“So you think you’re quite the man, do you?”
James winced. He’d only known Debbie a few weeks having met her through a friend at a night out with some of his course companions. Studying chemistry, he didn’t get to see many girls in the lab or in the lectures, but he always tried to address this when out socially. And he had quickly learned that Debbie was a bugger after a few drinks. What’s more, he’d got to recognise that tone of voice she had taken, and her mannerisms. They said something was afoot and it was likely to be trouble. He was keen to avoid trouble, and so he played it safe.
“Well, I am a man…” he began cautiously.
This was met with snorts of derision from his mates Andy and Joe, and a tuneless rendition of the line ‘I’m a man not a boy’ as performed by the long-forgotten teen band North and South who had featured in the BBC television series ‘No Sweat’ in an attempt to replicate the success of S Club 7, from Stu. The fool.
“Prove it,” Debbie taunted flirtatiously.
“What?” James couldn’t hide his surprise.
“A drinking contest, silly!” she laughed.
James flushed, especially when he noticed that Sarah and Jenny were laughing too. He knew he’d sounded excessively indignant and defensive.
“Oh!” he exclaimed, relieved. He had reasons to be wary after some of the stories he’d heard of Debbie, and that she had herself recounted.
“What did you expect?” cackled Sarah.
Jim shrugged, and before he could speak, found himself being presented with a shot of tequila that seemed to come from nowhere and his thoughts buried beneath a chant of “Drink! Drink! Drink!” from all of his companions.
He picked up the little glass and put it to his lips, keeping one eye on Debbie all the while. Then… Bam! He sank it. Debbie did the same, in unison. More followed in rapid succession and James soon began to feel woozy.
“Think I need some fresh air,” he said as his vision began to blur.
He made a sharp exit, and the cool night air hit him like an adrenaline shock. He still felt disorientated – tequila always ruined him, and fast – and sweat was beading on his brow, but he no longer felt like he would die and simply felt drunk enough for more antics. And more antics he would get.
The rest of the gang quickly gathered around him. It was time to move on. Another bar, and en route Debbie insisted she make a brief call at her house – she’d left some cash there, and made a quick-change of her top while she was making the collection. Before long, they were on their way. Debbie lived in the heart of town, and so the next bar – a horrible, loud place that played pulsating dance music but did two-for-one student offers on certain nights – was only a couple of minutes away. James was glad he was utterly trashed: it was the only way he could ever find places like this remotely tolerable.
Despite her enormous capacity for booze, even Debbie was beginning to show the signs of her consumption, and everyone else was utterly legless – as gashed as James, or so he assumed: it was hard for him to judge. But she hadn’t forgotten her evening’s objective, to challenge James to prove himself at every opportunity. And he was drunk enough to go along with whatever she put his way. So chatting up some alcopop-guzzling teenage floozy in an impossibly short skirt might have resulted in a truly humiliating rejection, but won the approval of his peers, not least of all the truly fearsome Debbie. Dancing shirtless on a table? No problem. It might’ve got them kicked out of that particular bar, but that was half the fun.
Once ejected, they regrouped outside. Debbie guided them all into an alleyway and broke out her wallet, removing a piece of paper, the likes of which James had never seen before.
“Acid,” she explained, an evil conspiratory leer on her face.
“Oh no,” James said. He meant it.
But a little coercion goes a long way, and before long, he and Debbie and three or four others had dropped tabs and the rest of the group – minus Stuart, who claimed he had to work the following morning – made their way to the next venue. After that, the acid was beginning to kick in, but despite the onset of some mildly disconcerting hallucinations, James accepted the challenge of skinnydipping in the river that ran through the town centre. He scraped his leg on a submerged shopping trolley, but it was worth it: after all, it was a laugh, he got to maintain his credibility in the eyes of the great arbiter, Debbie, and he got to see her without any clothes. She was a good sport, and would never set a challenge she wouldn’t perform herself.
The evening began to blur, perhaps there were more bars, even a club. The group was reducing in size now: only James, Debbie, Jenny and Andy remained. Jen and Andy were flagging and starting to weird out, but James was on fire and managing to keep up with Debbie. More drinks purchased from an off-license or somewhere topped up those already imbibed and blended with the LSD. It was quite a trip.
Somehow, they ended up on a building site. James wasn’t sure about this. He was being coerced to climb the crane tower. It was a good hundred feet tall, and was fuzzy and bending out of shape. He was scared of heights, and right now his balance and co-ordination were fucked. However mashed he was, he knew it was impossible. He didn’t want to die. But Debbie wasn’t taking no for an answer. Then, from nowhere, she pulled a pistol from her bag. She pointed at her friend. She cocked the mechanism with terrifying steadiness and certainty.
“Climb,” she ordered
James knew he had no choice.
‘Drinking Games’ appears in The Gimp, out on Clinicality Press on 11th October 2010.