Friday, 17 December 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey: CODA

It was now the early afternoon; the sun glowed golden on everything, lending a grandeur to even the shabbiest of their possessions. He had already mentioned leaving upon their first discussion, but now it was clear that he would, for now at least, stay. What once was had come back again; it was like any drought or lack being relieved, a pleasure that was quiet, fulfilling, without being necessarily obvious to any outsiders. Of course there were no outsiders now, beyond a few loyal friends. They gathered to celebrate his return, to celebrate their once again being together, her safe from...them, and him safe after many longueurs and escapes and the ultimate fight, one where he sped through what he had to do as if it was nearly - nearly - just another chore, so close he felt to her, to what they perhaps once could be again...

...but of course after a while he was restless; he longed for the sea, a crew, new things to see; but she wanted to go with him too. It was their own conflict and not one that could be easily solved. He had to go on, he said; why, she would say, quite reasonably. But she knew he loved tests, and that this one, the next one, might be even greater. And that no matter what she was with him anyway; his chaste time on the island, after the wedding, here and there, proved that. Ultimately there was no difference between them, save for the physical, the geographical. He moved on, but not before promising that he would change things forever, without violence, that those radicals he met at the club would not always be defeated...

She smiled and took up weaving again, this time letting it stand every night, and they waited for spring and the next adventure to begin.

2009: A Club Odyssey Pt. 17

"The scene was a mess; the girl gang that attacked, not caring who noticed or who cared, started it all, those delirious women threw spiked orange juice and went for the big man, though they were all targets. The insurgents had it easier after that, mocking those that ran away, helping the girls find weapons, lending their own...your guy and his helper were there but I think they were too shocked at first to know what on earth to do. But the helper - who must have some special powers I'm sure - opened the way to the big man, and your guy just wailed on him like a blacksmith with an anvil. There was no escape." He looked at her with a kind of calm sternness and said, "He did what he had to do. That man tried to hurt you and that is what any man would have done in return. I'm going now." And so he left, and her own familiar found her soon enough, walking the wending paths and wondering about how Orion was a hunter in the sky, her guy wasn't a hunter but forced into killing. She felt sad for him but felt nothing, numbness, for those who had hung around. They were dead to her, whether they were or were not.


"The DJ kept playing songs all through it, barricaded as he was in his booth. The first one sounded kind of desperate, to tell the truth, but it wasn't like he was going to play anything hardcore. Then he got a bit ironic and I knew everything was going to work out. Once that was over it was all calls for ambulances and people who survived limping off. Your guy had seen enough and went off with his pal, I heard his pal saying "Well that settles that, windypants" and then she gave a look of total contempt to those who had lost, saying that if only they had listened to her and not just themselves, they would have survived. But they didn't."


They had reached the house, at last, after walking a long way; she had gotten home already and was resting, talking with her companion amiably and expecting...him, not quite knowing if he would bother to show up. It would be a long time before he would get home, shouldn't it...

He paused and looked up at the house that for so long had been just the idea, not the thing; the dream and not the vision. Despite the warnings of his friend he paused a bit more, no longer afraid of anyone or anything. There was the bed, the windows, the door, the roof, the garden which was wild and yet still beautiful, all of it a bit run down but lovely still...he walked and remembered their awkward courtship, him winning her as a prize but this not making them what they were to become, their inner and outer lives having to adjust this way and that...they said yes and yes, but then he had to go, despite his feigning madness...she thought of the same things, saw a few hangers-on leaving quickly and her heart brightened, even though she still wasn't exactly sure what to think or expect.


A knock on the door; his knock. She got up, straightened her dress and calmly walked to the door. A pause; no, I'm not looking out the window again. Enough. Really, enough. Not the tiny window eyehole in the door either. It's him or it's not and if it is...her stomach rumbled. She opened the latch and the door swung open...

...and there he was, a little abashed. They didn't really look at each other at first; suddenly officially knowing was almost too much. Their eyes met at last, however, and the truth, complex and yet boiling down to something simple, was there. Now for him to act this way and her that, the old rituals, ancient even at this stage, for her to be skeptical and him mostly quiet...

...but it was there; it flooded the room; when she said "How do you know I can't move the bed for a guest?" it was pretty much obvious what was going on and how he knew. She began to cry and he moved to her and held her, and his pal, who was there but invisible now, just the voice in his head, was happy. They got up and danced with joy, once she had stopped crying, dancing from room to room, eventually collapsing and then all was well, or as well as it would ever be.

Could they ever really be parted again? Her view was that he was still free to roam, because that is what he did; that if they were meant to be together then they would be. It is written, as he said, it has always and will always be written. Our story will last, long after us. It is one of the story of stories and we can do what we like.

Friday, 22 October 2010

2009 A Club Odyssey: Part 16

It was the end - that could be in no doubt. Him just sitting there made her feel as if she was still running down, down, the wind shaking in her, her tongue and voice gone, because if he was not a god then he was certainly more than a man; she was just able to hear him talk. Fire, or at least some heat, caught in her blood, as if her heart expanded to her lungs, her arms and legs. It was a good thing she was already sitting down, or else she would have to sit down.

"Are you all right? Say something, please. Who were those women? I mean, bacchantes at this time of day?" He was genuinely puzzled, kind, which of course made the whole thing worse. She shook her head, glad for some neutral territory. "Bacchantes don't really care about the time of day, normally." A bird hooed and hooed, hooted once definitively, as if in agreement. "Long night?" he said, and then stopped. She looked at him as if to say that this night was the last, there wasn't going to be another one. Not away from home, at this rate. Looking at him, which she could barely do that last time, was something she could do now. His eyes drank her in - small, frightened, very much alone. It was why he ran after her in the first place; not to confront her, but to let her know that, while he didn't want her any more, he was still very much concerned about her. "I think I know what's going on, in case you don't."

"It's on, it's on, you know they're fighting. I mean, it was going to happen. You were right to get out. The fight is a good one but I didn't want to get involved; I am a prize coward." "And he would have thought of you as the enemy, which you aren't." "Well, no, I needed your help, they didn't." She began to cool off, a little. She was getting used to his voice, like hot water. "They thought they could pull it off, and I led them to the club and..." He shook his head at the simplicity of it all. "God, they really are sheep, aren't they? Did they really think that you were going to do something for them? To say, take it all, who cares?" I got to know them and what they were like and just how far I could go." She watched a squirrel hop past, then paused. "I saw the hunter in the early morning. Did you see him, in the sky? A good sign." "Yes." "I think that hunter was a woman, you know." She looked at him with some puzzlement now. "There was a girl there who just wanted to kill one man. That's how it started, then all hell proverbially broke loose. He started in then, aided by his friend, and the bodies piled up..." How do you know all this? "Gut instinct. Let's just say I know, but really it was all foretold anyway. And yes, he knew full well it was you, you know." She felt the heat blanket her again; he seemed closer than he was, she found it hard to breathe and turned away. His brown eyes were too big; he wasn't Pan, exactly, but she began to see why the bacchantes would run towards him, similarly big-eyed and breathless. It's on, it's on, she thought, I have to get going home, to get there before he does. She got up abruptly and began to walk. "Can I come with you? Part of the way? I know I can't, aah..." "Yes, but we must hurry. He's in pain and I have to think of a way to trick him, to give him pause. I have to forget. Tell me about the hunter."

Sunday, 6 June 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey, part 15

It was early, quite early, as she caught the little local bus - one of several she'd had to take over hill and through dale, dipping and sloping here and there. The sun was over the horizon by now, slanting and glittering through the trees, the sky a clear blue. She was tired; she didn't want anything more than to go home.

