While deciding whether we should get pudding, Adrian waffles on about this card game from the US. His voice’s kept low, and for good reason, considering his favourite cards are “A sad handjob” and “Nickelback”, which he doesn’t even say out loud because we’re in public. And I think that’s probably the thing that hooks me about it. Screw the cards, I want to play a game you can’t talk about in public.
“I’m up for it,” I say, throwing down my napkin. I’ve splashed out too much for tonight. I can’t restock anyways, so I might as well enjoy being broke again.
Adrian’s clearly surprised. “Really?” he asks, folding his napkin before putting it on the table. “Would’ve thought you had...other plans.”
Fuck that. I’d rather see what the actual fuck this game is.
DAG’s chuffed for it.
Murph. I mean Murph.
is the most fantastic thing on the face of the fucking planet.
And Murph looking confused and asking us to explain what “smegma” is both appalling and hilarious. Made my fucking night perfect.
After that round ends, we play five more until Adrian’s flatmates come back, fucking loud and pissed, and then we move into his room.
The room looks like one of those sad, apocalyptic holding cells. And the window looks out onto a carpark. But I have to give him kudos for trying to decorate. I’m impressed by that.
But then it’s my turn for this game Adrian tried to explain. Not completely sure when we abandoned the cards, or when the window opened, but they’re sweaty-looking and knackered, but they’re more interesting than just me cruising right now. So what?
“Okay...” I think for a moment and scoot myself against the radiator and the corner. “My dad abandoned me on my birthday, my...brother’s on a schol’rship program for uni, and my...” I tap my fingers on the desk. “...I’m secretly a hoarder.”
Adrian glares at me. He snickers. “I count all of those as truths.”
Murph makes this horrified gasp. He takes off his glasses and puts them to the side. “No! It’s got to be the hoarding! That got to be the one that’s a lie!”
I shrug. “Take your pick.”
Murph sighs. “I don’t think you’re a hoarder.”
I look at Adrian.
“Your dad left on your birthday,” he finally says.
“Murph’s right, I’m not a hoarder.”
Murph fistbumps the air. Adrian stomps the ground in frustration.
It might be how knackered I am, too, but I actually kinda like hanging with these guys. They’re more simple-minded than everyone else I know. It’s refreshing.
“Wait, so your dad did leave on your birthday?”
I look at Adrian, whose hard stare’s been switched out by something else. Sympathy or whatever. But I shrug and say, “Yeah. No worries. ’m fine.”
“Look, I get if you don’t wanna talk about this shit.” Adrian takes in a slow breath. “I...I got my own issues with my Dad.”
“Like what?” I ask.
His eyes narrow again. “Like, well, I came out to him, and he disowned me.”
I lean forward. “Fuck, really?”
“Yeah.” Adrian purses his lips. He looks at me with this almost pained, tired expression. “Yeah, I, uh, came out to him and he disowned me.” Adrian shakes his head and looks away. “At that point, we weren’t on best of terms, but...it was...not a good time.” He exhales and shrugs. “But it happened. Can’t change that.”
I shrug again. “I get tha’. What happens, happens. Yeah?”
I swallow and look away for a second. I don’t know what time it is anymore. I nod to Murph and ask, “Anything from you?”
“No shit parents or anythin’?”
His leg bounces on the floor. “Not...really. I live with my aunt.”
“Where’re your parents?”
He doesn’t answer.
I can hear Adrian’s flatmates in the common area laughing about American football. The walls’re too thin.
Murph suddenly puts on his glasses and stands. “I’m tired,” he announces, smiling.
I’m not convinced by the smile.
Adrian pulls out his phone. “Holy shit, it’s almost two.” He stands. “Wanna get lunch tomorrow before we go to the museum?” Murph nods. Adrian looks at me. “I guess you’re coming along, yeah?”
I don’t say anything for some reason.
Adrian hums. “Now shoo. Out. You’re not sleeping on my floor tonight.”
I stand up. “Yeah, yeah. I, uh...gotta get back to my mates.”
Adrian pats me on the shoulder. “You’re not that trashy, Tommy.” He turns and closes the curtains. “Now get out so I can sleep.” I follow Murph out the bedroom door and towards the staircase.
Murph jumps onto a landing and looks up at me. “Did you have fun?” he asks. He smiling, but it’s a hopeful one.
I don’t want to say I did. So I say, “It was a’right.”
He doesn’t seem pleased by the answer. “He’s a good guy, Adrian.” Murph turns and begins walking down the stairs. “He doesn’t put on any veils of pretending. He’s just...Adrian.” He looks back at me. “And I really like that.”
Is he fucking calling me fake?
Murph then wipes his eyes and slips down a step. “I guess I’m getting to be a little too tired. A philosopher comes out when I’m sleepy.” He proceeds down, and I follow him.
The air’s too cold for February, but he seems to take it in strides. We walk up towards Coronet Street and turn towards Pitfield Street.
Murph isn’t looking at me, though.
His pace quickens.
He slows down and looks at me. “That’s the first time you’ve said my name.” He grins. “Neat.”
Okay, plonker. “Murph?”
He blinks. “What?”
I swallow. “I, uh, ...didn’t mean to, put ya on the spot. Back there.”
Murph smiles, but it isn’t an actual smile. If that makes sense. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I know.” He turns when we get to the corner. “Old Street’s down that way, and my flat is up that way.” He inhales and smiles. “Would you want to come to the Natural History Museum with me and Adrian tomorrow?”
I shrug. “Can’t tomorrow. Got a work thing.”
“You can’t wiggle out of it?” he asks.
“If it was a family thing, I would. But can’t.”
He nods. “Got it. But I’ll keep you posted if anything comes up, okay?”
I nod. “Yeah.”
He raises his hand for a high-five, except my brain doesn’t get it it. He puts his hand down and whispers, “Night, Tommy.”
We turn our separate ways.
And I can’t remember the last time I had a good night out like this.