Quentin’s Beach Party

Quentin vouchsafes an address for his beach party. Borrowed a pen from Rosie, the librarian, to write it down. Plan itinerary. Back in library where Fiona, assistant librarian and friend, looks up Dadaoism: An Anthology which can be preordered on Amazon, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dadaoism-An-Anthology-Reggie-Oliver/dp/1907681140/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335801968&sr=8-1. My name isn’t evident but my story’s in there, a chick pecking through the shell.

Greg calls in and it’s half-six before I know it. I rapidly grill turkey pieces and make up takeaway rolls, just catching the fast train to Waterloo, onto London Bridge, Bank, finally to Limehouse, there, always the trickiest part, using the A-Z, asking my way to Repton St, which, I was told by a Moslem girl, I was on.

Quentin wasn’t there. I was met at the door by a young couple who’d forgotten my name and I theirs, though we’d met on a previous Quentin occasion. She reintroduced them, to little avail – I may have got the rudiments of her name – and I gave mine. I was the first to arrive, the other young man, Ben, presumably living there. People usually come late. I excused my faux pas on the grounds I had no idea how long it’d take, one hour ten minutes, to get there, having left at seven five.

I was starving and ate to get it out of the way in the kitchen while they continued preparations in the other room. When I joined them, the host asked where he should put the drape or throw and I said the plain couch since the other was already patterned. Domenica, as I would be spelling the name if I did get it, wouldn’t let me open the £140 bottle of champagne – two for £180 – I’d brought till Quentin came so we had the Prosecco. I liked her theme pictures on the kitchen wall of Quentin juxtaposed with Annette Funicello, especially the multiple green fingers groping Quentin’s green face.

My host at the open door thought he’d seen Daniel. I assured him Daniel’d come back and he did come next. He’s still publishing my translated poems in his magazine and I wanted to know how people’d set about buying that, even more problematical than the book for people who didn’t order on Amazon. He’s very nice to me and draws me out in talk, knowing how shy and socially timid I am, while ironically observing, “You told me that last time,” presumably whenever I did. Once upon a time I could remember where I’d left off a conversation with whoever I’d been talking with however long before. Daniel asked if I knew of Quentin’s depression a fortnight ago. I didn’t; “I wasn’t in when he called.” Daniel wasn’t talking at a gallop or like a burn in spate splattering on protruding boulders but measuredly. He referred to a Mark Samuels from our last encounter but one. There was a Mark by then in the kitchen but it wasn’t “That Mark there? Was he the baldy one?” “Yes!” said Daniel, admitting he’d been thinking how to put it politely like ‘short-haired’ but I said you should always go for the significant detail like my big red nose or his long hair unless, as Daniel observed, there was another long-haired man present, in which case long straight hair, with glasses. I commended Daniels’ last intellectualising thing on Facebook but hadn’t commented, I said, because I’d’ve gone straight for the missing apostrophe. I got onto the subject of being affronted by Greg’s asking me to type out prison John’s poem for him. (Greg has never evinced any interest in my writing though he has promised to buy the book.)

Quentin! who I asked how were people who didn’t use Amazon or the internet to get a copy of the book. He suggested my ordering from Amazon for them. He was bored writing horror and writing gothic instead. “What’s the difference?” A lack of horror in the gothic. He said I thought him too conscious a writer. I was mortified, “By definition, writing has to be conscious. You can write beautifully.” He apologised about not getting back to me about what I’d written on Justin’s book. “You’re busy. It’s was no good,” I suggested. It was okay. “It would offend Justin.” Justin wouldn’t mind. “Good, I wouldn’t want to offend Justin.” I could now go on to see if my theory of narcissism panned out in the other stories, mentioning the one on the female Buddha, whose name I didn’t remember, who’s in the sky, seen by everybody, yet the story’s protagonist could damage her in a room, “Standing on a chair,” said Daniel, and in her throat see himself, “narcissism!”

Quentin, diminutive, thin, with ringleted locks, displayed the mild nudity stipulated for the party in an open-necked paisley patterned shirt, and was being given presents he tore open; and I hadn’t even thought to bring him one, I plained to Daniel. I urged the opening of the champagne and all had some in mugs: Agnes and her boyfriend whose name I didn’t pick up though I did appraise his slightly bulging waist and tilting nose, Nina with a floral wreath in her hair who’d crowned Q with another, Mark, Ben, Domenica and my nameless host, a gentle boy, with a pierced left ear and memorable black hair. He’s more mature than last time or perhaps just that bit older (more assured perhaps in his own setting), prettiness unimpaired, even enhanced. Domenica had Quentin sign her copy of the anthology. “Why is he signing it? He’s only the editor,” I objected. “Oh, he does have a story in it, doesn’t he?” I went on, Daniel ironically observing that, of course, I had only read my own story, as if I were a total egotist. “I’ll read them all when I’ve a copy.”