But she didn't have to go home in this way. She had a growing fear that she would come across someone and that he - the last suitor, the one she could not shake off - would appear. There was no way to know but to confront (possibly, possibly not) him; and so she was on this bus, going up, uphill, then veering along a residential street. She felt like the eagle that could look at the sun; the sun on the horizon that dazzled and stunned in equal turns...

...the bus crossed the bridge, yes that one, the view giving her a glimpse of so much she had just experienced, the dome, the tall buildings, the river; then it was gone and the bus went between the pavements and cars and all the greenness and freshness and vividness of the day began to oppress; this was too much like something else to bear up being itself, just itself, for too long. She saw a figure that looked like him - almost, but not quite - ahead, and knew as she looked that he in turn would look back.

She buzzed to be let out and the bus stopped at the corner. She had no idea where to turn, whether to confront him or no; the pull towards him was as strong as the push. She could not look at him; she knew he was most definitely looking at her. In her guts she knew one thing, that she had to go home, and so she began to run down hill, and sure enough he followed, yelling "Hey! Stop! Please stop! Don't go away!" But she could not stop.

And the hell of it was that the beauty of the day was in her face non-stop. The flowers, the light on the grass, the birds singing, but she was again breathless and finding her way down through the path to the field below, hoping she would not somehow be stopped, that she would not stop herself. "Please please stop, I didn't mean to hurt you!" he cried out. She could hear him closer now, calling her name as well and clearly, clearly not giving up. She had no allies, no friends here, in the dense intensity, the twigs and flying seeds in her hair, but all of a sudden some girls, some rather excited girls, loomed ahead. Their eyes were wide in ecstasy, honey and cream were their clothes and their hands were sweet. "HELLLLP!!" she cried out, and they saw him grimacing trying to keep up and in their madness they thought he was someone else, and set upon him like a pack of wolves. They shrieked, they chased, they did not let up--

--she could not pause as the path turned sharply to a side, the ground flattened at last, pavement reappeared, and the girls had caught him, she heard his shrieks and covered her ears. This is what it was like, and half of her wanted to go back, to help him, but she was simply too damn tired, from the night.

Somehow - perhaps because he looked like a woodland creature himself? Because he was stronger than he thought? - he did escape them, just barely, to run down to her, improbably; the pull for him was too much, and the girls, when they did reach him, could not agree, quite, on what to do to or with him. He was bruised and roughened up, but no more...

...he reached her, as she was still gasping for breath and sitting, more like lying on her side, looking at a flower. Those girls were not her. He sat down and looked at her, the only one who survived and who would survive. He had no special gift, and this is what saved him in the end. The sun shone on the grass, turning into gold, the birds trilled in the silence. They soberly looked at each other again.

Friday, 9 April 2010


I feel his lontano everywhere I go around here, my patch, my home.

Some Londoners go East, others go firmly West. He was everywhere and nowhere in London but it’s the West, always the West, that calls both him and me back.

I don’t know when he was last here. I saw him, standing outside the shop, doing a photocall in 1996 for twenty years of the thing he started. He seemed happy to be out of it.

He was always in everything and absent when he was most needed.

But he was always London, via Scotland and the dapper Golders/Stamford run of things.

The respectful tributes were to be expected, just as though he had been called to the Bar after all like the good Jewish son so many wished him to be.

You were expecting soured rosettes, the helpful stench of retrospective hypocrisy?

They hated him then and they love him as of yesterday. Just like Oscar Wilde.

Oh, so like Oscar, if only he’d had a better grasp of London (and I think he probably had a better hold on Paris towards the end).

Well, of course. Who would have expected anything different?

He formed things, like Cyril Connolly. He never really invented things and maybe Seymour Stein or Kool Herc were there first – there’s no maybe about it, you know and he knew that – but like the Beatles he knew how to draw things to our attention in both ways, the second being (as an artist – why, of course!) to draw things in pictures he’d just made up and looked outrageously attractive.

There at Selfridge's with King Mob, Xmas ’68, handing out the goodies to startled but joyful kids and how many of those grew up to be part of a different, successive story?

No one quite got Oxford Street like he did.

Hovis loaves outside the baker’s in Clapham Common. Walk-on roles at Grosvenor Square.

He easily got rid of his previous unwanted, spent lives. Get shot of the names, enrol in a different art school as somebody else, spend all his grant money on records off the stalls on Goldhawk, go and run a shop, go to New York, come back, think of marketing wheezes for Sexfests, why not?

He taught us, like Welles but happier, that you could stop being somebody inconvenient at any time, come back as somebody else, though still recognisably the same. But different. Free of dead weights.

He said you can send the system to fuck so easily.

The T-shirt. Two sides of the bed. Dewey Redman and Archie Shepp there alongside Kutie Jones. I never forgot that. That was my way in.

The first big bend in the road. Next to the Conservative Club.

He said I can change whatever and whenever I want to and if you’re not ready then it’s hardly my fault.

The missing link between Jonathan King and Guy Debord.

He said, keep up.

He asked, why are there so many of you yet so few of me?

He made everything I sensed possible.

Most things, anyway.

The Pistols spluttered to a Tesco’s end and he went to the laundrette but his old Croydon College/Grosvenor Square comrade Robin Scott came through with a different way and would any of that have happened without his precedent, without what he suggested?

He, who knew the absolute importance of Max Bygraves and Lionel Bart in the scheme of things.

Where did you think the Small Faces came from?

Wormholt no-goodniks who wanted to be the Faces and that sulky Aquarian from Finsbury who fancied himself as some kind of punctum.

The other guy from north London, and he subcontracted his entire band and Adam came back at him better and stronger.

Not that he was bothered.

Was he that bothered about the boy he never quite got himself together to look after properly? The Royal Courts in 1986 – bustling, surrendering, that’s what you get for not being a dad.

Nick Kent didn’t see him as a father figure.

As far as you can trust Nick Kent.

As far as you can trust any One.

“Oh, Gawd, is that his latest scam?”

The end of 1982. New Pop on the ropes. He whisked it back to life.

And Trevor, who had to choose between a quiet Spandau life and a Noisy, Arty one and never liked punk in the first place, went with him. Effortlessly.

Yes, Wheels of Freaking Steel.

But this was telling everybody else about it.

Tony Wilson. A parallel general in the North. It is what both would have wanted.

The strategies, the scones, the fire, the failures, the concepts, the cons.

He was a meretricious conman and a captivating magician.

Smartarse and visionary.

The two overlap so much it’s surprising they don’t form a new river. With its own bends.

Poet and prat.

He wanted something like the Bay City Rollers and in the end the Bay City Rollers wanted to be something like him.

Number one. Of course it was number one. Would anyone still be lauding it, talking about it, arguing about it, if it actually HAD been listed as number one?

“Does the presence of Number Two require the existence of Number One?”

Pound, Parker, Kane, Prisoner, Pistols.

In 1977 Larkin, in part-parody of Hughes, wrote a Silver Jubilee quatrain which ended: “Crow shat on Buckingham Palace/God pissed Himself.”

The A&M signing, outside Buckingham Palace, and Christ they had to do it quick.

Herb Alpert dropped the Pistols and signed Ornette. Now THAT’S punk.

Some say Ornette dropped by the studio while PiL were recording Metal Box.

On “Double Dutch” doesn’t he sound like Harry Corbett?

You listen to the right “wrong” radio and everything changes forever.

His radio travelogues; endlessly circuitous, always re-running the same round of memories.

Pete Waterman of course so close to this but then what’s wrong with just printing the legend?

His totality, swirling like reproachful swallows, as I walk through the World’s End.

His contraptions, his beginnings, and they do not end.

Invent the future and then talk about sin.

And remember to lick those lips pure pink.

Friday, 19 March 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 14

She I know him? Is this ecstasy real? Knowledge seemed to come not from her mind, as such, nor even her heart, but her entire body. It was enough to make her sit down, hard, as if she had fallen, rather than sat. And it was, to a certain extent, the same for him.

