So, this is where you find me, standing on this street corner. It’s one o’clock now and it’s pretty quiet. It’s a Tuesday morning after all. You can hear cars in the distance and the occasional cat meow. Sometimes there are raised voices, a car racing by, couples arguing.
My mind keeps going back to this afternoon, wandering through town, hoping I wouldn’t be spotted. To Sunday evening and Saturday night. To earlier tonight. To all the moments in between, the beautiful people, the hurt expressions on faces, the wonder of a moment. It’s all come together in one dirty little cocktail, hasn’t it? Like life itself. Oh, what fun we’ve had.
I suppose it goes back a few weeks when Glen arrived home from his travels. I’d forgotten him, more or less. That’s what I’m like, out of sight, out of mind, I always have been. You know well enough what he’d been up to, at university for months, then going travelling for a few weeks, at the height of summer. Then he emerged, walking up the high street in town one afternoon, telling tales of what he’d been up to. I wasn’t listening. My attention was suddenly focused elsewhere. He had a girl on his arm, a blonde. This is Charley, he said. Interesting, I thought. Very interesting. He didn’t need to tell me who you were. I knew who Charley Stapleton was well enough. So did every other red-blooded young male in the town.
Did you know that? I bet you did. It was written in enough graphic detail on the wall outside Ritzi, after all. Or did you?
Fast forward to the weekend just gone. Here I am, on Saturday night, and my mojo’s working. That’s what the man’s telling me. It’s coming out of a speaker that’s next to me. It’s on the jukebox in a bar in town that’s just opened. Tutti frootie, oh rootie. That’s what he’s saying. It’s all accompanied by a delicious Hammond organ sound that swirls and blasts and puts a smile on my funky little boat race like I’ve only just been born. Oh, what heavens there are. If you know where to look.
I sip my lager. Look out of the window. There are crowds milling around, as you would expect. It’s Saturday night, after all. It might only be a small town but it’s summertime and the weather’s high and I’m full of expectations for what the night offers. I’ve spent the afternoon with my girlfriend, Sharon, at her house. She’s off to a party somewhere and exhorts me to join her. I politely decline. There are more interesting little games to be played round town. That’s what I’m thinking, anyway.
As I’m sitting here, I see them come in, Glen and Jack emerging through the crowds. Glen’s newly young, free, and single. He told us that last night. He wants his freedom, that’s what he said, to live his life to the full when he returns to college in a couple of weeks. Fair enough, I think. If that’s what you want.
Why would he do that with Charley Stapleton? With a girl like you?
I think about the expression on his face twenty four hours later, on the Sunday night, when we were sitting in the corner of the pub. I felt guilty for that expression. For about a minute. Then I put it out of my mind.
I’m sitting there on Saturday night. My man’s still giving it some about his mojo. I nod to Glen and Jack as they buy their beers. Now my roogalator’s working. That’s what he’s telling me this time. I hold my half-empty pint glass up and indicate I want it refilling. They laugh. Then I get up and join them.
I catch my reflection as I cross the bar. My Henley top was a good choice tonight. You said so, if you remember, a couple of hours later. It goes neatly with my mop top, the bangs curling forward just as I’d want them to. I’m laughing as Jack hands me another beer, I drain this one and we stand at the bar.
On your own tonight? I ask him. He will be tonight. You won’t be here. Not like you were on Friday night. You were here then. Briefly. You sat in the corner, with your friend, looking sad. You talked for what seemed hours, presumably about what Glen had done, the breakup, and all that stuff. I ask myself again, why would he break up with a girl like you? I don’t suppose the rumours that are flying round town of what you got up to on holiday would have helped of course. That makes me smile. I thought about it as I stood at the bar and watched you from afar.
