Chapter 5: October 1998
We exit the live room just as people start piling in, ready now to watch whatever band’s on next. Chambers and I find a seat next to the window and Carlito brings us drinks.
“These are my very special magias,” he says. “They will send you cock-a-hoop!”
I empty my glass in two swallows. I can sense the dark wave coming. Our old life may be miles away but still I can feel Ami coming to get me. Carlito passes me another drink.
“Where are you hobos staying?” I hear him ask, but I’m not quite on the planet and the drinks are strong.
The truth is, we have nowhere to stay. We’ll sleep in the car tonight and then see what happens.
From the stage, I hear the sound of drums.
“Let’s go and watch,” Chambers says.
So we do and with music filling my head once more I feel the world level out again. The band finish and we pour back into the bar with a heap of other sweaty, winded kids. We find some standing space and I notice the directions to the bathrooms, scrawled in marker pen on the wall. The words ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gentlemen’ have been crossed out and replaced with ‘Cunts’ and ‘Cocks’. In the corner, by the pool table, three underage girls pull a bottle of whiskey out of a handbag and add shots to their glasses of Coke.
I breathe this new life in. And as I do, four more girls stalk in through the front doors as if I’ve inhaled them from the street outside. It’s the girl at the front of their diamond formation I really notice. She’s wearing a Marilyn Monroe t-shirt and a scuffed pair of Converse. She has deep green eyes, flecks of galactic yellow ingrained there like orpiment, and sun-hued hair. Her electric blue eyeliner and smudged blue mascara make her look extra-terrestrial.
The girls hover near to us. They scan the room like they’re looking at dresses on a rack and it’s Chambers they notice. One of the girls, clothed entirely in denim, taps him on the arm and points out his tattoo, half-hidden beneath his short sleeve.
“What does it say?”
Chambers tries to deflect her interest, but she won’t let it go, so he lifts his sleeve, revealing the heart-shaped tattoo with the word MUM written across it in capital letters. All of the girl’s friends are paying attention now. In unison, three of them make cooing noises. The fourth girl, the one in the Marilyn Monroe t-shirt, is the only one who says nothing, does nothing. The denim girl tells Chambers that she got her first tattoo today.
“You wanna see?” she asks.
Without waiting for an answer, she undoes the button on her trousers and pulls the waistband down. A blue blob is visible beneath some film.
“Cool,” Chambers says, polite as ever. “What is it?
“A dolphin,” the girl replies proudly.
“Why a dolphin?”
The girl looks at him blankly and Chambers rephrases the question.
“Why did you choose it? What does it mean?”
“What do you mean, ‘what does it mean?’ It’s a dolphin.”
The girl doesn’t know what else to say and I notice the tiniest flicker of amusement ripple across the face of her friend in the Monroe t-shirt. Another girl in the group takes more offense.
“It means she’s a legend, mummy’s boy.”
I tense up. Can we never get away from this kind of shit? I’m grateful to Carlito when he climbs onto the bar.
“Five minutes,” he shouts.
The band everyone’s here to see are about to come on stage. Chambers and I push towards the live room.
On stage, the band jump in and out of the shadows as the crowd sing along.
“Will you still care for me?” they yell.
Jumping up and down, I collide with the Monroe girl. She’s too absorbed in the music to notice and, anyway, everyone is bumping into everyone.
And then it’s over. People tumble out of the bar and into the night. Pretty soon the doors have been locked, the lights dimmed and Chambers and I are two of only about thirty people left.
Carlito bounds over to us.
“I’ve had a storm in my brain,” he whoops. “You should play again. Right now.”
Before we can respond, there’s a bang at the front doors.
“It’s the police,” someone says.