playful or humorous.“a jocose allusion”
He wore around his neck a wooden cross on a long chain and on his face a subdued smile. He spoke ruefully and self effacing about his day on the road and how he was glad to be through it. I stood to one side half-watching him and listened to his story and to Linda as she ran him through the rest of the night with him nodding appreciatively throughout. She led him away gesturing widely around and I looked up to follow them across the room and into the next. It was a Saturday. I was stripping mint. I still remember it.
His band was four members and they packed the room. They played a thrashy kind of rock music I didn’t know much about and ended with a waltzy, southern-styled ballad I liked quite a lot. I pressed myself between the sweating bodies and collected glasses through most of their set or stood for moments at a time watching from the step behind the bar. His singing voice was so strangled I couldn’t hear most of the words. Only a general tone and a hint from his accent. A sense of a romantic place quite far away and perhaps imagined. I quite liked it. When they finished there was applause and wooing and more wooing and one guy whistling madly and the lights swinging on the low, sweat-slicked ceiling. The band filed away somewhere and for a while people drank and spoke and the room felt strange and vacant with the lights up and the music gone and all these dolled-up rocker-types just talking casually with their faces tacky and ecstatic and their hair stuck to their foreheads in threads.
When the people were gone we picked rubbish from the tables and pushed it around the room with a broom and joked a little. Linda came through and told us we were almost done and then the band was there again stood in the corridor and talking idly. Security came through and said goodbye and hugged all the women and nodded manly partings to all the men who nodded many partings back and made me smirk.
When I came back through to the main bar he was sat with another member of his band around the seats near the back and Linda was sat there too with all three of them drinking beer which they poured from frothing steel wine-buckets into rocks glasses. The rest of the band I could see out on the road, see out the sheltered windows, out on the road smoking and talking to the few still left from the crowd. I went up into the little office and waited outside it for Stephen to change then went in after him and sat minute watching the cameras before changing out my work stuff and getting into my coat.
Stephen and the new barmaid I didn’t know were staying with Linda and the band to drink but I had to cycle home and so said goodbye and got goodbyes back and went out to the road and unlocked my bike. The new barmaid came out for a smoke and asked if I had a lighter and I told her I was sorry I didn’t and just as I was about to go he came out too and asked if she had a lighter and she laughed and said she was looking for one. He spoke in this playful way. Instantly made a game of it almost like a child might; framed finding a lighter as some solemn duty they had to undertake together and I should’ve left but I couldn’t help but smile and I followed them up the street to the next bar where a queue of students were smoking outside and he leaned over the barrier and whispered at them like we were soliciting something illicit and me and the new barmaid stood beside him laughing at his silliness and the confusion it bought. They stood both leaned against the barrier smoking and he asked if I wanted one and I said I didn’t and he nodded sagely and then smiled and joked about something else. The new barmaid wanted to talk about his band but he seemed disinterested in that and instead joked about Linda and about our bar and when pushed told a story about their journey there which he framed as this rolling, disastrous epic that worsened at every turn filled with treacheries and twists
When they finished their cigarettes we walked back up to our bar and I climbed onto my bike and said goodbye again and she stood waiting for him in the doorway and he said goodbye and then asked how far I was cycling and told me good luck when I told him. I couldn’t think of anything better so I told him I liked his band and he smiled and said he did too. I watched them down the corridor through the glass of the door and wished I’d thought of something better to say.