What was it now?

John’s jumbled muddled mind twisted thoroughly as he sat still at the top of the steps. He was alone and deep in thinking, thinking about what he was thinking about. He was, he was sure, supposed to be doing something important, or so he thought, that day. He knew, or he thought he knew, it was something to do with his girlfriend? Mary was John’s girlfriend. Mary was very understanding, thought John. She’d understand. She always did. He thought about the best-forgotten time he’d gone fishing instead of to a date with Mary. He told her he’d been rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis. That was a laugh that was, she’d showered him with remorseful kisses and she had emphatically apologised for not being with him in his distressed times. She’d even walked him to the bus-stop instead of vice-versa, even though he told her it was only a germ in his stomach after all.

And then there was the time he’d arrived an hour late for a date and he told her his bus had been involved in an accident and he’d had to make a statement to the police.

She had believed that too.

John was very forgetful, very forgetful, in fact he was so forgetful he had to write down what day it was on his hand, but to make up for his lack of memory he found he developed a terrific imagination and very often the most fantastic and unbelievable excuses would pour out easily from his trick-box. They were so unbelievable that she was the only one who believed him any more and he sometimes wondered if she did know the truth but still played along. Anyway, he was sure she’d had enough of his excuses.

He started trying to make up an excuse when he realised he’d forgotten what he had to make an excuse for.

Never mind, he thought, it’ll come to me, maybe when I see her. She’s very understanding is she.

But when was he supposed to see her? He didn’t know. He looked at his watch, then remembered the day was written on his hand, and that’s what he wanted to know. It was Friday, or it could have been Saturday, maybe he’d forgotten to wash his hands the day before. No, it was definitely Friday. Now, what happened on a Friday? Yeah, he met her after work. That was the night she worked late.

That was it, he’d go and meet her after she’d finished but he’d have to take her a box of chocolates or something to make up for what he’d forgotten. That would do fine, he thought, a box of chocolates suits all occasions. He’d give her the chocolates and a kiss. She’d understand, she always did.

He looked at his watch again, for the time this time, it was half past twelve – dinner time, suddenly he felt very hungry. She’d given him the watch for his birthday the previous year, or was it Christmas? Never mind, it was dinner time and he was hungry.

He went straight and impulsively towards the nearest café.

After a meal, a good filling meal, he sipped his coffee and thought again. He thought about the day before and what he’d done. What was it he had done? He came home from work. Changed. Washed. And gone out with the boys. It was a big drinking session for some reason. He couldn’t remember what it had been for just then but no doubt, as always, it would come to him.

Firstly, they’d gone to The George in Elphin Street, had a few drinks, a good few drinks, he remembered that, there was that model of a horse on the wall of the lounge. He’d always fancied that and finally persuaded Pete the barman to give it to him. He’d arranged to collect it the following week. Yes, he remembered that all right. What happened after that, he didn’t really know.

He did know that by then he’d had quite a few drinks and after visiting a few more pubs, the names of which eluded him, he guessed they’d ended up in George’s flat, where he’d made a drunken speech about something he couldn’t recall and made a fool of himself as he vaguely remembered.

He left the café and stopped to admire his suit and himself in a shop window. He looked startled at his reflection. Good god, suit, he should be in work now, not wearing a suit.

What time was it? Quarter past one, his watch said, he’d better hurry, he suddenly remembered he had to be at the church by half past. Mary would be waiting.