As she stepped from daylight into darkness, the door closed behind her more slowly than before as she skipped a step. The step skipped by her. Door open-space-blank-closed. Step missed. Missed step. Nothing. Rhian heard her name, called her name from behind the bar, well a name, it might not have been hers, but Andy was looking at her and his mouth was open, mouthing words without making sounds. A one-man dumb show. She swept the room, unsyncopated echoes, mouths closed. There were no sounds. Rhian wanted to walk, but steps kept stopping and starting, starting and stopping. She put her hands out in front of her, inching her way to the bar, but the spaces grew and the bar retreated. Neither going forwards nor standing still. Definitely not retreating either. She was sure everyone was looking at her, though she couldn’t count them or see them, as she steeled herself and made the journey.
‘All right Rhi? You working tonight?’ Andy said, reaching up for the Mezcal bottle, wiping his hand on tattered jeans, and flipping over a glass. ‘Usual is it, me duck?’
‘Usual what?’ Rhian said holding on to the bar and looking to her feet for stability. The room stood still, still she felt herself swaying. Her oxblood Doc Marten’s would keep her there. If not the permanently tacky carpet would.
‘Usual drink? Mezcal, not Tequila, no ice. Double. It’s on the house, love.’
‘No wonder you don’t make any fucking money,’ said a man in a Prelapse tee-shirt, whom Rhian thought she knew. She had seen him before, there, but not standing there and not wearing that tee shirt. Brain scarring, whooshing left to right, a ham actress’s double take, imbalance, blackness, but then light. Rhian tried to breathe, huge lungs full. She did not know how. Gwenllian always reminded her to breathe.
‘Mick, that you?’ Rhian said, staring beyond him, to the stage in the back room.
‘Of course it fucking is. Who the fuck else would it be? You want a drink? Giro day!’ he said mugging to more of an audience than he usually got.
‘Erm, I don’t know…’ she tried to focus on his feet and work her way up.
‘It’s alright Mick, it’s sorted,’ Andy said, placing glasses of happy agave juice in front of them both.
‘What the fuck you been doing today?’ Mick said, knocking back the San Cosme in one. ‘You look as fucking rough as this fucking Tequila.’
‘It’s fucking Mezcal, you fuckwit.’ Rhian was still staring into the room and heard the opening bars of Gorky’s soundchecking Methu Aros Tan Haf. She sang along in welsh:
“Rwy methu aros tan Mehefin
Aros tan haf
Rwy mynd i torri ti y haf hwn
Torri ti’r haf hwn”
Rhian translated as she sang:
“I can’t wait till June
Wait till summer
I’m going to break you this summer
Break you this summer”
The band stopped, but Rhian kept singing:
“The ocean paths this summer
It’s easier to waste your day away
Rwy methu aros tan mehefin – I’m going to wait till June
Aros tan haf – Wait till summer”
‘How the fuck do you know the words? It isn’t even out yet.’ Mick said nodding at Andy and holding up two fingers.
‘Oi, fuckwit. My name is Rhiannon Haf Bevan! I’m Welsh. I speak Welsh. I told you last night and every fucking time I see you.’ Rhian had reached Mick’s knees, but looked back down at his Doc Martened feet.
‘Are you? Do you? I didn’t even know that your name was Rhiannon. I though Ri was short for Marie or something. You don’t sound Welsh. You don’t even look fucking Welsh.’ Mick sank his second Mezcal. Rhian had not touched her first, but continued to look into the near darkness of the backroom and occasionally at Mick’s stomach. Rock burns pierced his shirt. Mick raised an eyebrow at Andy behind the bar, held up two fingers and pointed at their glasses
‘What? What do Welsh people look like and why the fuck are you wearing your own band’s tee shirt? You sad fuck,’ Rhian looked at Mick, saw her Mezcals, poured one into the other and shotgunned them, wincing. ‘Iechyd da, cariad.’
‘What? I thought it was Yakki dar?’ Mick said, ordering a further two. ‘Make them doubles this time Andy, could ya?’
‘You really are an ignorant fuckwit sometimes, Michael.’ Rhian held her hand up to Andy as he moved to take her glass, and put another before her. Mick drank both.
‘I remembered that you are half-caste. I need a slash,’ Mick said tumbling off the barstool, towards the Toilet Venue Toilets.
‘Mixed race, you eternal fuckwit.’
‘Are you going to be here when I get back or what?’ Mick said continuing his stumble, holding up two further fingers to Andy.
The Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia played over the PA. Rhian knew the words but, staring at the glass still in her hand, didn’t sing along.
Rhian did not answer. She put down the glass feeling in her bag for her pad and pens; her lighter, fags, and tampons covered in the perfume, dripping from an uncovered bottle.
‘I’ll put them on your tab then, shall I,’ Andy said clearing away the glasses and wiping over the bar, as Rhian stood staring again towards the far-off stage.
‘I thought they were on the house?’ Rhian said trying to walk again, but her body rebelled. Scarring-whooshing dizziness, this time longer; sustained blackness; no light – no breath, Rhian sought something solid. She could not see her shoes, as the whooshing scorched her brain. She turned to look at Andy, took a step, and fell to the floor. Her bag emptied over her and the wraps of whizz and coke spilled down her legs. Nobody moved, except for Rhian, convulsing, juddering, unaware.