On Sunday morning early I was trying to hitch a ride home. A big white Mercedes van came haring around the bend. I stuck out my thumb and it swerved violently and stopped beside me. ‘A good night, then, was it?’ said the driver as I collapsed into the passenger seat. A comedian. Young fella. Wide awake. Chewing gum. Loving the life. It must have been my glassy eyes and my crumpled, slept-in jacket that gave me away. I had a think. Not bad, I said. I listed the names of the pubs and the two clubs we’d been to. ‘So did you pull?’ he said.
Pardon? I said. ‘Pull. Last night. Did you get hold of anything?’ he said. It’s true, I told him, that it would have been nice not to have frozen half to death in the foetal position on a pal’s tiny sofa with a tea towel for a duvet, and been invited instead into a warm and spacious bed. But as usual I was not an attractive proposition as a prize to be carried off into the night for a one-night stand. So no, I said. I didn’t pull.
He shot me this look of a disappointed mentor. I’d badly let him down. ‘There were a few spares knocking about though, surely?’ he said, needing to understand fully and allow for any mitigating circumstances. There were indeed a good many ‘spares’, I said, thinking back. Especially at the clubs. You couldn’t move for them. We hadn’t seen anything like it for a long time. I was often the only bloke on a dance floor packed out as far as the eye could see with groups of grooving ladies. I was moving from one group to the next to give as many as possible the benefit of seeing my moves at close hand, I said.
His lively face was turned avidly towards mine more often than it was towards the road ahead. ‘And?’ he said. ‘You’re telling me you didn’t score?’ ‘It didn’t even occur to me to try,’ I said. ‘I was so drunk I couldn’t speak, one. Two, I’ve never been one for charades. And three, they were laughing at me, as if to say, “Look out, sisters, here comes the oldest swinger in town — and just look at the state of it!”’
He was powering his tall van through the lanes, leaning his body into the curves, really driving the thing. But on hearing this, he slumped wearily forward, rested both elbows on his steering wheel, and shook his head in despair, Then he revived himself just in time to take a sharp right-hander. Like I say, a comedian. After that he brooded and we rattled along without speaking. ‘You should go to Thailand,’ he said finally. ‘The birds are different over there.’ ‘Different?’ I said. ‘How’s that?’ ‘Ever been?’ he said. I shook my head. ‘Oh, mate,’ he said, anguished.
Then he fell silent again, momentarily lost in a private fantasy. His Thailand experiences were obviously so rich and varied he hardly knew where to begin. Nor could he quite put his finger on that particular aspect of Thai women that made them so very different from our English ones. ‘They’re just different, that’s all,’ he explained. ‘They don’t muck about.’ And they don’t cost much? I said, happy to show I was not entirely ignorant about the subject. ‘Yeah, yeah, you buy them,’ he said. ‘Where don’t you? But I don’t mean that. What I mean is. Here.’
He reached out for his iPhone and driving with one hand he pulled up his camera roll and flicked through it with his thumb. Then he leaned across and showed me a picture of very young loveliness smiling warmly and openly for the camera. ‘I bought that one off her parents last year for 15 hundred quid. Nice boobs, eh?’ he said. There was absolutely no denying it. ‘Ripsnorters,’ I said. ‘I had those put in,’ he said. ‘Five hundred quid the pair. What a little darling. She adores me.’
‘That’s quite an investment,’ I said. ‘Do you think you’ll marry her? Get an import licence and have her crated up and forwarded? Here you go, this is me,’ I added, for we’d arrived already at the turning where I got out. He slammed on the anchors. As I searched for the door handle, I noticed that he was now looking at me with a new, almost pleading seriousness that wasn’t nearly as becoming as his previous archness. I thought at first it was a variation on his comedian’s repertoire, but it wasn’t: I must have touched a nerve. ‘Do you know what, mate?’ he said. I braced myself for his big confession. ‘It’s something to think about.’ I jumped out, slammed the door and set off down the lane. I felt terrible, really terrible.