Murmuration - Chapter 21 (Part 1) 1992
Katie leads me over to the bar, the barman offers us a broad smile and sets up 5 pints on the bar.
“On the house guys. . . that was fucking awesome . . . Just make sure you come back soon”
I look around at all the smiling faces in my usual needy way. Did they really like it? I wish I could just fucking accept the evidence in front of my eyes. Fuck my self-doubt.
“It sounded good out here?” I ask his back quietly as he moves to serve someone else.
I pick up a drink and try to bury myself in it, trying to style it out and pretend I neither feel the need to ask that or in fact that I didn’t ask it at all. They all heard, though and my stupid question is met with the response it deserves, everyone jeers and swears at me. I am still confused but try to persuade myself that it was good. Some part of my brain is telling me that I can’t sing and the whole thing is an elaborate wind up.
Almost to distract myself, I wonder who was doing the sound tonight, I look over at the desk and take in the figure standing there. I approach the bar and prepare to ask the barman another stupid question.
before I know what's happening though, Manny grabs me from behind and and slides his hand over my mouth.
“Come on, Alien!!” he yells excitedly in my ear. “Let's fucking get on it”
I feel a small hard circle press against my lips. Instinctively, I open my mouth and swallow the pill. Hastily followed by a mouthful of lager to avoid that horrible chemical taste.
Manny is screaming as a large and expanding group of us walk towards the Escape club opposite the pier roundabout. “Come on 24-hour party people”, he continues “DJ Sasha in the area!”. Katie wraps her arm around me and pulls herself into me, holding me tight, The night seems light and open under the full moon. I look at her and smile, still lost in my thoughts about tonight's gig. It feels like something important happened tonight. I can’t quite put my finger on it.
“I can’t believe how this has all worked out,” I say hesitantly, trying to verbalise and make sense of what is happening to me. Manny is bouncing along and making endless noise. I start to feel excited and a little bouncy. Manny’s voice is like the night's beat guiding us to our headonism. Katie kind of joins me and leans up to kiss my cheek.
“You were brilliant tonight, you all sounded amazing. Now just enjoy it for tonight. Worry about it tomorrow”. I get a little lost in her brown eyes and start to feel the pill do its thing.
Katie’s eyes widen, and she lets air through her dark red lips. I feel the connection as the warm, slightly queasy feeling circles around my belly. I wonder if she can feel the importance of this moment in the same way I can. I try to move my lips to explain and then drift away to look at the moon. “I don’t think I will ever forget tonight”, I say without really thinking, then I add, “You look amazing, the night looks amazing and we are . . .”
He holds her hand up to me, and her teeth break through her lips into a smile “Gum?” she says quietly.
“Benson?” I reply as I simultaneously take a chewing gum from her pack and take my cigarettes out of my pocket.
Suddenly she explodes into a scream, “Who wants Gum? You mother fuckers!” she throws the rest of her gum in the air above us all. The silver strips catch the light of the moon and kind of flutter down towards us. I stand hypnotised with two fags in one hand and my lighter in the other. I feel compelled to join and suddenly throw the cigarettes in the air too.
“Bensssooonss!” I scream as I throw more out of the packet with hedonistic abandon”.
“What the fuck are you two doing?” Someone laughs and I am suddenly aware of how out of character this is for both of us. Sheepishly, I offer my light to everyone who has caught a smoke and then try to cooly push the extras back into the packet. I notice Katie looking down and laughing a little.
“Alien lost the plot there!” commentates Manny, doubling over with laughter at the strange sight before him. “Not surprised at you, Katie bear he smiles, I always thought there was more than a hint of nutter under your cool exterior. But this is surely a first for our Alien friend here.” His smile widens as if he is encouraged by what he sees, his hands gesturing widely to no one in particular but the world in general.. “A glimpse into the man beneath the shroud. Are we seeing the birth of another Brighton lunatic?”
I smile quietly to myself, trying to slide my fags back into the packet, embarrassed and kind of proud of my indiscretion all at once. “What is cool? What is lame? Am I trying to hard? My thoughts swirl around me. I see the idea that ‘I have stepped from one side to the other’ disappear, leaving only the faint memory of something interesting.
Regaining my composure, I shout after my thoughts, “DJ SASHA IN THE AREA”. Joined by an encouraging Manny and then the others as we bounce toward the Escape.
Bouncing from foot to foot in the cold night air, I try to regain my trademark stoic composure. The battle rages within me as the rubarb and custard starts to take a real hold inside me. To the victor goes . . . entry to the Escape. My attempts to reign in the surging waves of warmth and love by holding on tight to Kaite only brings on rushes for the pair of us. As we get closer to the outside door of the Escape, Manny rudely pushes between us.
“Hey, Laurel and Hardy! Sort your shit out, we need to look composed and get in here.”
