My wife has a 7pm meet at a local pub.
“What’ll you do while I’m out?”
I think. “I’ll come. Have a pint and wait. Read my book.”
It’s a ten-minute walk to the pub; it’s old fashioned, tired. The main bar and a side room are lit, a pool room and one other room are dark.
Two bar staff tend four or five drinkers. The regulars sing along to 80s songs on the jukebox. Swear often and loudly. The F word, common enough; I use myself. The C-word; harsh and ugly. Staff and punters join in.
I take my pint into the room. Seat myself in the corner on what, despite the dark, I know are faded, worn seats; I’ve been in here before. Back when it was just a tired old pub and not the dive it has become in the time since I was last in here.
I take out my Kindle, lose myself in the Sinaloa drug wars and Art Keller’s fight.
Minutes pass. The room light comes on, harsh and cold. Stark. This pub wouldn’t know mood lighting and ambience if it fell over them in, unsurprisingly, the dark.
I wait. Drink from my pint, savouring the rich, black brew. Try to focus on the words. The light annoys me. It really annoys me.
I walk to the bar. Stop halfway and say, “I’m okay if you want to switch off the light. I’m happy enough in the dark. I’ve got the light from my book.”
A regular calls out. “This guy wants to sit in the fuckin’ dark!” Laughs amid the strains of Nena and her red balloons. “He wants the lights off!” Oaths and oafs. The difference is subtle.
I return to my seat and my Guinness. “No. I mean it. I’m perfectly alright in the dark.”
More minutes pass. Then the lights go off.
I read. Concentrate on the page, white and bright in the gloom. Again I enter Winslow’s world, enjoy the third part of the trilogy. My book is all the light I need to see my pint with.
The regulars get louder. Their swearing more frequent. The music louder. More irritating.
My book occupies me despite the rising volume.
The regular leaves his throne, makes his way to the toilets. As he passes my darkened room, he calls out. “You, in the dark, you’re not a serial killer are you.” He laughs and enters the gents.
“No.” I drain my pint, close my book. “Not yet at least.”