Marc Lewis poisoned me last Wednesday.
Indirectly, of course.
The bearded assassin never gets too close.
But it’s his hairy little hands that wrapped delicately around every wine glass stem. Not mine.
It started off sunnily, early summer sparkling off the river. We got lost, naturally. Everyone does at the moment. The iPhone has lost its way and we spent our lives learning to follow it.
Wristbanded at the door, we resort to people-watching. ECD? Designer? Unified aesthetic, we decide. Impossible to tell. Nonchalant chomp on a small circle of sweet potato.
Talk to someone, suggests Marc Lewis’ cardigan, floating in my Pinot. Opportunity is somewhere.
I take the wine by the glass and lead it to my lips. We should talk to someone, says Anna. I look over at her and find she has grown a beard.
They let you take pictures with the pencils here, which is remarkable unless you’re in a stationery shop. But there you can buy them so it’s not the same as winning. Still, you can take pictures. The cloak room attendant and the two of us share the synchronicity of not having won a pencil. Or perhaps this is only a polite smile.
Phantomly, Marc Lewis’ trousers walked up the stairs. Blinking, we follow.
This is where the big names have low reserved tables and a view of the river. We, decidedly small names, are out of our depth. Big fish everywhere. Upstairs that is. The river fish are long gone. We take the lead of our aquatic forebears and cling on to a shark, cleaning its gills for survival.
The bell rings.
Pens are mightier than swords, but the jury’s out on pencils.
In the darkness, The Work makes us gasp and weep. Anna hiccups. This is amazing, she says. She means it, too. She means what she says most of the time, which confounds me. I continually struggle with sincerity even though I am Gen Z and research shows Gen Z resonates with authenticity.
We swim our way out of the auditorium in pursuit of future glory.
Insubstantial canapé x 400. New record. I develop a mild jaw injury and several thousand LinkedIn connections. Handshake. I wonder vaguely if anyone can see me coming unspooled.
After, when the night was wizened: the treacherous Bakerloo line with one eye winked closed. Just fall asleep, purred Marc Lewis’ blue glasses. Miss your stop. Go on. Hard work beats the tube map.
I resurface wildly at Paddington Station. Wayward through the gently undulating night. The customary madness as I pass the Adam&Eve fortress. Today I smile at the crocodile in its moat.
God smiles on the drunkards, which shouldn’t mean me as I have only been poisoned. Still, road crossing with sense of self-preservation at an all-time minimum goes unpunished.
It takes me twenty-eight years to discover my keys.
Forty-nine minutes after I wake up the next morning, I send this message to Shannon:
‘shaz ngl i feel like a decaying corpse this morning’
Later in the day I throw up three times and hear the ghostly beard of Marc Lewis in the back corner of my mind, laughing gently.