Unity: it was hard to believe this was what was about to be achieved, though it wasn't really the end point. She felt him and someone else pick her up, even though she was not moving. The two sides were going to clash, that much was more than evident, and she wasn't going to be part of it. She knew and she didn't know; she was separated from them before she could really see what was happening, though she had dreamt of it enough times.

Those dreams: of them in a tree, her in the treetop already, imitating a bird, calling out in the night. The one where she was with him at home but he could not see her; and yet he knew she was there. The one with them safe behind the broken glass, the melee begun elsewhere, not touching them, because they would be safe. "A waif and a great man are prisoners. Safe in peril - " said the oracle. Well, yes. Luck was turning their way, at long last. The others were wrong because they had been in the wrong, really, all along, but no one could confront them. They were the despoilers, the exploiters of her grief, her patience, her hospitality, even. That was what was the worst: that she had to be nice to them.

Now she turned her back on them and when they called, did not look back. She washed them off herself, dusted herself, shook them off. It felt radical, revolutionary, even. Yes, she could do it. How liberating it was, just to leave and go home. The morning air was sweet; birds circled and flew together in formation, the sun's rays bleached everything clean. The beauty of the world hit her, and even if he wasn't...him (she was yet to really believe), then at least something, at long last, was happening.


Friday, 5 March 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 13

They remained there for a moment, motionless; she was too tired to move, really, and he was, as well.

"Love is not superficial." She started to mumble. "Yeah, I could have eaten that gun. But I want to know what happens next, what happens underneath..." She paused a moment. The smell; she smelt something she had not smelt in some time. Pangs began, modest at once, then growing; she continued to talk, more to herself than anything. She felt as if luck was finally, finally turning in her direction; an axis had shifted, that inner earthquake had happened and she had survived, amazingly enough.

"The madness of it all. Just..." She turned to him. "You know? I think you know what love is. It's resistance, in my case. I mean, I could listen to the music here all night long, I am living on it, I am living in it. Oh shit, this is all nonsense, what the hell. know. I know you know."

"Love is able to see right into the heart of things and not flinch," he said, even as she turned her head from him. And yes, I know. I know full well. An eagle could spot my love a hundred miles away. A lost cat would find it, a bear could catch it on the leaping wave."

They were testing each other, and looked at each other.


They huddled together now, each saying the others' words, regarding each other anew. It could well be that they overwhelmed each other, him first, then her; she was suddenly shy with him, as if they were meeting for the first time, which they were, in their own way.

The sun rose, the famous rosy fingers here and there, a full moon resting in the top of a tree, birds sang and improvised their calls. She told him the dream she had about the eagle, about the wolf, the one that looked at her with pleading eyes. "It talked, it really did. That was the good one. In another dream there was a beast and it came after me, and I woke up crying..." "Ssshhh," he said, his hand, his fingers very gently on her back. "That is enough knowledge for me right now. I am too full up with it. I feel as if I am at the end of everything, almost."

The song played and it seemed to describe them from a lifetime ago, as they once cautiously danced around each other, then had the courage to actually meet.

"Are we just as courageous now?" she asked him. He nodded and drank. She drank as well. His friend quietly slipped away, looking happier than he had in some time.


While they cooed and hooted, each to the other, they did not notice the ferment in the crowd. The protesters were gathering strength; the green-eyed radical was happier than he had been in some time; the man with the gun, the players, were putting up a front that they didn't really have. People were starting to take sides.

"We all have choices to make, and this is one. We are told we can't change things, but that is false; we can and do change every day, after all. But some stand in the way of change, and by that I mean nothing superficial, but real, lasting, bone-deep soul-satisfying change. The kind you can be proud of, that legends are made out of, after all. A woman here tonight could have let someone tell her what to do. But she didn't." So concluded the green-eyed radical to his friends. "She is with him now, and they won't be separated. I am inspired by them, we all are." They assented, looking dubiously at those who would have separated them. The suitors, they were nicknamed, the suckers, as some already had been calling them.


"Do you want to dance?" "I would love to, good sir." And so they danced, a dance of defiance and celebration, the vivid lights and colors around them, the energy, negating anything but themselves; a dance that was for one side, clearly, and not the other. They had nothing to lose, really, nothing beyond the moment mattered much to them anyway; and they were fighting by dancing, dancing by fighting. They didn't stop, they saluted the DJ, they blessed the floor and music itself.

"I love dancing here, I love you!" she said with her eyes. He repeated this with emphasis. They danced outside and inside themselves, their limbs together and apart, jumps and spins and whirls causing the protesters to whoop and cheer.


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 12

Darkness; utter darkness. The shadows appeared then and disappeared. She was dragged this far and no more. She could not move; then under a harsh light she was stuck, more or less, and could not move in any case.

"He's not coming back. Give in."

The words were not spoken as harshly as you might think. He was only trying to be reasonable. A box was in his hand yet again, a different one this time.

"He is here. I can tell. He is."

She was a stubborn duck; he had to give her that. Outside the locked door the clamour grew; someone was pounding on it, whether deliberately or not it was hard to tell.

"Take this, please just take it. Your problems will be over. The wait will be over. That is what you want."

She looked at the gun; she knew it was a test. She pondered it as she knew he would. It was tempting and she had her pride, but she did not accept the inherent promise that if she won, he would leave her alone. It would only make her more desirable. She already felt like the plainest woman there, and this guy would not leave her alone.

He would never treat her this way; he liked to test her, true, and she liked to test him, but he was patient and understanding, even beyond her comprehension sometimes. Why this man wanted to test her she didn't know, except maybe he heard she liked this kind of thing.

Wrong. Another woman would die for her husband, yes, but not her, she had waited too long.

"You're never going home" she said to him as he left.


She was calm in her refusal; all he could do was walk away. There were worse ways to treat her, but her nobility snuffed them all out. The door was unlocked, she could have left, but instead she longed to be home, remembered the time she was home with him, in their bed, his ruse of insanity having failed utterly, crying and laughing and then stoically resigned. Things fell on the floor and they didn't bother to pick them up. They gave each other nicknames; she washed his clothes and he promised he would not be long.

How many times she had put up with things that seemed...the word had not been invented yet, maybe it never would be, but she was attached to him and that was that. He was in her heart, and even thinking of stopping that would stop him as well. She slumped down and rested and willed something to happen. The party outside was as raucous as ever; it was now long past midnight and maybe it was the stress, the noise, but she could hear a bell ringing; a sign. A clear sign at long last.

"Well windypants, that guy doesn't seem too...happy, so things are indeed turning out alright. Hasn't left though. Hmmm." He looked at him askance, wanting him dead but keeping what countenance he could. Though they were indoors he could feel the morning coming in, the l'heure bleu all silent and full of promise. The girl no longer pestered him; the others in the club were greeting the new day euphorically, as if they knew what he knew. Everyone knew, somehow.


She walked back into the club. It was just how it was when they met; she began to remember things, to put them back together. She was here; he was there. She looked in that old direction, just by the lights, as far away from the speakers as you could get. Right by that side, there. And there was someone there.

She walked towards him, not knowing who he was; she kept thinking it was him but at this point could not trust herself. He made no obvious moves in return, but merely kept his head down, looking shyly at her - he could not believe he was being shy, but there he was - pulling her towards him, just as he had done in the first place. The club seemed big, bigger than it was before; as if all that time they had spent apart was somehow making it expand in some odd way.

The chair next to him was empty. She sat down and ordered a drink, not able to look at him, not really wanting to look at anyone. She could sink or drown, but right now she just wanted to float for a while, meet on a friendly island with someone, or just plain go home. He looked at her and smiled inwardly; the green-eyed radical sighed and gestured, that he should get her out of there as quickly as he could, but not rush things, either.

