‘She’s a fine looking woman,’ Johnno says. His eyes, watery and nearly as red as the French wine he’s drinking, shoot across to where a fine looking woman is mixing cocktails.
‘Yeah, I say,’ sipping on my Ginger Necktar. (Don’t ask.) ‘Her boyfriend obviously thinks so too, Johnno.’
‘Hi Mikey,’ he shouts and laughs, lifting his head from our three-bloke huddle at the kitchen bar and waving across the room to Mikey, who is adjusting the disco light thingy which sprays all sorts of colours and shapes across the roof and walls of this large room in a house by the beach.
Mikey waves back, wondering what the joke is, turns to his girlfriend, she smiles, he smiles, and Johnno returns to our huddle.
‘It’s hard to find a woman who wants to have sex with you when you reach a certain age,’ he says. ‘It’s sort of lonely.’
Johnno is of a certain age. So am I, I guess. And Barry. Well, Barry is older than Johnno and I, but is in good nick. And he drives a sports car.
Despite his general good nickedness, the skin on Barry’s arm hangs in folds like an unfurled spinnaker becalmed. Which is apt because Barry, who Johnno and I have just met, is a sailor.
Barry leans in as if to say something, but his pause is too long, so we clink our glasses together and say ‘Cheers’. Three older blokes shooting the breeze, while outside, the breeze, unhurt, tickles the waves.
‘If you meet your true love when you’re young,’ Johnno says, pouring himself the last of the French wine, ‘you’ll be about the same age and you can be old people together. And that’s cool.’
Despite the smell of tequila, coconut milk and blue cheese clinging to the bar like a spinning drunk, I can smell Johnno’s wine. Beaujolais. Light but deep. The combination of gamay grape and French dirt is a good one.
‘But older men, without wives, want younger woman,’ says Johnno.
Barry grins into his margarita.
‘So how’s that going for you, Johnno?’ I ask.
‘No good,’ he says. ‘I’m old.’
We huddled three laugh.
‘I’m old!’ we say in chorus, raising our glasses.
The blender is whirring. The fine looking woman is dancing, the flower falling from her hair as she bends to blender beats, an apron shaping to her moves, a wooden spoon catching LED faeries from the disco light thingy. (Hello Mikey.) We watch her boogie until…
Barry slides forward. We huddle. Barry is a quiet sort of bloke.
‘My wife left me a few months ago,’ Barry says.
A black hole instantly forms in this rainbow party-verse. Time slows, light is bent, sound is lost.
‘Oh mate,’ Johnno says finally, sliding his hand across to touch Barry’s arm.
A broken heart is always an awful thing, but a broken heart when you’re an older man can break all of you, can leave you smashed and shipwrecked on an uncharted bar, can leave you marooned and maimed, with only a cocktail girl pinned to the wall, until the dark sea claims you.
I also move my hand to Barry’s arm. After all, we are bar buddies, bonded by booze (and Ginger Nektar), betrayed by age.
‘It must be awful, mate,’ I say.
Barry looks up at us.
‘What? No way. Best thing that ever happened. She’s happier and I’ve been having a ball. Sex, drugs (prescription) and acid jazz.’
‘I’m old,’ says Barry raising his margarita.
‘I’m old,’ say Johnno and I.
‘I’m not,’ says the fine looking woman, dropping a hand on Johnno’s shoulder and clinking her glass with ours.