Calban Attends A Concert : A Night Out (Ch.17) Part 1
Chapter 17 : Calban Attends a Concert : A Night Out
The noise was so loud that newcomers felt they would have been able to hear the music more clearly if it had been half the volume. It was so hot, even the walls were sweating. This was the true underground. Calban felt it in his heart. But there was much about it, like the noise, which he found disturbing. Janus had warned him about it before. Indeed he had read about it in one of Janus’ books. He knew all about the positive aspects; the freedom from restraint; the freedom to express oneself; the freedom to love honestly without the fear of being trapped or rebuked; above all freedom from what the people of the underground called rather aptly the ‘rat race’. Janus had told him too about the negative aspects, the selfishness, the searching for short term gratification and the temptation to avoid reality, ignoring the pressures and responsibilities of real life. To immature minds it could provide a temptation to a sharp cocky rudeness, to self worship and oneupmanship, even to a proud egoism, which in certain people manifested itself in violence. Some of the people of the underground took drugs. In most of those, in the long term, and sometimes the short term, the effects were debilitating.
A ‘Band’ played electronic stringed instruments on stage. Two drummers provided a cacophony of rhythm behind them. The people, many of them long haired and colourfully dressed, male and female, danced in front of them, wildly abandoned, but none of them knocked into their neighbours or used up their space. Calban had often explored the Vidbase for musical delights over the years, tending mainly towards the most popular performers, although sometimes exploring more widely from curiosity. Many of these ‘underground’ and ‘Lifestyler’ styles however were new to him. He found what he had heard recently, in new company, quite exciting. This band were called ‘New Way’. They were loud, louder than he had expected from his years of watching and listening over the vidnet, and strongly rhythmic. The music seemed to flow out from them, and created a trancelike relaxation in the audience. Calban felt it and allowed himself to relax while he thought about things.
He was excited to be in such a place. For many years he had lived a lonely existence, with only the Vidscreen for comfort and company. Work had been a dull routine, and still remained the only human contact, until now, and the alternative to his flat had made it bearable. Recently so many new things had been happening to him. He still spent some of his free time in front of the Vidscreen, but he was now spending as much of it in more active and social pursuits. He was reading now, and not just from the Vidscreen. He was reading ‘underground’ and ‘neo creaddic’ literature and factual works, among others, when he could. He particularly responded to the works of Janus which were often circulated by hand in the Neo Creadd discussion movement of which he was a part. They were so honest and relevant to his own existence. They expressed his own feelings better than he could. Janus had encouraged him to write his own thoughts down, but he did not want to. There was not the time. He was contented to see his own feelings and thoughts, and often others which he did not share, in the thoughts of Janus, Jairis and others. Even Julia had written a short book which was popular among the group, and other groups they had connections with.
He had come down here to meet a group of members of the discussion group. It was a sign of his own emergence from the reclusive cocoon his upbringing and society had placed him in. Now he was beginning to feel a growing confidence. Although his new confidence was fragile and limited by his lack of experience in so many facets of life, the group supported him, and pushed him in the right directions. He had arrived before any of the others, which he had half expected. He used the opportunity to look around and sense the atmosphere. The group had taken him to other meeting places and bars – they often met in them, but this was the first time he had seen anything like this. It was crowded with people, and crowding all the more as others arrived for the evening’s entertainment. When he arrived it had been easy to walk around. Now it was packed with people. The Club was dark inside, but there were certain areas, away from the stage and dancefloor, where people congregated to talk. These areas were lighter.
