It was the strange
dead days that lie between Christmas and New Year's. The car sped
out of the suburbs and then across the icy winter fields, cutting
sharply through the weak rays of daylight. A cold white frosting had
covered the little piles of refuse dumped by the hedgerows and now
only the bulky shapes of cookers and refrigerators were clearly visible,
dead rubbish of a hundred families laid like small wayside shrines.
The radio counted down the top 500 songs of all time (ever) and the
wind blew through the gap in the body of the car. We stopped near
the orange grey skeleton of a burnt out '37 Ford Sedan, dried pools
of congealed blackness where the seats and engine had once been.
Waiting by the
car, Lou was dressed in three layers of white, cream polyester petticoats,
the lacy hem of the longest trailing in the mud. Her feet were stuck
in dirty battered plimsolls and she huddled into her old suede coat,
hiding behind the huge fluffy collar as she pulled on a crumpled rollie.
She'd done her hair like Marilyn Monroe and kohled her eyes. Dean's
lips began to tremble in the freezing air and the fingers on my right
hand had turned waxy white. I'd spent the summer up here lying on
the grass and watching the lights on the motorway, but it was far
too cold now and we wanted to drink. Dean was pissing by the hedge,
a steaming line of liquid, meandering back from between his legs.
I pulled Lou into the car and started kissing her, tugging down her
top and working the bra around her waist. The bluey white of her skin
was bruised where the under wiring had cut in and red strap marks
branded her shoulders. Dean opened the door and she shivered in the
sharpened air, the orangey tips of her breasts stiffening small and
hard. He climbed into the backseat and grinned as our eyes met in
the mirror above the dashboard. Dean's older than me, I've just turned
twenty, and it seems like all my life I've been running to keep up
with him. He has the sort of blond good looks that will remain boyish
until he starts to go bald. People always fall into bed with him.
The funny thing is when you get up close you realise he has the teeth
of a sixty year old, his smile in the mirror a few remnant yellow
stumps and blackened husks. His face is a riddle.
In town it was
almost chucking out time and the streets were littered with boisterous
shouting figures. The boys in Ben Shermans and shiny black shoes,
had greased back their hair and drunk enough lager to make advances
to the girls who supported each other as they tottered on spindly
heels. No one wore coats and most had eschewed jumpers as well in
favour of chicken flesh and fake orange tans. The girls laughed and
adjusted their wonderbras and the boys pretended to push each other
into the on-coming traffic. The soft golden glow from the pubs and
bars mingled with the acid orange from the street lamps and the silver
of the icy streets.
the only place open was The Love Rocket, a seventies themed bar in
which the fun was relentless and the only thing to do was get drunk.
All the colours had been turned up to bludgeon you into believing
the authenticity of the experience. On the raised stage four people
who were supposed to look like Abba bounced enthusiastically to the
strains of Waterloo. Dean had an Afro wig perched on his shoulder
like a parrot and a 'comedy' retro moustache nestled in Lou's cleavage.
Someone had put a sparkly hat on my head and it kept slipping rakishly
over my right eye. I concentrated very hard on the bottle in front
of me and slugged back the sickly sweet alco pops that were on special
offer. Then there was a shout, which may have been going on for some
time but had only just reached my head through the candyfloss. Dean
shook my shoulder with one hand whilst using the 'fro to staunch the
flow of blood from his nose. Half the bar was engaged in a dance contest
and half watched Lou and a girl in a tight black one shoulder dress
rolling amongst the broken glass and cigarette butts on the floor.
Dean indicated with his head that he wanted to leave. As the warm
blood from his nose dripped onto my face, I nodded; we pulled Lou
off the girl and ran outside. She collapsed on Dean's shoulder and
quietly vomited over his green army coat.
Lou across the back seat of the car with her head hanging out the
door in case she spewed again.
"Have you noticed
anything different," asked Dean, "anything about Lou I mean? Doesn't
she seem like, well, sort of bruisable recently?"
"She said, uh,
that she was experimenting with archetypes but she's doing Mae West
we said about Mexico? Let's go soon, eh? This place is too much."
When I was younger
I thought these claustrophobic suburban blues could be cured by going
to London or something, but when I went, I found that it wasn't really
much different. I thought maybe I'd been lied to somewhere along the
way and that the idea in my head was a fake. Dean thinks that going
to Mexico will help, but I'm not so sure.
his neck speculatively.
He always calls
me Jack when he wants something but my real name is Jean-Louis. My
mother liked the French sound of it.
"Hey Jack, lets
drive somewhere, shall we, but will you give me a blow job first?"
Lou woke up
half way through and put me off by asking Dean who was better.
I drove back
out of the town centre. We really did want to go somewhere but once
over the crest of the hill only the motorway roared below us. Beyond
that the downs spread out and if we could have seen that far, we knew
that the sea crashed on the pebbled beaches of the south coast; seeing
as we knew what was there, there didn't seem to be any point in going
on. We'd been born too late, and maybe in the wrong country; we'd
missed the revolution. Every time the high street stores brought out
a new range of sixties mini-skirts, seventies tie-dyed flares or punk
bondage trousers, we sank a little more under the weight of the past.
Born too late even for generation X, we had no sunset to drive into
and nowhere much to go any way so I turned the car back through the