Paying My Respects

The writer returned to his seat at the table to my right. He took a sip from his red wine so slight as to be hardly worth the bother at all, before surveying the words he’d written so far. To my left I could hear that the others had resumed their conversation again, whatever it was about. They were locked right in there, face to face, and they weren’t giving up eye contact easily.

I turned back to my friend with the wine and the pad. Alarm bells should have started ringing, but I was more than a few pints in. What can I say? My watchdog was sleeping the slumber of slow, afternoon ales and café chickpea curries.

‘So, what are you writing there, then?’ I asked.

The man smiled thinly, and nodded in the affirmative, answering some silent, internal question before he answered mine. I realised the conversation to my left had suddenly gone silent. I could feel what they were thinking: here we go again.

He looked directly at me for the first time. ‘Just writing some lyrics,’ he said. His speech was very even, like everything about him. Like a lawn that had been clipped meticulously, there wasn’t a blade out of step from front to back. What little hair he had left was mid-brown and neat, his skin was clean and neither dark nor pasty. He was of medium build and height, perhaps a little on the slight side. Mediocre. As unremarkable as it’s possible to be.

‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘so you’re in a band?’

‘Well, I play the guitar and sing,’ he said.

‘Oh, I play the guitar too,’ I enthused before catching myself. Immediately I heard the sound of my own voice and cringed. Does it even need to be said in a bar like The Temple? Of course I play the guitar. Everyone plays the guitar.

‘So what kind of stuff are you into?’

He wetted his lips with his wine once again, more for affectation than anything else. ‘The whole gamut of stuff really, though I take most of my inspiration from the early 70s… Bolan, Bowie, a bit of the Velvets…’ We spoke for a while about different bands, different records. The light doesn’t change in The Temple, a minute is an hour, an hour is forever. We traversed several generations of music, a roll-call of underground bands and iconic artists. The usual suspects, you might say.

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