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£105 for a used pair of pants
By Martin Friel



There was nothing accidental or innocent about our meeting. We both knew, or more accurately hoped, it was on the cards. We were just unsure about how it would come about. It had been so long.

We had known each other for years, me and Emma. We had worked together in the past but as with most friendships, as people move around looking for whatever it is they hope will fulfil them, we drifted apart. Neither of us has found it yet but there is still a sliver of youth which offers hope that the great intangible will at last be grasped and held close. In the meantime we fill it with people both good and bad; laughter and sadness; and of course drink.

So it was fitting that we agreed to meet in a bar, my favourite bar. The official line was that it was just a chance to catch up after so many years but I hoped, as I later found out she did, that it would end in sweat, euphoria, pleasure and release.

I arrived early and was smoking outside when I saw her approaching through the dim haze of the alleyway. Even from a distance I knew it was her. Jet black hair, bright red jacket and lips and that baby doll totter she carried off so well.

I greeted her warmly and could feel from the strength and length of her hug that she had missed me just as much. We went inside and settled down to a couple of Jack Daniels.

I should explain at this point that there is previous between me and Emma. Years ago we had one of those sexual encounters that you’d rather forget. Too much booze which removed pretty much all sensitivity from the genitals. We rutted away pointlessly for what seemed like hours with neither side wishing to admit defeat. On this particular occasion, through sheer force of will and determination, I did manage to come, albeit limply. To top off this wondrous encounter, the cheap condom that the family planning clinic doled out, the ones that offer all the sensitivity of an inner tube, burst.

A small aside. In my experience, condoms procured from said family planning clinic are among the worst, most unrewarding and unreliable prophylactics in circulation. They have all the sensitivity of walrus hide – you might as well be fucking a melon with a sock on your cock. Conversely, they are the most likely to break. It’s almost Catholic in its cruelty.

“You won’t feel a thing and at the end of your deflatingly disappointing encounter, there’s a good chance you’ll have an unwanted baby on the way. Oh, and one more thing. We can almost guarantee that your drunken one-night stand, who you choose to stay with for the sake of the baby, will be the most annoying individual you have ever met. Can we get you anything else while you’re here or do you feel your life has been sufficiently ruined?”

So that condom all those years ago burst and Emma had to get the morning after pill. Not the most glamorous ending to what we had hoped would be an evening of uncontrolled lust and passion. I can’t speak for her but I always felt the gods had conspired against us that night and that we could still reach those highs we had searched for. That was why we were meeting – to right the sexual wrongs of the past.

So the hours rolled by as the whisky worked its way through. At some point, and I have no idea how we reached it, but we decided that we needed to go back somewhere to drink more and indulge ourselves.

Emma’s was out as she was staying at her little ol’ gran’s. Mine was out as I was visiting a friend who politely pointed out that his house wasn’t a knocking shop. Fair enough. So we did what any drunken, horny couple would do and decided to get a hotel room. Not wishing to waste time searching for a cheap dive we confidently sauntered into the nearest one. Ever the gallant gent, I assured the young maiden I would cover the cost of the room on the proviso that she cover the drinks bill. Seemed fair.

I have no idea how long we spent drinking at the bar but I do remember eventually making our way to the room with a bottle of overpriced wine and a couple of glasses. She clinked seductively as she sauntered ahead – I wasn’t sure what was more alluring, the promise of drink or the promise of sex. The idea that a combination of the two was imminent was almost too much. Then, nothing.

It’s morning and I wake up naked in bed. Once I have shaken off the initial disorientation, I realise that although she should be, Emma is nowhere to be seen. The only evidence of her presence are the stained wine glasses, the cigarette butts that pepper the carpet and her pants, lying crumpled on the floor. I wander into the bathroom expecting to find her peeing or brushing her teeth. Nothing.

