Chance Meeting

In which The Author stirs up some traumatic memories in a virtual stranger

In Portion Control, I mentioned the time when Sam took me into the Carpenters on a collar and lead. I remembered last night that there’s a follow-up to that event.
I was in Merthyr for a hospital appointment just before my birthday last year. On the way back I decided to have lunch in the town’s Wetherspoon pub. There was a group on the table behind me: a woman a couple of years younger than me, with blonde hair and a chunky white poloneck sweater (therefore only half my type!); a very attractive women in her early thirties, with dark hair and glasses (very much my type); and a lad and a girl in their late teens. While waiting for my lunch to arrive, I fiddled about with the crossword and unintentionally caught snippets of their conversation.
I gathered that they’d met while on a job-seeking course – probably the same course that Rhian had been on a couple of months earlier. The older women had teamed up with the youngsters and taken them for a pub (liquid) lunch. At one point, my ears pricked up. The woman in the poloneck was telling the others about the night that a girl had come into the pub with her boyfriend on a lead. As she carried on, I realised that she was talking about the Carpenters in Aberdare. I assumed that she must have been talking about the same night. After all, the chances of another couple doing the same thing are pretty slim (although I can think of a couple of likely suspects!)
The dark-haired woman went on to talk about kinky sex in general. She outlined how she’d always been curious about it, but too scared to get involved. It wasn’t the sort of conversation one normally overhears in a pub.
When they went past on their way for a smoke, I piped up. I told them I’d heard them talking, and said, ‘Either we were in the Carpenters on the same evening, or lightning struck twice.’
‘Oh, hi Steve, I didn’t see you sitting there,’ the blonde woman said. Then she blushed deeply and made a beeline for the door. While they were outside, I texted Sam and told her what had just happened. She was horrified to learn that someone still remembered that night. Then again, I suppose we must have left a few people mentally scarred.
The gang from the next table stayed outside, smoking, for ages. Eventually the dark-haired woman said that her friend was too embarrassed to come back in. After a while they persuaded her to return, and with the ice well and truly shattered I was invited to join their table. The dark-haired woman seemed especially fascinated by the incident, and I had twenty questions from all four until it was time to go. I even got invited to join them for lunch the following week. Their Friday lunchtimes were a regular event, it seemed. I couldn’t make it, though. We didn’t get round to exchanging numbers or Facebooking each other either. That still isn’t my style, unfortunately.
Still, the weather might improve, and I should have my new camera soon. I need to finish the photos of Merthyr town centre. I might pop into the pub one Friday lunchtime and see if they’re still around. After all, you never get a second chance to make a bad impression …

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