced across his face when the few thousand travelling supporters began to sing his cousin’s name, the young man he’d travelled across the country to watch play football since he was ten years old, a man whose life was being propelled in a quite different direction from his own.

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