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.