"This is a good drink. The first one I've had here for a couple of..." She began to cry. He nodded and took her hand.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Apologies for interrupting Lena’s magnificent 2009 – A Club Odyssey series (which I hope you’re all reading and enjoying) but we thought it a good moment to take stock, catch our breath and revel in the witnessing of pure art.

Before Sunday’s Olympic final I hadn’t watched any ice hockey matches, although Lena is a keen follower. I’m always eager to learn new things – why, otherwise, do we continue living? - and rule-wise the game is very easy to pick up; the general pattern of football with some necessary brutalism on loan from Australian Rules football but structured slightly differently. And, of course, there’s the ice.

Earlier on in the qualifiers Canada had been thrashed by the USA 5-3, so this second meeting was never likely to be a beamingly friendly one. And despite thirteen gold medals – the first ever won by Canadians on Canadian soil at the winter games – this was the crucial one, the one which counted, the one which would render all of the others irrelevant or make them all the more priceless, the last and biggest event of the Winter Olympics. Canada stood still for two or three hours.

Three periods, each lasting 20 minutes, not including frequent stoppage time, and both sides were busily aggressive without yet suggesting desperation. But the Canadians were getting more shots at goal, not quite getting them past the impenetrable, Zappa-like Ryan Miller but not missing by much. At the other end, Canada’s goalman Roberto Luongo was impeccably impassible.

For a while it looked as though attrition would be the order of the match, but someone had to break eventually, and happily it came down to a Mennonite – Jonathan Toews – to put the first puck into goal. There had been quite a bit of pushing and shoving but the balletic grace of some of the puck-pushing was pretty remarkable. In the second period Corey Perry made it 2-0 before Patrick Kane – no, not that one – set up a beauty of a solo run for Ryan Kesler to bring it back to 2-1. There was already some air of complacency about the Canadian team? Which one is this Sid the Kid guy again?

In the third period Canada basically sat on it and the Americans became keener, hungrier, to win the match. The Canadian play became diffuse, vague, muddled. Sidney Crosby was definitely identified by me as number 87. He hadn’t scored in two games and it was akin to watching Kenny Everett on stage in the ill-fated Hunting Of The Snark musical some 20 years ago; for 95% of the time he hovered around, eagerly tapping his billiard cue, but only had one mediocre number to himself and really his part could have been played by anybody. He looked neutered, confined.

Then Crosby had an immaculate one-on-one chance to shoot for goal and he missed. That was almost it. The same old story. The big chance missed. The grand job they couldn’t quite finish. And, with the most predictable of inevitabilities, Kane equalised, magnificently and imperiously, with 24 seconds of the game to go, or to be more accurate the puck slid between Luongo’s arm and leg and through the goal mouth.

Well, that was it. 30 million Canadian heads in hands. On to extra time, sudden death, and in all probability a shoot-out. All they needed was that magic closer of a third goal, the last, deft touch to make the game and the world theirs. Myself, I thought they’d blown it, and who was this Crosby kid anyway? Just another hype-up, another would-be great sportsman who looked at his page in history and scrawled it out with crude crayon.

Well, someone must have said something to them in the break, since, although the Canadians still looked asleep for the first five minutes or so of extra time play, something – I don’t know what, some fugitive spark – touched them, threatened incineration, and all of a sudden they woke up, started lunging for Miller as though landing at Normandy. They realised what they had to do and they went for everything, and so did the Americans.

More specifically and importantly, Crosby woke up, seemingly remembering what he was there for, ankle injury or no ankle injury; he forgot himself and thrust, once and then twice, for goal. He was possessed, entirely in and of himself – and in the fourteenth minute it happened; with the casual elegance of Noel Coward tipping ash off the end of a never more golden cigarette, he found his angle, spotted his destiny, and skied the puck into the goal with uncanny, Astaire-like artistry.

It was won, Canada indeed owned the podium, and I was proved utterly and thoroughly wrong. In those last two minutes of hockey, Crosby reminded me and everybody else of why we should pay attention to him; he knew what was at stake and, like Antony Sher at the end of God On Trial, suddenly revealed that the game belonged to him.

And it was art. Pure, magnificent art, when you see a human being exceeding their own self, going beyond what they know to be their own limits, doing something supernatural, something neither you nor I could ever hope to do. This is why we attend to sport, why in its glorious irrelevance it is so vital (and as with sport, so with art); the possibility that we might witness and perversely participate in the phenomenon of man becoming more like God.

Monday, 1 March 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 11

And so they remained, united though apart; she rubbed her thin skin and looked out at the crowd, knowing she could not be seen. They began to grow a little easy within themselves, however, and both began to grow lax to things they should have seen coming, but could not. Still, she could feel that underground stream, ambling along, steady, taking its time, and sat back down for a moment.


On the floor, in the meantime, there was a drunken sense of freedom in the air; and it grew and grew as the night went on. And it did go on, past any sense of reasonable limits. He grew sharper and saw her; she was outrageous in context and he could not look away from her. She, who had been there all night luring, or at least attempting to lure, men, all by being forward and backward at the same time. It worked, of course, and while the players knew of her and regarded her as one of their own, he had never seen her before. His friend said, in passing, "She's trouble. You can't let your guard down. Shut your eyes, don't look at her. Go deaf if you can."

Not that this did very much good.

She stared down from the booth at this insolent girl and grew fearful, despite any tidy inner reassurances. This was exactly what she was afraid of; she looked away. The DJ picked up on this by osmosis.


The music could not save her. It was too much. The girl was like her, a mirror image almost. She felt sick. She wanted the place to be done, the exhaustion and longing to end. And yet the music dragged her in despite herself, like that whirlpool she had dreamt about. She knew he was there, she didn't know he was there; every man was him, no man could possibly be him. The dancers danced, the music bounced off the walls and ceiling to the floor, the bass and beats created and destroyed everything to the pulse of her own heart. She was the music, she felt, she had to give herself up to it; it was like stepping into the dark, not knowing where your foot would fall, or what it would touch. She had to be sick first before she was well, and she may as well be very sick before that wellness could possibly arrive. She left the booth with the DJ's permission, hiding herself and staying near
the wall in the shadows, as close to invisible as she could make herself be. She was noticed by the green-eyed radical, of course, and he grew a little tenser.


The music energized him as well, but in a vitalizing way. It was like the blood transfusion all over again, and he began to dance with the girl in a way that was sincere, earnest, awkward. It was not the dance he liked to do, but he was desperate to dance with this girl nevertheless. She wanted him and he was flattered; but he felt as if he was testing himself again, to see if he would withstand her attentions, her looks, the shapes she made and remade with every step. He wanted her, he wanted her, he didn't want her, he was sick with longing, it could be so easy, so incredibly easy and who would know; but then everyone was here, she was here. He knew it.

He had spited and cursed himself before for even wanting this, and now he was getting close to something and suffering for her; for them; as if this stood for everything.

The girl didn't understand the complexity of this, could not read it, and thus didn't know what to make of his ability to withstand what no other man could have withstood. She tried again.


She held her breath; this was not easy. Even looking was not easy. For once she felt nauseous, not just physically but emotionally. She was with him, whoever he was - did it matter? - and she had no way of measuring herself against this other woman. She wanted to melt into the wall; or become invisible and omnipresent and loud like the music itself. She had clear edges, but this girl was all over him, all over him without actually touching him; this she noted with some puzzlement. The curious look he gave her was like that arrow; she only hoped the arrow would miss. I have no rivals, I have no enemies, she told herself, I can create and recreate myself at will; I could be her. I once was her.

She sank to the ground, numb, sick with envy that was pointless, the sounds flying around her and cutting her like so many birds' wings.


