The following is a fictional story with fictional characters. If there are parallels to reader’s lives, I apologize and offer my condolences.
I wait in an empty cinema lobby for friends who I haven’t seen for ages and am both dreading it and looking forward to it. It must be seven or eight years since I’ve seen them. You know the story; work takes over, we have families and move on. I decided to contact them to catch up on old times and try to rekindle the friendship we had before. It’s sad when you approach an age that loneliness is painful. You want to improve your social life by any means, whether it’s sport, a trip to the cinema or other activities.
As one film ends, the lobby fills, and then empties as quickly as it filled. Shortly after, two of my friends arrive and we exchange our hellos and insult each others weight gain, as friends normally do when they haven’t seen each other in a while. The truth is we were all gaining a little weight. The lack of the football we played together does that to you, as do our ‘working’ lives. Both look the same otherwise. Ron is more portly than he was and Dave has more hair on his face than he has on his head.
‘Wow. Good to see you guys again,’ I said.
‘And you,’ Ron replies. ‘What have you been up to?’
‘Apart from being unemployed, I went back to college to brush up on a few skills. And I’m still looking for a job. And you two?’
‘Computers still,’ Ron says. ‘Every so often they threaten to move me elsewhere, but I’ve managed to avoid it.’
‘Ah. Nothing’s changed that much,’ Dave says. ‘Still married and still packaging, but with another company. Thankfully. Who else is coming?’
‘Nobody. Just us three.’
‘Just us three? Come on D. Where are the others?’ Ron asks.
‘He probably didn’t ring the others,’ Dave laughs, nudging Ron to remind him he just told a joke. Ron duly obliges and laughs with Dave.
‘Ha ha,’ I reply sarcastically. ‘I tried ten of the guys including you…’
‘Ten,’ Ron says disbelievingly.
‘…Yup, we’re a few short team wise. I couldn’t get a hold of Brian or Tom. I’m not too sure if I have Tom’s number any more. Joe’s immigrated to Canada his sister tells me…’
‘Joe’s immigrated?’ Ron echoes.
‘…And Steve, except he’s gone to Japan strangely enough. Peadar’s going through a rough time. He smokes and drinks like a trooper. He got laid off a year or two back, not long after, his Mum died and he’s never recovered…’
‘God. That’s awful,’ Dave says. ‘Still, we could have…’
‘…Persuaded him?’ I interrupted. ‘I tried. He wouldn’t have it. I offered him my condolences and said if he ever needed a shoulder. Et cetera. Et cetera. Ken works in Tipp now and couldn’t come up to meet us. I met his sister a few weeks back and she told me he’s living with a Polish fella and isn’t having a good time of it in Tipp. I told Jenny that perhaps we’ll go down to Tipp one day to cheer him up.’
‘I didn’t know he was gay,’ Ron ads.
‘Neither did his family until three years ago. He had a job up here, but managed to find one in Tipp and moved down not long after he came out. Al lived down the road in Priory Hall. He’s screwed by the banks and that ‘builder.’ His finances are so bad he can’t afford a paper cup from a coffee shop to beg on the streets. Even though I’m in shit street myself, I offered to pay buy him a ticket, but no. He’s struggling to support one wife and four kids. He sounds as if he’s got depression like Peadar. ‘
‘I’ve heard enough.’
‘I wish I did too. Jimmy died three months back. An accident, his wife bluntly said to me. I didn’t manage to get the full story. It felt wrong. I didn’t even know it happened.’
‘Fuck,’ both Ron and Dave said in unison.
Silence fell and almost knocked us down. It felt like I punched my friends in the stomach and that I said too much. It felt exactly like when my friends on the phone relayed their stories to me. The air was so dense, it would blunt a sharp knife if it attempted to cut it.
I interrupt the uneasy silence.
‘We should go to the pub each week and reminisce,’ I said for fear of my own sanity. I hope what happened to my absent friends does not happen to me, Dave or Ron.
Both Dave and Ron nod. We head on in to the cinema.