I didn’t know why she had invited me to this party and now I was regretting it. I felt sick. I knew I had to look the part but the Saturday job only paid £12 a week, scarcely enough for two albums. I had black jeans and a pair of suede boots I’d got in the cheap bucket at One Up so that was ok. The top was something indeterminate, something dark but not black. A panda blaze of black eyeliner, applied with the expertise and subtlety of a drunken clown. My hair was unsaveable. I’d tried to dye it but it was shaggy and I hadn’t a clue what to do with it.
Well, who dares wins.
I sneaked out of the house. My parents knew I was going, but I wanted to avoid the teenage fashion critique. Her flat was only ten minutes walk so I strode on with the pretence of confidence and my heart pounding the whole way. I rang the buzzer and trembled. “Come on up!” breezy, friendly. The three flights to the top seemed too much, too high, with the thudding of her music echoing my heart. She took me in and got me a Coke. The flat was dark, the music loud and not many people had arrived yet, so she introduced me to someone she thought I’d get on with.
I wanted either the floor to swallow me up or for the rest of the world to disappear. He was – well it was like someone had gone into my dreams and carved out a man for me. Tall, very tall, skinny long legs clad in black trousers, a T-shirt advertising some band I hadn’t heard of, leather jacket and shoulder length unruly black hair. Silver rings in his ears, silver rings on his fingers. Deep, dark eyes, set in a slight scowl.
How was I ever going to speak, not just now but ever again?
I sat down, but I didn’t know what was expected of me. He seemed surprisingly nice, and once the scowl broke he talked a lot, animated and enthused, which meant I didn’t have to. He knew a lot about music, a lot about the bands I’d heard on the radio. I didn’t hear a lot of it, I simply sat and beheld him, listened to him – he had a slight drawl in his accent which I couldn’t place. To break my gaze I apologised and went and got a beer. I’d never had a beer before, Top Deck Shandy my limit, but I needed something more than Coke. The beer tasted horrible but I couldn’t flinch in front of him.
In turn he excused himself, got up clumsily and said he’d return. My eyes followed him away, then I looked round the room and wondered where the hell I was. Punks and goths, post-punks and new-wavers, all older, all cooler, all more knowledgeable. A fug of smoke, a faint sweet smell indicating more than tobacco, mixed with incense and spirits. A portrait of Marc Bolan sitting in a field surveyed the scene, taking in the sight of a competing David Bowie poster. Glam Wars across the walls. But when I thought of Telegram Sam and Ziggy Stardust, I visualised another band entirely.
She looked across, having abandoned me. “You alright?” she gestured. I nodded in a rather non-committal manner. I nervously played with the can of beer, focussing my attention, wondering where he’d gone. She changed the music to something she knew I’d like. It didn’t help me to relax: the music fitted in, I didn’t.
Licked her lips and turned to feather…
When he came back, he looked at me slightly oddly. I thought I’d done something wrong, but he read my expression and cut it dead, said we should go to see a band, that I’d like it, and could he make me some tapes up? I wanted to scream YES YES YES. Instead I tried to be cool, but not too cool. I managed “desperately awkward” instead.
I had to go and speak to her for a while so that I didn’t actually implode, but I couldn’t stop looking back. Some of his friends came over to him, chatted, laughed, drank, smoked. He seemed more perfect than any of them, more polished and shiny somehow. More of a rock star than the others. I was already in love, that sweet teenage sudden love, that crush which you know will end in a horrific embarrassment of unrequited desire.
But what the hell, he walked me home that night and I didn’t sleep from the pure joy of that alone.