The mist was everywhere. It was a lovely night. Or so I thought when I walked out of the hotel I was staying at with Mark. I briefly stopped at the store and bought a small bottle of Jack. Just to get me going. I intended to party all night. I took a few gulps from the bottle and stepped into the Queensway tube station. I was meeting a friend, Andreas. The first time I met Andreas was at a gay club where he showed up wearing a costume of some sort of a Japanese cartoon character. We danced and exchanged numbers. He seemed like a nice guy. So when I came to London in March, we decided to hook up again.
There I was in the center of the tube station waiting for Andreas to show up in a cartoonish costume. To my surprise, he came from behind, gently embraced me, and whispered in my ear something like “nice to see you, girl” in a perfect British accent. I turned around and saw a handsome guy in an ordinary T-Shirt and jeans. We caught the next train, hopped on, and talked ceaselessly before we arrived at the destination. I completely trusted Andreas, so I didn’t even care to look at the name of the stations we were passing or the destination we arrived at.
Our initial plan was to go to a club with a peculiar name of an “egg,” but Andreas forgot to bring his ID, and we changed the plan. We walked to the next club in the beautiful full moonlight, the wind gently touched my face and swirled elsewhere behind me touching other people’s faces. We conversed nonchalantly about work, kids, lovers, hobbies, and, of course, anime, which I knew nothing about, so I listened passionately, attentively as though I was taking an anime class.
After about a fifteen-minute walk we arrived at the next club, and by that time my Jack was gone. I took my blue coat off, left a purse and a cellphone at the cloakroom and headed straight to the bar. I didn’t want to drink much so just ordered a bottle of cider and went back to Andreas.
The next thing I remember — we completely lost ourselves to dance. Music was blowing from all directions. We swung, loomed, flowed, twirled, and boiled in sound, as though it was hot water. None of us talked, because — what was the point? The non-verbal language of movements grasped us in that very moment where we both shrunk and faded in the background behind all those people losing their minds in the loud music.
I took Andreas by the hand and we hopped on stage, the lights on us, we were the center of attention, the vibrant picture of tonight’s party. I hugged him, drawing my body close to him, feeling his shortness of breath, looking directly into his dusty black eyes. Every time I looked at him, he dropped his eyes, shyly, just a moment before looking back at me, at my eyes. And so we danced.
After a few crazy dances, I felt like getting some fresh air and smoking a cigarette. I said I would be back in a minute and went up to smoke. I hooked up with a couple of guys while I was smoking. We exchanged numbers, talked about where we were from, all that small talk before I returned to the dance floor. I found Andreas and we lost ourselves to beats again.
We were dancing when a nice looking guy approached and took me by the hand. He whispered something I didn’t quite catch but I followed him anyway. He was about my height, slim, young, around 30 years of age, handsome, the kind of guy who could stop you right there and then in your tracks. However, as soon as we were out, there was something off him that I could not really put into place. His eyes darted quickly when he spoke, his voice quickened by the sentence, he appeared as though he was losing himself in the moment and at the same time — quite in control.
“I overheard you were from Russia, and that’s your last night here, is that right?” he said.
“Yes,” I replied, “What were you? Watching me?” I said laughing.
He seemed a little disturbed when I told him that, nevertheless, he continued: “Hey listen, I don’t drink, but there’s a nice coffee shop that’s open at this hour, right around the corner, you fancy catching a cup of cappuccino or whatever you’re drinking?”
“Yeah, cappuccino sounds something I would fancy. But listen, my coat, my purse, and my phone are all downstairs, at the cloakroom.”
“Don’t worry about that, coffee’s on me, and it’s just around the corner, it would not take us much to walk. And by the way, what a beautiful dress you wear, looks like a summer dress, here’s my jacket, take it, I have a spare one in my bag.”
“Oh, that’s nice of you, alright. Let’s get going. But we gotta be quick, my friend is still in the club, so we have to come back soon.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll be as fast as we can. By the way, my name is Lorenzo, I’m Italian, been in the city for half a year already, working as a bartender now, so I know what good coffee is all about, trust me, that’s gonna be the best coffee you’ll ever have in your life.”
As soon as he said that, he grabbed me by the hand again, this time, a little stronger and just took off. I, wearing high heels, followed, being dragged by the hand.
And so we walked.
We walked a couple of blocks down the road passing the clubs one by one, all looking the same to me. We walked ten minutes more when I felt nauseously suspicious about the place we were going to.
“Lorenzo, so where’s the coffee place?” I asked.
“Hey, I said, it’s just around the corner, don’t you worry, don’t you trust me? I mean look at me, don’t I look trustworthy enough for you?”
“Yes, you seem like a nice guy, yes, but I’m just a bit worried that we’ve come that far and the coffee place is nowhere near.”
Lorenzo abruptly stopped, hugged me, looked into my eyes and said: “Baby, you look gorgeous, do you think I can let you down, don’t you think you can trust me? I gave you my coat, I’m gonna take care of you, we’re gonna have a fabulous time.”
