In the middle of a sentence she looks across and asks my name. I hear my voice falter. I smile. I laugh. I feel bemused. For a moment or so thoughts are lost. Thinking, thinking. A child suddenly aware of being in a swimming pool. Out of depth. You and the kid are out of your depth. You, unable to construct a bridging thought and the child in mid stroke believes they can’t swim. Little arms reverting to a doggie paddle as a minor panic occurs. It’s disbelief. As if the act of swimming up and down the pool is an illusion. Confidence becomes helplessly snared in barbed wire.
You know who I am.
But I hear the tremor of hesitation.
Oh, she says, I can’t remember your name but your face looks familiar.
Do I play or surrender to humiliation.
I’m Léo Ferré. I wrote and sang the beautiful Avec Le Temps.
Oh yes, yes. I recognise you.
But suddenly I don’t recognise her. Sinderella in the glass slippers. Miss Miu Miu. What is that happens, someone you thought you had become familiar and easy with, changes, before your very eyes. Or is it my perception. She offers another facet of her character that catches me off guard. Let’s play.
White hair. Bald on top. Yes, I know, I know. But, she says eyes half closing cat like, your eyes don’t penetrate my soul or is it your voice doesn’t resonate poetry inside of me.
Beneath the ocean the plates of self doubt are shifting. Uncomfortably so. How can I sing like Léo Ferré or be Bertrand Cantat or any other of the numerous singers and musicians who have covered the beautiful song?
I lied to you. It was stupid. I made it up. I apologise.
She stood up. I assumed she was leaving. That the evening had fallen into demise. That she had had enough. She was coming around the table. I didn’t allow my gaze to follow her but looked ahead at the chair she had vacated. Peripheral vision sending messages to my brain. Another ingredient thrown into the cauldron of confusion. Empty chairs. Empty rooms. The bar felt deserted. Drained of human vibe. No funk. And she was stood beside me. I quivered. With cupped hands to my ear. She whispered.
I don’t care about your lies. I like your imagination. But, please Alan, have the courage of conviction.
She returned to her chair. Looked at me momentarily with an evolving smile before lifting her tumbler to her full lips. Giving them moisture. Adding a gloss. I wanted to further embarrass myself by asking her if she liked to kiss. She replaced the tumbler on the table top.
Do you sing in the bath?
Do you have a drink in the bath.
Never drink alone. You might drown.
I had trouble watching musicals. Yet strangely not with operas. I couldn’t deal with dialogue that suddenly burst into song and dance. Where the character takes on a different kind of dynamic. Then other members of the cast join in. I cannot escape reality. Natural movements suddenly became epic moments of choreography. So why didn’t I have problems watching music vids on YouTube or MTV.
Again she’s on her feet. Wandering across to the bar. She’s talking to the bartender. Who bends down and disappears from sight. Moments later the metallic dirge has been replaced by some deep down grooves. She returns to the table/
They didn’t have any electro.
No Léo Ferré?
Look away she says. I close my eyes and hear shuffling.
Open your eyes.
I see the Miu Miu heels hanging from the back of the chair next to her. She leans forward face almost touching the table. Feel her touch my thighs. I reach. Thinking that we are going to touch. To hold hands. But then I begin to laugh as I gather up her pantyhose.
A souvenir for you. Something to give you horny dreams, she says with a big smile on her face.
Then she is laughing, Come on get up. I want to dance barefoot. Take your shoes off. I like to dance when I’m drunk. I like to dance. I like to get drunk.
When was it? I date things by music. By tracks. It was when I was in that big kitchen down at Carsaig. The two Andy’s, Jessie and me. We’ve had dinner and Jessie insists that we have to clear up. How can you relax in chaos? Oh easily sweetheart. There’s lots of wine leftover from the residential painting school courses held at the the house during the summer months. Ungrudgingly we carry out the chores. Jessie puts on London Is the Place for Me. I love the way she dances to it. The shape of her thighs. The movement of her backside. Shaking that ass. Andy sits on the little two seater blue couch skinning up. The other Andy opens another bottle of red and goes round topping the glasses up. I love this kitchen. The blue of the walls and the big Aga. I spent four summers there cooking meals for guests. Breakfasts, packed lunches and dinners. Playing the part of the chef. Conviction of the lie. I immersed myself in cookbooks and pulled recipes. Constructed menus. Bought a set of Global knives. Donned whites and played the part. Other members of staff called me chef. Gone days. I go to the freezer and fetch a bottle of Bison Grass that Kasia and Pawel brought from Kraków for us. A bottle each for Andy and me. I opened mine after service on the day he handed it to me. Pawel declined to drink. Said, Tomorrow night I’ll drink some with a little apple juice. It was all gone by one a.m that same night.
Oh you fucking crazy guys was Pawel’s response when he asked for a drink the following evening and was told we had nailed the bottle.
I get the bottle from the freezer and line up shot glasses on the long wooden table. That wooden table that I feel so much empathy for. Love is touching wood. You getting it? That table I love. Where I prepped veg, where I assembled dishes for the oven, where I plated up on.
I drank the first shot. Oh that chilled vodka felt so good slipping down the back of the throat. Turn up the vibe. Refill my glass and the three others. Tempted to rush another shot before the others grab theirs.
I remember Jessie was dancing to Lord Kitchener. Andy gets up from the sofa. The little blue two seater. Puts on Roots Manuva. Dreamy Days. I get up on the table. Total lack of respect to the table I love so much I’m standing atop of it dancing. Lift the bottle of vodka and gulp down a couple of mouthfuls. Hand the bottle to the other Andy. Jessie pulls out a chair. Her eyes are closed as she feels it. Puts a foot on the chair and ascends on the elevated and restricted dancefloor area. She dances in front of me and she is shining. Burning. She turns her ass towards me. The complication of desire rises. Andy tries to clamber onto the table. Drunk and swaying. Jessie jumps. Takes flight. Soon Jessie and Andy are rubbing up against each other. I catch hold of the pendant light cable and begin to swing it around. Nah nah na nah.
The light bulb shattered and we all began laughing and whooping. Did I realise about the tiny shards of glass embedded in my face. Thin lines of blood. Thin lines. And the other Andy goes out into the hallway, out into the pantry. Returning with a lighted candle in one hand and a box of candles in the other. Don’t stop the party.
I looked at the table. Thought about her little feet. Glanced at those Miu Miu heels decorating the chair. A pair of shoes that could buy all the tables and chairs in the bar. She’s dancing barefoot. Her eyes closed. Did I tell you what colour her eyes are?
She’s transcending. Captured by the groove. I lift my drink and drain the contents. I grab her glass and do likewise. The bartender is sipping a coffee and smiling at the oblivious dancer. I make my way towards her wishing it was all slo mo. Oh baby I love getting drunk and dancing. With time, with time.