So, my odyssey was drawing itself into a foetal position. It was the best way to protect itself.
My friend and I had endured a lot in the previous few years. There had been one moment, one seminal moment, when we had decided to take life on at its own game; and beat it. We actually thought that we could do it and I now believe that this was the perfect definition of vainglorious. Pride was there with us, but pride left when the going started to get tough.
And there we were, in Mallorca. Life had been playing with us, making us think that there was a chance, before snatching it away once again. Suckers, that’s what we were, trusting suckers who had been drawn in by their own mistaken faith in their own abilities. It was a relief that neither of us talked of, or believed, in the future.
I left him at the cafe and went back to the apartment to shower. I had arranged to talk to Claire. She was desperate for me to stay at the school, if only to provide her with some support against those that had ranged themselves against us.
“Don’t let them beat you, Matt,” she implored as we sat at another cafe sipping at beers.
“I was beaten a long, long time ago, Claire. All I want now is to rest. But the fuckers are following me wherever I go. They turn up and do a twirl and shake all their full-head of snakes in my face. Now, I know that I’m mad, but why does everybody else have to follow suit?”
“You’re not mad, Matt. It’s them. I can’t believe it. I’m supposed to be working in a school that educates children, teaches them right from wrong, how to behave, how to be kind and understanding. And what do they see? They see adults acting like children, bullying and bad-mouthing. It makes me sick. I’m glad that you’re here or I would have thought that it was me who was mad and not them!”
We were having an outpouring on a Friday evening. The sun was shining and the drinks were flowing in the bar that sat close to the marina. I had told my friend that I was just having a little work chat with my colleague and that he would be bored. the problem was that he was bored. He wanted to do the town thing, the painting red and all of that stuff; without a drink. His choice, throughout the stay, was Cafe con Leche. Dries you out then wires you up. The work chat went on for about an hour and only finished when I promised to go back to work on the Monday morning. After that, I went to find my caffeine-soaked compadre.
I found him in a bar at the other side of town and he didn’t look happy to see me.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, tentatively.
“Nothing, mate. It’s all good.”
“Nothing. It’s all good.”
I wanted to ask him what was so good. what on earth was so bloody wonderful that you had to sing its praises every time you uttered a line of conversation. I sat down at the table and ordered a drink from a miserable looking bar-man who was trying his hardest not to look like the shark he really was. My friend did the staring off in to the middle-distance trick that told me that he was pissed-off. I took a gulp from the drink that shark-man had deposited on the table and felt like getting pissed. Indeed, I was starting to get pissed, but in an American kind of way. Phrasal verbs wherefore art thou?
I waited for him to talk. I didn’t have to wait long.
“So, where have you been?” I was sure this was my mate and not my wife. “You’ve left me sitting here on my own where I don’t know anybody whilst you go off and have a drink with a person from work, without inviting me. Thanks, mate. What’s wrong? Are you embarrassed about me?”
The world had just gone and done one of its stranger things. It had turned my cycling buddy into a wife-betrayed. I tried to reason with him, to laugh it off, to make light of the situation. I even told him that he was not my wife, girlfriend or mother. I tried to make him laugh, but the laughter wasn’t there and wouldn’t come. That moment was so strange that I thought he must have been playing a practical joke on me. That was before he launched into a litany of accusations.
He lay the evidence directly before me.
- We had never been to Magaluf.
- I read too much.
- I had to always be persuaded to go out for a ride after I had finished work.
- I never did the washing up.
- I drank in front of him.
- I didn’t include him in drinks with people from work.
- I was always moaning about how hard my life was.
- I never gave him a second thought as this was his holiday and perhaps the only one he was going to get.
- He was bored shitless.
- This was the worst holiday that he’d ever experienced.
- He couldn’t wait to get home the next day.
And with that, he was gone, striding up the street and back to the apartment. A number of people were casually looking at me, no doubt thinking that we had just shared a tiff. It felt like that. I exhaled a short laugh and tried to put what he had said into some perspective. Unfortunately, it was too late. He had betrayed me and my friendship.
For a while, I tried to do an Atticus. I attempted to draw upon my reserves of empathy and understanding. He was my friend and somebody I truly wanted to help. We had set off on this adventure at the same time. We had toiled and laboured through adversity and had both had our arses kicked. We were ensnared by issues relating to our mental wellbeing. He was my friend and his little outburst was probably a cry for help. I should understand. I should be a better man.
None of this Atticus-shit happened. I just conjured the phrase, ‘Fuck Him!’ and branded him as an ungrateful bastard. Just another bastard in a world of bastards. Never trust anyone and then you won’t get let down.
When I got back to the apartment, his door was closed. I phone my wife, increased the volume of my voice and told her everything that had just taken place. Mr Finch had deserted me and I was raging.
My own litany was laid out for all to hear.