Sometimes, in order to prise truth from others, it is necessary to get square into their faces and demand it, full-on, with no compromises, no room left for them to wriggle out of the question. It’s all about the setting, the atmosphere, the issue at hand and the people involved in it. Sometimes harsh, intense and confrontational, with screaming and shouting. On other occasions with craft, tact and an under-hand use of head tricks and psychological suggestion. This was a strange situation. There was no underlying motive on my part other than a desire for some reality and honesty from Claire.
However I felt about her personally, in terms of affection, emotion, lust, whatever – there was a primal in-built need for her to level up and give me the full script about her behaviour towards me. As I marched into the city centre, grimy rusted shutters were gradually being pulled down before shop windows, as the clocks slowly swept towards 5:00pm. I headed down a damp, traffic-rammed London Road, past the dilapidated pubs with leery, grubby young lads in hideous track-suits and the older, red-faced men in tatty tweed jackets smoking outside the uninviting doorways. I stared straight ahead, feeling a sea of suspicious eyes beading my every step, reaching the end of the road and taking a sharp left by the Empire Theatre towards St John’s shopping centre. After a brief mental wrestling match played out in my skull, I opted for the stealth route.
No rants or hysterics would be on the menu, despite a seething, bubbling drive under the skin, urging me on to resort to such soap-opera bull-shit. No… This would handled in an adult manner on my part…. I decreed as I broke into a sprint and dashed across the four lanes of honking buses and tooting cars that thundered left and right in front of St George’s Hall, the ominous old building grey and imposing with the darkening skies behind it. I made across the front plateau at the forecourt of the building, past the war memorial and the towering lions and statues of long-dead heroes that surrounded it, dodging grotty expanding puddles of rain that had sprouted up amongst the slippery cobblestones. I’d only just pulled on the new footwear, and was wary of getting it destroyed mere minutes after christening it.
I cleared the Hall and bounded down the steps at the side of it, straight across four lanes of roaring buses to the relative safety of the traffic lights. Then around past the Penny Farthing – a pub I’d never set foot in and swore I never would. A boozer that had somehow survived countless recessions that had plagued the city, yet had never had a face lift or a switch in the demographic of it’s lowlife clientele. I was all set for making towards the bus stop for Bootle, when I found myself jangling the loose change in my right jeans pocket and heading straight for the tiny flower stall at the side of the bus station, which looked as though it was shutting up shop for the day. Why flowers? Only one man in a MILLION looks right with flowers. Given the unknown scenario you are about to bounce into, flowers seem like a stupid, empty gesture. You only buy flowers for a bird when you’ve fucked up in the worst sense and want to atone. Valentines and birthdays don’t count. It’s a given on those days….
How much for the red one’s, luv?” I heard myself ask the buck-toothed, hunch-backed middle aged woman behind the stall with the curly dark hair and the hang-dog eyes. She eyed me up curiously for a moment. “£1.50 a bunch at dis hour, like…What’s de occasion, lad?” she grinned, her prematurely aged face freakishly accentuated in the dying light, neon shop-lights and fine misty rain. The result of too many John Player Specials and Skol Supers in her youth no doubt… Won’t you fuck off out of my head? I don’t need your advice right now! I tried to blank out the inner demon, however much he taunted me. He had a point, though. But what was it for? “Er…Just for me girl-friend..Well, kind of…Yeah..I mean, No…Well… “I dunno…” “Shit….” (Take a breath..) “Just…to say Hello…Catch up..Knowhaddamean?” I stuttered, suddenly aware of the flux of people walking past behind me, mainly girls, taking a moment to nose at a man buying flowers. A rare event, in their eyes. “So who’s the lucky girl, den, lad?” She grinned with her yellow crooked teeth, as she passed me a wrapped bunch of roses. They looked sweet, almost edible. How she had managed to wrap them so expertly and in a professional manner so quickly was beyond me. I didn’t have to stop to think about that question, as I passed her the £3 and jogged towards the Bus-stop, turning my face back to reply as I spied the number 53 roll in. “It’s..just forra girl I need some answers from, luv…”