There is one regular barfly at Boltz Club who stands out precisely because of his determination to keep to himself.
This reserved customer is exceptionally slender (more barstick-insect than barfly), with an impressively angular afro. He always sits on his own at the bar, focused on his phone and resolutely refusing to engage with anyone. He gives off clear vibes that he is content and does not want anyone approaching him. It is not until he has consumed enough Dutch courage that he will rise from his stool and head into the dark room in pursuit of company… on his own terms.
I had always thought that he was kind of cute, like Michael Jackson before it all went wrong, but he steadfastly ignored any of my attempts at eye contact.
I have only once seen him in the real world, outside the dim confines of Boltz. I was shopping in Birmingham city centre and spotted him in the middle of New Street, confidently singing his heart out. He was busking with a guitar and sound system. No Michael Jackson numbers though.
I stood and watched, until my partner lost interest and tried to move on.
“Hang on a minute,” I said. “I want to listen to him play it again. I’ve near heard this guy speak, let alone sing.”
Next time I saw him back at the bar, I took a moment to tell him what good a singer I thought he was. He seemed uncomfortable that someone had invaded his space, but still graciously thanked me and I left him smiling in proud silence.
Several weeks later our paths crossed again in the more shadowy corners of Boltz, but this time he unexpectedly gave me ‘that’ look and we bolted into an empty cubical.
Afterwards, as we tucked ourselves away, he told me his name and said, “Next time I see you in here, remind me that you are a good fuck and we should do it again.” He intended on staying in Boltz until closing time and knew that by morning he would have no recollection of the night before.
So, the next time I saw him, I dutifully strolled up and said, “Hello Max.”
As predicted, he did not remember our previous encounter and was startled that I knew his name, although not as surprised as I was. I am usually terrible with names and only recalled his, because it was the same as my dog.
“I have a message for you,” I continued. “I’ve been told to tell you I am a good fuck.”
Max nearly spat out his drink and stared at me in bug-eyed surprise, “Who told you to tell me that?!!”
“Well…,” I paused, teasing out the suspense and feeling like Doc Brown from Back to the Future, “you did. You also told me to tell you that we should do it again and I believe that you should always follow your own advice.”
Several months later, I saw Max again and brought up the subject of our second meeting. Max just looked at me blankly. He had absolutely no memory of this encounter either! He must live his whole life like a goldfish, coasting around the bars of Birmingham with no lasting memory of anything that occurs. He can keep doing the same things, with the same people, over and over again and each time is like the first time. The perpetual virgin.
Mind you, I am just as bad if I watch TV after too many beers. My partner tells me that I can re-watch the very same episode and make identical noises, laughs, gasps and comments, at all the same places I did the first time, as though I have never seen the programme before. Double the enjoyment, worth buying the boxset.
I now make a point of always greeting Max with a friendly hello and gentle hand on his shoulder. I am honoured by the fact that I am one of the few people that he tolerates interrupting his contented solitude. I am treating it as personal challenge to get Max to one day engage in a full conversation with me. I feel like a gardener who is patiently taming a skittish squirrel, wary of not overwhelming him and causing him to bolt.
I should be simply contented that this introvert even remembers me. Come to think of it, maybe he doesn’t?