Now no one's knocked upon my door Just take a seat, they're always free
For a thousand years or more
All made up and nowhere to go
Welcome to this one man show
No surprise, no mystery
In this theatre that I call my soul
I always play the starring role
Just take a seat, they're always free
(So Lonely, The Police)
Frank was hungry. Not for food – he'd had enough food these past days. Comfort food. No, he was hungry for attention. He hadn't seen either of his two closest friends for a while now. Laurence was in Iceland, with Martha, doing whatever lovebirds do in a remote and bleak country on the edge of the world. And Daniel had run off to the States again to make more money, keen to forget the fact that Martha had turned him down.
Which left Frank alone in dreary cosmopolitan London. He did know other people, of course. Lots of other people. But they didn't really know him like Daniel and Laurence did. Strangely enough he missed Daniel's sermons on getting on in life. Right now he even longed for Laurence with his constant worries about almost everything.
In normal circumstances he wouldn't have considered accepting the invitation to the school reunion. Not for a million pounds in cash. It was just the kind of thing Daniel would do. Frank had no desire to meet his former schoolmates again, and besides, he had nothing to brag about. But he went anyway.
At first it wasn't so bad. The catering was alright. Plenty of alcoholic beverages, for free. He inhaled the musty odour of school kids, lino wax polish and chalk, and for once felt grateful for being an adult. He found a strategic position, next to the drinks stand and the door, and observed the other guests.
Some of them looked really old and successful. Come to think of it, most of them looked successful. Smug and confident as well. This wasn't a good idea, he decided, and reached for his cigarettes. A very old man, who looked like a teacher, shook his head disapprovingly. Frank shrugged, and crossed the hallway towards the entrance. Outside he sat down on the stairs and lit his cigarette.
"You're not supposed to take the glasses outside." He heard someone say. A tall blonde woman with a body like that of a model pointed at the glass in his hand. It was almost empty anyway. He took a last sip and watched her through the glass. That way she looked strangely contorted, like a dwarf. "Oh? And what's the punishment for that, I wonder? Detention perhaps?" Frank said.
She couldn't help but smile. Sat down next to him. "Frank. Frank the actor." She said, to his surprise. He smiled too. "And you are?" "Stacy. Stacy Mirren. So Frank, what is it you do these days?" she shattered his dreams. I'm a actor, he thought indignantly. "Nothing much, really. And you? Still working in human relations, Stacy?" He answered. He remembered her now. There was hardly a boy in his year that hadn't had sex with her. She almost gave it away for free. Well, not to him. Sexy Stacy, they called her.
"I'm a solicitor." She answered curtly. He could see he'd annoyed her. She yawned and got to her feet. "Well, Frank, it's nice to meet you again, but I'm afraid I have to go. Work and all that. Besides, the kids wake up early. You know how it is." He didn't. He watched her leave and wondered why her words hurt him. He'd never even liked her in the first place.
He went back inside for a refill of his glass. He could use something strong. "I'll have some of that." A man next to him said. Frank poured some for him as well. "Martin. I don't suppose you recognize me. Hardly anyone does. I know you though. You're Frank. You haven't changed." They shook hands and for a while they drank in silence. "Yeah, I remember you. You're the one that blew up the chemistry classroom." Frank said. Of course he remembered. He'd been the one to help Martin prepare his explosive chemicals.
Martin grinned. "I'm a chemistry teacher myself, these days. What about you? I bet you're still an actor." "I am." Frank replied, warming to Martin. He wisely didn't comment on the fact that he hadn't had any work for the past two years. "See, I knew! I heard your voice on the radio. A commercial for sherry. Tell me, they didn't make you drink the stuff, did they?" "God, no." Frank answered. He liked the way Martin unknowingly made him feel good about himself.
They were the last to leave. Frank showed Martin a late night club where they could have another drink. Three whiskeys later he regretted it. The drink made Martin emotional. His wife had just left him, he told Frank. He'd disappointed her. She'd had high hopes for him. Wished for him to become a headmaster one day. Which Martin knew he never would, and didn't aspire to anyway.
At first Frank was sympathetic, but then Martin's lamentations became a drag. "Come on, mate, time to go home." Frank decided. They had to take a cab, because Martin was too drunk to find the way home. Frank found Martin's address in his wallet. The cab fare robbed him of most of his money, so he had to walk home eight miles.
The cool night air and physical exertion sobered him up. At home his answering machine blinked. Eager he pushed the play button. One new message. It was his gran, inviting him to her birthday next Saturday. He played the message three times before erasing it. He lay down on his bed, to tired to undress, and slept instantly.