I go back into the room and go through my jeans looking for my phone. It is then that I notice a couple of small blood stains on my T-shirt – not large but bloodstains nonetheless. I check my face in the mirror but see nothing out of the ordinary. I look at my hands and notice a couple of small scratches. The scratches aren’t good. Taking into account the strewn cigarette butts I’ve gradually noticed on the floor and the cuts and blood, it looks like things got ugly at some point.

I get back into bed, roll a cigarette get into the leftover wine. I text Emma (I never have calling credit) asking where she is. It’s after 10am and I know she had to be at work for 9am so there’s a good chance she’ll be awake. But there is no immediate response so I flick on the TV for some news and finish my cigarette.

Half an hour passes with no answer. I text again, saying that even if she is angry with me, I need to know she is OK. Another half hour passes with no response. I’ve nearly finished the wine and am starting to get drunk again. A hideous but immovable thought enters my throbbing head. What if I’ve offed her?

That would explain the blood, the scratches and the general chaos of the room. Suddenly feelings of sickness, dread and fear rise within me. I slide out of bed and lurch into the bathroom. The shower curtain is pulled over. I gingerly pull it back fully expecting to find her corpse. Nothing.

The relief that washes over me is fantastic. I want to grab it and hold it tight, cherish this feeling, nurture it. Once I have recovered, I leave the bathroom and those horrible sensations rise again. I am confronted by two wardrobes. Surely I’ve stuffed her body in there. I take a deep breath and throw open the first set of doors. Nothing. This is starting to look positive. The second set. I fling them open. Again, nothing. Utter relief. I offer up prayers of thanks to whatever deity may be listening. I take a quick look around to see if there are any other likely hiding places a drunken deviant would stash the corpse of an old friend and satisfied there isn’t lie down on the bed.

I wake up about half an hour later, run to the bathroom and vomit to the bile, shower and pack up my things. I look at Emma’s pants and suddenly feel sorry for them. They look all lonely and abandoned – I can’t just leave them there so I stuff them into my bag and get the hell out of the room.

Still no word from Emma. It’s after 12pm and I’m still worried but the panic is no longer there. I’m pretty sure she left the room alive which is obviously a bonus. But why did she leave? Maybe I’ve tried to do something she doesn’t particularly enjoy? She’s got all aresy on me or I on her. Ha! Maybe, indignant at her behaviour, I have commanded her to get out with the parting shot of “and leave the pants behind!”. I have no idea why I would want to do that but hungover, I am delicate creatures and all sots of fears and permutations creep into my thoughts. In place of an alcoholic blackout, I picture a feral, foaming beast that can only be placated by the acquisition of used pants.

It is equally likely that I crashed out and Emma got bored, decided to get a decent night’s sleep and headed home but in her drunken state, had forgotten her pants. I brighten up – this seems reasonable. But the blood, the scratches and the scattered cigarette butts leads me to another conclusion. But what that is precisely, I have no idea.

I trip past gormless tourists and numbed businessmen on the way to reception, trying to hold things together. I present my room card and the guy informs me that the charge for the room is £105. I try to look nonchalant as I pass over my sorry little debit card but inside I am near to tears. It might not seem like a lot of money to some people, but to me that leaves a gaping hole in my monthly finances. I’ll have to endure a frugal month of financial penance for my casual sinning.

As I turn to leave, I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket. It’s a text. It’s from Emma. I brace myself. It looks like the God’s have had their fun and have decided to give me a break. She remembers nothing save for the fact she was furious at me at some point and stormed out. The upshot is that she is happy to forget about it and put it down to drunken mischief and misunderstanding. I always knew Emma was a good one.

Feeling about a stone lighter, I wander through the lobby doors into the crisp, early winter sunshine. I think about the pants. I think about the £105. I think that’s an awful lot of money for a used pair of pants. I think they’re wasted on me as I’m not really the deviant type. Wearing them or wanking with them is just not me but I decide to keep them anyway. The only other things I’ve got to show for the money are teeth and lips stained with red wine and a hangover that could fell an Ox. I brace myself and begin the walk back to the bar where it all began, looking for the next chapter.



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