Walter Hargreaves had ended his long and overdue conference within the mirror as the voices of his guests signified that the cab had arrived. He told the form in the reflective surface that he would return in a few hours time, and that he had better still be there when he returns.
Stepping out of the taxi, Rebecca nearly twisted and snapped her ankle under her ridiculous heals. Serves her right, the drunken fool, though Hargreaves as he also staggered onto the roadside, led by the fumes of gin.
‘Do we have time for a cigarette before we go in?’ Asked Hargreaves with no reply, so he withdrew his packet and sparked up a cigarette as the others made their way down the steps of the bar.
It was in these times when Hargreaves would really sink into himself, as he stared at a tramp who was edging nearer, he saw this man as a once successful stock broker who had fell on hard times, what with the Situation, or whatever the bloody hell it was. He say this man as one who clawed at the check-books of the unsuspecting.
‘Serves you bloody right!’ Called Hargreaves aloud, his voice clearly heard by the homeless chap who looked upon him with saddened confusion. Hargreaves was having none of it, and his mind was already made up. He threw some coppers onto the ground, and left to the sound of scrabbling.
In the bar he found where his friends were sitting. Rick, Rebecca, Ruth, and Robert. They all began with a H. He didn’t, he thought, and maybe they knew it too. This little club of theirs and the similarities. Look as the smug bastard pours himself a drink, if I wasn’t me, I’d-
‘Walter, do sit down, you’re blocking the lovely boys’ gestured Ruth with her painted nails ‘They’ve gone through all that trouble to get to where they are, so should at least look at them. Otherwise who knows what would have all been for nothing. Do you not fancy one, Walter?’
‘You know I don’t. They are not my type.’
‘Is it true, Walter, that you don’t actually have a type at all, and that you just portray the illusion that you do?’
‘Illusion? No, he’s never even gone as far as that.’
They all laughed, and I laughed with them as Robert’s eyes began to leak out the secrets of his internal mechanics.
After a while had passed, and the pub was clearing of life, Walter took his jacket, and waved goodbye to the remaining Hs. In the cab again, he avoided the conversations about the weather, and the current immigration statistics that had seemed to anger the driver to such an extent, that his car stalled several times. That is what you get for buying British.
Withdrawing a cigarette he began the conference once more. This time the shaded image took some time to surface as Hargreaves had to replace the bathroom light-bulb. It took three Hargreaves to screw in the light-bulb, because the other two came crashing to the ground as they drunkenly stood on an old stool with pain marks from last October.
He had dropped four of the bulbs which now made a pleasing crunch on the floor that soothed Hargreaves greatly so he made a note of the bathroom wall with some old eye-liner that he had found in the cabinet. God knows how that got there, but they’re dead and was never worth asking when they were alive.
He lit his cigarette and sat on the toilet with mirror in hand.
‘Right, now listen here you little shit, how come those reports where late, hmm? Do you not think that I would like to have them round my ankles sometimes?’
His reflection lay silent with a smirk across his face which almost caused Hargreaves to launch it against the wall with anger. As he held it back, the mirror spoke
‘Well, what are you blaming me for, I wasn’t there.’
‘Yes you were!’ called Hargreaves ‘I saw you in the panelled walls.’
‘And yet, YOU did nothing.’
Hargreaves had to leave at once, the reflection had got him again. He felt as though there were no ways to approach it, it always had the upper hand.
Clearing the table of the Nina Simone CD, with powdered lines cut across her face, Hargreaves sank into his leather arm chair.
He switched on the television.
He switched off the television.
Aggravated, Hargreaves got to his feet and made for the door, grabbing his jacket on the way. He felt a bit hazy, but a few more should do it, he thought, as he swung the door open closely followed by a complaining neighbour. He didn’t seem to mind. That was elsewhere.
Ignoring the old man who was telling Hargreaves of a number of raves he attended some years ago, Hargreaves looked at his watch and noticed that it was still broken.
‘Once that feeling built up inside me, I just had to hug the nearest person.’
‘Excuse me, do you have the time?’ Hargreaves interrupted the stream of memories.
‘Can I have a hug?’
‘No, of course not.’ Hargreaves replied, somewhat uncertain of his intention. This poor man’s eyes turned to a daggered stare.
‘Well you can’t have the fucking time!’ He yelled, before raising to his feet to beat a rhythm as he left.
Wouldn’t give me the time of day, thought Hargreaves as he forced his hands into his pocket. The cold will get him, and it will get me.
He wandered down to the centre of town, to the last of the bars. Dives they were, and full of all things of painful vices. These visits had become a frequent experience for Hargreaves, as he pushed open the door to be hit by the laser-lights cascading from the spinning ball. There he saw the crowds sweat-soaked, fluorescent dancers who had been at it all night, pounding their bodies to fit the walls with movement. They looked wide-eyed and free.
Hargreaves approached the bar to find another man with a glass of wine, and an e-cigarette clutched tightly. The bar was unusually clear, given the dancers.
He stood beside the man, and ordered himself a neat glass of gin, and placed his coins into the hands of the barman who sniffed harshly as he placed it in the register. Hargreaves downed the glass and demanded another glass. He could hardly hear, but he could see his lips say ‘sure’.
A fainted hum was followed by a tug of the jacket. Walter span round to see the man moving a little closer.
‘So, buddy what do you do?’ he asked, and before Hargreaves could answer he followed with ‘I’m a high-school teacher, well, was until today that is. Twenty-three years I spent at that place. English. Like kids want to know about books, no. Some do. But you just can’t inject the enthusiasm. I shouted at this little arsehole, and then they bring me to the office? They accused me of all sorts. Things, with the children. It simply wasn’t true, but that is the power they have these days…’
Hargreaves wanted to crowbar himself from this confrontation, or crowbar the face of this man.
‘… I think Shelia will understand. High School sweetheart, you see. I think I have a picture of her on…’
Walter wasn’t going to hear another word about it, and made for the rest-rooms to was his face. He brushed passed and found himself covered in sweat. Both his and theirs. He saw the faces alive, with lips biting, eyes rolling, head swaying, hips swinging. They held up their hands as if receiving an offering. Hargreaves noticed that he had to dance his way through them, as walking incurred several awkward bumps and shoves. As he glided through, the lights hit his eyes and revealed the path to the rest rooms. Almost there.
He shared something with another patron, and left the cubical and cancelled his discussion with the mirror outside.