She sang from her heart, and the DJ picked up on this song; yes, she was heartbroken, dammit. If he was here, then he should know. She was not going to hide it anymore; there was no point.

And so she danced, and he saw her dance. The girl didn't see her at first, up on the table, mouthing the words. The green-eyed radical smiled; it was as if she was throwing off a veil.

He watched and forgot the other girl; he watched as she pointed to the sky, the sea, the desolate beach, watched her mime the strength she pretended to have. She could have gone through the floor with her stamping, flown up to the ceiling with her exhortations. She was not going to just sit there, she was never going to just sit there; but being visible to him meant being visible to all, and the player saw her and grabbed her before the song was over, dragging her off without much warning nor fanfare. He watched and was astonished; his friend reassured him that she was not going to be hurt. But he doubted this. Clearly she was hurt beyond all measure.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 10

He didn't want her to be there; he far preferred doing his work alone. He was persuaded, however, rather reluctantly, to take her, for the duration of the night. He tried to ignore her as best he could, which wasn't easy as the room was indeed small - booth would be a more accurate name for it - and she kept vaguely waking up and then going back to sleep. He, in the meantime, tried to manipulate the crowd as best he could, guide it, though he found it increasingly difficult to do so and was bound to just play whatever the hell he wanted by now, ignoring what he thought anyone would actually enjoy.

He knew this wasn't right or responsible, but he felt like he had to do it anyway. It was in the air. He looked at her: perhaps he should just be inspired by her instead, as much as you could be inspired by someone smuggled in, as a promise against ever, ever making a request. Requests - he hated them. He said to her, even though she couldn't hear, "I don't do requests, no no NO I don't do them...oh well, at least you're not asking me to play something in particular, yes, I will play something for you. But not just yet." He smiled kindly, as kindly as he could, and turned and looked at the crowd. That man - he knew who he was - was surveying the girls for another chance, and having lost track of her he was in danger of seeming ridiculous. "This is for you" he said to her, "I know this is what you would want me to play. I think."


"So where is she?" he asked again, noting the man with the empty box. "I mean, you said she was safe, but where is she?" "If I told you now he would notice and I don't think you want that."

He felt crushed; denied; he was too tired, really, for hints or guessing games. At the same time, he only had to imagine how she felt, or at least try, and all his feelings would return, wiping out any numbness. If she wasn't angry then he could be angry on her behalf; and the amount of things he saw around him - those glittering things, those things just put on for show - sickened him more than a little. He had to see her before long or else he could not do what he really wanted; but he didn't want her to know it was him. He had been away so long this was more than likely anyway, but how could he know? He wasn't invincible, but no, no one could get between him and her in the end; he knew that in his guts. And so he sat and drank, his own fire dampened no more, the drink somehow sharpening him up instead of dulling him.


He looked at her again; he could sense a fight coming and felt excited despite himself about it. She woke up now, finally, and looked at him; he pretended not to notice. "SSSHH stay down. You are here for a reason, God knows what it is, but you've got to stay down. Here, have some of this water but don't let anyone know you are here." "You're the DJ?" He rolled his eyes. "Yes I am, and don't worry about it. I mean as long as you don't ask for any requests you can stay here, though you are being looked for."

She drank and drank the water and then inhaled deeply. "It's that...guy, right?" "Not sure. Some dude came here with you and said you were, what the hell'd he say, you were to stay here 'until further notice'." "Is he a player?" "I saw you with that guy and no, definitely not him. Huh, no." "What the hell is going on down there anyway?" "You're asking me?" she said, yawning now and, despite the DJ's wishes, about to make a request.


He frowned; but he sensed that she had a point. Well, he thought to himself, I am here alone most of the time, here and yet not really here. What harm could it do to play someone's favorite song? Was it a club banger? Heck no, but that wasn't the point. She had told him that she was waiting, waiting, invoking, and felt pale and drained of nearly all hope and his heart, again despite himself, opened up. Her aloneness was different from his, but he understood. "We are all in this together" he said, "you most certainly aren't the only distressed one here. Just why you are here I still don't know but I do know your husband and will look for him. I have ways of sensing things...and you did meet here, after all. It is the right place to be. This crowd might be nameless but certainly not meaningless." He blushed then, embarrassed that he had such feelings; dammit I'm supposed to be a smart-ass here, he thought. So much for that. "It won't be long now." He looked intently at her, and she at him; they nodded and he got back to his decks, feeling a bit better about himself, for once.


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 9

As she dreamt she saw the huge sky, the water lingering underneath it, seemingly, and the stone; the stones on the beach. Here she stood under a chilly sky, watching him go, watching, watching; the little waves lapped and lapped, looping, replacing themselves, numbing her feet a little. Even after the ship was invisible she tried to imagine it beyond the horizon, the fear that it would simply fall off the edge nothing compared to the fear that he simply would not return. She could numb her whole body and not get rid of that fear. The sky swirled as the water once did, swimming away as the water grew colder. Let the land bunch up, accordion; let there be nothing but stones, sky and water. He gave her a smooth stone with his initial on it to remember him by, as if to say, if I don't come back, you can forget me. I am like the many pebbles and rocks on the beach, worn away and neither better nor worse for it.

The emptiness was huge; it was beyond imagining. Ordinary life was impossible, yet had to happen. He was not there; it was as if she had lost a limb, or maybe something even more vital than that. His absence followed her everywhere, not like a beloved pet, not like a demon, but vivid and moving and primary and unignorable. She could not see it, but just feel it; or rather if she could see it she was scared it would simply suck her in and she would not be able to escape. He was everywhere and nowhere; she smiled to herself that that is what he said when they met; that he saw her everywhere. It did not seem possible to her, she thought; how charmingly obsessive; she thought it was just a phrase.

He had somehow kept something burning within her; or she had done it herself. It was not given lightly. It was what compelled her to get into this state to begin with, and she trusted it would somehow lead her out, that she could somehow shine a light inside herself. Their hearts beat slowly together, both waited for something that would arrive, yes, it would, but there was no knowing when.

The sky looked blank; little dotted clouds soon appear, placidly sweeping her away, and she wakes up and remembers nothing, knows not where she is, even. "This room looks...small" she thinks aloud, before turning on her side slowly and holding on to the pillow to fight vertigo. She can't move, she's moving, she can't move; part of her is this way, part of her that way, she is floating above herself. She closes her eyes and drifts back into sleep.

Friday, 19 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 8

She lay there, unconscious, a thing amongst other things. In her drugged haze she dreamt she was with him, not with him; they were apart and yet together, that somehow without even moving she could get closer to him, which made no sense but then she also dreamt she was in a boat, going by a perilous passage between terrible menacing rocks and a swirling spiralling luscious green whirlpool; beautiful to look at, but death itself. The boat was steered to safety, but she could barely breathe, save for thinking - hoping - he was there.


He could not face life without her; he was brave enough to know this about himself. He could no longer do it; he had done it for so long, he didn't know what else was possible but this was it. The rumbling and rambling of the crowd meant little to him; he had to figure it out for himself. It would be a crushing weight if he could not find her, or if he found her in a certain way. He would lay there in bed and not move for weeks, or so it would seem. The little bird could only tell him so much. He was a patient and understanding man; obliging; but he would either collapse altogether or erupt at this point. His friend was on the floor dancing and occasionally giving him a glance as if to say; we are not alone here, you know. He smiled and continued to gauge the crowd.


He fell into a reverie; a recollection of when he met her and vowed to change; vowed he would be loyal to her and her only. It was not a difficult promise in the least, he was proud of it, and proud that he kept it. He could not look away from the scattered twigs and leaves from the tree that he passed by on the way to her house, though; the winds blew strongly there and relentlessly at times, and there would be times when the wind would try to blow them over as well. This was life, simple and plain, and he promised to shelter her as best he could from these winds. He felt vulnerable then, but the tree, though wracked, stood. A good omen, he felt.


