Armel Dagorn

 

Armel Dagorn was born and grew up in France, and has been living in Cork, Ireland for the past few years. He reads and writes in is adopted language, English, whenever he gets a break from whatever activity brings bread, butter and chocolate to his table.

 

Won and Lost (June 20, 2010. Issue 18.)

‘Fucking fresh air’ said Sean Matthew O’Regan as he stepped out of his front door into the street. He had spent the previous night drinking seriously for a serious number of hours, and this had unsurprisingly brought onto him a condition commonly known as hangover, a lousy feeling caused by dehydration, which in the case at hand made its victim hate every last bit of just about everything.

It was a quarter to seven, and Sean was going to work after having spent most of his day so far in bed weighing the pros and cons of getting up to get a drink of water. He was going to work, and despite the aggravation every single car, person, bird or busker caused him, he actually made it to the pub where he worked as a barman. Sean walked in and greeted Lukasz, who had been with him the night before, in as civil a way as his blurry movements could afford to. Both men seemed to be experiencing the same physical difficulties, and our understanding is that they were quite struggling spiritually too. Sean’s recollections of the previous night included: downing sneaky shots behind the bar as closing time was closing in, eyeing a hot blondie who seemed to have come to the bar with only half the clothes she had intended to wear, and haveyoufolksnohometogotoing the last drunks out. What he did not remember included chasing Lukasz down the street with a broken bottle and repeatedly screaming Illfuckingkillyou and other such things. Lukasz did not fare much better; his recollections included: downing sneaky shots behind the bar as closing time was closing in, eyeing a hot blondie who obviously had misplaced half her clothes, and getting much more piss on his trousers than is considered socially acceptable. What he did not remember included trying to make out with his workmate and pal’s girlfriend in the ladies (incidentally, after getting much more piss on his trousers than is considered socially acceptable).

Sean, whose full name we’re already familiar with, and the more mysterious Lukasz, all the more mysterious because the Christian name he seems so far to go by is not, clearly, from around here, Sean and Lukasz as we said are best friends. This information would not surprise you as much as it does now if you were aware, as we are, that Sean knows that his friend’s full name is Lukasz Tadeusz Kaczmarek and has therefore no reason to be suspicious. And we beg you to remember, at this stage, that neither of them has any recollection of the most dramatic events they took part in only some hours earlier.

Their friendship, indeed, was the stuff of legend; ‘Sean and Lukasz’, among their entourage, was as much of an indivisible entity as ‘Ginger and Fred’, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, or ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ (scrap that, old Paulie did just fine on his own). When meeting friends on their own, they were automatically asked where the other was – much more so than where their girlfriend was. One without the other just did not make sense. God only knows what would happen if someone, a third character, a messenger of some sort, not much more than an extra really, what indeed would happen if such a person were to refresh the two friend’s memory on their strange behaviour of the previous night. We’re not God and neither are you (or if you are, please forgive me for calling thy name in vain, and for the other thing too, but she was asking for it really, what with the coming out with only half the clothes she’d intended to wear and all), but we will very likely discover what indeed would happen as the door opens, and in walks Mick, local, loyal customer and ears and eyes of the place. Present the previous night as for all the other ones, he comes in and stand by the end of the bar, waiting for one of the two behind the counter to serve him, and tell him about the events he and we know of.

However, if Mick manages to get his drink served without any delay, he notices the two suffering bodies in front of him are silent and seem to wish to go on in that fashion. Noticing too that they are not presently trying to kill each other, he ventures out to quench his curiosity. After all, for a gossip fiend like himself, the fall-out of the local fabled friendship was not something one could afford to let pass by undocumented.

‘So, I see you guys patched things up?’

‘Huh?’

‘You made up? Not trying to kill each other anymore?

‘What the fuck you’re on about?’ said Sean, who was not impressed at all at being talked to, and even less at being talked to about something he couldn’t let go unchecked and had to investigate. He was no stranger to drinking himself amnesic, but usually what he forgot was the common shenanigans most people around him were up to, too. Looking straight into Mick’s eyes, Mick whose ability for joke didn’t allow for making up something like that, he could feel some ugly truth rearing its bloated head.

‘Don’t tell me you don’t remember? And you Lukasz?’

‘What?’

‘Oh for Christ’s sake! You really have to learn how to drink like grown-ups! I mean, you can’t just drink yourself mad into drama queens, put on a show for the whole street and just have no recollection of any of it!’

‘Well, go on so, tell us now.’ I forget now which of them said that, but both seemed really curious – not in a good way – to hear what kind of a terrible thing they had done the night before.

‘There’s not much to tell, really. You know, we had a bit of a lock-in – there was me, Finn Molloy, Brian, Michelle and Colm. Your friend, what’s his name, foxy fellow...’

‘Fintan’

‘Fintan, yeah, he came after last call, then Lucy came as well.’