These people seemed to receive their social fuel from alchohol. Calban was beginning to like the stuff. It was true that it relieved tension, allowed you to relax so that you might say things in conversation with less inhibition. It made you feel you did not have to be so careful about what you said. Calban had already found that, when he stopped drinking, after some minutes he wanted another one to help him continue the conversation. The policy to follow was not to drink too much or too fast, for it made you tired and lazy, and you began to miss the finer points of what was being spoken. Your powers of thought declined quite badly. Calban went to the bar. Giving his personal credit number he bought himself a measure of drink. This was a part he disliked. He had to stand amongst a tight packed crowd in front of the bar waiting. The bar employees selected the customers to be favoured by being served randomly, it seemed. Calban stood awkwardly at the bar for some minutes before a bar employee deigned to serve him. The longer he waited the more the tension rose, but when served it dissipated again completely. Drink in hand he wandered slowly around the club. The band had not begun yet but music played quite loudly. There were vidscreens also displaying views of the musicians who performed. The music, like the alchohol and the dim light relaxed him and made it possible to observe the people. It was the people who fascinated him the most, particularly the females. He had never seen so many females together in one place and so many attractive ones at that. There was something about the light, or perhaps because they were at leisure, and therefore more happy than when on the way to or back from work. This was better than the tram. The world suddenly seemed much larger and friendlier. The ladies were socially interacting. He could observe the facial expressions as they talked and see their eyes as they looked at him when he went past. Unusually there seemed to be even more of them than men, which wasn’t normally the case in any place Calban had been, but perhaps it was just a trick of his imagination.
Calban stood and watched ‘The New Way’ from some distance. The men and women here stood in small groups or wandered around looking at each other. A group of three ladies stood just near him. Calban felt excitement as he realised they were not with any men. One of the women, an attractive young lady with long blonde hair returned his gaze. Calban broke his gaze politely, but not as quickly as he usually did. He looked at her again. She was still looking at him. There was no likelihood of him stepping the two steps which would have brought him to her ear, or of finding the right words to talk to her. The few encounters with women in his life, usually at work, had always been miserable failures. His conversation, or maybe it was his air of awkwardness, displeased them, he assumed, because they always made their excuses to end the conversation when they had the chance. He was gratified to think that she had looked at him at the least. It proved he still had a chance with women. One day, maybe even tonight, he would meet someone who would respond to him. He was passive in their presence as ever, but maybe one of them would approach him. The blonde girl was not looking now, but she returned his gaze when he looked again. She was not the only one who had looked at him. If it was not to be her it could be someone else. He wasn’t fussy. Anybody would do, although like everyone he supposed, he aspired to a woman who was attractive, as attractive as possible.
Even in his current mood of optimism he did not think that tonight would be any different from all the other nights of his life. He would be alone as he always had been and believed he always would be. His life had opened up recently but all the women in the discussion group belonged to other men. He did not detect any strong personal interest in any of them for him. At least tonight he was in a situation where there were possibilities around him, even though he knew he had not the personal confidence or sufficient charm to meet strangers.
Calban left the vicinity of the blonde lady and began to walk around. He was beginning to wonder where his friends were when he saw Janus returning from the bar with a trayful of drinks. Janus immediately caught his eye and steered in his direction. What a nice chap, Calban thought. He could so easily have returned to the others with the drinks, expecting him to follow, but he had changed course and come straight to him. Calban still felt slightly in awe of Janus because of his many talents and the leadership he was already beginning to exercise in the group so soon after joining. Janus had real ‘political’ ambitions for the group and it was clear since his arrival that the nature of the group’s activities was going to change. Everybody felt this was a good thing. It was better to act than to stand still, merely talking. Nonetheless most of them were frightened by the prospect of change, and certainly cynical towards the possibility of success. And yet to talk to Janus was an extremely unassuming and pleasant character. He was able to judge what level of his thoughts a person was capable of understanding or when a person was interested, and would make an effort to talk on that person’s level. Calban always came away from a conversation with Janus having enjoyed his company and having learned something new, but he also had the feeling of being a full participant in a conversation, and having revealed some of his own thoughts in the process. Janus was open to people’s thoughts. He liked to know what they thought.
“We’re over there,” said Janus.
“Oh, I didn’t see you. Until now,” Calban said haltingly. “Have you been here long. I didn’t see you before. I have been looking for you all.” With some people Calban would have felt he was saying too much, but somehow with Janus it did not matter what you said. He had always appeared willing to listen, and patiently, so that if it took a few sentences to say something obvious, which could have been said more succinctly, it really did not matter.
“We have only just arrived,” said Janus. “I hope we haven’t missed anything?”
“The first live band has finished but I believe there will be another later.”
“Were they good?” asked Janus.
