Difficult to justify my behaviour this evening as the kerb grates against the back of my head. Difficult to keep my dinner down amidst the spinning lights and the belches of warm, yeasty air from the nightclub doors. The coldness of the road is beginning to reach through my jacket as people crowd around.
‘You alright, mate?’
‘He didn’t mean nothing by it…’
‘You ain’t gonna press charges, are ya?’
Hands grab me and haul me upright. A bouncer scans my eyes to check for concussion, neurologist that he is. The graze is correctly identified as the impact point of the punch and, yes, the lump on the back of my head as where it struck concrete. Silent Witness this is not. The door steward’s counterpart is face-to-face with a man who is presumably my assailant, ushering him away from the club with nothing but leather-clad girth. I can smell vomit; my hand reaches around to where I was pressed against the road and comes back slick.
Just another drunken brawl.
Just another awkward, fumbling explanation to my wife when I get home.
Just another weekend wasted.
Lord knows I bring this on myself. What do I expect to find out here amidst the drunkenness and the debauchery and the violence? A buzz of comradery? A sense of my own superiority? I’m not sure anymore. It’s been years since I got anything from being here.
A shout catches my attention, but it’s not another fight starting. It is Jon, walking towards me with a concerned look on his face and his clerical collar askew against his cassock. Perhaps he too has been the recipient of some idiot’s misplaced aggression.
‘You okay?’ More eyes scan my face as my fellow pastor holds up a bag of water bottles and foam flipflops. ‘Need some more?’
‘Not exactly feeding the five thousand, is it?’
Jon smiles and heads off towards where a girl is vomiting into a drain, her hair held back by a friend. He leaves the bag of flipflops and water with me.
‘No,’ he shouts back over his shoulder. ‘But I like to think that if the Sea of Galilee had run a Freshers Week, even Jesus might have had to prioritise.’
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order.