It’s sometime in the morning, I don’t know. All I want is coffee. That’s it. But no ghastly milk or sugar, just super strong 4X espresso. We have little food – we’re trying to save cash as Sarah’s decided to do her PhD this year and I’ll be doing my MA. The problem is we keep to our draconian budget, eating very healthily but basic vegetarian meals (thankfully we’ve taught ourselves how to cook). It’s when we go out together, meet for a nice pint in some respectable boozer someplace, that inevitably one pint leads to three, and I start on spirits, we go somewhere else and drink a lot more, and then we run out of money, and we argue.
We’re both two boilers, of cartoonish aspect, when we’re both pissed, which only a sharp eye bored but all-too-steeped in society like F. Scott Fitzgerald could appropriately take the piss out of. We’re familiar, reader. We argue, she becomes inflamed by some daft little comment I make – meagre to me, colossal to her – and I make it clear that really I don’t care a hang for it, and she gets even more furious. These arguments take on a ferocious appearance, and we are obviously awkward and poor company for others around us, such as at Christmas family meals at my genteel grandmother’s, drinking with old friends at a sunny evening barbecue. It’s pretty embarrassing in hindsight.
I’ll give you some examples. This one was extra stupid, and happened a few days ago. We went to a bar near London Bridge where a very good friend has become bar manager, and so of course we relished taking appropriate advantage of the friendly surroundings and £2 for most drinks. Her hallmark of self-abandon is to drink two drinks on the go – pear cider and white wine for instance; mine is to drink large measures of single-malt scotch or pastis, and to reiterate under increasingly impatient interrogation that I am not pissed – “I’m fine, onnessly!“, with one hand contorted into itself like the claw of a small mammal, standing on its hind legs in a manner of curiosity. As we were leaving after several hours drinking, I got quite animated by some ludicrous point, some kind of running joke entirely forgotten now, and I started leaping about when I pulled too hard and she fell splat over, hurting her hands and knees. She was understandably shaken, and bloody furious. It continued with absurd and theatrical silences and gritted teeth on the journey home, with pathetic apologising and a general miasma.
Another time, again only a week ago, took on equally ridiculous proportions. We were wasted during daylight hours – I’d met her after a day in the library and so I hadn’t eaten, with two pints of dire Guinness hitting me – and we were supposed to have supper at my gran’s house. I numbered things later after a harsh exchange, after trying to conjure up an apology that could fix the situation. She is angry when I do not apologise, and she attacks and untangles my apologies when I do, as being false and insincere. Most of the time I’m apologising for the situation itself. Point 1) I told her that we’d only need oyster fare for 1 bus, but this was because I’d planned either to walk for 45 minutes or catch “the free bus“, known locally as the bendy bus or more technically as the 436, for most of the journey. These options didn’t appeal, and I should’ve remembered she hates both. 2) We argued about this on the bus, and then I told her to “drop it“, that it wasn’t worth arguing about. Raar! I was pretty rude here and again this was my fault. 3) I walked to fast at Peckham bus garage to catch the bus. 4) I didn’t wait long enough to ensure she got her bus pass out her bag to catch the bloody bus and 5) I’ve forgotten, but was pretty much something stupid and thoughtless said on the bus afterwards.
Thank you reader for your patience here. I present now the final argument, the purpose, the small slither of information you can download and drag into the folder called ‘the folly of human society’ or ‘wankers and arseholes’ or what not. We have these ridiculous arguments all of the time whenever we both drink alcohol together. Although she is more caustic and uncensored in her criticisms, I hope that others who have been in a relationship recognise that the quiet or passive partner in argument can insult and infuriate equally well, in far more subtle ways. I would say I don’t mean to, but there is an anger behind saying to “drop it“, an arrogance in trying to undermine someone with “calm down now, for fuck’s sake“.
Usually by the end she refuses to speak to me, and I sometimes consider walking out. Shamefully however I am generally too drunk and tired to muster the energy to carry this out. Experiences of disappearances in the past have been dangerous and stupid – trying to climb off our balcony in an absinthe-induced fugue, or roaming around Crystal Palace park at night, then returning to the flat sheepishly. Most of the time I know I’m being an arse, and with what age I have this little grubby shell of wisdom has been picked out on the sands.
In bed, at four in the morning, restless and sleeping lightly in the way you cannot possibly get comfortable in after a night’s boozing, we sense that the other is awake, a cold arm is raised and placed around the other, and a warmness suffuses through again. Apologies begin, proper ones this time, our bodies embrace, bloated and clammy and reeking of alcohol, and at last I take off my shoes and jacket (I tend to sleep fully-dressed after an argument, generally in the kitchen or bathroom). This is the one consolation and the sole source of my strength. These embraces save me each time, and usually have prevented me from withering towards the pat consolations of eastern mysticism or dumb self-pity.