And It Often Starts Like This
And it often starts likes this; — a long week, a long lie-in, afternoon drinking, plan of action, party tunes to get you in the mood, backcombing hair, makeup, nail varnish, hair gel and wax, turning up t-shirt sleeves, lining the stomach, choosing an outfit, choosing another, pub, game of pool, round of shots, one drink, and another,
And now disco lights spin in a falling apart nightclub in the bad part of town. A group of friends are dancing, arms round one another, drinks raised above their heads. That song is playing, the one they think only they really know. They scream the words like they wrote them. They bounce together in anticipation of something. And if you asked them to describe it, they wouldn’t be able to find the words. It’s not nostalgia because it’s happening right now and they’re still just about too young to feel nostalgic about anything. But this moment. It’s like they want to grip they’re fingers round it, tear it out of space and time and just own it, get to know the texture of it. As if that’s what they’re trying to do when they punch their fists in the air as the last chorus kicks in. What if it never feels like this again?
The girl in the tight denim shorts kisses her boyfriend in the stripy t-shirt. He tastes of beer and she of gin and tonic but to each other they taste like home. The girl with the short blonde hair watches them, follows his hand as it rests on his girlfriend’s backside, watches as he slides his thumb ever so carefully under the hem of her shorts. As she stands watching, she fiddles with her hair and pulls clumps of mascara from her lashes and feels likes she’s waiting for something but she doesn’t know what, so she heads to the bar to carry on drinking. She pushes her way through the crowded dance floor, hips swaying to the beat as she walks. Something about the music makes her feel invincible.
She orders half a lager and reaches for her purse but a boy with nice hair standing next to her asks, can I get that for you? and she looks at him and nods. He says, I saw you dancing to that song, she says thanks, it’s a great song. He asks, have you seen them live? and she says, of course, they’re just amazing, they have this energy you know, that makes me feel like a teenager again. He offers her his hand and says would you like to dance with me? She shakes her head and says, you’ve got nice hair but tonight I just want to dance with my friends. She puts some extra swing into her hips and leaves him to watch her walk her free drink back to the dance floor.
A song fades out, the room momentarily stills and condensation drips from the ceiling. Young hearts beat fast with chemicals and chord changes, expectant and waiting for the next song to carry them along into the night. A few look at their watches. Still a good hour of dancing left, before time runs out and the lights are turned on and sticky feet stumble home.
The girl with blonde hair makes her way back to her friends as a new song comes on. It takes five seconds for her to recognise it, to run up behind the girl with the sequined dress and scream in her ear. The girl in the dress turns around and embraces her; they jump on the spot and bounce into the rest of their friends. Drinks spill, hair gets wet, clothes stained and they shout to the heavens. The boy in the stripy shirt and the girl in the denim shorts stop kissing and they sing and dance with their hips locked tight.
A boy dressed in double denim returns from the toilet and leaps into the crowded dance floor. He grabs the boy in the stripy t-shirt and sings the lyrics into his face. They cling to each other, in the hope that in holding on so tight this song might never end and this feeling might last forever. Four minutes, twenty-six seconds later the last chord fades out in a wobble of feedback.
The bald-headed DJ makes a mistake with his next song choice and the dance floor starts to clear. The group of friends stand still, the boys wipe the sweat from their foreheads, the girls fix their hair and expectation seeps out of their pores and the night becomes restless. They drink quickly and the girl in denim shorts shouts into the ear of the girl with blonde hair and says, shall we all go back to mine? The girl with blonde hair says sure and they yell and gesture to the others until everyone agrees it’s time to leave.
They pile out of the club, past the bouncers wishing them a good night, past a girl in leopard print leggings trying to lift her paralytic friend from the pavement and into a taxi. Out onto the streets and into tomorrow, the roads are full of people coming out of clubs, falling over curbs, looking for a fight or having one final go at getting laid. It’s hard to tell the activities apart. The air is a blend of distant bass drums and music genres. The group of friends worm their way through the chaos. Blimey, look at her dress, says the girl with the short blonde hair. The girl in the denim shorts looks and laughs and says, oh lord what does she look like, you can see everything! Aye, there’s nothing wrong with that, jokes the boy in double denim. Well we’ll just leave you here to have a go then says the boy in the stripy t-shirt. The boy in double denim walks over in the direction of the girl in the offending dress but chickens out last minute and rejoins the group of friends who howl into the night.