‘What? She was here?’

The situation, which you will agree has not become much clearer, seemed to Sean to have become much more dangerous. Lucy was indeed his girlfriend, a very sweet girl of good looks and amiable disposition, and no matter how sweet and amiable he knew her to be, he disliked and feared the idea that she was present when whatever happened happened. And, clearly, something was wrong; they would always spend the night together if they met out, whether at his place or hers. That morning (well, afternoon), he’d woken up on his own, at home – not good. Sensing the heat momentarily off him, Lukasz relaxed a bit, but nonetheless suppressed the urge he had to taunt his friend – half because he felt he wasn’t completely off the hook yet, and half because Sean looked clearly stressed and Mick’s reference to killing each other had started to seem like an actual possibility.

‘Yeah, she was there. Not for long though. After fifteen minutes the two of you came rushing out from the back, you Sean running after him with a broken bottle shouting you were going to kill him... Thought you were messing at first, you know, but you just went right through the door, into the street, like that. We waited, you know, tried to call you, both, Lucy did, but you didn’t answer, like. I had to lock the door meself once we’d waited for a while and finished our drinks – I put the money under the till for them.’

Sean was staring through Mick’s head, and Lukasz through the bottles lined up behind the bar. They just didn’t get it, and didn’t even think of answering.

‘You’re welcome. You’re lucky Ger didn’t come in – he would have fucking killed you. You lads should take it easy on the booze when you’re in here.’

‘You’re joking, right?’

‘No boy. The sad and honest truth.’

Lukasz and Sean had no idea what to make of it. They had the information in their brains, neat, clear, but just could not seem to make head or tail of it. Both were as engrossed in their own mythological friendship as were their friends; hell, they’d even met each other’s parents (which wasn’t so strange in the case of Sean’s parents, but he’d had to fly to Poland to meet Lukasz’s ones), a thing neither of them had ever done with their girls. They worked on, serving pints and mumbling thanks like broken robots and coming back to Mick every now and then, in turns, to ask him if he was sure he didn’t know anything else he hadn’t told them.

They worked on feeling pretty bad and, it has to be said, we understand. The best friends could not remember fighting, could not even comprehend how such a thing could have happened, and yet. And yet the poison had seeped in. Lukasz could not bear any concrete grudge against Sean, but he still felt betrayed that his friend – in a drunken frenzy, granted – would attack him in such an unrestrained way. As for Sean, knowing himself (but not what he’d done the night before), he had started firmly believing that Lukasz had to have done something terribly wrong for him to try and attack him brutally.

A couple of hours went by, dragged by, and the hangover, strong as ever, seemed like it would never wear off. Sean and Lukasz worked to the best of their ability – which was not much at the time – but didn’t utter more than a couple of crippled sentences to each other.

Their feeling sick was part of the reason why; but mostly, in his silence, each was contemplating the mystery of the previous night and the newborn suspicion which had insidiously seeped in, the suspicion that his best friend was somehow an asshole deserving a severe beating or a cutthroat lunatic.

That was the situation when Lucy pushed the door and stepped into the pub.

‘Hi Lucy.’

‘Hi Mick.’

‘Hey love!’

‘Hi Lucy...’

Sean had been dreading that moment, and naturally expected to be ignored so aggressively. What really surprised both boys though, was that most of the animosity had seemed to be aimed at Lukasz. All the rage of Earth and the fires of Hell were compressed and thrown through the glare she gave him – daggers galore, and pliers, and all the world’s instruments of torture flew over the bar to the core of poor Lukasz, who felt he was dying just a little more.

‘Err...I’ll go for a fag.’ said Sean, leaving Lukasz, who had turned into sweaty stone, behind the bar and nodding Lucy (being too scared to try and touch her) to the beer garden.

‘So.’

‘Em...’He rummaged through his pocket, and, along with a rain of change, bookies’ receipts and whatnot, produced a packet of cigarettes and nervously offered one to Lucy, who snatched one and shot him a glare that made sure he knew no small kindness or present could possibly buy him peace.

‘Where the fuck were you? I tried to call you all night, I went to your place, almost fucking tore your door down knocking... What happened? Did you fight? I mean, like, I never fucking want to see him again, but you didn’t exactly have to lose it either and run down the street like a lunatic...Imagine if the guards had seen you!’

‘Lucy...Look, I...I don’t really remember much about last night, you know, it’s kind of, fuzzy.’

‘Are you shitting me? Are you fucking shitting me?’

‘Look, I’m sorry.’

‘No, Sean, no, like. I’m fucking sick of it. Fair enough you don’t remember how many pints you’ve had or what exactly some randomer told you about the Communist Manifesto or what kind of shit-talk you answered with – but when your so-called best mate goes sleazy and makes a move on me in the girls’ loo, I fucking want you to remember it!’

‘Wha, what?’

