His mates want him to. 'Stu,' they say, then yell at him from the middle of the carriage, then sit down back in front of him, patting his knee and practically holding his hand, 'come on, you're out.'
'I am out,' says Stu, stoically.' By this, they mean 'out and about'.
'And? Aren't you enjoying yourself?'
'I am enjoying myself,' Stu says, sullen.
His mates want to know why he doesn't want to go out; he stretches his lanky long legs so they touch the bench opposite and he says: 'I'm wearing these and I'll never get in.' 'These' are his trainers; 'in' at the club.
The shortest of his mates, but maybe also the most sympathetic, says he will. 'I'll give you a hundred quid if you don't get in.' Later, he repeats the wager and raises it with a hundred pounds from each of his mates. Nobody protests, except Stu. Stu isn't having it. He won't be able to get home. 'You're coming with me, you're staying at mine,' his little but sympathetic friend tells him.
'I want to be at home in the morning, I've got a delivery.'
'Well they're not going to come round first thing are they?'
'I'll get you home by nine.'
Stu remains unconvinced. More than unconvinced, he's steadfast. Part of me wants to turn around to him and say: 'Stu, listen, you're out with your mates; they love you: they want you to hang out with them, don't be such a wuss.' But I don't, because that would seem like putting unfair pressure on him. He's under a lot of pressure – fair or no – as it is. There are maybe a dozen of them in total, inebriated to varying degrees, and by now the carriage is practically full with other people, all of whom now know that Stu really doesn't want to go out. The trainers are clearly an excuse. So, I reckon, is the delivery in morning. As Green Park approaches – the stop where they'll change for another train to get to Shoreditch, apparently, although the route doesn't make immediate sense to me – they become more insistent. Another one of his mates – this one particularly handsome – squats down in front of Stu and looks at him directly: 'Come out with us, you're with us tonight!'
'It's eight o'clock now, we're not gonna get into a club before midnight, what are we going to do for four hours?' This sounds like a reasonable question, if a touch pedantic...
'Drink beer!' his handsome mate beams at his face. Stu does not seem too keen on that idea, though the even-toothed smile of his mate in anticipation is pure joy. Stu is holding in his hand a can of ready-mixed Pimms, which is why intermittently, instead of 'Stu' they yell at him 'Pimms! Pimm's get up, you're coming with us!'
Green Park arrives and the lads drag Stu off his seat, literally. He flops back down. He's a tall lad, and quite awkward to get hold of, so they get hold of his Pimms instead and take that with them out onto the platform. 'This train is now ready to depart,' intones the driver over the speakers; the train may be ready, not so the lads. Stu really doesn't want to go out, but the lads really don't want to leave him here alone on the train. 'All right if you're not going, I'm staying with you,' another one of the tall handsome ones says. But the doors now try to close and the lads hold them open and Stu still doesn't budge, so this lad now also reluctantly gives up, and one of them, the one who had got hold of Stu's Pimms, throws the Pimms back into the carriage just as the doors finally rumble shut.
The train departs, with Stu still on it, his head now sunk a little and his eyes fixed on his mobile phone. This is more so as not to look at them as they wave at him and bang on the departing train door, shouting 'Stu! Stuuuu!' than to do anything phonewise.
I feel a bit sorry for Stu and I'm reminded of a night in Berlin many years ago when I was so tired I just wanted to go to bed, but my friends and colleagues all said, no let's go out, and while they didn't have to twist my arm anywhere near as much as Stu's mates just attempted to twist Stu's, I only after a great deal of hesitation finally decided to go, because after all, I was with my friends, and I was in Berlin. I had one of my best nights ever.
I should have told Stu to go with his mates, I want to think, and I'm about to think it, when the man who's since taken the seat directly opposite Stu says: 'Good for you mate!' And I think: actually, good for you, Stu. Now I want to turn around to him and say: 'well done Stu, good for you, you stood your ground. That was a lot of pressure you were under.' But then I think that would be hypocritical, because only five minutes ago I wanted to say to him: 'Stu, go out with your mates, man, they love you: it will be a night to remember.'
Now I think: who knows? Maybe Stu missed the best night of his young life so far. But then he's happy drinking a Pimms from a can and his mates will now be drinking beer for four hours before they may or may not be let into a club in Shoreditch. And he'll be home and in fine fettle tomorrow when the delivery arrives. Whatever the delivery may be.
What might that delivery be? I wonder. Who delivers something at ten o'clock on a Sunday and couldn't be texted, say, or WhatsApped and told: actually, I went on a bit of a bender last night, can you come round at two instead? But then I remember that the delivery in the morning thing, much as the trainers thing, was likely no more than an excuse, and a pretty lame one at that. Stu just really doesn't want to go out tonight. And if he really doesn't want to go out tonight, why should he?
Good for Stu.
(I just hope he's not going to be lonely tonight, thinking, I wish I'd gone out with my mates. That would be terrible. I seem to worry a tad more about Stu than is entirely necessary, I realise, but then so do his mates. At least he's got mates. And they care for him enough to practically drag him off a train. And, as Stu says to another passenger on the train, they'll give him a lot of stick for this on Monday. So probably the universe is in order. They even offered to pay for his drinks. But you know Stu, when they say you don't regret the things you've done, you only ever regret the things you haven't done? That's pretty much true. Give it ten years and most of them will be married with toddlers and very demanding partners or spouses and nobody will be dragging you off a train for a spontaneous night on the town. So next time, if there is one, just go out with your mates, Stu: seriously, even if you don't really want to. At least you'll have a story to tell; I just hope you'll have some good stories to tell, Stu, whatever you do...)