"Hey pal, what are you doing here? Looking for someone?" He looked up, a bit warily. It was his old pal and, he knew in his guts, a witness. He kept his head down. "Sorta. Not sure if she's here." "Well, there's plenty of fine girls who are, if you're looking. Not that you look like their type, exactly." "Hmmmm." He drank a bit more and decided to chance it and look at him directly. "Was the laughing girl here? You know the one? She likes to dance." It was their old nickname for her, due to her laugh, of course. "No, can't say I've seen her lately, but she is still around, look a bit rough." "Been in hospital you know. The food, the drugs. Feeling better though" he laughed, as his old pal didn't know him from anyone. "Maybe she's upstairs? That's where couples go when they know..." "Thanks." He started upstairs, the song in the background he hoped would stay in the background, thank you very much.


He reached the top of the stairs and it was dark; far darker than it was downstairs. How cold and mysterious it was! And he felt uneasy. This area was called, illogically yet inevitably, the underworld; he shuddered as he walked past the doors, the various noises coming out from the rooms. This was not a good place to be. His friend caught up with him just in time, before he turned back. "What do you want up here? This is off limits you know." "I know but...a guy who I think knows something said she might be up here." "As if she would want to be up here, really." "I have the feeling that she isn't really...awake. No, I don't feel that about her at all. Damn it's quiet up here. I...let me go through this door--" "No, I don't think you want to do that. That's where we are hiding, after all." "Huh?" The green-eyed stranger, who had been something of a witness himself and who knew perfectly well that he was talking to her partner, stepped out of the stairwell. "Our hiding place is there." There was a pause which could best be described as awkward. "You hide amongst these people?" "She's not there; I have been looking for her myself." "You what?" "She is a symbol for us, of resistance...she doesn't really know about us, but we care for her." He paused and thought for a moment; huh. He hoped this wasn't a tall story.


"You have been...looking after her?" This was unthinkable to him; he always imagined her having to save the besieged fortress that was them himself. "Well, this is our club...not that that is well known..." "So she is going to be alright?" "Yes. Still don't know where she is though."

He heaved a sigh of relief; the interior burden was getting to be too much for him. He felt like crying, out of sheer happiness that seemed to be gushing from within him the way blood once did; he found a chair, suddenly feeling much safer here than he had before, and even got up and did a little dance. His voyage was not for nothing; he felt like Dionysos now, knowing that Naxos was in sight, merry and yet determined. "I think I will have a drink downstairs. What do you say?" The radical gleamed and said it would be on him.


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 7

"Look," he said, in between mouthfuls of chocolate orange, "I can withstand a lot. We're going to go in there and do whatever we are going to do. I cannot pretend to be neutral though. Neutrality? Neutrality? Fuck that. Really - " he paused to bite and eat again, continuing, "I can reconcile almost anything, for the sake of peace. She - " he stopped short. He shook his head. "Love is not the problem here. Or maybe it is. How stupid I was sometimes! But you know damn well the only person who is more naive than me is her. I dream about her; I cannot help it; I do. There with the open box. On the floor..." he starts to cry a little; his friend rubs his shoulder. "And I know she dreams of me, I know she does. For all I know she is throwing up in a stall in that club, or some guy has her all drugged up and who knows what is happening. I have my allies there, I know, but..." "Let's go there then and get this agony over with. She could meet the richest player there and be left cold. Fact! You know it." "Oh shit, I just ate two of these" he said, throwing the second wrapper away. "I'm going to be up all night. Just as well."


And so they went. The club was small and yet elegant, exclusive without being that snobbish. There was feeling of wealth in the air, to be sure, but with that a certain anxiety, and the oppressive heat of the room is what first hit them. He could not see her, was not able to see her; it was packed and humid, restless, girls smiling at him even though, objectively, he looked like crap, his friend not really much better. "We have to go in disguise, windypants. Yeah, I know, you weren't consulted, but this is the only way. She can't know. They can't know. I know how you like your privacy."

He was determined to enjoy this, grimly so if necessary, and felt no real need to rush anything. That was one of the things that puzzled her about him, after all - his seeming passivity. How he could and indeed did just sit there and look at her sometimes, even though from her objective there were far prettier girls around. Here he could free his mind, as a student's mind will go blank before an exam, before the great outpouring. He noted the protesters coming in, wondered why they seemed to be following him and then laughed that off, all the while quietly waiting for her.


He returned with another drink. "You can have this, you can have as many as you can handle," he smiled, handing it to her, "and whatever else you want. What you have is...nice, but I can give you so much more. I can give you whatever you want."

She smiled inwardly at the irony of this, as so far as she knew he could not get her the one thing she wanted. He held up a ring. It sparkled pink and gold and blue, so dazzling it seemed to be in some separate dimension. It entranced her in spite of herself; but she shrank back and shook her head, which unfortunately only made him more determined. The drink got into her and lulled her to a dull somnolence; she took the box and the ring fell out of it, underneath her chair and on towards the wall. She slumped down, and he smiled, easing her up and carrying her off like so much wet laundry.


He woke up from his spell in an instant; the spell caused, to his shame, by a girl who was most definitely giving him the eye. He grew tired of this now, a bit contemptuous even. She was in trouble, he knew she was; but he still could not see her or figure out who to ask, even. So he got up and wondered. She said it was forever, well, here goes forever. He felt the song dance through his ears, marching him up around the stairs and towards her almost by its own will. He had to give in to the music, be like her, to find her; it really was the only way. He even began to dance a little, though it was more rhythmic walking than anything else. His friend was close by him, but not too close, patient, frowning at some men, high-fiving others.


Monday, 15 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 6

"This is some city," he says as they keep bumping through, "people give up everything just to come here. They think they can shed their old selves and maybe they can." He sees some protesters marching along, but the bus turns and he loses sight of them. "And you know what? I don't blame her for wanting to be here, I mean this is our place. But you've got to get out of it sometimes because it's so big and loud and...cold. Just cold. I bet there's some guy who has ice in his veins trying to seduce her right now, and she can't even tell because she's numbed. Hell, I'd be numbed too. She probably can't even hear half of what he's saying." "Poison, my friend, that is what I'm scared of. In the air, the water, everything. I want a farm, you know?" He nods, now actually worried if she is safe; if she has been seduced and abandoned, as well. He cannot be angry with her - not after
what he has done, after all.


And yet it is the city, where all things are indeed possible, where beauty hangs in the air waiting to be grasped, where the unexpected grace can still happen, and you can take the city as your sister, your friend, even as buildings and people collapse and rise, as the quiet night lets even a few birds and stars into view.


It was just them against the city, or so it felt; the city that was indeed cruel to them and made him go away, only for him to become ill and nearly die, then return to see her again; it was just them and everyone and everything else had its own consequences, theirs were theirs alone and there was a kind of pain in that but a joyous certainty as well. He knew what could happen, hoped would happen, hoped against hope; that she would be there waiting for him, her face smiling, her eyes shining...and they would do whatever they wanted. Now, just to find her.


It was getting hot in the club; too hot to dance that much, but the heat made the dancing just that more friendly, her skin that more melting into the air, it seemed, and her dizziness was due to lack of water. "I have to go freshen myself up, please" she said to him, he who was now even more gracious than ever, as she went to the restroom to splash herself with cold water. "Could I get you a drink?" he asked, his smiling face cold (though she didn't perceive this), she said yes, oh yes, and smiled back, tugging at her dress in a way that she would have slapped herself for doing, ordinarily. Is this the edge, she wondered, or just the verge? Hmm. Interesting.


