‘Legs or hotdogs?’
East London’s ‘old man’ pubs: where lonely old men come to sit alone and feel less lonely. This one is a particularly archaic joint that lies just off the thighs of Hoxton. I’m here, mutilating the minutes with a shrunken drunkard who shall remain Colin. Slowly but slowly he drains a bottle of his least favourite wine, vaping away while he glugs. Ribbons of synthetic smoke slither through the air, hanging over the date playing out behind us.
Colin was, by all intents and purposes, a camp cockney with a Wotsit-orange tan. Collagen lips would swell from his taut face as a few strands of hair stood apologetically atop his head. Once dubbed (by himself) the ‘Queen of Hoxton’, he’s now but a disused ‘entertainer’ who couldn’t make it through the 90’s with a career. He now has not a pot to puke in. Mindlessly sniffing his fingers he observes the date with his ears.
A guy and a girl sit opposite each other as typically as you can imagine. The girl looked on. She – a ‘foodie’ with a moustache tattooed onto her forefinger – was doing all the talking. The guy was howling at her every word, joke or otherwise, in a tiring attempt to be win a place on her mattress. A fresh take on seduction.
“White wine yeah?” Asked the tetchy gent. “Large?”
“If you feel like I’m worth it!” She winked.
A burlesque laugh tumbled from his mouth. He dripped over to the bar.
“Hi. I’ll have one ’Gascoigne’ cocktail – extra tequila and a small white wine, please.”
Colin swivelled on his stool to face him. “You smell nervous!” He slurred.
“On a date innit. “ Muttered the lad.
“What’s this angel like…?”
The brylcreemed fellow pierced his eyes and cocked his head, as if recollecting a faded dream. “Hmm, decent green eyes – a tad small. Silky red hair. Rubbery vanilla skin…”
Colin looked irked. The chap continued: “…No real chin to speak of. Umm, her chest (he didn’t say chest) as flat as that beer…”
“Noooo,” Colin burst, now the colour of an aniseed ball, “what’s her personality like?!!”
The little fella looked baffled and shaken. The barmaid opened a window.
Hoxton’s sun floods through the brittle pub glass rendering all windowside flora limp and crunchy. The date actually looks to be blossoming now that they’re pissed. Cackles from the guy are still punctuating everything she says but it appears to be working.
I think of clearing off but Colin was melting in front of my eyes and I now feel somewhat responsible for him. He swayed nauseously back and forth, lost in an alco-K-hole; the drink in his gullet bubbling like a boozy jacuzzi.
“Can I do a show for you?” He stuttered.
“Huh… What do you mean?”
“My latest dance.”
“Dance? No, you’re a comedian type thing aren’t you?”
“I do it all dear.” A thread of spittle hung from his plump lip.
“Hmm… Is it a ‘funny’ dance or a ‘sexy’ dance?”
“Sexy.” He coughed.
“Oh forget it,” I said, sliding his bottle towards him. “Honestly, just drink your drink.”
He slid it back towards me and hopped off his stool.
”I need this…” He qwacked. ”You just sit there and enjoy me!”
It was already too late to decline.
Peeling up his linen slacks he revealed two cadaverous limbs flecked with moles, boils and skin tags. It reminded me of a currant bun that’s been left in the sun. The varicose veins stitched up his calf look fit to burst. “Legs or hot dogs!?” He chuckled.
I laughed. He was funny.
“Legs,” he demanded, “or hot dogs??”
With one long exhale of his e-cig the floor became shrouded in dry ice. He kicked off his slippers and commenced dancing a stiff and jaunty jig. With every flex of his brittle little knees, a resonant click; he slutdropped once, twice, thrice in quick sick succession. The daters were now watching.
“That’s lovely” I lied, “stop now.”
He held a sassy finger towards me and shook it, ‘nuh-uh’ he gestured. His bleary beery eyes weren’t really looking anywhere in particular, so lost was he in the trance of dance.
Biting his bottom lip he thrust his rusty hips. You could hear the wine sloshing and crashing inside his baron stomach. This man, who’d been sinking the warmest, piss-poorest liquid for the last 2 hours was now throwing shapes I’ve never seen thrown. It was mesmerising. As hypnotic as a midnight sky exploding with fireworks, he drew gasps and squeaks with every move: a twist – oooooh! A twirl – ahhhhh! A lunge – fuuuuck!
Time was now irrelevant. He began clapping rhythmically, looking seriously into our eyes and coaxing us to clap along with him. We clapped along. A rush of adrenaline gushed through his ailing veins and his lungs expanded like the wings of an eagle. Launching a few of his legs into the air – he kicked away the clouds of smoke. Finally landing on the floor, he spun once more before folding his torso into a bow. The majestic boogie had come to an end.
Bathing in the light applause, the ‘Queen of Hoxton’ – who was never truly anywhere – was back!
“Bless you Jimmy,” said he, tears in his eyes. I shook his hand.
“That was magical!” I sparkled.
His mitt remained extended towards me, the sticky palm upward facing. The young couple went to leave, brimming with a post-show buzz. “Another drink at mine?” asked the girl. Finally the blushing guy ceased laughing. With that, the thick stench of angst returned.
I felt nauseous by this point. Whether it was the excitement and surprise of it all, or just the tedious smell of shit in the air, I really didn’t know. All I knew was that it was midday on a day off and I needed to fill my stomach. I went to get some lunch, now £20 worse off.