The men in front of the smoked glass window sit a few feet apart in the hazy gloom with only each other and two half-drunk pints for company or entertainment, in a silence without conceivable beginning or end.
The Landlady is slumped on the bar behind her drink, and raises a bored eyebrow to glower lazily at us as we walk in.
The bar is of dark wood, as is the pannelling, and there are enameled victorian tiles on sections of the walls. Behind the spirits there are grimy, engraved antique mirrors and low lighting.
At the noiseless fruit machine, a short and squat lady is on tiptoes feeding change and murmuring darkly to herself.
The cricket is playing through a fuzzy, muted television in the corner, and a man is sat quietly beside it on a sofa.
We sit down at the bar opposite the landlady’s drink, and join the silence. We turn along the bar to the screen as the landlady pours our drinks and resumes her slump, across the bar-top from us. For five minutes we peer through the gloom, before the landlady slinks off to the far end of the bar on some or other errand, and Mark turns to me with a look that mirrors my own feelings. A look of horror and sickness welling within, and of suffocation and terror pressing from without. Life and hope long since deseted. We drink and flee.
Rarely or never have I felt the profundity of human loneliness as overwhelming as it was in that pub, on that afternoon.