It’s coming up to Christmas and it’s snowing quite hard. When a gust takes hold, the flakes stream into your face. Drifts and lakes have collected in crevices on buildings and capped trees and cars. You are on your way for a drink with friends – a Christmas celebration to wish each other all the best for the festive season and that luck may come your way in the New Year.
Your friends are there, riddled along the bar and you order your favourite drink and join them to talk about your day, your week, your year, your home. The four of you sit near the window where the cars drive by, ploughing through the slush. The sun is going down and the yellow street lights have coloured the snow to make the view look warm – this being helped by the heat in your cheeks from the cosy pub interior. As you drink together and talk and laugh the pub starts to fill up with the evening crowd and one or two of your friends make comments along the lines of having only one more, and then I really must be going. It’s been great seeing you guys, I hope you have a great holiday and your family don’t get you down.
You all talk about the news, as well as your lives and you talk about the footage that’s been on the ITN news of a group of immigrants who suffocate in the back of a lorry.
“It’s a real shame,” says friend A.
“It must have been terrible,” says friend B.
“I don’t know who to blame, the driver or the government,” you add.
“Serves them right, hope it happens to the next lot,” says a stranger.
He stands with a partner, the two of them leaning against a pillar. He has on a quilted jacket but you can see he has on a uniform beneath, a chocolate brown and beige one of either a security guard or a delivery driver.
“My taxes go on keeping them,” he says.
“Surely,” you say, “you don’t really mean that?”
“Yes, I do. They get everything they ask for and we get nothing. They should go home to their own country.”
“But their own country puts them in jail, executes them, persecutes them. Surely we have a human responsibility. It’s got nothing to do with whose country it is.”
“That’s tough. We should look after our own first.”
“Isn’t that selfish? Shouldn’t we look after the most needy first?”
“I’m needy. My family’s needy. I have to work all hours – I have to work Christmas because I need the money.”
“That’s not what I meant…”
“Your kind make me angry.”
“Well, you go back to your drink, and I’ll go back to mine. We were having a private conversation, anyway.”
The man isn’t so keen and he’s turned to face you and you do your best to ignore him and finish your drink.
“I’ll do what I want, mate,” he says.
You ignore him and ask if anyone wants another drink and one or two say ‘yes’, so you go up to the bar to get them.
“Are you a poof?” asks the man.
“Go away,” you say.
“Are you going to make me, poofter?”
“I can’t be bothered.”
He nudges you, pushes your shoulder as you pick up the drinks, trying to make you spill them and provoke you.
“Excuse me,” you say with the drinks in your hand.
He blocks your way and then throws his drink in your face, the gas stings your eyes and you take a breath. You put the drinks down and wipe your face with the bar towel and open your eyes to see the stern face of the man. Then you hit him hard in the face with your iron-tight fist. The man stumbles back and you walk into him hitting twice more until he falls. Your friends then stand and start clapping you, excited at the display, saying how impressed they were, how you laid into him. You pick up your drinks and put them on the table and then excuse yourself saying you have to go home.
You step out the door, where it’s finally stopped snowing. Everything is still and frozen and the sky is a sheet of lilac clouds. The snow has coated everything and muffled the earth so that it remains mute. You want to tell someone about this, point out how beautiful it is, but you dare not in case it makes you cry.