They call others that they know are out and about and tell them to come and join the party. The girls skip and they sing songs and the boys stand back and admire them. The girl in the sequined dress rings the boy who’s asleep in bed wearing pyjama bottoms on the other side of town. She wakes him and says fuck sleep, come drink with me instead and he knows she only wants him when she’s drunk but he still says fuck it I’ll see you in a bit, I guess I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
And it often happens like this: — an under lit apartment, a communal playlist, empty bottles of vodka, gin and sambuca, spilled beer, complaining neighbours, smudged makeup, guilty pleasures, spinning, kissing, big plans, truths, bathroom floors, cheesy chips, kebabs, pints of water, tactical vomits, frizzy hair, flashing knickers, bare feet,
And the girl in the sequined dress is sat on the sofa, struggling to find her mouth with her glass. She has her legs swung over the boy who was still in his pyjama bottoms two hours ago. He does a shot of sambuca to try and catch up and runs his hands up her bare legs. Have you had a good night? he asks and she nods her head wildly. She says, the music was good you should have come and he says quickly, well you should have asked, but she doesn’t hear him. He studies her and even now, with her makeup halfway off her face, her dress askew and hitched up and even though he knows he’s only here because she didn’t meet anyone better tonight he’s still mesmerised by her. The way her hair looks good even when it’s a mess, the thinness of the top of her arms, the small gap in her front teeth. What you thinking? he asks her and she says, I dunno, and he says go on tell me, and she turns and looks him straight in the eye and says, it’s like I can see myself ten years from now, doing the dishes after a dinner party, living in the suburbs, trying not to wake the child I’ve probably had who’s asleep upstairs. And it’s like I now I’ll be yearning for this moment right now you know? It’s like I know this might be the best it ever gets. Well, he’s not sure how he’s meant to respond to that, but now he can’t shake the image of her ten years older, hair starting to grey, a spread of weight on her hips, so he says, we should dance and drink some more because what else is there to do? He stands and holds out his hand to her, she dutifully accepts and they join the group dancing in the middle of the room. She closes her eyes and raises her arms to the ceiling and moves to the beat, moves like she’s trying to exorcise her demons, moves until there’s nothing left of the night.
In the bedroom the boy in the stripy t-shirt is lying head-to-toe with the girl in the denim shorts. She has her feet on the pillows and her head the wrong end of the bed; it helps with the spinning she says. He holds her hand and circles her palm with her thumb. Her breathing matches the beat of the music playing in her front room and he can tell she’s fallen asleep. He undresses her, traces his finger up her spine in the gap between her knickers and bra. She doesn’t wake. He runs a cleansing wipe across her face so she won’t have to wake up tight-skinned under a layer of make and pulls the cover over her. He knows tomorrow will be spent filling her in on what a great night she had, maybe one of the best and she’ll laugh as she tries to remember, tries to slot things into place, but in her eyes will be that haunted look, like she’s searching for a memory but only finding a ghost of a feeling.
In the hallway the boy in the double denim is talking at the girl with the short blonde hair. The words are rushing out of his mouth, full of hope and big ideas and she looks at his lips and they’re coming in and out of focus. She’s not listening but is running over the night in her head, thinking of it in terms of memories already. She rests her head on his shoulders and closes her eyes. She remembers how two hours ago they were dancing and singing and shouting and now here they are, trying to find oblivion outside a bathroom door. Trying to ignore that the sun is coming up, the hangovers that wait in heads and stomachs, the threat of the start of the week. But she feels like something happened tonight, and she feels like she can only wait for it to happen again.
As daylight creeps in, one by one they leave the flat, except for the boy in double denim who falls asleep on the sofa. The girl in the sequined dress takes the boy who started the night in his pyjama bottoms back to her flat, her shoes in her hand, bare feet dodging broken glass. The girl with blonde hair staggers round the backstreets, takes a few wrong turns and then finally remembers where she lives. She falls asleep, fully clothed and with a full face of makeup.
And it often ends like this; — waking up, dry mouths, tagged photos, texts starting with oh my god and ending with wrecked, fry-ups, fizzy drinks, saying I’m getting too old for this, long showers, bad TV, bad trips to the bathroom, flashbacks and awkward goodbyes, in-jokes, saying remember when we said things like we’ll sleep when we’re dead, housework, food shopping, early night, Monday morning.