“And I’m gonna eat less takeaway, and drink less beer, and –”
“Nah, you can’t drink less beer,” Mike tells me with a shake of his head. “You can’t stop coming to the pub.”
“I’ll still come to the pub, I’ll just drink summat else.”
“Vodka!” Tom announces. “Vodka’s purer than beer. And if you have it with cranberry, ‘cos cranberry’s good for your kidneys, it basically cancels out the alcohol. I read it in Jen’s Cosmo magazine.”
Keith sneers at him. “What you reading Cosmo for, you wanker?”
The group erupts into cackles at Tom’s expense.
He rolls his eyes and says: “You laugh, but if you all insist you’ve never read your missuses’ girly magazines, you’re all fuckin’ liars!”
As the laughter subsides I retrace my thoughts and hold a finger in the air to get the conversation back on track. “More gym. Less takeaway. Less beer, more vodka. And I’m not gonna forget Valentine’s day this year.”
The group cheer and Mike gives me a pat on the back. I feel invigorated and grin dopily at him.
“Smithy! Your turn next,” says Keith.
All eyes turn to Smithy, who has been quietly observing us in his usual way, offering little more than a half-smile every now and again. He sighs, drains the last third of his pint, swirls the froth in the glass as he swallows, then discards it on the table before him.
His eyes remain on the pint glass. “I’m gonna try and stop hitting her.”
The group stays quiet. We all look to the pint glass too, as though its holding chair of our merry meeting. It hasn’t got eyes, you see, and looking into another man’s eyes in a situation like this is almost unbearable.
The same thoughts are in everyone’s mind, I reckon. We’d seen the signs for years before. But if we see them now, after this verbal confession, and continue to do nothing, we’ll officially be complicit.
It’s the heaviest revolution of the night, and it sobers me right up.
Smithy always puts a fucking downer on everything.