Title: One of THEM!

Author: Peter Wells

In: Sport 7: Winter 1991

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, July 1991, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 7: Winter 1991

cos you started something

cos you started something

This is what happened.

I met Lemmy outside the Civic and he was there already waiting and I saw him standing there, smoking a cigarette watching intently in the way only Lemmy can watch. It's like he's searching for someone in the crowd. He suddenly saw me and looked a bit taken aback, don't laugh Lemmy, his eyes swept down to my new chiseltoes, up to Dad's corduroys I had altered to fit, to my school jacket I'd dyed brown last Sunday; to my hair which I'd washed, brushed one way, then brushed the other, to get the curl out. He threw his cigarette away then, as if he'd have to make the best of a bad job.

page 103

I was trying hard not to show him it was the first time I'd ever been into town on my own at night, and it was Fridaynight, you could feel it in the air, all the excitement and rush. It was like being near the top of a huge waterfall, maybe Niagara, and the river's rushing and you can hear the distant roar, and suddenly it's all gushing so quick, you can't stop moving, you're being swept along in the boygirl crowds past all the Hell's Angels lined up in leather, candypink bulbs flashing, oh flashflashing like my heart.

Lemmy led me, Lemmy led me out into the middle of Queen Street, right into the streaming traffic, where we stand, together, dodging death with the cars streaming by, red rinses flashing in my eyes. Downtown downtown I sing to myself in a fierce subdued whisper, Lemmy sings I'm a mod, I'm a mod—and I realise then, this pure and crystal moment, as if everything around me has stopped, all traffic, all noise and in a moment of perfect silence-I realise I am thinking: I can be killed with Lemmy and it would be perfect. This knowledge is so overpowering that, when Lemmy lurches off, after a car breaks open a gap, I don't hesitate to follow, I don't even look. Horns scream, brakes screech, a car skids, someone even calls out, 'Stupid kid! Why don't you look where you're going.'

But I know where I am going.

'I feel hungry,' Lemmy says, not even looking at me, not even noticing that, with crossing the road, at that moment, I have changed all my life: 'I wanna eat, honey.'

Lemmy often talks American, all whiny and bored. We have both agreed Lucy is OK. It's like Liz Taylor is OK; Doris Day is death. Norma Holyoake is a signpost pointing to hell.

'But I don't have the money,' I say, feeling suddenly into my pocket to find the thick disc, a half-crown I have lifted from my father's tobacco-smelly trouser pocket.

Lemmy says, 'Money? Who needs money?'

And now we move into John Court's, past the glacial mirrors and makeup stands where the assistants' faces are echoed in mirrors so many times, it's only when a red mouth opens out, like a pink flower, into a yawn, you realise it's a person you're looking at, not a dummy.

'Fourth floor ladies lingerie, fifth floor manchester doilies drappies linen supplies, sixth floor furniture lamps carpets annnnnnDDDD resttTTT-O-Rant!' a little dwarf chants as he flings back the metal door, like he's opening the gates to heaven itself.

page 104

Lemmy selects a cottage pie, a sausage roll, two ham and mustard sandwiches, a cream doughnut, a rumball, a chocolate milkshake and a lemon pudding. There's hardly any room on his tray for his cup of coffee. He also has a banana. His face shows no expression. He's too busy choosing a good table for us.

After we have gorged, Lemmy points out to me his favourite waitress.

She's so old that her back's bent as if from the weight of carrying out so many trays of dirty dishes to the back kitchen. Her hair is dyed this really improbable fiery ginger, and her face is like those theatre curtains at the St James, a cascading concertina of folds, tucks, bulges and creases.

The real point about her is that, aged approximately one thousand, she is keeping up with modern fashion by wearing a miniskirt. She has hand altered the hem of her smock to raise it. And her wobbly old legs with heavy kneecaps look obscenely bent, naked.

Lemmy calls her The Duchess of Windsor.

As she walks by, Lemmy very carefully flicks a whole spoon of sugar onto the lino so, when she walks back again, we're both looking down, eating very seriously, swallowing our crazy laughter. But we hear the Duchess's footsteps all crunchy. She looks around a little surprised, then, as she passes again, spray, another spoon, all over the floor.

Lemmy does this for quite a while, till everyone going by our table has to crunch past, like Fijians on broken glass.