“Fantastic,” replied Calban, who at the age of 25 had never seen a live band in person before. Of course he had seen plenty of such music and other styles on the Vidscreen in the privacy of his own room. But to actually be in a place where it was being performed, to see the musicians as real people whom he could walk up to and touch. That was something special. Even so to be honest his attention had been more engaged with the people around him, his own proximity to so many attractive females and excitement at being a part of the whole situation.
Normally, Calban felt sure Janus would have questioned him further on the music and the event, drawing out his opinions, and using them as a basis, after a short while, for shifting the conversation towards other even more interesting topics. At the moment, however, Janus was duty bound to return with his tray of drinks to the other group members. “I must take these back,” he apologised. “Follow me.”
They wove through the growing crowd, some of them standing on the edge of the dance floor. Vera and Jairis were there, engrossed in witty and thought provoking conversation with each other as ever. The gorgeous Julia turned to greet them as they approached. As he always did Calban felt the slight pangs of jealousy whenever he saw her, because he knew her greatest attention would be reserved for better men than he. At the moment that attention was turned towards Janus. His idealism and his literary output had affected everyone in the group, and it was obvious that Julia, a writer herself, was becoming deeply interested in his thinking. Although no obvious signs of a romantic connection between the two had been displayed, Calban could not imagine Julia’s intellectual infatuation was bereft of physical attraction. Janus, for his part, gave widespread and fair attention to everyone around him, showing little betrayal of his ideological and artistic leanings for anything less altruistic. But it was difficult to see how any man could fail to enjoy Julia’s attention. Her speech was always clear and sparkling, her words either deep and thought provoking or lively and entertaining. She was a maturely balanced and intelligent individual to match Janus. Janus certainly seemed happy to accept her attention whenever she had it to give, which was frequent.
With Julia were three other women, none of whom Calban had seen before at any of the meetings. Calban found his heart beating faster as he realised he was about to be introduced to some new females. One of them was quite overweight and unattractive to him, but the other two seemed at first glance to be very good looking, although nearly all the women here tonight looked good in the half light. He had not expected to be in actual contact with strangers tonight. He had assumed as a matter of course that he would spend much of his evening aware of the female beauty all around him, but unable to form any contact with them. Yet here he was, so early in the evening, about to be introduced to some desirable specimens of the female race.
He tried not to panic as the situation unfolded before him like a trap he could not avoid. He fought hard to maintain the basics of civility although he was sure to fail to say the right things.
To Julia’s welcome, addressed to both Janus and himself, he responded with good manners. Then she introduced the strangers, loudly so they could both hear. “This is Catulla,” she said, waving her arm towards the fat one. “She’s a lawyer, works for MIOST. Might be a good contact to have,” she added, directing a knowing look to Janus. “Janus – one of our leading thinkers, and Calban, another recent recruit,” she explained in return to all. For some reason Calban was thankful she had not introduced him as an accountant, although he was sure that if any of them did bother to talk to him after this introduction he would be sure to reveal the fact. After all what else was there to say about himself.
“And this is Petulia, also a MIOST lawyer. She specialises in civil prosecutions for industrial sabotage and crimes against property.” Petulia was slim, small and slight, with a slightly dark complexion, which betrayed a non Martan, possibly Galancian connection. Her black hair was long and curled, as it caressed the sides of her cheeks and cascaded onto her shoulders. The dress she wore emphasised her petite beauty by hugging her body closely and revealing her tanned arms. At a second glance Petulia was certainly desirable. Calban wanted to retire from her keen gaze, but there was nowhere to hide.
“And Clarella. She also works for MIOST, as a lawyer, with Petulia.” This one was taller than Petulia, but not as tall as Julia. She also possessed long black hair, which fell straight on either side of her head, parted in the middle. She was thin and graceful, he thought. Her delicate arms were white, and she wore a long flowing black dress, which emphasised her tall slimness. Calban was immediately drawn to her face. Not classical in its beauty, it was nonetheless very attractive, intelligent, and her eyes contained life and passion. At second glance his awe increased. He wanted to hide behind Janus, although politeness dictated that he make a greeting of ‘hello’.