St. Sasha of the Night – Part One
August 6, 2014 § 2 Comments
The conference officially ended three hours ago which would make it now eight or a touch past eight, and the four gastroenterologists – or rather, three with one aspiring – are now commemorating their five-day makeshift friendship at a pub in the dapper locality of The Rocks.
Three laminated passes hang visible at the end of Pfizer and Sanofi lanyards slung around necks recently freed of ties and shirts buttoned-up to the collar. This flagrant display of professional status could be due to simple absent-mindedness, or it could be that some men still believe their vocation to be sexy and simply irresistible to the lay pub-going masses.
Hamburg Iiver physician Darius Renker strongarms them all into one more round of this charming beer Asahi, Japanese, crisp and light on its feet unlike the obese, warm, frothy brews Sasha is accustomed to being forced into sipping on. While Renker is off at the bar buying, local boy Cal Marvale informs Sasha and their Tampa, Florida, colleague Kermode that Asahi is so widely guzzled in Sydney that it may as well be an Aussie brew. “Kind of how Foster’s is almost considered a Yankee drink now,” Marvale adds with a smirk.
“Yeah…nobody in Yankeeland considers it a Yankee drink,” says the Yank.
“Okay. Ouch. Imagine: you have a divorce. Mum’s trying to toss full custody of the kid to dad and dad’s like ‘no, he’s better off with you.’ Foster’s Lager: the unwanted child.”
Kermode’s grin has a wonky skew to it. He downs the last bit of foamy piss from the bottom of his schooner and straightens his lips with the rim of the glass. He doesn’t care an inch for these young cowboys who make a good bit of coin running cameras up people’s backsides in place of real doctoring; who talk like adolescents.
To avoid the tensed-up silence, Sasha looks around the interior of Oddknots Hotel bar floor. He figures you can tell a lot about a place by the way its people go about public drinking on midweek evenings. If Oddknots was anything to go by, he’d say Sydneysiders don’t drink much, that they drink at home, or that they drink in pubs other than Oddknots. And that they all drink cider.
The hepatologist approaches their tall and slender roundtop table as though walking on the thinnest ice, four dewy bottle huddled together in his warm palms. He’s clearly never waited a table in his life, the way all his thought and effort is focused on his not dropping thirty four dollars’ worth of imported alcohol on the carpet.
“Of all the people to encourage drinking,” Kermode says as he gratefully receives a slender, chilly Asahi from Renker.
“Drumming some business up for himself,” says Marvale as he clinks bottlenecks with his three drinking buddies. “He’s a smart bugger this one.”
Sasha smiles as openly as he can as he sets his bottle down unlike the other three who – no time wasted – inaugurate theirs with hungry glugs.
Marvale considers Sasha for a moment and seems to think of something which he chooses not to say. Instead he says, “craft beers are the thing now. Guy I went to med school with, really smart, good doctor…started a craft beer label a couple of years ago: Yardmen/Poolboys, with a slash – a forward slash – between the Yardmen and Poolboys. Doesn’t want to be a surgeon anymore, wants to make esoteric beer. Good on him. I think they’re expanding overseas now, to Bali, and Thailand, two honorary members of the Australian empire.”
“He’d do well in Portland. He should take it there,” Sasha says, relieved that he has now spoken.
“Why Portland? You mean Oregon Portland?” says Renker.
“That’s where all the hippies who drink weird beers are…is what I’ve been told,” Kermode clarifies.
“Hipsters,” Marvale corrects.
“Hippie is short for hipster.”
Marvale rolls the crisp coldness around his mouth, chooses not to respond, and swallows. He knows that the others know that Kermode is full of shit. That’s why Renker is glancing elsewhere. And this guy Sasha…
He looks at Sasha again, at his general otherness. “What do they drink where you’re from? Where’s it that you’re from again?”
“Is that a Bristol accent you’re wearing, mate?”
“It’s a diasporic ECOWAS accent.”
“A what what?”
