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Friday June 9th, 2000
This Friday I felt like it – I waited the whole week for that Friday.
I was determined not to waste this night. There was a point and I went willingly. Head up, eyes wide.
That night I had a purpose. She had a name. I didn't know it but I hoped to rectify the situation. I hoped to look into those eyes and say it.
I climbed up the same set of stairs as I did the week before. I could smell the smoke before I reached the top step. It tasted sweet in my throat.
A cigarette lighter flashed flame as I entered. The glow cast a yellow flicker across the room. For a second it caught two people in a moment. The dim lighting gave their faces a mysterious quality. Around me the place seemed alive. Teachers, students they all looked like poetry.
I loved talking. _________________________
“Now, Paul don't get discouraged,” this was Eloise as she pressed her chin on the top of my arm. “It's only 12.30.”
She was a good person to have around in that sort of situation. Devastatingly cool and beautiful. It is vain of me to say this, but I think having someone like her made me look better. I needed all the help I could get.
“It’s hard for me not to be. Is it too much to ask for her to be here?” I lamented.
We were sitting at the same table from last Friday. The chipped surface had seen my glass before. I was trying not to scan the crowd. I was trying to not taste every drink for white wine.
Morgan started laughing at me. He was also at the table.
I have found memories of Morgan. He became a good friend of mine through this phase. He was a good person to have around in this sort of predicament. Unlike me he was sensible.
The most memorable way to introduce him to the story is to tell an anecdote involving the most pointless invention of the 1980's. No not BETA, that was technically better than VHS. Not the CD player even if it doesn't sound as good as vinyl. I'm talking about the Rubik’s cube.
I can tell you what songs were popular at the time.
Jay would be able to write metaphors about the Rubik’s cube.
Morgan would have brought shares in it - made a killing before the market bottomed out. He was so smart he could actually finish the cube. From jumbled to com in a completed in a couple of minutes. I need to take off all the stickers. Morgan didn’t need to sit around waxing lyrical all day. He didn't need to compensate.
Having explained that Morgan was sensible and capable, should I have been worried that he was laughing at me? It doesn't take someone who can finish the Rubik’s puzzle to answer that.
“What?” back in the moment I protested. “Stop laughing. Don’t laugh at my misfortune.”
“No, no,” Morgan said sobering his laughter. “I'm not laughing at you. How do I explain? You're not normally like this. Once you told me love was evil. Now you are…'
I cut him off, “I said love was dangerous, not evil.”
“Dangerous? Can you understand that you’re contradicting yourself? You call us up to help you wait for this girl.”
“I know I am not following my own advice. Normally, I hold my cards close to my chest.”
“Anyway lets change the topic,” Ella quipped. “Paul's mystery girl is making me feel all inadequate.”
“She is not half as good as you...”
“Arggh... No, no better.” Ella flicked her hair around as if trying to hide. “Horrible, horrible.”
“If I can't give you a compliment, when it comes down to it, who can I butter up?” I lamented.
Morgan leant in and kisses her. “Taking a compliment isn't your strong point, dear.”
“Enough of this girl,” I said. “I won’t talk of her again.” I changed the subject.
“Here is a topic of conversation. If I was making a movie who should I cast as you?”
“Movie?” Eloise giggled.
“Yeah the Eloise von Dutchy story.”
“Heather Graham,” she didn’t hesitate like she had thought about it before.
“Remind me to buy you a pair of roller skates.” She punched me in the arm playfully.
“I would cast Uma Thurman personally.” I said, soberly thinking my way through it.
“That sounds OK. Just keep me out of skin-tight leather.”
“Avengers style? I thought that is what you wore around the house?”
Morgan looked worried. “Is our mutual friend and your flatmate writing script?” He said.
“Not exactly. It was an idea we were talking about.”
“I didn't know Jay had contacts in the film industry,” he stated.
“Why does it matter then?”
“It's just a theoretical question. Good for conversation. Find out a little bit about people. Humour me. Who would you cast, Morgs?”
Morgan still looked worried. “As me? I don't know.” The gears were working over in his mind. Little blocks were being put into place.
“I'm thinking we need a musician. Someone to write a soundtrack. Bowie?”
“He would be like fifty five years old,” Morgan gasped.
”Well, we can go back in time, get him when he was younger. When he used to make movies.”
“No, I would look awful in tights,” Morgan protested. “And that fluffy hair.”