So here I am on Saturday night the one with the mojo working and the roogalator. It’s early. I’m standing at the bar with Glen and Jack when Sharon arrives with her entourage. She comes up to me and looks me in the face, in that hard way she has. She had long, dark hair when I first met her a couple of years ago. I used to think she was as pretty as hell back then. She had the big cut a few months ago. It’s toughened her a lot, looks-wise. She’s toughened up in other ways, as well. When there’s trouble round town, she can be guaranteed to find it. She wasn’t like that at the start.
She asks me what I’m doing, if I’ve changed my mind about going to this party. I say I haven’t. She looks like she thought she could persuade me but I’m not in the mood for that. She knows she can’t, she’s tried before on other things. She should have learnt by now. In the end, she leaves it. She tells me to behave myself, laughing. I tell her I will, lying through my teeth.
It was at times like that I regretted being with her. But there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. I valued my manhood in those days. You didn’t upset Sharon if you had any sense. Not intentionally anyway.
Then comes the next arrival. I bet you didn’t realise the effect you had when you walked through the door, your hair falling forward over your face, your cheeks a little pink, as you looked down self-consciously. I had a rush of excitement at that moment. Did I ever tell you? I think I did, actually, though I’m not sure you believed me.
You come up to us and we start to talk. I think you might concentrate on Glen, as you’d been with him so recently, but you don’t. You talk to all of us. Include us in the conversation. That’s interesting, I think to myself, very interesting.
So, when the conversation turns to where we go after the pub shuts, you’ve got definite views. Glen’s going back to Jack’s to listen to music and smoke. Do you want to go? No, you say, you don’t. You want to go out somewhere. That makes two of us.
We talk about where to go. That’s when I come out with it. Ritzi? You laugh. Say you’ve not brought your boxing gloves. That makes me laugh. I know what it can be like in Ritzi sometimes. But there won’t be trouble. I know it. At least not tonight.
Does Glen want to come with us? No he doesn’t. So that leaves the two of us.
Do you remember walking through town? It was only two nights ago. But it seems an age away, with its innocence. Did it impress you how well we got on? How spontaneous it was? We’d spoken before, of course, but only because you were Glen’s girlfriend. We didn’t really know each other. Not properly. But it didn’t matter. We just seemed to click. It’s like that sometimes, with some people. You know you’re on the same wavelength from the beginning. It was like that with us.
It was packed in Ritzi that night, wasn’t it? We mingled for a while, until you suggested we sit down. Naturally, I was up for the idea. So, when you walked over to those secluded seats at the back, I was full of excitement. My heart was pumping, in fact. I’d fantasised about you for so long, I could hardly believe something was going to happen between us.
But it did, didn’t it? You made sure of that. You chose the quietest part of the club, the one where we wouldn’t be disturbed. What happened next shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. The way you sat there next to me, fluttering your eyelashes, meant that it was inevitable. A quiet corner of the park served us well an hour or so later, especially as it was a long, hot summer night where the moon shone brightly and the grass was clean and soft.
Sharon came round to see me on the Sunday afternoon, as she usually did. I didn’t tell you that. I didn’t think I needed to. I had a job getting rid of her as evening arrived. Though I knew I had to. I could tell I was late when I saw you, sitting in the corner of the bar, on your own. I made it up to you though, of course, I did.
That was when Glen walked in and the expression on his face dropped. He was genuinely shocked to see us sitting there. That made me smile. It was his own fault, wasn’t it? It could have been him sitting there with you. Instead, it was me. And that was how it was going to stay. That’s what you told me the following afternoon.
Oh yes, this afternoon. Today. The Monday afternoon, the longest, hottest day of a long, hot summer. It seems a while ago now. I had to fight to be there. Skiving off work was harder than I’d expected, they had a job they wanted me to do. But I managed it, somehow, strolled through town on the way to the park, hoping no one from the office would spot me. They did, as it happened. A friend from work told me tonight, before you arrived. I’ve put it out of my mind, or tried to. There will be questions to be answered when I go back. But that’s a battle for another day. I’ll get a dressing down, I know I will, but what can you do about it?