I start to wonder which is which, neither of us really fit the Hardy mould, both being skinny as rakes. I look at Katie and notice her brown eyes glistening in the moonlight, a little less focused than usual. Manny chats to the bouncer, he knows everyone in this town I muse and broadly smile as I watch him work his magic. Intrusively, a thought flies around my brain that this is just how he acts, and then it disappears off with the rest of the faint memories I can’t quite catch hold of. Manny waves his arm at us all by way of introduction, and the bouncer looks at us with suspicion. I return his look with what I hope is a pleasant smile, but who knows?
“In you come”, the bouncer disinterestedly grunts.
I use all of my concentration to negotiate the steps down into the dark and misty doorway. Glancing over at Katie, I realise that the responsibility of getting us both in has been passed to me. She normally takes over with stuff like this. I ignore the aching of my jaw and try the engaging smile again.
“Two please,” I hope I say, holding two fingers up just in case I didn’t. Whatever I said though, it all seems okay, so I guide Katie towards the big black double doors that lead into the club. As we step inside, the sound of the music hits us hard, and I stumble back a little as a rush hits me from deep inside. Next thing I know the others surround us, all cheering, stumbling and rushing. Rod raises his hand and starts to conduct the four-to-the-floor beat with two fingers. Like rats, we follow our pide piper and I notice my steps lock in with the beat that now envelopes me. A high hat, piano and a throbbing bassline join the beat. As we follow Rob, I feel like part of a train, a crawling train rattling along the tracks to the dancefloor.
Something catches my eye, and I look over at the speaker where Chris and Tom are climbing aloft to survey the dancefloor. They both look like they are sucking down a rush as the train is joined by ethereal vocals spreading love across the room. For a moment, they lose it and slump against the wall, overcome by these incredible pills. I can feel them as I lose track of the music and stumble in all the directions around me. As the vocals fade, Chris regains his composure and moves locked in with the music. He turns to Tom and smiles and then reaches into the collar of his striped t-shirt, pulling out a series of flashing lights. I watch confused, wondering what he has and where he was keeping it. He holds the thing aloft and starts to fly it up and down like it is flying on the thermals of the bass. I focus a little and wonder if it is a plane.
As Chris flies his lights, Tom rejoins him and they smile at each other continuing to dance. People are looking at Chris’ plane and he exchanges smiles and nods with them. A girl reaches up and gently takes the plane from Chris, who appears not to mind or is too loved up to stop her. I watch, transfixed as she flies the plane above her head, passing it to her friends. The scene is hypnotic. I watch intently. Somewhere deep inside me, I am worried that Chris’ plane will get lost. I am concerned that it should be returned to him. Watching and worrying.
The plane gets flown around the dancefloor. Passed from hand to hand. Its flashing lights are the only thing out of synch with the drums. However, its flight path continues to ride the bass up and down. The lights and people noticing It cause a little break in the rhythm of the dance floor everywhere it goes. Like a ripple or swirling twister in the sky. Some people laugh. Some people look confused. One guy looks really scared, like he can’t work out what is happening.
I feel my heart pounding as I worry, looking from the break in rhythm and then back to Chris. As it moves close to me, I want to reach out and grab it to make sure it gets back home. I feel like I am living tis drama moment to moment. I don’t, though. I don’t because I know it isn’t my story, I am just a bystander.
Then it dawns on me. The plane is flying back to Chris. Chris is totally unaware, lost in the music and dancing like his life depended on in. The plane keeps flying round the edge of the dancefloor. As it gets closer to Chris, people are starting to guide it home. Its mission has become the business of everyone. Pointing up and over to Chris on the speaker and offering a hand on the flight path. My heart starts to fly as I see the completion of this story. Chris has sent out a love plane that has spread confusing and playful joy across the dancefloor.
Now it is coming home. A guy dancing below Chris is handed the plane and breaks his rhythm to inspect it. He looks like he is struggling to focus on it let alone figure out what it is and why he suddenly has it. Suddenly, there are loads of hands tapping him and pointing to Chris. He surveys his instructors, and I can almost see his task dawning on him. He points up and smiles, a confirmation request. the others smile and nod, still pointing. He turns and looks up at Chris, holding the plane above his slightly bowed head. It is a beautiful piece of dramatic overacting that causes wider smiles and laughter. Katie hugs me closer as if this is the end of a feel-good film and the hero is now safe.
Chris doesn’t notice though. The guy looks confused and ponders his next step. Tom comes to the rescue and smiles at the group below him. He nudges Chris, who meets his plane, with a wide smile. He nods his appreciation and leans down to pick up his plane. With a joyous flourish, he flys it up and then holds it aloft for everyone to see. Katie laughs and holds me tighter. I join her laugh and then watch the dancefloor flightpath clap to Chris and smile at the plane's safe return.