“Honey,” Ella touched his arm, “I think Pauly means before he made, Labyrinth.”
“Yeah, before the 80’s.” I said. “You're more ‘Thin White Duke’ than 'Goblin King’.”
______________________ Things happened.
The night dragged on.
The clock clicked past one o'clock. I decided to lay off the drinks. I was not there to set some sort of record. In my burgeoning sobriety I was shocked by an amazing sight.
Morgan walked in looking pleased with himself. He walked in with, with, with her. Her? The girl, my girl.
Well, I shouldn’t say was my girl. I can’t claim ownership. She was not my girl.
She was the girl who prompted this. I knew even then from our quick meeting she was her own woman. Independent. You know what I mean. She was she.
Thoughts of her then. I really needed to find out her name. All of the, her, she was making my mind work too fast. The very sight of her walking sent my serotonin kicking. The sound of her talking sent...
Hang on. The thoughts hit me.
Was Morgan a fucking bastard? He was walking in with her. What was with that? I questioned. He let me stew all of the previous Friday. He forced me to guess all week. He kept me on a hook for seven days.
Straight away I assumed Morgan had known her the whole time. There I was falling over myself and he didn't say anything.
I got very scared watching them walk in. Oh no. What if he told her my trash? What if he said something? Oh no. I was freaked out he had blown me out of the water.
The Smith’s - I know it's over, and it never really began. ________________________
Morgan split off and came over back to our table. I tried to warn him off by giving him a knife stare. I sagged my shoulders.
Smiling he hung over my shoulder and English accented into my ear.
“Hey,” he said. “Why so sad?”'
“You never told me. You know who she is.”
”Her name is Emma, for the record.”
”Last week you told me you didn't know who Emma was.”
“I didn't know then,” he patiently winked at me as he said this. “When I went outside to get some money, she was out the front.. So I started talking to her.”
“Sorry…” Like a tree losing its leaves I turned red and fell. “You didn't?”
“Say anything? Yeah, I went up to her and said, ‘Hi, you don't know me but I know you. My friend is secretly in love with you.’”
“Sarcasm the bastion of the secure.” I slumped.
“That's OK, Geezer.” Morgan drummed on my head. “You will get your charm license one day.”
Morgan sat down next to Ella. They were both looking at me like I was going crazy.
I jumped up and headed off to the bar.
I figured I owed Morgan a beer after my false accusations. Standing in line waiting to be served I couldn't help but smile at the barman. I doubt he understood what I was feeling. Physically, the money
in my hand felt clammy. Emotionally, I felt paranoid and self-assured at the same. I was the man, I was the mouse. I studied my reflection in the mirrored bar shelves. My face was grinning. Even reliving this moment the possibility of Emma makes me feel like a teenager.
At the time the barman didn't ask me for any emotional ID. Thankfully I wouldn’t have passed.
I returned to the table balancing two bottles of James Boag's: Premium Ale. I handed one to Morgan and sat down to sip at the other.
“I've been thinking about who would play me in the the movie of my life,” Morgan said.
“And the Oscar goes to?” I quizzed.
“I still haven't decided yet.”
“That’s naff, he is but a Scotchman. A northerner.”
“I don't really know all that many young English actors.”
“True, even James Bond is Irish.”
“Jude Law?” I suggested.
“He is too dewy eyed to play Morgan. We need someone who looks older.” Ella said.
“Now steady on. Jude Law is miles older. I'm only 26. There is still life in me yet.” Morgan said as he waves his finger at me.
“It’s the Hollywood, superstar complexion.” I laugh. No one else did. They didn’t get it. “Well, would you like to be in a book? Then we wouldn’t have to worry about casting.”
“In a book. Don't be daft. No, I know what that, Gerald Ives, is like. I'll choose to escape the wrath of his pen. He would turn me into a German smack dealer. Change me to be more interesting. More edgy.”
Morgan leant back on his chair and looked over his shoulder. “Speaking of Jay where is the big lad? I haven’t seen him tonight at all.”
“I haven't seen him this week. He has been home. I just haven't seen him. I know he has been there because someone has been drinking my orange juice.”
“I see,” Morgan said. “Then in his absence I have a question for you. Who would play Jay in a movie?”
“I asked him that and he wanted to play himself.”
Eloise interjected, “You didn’t tell us that was allowed.”