‘You don’t remember anything?’

‘What? Lukasz?’

‘Yeah, fucking Lukasz, grabbed my ass and tried to kiss me.’

When Lucy went out, straight out through the door without so much at a glance in his direction, Lukasz thought for just a second that he might have been mistaken thinking he was in trouble, and that maybe only Sean had fucked up. A second later, when Sean came in and stormed up behind the counter, Lukasz knew he’d been mistaken thinking he was out of trouble. He could see in his friend’s eyes all the violence and fury which had been in Lucy’s, as if they’d only gone out to perform some kind of an Olympic torch passing ceremony. Superimposing what he saw in Sean’s eyes and the description Mick had made of the night before made Lukasz more than a little uncomfortable, cornered as he was behind the bar. In a flash his brain reviewed the different escape possibilities (which were quite limited, and all of them included jumping cow-boy style over the counter), but reason soon popped in to remind him that it was still early, Sean was probably sober by now and wouldn’t assault him in front of the customers. Reason, in the form of Mick, crept in to cool down Sean’s temper as well, just as it seemed he was really going to reach for a bottle and make the cow-boy jump escape plan happen.

‘Easy lads. Whatever bone you might have between yourselves you can pick on later, when the job’s over. Just be good boys now and serve the ladies.’

The argument apparently convinced the wronged friend, and, turning away from a half-disappointed Lukasz (who’d seen his moment of glory come), started taking the orders from a bunch of prim and proper thirty-somethings who had fallen quite silent, sensing a war was brewing up in front of them.

‘What the fuck did you do?’ spat Sean in a whisper. ‘Eight eighty, love.’

‘What? Are you OK there?’

‘Yeah, right, tell me you don’t remember...We’re out of Chardonnay, actually.’

‘Of course I don’t! Cheers. Why, do you? Go on...aaand a Beamish. Tell me, so.’

‘How fucking convenient, eh?

‘What, not remembering you tried to fucking kill me? That’s fourteen twenty, when you’re ready.’

‘Lucy told me.’

‘What? Thanks.’

‘About you trying to fucking score her in the jacks. I should fucking kill you right now.’

‘What? You’re joking’

It was Lukasz’s turn to stop in his tracks, leaving the orders on stand-by; and though he kept trying to defend himself, he was melting a bit inside, and profusely outside. It had become a usual joke (almost as common as the best buddies’ one), between the two boys and Lucy, that he fancied her. Before she had started going out with Sean, she had been the object of much praise and sotto voce marks by the lads. When the couple had actually formed, Lukasz had naturally assumed the role of the good friend, envy-less, sexless almost and full of brotherly love only – so much so that they all laughed together about his ‘imagined’ feelings for her. That was anyway what he managed to keep up, because it was a pretence, and although he would never have made a move on Lucy he still thought about her in quite unchaste terms at times.

While Lukasz was starting to feel worse than at any other stage of the day, which means quite bad, Sean’s anger walked hand in hand with a feeling of self-righteousness. His mad act of the previous night was entirely explainable now, and even somewhat knightly (as he liked to think of it). Lucy would soon forget or forgive him for disappearing for the night – these had been exceptional circumstances. The heat of the stupid amnesic binge was off him, and his mind was still too cloudy to realise fully what the forgotten events really meant, for him and Lukasz. Their friendship had been dealt a blow which, later, sober and clearheaded, they would realise was a fatal one.

And thus the rest of the night passed, without a single word passing from the two former (as the wound seemed too deep) best friends. This, it has to be emphasized, was a little achievement in their tiny little bar, where the lulls between rushes of customers left them pretty much alone, en tête à tête. Last orders came, and soon they were sitting down with their drinks each at a different end of the bar, waiting, each on his own for the first time, for the moment they could start herding the drinkers out. Mick, sensing the tension (which was thicker than the stout he was gulping down), stayed clear off the two feuding lads and sat in the dark corner, reading the paper.

A few minutes before the boys were due to get moving again, Fintan walked in. He flashed a smile at Sean and Lukasz, but went straight up to Mick and started chatting away. A moment later, Mick was laughing loudly. ‘No fucking way!’, nodding to the two with reverently pursed lips, and raising his glass. ‘Fair fucking play to you!’

Fintan then came up to the bar, behind which both Sean and Lukasz had retreated before starting the kicking-out and cleaning-up.

‘Well lads, I’m freaking well impressed.’ he said, laying down fifty euros on the counter. ‘I didn’t think you had a chance. I know it’s not twenty-four hours exactly yet, but you’ve well deserved it. I saw Lucy earlier on and she was freaking mad, like. Jesus, she really did buy it. Mick here as well – so that’s the two of them bagged. Mr O’Regan, Mr Kaczmarek, here’s your fifty quids, duly earned.’

And the two boys, ghosts of friends, just stared blankly through the infinite plains of their own stupidity.