By complete coincidence I’m on a beach in South Carolina on the 4th July, wearing my jeans low and my boxers high.
I’d been awoken early for a hog roast by my American friend who in his most particularly unimpressive impersonation of an English gentleman tells me to get my arse out of bed. He’s wearing a pair of shorts conveniently emblazoned with stars and stripes, out of the heavily weighed down pockets he pulls out a can of warm beer, cracks it open and hands it to me, he then delves deeper into his pocket and pulls out another and a small pen knife. He opens his beer, places his thumb over the newly opened whole and proceeds to stab another in the lower section of the can. The liquid remains in due to the thumb being applied but then he places his mouth of the slit he has made and takes his thumb off. He stares at me challengingly as he drains the beer and lets out a savage burp in my face. He lets out one of those jeering whoops as he throws the can down, gets his black marker pen and marks a 6th black line across his arm, starting a new row in his tally. He shows me his other arm and I can see quite plainly he has taken the time to write “THE BRIT,” just below his elbow, there are no black lines yet under it. Within the next 5 seconds he has taken my beer back from me, placed his thumb over the top as he did with his own, shaken it, stabbed a hole right in the very bottom and thrown it into my bed. As he leaves he takes out his pen and scrawls the first number in my tally on his arm.
A few hours later, I’ve managed to blacken my friend’s arm a little more with my tally but his tally now stretches around and around his arm. I would have asked for proof of the amount of beverages he claims to have drunk but the tally lines becoming more and more like doodles and his figure becoming less and less clothed, not that he was wearing much to begin with, are testimony to his drinking antics.
We’d made our way to the beach by about 8 o clock having eaten our fair share of the pig throughout the day. My friend was talking avidly to himself and possibly me about a surprise that waited for us later on, a surprise he was seemed to be talking a lot of, but very little about. I’d kept my mouth shut for the vast majority of the day, speaking mainly when spoken to and staying clear of anyone who seemed to have the national anthem on repeat, the banter had reached a critical point at one point when they jokingly said that it was actually common in their part of the world to sacrifice an Englishman on the 4th, I laughed, they looked at each other.
After a few hours on the beach things were settling into a drunken lull, I could feel that heavy feeling you get from a lot of beer and my companion was slumped against my shoulder drooling away happily, for some reason unbeknownst to me his girlfriend had deemed it my role to look after him, the irony was smothering.
At 12 o clock that night, a bonfire was started and everyone crowded around it happily. People had come to know me through the day and a friendly elephant had crept into the room as my accent was inescapably English. But now, they were looking at me, laughing, not maliciously, just in a knowing sort of way.
Suddenly there was hush, and everyone went quiet.
A big chap stepped forward and walked over to me and asked me if I knew what I was doing.
I didn’t respond, everyone was laughing but I just stared gormlessly on.
He asked me if I had dressed especially for the occasion to which I responded negatively.
He asked me to just look at everything I was wearing.
Grey T shirt, rolled up jeans, sandals — no socks, straw hat…then it hit me, like a train.
I lifted up my t shirt and saw to my horror I had quite unknowingly worn my bright red, white and blue Union Jack Boxers and as my jeans had been riding low all day, every one had had a full view of the wonderful flag.
I’m a patriot, but I’m not an idiot. I kept my mouth shut and smiled and my foolishness…as I watched my boxers impaled over a thin branch and set alight over the bonfire and speared into the floor next to me. My friend burped out a giggle and promptly passed out at my feet.