Amanda, Gin and I are in a cafe bar. I have a pint. Amanda has a pint. Gin has a pot of tea and something which was advertised as a “cake”, but can be more accurately described as a pile of cream with cherries and chocolate.
Gin rakes through her pile. “There's supposed to be some sponge in here somewhere,” she says.
“It is huge and uncharted. If you go deep enough, you will find a lost tribe,” says Amanda.
“Are you saying that because I'm black?” demands Gin. She says this a lot, mostly to freak out white middle-class liberals who don't know her very well, and I have to admit it is fun watching the absolute horror on their faces as they start apologising.
“Yes,” says Amanda. “There's some of your relatives living in the bottom of that cake.”
“I'm Jamaican. I don't know anything about the indigenous people of the Cake Region of East Africa. What, you think all black people are the same?”
At this politically incorrect point, a man taps Amanda on the shoulder and they greet each other. His name is, apparently, Adam. He is very attractive. I watch him walking over to join the group on the other side of the room and then become aware that Amanda is talking.
"...What?" I say, coming back to reality with a start.
"I said Adam is in a relationship," says Amanda.
Figures. A man like that is not going to be single.
I say: “Oh well, at least that means I don't have to put myself through the frantic trauma of working out how to convey my interest within the next three hours without getting friendzoned, humiliating myself in front of everyone in the bar or terrifying him with my intensity.”
(I am naturally an intensely emotional person, and a lot of people seem to equate that with "crazy". I am not arguing that I'm "normal", because I'm not. By anyone's definition. But neither am I insane, although I appreciate sometimes it comes off that way)
I intended that to be funny but Amanda and Gin both stare at me, and I realise my low self esteem has made them feel sad. It makes me feel sad too, I'm just not sure how not to do it. But now I feel even worse, because they were having a good time and I poured a chill on it. There's a reason why that's the kind of shit you are meant to think twice before expressing, and it's because it brings everyone else down.
Amanda says: “We need cocktails.” She gets up and goes to the bar.
“I'm sorry,” I say to Gin. “I just sometimes feel like there's something that stops me from communicating with other people, especially men - “
No, stop, Alice. You aren't making this better.
“I feel that no guy I like would ever go out with me. I mean, I thought he was stunning but I'd never have the nerve, and even if I got the nerve he'd probably laugh in my face because who would want to go out with me anyway?”
I trail off, knowing that I've said the wrong thing, not sure what the right thing is. Gin is looking at me solemnly and I notice she is wearing turquoise glitter eyeliner. It's a great colour on her.
She primly takes a sip of tea, then shifts her shoulders back so her cardigan becomes loose around her shoulders. She pulls it up over her head like a shawl in one swift movement and squawks: "I - AM THE GREAT CORNHOLIO!"
"Fine," I say. "Why don't you do that, then."
"I AM CORNHOLIO! I NEED TP FOR MY BUNGHOLE!"
“ARE YOU THREATENING ME?”
“Gin, people are looking.”
Adam and all his friends have stopped talking and are staring at Gin as if they can't believe what they're seeing. I can't believe what they're seeing either.
I say: “I mean, it's not even current. We're the only people in this room old enough to know who Cornholio i-”
“YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE ALMIGHTY BUNGHOLE!”
At this point Amanda comes back, carrying a jug of margaritas and three glasses. She stands by the table, and silently considers Gin.
After a moment, she says: “I'm going to go up to the bar again. And I don't want any of this to be happening when I come back.”
As she leaves, Gin pulls the cardigan down and picks up her fork. She pokes around in the pile of cherries and cream on her plate for a couple of moments, and then looks at me.
She says: “It made about as much sense as everything you said.”