“Okay, but my friend, my friend is still in the club, I have to return very soon, he’s gonna be upset with me.”
“You’ll return just in time.”
The next thing I knew, I was about thirty minutes away from the club, I didn’t know where I was, and I didn’t know who I was with because Lorenzo just kept on going with my hand fully grasped in his own.
And so I stopped, dropped myself on the curb of the road I didn’t know and said: “Lorenzo, I’m not going anywhere further, if you don’t let go of my hand, I’m gonna scream, so please let me…”
He didn’t let me finish. Instead, he turned his face back at me. And I realized how much it changed from the sweet Lorenzo I knew thirty minutes ago. His skin looked pale, almost translucent white, his eyes grew larger, blacker, and glossy. His gaze became vacant, distracted, annoyed, he was no longer human.
He cried back: “I told you, it’s near. It’s very close, just stay put, don’t fucking panic. Don’t you trust me?”
I said: “No, Lorenzo, it’s too far, I got no idea where we are.”
He threw my hand in the air, pounded on the curb I was sitting at, enraged, adamant.
“Give me my coat back then,” he snapped.
“Here’s your coat. Just tell me where we are or where we were. Because I don’t know the name of the club. This is my second time in the city. I got no idea where I am or was.”
“That’s your problem. You didn’t trust me.”
“Listen, I have no money, no phone, I don’t have a coat on me. It’s freezing. Please.”
“As I said, you had a choice. You blew it. Bye now.”
And with that said, he took off. He knew I had two chances: follow him and beg him to help me or just run in the opposite direction unsure of where I was running from or where I was heading to.
I chose to run. I ran as fast as I could, as fast as I could manage on high heels. I passed buildings that didn’t ring a bell whatsoever. There were no people and no cars around to pick me up. And who would pick me up in a summer dress in a residential posh area in London, the way I was, almost naked, with no money, obviously distressed.
Suddenly I saw an approaching car and I hailed. It didn’t stop. I hailed another passing car. No luck. I kept on running. I didn’t know where I was running to. I just thought I needed to find a road, a busy road, so I kept looking.
The sky above was obscured by the greenish-grey with a dash of moonlight beams passing through the misty clouds. It was cold and about to rain. I didn’t mind. Suddenly I thought it was too hot. Just like that boiling water at the club. Only different circumstances.
“Help,” I cried. Only no one was there.
“Help, curse you, please, anyone…”
And then I saw an approaching rickshaw.
I cried: “Please, please stop, I beg you.”
I dashed to the middle of the road and stopped there on his way so he had to come to a halt unless he wanted to kill me. And he stopped.
I ran up to him and said, “Well, listen, I have no money with me, this is what happened, I don’t know where I was, please help me figure it out. I’m gonna pay you as soon as I get my money back. Please believe me.”
He looked back at me with his eyes full of dread and sympathy and replied: “Come here, girl, try to remember where you were.”
Relieved, I jumped on the rickshaw and started recalling the names Andreas dropped by when we were walking from the “egg.” The details, scenes, buildings, words, sentences, cafes, people — all of those were running through my mind at the speed of light. I snatched those pictures from my brain trying to make sense of any or remember anything that could lead me to the place I was but I couldn’t. I was blubbering and shuddering and muttering indiscernibles, obscenities as though I was about to go mental. And then all of a sudden, I got that picture of a monkey stuck in my brain and I began to think: “Why a monkey? Why now? Monkeys… Where do they live? Jungle.”
I cried: “Jungle … wait, no! Zoo! Something about the Zoo.”
“Zoo? You mean Zoobar?”
“Yeah, it seems like that’s the name.”
“Okay, let’s try that one.”
With that said, he drove off. I laid down on the seat suddenly feeling extremely cold. The lights with its vague brightness were passing by as we drove back to the club. My mind went blank.
“Here’s your club, mam.”
“Thank you, please stay here. Let me get my money so I can pay you.”
“Sure, you go ahead, lady.”
I stepped down from the rickshaw and ran to the club’s door.
“We are closed, mam.”
“Waiwaiwait, my bag and coat are there, please let me in.”
“Oh that one, yes, indeed, we have one coat left in the cloakroom, please proceed downstairs.”
I went down back to the dance floor. Now completely empty with only a few tired workers cleaning the place. I snatched my coat and ran back up to the rickshaw.
“I got my stuff. Now please take me back. Take me back home…”
I stepped on a rickshaw, unlocked my phone, showed the address to the rickshaw guy, laid down, and looked up at the stars above. The night sky. For the first time in years, I remembered the starry endless night sky was how I came to wish to fly when I was a child. Impossible dream. Just like many other childhood dreams. Only today, I’ve realized I’ve been flying all the way, all the time. “You’re gonna get burned some time,” — my grandmother would say. But I got burned all the time. I never stopped flying though. I never will. Only this time, I want to fly with Mark, who peacefully sleeps in a little apartment on Inverness Terrace, and who’ll wake up to meet me and take me back no matter what, just as I am.