From Jester To King LXXVIII
By Simon Barget
I suppose there’s all sorts of ways of meeting girls when you’re younger. Beach or disco, but the way I found women was more unconventional. I was shy as a teen. Painfully shy. And this made it all the more difficult for me interacting with girls. Now I had a friend Jonny (who we all called John) and every once in a while, whether just out of pity or to make himself feel better about his own tawdry lot, every so often he would invite me out to one of his evenings, and though it was never plainly stated that the objective was to find girls, we all knew, and there was a certain amount of trepidation at least on my part in the moments leading up to one. I had no idea what to expect. So we drive out to the place, and eventually we get there, and it looks like a fairly run-of-the-mill residential house in the city, except this one is about one and a half hours out, and I remember going through this courtyard as you walk in which had this iron staircase leading up to the main room, and in this room are a few religious men wearing yarmulkes and there are a few tables and chairs and a few beds too, all a bit higgledy-piggledy, and they look over to us and especially to me as if to show that I should know that they have not seen me before, that it was interesting that I’d decided to come here, not necessarily that I should feel out of place, but then again no one extended a hand to make me feel welcome. I must admit I did feel out of place with the heavy religious overtones but I went along because I’d seen it before with Jon and the crowd he often hung out with. But there was no sight of any girls, and far from being let down, I was relieved, relieved that I wouldn’t have to go through all the discomfort, all the awkwardness, of looking but not looking, of avoiding their gaze, of pretending I wasn’t interested but being very interested indeed, and as soon as I realised the coast was clear, I let out a sigh and got much much more relaxed, I realised that free of the women I might now be the coolest guy here. I mean that if these were guys who couldn’t get with women either, I figured that their religiousness as well made it all the more likely they were all saddoes. And so now I have a spring in my step, I start looking round the room much more freely, walking around it, scoping out all the other guys until not so long after I do notice a girl, but I’m not alarmed, it’s just one solitary straggler and also my sense of being at ease has taken me over so much that the sight of the girl is unable to buffet it. And then I find out from Jon that the way it’s done here, as if I’m supposed to have automatically realised this is by using the swimming pool, and initially I don’t understand what he means until we go downstairs to the basement and in this basement is this cramped little swimming pool and in the swimming pool yet more of these religious guys are submerged, all still with their clothes on and yarmulke too, their head and body under as well, and I squat down on my haunches at the side of the pool to get a closer look and I see that the lead Rabbi is inside himself handing each numerous shots of vodka. And I start to realise that the intoxication from the vodka combined with the intoxication from being submerged and holding your breath is supposed to bring you to the point where you can interact with the girls, and I look in sort of horrified, and I have never in my life been able to feel what someone else is feeling without it being done to me personally, I can really feel how these boys are getting pretty fucked up especially the feeling of asphyxiation from holding their breath for so long, and then they carry on drinking the shots of vodka, and now it makes sense and I can certainly see myself going through the rigmarole to get into that frame of mind where I can be comfortable enough, or say, sedated enough to talk to some women, and let’s face it I’d probably go to lengths greater than that.
One final word on those memories of youth. I went back to Bournemouth the other day, and the clarity with which the childhood feeling struck me, the revisiting of those childhood feelings was so intense. I had gone so much to Bournemouth as a boy, and when I went the other day and saw the enormous new Merry-Go-Round by the Holdenhurst roundabout and generally looking at the sights and the landmarks as I came in, well it took me back instantly to my six year-old self and those moments when we were just about to pull in, seeing that road sign which said ‘Bournemouth’ on it, going through and past each of those roundabouts coming ever closer to the blessed Bournemouth, well my point is that the intensity of feeling when you’re six is so great, but the time passes that you tend to dismiss it when you get older, and I could literally feel those sensations when I was six, the sheer thrill of it, and it wasn’t quite the same when I went back last week, I mean it wasn’t bad to be back, but nothing to compare to those little-boy tingles, and of course I wish I could go back now, back as that boy.