So there I was, this afternoon, sunbathing in the park, letting the sun’s rays get to me. I’d taken my top off, thought I’d see if I could get a tan. Then I spotted you, walking down the path, a smile on your face, brightening up the afternoon like all the excitements in all the world, without a care about anything, your blonde hair hanging loosely over your shoulders and down your back, in the way it does. You came straight over, sat down next to me, leaned over and kissed me, your hair brushing my face. I put my arms round you, held you close, your pink summer top feeling soft to the touch, complementing your denim shorts perfectly.
Shall we go for a walk? That’s what you said. I smiled when you said it. I knew what you meant. Let’s take a walk to the other side of the park, where we’d been on Saturday night, underneath the trees, where it was quiet. So that’s what we did. You had things to tell me. You’d had a visitor, you told me as we were walking. Who was it, as if I couldn’t have guessed? Glen wanted you back. I smiled. I could have seen that one coming, it was written all over his face on the Sunday night. You’d sent him away, you said. A flea in his ear. He’d had his chance and he’d blown it.
So we found our spot and it was heaven. But you weren’t going to let the afternoon stop there, were you? Your mum was at work. She would be for the next few hours. You didn’t live far away. In fact, it was only a few minute's walk. Should we go back there?
You only had to look at my grin to know I seconded that emotion. So we got up from the grass and headed back, across the park, me with my arms round your shoulder, my shirt in my other hand.
When we got to your house, you took me straight upstairs. You put on some music, with sweet harmonies about love and beauty which floated across the summer afternoon. You opened a window a little and a breeze wafted through. To say it was the most wonderful afternoon of my life is an understatement. It was a moment that will stay with me until my dying day.
A couple of hours or so later, the light’s coming through a crack in the curtain. The duvet’s casually tossed over us and you’re wrapped up next to me, as I’m lying here, smiling at the pin-up boys who adorn your wall. I feel you stir. I smile and expectation takes hold.
But time’s passing. Your mum’s home soon. I can’t stay here, you say. I’ll have to go. But what are we both doing tonight? There’s a Bowie night in Ritzi. Shall we meet there?
I’m on a cloud as I walk away from your house. I head home, relax for an hour, have a wonderful reverie. Then I shower, choose my look for tonight, a dark blue knitted polo, pale blue slim fit strides, loafers. It has a look of the Riviera about it, don’t you think? I knew you’d agree it does.
I get a taxi into town. I’m not in the mood to wait for a bus. I’m dropped off at the top of the high street and, after a quick drink in another bar I head for Ritzi.
I wait in the queue outside, checking the graffiti which includes you of course. I’m not the only one enraptured by your charms. My contemporary boys about town have made that clear enough in their graphic, profane, and sometimes poetic entries to the wall of shame. Or is it the wall of fame? It keeps me entertained until they let me in.
It’s packed tonight. Absolutely rammed. It’s Bowie night, after all, glam night, people coming from all over to dress up and preen and strut like peacocks through the summer evening. I stand at the bar and sip from an ice-cold can of Red Stripe and observe the scene. The beautiful people are out, decorating the club with their ambience.
I stand and wait for you. Are you keeping me waiting? You’re fashionably late, of course, you are, and who can blame you?
I mingle for a while. Have a wander, have a chat. That’s when I see the boy from the office who tells me I could be in trouble. I was spotted in the park when I was with you. That’s what he says. I shrug it off. It doesn’t matter to me now. I’m only a temp after all and a quick departure, to spend the rest of the summer in idleness, appeals. I leave him for a moment. I find a pillar and lean against it, the hard and funky music blasting round the club, inspiring me with its rhythms and lyrics of love and its more interesting cousin lust.
Then I see you. You emerge through the door with your friend, laughing and joking, like you don’t have a care in the world. You never do. I smile when I see you. Your blonde hair’s hanging as loosely over your shoulders as this afternoon, in a white summer top and the hippest of black minis. You see me, you look over, then you head for the bar and, on your way to the dancefloor, kiss me on the cheek. I know what you’re thinking. We’ll get together soon. We’ll find our corner. It will be ours. But first, you want to dance. I watch you as you do, thrusting your hips, throwing your hair around, the neon light illuminating your top.
