Not such a panic at the disco

Stephen has been nagging us to come out of our shell for the last week or so. ”I never see you anymore. It’s like you’ve died, or moved away. Or worse. So, come over. Let’s get drunk.”

Five lagers later we’re in a queue going into a club, and the bouncer looks like he’d rather be somewhere else. He’s certainly not working fast. I’m not sure speed is a job requirement for bouncers. But this is Stephen, the social monster. He knows the bouncer’s third cousin’s ex-girlfriend’s mother-in-law. And he knows everyone in the chain that leads from that woman to this bouncer. Stephen never has to wait in line. And neither do we, when we’re with him.

Before we know it, we’re inside. The music is rearranging our insides. The spleen trade places with the liver, and the heart presses up into our larynx. A hundred people who we only see as shadows bounce up and down to the beat. More drinks. A bartender lobs tall glasses with beer over the heads of the line that block the bar.

Mark goes to do his thing. That is, he’ll stand in the shadow, pressed against the wall, while us social monsters press into the crowd to dazzle them with our moves. We’re drunk, and that’s why we’ve convinced ourselves we’re young and hot and cool and sexy. Everyone must see. Everyone must witness our arrival. Everyone must watch our gloriousness.

Except two hours later, we’re back in the street. Just Mark and I. The rush is gone. The chill is here, and I’m too poorly dressed. Ahead, Mark’s shoulders is a line set against the dark as he walks home. I bicker at his back. ”Why do we always have to leave early? Why don’t we ever stay?” I’m drunk-annoyed. I let his back have it, but I still follow.

Because, in the end, I’m with him. It’s good to be out of the club. It’s good to be in the cold air. It’s good to go home. It’s good to go back into the little bubble we’ve made. Secretly, I’m relieved we’re going home, but I don’t tell him that. Not in words. For now I indulge.

I just snog him on the door step, and the knowing smile he gives me, because he knows me so well, is all I need to shut the door to the world of Stephen, the social monster. In the end I’m more like Mark than Stephen. I just pretend otherwise sometimes. Now, we’ll give it a couple of more weeks before we relent again.

The last little embers of this break

Going away is always lovely, but so is coming home. That first whiff of the familiar smells of home, the smell of the washing up liquid, the slightly dry and a little sweet and lemony of the washing liquid we used last time we tidied the house. And of course, the lingering smell of the dogs and the cat.

Poor Auntie brought home the dogs and the cat, and Watson always tears toward us so hard that it’s like he’ll slice his head off through the collar. Lady is as excited as Watson, but restrained. Or tries to be more restrained. Except she’s so happy she forgets how to wag her tail. George of course just strokes against our legs.

Then the interrogations start. What did we do? How was my uncle, my other aunt, the cousins? Who was that guy we stayed with? Where do we know him from? How did we meet? Was the weather as awful as they said on the telly? We didn’t get into any trouble, did we? Where did we go? Was there a lot of people out? And so on, and so on.

First Auntie asked the question. The Mark gave a ring to his parents to tell them we were home, and had to repeat the answers. Then I texted my mum to tell her we were home, and had to answer the same questions when she rang. The same story repeated half a dozen times within an hour of us coming home, in other words.

It seems like the balances have been reestablished, and a night in our own bed has reset the old ticker. Tomorrow, I go back to London again and start the daily commute. Things go back to normal, and this magical travel time will be over. Life will continue in its usual plodding pace as it did before, but today… today a little bit of that magic still linger, and the magic of being home again remains. Time enough to muddle through in the coming days, but today I’m going to enjoy the last little embers of this break.