I wrote this for a writing group exercise on the theme of 'Success'. What better topic to write about than a recovering alcoholic being forced to go to after-work drinks? ...
breathe, breathe deep.
His colleagues are talking,
mouths flapping loud and open
with the bullshit of Friday at 6.
The bar's ceiling is low,
with tinny, nondescript dance music
and the smell of beer is mingling in the mix.
The bar staff are exclusively pretty girls,
with Disney fake lashes and
broken English tones.
The bar is swarmed with working drones
doing anything to prolong the day
and keep from going home.
He breathes, breathes deep.
He's doing everything he can to keep
away from temptation,
away from the beer.
Every single work function
he's paralysed by fear.
6 months sober,
6 months proud,
6 months of avoiding the
booze fuelled crowd
He knew if he came later,
under some fake pretence of overtime,
they'd be a few beers gone by now,
or they'd all be on the wine.
It's all too close to home for him,
the smell of beer, and booze,
there's way too much at stake now
and too much strength to lose.
The guys' eyes are swimming,
those Disney girls back through the crowd,
and the girls from the office forget themselves
and are dissing the management way too loud.
The time comes and they say what you having mate?
and they're thinking what beer,
What cheap and nasty lager do you wish to partake?
Or is it shots? You cheeky devil, of course,
he wants a shot, facking ell mate, you dark 'orse.
Just a Coke, he says,
and waits for the peal of crowing laughter,
‘just a Coke’, mate you won't last long here,
it's Friday, let yourself go!
Their exclamation marks hang above his head
bird shit in mid flight,
waiting to drop on his head and ruin his night.
His face says sorry and theirs say suit yourself,
be boring mate, see if we care,
but we are ON IT TONIGHT.
He wants to slip away, hide away, shy away,
but one of the girls says don't listen to them,
you can do what you like;
anyway, it's not all about boozing tonight.
She sips on a straw,
holding his gaze,
and he feels his new-boy-in-the-office cheeks ablaze,
and the new job suddenly doesn't seem so bad,
and the nerves in his stomach are a passing fad
and the Coke gets drunk
the people get drunk
and it's another good day.
He stands with the new faces,
another urge suppressed,
another sweet proud feeling in the middle of his chest.
These after work socials don't need to be a test.
The booze doesn't own him;
success, success, success.
A video of me performing this poem at Cafe Utopia in Southend is here.