The tall gentleman stood loomed over the half naked unconscious body. He decided against touching him, the smell of alcohol percolated through every one of his pores. Marjorie scuttled back on to the deck with a jug of water.

“Shall I drip some on him or pour it all Thomas?”

“Pour it all Marjorie; we want to wake him up.”

“Here you do it, I left my wine inside.”

Marjorie handed Thomas the jug and disappeared back in to party. Thomas let out a sigh before emptying the jug on the man’s face. He dropped the jug on him too for good measure. He peered back in to the party through the window, a crowd had gathered now thanks to Marjorie’s rambling.

The man finally awoke, grunting, coughing and spluttering his insides over the decking area.

“By here sir, are you alright?” Thomas asked.

The man nodded while sitting up. “The hell am I?”

“This is the Annual Gardener’s Gala.”

“Ok” he responded flatly. “I’ll be leavin’ now anyway. Cheers guv’” He quickly rose to his feet and fell back on himself just as fast. Thomas stepped closer attempting to assist the man to his feet. He reciprocated by throwing up over his best Savile Row suit. “Oh for God’s sake!” He shrieked. “Marjorie, I need a towel right this second!” He headed back inside. “How the hell did he get on board in the first place?” A voice asked from inside the party.

Good question the man thought to himself. He didn’t remember being invited to a gardener’s do. The last thing he remembered was that restaurant in Notting Hill. That’s where it all started.

The waitress guided him over to a small corner table next to the stairs. He ordered a straight brandy to cool his nerves. This was his first time doing something like this since he was about 20, 21. He hadn’t told anyone about this seeing as everyone has such mixed reviews on online dating. Though from the number of profiles he’d viewed it seemed everyone in London was taking part. He stayed up until the late hours of Saturday night typing out a template to message to each woman he found attractive. By Sunday afternoon he mustered up the courage to send the template out. His first response came a few hours later from Yvonne, a black social worker from Lambeth. The second was from Rachel, a redhead who works in sales. More and more responses came in over the next few days allowing him to make a choice on who he would agree to meet. He settled on Jeanette a Greek woman who was a few years younger than him. They agreed to meet in Notting Hill seeing as it wasn’t much of a commute for either of them. He set the date for a Friday evening.

He checked his watch again. He checked the messages back and forth on his phone. He was certain he got the time, date and restaurant right. Where the hell was she? The waitress had been over numerous times asking him if he was ready to order. He was on his third brandy now. 45 minutes had passed and not a sign of Jeanette. Maybe she got cold feet, or maybe she came in and saw him but didn’t like what she saw. He had on dark jeans, grey boots, a white t-shirt and his dark grey blazer. His hair was a bit shaggy and he hadn’t shaved since Tuesday. But most girls like the rugged look he told himself. He ordered one more brandy and decided to wait 15 more minutes. He messaged Jeanette on the website asking where she was tonight, and if he’d mixed up the dates. Although he was certain he had not. The waitress came over once more giving him a look of pity and asked him if there’s anything else she can help him with. He swallowed his pride, paid the bill and decided not to let this ruin his evening. There were a ton of bars, clubs and pubs in Notting Hill alone. The city was his oyster.

His first stop was a pub called The Elgin. Ok decor and an ok crowd. He decided to be a bit adventurous tonight and order rum instead of his preferred brandy. He mixed it with lemonade and sipped it slowly. He scrutinised the groups and couples around him, cutting a lonesome figure at the bar he continued fraternising with his drink. The pub was thinning out; the groups began moving on to some of the local nightclubs. He didn’t much fancy a nightclub in Notting Hill. From what remembered of his younger days the clubs in the West End were ten times better. He downed his second rum and ventured off in to the night. He sat downstairs on the bus near a group of guys and girls. They were discussing some house party they ditched in favour of a club. He leaned in to join their conversation but thought better of it. Besides he was disrupted when he looked out the window and thought he saw Jeanette. He checked the website on his phone again to see if she replied but she didn’t. By the time he looked up the group had gotten off leaving him downstairs with an old woman with shopping bags. He avoided eye contact in case she wanted to discuss politics or whatever old people talk about on buses.

Finally he hit the West End and the streets were buzzing. Girls here, there and everywhere. Asian girls, white girls, black girls, skinny girls and fat girls. He fancied his chances of pulling tonight. He followed a group of blondes in to a bar on a side street. The bouncer led them down some stairs in to a dark room with purple lights. The girls headed to a table while he walked to the bar. This time he ordered a brandy, he wanted to keep a cool head. He sipped it keeping an eye on the group of girls. Surely one of them was single and enjoyed the company of rugged men. He moved from the bar and stood near their table hoping to be involved in some of their conversation.

“Excuse me? Hi.” One of the blondes said.

“Hi” he responded.

“Are you with those guys over there?” She pointed to two men in shirts sitting at the bar.

“No, no I’m not.”

“Oh, never mind.”

She turned back to her friends and continued talking and giggling about the two men at the bar.

