André came past, magically refreshed the ashtray, made a polite remark about the weather, replaced her glass with a freshly charged Johnny Red on the rocks and – poof – was invisible once more. Waiters like André made it very easy to let the world slip by.
‘Thanks, André…love you, man….’ she sighed into the afternoon air after he had been gone for more than a minute. She lit another in a long line of Marlboro Lights. A feral parakeet screeched past, piercing the haze with a streak of green as it negotiated overhung streetside trees. Her phone screeched in sympathy, and, taking a deep breath, she fished it out of her pocket.
It wasn’t him.
‘Damian. What’s up?’
‘Hmm. Fuckall, really. Dopping.’
‘Ja, I know. I can see you from my window.’
She let out a low guffaw and looked across the road to the hair salon.
‘Thaaat’s right. Forgot you started there.’ She said, waving at him in the window.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Dopping!’ she said at him, raising her glass.
‘I can see that. But that’s not what I mean. I mean what are you doing?’
‘Pfff. I’ve my reasons.’
‘Where’s Callum?’ he asked, sounding concerned.
‘There you go…who’s a clever boyyyy? Damian!’ her words were now drawn out in emphasis, she was drunk.
‘So? Where’s he?’
‘I dunno.’ And now her words were stunted, the nerve had been touched.
‘Mmm.’ She mumbled through her mouthful. She wiggled her glass at him, beckoning him over.
‘You heard me. Gone.’
‘As in ‘gone to get milk and bread down the corner’ or as in ‘gone for good’?’
‘Who can say? So, Damian – wanna drink?’
‘Stay where you are. I’ll be right over.’
‘For a drink? Yay!’
‘Well, can’t very well have you pissed on your own, young lady. Just give me five minutes. Stay put.’
It didn’t take long for Bailey to get on her soapbox.
‘It’s fucking degrading, how we’re hardwired to be so fucking grateful for any little scrap of luxury, how very fucking lucky we are to not have to suffer the indignities of servile existence! I mean, fuck – maybe that’s why, Damian, maybe that’s what he was running away from, and if he was, well fuck, I support him! I just wish the asshole had asked me to come with him, because I cannot fucking take this life, lived as it is by licking the fucking boot heels of every cunt who has the money! That is not fucking life, Damian - that is slavery!’
‘Jeez. It’s not all that bad, bokkie. Is it?’
‘Hmmph. ”Not all that bad”? “Not all that fucking bad”? Are you crazy, and can you not see how low you bow every time you make a buck? Shit, I know I’m only a fucking waitress, but dude, it’s all the same – however you make the cash, the essence of the transaction is that you have to submit to the system. You want the cash – you have to take it up the ass! No lube! Not so much as a ‘how’s your auntie!’ Fuck that!’
‘Oh please – next thing you’re gonna tell me that capitalism is prostitution. Get over yourself, chick, and deal with the realities. Your boyfriend has left and now you're pissing your sorrows away by yourself but you don’t actually know why, now do you?’ Damian asked quietly.
‘What? Don’t change the subject, dammit.’ She spat, her eyes sulking away towards the road.
‘You have no idea. That’s why you’re sat here – you’re just assuming he left because of you. Don’t you?’
‘Well I, I….just because…. Fuck you, buddy. What do you know?’
‘I know that he wasn’t all he seemed, bokkie.’ Andre took a cigarette out of the box on the table, took a deep breath, lit the smoke and sat back, clearly relaxing now. Bailey’s eyes swivelled towards him, accusing, expectant.
‘Well, fucking tell me!’
‘He had real problems before he met you, darling. You have no idea.’
‘Well thank you very much, asshole – you picked a fine time to tell me!’
‘Hmmm,’ mumbled Damian as he puffed the smoke. ’He was into some weird-ass shit before I met him, y’know.’
‘What? That’s kak, man. What are you talking about?’
‘Hmmm. It's some fucked-up shit, chick. Suggest you order another.’
Through the drunkenness, the fog was lifting. In its place Bailey was feeling the cold hard clarity of hatred coming on. For the first time in days the world stood out in crisp colour.