Don’t Worry, Be Happy

8 Oct

The all-night caff isn’t on any maps handed out in Tourist Information. In fact, it isn’t even known by most of the representatives of decent society living in the city. But to Brighton’s nocturnals and wrong’uns – the junkies, the prostitutes, the pimps, the ravers, the insomniac psychos – Market Diner, hidden away on a backstreet of lock-ups and garages, is a regular fixture between the hours of 5 and 8am; the place to be as eyes adjust back to daylight.

It is a place where everyone tolerates everyone. No grief is to be had at the all-night caff.

A place where the staff aren’t going to ask you to leave for racking up a cheeky line on the table, next to your cup of tea, and then asking behind the counter for a straw to snort it with.

It was a Spring morning. We were a group of eight happy and completely twisted young people; four boys, four girls. An hour earlier we had all been strangers to one another. But the sharing of what chemicals each of us had left hidden in the baggies tucked inside our socks, combined with our all-round positive nature, had quickly rectified this situation. The club we had spent the night sweating inside had turfed us all out at 6am, and so everyone gathered on The Steps.

The Steps – taking the regular punter from the promenade to the street above – is the place where ideas are formed. And where balloons are sold by entrepreneurial types for £1 a hit. It is the place where happy people meet other happy people and talk deeply and profoundly to one another. It is the place where people speak absolute bollocks to one another.  It is the place where dilated pupils gaze into dilated pupils. And it is the place where friendships are made.

‘Do you want a bump of this in exchange for a bump of that?’

Sniiiiiiiiiiff.

‘Thanks. That’s hit the spot. Here you go, get this in you.’

Sniiiiiiiiiiff.

Somebody suggested the eight of us march on to the all-night caff for a cup of tea. In theory it was an idea of genius. In practice, it played out like a Monty Python sketch.* Ketamine will do that to an idea. It won’t make you miss an appointment but it will make you late for it.  Even so, after about half an hour we arrived at the all-night caff; a journey that would take the normal man about town five minutes.

*The Ministry of Silly Walks, in case you were wondering which one.

Joyously we piled into our favourite premises.

‘Eight teas, please! We’ll be sat over there. The teas are on me!’

‘Um, actually, can I have a Lilt instead of a tea?’

‘Seven teas, please! And a Lilt for that bloke. I don’t even know that bloke. Who is he? Ah fuck it, he’ll have a Lilt. Thank you, sir!”

I pay the man for the brews and we take up positions at a couple of the tables. Little conversations are taking place throughout our group. One on ones I guess you would call them. I rack up a little line for myself, and one for each of my two new friends sat at my table.

‘Can we borrow that straw from your Lilt?’

Sniiiiiiiiiiff.

I feel that I am being watched. Out of the corner of my eye I can make out three people sitting at a table, silently, in the corner of the caff, to my right. I turn my head their way.

Two weary-looking prostitutes. One staring at me. Or rather staring through me. Dead eyes. Still to this day the saddest eyes I have ever seen. Both girls young. Same age as us. Twenties. Both with a tea in front of them. And a plate of food each. Eggs on toast. One with black hair. One blonde. The one staring through me, her eyes telling a story far darker than any horror you will see on DVD. And then I look at him. Sitting next to them. Fat. Fat and nasty looking. In a Puffa jacket. Unshaven. The pimp. The man who sells these two women through the hours of darkness. Every night. Sitting there silently while they eat. He pays the waitress. He is treating them. This is him fucking treating them. I look away, back to my group. They are all in their own worlds. Chatting. Sipping tea. Enjoying the music videos that are playing on the 24-hour music channel that beams at us from the large flat-screen on the wall above our table.

I look back at the girl with the sad eyes. We make contact. And hold it. And it is painful. I am certain that she means it to be. She wants me to see.

At the table behind us, some night-shift taxi drivers are celebrating finishing their shift with a Gut Buster. Bacon, sausages, black pudding, eggs, tomatoes, chips, beans, mushrooms, toast and a fried slice. They don’t particularly like our kind. But this is the all-night caff. A place where everyone tolerates everyone. No grief is to be had at the all-night caff.

In your mind, in your imagination, you cannot picture a sadder scene of human depression than these two girls and their fat and nasty looking pimp.

One of our group says, ‘Oh yes, here we go, it’s tune time ladies and gentlemen.’

I look up to the large flat-screen.

I recognise the intro immediately. Bobby McFerrin. Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

Our friend was correct. It is indeed a tune.

Every single one of our group gets to their feet. And we sing. We sing louder than we have ever sang before. In unison.

Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do   don’t worry   do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do   be happy   do-do-do-do-do-do   don’t worry, be happy now!

And an amazing thing happens.

The sad eyes. The sad eyes that have been staring through the wall. They shine for a second. The mouth curves into a smile.

Behind me, the taxi drivers are on their feet now too. And they’re singing.

The staff have come out from behind the counter and from in the kitchen to join us all in the dining area. And they’re all singing. We are ALL singing together. And we are all happy. We are all so happy. Even if it will only last for the three minutes or so that Bobby McFerrin is on the screen, we are all friends. All brothers and sisters.

And then it happens. It’s a fucking miracle. The girl with the saddest eyes I have ever seen stands up. So does her friend. I guess they are friends. And then, reluctantly, so does their fat nasty looking pimp. And they smile. They really smile. And they sing. We are ALL singing. And we all move around the dining area, shaking hands with the people we have never met. The prostitute with the sad eyes shakes my hand and holds it for a couple of moments.

Ravers, druggies, worn-out prostitutes, pimps, taxi drivers, foreign kitchen staff, a waiter and a waitress, young and old, we are all embracing each other. And singing Don’t Worry, Be Happy at the top of our lungs. We are humans. We are one.

The song ends. We all sit down again. We all go back to our worlds.

I look at the girl with the sad eyes. We make contact again. She smiles. Only for a second.

My table. And her table. The saddest eyes I have ever seen.

My table. And her table. The saddest eyes I have ever seen.

market diner

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One Response to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”

  1. Florin October 8, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Jesse Pinkman, is that you?!

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