There was a fight, later on, over a girl that neither one possessed and only one of them had truly known, although neither was entirely sure which one. A girl that, had anyone consulted her, would have had difficulty distinguishing between two gropes out the back of McCormack’s with two equally rangy and urgent pairs of hands. But the well-watered whiskey (both before and after it was served up at the bar) carried them through the necessary motions until they were standing, swaying, snarling self-consciously across a sulphur-lit circle of the carpark.
When it became clear that the red mist promised by their shared fictions was not going to materialise, they took to circling slowly, muttering quiet abuse at each other, almost whispering, as if to insult too loudly would provoke action before they were ready. Late leavers passed around them without pause or comment, failing to recognise the duel apparent. Mistaking it for two half-cut friends arguing. Which, of course, was what it was.
Their movements synchronised in the manner of drunks dancing; one unconsciously taking the lead, gesturing and feinting, with the other imitating a half moment behind, until some flash of inspiration in the student would have their roles reverse. This continued for what could have been two minutes or an hour, however long it takes for men in this condition in these conditions to become embarrassed with themselves.
One jumped forward, one jumped back, one twisted his heel on the kerb and came down awkwardly, hitting his head on the tarmac with a thump that made no sound. He clutched his crown, cursing and sobbing while the victor stood over him, laughing once, briefly, in confusion. He swayed in the effort of standing still, then half-dropped to one knee, reaching out to take his foe’s arm before remembering his role. “And stay down,” he said, striding out of the pool of light towards the village, looking back once, twice, waiting for the other to get up.