I hadn’t seen anything like it, people shouting and drinking and being ridiculous. We got to the club and it was packed, like the whole of London was sardined in the small venue. People were moving about, some of them not even walking straight anymore. Drinks in hand, cigarettes in mouths, girls on laps, waiters in a scurry; the room was smoky and cramped, and that god-awful noise they call music was louder than necessary. But for some puzzling reason, I loved it there. I liked the energy of the place. It felt real, and strangely honest. There was an atmosphere of freshness and novelty all around. That’s not to say I wasn’t also terrified, but I wasn’t about to call it a night. The only thing that gave me any semblance of safety was the hand that lead me in, as I clung on to it like a child. I felt how long and dainty his fingers were, how warm and snug his palm was, and how rough his callous had become. These beautiful girls would rub up against him, smiling seductively with their luscious lips and made-up bright eyes. I felt small, and quite literally, I really was—my eyes (slits compared to their doe-ish colored ones) had to level with their boobs, a whole load of them, all of which were three times my cup size. I looked up to my tour guide and he would smile back at the ladies, to some a little too friendly for my liking.
What world was I in where women are even more assertive than men? These must be the scarlet women history and literature would often talk about. But what is their price? Free drinks? Free records? Free music lessons? They’d see him smile back and lick their lips with gusto. Like an anthropologist I watched them, trying to understand their behavior, and wondering why the man I was holding seemed to be getting the most attention from them. Indeed I was intrigued, and he himself was becoming all the more intriguing.
Soon we were met by a tall man with a big blonde curly afro, waving at us with a smile that could replace the sun. “Hey you’re late!” he said laughing, and turning his attention to me, he continued with “And I can see why.” With a flirty grin he picked up my free hand and kissed it chivalrously before I shyly took it back and placed it below my neck. Laughing, I introduced myself to Robert when suddenly the hand that held mine since we got to the place had let go, and was now on the arm of a blonde bombshell, exchanging hi-hello-how are you’s in their tight little accents. He turned back to Robert and I, and said “Would you kindly lead our special guest to the best seat in the house, where she could hear the music good and proper?” I looked at him, and then at her—her in a flattering red dress, holding a long cigarette to her mouth with her perfectly manicured fingers. “It’d be my pleasure.” Robert answered, beckoning me forward towards the stage. As I walked after Robert, I looked back to see the both of them laughing and and leaning in close to each other. Was that his girl? Does she engage in intellectual conversation? Was I being passed off?—Was I being jealous!? I bumped into a chair and out of my thoughts. “Please darling have a seat.” Robert pulled a chair for me. We sat down and he introduced me to Jonesy and Peter, who was in the middle of what seemed like the only serious conversation happening in the club. I turned to look back at the scarlet woman but there was no sight of either of them.
My stomach churned and suddenly I felt lost and insecure, not knowing why I was in such a place. I was just about ready to get up and leave when Robert said “He doesn’t usually bring a date you know, he usually just finds these birds during the gig itself.”
I blushed and said “Oh, no I’m not his date. We just met over coffee this afternoon and he invited me to watch your band play… And besides, I think he found a bird alright.” Huh, why did I sound slightly heartbroken? Robert didn’t seem to notice as he turned around to try and spot them. With still no sight of the two, he chuckled and answered “Yeah he did, I bet they’re off balling somewhere.” Now, why did I feel slightly heartbroken?
I tried not to think about where the two might have gone, and was determined to enjoy the night—Robert was very kind and talkative and Peter would offer me drinks and food when it would come, while Jonesy occasionally asked me questions, being polite. I was starting to feel comfortable again and enjoyed the company of these lively people.
“So what’s it like where you’re from? I’ve always wanted to go see the Far East.” Robert asked me.
“Oh it’s wonderful. It’s quite different from over here but it really boasts some of the best tropical beaches and beautiful mountains, while the mainland is quite sophisticated—it’s actually pretty Westernized” I answered.
“Really? You know, I was actually wondering why you spoke English so well, and like an American too. It’s really quite amusing!” Robert laughed
I laughed and explained “Well we were under the Americans before the war, after being under Spain for centuries. Even Great Britain took hold of us for a while at one point. Imperialism kind of screwed us over, so you see why we’re not very oriental” I chuckled.
“Oh I’m sorry your flag has taken such a beating,” Robert laughed, before saying “but it seems your exposure to different cultures have served you well, I can see why my buddy had been caught up with you this afternoon.” With that Robert took a gulp of his beer while I started to wonder where he—and she—might be.
“You haven’t touched your pint darling” Robert pointed out, looking at the mug on the table. I thought, what the hell, I’ve come this far into this other world. I drank it the way I would water, and soon my mug was half-empty.
“Bleh! How could people drink so much of that!” I said wiping my mouth.
Jonesy and Peter, who was in their own world up to that point, laughed and raised their mugs to a toast. I joined them and we chugged down our drinks, surprising myself once more with my involuntary actions. Soon the four of us were talking and laughing boisterously at I don’t even know what. All I knew was that the drinks kept coming and I was on my third, when a familiar hand rested on my shoulder.
“Doing alright then?” I looked up to see his handsome face smiling down at me, and again all I could do was nod and smile. He took the seat next to mine and greeting everyone else in the table. I was tempted to ask where he had gone, but I decided it was really none of my business.
“Are my friends behaving well? I see they’ve gotten you tipsy already” he laughed as I struggled to cross my legs.