Domenika – I took pains to follow Quentin’s dedicatory spelling on the same page – had me autograph her copy of the Dadaoist anthology. I wrote my dedication to her in uncertain French and commented of my signature, “It’ll be valuable one day, since probably the only one.” She understood as I did not how my depressing Greg further could lift his depression. She wouldn’t agree Tina, a neighbour who’d furtively cracked my rosemary, was bad, conceding she was mean-spirited.

We all had to buy a book as a present for Quentin. I bought one and he gave me another one free. I protested. I’d brought money. It was because I was supportive he said. “You’re publishing me!” He wouldn’t let me buy more then, to let others have a go.

Domenika writes porn poems in English but is primarily a performing artiste. She and Quentin are doing a work together in a made-up language arranged in constellations, concrete poetry I suggested. Stephanie joined us on a couch. She’d retreated home to Dorset, working in a jobclub there, but was coming back to teach art in London. She’d come with a capped and idiosyncratic John. A ball somebody, probably Domenika’s father had left but that was now theirs, when stotted incited two little balls inside it to sparkle colourfully. I would’ve liked to know how. Quentin thought one of these wasn’t working but it was. I bounced it to invariably hit Mark on his balls. He kindly bounced it back till I caught it less awkwardly. I caught a look in Nina’s eyes of unsureness her social cogs were meshing. Then they were again.

Books were spread out on a table in the other room and I went for the one Domenika recommended but Quentin wasn’t sure, suggesting I read the first few paragraphs first, which I did for all, picking one somebody else had already bought, so settling for the first faute de mieux. Daniel teased I should buy another, indicating which. “Isn’t that John Elliott’s?” I retracted in gothic horror, explaining to the assembled party-goers why, on principle, I wouldn’t read it. He’d gratuitously said he would never buy ‘the book’, which wasn’t even being published, because he wouldn’t read it. In our writing group we were polarities.

Gareth arrived. He’s tall, thin, with a cap of dark hair and sideburns that go on to become a jaw-fringing beard. If anything, he looked younger than last time and I’d no trouble recognising him, I noted. He offered a beer I couldn’t accept because of my gluten-freakery or a cigarette because I don’t smoke. Quentin, in the kitchen, had a cigarette. “I didn’t know you smoked.” “Occasionally,” we both said.

Gareth’s coping with an eleventh month old baby with great forbearance as is Mark with his fraternal two year old twins. (I’d’ve joked ‘fratricidal’ here but it’d be out of keeping with the tone of the occasion.) I was thinking of leaving by quarter to eleven. Quentin told Gareth I’d wanted him to read prison John’s love letters, to give him a different …I snared the fugitive word, “perspective!” He affirmed John was good-looking, for his age. Quentin was encouraging me, because of my aforementioned retiring nature, to tell Gareth, who didn’t know any of it, the entire saga of prison John from start to finish with “Fade-out,” intruded by Mark who was getting the hang of the intermissions in that relationship and who didn’t think, from his experience, five months was long to get somebody off hard drugs and shoplifting. Gareth asked was I off the hook yet.

It was five to eleven! I went upstairs for my hoodie with my host I really wanted to be able at that juncture to address by name. I’d’ve liked to stay and he asked why not then. Daniel had arranged to sleep over though, as Quentin put it, having to share with somebody. That’d’ve been interesting, to see who with – not my host who’d be sleeping with Domenika – and to casually drop on prison John I had, but I’d never have slept, first night in a strange place, as I could when young. It’d’ve been an imposition.

Back in the kitchen I asked Quentin what Domenika’s husband’s name was. He wasn’t her husband, punctilious Quentin just had to say, didn’t he? “Partner then.” “Joe.” “Joe?” “Joe.” Domenika was laughing into the wall. How could anybody not remember ‘Joe’? I kissed Quentin goodbye. Gareth, leaning back, kept me at arm’s length with a firm handshake. Daniel stretched his hand out in the other room to be grasped. I was seen out, Domenika giving me directions how to go before turning her attention onto an arriving guest. I got lost but spied a bus going to Shadwell and ran for that. It contained predominantly white-dressed Muslim men at the back and black-garbed Muslim women of face and eyes at the front where sat I. I ran upstairs to the train at Bank, and went through the wrong gates at London Bridge but was let out again and caught the train to Waterloo East and the Reading fast train to Richmond, one hour five minutes to get back home.

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About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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