Suddenly the Duchess comes over, very quick. She bends down frighteningly close.

'Why are you boys doing that?' she says, and the surprising thing is she isn't angry: it's just like she's trying to work us out. This is far worse than if she had been angry. I feel a terrible shame as I look at her close-up. Now this is strange: Lemmy doesn't say a word. I look at him quickly, imploring him to help. But his face is stone, no expression: nothing. Except this slow flush creeping up his neck, over his chin, up his cheeks.

'I'm sorry,' I say. Then, 'It wasn't us. Truly.'

She just looks right into me, with her thousand-year-old-eyes, ringed with a faint ring of white, in the pupil. She is wearing false eyelashes.

'It's me that has to sweep it up,' she says then, and we both turn to look at the mess sprayed all across the floor.

'It wasn't us,' I lie with a sinking sense of humiliation so that my face, everything about me, the sweat on my forehead is telling her the truth. She page 105 just looks at my lie for a long enough moment for me to look at it too, and wonder why something which seemed so funny doesn't appear to be now.

She lets out a very long low expulsion of air, as if now, suddenly, she realises there is no hope, she's exhausted by us, the sugar on the floor, the people at the tables, the dishes out the back; everything.

She leaves our bill behind.

There's a slight pause now. I am uncertain. Lemmy's eyes scale across my face: he hates me, I can tell.

He suddenly gets up, as if he doesn't know me any more. He turns his back and, going straight towards the queue, ignores me, as if he's never seen me in his life before. 'But Lemmy,' I say out loud, because I want to say, I haven't got enough money to pay.

I'm holding the bill in my hand. It is three pounds, seventeen shillings and eightpence.

But Lemmy will not turn around.

Other people in the queue turn to look at me—the tone of my voice is so plangent, like a guitar chord echoing off key—they look into my face. I break out into a coughing fit, to disguise what I was going to say. Lemmy never turns round for one second. He does not know me any longer.

We inch forward, it's like the Berlin Wall here, you get to a window with a small hole in it behind which sits Madame Commandante, uniform a black shiny dress, a marquisite watch, swinging earrings. Madame Commandante examines your bill, stares into your face hard and intense, then she relents and punches on the till, the drawer shoots back like a gun going off in your face: and you pay for the privilege of being set free from her glance. She always seems furious for some reason: perhaps spending most of her life in a glass box.

Lemmy has magically joined himself onto a flustered-looking young mother with three kids, all of whom are whining about what they got to eat. The oldest wanted a banana milkshake and got a glass of milk, the youngest says she wants to be sick. The mother's begging her to wait, Lemmy's just standing by them looking bored and cross, like you might expect someone that age trapped with a public embarrassment like that.

I watch as they get to the Berlin Wall.

The mother is so harassed that she spills her money onto the floor. The youngest girl, who's going to be sick, runs through, heading straight towards the china department—Royal Doulton section. The mother pays page 106 desperately, grabs her change, sets off after the little girl, and Lemmy moves with them, amoeba-like, for a moment, till he dissolves away, among the china stands.

Now he looks back at me, eyes glinting, the other side of the Berlin Wall, he waits for me, he waits for me.

I know now what to do.

As if in a dream, I quietly meld onto an elderly couple having a treat by coming into town on a Friday night, 'then we had a light supper at John Court's.' They turn towards me, glance at me, and the old man, who has a pink face so clean it looks like it gets janola'd every morning, smiles at me from behind his glasses as if he might know me and I go bright red, but I don't say anything I am so tense with excitement because now I know what I must do: I must act as Jamie the good boy. This will be my protection. I smile back at him and he and his wife exchange a look which says, 'and there's a nicely brought up boy' and I realise, with a harsh laugh echoing inside me, yes Jamie-the-good-boy has his uses.

Quietly, silently, smiling and bobbing my head, looking at this elderly couple covered in camel-hair, stinking of Remuera, I act like I'm their boarding school son and as they pay I move effortlessly through with them, they turn a little startled to find me still with them and I flash them one final special smile, and I thrill as I see them softly taken in, thinking: do we know that boy, perhaps he's the son of ... ?

Then I see their faces change. They are looking at my clothes. I quickly abandon them, and I find Lemmy by a crockery stand, he smiles at me and says, 'How is the air up there?'and I say, 'Boo to you, I just don't care' and we laugh and I think, 'I only want to be with you.'