When Thursday night arrived, no matter the weather, people thought about the Bridge. If you did not go out, you could still hear the cries and shouts and songs and laughter from your window. An old man who lived on the sidewalk outside the building would sit and watch the crowds of students every week and they looked back at him, staring with their eyes like night-watchmen. I asked the man what he thought of them and he told me they would be going to the Bridge and what happened to them did not matter. He said the Bridge was a place where the women were as cheap as the wine and then he laughed and said he was dying.
I followed the crowd up the street in the dark and I only heard their screams and the sound of the rain as it washed against the cobbles. We arrived at a queue and I waited in line and watched the students talking, gesturing, waving. I thought about how lucky they were and how they would never know it. I thought about my own luck and how much I had left. Perhaps more than I knew. For these people it was different. What they knew did not matter. It was ignorance that lit up their faces into those balls of light. Ignorance of ill health, true hardship and bitter loss. Those things would come. For now it was enough to laugh and dance. Because youth that is not wasted is wasted.
When we arrived inside it was very busy and the bouncer on the door said it would get busier after twelve. There were several rooms within the club and two floors, one with an outside smoking area at the back.
‘Bloody awesome night, I tell thee,’ said one boy to the other. The bartender came up and wanted to know what I would drink. The DJ shook the hands of the bouncer and hugged a girl who was whispering in his ear. The music was very bad but loud enough that you did not notice. A group of young men came up to the bar and ordered jäger-bombs and one of them said they had come to blow up the bridge. With them was a young woman who was yawning and looked very pretty.
‘You look like you’d rather be somewhere else,’ I told her.
‘Yeah, bed. Got a tute in the morning. I’m going to be so hungover. It’s not even funny.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘Nina. What’s yours?’
‘What? Like Oscar Wilde?’
‘You want to see some ID?’
‘No it’s alright. I believe you. You got that trustworthy look in your eyes, very…oh, what’s the word?’
‘Bet you’ve never heard that one before.’
‘You must be doing English.’
‘No, Maths. What are you doing?’
‘I’m a writer.’
‘You’re pretty cocky, aren’t you?’
‘No I’m a published author. I’ve written books.’
‘Oh really? Go on then, give me a title.’
‘The Old Man and the Sea.’
The girl wanted to dance but I told her it was too hot and that I was hungry and I would get something to eat. I collected my coat from the front desk and walked out into the road until the music was gone. Then I came to a kebab van on the side of the road near a church.
‘What can I get you?’ asked the owner.
‘A glass of water.’
‘No. Actually yes. The lamb kebab.’
‘Chips with that?’
‘Yes. No sauce.’
A boy and his friend walked past talking about a game called shotgun. I turned back and the kebab shop owner was staring at me.
‘Hey, where you from man?’ he asked. ‘Are you Moroccan?’
‘No. Why do you ask that?’
‘Cos I hate Moroccans.’
‘Cos I’m Moroccan.’
‘I’ve been to Morocco. I know it to be a beautiful land.’
The man laughed again. He elbowed one of his colleagues and pointed at me whilst he spoke.
‘You a funny man, man.’
‘Here. Take this. I give you a discount.’
‘No please. You don’t have to do that.’
‘No, no. Here. Take it. It’s six pound. I give it to you for four. Take it. Please.’
‘Ok. Thank you.’
He laughed again. I handed over the money and shook his hand.
I turned around and saw a crowd of people. The girl from the bar was walking with a boy. She saw me and waved.
‘Oi! Oi! That’s the guy from Bridge,’ she said. ‘Whatsit? Old Man something.’
‘Is that Old Man Bridge?’ asked the boy.
‘Yeah. That’s it. The Old Man and the Bridge.’
‘Wow. I didn’t know he was that old,’ said the boy.
I put my kebab in the bin and walked back to my room in the rain.