You dance for a few records. Then you come and join me. You put your arm round me and we kiss and it’s long and slow. It’s going to be a beautiful night.
If only things were that simple. I’m oblivious to the events that are about to unfold. Because the mood of the evening’s about to change. I realise it a few moments later. It hits me like a hammer.
I’m not ready for it. I should have been but I’m not. That’s when it happens. I hear voices behind. But they’re not voices I want to interact with. They’re loud voices, bitchy voices. There’s one I know well. I turn and see her standing there. She’s angry, you can tell. She’s been watching everything that’s happened. Who is it? Sharon. Ready to explode.
I move away from you and she comes over. Hi Sharon, I say, trying to be as nonchalant as possible. She’s not having it. Don’t ‘hi Sharon’ me. That’s how she responds. She hasn’t heard from me today, which she finds strange. She assumed I’d be in here, so she’s come to see me. On the way, she met some friends. They told her about the rumours. It’s all over town, you and me. I suppose it’s bound to be. What did we think we were doing?
Then she turns her ire to you. I don’t expect it, I really don’t. I don’t know if you believe me when I say so. But what can I do except stand and watch the scene that develops? I don’t hear everything that’s said but it looks intense between the two of you, the flushed cheeks, the angry faces, the raised voices. And it’s all over me, little me, innocent me, who wouldn't say boo to a goose. The music’s blasting out, the bass is thudding as the sweet soul harmonies ring out across the dancefloor. I watch until two bouncers emerge, rush over and stop the fun and games that are ensuing, much to the disappointment of the crowd that’s gathered round and who are enjoying the show. I see her knock your shoulder and yell at you to stay away from me, as she drags me off with her.
I can’t argue with that, can I? I don’t have much choice but to go, though naturally, I’d rather be leaving with you. I don’t do much talking. She does all that. I’m a swine for getting with you, I think only of myself. What does she want to do? She wants to finish with me more than anything. But she’s not going to. She’s not going to make it that easy for you. So I can go tonight, home, she’ll tell me when she wants to see me again.
I stand and watch her go. I’m not going home. I’m too fired up from the excitement of the evening for that. I turn and head through town. I know what I want. I want to catch you up. I see you in the distance. You’re there, walking ahead.
You turn when I call you. Look me in the eye. You’re not happy. I can’t blame you for that. I don’t suppose I would be. Why hadn’t I told you about Sharon? The honest answer is that I don’t know. I suppose I must have assumed you knew I was with her though, as you said, why would you? I was nothing more than a friend of Glen’s a couple of days before, from your point of view. You knew nothing about me. I certainly hadn’t expected her to be there tonight or for there to be trouble like that.
So, when you tell me that I need to go and think about what I want out of life, you’re more than justified. And that you’re going to do the same, under the watchful eye of the pin-up boys on your wall, that you might even go back to Glen. Then you’re gone as well.
I start to walk back towards town when you say that. What else can I do? I head for the park, where I sit down and look out in the distance. I sit here for an hour so, the events of the weekend at the forefront of my mind. Then it hits me. I know what I want, don’t I? I want you. I want to end it with Sharon and be with you. I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to wait until the morning and go and see you and tell you. Then it hits me. Why wait until the morning? Why not go back to your house? Tell you now.
Will you want me to? I don’t know. You seemed cross. And will you still be up? Then again, if I wait you might have decided to do something else, maybe go and See Glen. I don’t know whether to risk it.
That’s when I get up and walk across the park to the top of your street and contemplate what to do. And that’s where you find me, decision going round my mind. I move away from the fence and smile. My mojo’s working. Like I heard on Saturday night. Like the man said. I know what I’m doing. I walk towards your house.