From Jester To King CII
By Simon Barget
Now it’s been so long since a proper night out where you feel so entwined with the people you’re out with, where the laughs coalesce into a swell of euphoria, where time passes in ecstasy, where you’d forgotten what it’s like to feel real excitement and to be having so much fun. You’re like a kid with a toy with the world out for the taking.
What came to mind was the night out with Alton -- Marlon Alton-- the night with the kittens and the parlous crossing of the road. It all started at the big amusement park, and the interesting thing about this one was that you sort of controlled how the rides went. You started in the central console bit and you drank of course and then if you wanted to, if you were feeling plucky, you could go out into the park onto one of the rides. There was Shannon, Karen, Moses, Alex, there were loads of us there so many people to get lost in. It was a bit like watching a pier and all the amusement arcades from the beach. You could see all the lights and the thrills and the cars of the Ferris wheels but until you got out onto the pier you were sort of safe and had no idea what you were letting yourself in for. You could see all the ghost trains and the cars in the sky making their way round, but you didn’t know how it felt until you went in them.
And after some time everyone has got a bit tipsy, people are starting to get adventurous and moving, everyone’s gravitating towards the rides and they’re also trying to persuade me to come along. And I know in myself that it’s not going to take much persuading this time, although when they start squeezing my arm they didn’t know that and I make more of it than necessary, milk it a bit before agreeing to come over with them. There was no question of me not going.
I won’t pretend there weren’t a few frissons, frissons of love of desire, there were girls there who I wanted, all sorts of girls too numerous to follow with my eyes, and every so often in between the wholesome excitement, I’d catch sight of one and remember she was there, remember my ardour, and this sense of romance would add another level to the evening, it was like there was an additional thing to keep tabs on, a second thing to look forward to, to have in your clutches, and when you’ve got that you’ve got it all because the mark of a really good night is the fun and the camaraderie allied to the romance.
But as I realise they’re all this women around I also remember that one of the guys we’re with is very tall and handsome, and from just chatting to him easily and getting on very well, I suddenly see him in a completely different light, and though he’s not a threat, he’s not predatory at all, it seems to detract from the heartiness of the ambiance and just to get a feel for him and to let him know who’s boss, I start remarking on how tall he is, teasing him a little, alluding to the envy that someone shorter might feel at how attractive is he is, but that maybe he’s also a little too tall, too attractive, but all he does is go along with the thing whole-heartedly, he is with me rather than against me, and I feel slightly reassured. I am standing with him on the dodgem track, and there are no dodgems there, just me and him and the two basketball hoops and it has been so long since I was just standing around in the evening air with a person I’d only just met, getting on famously with then, never for a minute doubting that we were just like each other, that we were instantly friends and would be friends forever, which was why the attraction thing was a bit of a drag, but I suppose a necessary evil.
Then we had to cross the road to the park, and until you’re on the road you have no idea how deadly it is, a cross between Bangkok and nocturnal Roppongi. Cars so close up to each other, cars chopping down the space as soon as the one moves in front of it, and there were two lanes in each direction and a central reservation, but just crossing one lane was deadly because the cars didn’t stop like they normally would if they were about to smash into your thigh, these cars were just going to go straight on and hit you, and it was terrifying that if you went forward and misjudged how far away the car was from you before you went in its lane you were going to get hit, simple as that, and it just seemed like we weren’t going to be able to move at all and would have to wait there forever, since there were no breaks in the traffic at all. And then we just went. I remember crossing the final lane and the three white minivans right up close to each other but a tiny break in the traffic before them so that if we crossed just before they accelerated we would make it over and we only just about made it because as soon as we started crossing they bore right down on us, not seemingly with the intention of hitting us but more just to obey the law of this road which was never to leave the tiniest gap unbroached, but we wriggled free and somehow made it across.
The park was not all as it seemed but these were the best bits where we went along in our crew, about seven or eight of us, cemented together, drunk and high, we’d made it across, there was nothing to fear and it seemed like the night could never end. There was a topography to the park, I mean part of the amusement was to walk through its hills and troughs and the walking was a ride in itself, the land was a bit like the land you’d imagine the Hollywood sign is on when seen from that perennial vantage point, and imagine a trail of intrepid thrill-seekers, going up and down in a two-dimensional landscape, or like those computer games with one character you had to guide up and down, left and right, well that was pretty much what it was like. And then I realised even from the park side you could be on the console side too, you could see yourself from the consoles, and that was the most amazing thing about it, that you could be both at one time, you had the control but could be on the rides, and it was like being able to go back and forth at will without having to cross the deadly road, it was a bit like flying around and about wherever your fancy took you, and I don’t know about the others but I was in heaven.
I remember the sides of some tennis courts, going round the back of the wire fence, and that’s about when I got sight of Alton. Initially I thought he wouldn’t want to talk to me, and perhaps I was right. But by this time I was going on the rides and then feeding straight back in to the console, and then doing this in sync with all the girls, and what this felt like was that I had achieved that closeness with some of them that I so desperately wanted, there was certainly some sort of consummation, you could just see it in their eyes and in their bearing, so I felt confident and when I saw Alton I think he was with his sister, and I remember thinking well what is it that we have in common, since despite my unabashed admiration of him, there wasn’t all that much that we could have bonded over, when I suddenly realise that one of my cats has escaped into the leisure area of the park and as I go along to grab it, there is Alton just standing all calm and composed, pointing to my little cat who is right by his, and not that I knew he had a cat, the cats are playing on the travellator, and every time it goes up one step, they jump in unison, and every time they do this I am petrified that they’ll fall in the gap and get swallowed up but Alton tells me that they’re absolutely made to do this, and as I see them jump I can’t deny that he’s right since their movements are so precise, they second-guess the mechanism of the travellator so exactly that they’ve almost jumped before the step has moved, and it is at this point that the ice is broken and I go over to Alton and the two of us are standing there lovingly beholding our kittens balletically mounting this mechanical walkway.