We went to that curry house by the train station, the Koh-i-Noor. There were twenty or thirty of us, kitchen and restaurant and bar staff from the hotel.
The meal was one of those set ones they do for large groups, plates of pakoras and samosas and poppadoms for starters, then korma or vindaloo or tikka. I had the tikka. After that we headed to the King’s Head for drinks, beers mostly, then to Spotlight for spirits and shots and dancing.
I don’t know how it happened, but I ended up spending most of the night with my boss, the Head Chef. In the Koh-i-Noor, we had this function room upstairs to ourselves – I didn’t know it even existed and I’ve been there loads of times – and when we went in there was that usual where-do-I-sit anxiety: if I sit too soon and no one wants to sit next to me, I’ll end up looking like a billy-no-mates dick. If I sit too late, I’ll look like I’m clinging onto a group that doesn’t want me.
I was the only kitchen porter there. I didn’t belong to the chefs or the waiters. I was a hanger-on no matter what, but I waited, then put my hands on the back of one seat, thinking about claiming it, before moving on until I was next to someone, Ricky, who I thought I could get on with.
Then, before I knew it, the Head Chef sat down beside me. He asked how I was and where the other kitchen porters were, and I told him they were working and coming to Spotlight later. He smiled, of course, obviously, I scheduled them to work. Idiot.
When the food came, I ate and he ate. I tried to use the food as an excuse for not talking and then get in on other conversations, but failed completely. Ricky was turned away from me, flirting with Rachel, a waitress, and the Head Chef had nothing to say to the Chef de Rang, Beverley.
It was like being at the Great Uncle and Aunts’ table at a wedding. He asked how I was getting on at school and I said fine. He said he’d hated school and all his teachers. I said I could understand that. When we left and headed for the King’s Head, I tried to leave him behind and talk to Danny, one of the commis chefs I get on with, but he was after Lindsay, one of the waitresses he’d been wanting to fuck for ages.
Once we were in the pub, I found myself at the bar with the Head Chef again. He offered to buy me a drink, and I said, no, it was fine, I could get my own, but he insisted. He asked me what kind of films I liked and what kind of music, and I told him, you know, this and that, and he confided in me that he couldn’t stand the stuff they had on in the pub.
By the time we got to Spotlight, we’d covered TV shows and football and rugby and cars, him talking, me nodding and saying, yeah. Eventually, when we were handing our coats in at the cloakroom, I managed to give him the slip. I headed to the bar to get a drink and look for someone, anyone, else to talk to, but there was no one. The waiters and waitresses were together with the chefs in booths with no space for a kitchen porter. I couldn’t offer them anything.
After a bit, I headed back to the bar, got another pint, and watched everyone else dance and shout and drink. The other kitchen porters turned up, and I talked with them for a bit, but one of them could only talk about football, while the other could only tell me who he was going to fuck – her, her and her, pointing at women way out of his league – so I decided to leave.
I finished my pint and went to the toilet. There was no one in there, but as soon as I started pissing the Head Chef staggered in, and began taking a leak beside me. He didn’t notice me at first – at least I don’t think he noticed me – but when I finished he turned and a look of recognition appeared on his face.
He sniffled and said, hey, Ryan, I don’t belong here, you know. I don’t fit in at all. I’m so alone.
I looked down, and put my dick back in my trousers. I wasn’t having this conversation, so I mumbled, so’s everyone else. They’re just better at hiding it.
I didn’t know what I meant, but the Head Chef nodded, finished pissing and stumbled over to the sink to wash his hands. He asked me if I wanted another drink, but I said, nah, I’m going home. He was about to say something else when I turned and left.
- The Curse of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond (rablinsingh.wordpress.com)
- For the Lonely Hearts (josephtjo.wordpress.com)
- Isolation and Loneliness: not just for Christmas (nishakotecha.wordpress.com)
- For Those Who Are Suffering With Loneliness This Season (zulu7772013.wordpress.com)
- Bright Lights and Loneliness. (neillbeforethelord.wordpress.com)
- How to Avoid Loneliness During the Holidays (sherrymiller16.wordpress.com)
- Three Q Perms Mini Guide to Chefs (threeqpermstemps.wordpress.com)