“It isn't. In Erin Brockovich they didn't let the real Erin Brockovich play Erin Brockovich. They cast Julia Roberts. Then they wouldn’t let Julia Roberts met Erin in case it affected her perception of character.”
“You don't half spin crap, Paul.” Morgan sighed, “If you put that mind of yours to work in a positive way. You would have a cure for hunger by now.”
“Thanks Morgs, I thought conversation was a valuable life skill – I am a specialist in making the details matter.”
“You still haven't answered my question yet. Who would you cast as Jay?” Morgan added.
“Well, it would need to be someone with a large physical presence. Talented. I am thinking Kevin Smith. Writer-director. Turns in cameo appearances in his films.”
“Who is Kevin Smith? That is not the guy from Hercules is it?” Ella asked.
I laugh. “No, that is Kevin Sorbo – muscled up actor. Kevin Smith is Silent Bob. The New Jersey films. Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma. Guy with a big trenchcoat.”
“Yeah, I know who you mean.” Morgan laughed along with me. “Jay looks like him.”
“And he has a trenchcoat.” I nodded. _____________________ More time passed.
Then I made a decision. I thought to myself. I'm going off to talk to Emma. I am going to talk to the girl with alabaster skin.
“Her name is definitely Emma?” I asked Morgan. He nodded his head and motioned me away. ________________________
I considered what I was going to say. I couldn't just go up to her and say the first thing that popped into my head. I couldn’t be myself.
I couldn't just go up to her and ask who she would cast in the movie of her life. I save that sort of rubbish for the people who already know me.
I could have asked to buy her a drink. Not very original. I used that the week before. I could have said “Oh, I see you have met Morgan. We go way back... A couple of weeks.”
I could have done many things. Endless possibilities. That is where the freedom I feel is coming from. But I can't do just anything. I pressure myself to do something cool and witty. I am tied to say something memorable.
I could have just ripped off something from a Violent Femmes song. Jays uses pick-up lines in his stories. He has a character that goes around offering lifesavers and follows it up with a quick line. “Swap candy for candy covered tongue?”
That is a prime example of his technique of nicking ideas. ________________________
“Hey, I heard you on the radio.” Emma focused on me before I even had time to try some wit.
“You listened?” I said biting my lip in surprise. I tried not to squeal as it hurt.
“Yes, you were very good. You played Blondie’s: Call me.”
“I threw that in for good measure.” I tried to be nonchalant.
“I danced around my living room. Just what I needed to start the day off.”
“You should have rung up, requested something... My co-hosts never believe that I get anyone to listen.”
“I would have...” She pauses and looks around the room. “I was embarrassed. I felt pretty bad about last week. I kind of jumped on you a bit.”
“That was my fault. You were right to be a bit weary. A strange guy comes up to you and just prattles on.”
“It wasn't like that,” she teased me. “It's simple. I'm on a poor soul. I was fairly drunk and sort of snapped at you. A cause and effect thing.”
“Student, out for a cheap Friday night?”
“Yeah,” She laughed. “Something like that.”
“So, Emma,” I got a tingle as I say her name, “you will request this week?”
“Yeah, if I remember.”
“Remember? You’ll have to remember or else I'll be forced to give you another one of my cards.” ________________________
I never once mentioned candy. Emma saved me the embarrassment of starting the conversation myself. A positive sign. A positive start.
No need to explain why I wanted to talk.
No need to think just act, and feel.
I strung more interesting words together. After my initial tongue tied effort the week before week I could only improve.
I gathered confidence. We were managing decent conversations. With everything I found we have in common. With every time she laughs. I was being drawn further in.
The next few hours saw me doing things I wouldn’t normally do. I didn't smoke, yet I have a photograph of me with a lit cigarette in my hand. I was trying not to cough as the tough smoke curled up my nose. I didn't dance, yet that was me on the floor. Technically I wasn’t dancing, just shifting weight from foot to foot. Nevertheless I didn't care. From a distance it passed. I wouldn't normally even try.
I never stayed until closing time, yet that was me being ushered down the stairs as the licensing agreement expires. I never would go to the casino because it was the only place open at 5 am. I hate the casino. Still it was me with stars in my eyes. Jackpot.
Emma and I just had a connection and I didn’t want that to break, so the night kept going until the sun was up.
Next chapter sees us still together and still awake.
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