“Yes they’re wonderful! Peter here was just telling me about how much time you spend on your hair! Even more than I do!” I giggled and swayed, feeling a little woozy.
“Oh really? And you find it funny do you?” He took my hand and let me touch his curls “I think you’d rather like it” he continued, looking into my eyes with a silly grin on his face. And he was right, it was soft and full, and soon I was combing it through my fingers absentmindedly. My hand was still fondling his hair when we locked eyes for a few moments, until Peter told the band they were up. I took back my hand and he smiled at me before standing up, saying “Well, this is what you came here for. I hope we live up to your aesthetic taste.” With that he winked and the band got up on stage to start their set.
Cheers commenced before Jonesy begun their first song with an eerie bass line. Robert was even more charismatic when he took the spotlight, singing with a power I had never known before. Their drummer kept a steady beat even during the raucous, unpredictable parts. And of course him, on the guitar, shrouded in more mystery than ever, delivered melodies that were out of this world. Their music, collectively, was magical. It was disturbing, it was terrifying, it was beautiful. They seem to have taken on a fifth element together, delivering a profound impact on the listeners, including myself, who still thought it was noise—a magnetic noise I couldn’t understand but couldn’t help tuning in to. When the guitar solo begun, I just could not keep my eyes off him: his hair in his face, his face in pleasure, his fingers doing godly things, his body swaying and moving with the notes he conjured. Desire filled my whole being—forbidden desire, which made him all the more…desirable.
“They’re somethin’ else aren’t they?” Peter, who was left in our table, had been watching my intense gaze and I quickly fumbled for some words in my head.
“Yes, they’re very talented.” I managed to say.
He laughed before turning back to his baby, Led Zeppelin.
After they had gotten off stage the population of beautiful women doubled and each member was surrounded by a good number of them. I tried hard to shake off the thoughts and feelings that had passed over me during their set, when I saw him making his way through the crowd back to us, guitar still in hand.
“I’m glad we hadn’t scared you off yet.” he told me before passing his guitar to Peter.
“I actually found you very pleasing—I mean found it, the set—your music, I found it very pleasing…your songs, I mean” Clearly the alcohol was still swimming in my system. How long does one stay inebriated?
“Well I’m glad you enjoyed me—the set, I mean” he smirked. I probably would have been more embarrassed had I been sober, but given my low (or non-existent) tolerance to alcohol, I just giggled and nodded at him before taking another chug, while he took his seat next to me.
Soon the rest of the band joined our table, with a few girls who looked even younger than myself. The big guy who was their drummer shouted from across the table to us “Oi! Wot’s this, we’ve managed to capture an exotic bird have we?” Looking me over, I was half-flattered, half-frightened.
“This is Bonzo, our drummer, please forgive him he has misplaced his manners again.” He laughed and placed his warm hand on my back as he spoke, which caused the butterflies in my stomach to flap away mercilessly.
The rest of the night was a blur of more drinks, laughter, cigarette smoke, a brawl outside, and more ‘birds’ coming our way. All of the band members practically had women on their laps, except for the one next to mine. I was tempted to get up and just sit my bum on it, for reasons unknown to myself. But the small, diminishing shred of reason I had left stopped me from doing so, and we just continued talking and laughing, a hand on a shoulder and a touch of the arm here and there.
“Oh boy, what time ish it?” I slurred.
“It’s almost two, do you need to go back to your hotel?” he placed his hand gently but firmly above my knee, all the while with a concerned face—I was dazed, and boy was I confused. This all seemed like a surreal dream.
“Yeah, oh Christ I won’t wake up in time! I don’t even have a transportation plan for tomorrow!” I stood up to find balance had abandoned me, feeling like an infant still foreign to walking. A split second later I fell straight onto his lap. He caught me with his long arms that were now around me, while my own landed all over him: one hand over his heart, the other on his crotch. His face was inches from mine and he just smiled at me without saying a word, on the verge of laughter. “Could you please take your hand off my privates? Or at least don’t press too hard, I need it to be fully functional.” With this he laughed, and in my panic I scurried back to my seat, apologizing under my breath. No one else seemed to notice as they were all busy exchanging saliva.
“Could you please just take me to a cab?” I asked, feeling queasy and nauseated. I covered my mouth trying to push down whatever might want to come up.
“I don’t think you should be left alone in this state, we don’t want you choking on your own vomit now.” He took my hands in his and turned his whole body towards me, saying “I’ll make you a deal, you come stay with me tonight and I’ll drive us up to Cadbury in the morning. I’ve got a few dresses you can borrow—“
“You’ve got dresses!?” I cut him off, laughing hysterically.
“They’re not mine silly! They’re…someone left them when we had a party. Anyway they’d fit you just fine I think.”
Up until that point it hadn’t sunk in that he was inviting me to spend the night at his house, wherever that even was. I was so distracted by the fact that he owned dresses that I hadn’t thought about who owned them and what kind of story was behind it. My head was spinning even more now, and without my knowledge, I asked “Where am I gonna sleep?”
He chuckled and said “I’ve got a spare bedroom.”
“You better wake up and make sshure we get to Cadbury Cashul. I intend to find King Arthur and you better make sshure that happens.” I said, with my words in a slur, eyes half-closed, a finger pointing at him in an attempt to seem threatening.
He laughed and shook my pointed finger. “It’s a deal.”