“Lagos via Bristol. In Lagos they drink Gulder, Star and Guinness because I remember having to get Gulder, Star and Guinness from the fridge for my father and my uncles and their guests when I was a boy. I really don’t know what people usually drink in Bristol.”
“Okay. Then what do you usually drink in Bristol?”
“Milk. Occasionally I drink Coke, or fruit juice mixed with tonic water.”
Marvale smirks, unsure of how much sarcasm Sasha’s sentence was laced with. A great quiet descends on the table and the quartet finish off their beers in the midst of it.
It’s soon a touch past nine and the general body language that the four men display is that of the common breadwinner rounding up their after-work drinking session and preparing to return home to the house-spouse and the children.
“Well…I have an early flight tomorrow so I’d better get moving,” says Kermode, stepping off the tall stool. “Gentlemen: it’s been a pleasure…”
Renker says, “Me too, I fly in six hours.” He holds out a hand first to Sasha (“nice to meet you, Sasha”) and then to Marvale (“Callum. When you’re next in Hamburg.”)
Kermode does the same, shakes hands. The American and the German then conspire to share a taxi and leave the pub doing so. Sasha and the local conspire to remain seated.
“So when’s your flight?”
“A few days from now.”
“Taking some time to see the sights?”
The crowd has grown ever so slightly more boisterous and Sasha must now draw his voice out from deeper down within his innards in order to be heard above the tipsy hum. When he is forced to do this he often squeaks from the strain, and once in a while a gnat of spit will set flight from his mouth and attach itself to the listener’s face and melt into their skin, sometimes going unnoticed by either.
“So, you’re from Sydney,” inquires Sasha, or rather, reiterates.
“Dee Why. Ever been to Dee Why? Know where Dee Why is?”
“I’ve never even heard of Dee Why. How do you spell it?”
“D-double-E W-H-Y. It’s up north, north of the bridge, sits right on the pacific. The ocean’s my bathtub, mate, my washbasin.”
Sasha leans back in his chair and nods absently. The two men look at each other for a moment, but there isn’t much at all in the look they share. Ambient chatter displaces what would normally be called awkward silence. Sasha shuffles forward on his stool and rests his elbows on the table.
“So…like…where are the best places to have a good time?”
Marvale stares; smiles. “A good time? What do you mean by good time, what type of a good time?”
Sasha looks around Oddknots, which has admittedly picked up, and says, “there’s nothing much happening here. I’d like to see where things are really moving, where there’s a buzz, action. Energy.”
“Mate, I haven’t been in that arena for — belch — some time, pardon me.” He leans in, half whispers: “Are you looking to get laid?” He lets the question hang unanswered.
Sasha’s mouth twitches, microscopically. He says, “I just want to have something to talk about when I fly home.”
“You don’t seem to be the biggest fan of talking.”
“Because I have nothing to talk about.”
Marvale holds Sasha’s eyes hostage in a brief but intense stare match. He then leans back. “Come back here on a Friday night, or Saturday. What’s wrong with this place?” He looks around. “There’s nothing wrong with this place, it’s a bloody Tuesday.”
“But you must know other bars you could show me.”
“Nooo no no no no no, there’s nothing to show, buddy, you just walk in, order a beer and see what happens. Chat someone up; leave your tag on as a talking point.” He presents the back of his very vascular left hand. “I’m no longer on the market, as you can see. And I’m too chickenshit to cheat, so I can’t be your John Stockwell. But you’re a big lad. No offense, but you’re black – which women love; you’re a pom, sort of – which may not necessarily help, but it may; you have your whatever accent you call it…you’re reasonably young I assume, you have money and you’re in a foreign land where you have no bridges to burn for the next — when did you say your flight was…?”
“Sunday Morning –”
“– one, two, three, four days in a land that won’t remember you when you’ve fucked off. You don’t need me, mate, what you need is more alcohol.” Marvale shifts off his stool, readies himself for the dismount. “And what I need is to get my hide home soon before I get in trouble. Have you tried Kirin? I’ll get us a couple of Kirins and then I’ll disappear so you can get on with business.”
“It’s Asahi for men with testicles. Watch my satchel.”