4th June


They were sitting against the back wall of the pub, side by side. The little table in front of them looked as if it might have arrived some time after they had, a mere convenience. The man wore a grey suit and a buttoned-up shirt with no tie. The woman wore a black dress. Her hair was grey. They looked poor, foreign and old, but perhaps they weren’t any of these things. They were drinking red wine. I noticed how her right hand rested on top of his left.

The usual crowd were out. We were young and loud, half a dozen of us round another table, which hardly had space for all our bottles and glasses. It was a very ordinary pub. I don’t remember how we had ended up in it, but there we were, and the bar staff and the other customers tolerated us. They knew that the next night the place would be theirs again.

We were recounting foreign adventures, trying to outdo one other, bragging about dangerous situations we’d been in or managed to get out of. That was the thing: we’d always got out of them, and most of them weren’t that dangerous. We’d almost been killed, or there’d been a threat of violence, robbery or arrest, but none of our stories ended in disaster. We were young and invincible: our loud laughter proved it.

That couple didn’t say a word all night, as far as I could see. They just sat, sipping their wine, her hand on his. Then they got up to leave. As they passed us, they paused. The man said, ‘You don’t know you are born. You don’t know.’ And they went out into the street.

There was silence, which somebody, I forget who, broke by imitating that thick, unfamiliar accent. ‘You don’t know you are born.’ And there was another burst of laughter.

I did not join in. I had no idea what those people had experienced, what had brought them to where and who they were, but I felt it must be something huge and tragic, something more terrible than the worst any of us could ever imagine. And I felt ashamed.

Reader: Michael Munro
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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