Disclaimer: A long time ago, way before the world moved on, I wrote a series of notes about a group of friends that exchanged ‘battle tales’ in the small hours of the morning. These friends were from all walks of life, lawyers, accountants, bankers and the like, and had lived some interesting lives. Gathered around a rough-hew wooden table in one of those gorgeously rustic bars that litter suburbia, they spoke in that easy banter that men have after a long day at work is behind them, and they are in easy, good company.
The night passed gently, the music played over their heads, offering a backdrop that was sometimes like theme music. Girls sashayed past, and sometimes a head at the table turned to follow a pair of heels. But for the most part they stayed at the table, captured by the magic of story-telling and warmed by a large bottle of gin that was sat right in the center of that table.
And they spoke about the things that made you go ‘Hmm’.
John put his glass down, rapping the wooden surface of the scarred table sharply. The glass made a sharp clacking sound, which wasn’t too surprising – it was empty.
‘I have got a story for you guys. Actually, it’s a riddle of sorts’ he added, smiling charmingly.
A gifted dentist, he was a small wiry man with a quick grin that helped him calm children in his dental chair. It also helped him sleep with their mothers (in his bed, of course – those chairs are too expensive to risk thrashing around in) with a regularity that was almost alarming. His dental practice was hugely successful because of the way he had with children, and possibly the way he had with their mothers as well.
He hadn’t spoken much tonight – instead he had been listening, nodding in the right places, and helping us work our way through each bottle of gin we decimated. He didn’t need to tell his stories, our John – the fact that none of us ever let any of the women in our lives visit his dental practice was testament to the fact that we knew he had quite a bit to tell anyway.
But he had decided he was going to, it seemed.
‘Let’s just get a refill, eh?’ That was Charles, an architect built like a lumberjack – he also drank like one.
Someone yelled for Sophia the Waitress (it’s what we called her: ‘Sophia the Waitress’) and she sashayed over without a word, plonked a fresh bottle of gin on our table, and sashayed off. We watched her briefly (she was one of those girls for whom the line ‘hate to see you go, love to watch you leave’ was apt) and then turned our attention back to John.
He had been refilling his glass and waiting patiently to have our attention. You learn to be patient when you are earning your stripes as a dentist, especially if you are a good one. You also need patience to get laid as frequently as John did.
‘So…you were saying…a riddle…’ This was Moses, a sous chef with his own restaurant. He often threw dinner parties that were hugely popular because of the spread he could whip up in seconds.
John sipped from his glass.
‘Yes. A riddle. Any of you fellows ever wonder why you don’t get to see girls doing the ole walk of shame any more? You know how it used to be, right? You are getting to work on a Saturday morning, or trying to get to church for the seven o’clock service (here everyone grinned at Steve, who was a catholic priest that somehow managed to hang out with us into the wee hours of the night without a smidgen of guilt), or when the missus kicks you out of bed on a Saturday morning saying its your turn to go to the market? And you look forward to the view, eh? All those sleek party animals trying to get back home in those little things they wear? Heck, it used to happen on weekdays too!’
Here the lads chuckled.
‘Thursday morning I loved, ‘cause Wednesday was Ladies Night and it was the easiest thing in the world to get a girl back home with you. And the next morning she had to get to her place fast, and change and get her partying ass to work.’
Sam bellowed out laughter at that line, slapping the wooden table with his palm and getting our gin glasses to do a little dance. A big galoot of a man, he looked like a rugby coach. He was a lawyer, a pretty ruthless one and was more likely to hit you with paperwork than his fists.
John continued without a skipping a beat.
‘Well, these days, what do you see? Nothing. Not a darned thing! What happened? Where did all the bleary-eyed lasses in the wee dresses run off to? Do they all drive home? Heck, I know we’ve got Uber and all now, but I don’t even see anyone do the walk of shame in my apartment block!
‘And that’s my riddle, lads. Whatever happened to the walk of shame?’
He took a long sip from his glass, and we settled further in our seats. This was going to be interesting.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he continued:
‘Her name was Sally. I met her girl at the bank one Wednesday afternoon; she was one of the tellers there. We took a shine to each other, if you know what I mean. So she slips me her number, I drop her a line and ask her to join me for a drink that evening, and she’s up for it. And she turns up, dressed like she owns Prada, you know?’
We nodded. We knew.
He went on.
‘So we have a swell time of it, drinking, laughing, getting along like two hares in May, and I look at my watch and its 2.00am. So I tell her, it being a weekday and all, that I ought to drop her at hers and get over to my place. You know, being a gentleman and all that, and I did have an 8.00am the next morning, a root carnal for fuckssakes.’
‘And she’s like “I could spend the night, you know. At yours.” ’
John grinned around the table. ‘Now you lads know I am not one to ignore a damsel in distress, especially if me being in her will ease her distress…’
I howled at that one.
John continued. ‘So we upped and left, of course. A wee voice at the back of my head was wondering how exactly she was going to get to work in the get-up she had on, but I told it to hush. I had other things on my mind, you see.’
Chuckles greeted this.
‘Anyway, so just before we turn up to the road to my house, she asks me to stop the car. I did, thinking maybe she had changed her mind. Then she asks me to give her a minute, hops out, and dashes off to a little bunch of shops right at the road side. I saw that their lights were on and was wondering what the heck she was buying in there (they didn’t look like the sold condoms) when she called my name and asked me to join her. I was like “What the fuck…” but then I did, locking the car behind me.
‘So I cross over, get to the little cluster of shops open at 2.30am in the morning, and she is trying on a dress.’
Sam looked puzzled. ‘A what?’
John nodded. ‘A dress. A fucking dress. She was buying a dress for the office because she couldn’t go to work with what she was wearing.’
We stared dumbfounded.
John went on, now on a roll. ‘I was like “I haven’t even gotten into her pants yet and she better not be thinking I am paying for that!” But she was. She turned to me sweetly, and then the attendant at the back tells me the price, and I nearly choked.’
We looked at him expectantly.
‘Ten thousand shillings. It looked frigging good on her, grabbed her in all the right places (she had a body you could talk to, and it would talk right back, I tell you) and was still nice and formal and all, the perfect dress to wear to work. And all it cost was like what I would pay for two beers at the local pub.’
He refilled his glass and continued.
‘I paid up of course, took her over to my place, and we did it like they do it on the Discovery Channel and then some (except those animals don’t talk much while doing it) and we got like two hours sleep and when we got up at 6.30am to hit the road for work, she wore the dress and looked as prim as an English school teacher.’
He sighed, looking into his glass.
‘Later that evening, as I drove home, I started noticing all these little clothes shops on the way side, lining up suburbia like sentinels. ‘Boutiques’, they call them. And they just never close, like a 24 – hour emergency service for clothes.’
He looked at us, his grin back on his face. ‘And that’s when it made sense, man! That’s why we don’t get to see the walk of shame any more! Girl goes out, spends the night partying hard, picks up a little something on the way to which ever lad she is doing the nasty with that night, and in the morning, she looks like she just left her ma’s place.’
He shook his head in wonder. ‘Life seems to have a solution for everything, eh?
And around the table, we all took sips from our own glasses and went ‘Hmm’.
And there we must leave our friends, chuckling into the cold air in the small hours of the night, going through enough bottles of gin to placate an Argentine police brigade, while on the bar stereo, the music changes from Guns & Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine to (rather appropriately) Wilson Picket’s Mustang Sally.