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by Gerard McKeown

In the only Botchergate pub we didn’t have to queue to get into, I sip a malty tasting pint of Amstel while you hurry down your gin and tonic. You wanted me to have an argument with the barman about your drink. I wish you’d have your own fights about your own things. I hope if they spit in our next drink, they’ll only spit in yours.

The rot became noticeable around the time we redecorated the house. The smell of paint forced us outdoors, to cafes in the daytime, where we’d be consumed by our books and not notice we didn’t talk, then to pubs in the evening, where we’d get drunk enough to talk to ourselves.

This pub is lo-fi, but I like that. They’re playing punk with a bit of soul thrown in. The punters are lively, but everyone sticks to their own crowd; that seems to be how it is going out these days.

I tell you I like the pub and you say you don’t like the walls. The walls are yellow, a colour I hate, whether it’s nicotine, mustard, or pus, but it’s the first thing you can find to dislike, apart from the music; you hate it when I play punk in the house.

I’d like to stay for a few more drinks and just enjoy being out of the house together, or not being in the house together. But I know as you lean your head forward to say something in my ear that it’ll be we should go home after this drink.

“Let’s go home when we finish these,” you say, before gulping down almost all of your drink.

I take my pint slower, because I know the bus ride back to Stanwix will be mostly silent, punctuated by snippets or snipes of disappointment. My words will do nothing to change that. My actions won’t either. It will just be another night out that never lived up to your secret standard. We will go home to inhale the fumes from our freshly painted walls and hope we don’t vomit. Tomorrow we will peel wallpaper and talk about how new colours and patterns will be invigorating. The paint will dry, while we observe every slow second.

Gerard McKeown is an Irish writer living in London. His work has been featured in The Moth, 3:AM, and Litro, among others. In 2017 he was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.