He had to bear up against it, though it didn't please him. Not one damn bit. He could forgive her a lot, but love? Actual love? He knew she could not do it, could not just take someone else on in his absence. He winced at the idea; no, not winced, he shuddered. She was impulsive and capable of much, he certainly knew that, but they had their vows and she took them seriously. "We did that ourselves, we did that for ourselves, this is ours" she would say, "and it is magnificent and nothing in the world can destroy it. Not a word. Not a look. Nothing. I am in this with you hip-deep and no doubt about and I would never change that." He cursed himself for his doubts, maybe let himself look at a girl for too long, like rubbing himself the wrong way, just to punish himself. "Yo windypants you worry too much, why the long face?" his friend said as they were walking down the street.

"She likes life. She loves you. No reason to worry."


Freshened, she is able to balance for a moment before she enters. She sees the girls who want to be noticed, the players noticing them, even that guy who is still looking at her but not really doing anything more about it. She sees the shine of the rings, the bling-bling that shines and shines but says so little, she feels; there are gestures, looks that far outdo them. She remembers him and how he felt trapped in a room full of gold things; excited at first, then slowly turned off, unable to see anything for what it was after a while. I never wanted that and that way of thinking is alien to me, she thinks, walking unsteadily over to him, to the reddish drink in his hand, taking it and aiming it to where she thought her mouth was the last time she knew about it. "Whoops, missed there. Let me get you another one. And sit down, honey, don't be shy." She sat and wondered at the many sequins and satins, the vague dread that maybe she wouldn't get up again any time soon just edging into her pleasure.


Friday, 12 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 5

She is back again for yet another night, knowing he will be there; not her guy but him, that man who...she didn't want to think about it, she had to think about it; he didn't make her go weak, necessarily, but perversely gave her strength - strength enough to test herself. Come here, he seemed to be saying; if you dare, the very clear real meaning. She could only hide, avert her eyes, so much. Good and bad would cease to have meaning around him, and part of her wanted to see just what would happen if that was the case. She felt like one of those divers, looking down, aiming for water not rocks, a clean slippage into the sea.


And so, sensing that inner courage - opening up the box, inhaling, bashing herself up inside, to release something - she walks up to him. "Care to dance? The floor looks a little...empty." He looks a bit taken aback to be approached, but he also seems a bit...relieved? "Generally I don't dance, but in this must be lonely to ask me." Is he trying to disarm her? What does he know? She lags a little behind him at times, daring him to slow down. To give himself? She cannot believe what she is doing is so easy, but strangely he is growing on her and wearing off at the same time.


The music, she reminds herself as he gets closer - she can smell his smell of grapes and salt now - is what is going to save me. She gave herself to the music, they will say. How she persisted on music alone for so many days, nights. The random melodies from a phone; a radio in a shop; the songs and snatches of songs in her head. I can't stop dancing now, and luckily he won't stop, as he thinks he has me. I want witnesses; I want him, perversely, to want me. And so he does.


It is only in seeing others that she notes there are indeed very few women around and that in choosing him - though it was done lightly it wasn't done easily - there may well be others she hasn't met yet who may want her in worse ways than even him. That someone who she regarded as dangerous just a few minutes ago could be someone she needs more than she would like. She looks at him and he seems to realize the same thing. This is getting too complex already, where are the girls, the girls?


There is one! Just the one but she has pulled focus away from her, to the point where she may as well not exist; and so she can breathe. "You're beautiful" he leans over to whisper as they pause; it is through sheer tiredness that she says "Thank you" as she has not heard anyone describe her this way for quite some time. "I like your hands," he continues, holding one of them, pretending he cannot see her ring, that it is merely a shaped piece of metal, "so graceful." "Umm...they are useful" she says in reply, already feeling lame, as the free girl displays herself, is herself, throws glamour as the moon sheds light.


"So, you think she won't succumb? How optimistic you are!" "Look, I'm no optimist," he said as they waited for the bus (his friend's car has inconveniently broken down), "but you have to understand that she gets into things and before she knows it, there's almost no way out. How many times did she lock herself out of our own house? Too many. So she wants to dance with a guy - fine, let her, I'm not much for dancing myself sometimes - I said sometimes!" His friend laughs. "Maybe she's waiting for you and maybe she isn't but dancing is not the problem. What happens between dances - that is the problem. And I bet someone is giving her the eye right now. No not the skunk eye, you know what I mean." He sighs, his friend hails the bus, a relatively small one that goes down streets regular ones can't. It's rough and intimate and reminds him of her, but then everything does. One pause, one look.

They bump along and he bumps along in his mind.


He talks too much. This is her problem with him; he is gushing and she wants pauses, breaths, but he is just so busy upping himself and her that that is impossible. She is not disappointed, as such; she likes his voice, he is a fine talker..."you look awfully nice to be here alone for long, that man there has been watching you for instance...though somehow I doubt if he wants you as much as I do, and I want you right down to your toes..." And he goes on about how they were meant to be, not meant to be, but they there are and what about it. There is only the now, but now for her is almost an entirely different concept because it is as if her heart beats as his does, and he is not there. She wanted him to be a drug, but if he is one then he is not working. Try again, try harder, do better she practically wills him.


Thursday, 11 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 4

Oh, if she had something to throw; to cause something to happen without anyone noticing. Because she has an audience. And now that she looks around, she sees that other men there have courted her in the past; she dismissed them and now here they are; a rough uncomfortableness rubs up against her skin. She feels like a leader, but who are her followers? What is she leading? She can't even get his attention, as of yet.


It is late at night; he sits, unable to sleep. What to do, what on earth to do. He knows well what he must do, and he is scared slightly of going into that oblivious state; he has just said no to a perfectly nice girl who is here for the possible memory of someone else, which he knows is wrong; but he cannot help himself.

And so he sits alone, watching the indiscriminate blue turn into gray and then into blue again, bearing up his own obstinacy. His own foolishness. Perhaps he was gullible to trust her, perhaps not. In the meantime something flies and buzzes and glows, just out of his sight at first; an irritant more than anything. It has wings; it seems as restless and stubborn as himself. He watches it and feels lifted, enough to keep going. The sun rises, sweeping the gray away, the vivid pink fingers of that known rosy dawn are there, against the blue soft sky; he is hungry and better, resigned to much but not giving up, not on her, not on their house in the valley. Not until he knows.


"Wakey wakey windypants, time to get up!" "I won't get up" he says, his face under the covers, "I was not...consulted." "HAH!" his friend laughs, "you know a little birdie - looked like an owl but what the hell do I know, said he'd seen her in town. At the club you know, that fancy place. She might be there tonight, who knows? Gotta get outta bed before long now." The sun's rays fill the room, obliterating all need for considerations. He yawns and gets up.


He can hear her now; hear her invocation; her own stubbornness meeting his own hapless gentle qualities. He is the still pond next to her bonfire; or, more prosaically, she dances on the bed he built, as if the furious action alone will bring him back. She's right, he thinks, munching his cereal and listening to the birds hoot and chirrup to each other.


The pulse of the day quickens; there is foment in the air, a fresh breeze. He has been passive for too long, a rule-abiding man, but there is virtue in that he feels; virtue in that if he breaks the rules, it must be for a very good reason. Does he mind suffering? Not if is for her, which is to say for himself. To him they are indivisible, her and him dancing, her and him sleeping, her and him just ambling down the street, open as a door to whatever is happening.


"You know what, bro?," he says, eating his sandwich, "I have nothing at all to lose here. I have to be resigned - no I don't mean that in a bad way. As soon as I see her I can adjust, I'm like a damn thermostat that way. She can be the same way once she calms down, but when I see her she may not be calm at all. She may well be beating down a door somewhere or something. But I can't expect anything too much or we won't work out. I think I misunderstood her at times, you know, and she me. But it's worth working on. Always is."

