I first met Mike and Kate at a protest rally, outside the American embassy denouncing the latest war. A girl walked up to me and asked for some of the joint in my hand. Noticing her slim build and pretty face I immediately agreed. She took a healthy toke and signalled to a guy who was standing faux-nonchalantly nearby and he came over. It was like one of those tag team confidence tricksters but I didn’t mind. They seemed cool enough and we obviously shared the same passions for right-on politics and recreational drug use.
The three of us became fast friends. They shared a loft in a dilapidated warehouse down by the quays. Full of graffiti tagged walls, half-finished art installations and musical instruments, it was a comfortable cliché. Lots of people were always hanging out, jamming, drinking and cooking weird tasting vegetarian food. Their friends were in the same mold, pleasant enough if a little earnest and idealistic. Mike and Kate were an amiable couple; a sort of aspirational standard of domestic hippy bliss that seems very appealing when one wakes up alone on a Sunday morning again.
The first crack in their contented façade appeared one Saturday night. We had been sitting around, smoking roll-ups, drinking a bottle of Scotch and arguing about socialism. Kate passed out on their dingy futon while Mike and I finished the whisky. Seeking a night-cap we wandered out into the neighbourhood and ended up in a local pub, sitting at the bar drinking Jameson. A group of girls were nearby, laughing and dancing. Mike looked at me, tilted his head towards them and grinned.
“Shall we go and say hello?” he asked. The girls welcomed us into their little circle and we started chatting them up. After a while, I noticed Mike had retreated into the corner with one of them. Ten minutes later they were gone.
A month later, a similar situation unfolded. This time however vodka was the drink of choice and it was Mike who faded first. He stumbled off to bed while Kate went to the loo. I sat contemplating the ice-cubes in my glass trying to decide whether to stagger home or crash there. Kate came back and sat next to me. Rather too close in fact; so close that there was little doubt to her intention. I leaned over and kissed her. She tasted of cranberry juice, her hair smelled of smoke and her lips were soft and pliable. We kissed for a while, caressing each other under our clothes.
“Mike and I don’t really have sex anymore,” she said. Embarrassed, I muttered a goodbye and left.
Trying to assuage the guilt, I attempted to rationalise the indiscretion. It was just a drunken kiss, it didn’t mean anything. Just affection between friends, a natural expression of friendship between a man and a woman. Besides hadn’t Mike gone off with that girl that night? Such openness and freedom was commonplace with a couple enjoying an enlightened, permissive lifestyle. Still though, I made sure Kate and I were not alone in similar circumstances.
The third and final incident occurred another month or two down the line. Again the same cast of characters, again the bottle of booze: this time absinthe. We were drinking it the traditional way: a flambéed spoonful of sugar dipped into the glass. Kate and I were dancing with Mike strumming along on his guitar to the music. She kissed me suddenly and Mike laughed. I kissed her back. She went over and kissed him and then she walked into the bedroom.
“Come on boys,” I heard her say. I looked at Mike and he tilted his head in that way of his, grinned and said “After you”.
I woke the next morning, lying naked between them. They were still asleep so I dressed and left. After that there were no more intimate little soirees at their loft. Occasionally they would appear at a party or gig but it was never the same. They seemed to disappear after a while and someone told me that they had gone off travelling around India. A real estate developer bought the warehouse and converted it into luxury apartments.
Edited by Darth Yossarian, 02 February 2007 - 07:11 PM.