Follow the –
Red like a river of chilli, a flame, the tail of a firework, in amongst a brunette electric shock. That’s what I notice first. I watch across the crowd, draining the can. A disembodied clump of grey with that matted explosion poking out the sides, bobbing across the ball pit of gelled and slicked-up cruisers. Sweaty foreheads and BO, rising from stubbly armpits that haven’t been shaved in over fifty hours and sting to the back of the eye.
It is all I can see, as it turns, moving away but not very fast and I lock it in position. Marked by limbs that are way too stretched and I can’t make out. Chugging on a… cider, is it? Just a mass of grey and curl and cloud. A cloud. Sweat stained and I lick the edges, telling Ben I am “going in”, take a glug of the communal Sambuca, “follow the cloud.”
Have you ever fired a gun? Pointed the smooth black shaft of a pistol, held the grip tight and pulled the trigger, click, click, BANG. Targets, rabbits, birds. Put a gun in my hand and I’ll hit it. Square in the head, brains explode like fireworks. Rats in rivers.
It is easy to get away. Ben doesn’t stop me, doesn’t ask where I’m going, never does. You want mates like that. He’s somewhere else and can’t really see me. I detach my “friends” like prosthetic limbs, no longer needing them as I head through the throng solo, to track that moving piece of mist. That strange and pretty thing, up above everybody else, moving like a lone vessel cutting through the waves.
I’ve got a thing for hair, what can I say? The way it feels against the skin. This one is an eruption, a cacophonous BOOM, single strands that are live like open wires as I move towards it. As it sucks me in. All the women I’ve ever really loved have had untameable hair. That’s how it always starts. Hair in line for a coffee, hair against the brickwork filling up with smoke, stuck across the skin with sweat, makes shadows on the paintwork when we fuck.
“Hey,” my opening line is simple and dumb and stinks of Sambuca. “What’s happening? You having a good time?” I shout and I hear it come out hoarse from the carnage of the last fifty hours and all the fags. I sound old. “Are you enjoying…” who’s playing? “them?” I flick my arm up in the vague direction of the stage but I can’t see anything from here because she’s blinding. She’s deafening even though she doesn’t make a sound. It catches me, she almost takes my gun.
“Probably better from up there…” I continue, steadying myself, pointing to the sky where she had been, “I saw you from way at the back, you looked like a cloud up there, above everybody else.” She finally catches my eye. “Full of rain.” She frowns. “I’m Claire,” my voice sounds lower than I want it to be but I stick out my hand. She lifts her ultra-straight pencil lines and stares.
I go for what I want because life’s too short to mess about with waiting. Waiting, while Ben stares into space and moves his nose about like a rabbit. Nostrils choked with chalk, he looks and is completely lost, a gormless twat.
She gives me this look and it’s one I’ve known before. She’s trying to figure it out, how I know that she’s slept with women and with men and whether she’s offended or impressed or both.
“Rain?” she says, trying so hard to sound indifferent. “That’s not very happy, is it?”
Somebody replenishes the cider inside her Princess nails and I don’t catch where it came from. She’s a bear, fuzzy, fizzy, the colour of a shower, a stream, a torrent but with that fire that licks about the hooded edge. Above the crowd, carried on some now invisible shoulders she looked huge, riding the tide, and down here on the ground she is small. But only physically small. Metaphysically, she is immense, she is solar bright and gigantic sized and a drop-dead honey.
“What’s your deal?” She finds her voice at the bottom of the cider can. “Did you come all the way over here to tell me I looked like a cloud?” She sips the fluid and looks about her, whoever was holding her up, whoever replaced her can has faded inside the pattern of people. She’s totally alone, penned and pinned by the bodies about her.
“A rain cloud,” I remind her and she throws me a darker look.
“I just came to say hello,” I smile. Sometimes my assertive nature can come off blunt, an overconfidence that makes girls shrink, but not this one. I wanted this one, this one with the unstoppable hair and the piercing eyes. “Just came to see if you wanted a drink or something?”
She holds up the cider in a fake apology, sipping and twisting around on her toes, half looking, half absorbed and already very much affected.
“You’ve got nice hair,” I say, to fill the gap because she seems like a girl who can take a compliment and she does, she flicks it, nods and stores it. “What’s your name?” She gives me a skeptical look. “Is it a secret or something?”
“I’m looking for my friend William,” she makes a play of looking more forcefully about her, left then right, “he’s a skinny blond dude, can you see him anywhere?” I don’t move. I don’t even look. Rats in rivers. Lock this bitch down. It’s almost on board. “He’s wearing women’s clothing, well actually a girl’s top and boxers.”
“Why is he wearing that?” I ask, moving my eyes ever so slightly but they never really leave her.
“They’re my clothes,” she says. “We swapped.” She indicates the bear she is wearing. Close the net. Close it now. So I say –
“I came over here to get you,” it sounds forceful and I can’t quite shake the age that I hear grinding against my teeth as I spit out the words. Like some kind of perv.
“Oh yeah?” she arches those skinny coal lines that wriggle above her eyes again.
“And do what with me exactly?” She really wants to know. Her mouth is wet.
“That’s for you to decide.”
I see a flash of something behind those eyes as she rolls them, telling me she doesn’t mind the directness, the boldness, that she kind of likes it and we are only playing, we’re in the game now as she shyly holds out a hand, pretending she doesn’t really want to, like she doesn’t really care.
“My name is K,” she sighs.