He ordered another brandy and downed it. He went to the bathroom and splashed his face. His eyes were bloodshot, plus there was a mysterious stain on his t-shirt. He checked the website on his phone, still no message from Jeanette. He headed back in to the purple haze and stood by the blonde table again.

“Anyone order a rugged man?” He slurred.

“Yeah she did” Blonde number 1.

“No! It was her” Blonde number 2.

“She likes ‘em ‘airy!” Blonde number 3.

“I do not!” Blonde number 4.

“Go on, ‘e ain’t ‘alf bad!” Blonde number 5.

“No thanks!” Blonde number 6.

“D’ya come wiv a receipt? Just in case I get a be’er offer” Blonde number 7.

“I don’t remember there being so many of you” He mumbled rubbing his head. His stomach rumbled sending a warm yet chilling message up his throat and out through his mouth. He covered their entire table with vomit. Some of it rebounded off pitchers and glasses over their outfits. Horrified shrieks rang out causing bouncers to come storming over. He was on his knees trying to use the table to balance himself.  Two bouncers grabbed his arms and stood him up.

“Come on ladies, you won’t be sorry” he spat out.

“Fack off!”

“Come on mate, let’s get you some air.”

He was led out through the back and dumped in an alley way next to some bins. He was certain on the way out he saw Jeanette ordering a drink at the bar.

He cleaned himself off in some public toilets in Soho. The man standing by the urinals didn’t have any weed or pills to help him crank up the night. He found an off licence that was willing to sell him a bottle of vodka although they weren’t supposed to. He necked half of it in minutes. He found a group of lads loitering by a parked car and offered them some vodka. He soon realised there was about 8 of them and the bottle soon finished. They thanked him by patting his back and taking photos with him. One even videoed some of his dance moves. Telling him “I’ll post it on my blog mate. You’re a legend.” He left them to it; he had his own party to attend to. Instead of letting the night be an entire bust he decided to pay a visit to a place one of his work colleagues told him about a while back. A place where you don’t need to message women to arrange a time, date and restaurant, only to be stood up. Just a guaranteed good time, and that’s all he was looking for. He walked down a quiet side street until he came to a door with a man smoking outside. He approached the man but before he could speak the man searched his pockets and patted him down.

“Go on mate” the man pointed him inside.

He went down some stairs where he was met by an older woman with a pink wig.

“Ish dis where I picksh?” He garbled.

“Nah love, you give me 70 quid then you can choose any one of the girls in that room. How does that sound?”

“Perfecsh.”

He handed over the cash and the old lady led him through the curtain strings. She stood him in a room where three women were sitting on couches. Two were brunettes and one was blonde. They were all very skinny with bright bras on. He picked the meatier brunette as he had a bad experience with a blonde earlier in the night. The old lady handed the brunette some cash and he was led down the hall in to a bedroom. The bedroom had a mirror on the ceiling and one that covered an entire wall. He watched her get undressed and then lie in the bed. He leaned over to ask her a question.

“Do ya likesh rugged men?”

“Yes” she replied deadpan.

“Goodsh, some women don’t.”

“Yes.”

She kissed him on his mouth and began to undress him. Jeanette doesn’t know what she’s missing he thought.

He found himself being shoved out by a 6 foot tree of a man 10 minutes later. His escapade with the brunette didn’t last very long, and the pink haired lady had no interest in his argument about representing value for money. Neither did the tree house. He was tossed back on the street with a bruised face and ego. He was tired now, the night had strung him disappointment after disappointment. He walked past thumping nightclubs and groups of fun loving people screaming at the top of their lungs. This was hell. He made his way down to Trafalgar Square where a few romantic couples sat and canoodled with each other. He went over to the fountain and washed his face. He wet his hair too just to give it a new look, and maybe give himself some better luck. Two community support officers shooed him on. He didn’t put up a fight, he had lost one too many of those tonight. He made it to the millennium bridge unscathed after nearly being hit by a black cab. The bridge was particularly cold, the motion of the ocean mixed with the amount of alcohol in his system made him queasy. He leaned over the barrier and watched the water. The cold blue streams rocked back and forth with every gust of wind. He stumbled on before tumbling over losing his shoe.

“Wheresh it gone?”

Passersby avoided eye contact with him casually but cautiously walking around him. He crawled the floor before seeing something in the water.

“There!” he shouted.

He stripped himself of his clothes and climbed on to the ledge. A Good Samaritan attempted to pull him down but failed. He leapt off the ledge in search of his missing shoe.

He landed with a thud on the deck of a boat. The boat rocked causing some to stumble off balance. The more intoxicated of the guests shouted “Iceberg! Right ahead!” This was met with raucous laughter. Thomas a reluctant partygoer decided to see what caused the thud. He stepped out on to the deck to find a half naked man lying unconscious. He had bruises on his face and torso. Marjorie caught up with him outside and was shocked to see the rugged man lying there.

“What happened to him Thomas?”

“I have no idea Marjorie, I think he’s had one too many though. Go and get a jug of water to wake him. Something tells me he’s not a good swimmer.”

Greg J Allman.

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