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 3

The party, as it turns out, is a wedding one; he feels a little out of place here, but then he feels almost out of place anywhere. The song playing as he walks in is all eagerness and joy, nervous joy but joy nevertheless. His friend points to a girl and says "You know you would like her, come on" and he lets himself think so, for a moment.


She is still, to her own embarrassment, in the bathroom, several minutes later; wishing she could be anyone else, anywhere else. The girls vamp for themselves, for the Other, in the mirrors; rehearsing spells, tricks, moments which they hope will happen, which may well end up in love; or at least a feeling of...something about to happen. She feels as if she can't unleash a thing, or rather that something has happened and maybe she can handle it; just.


She steps, warily, out the door. If she doesn't treat him like a problem, then he won't be one. He will be here at any time, she feels, or tries to feel; the anonymous one, the one who is beyond any words, mostly. He never did say very much, she remembers, but then sometimes he wouldn't shut up. She smiles to herself, which is armor enough for now.


That brave girl, she is walking right up to him. She can't look, she can't not look; she sees them interact and wants to be her, despite herself. The inner flood begins and won't end. What does she have, she wonders? Nerve? Yes, yes. I can do that; yes, I can do that; and once he brushes her off (is she willing this?) then up she will walk. To confront him is braver, but she will need a drink.

He doesn't dismiss that girl just yet; but now that she is looking at him, she has the uneasy feeling she is being watched by someone else, and has no way of knowing who.


The party runs late; despite his friend's orders/suggestions, he doesn't take up with the girl, who is green and naive and terribly pretty, because he has heard a rumor - that she is over with him, missing him, the rumors change with the winds, the hours. She is there, at least, but how can he know until he gets there? He is still to weak to just walk there. Still she must accept me in some way; I am not returning with a new woman, expecting a purple carpet and adoration. I just want to rest in my own bed, with her.


The one watching her is perhaps a bit demented, but fundamentally trustworthy; he has ways of seeing that others lack, and vice versa. He is attracted to her not because she is beautiful (she doubts that now, anyway) but because she has a sort of power; a power that he admires. She has nothing to lose, and neither does he.


Tuesday, 9 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 2

The blood is back in his veins; he can face anything now, even hospital food. A passing nurse reminds him of her a bit, the shower he is finally strong enough to take is gratifyingly warm.

Oh dear, I could really go for this guy...He is all that. But does he want me? Or the symbolic trophy that is me? She, confused, retreats to the bathroom to sit and breathe. It almost seems like he is everywhere around her already.


Someone's blood is inside me, others are keeping me alive. He senses this and feels new, or at least newish. His steps are still slow, as slow as the patient clock. The chill has worn off, the dizzy uncertainty replaced with a kind of calm. He sleeps there one more night and dreams that she is with him, but then she leaves, passing out herself from exhaustion, an open box beside her when he finds her. He looks in the box: there is nothing there.

I must get back to her. His eyes open, to blue-black darkness.


He worries, as he waits for his bottles to arrive, of what she may have done and may well be doing. Does she even remember him? How he didn't have much but ran and ran to win her? She, the most valuable prize of all, kind of in awe of him, maybe a bit first. He has enough confidence to know she is still around, but also knows her well enough to know that she is not like that girl made of stone come to life. She is human, unhappy with his absence and has perhaps given up. He can't give up; after nearly dying he cannot but hope.


Once he is able to leave he calls on his old friend, who is sneakier than him and most certainly laxer in all ways - to crash at his place as he recuperates beyond what the hospital deems an appropriate time to have him around. "You still look at bit rough, son, come on over. You still pining over her? You know she's not been seen looking for you for a while now. Aw, don't be sad, she's going to be okay. I'm going to a party tomorrow night, wanna come?" He smiles. "Sure, just don't expect me to do the watusi or anything." "Fine, windypants."


"You know, there's nothing worse than trying and failing but how else are you gonna know anything? A lot of guys come back and their girls are gone, maybe for you it will be different. I know the right one is out there for me, I just have to keep looking. It's worse for you because you know damn well she is there-" "So you say," he sighs, "and she should be there, I know. I know. But how about if I show up and have to get in a fight all over again? Last thing I need, right now, and although you are a fine man, I don't want you to be a substitute for me. I don't know, I just feel like I'm being invoked all the time and it's starting to make me weird out a little bit." "You have to learn to relish that, that feeling. If only I could have that. Oh well."


Friday, 5 February 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey

"Keep breathing" said the man to the collapsed figure on the floor. "That's all you have to do."

He opened his eyes: a kindly man was asking him if he could move all his limbs, maybe sit up a little. "You're okay. But we've still got to get you to hospital. We'll help you out."

He is took weak to protest, but goes along, thinking: maybe she'll be there. In spirit, if nothing else.


The club - ah, the club. The many faces, voiceless, the music deafening, defining. She knows his homing instinct. She is here to wait, to entertain and perhaps *be* entertained. She has been waiting a long time, though, and is worried that one push will cause an inner earthquake, cause a siege, break her down and flatten her out. There have been men; oh there have been men. Nevertheless, this is where she feels safe, and how right it would be to meet him here again; it is where they first met, after all.


She sees one man succumb utterly to a woman without meaning to and thinks: it is so easy. It takes no thought; to get lost, to be with that other if the other is willing. She has something to drink and wonders just what, if anything, would happen if she was that woman; but the girl who is spinning with that man is free, has no purpose but to be free. "You're so lucky" she thinks aloud, blessing herself, blessing that girl. And waits.


He is getting ready, walking, pacing morelike. He is not going home, most certainly not. He is a void waiting to be filled and a thirst waiting to be slaked; all he has to do is have the courage. She is tough, he's heard it said; a friend of a friend got approximately nowhere with her. Perhaps she is weak; weakened enough for that one moment. He thinks she is, is willing to try his luck against...what? Everyone knows he has gone and isn't coming back, no, no...


She has composed herself for the night; she has armored herself and will find her man, will throw herself at him and dive in like he was a pool. That woman over there is content to wait, she thinks; but I am going to get him, whoever he is. Will him into existence? Why not? And I am the hottest here, the most irresistible, because of my armor. "You look...nice" she hears. And then smiles.


The big men arrive, the players, the ones who have some consequence - they knew him, they are sure he will be back, talking casually amongst themselves as they check the girls out, flirt, give maybe a meaningful stare here or there. One of them gets a girl who is already tipsy in the corner rather more tipsy, and they disappear, he half-carries her away. She shakes her head and remembers when he did that...


"Who in the hecking heck is that?" she asks the woman next to her. She inadvertently stops breathing for a moment; her right hand goes automatically through her hair.

"You need another pint of blood" said the nurse, eyeing his drip feed and agreeing to slow the rate down, as the fresh blood hurts him as it entered and swam into his system. "One more, yes" he said, feeling weaker than he would like.


He looked a bit stupid, she thought; she didn't want to have anything to do with him, which of course made things worse as part of her most certainly did want something; she felt like an antenna, a phone, the buzz in her ears was ringing. I am safe for now, he hasn't noticed me...the other girls did though, the unattached ones, who wanted him because they wanted him; he was an object, a subject, a thing, and she could see him basking in this. It was ugly, seductive, and she hoped meanly he would go off with one of them, all of them. It didn't matter.


Was he the enemy? She *could* dance and dance with him and walk that tightrope. Yes, she could. The music would save her; it was bigger than both of them. It vibrated through her, cleansing her in a way that was absolute. If she had to wait she was going to have fun, dammit, and if he wanted her, fine. FINE.


Meanwhile he thought of her; it was hopeless. A machine beeped and another bleeped in the same rhythm; the blood dripped like a bassline, sleep carried him like water carries a boat. He wakes up kissing his pillow, holding it tight.


(story to be continued next week...)