‘Did Sapphy tell anyone if she was coming tonight?’
The queue outside Lakota bulged and waved like a fat snake. It was 11.30, and Maxxy and the lads had barely moved for the last twenty minutes. Maxxy cast his eyes up and down the rows and rows of heads he saw shouting and smoking behind him on the off chance that he might see Sapphy, then lit up a cigarette and began smoking it obviously on the off chance of her seeing him. As he did so he saw a lad getting picked on by the security guards, but he didn’t see what for. After a moment they had dragged him kicking and thrashing out of the queue altogether while his girlfriend shouted at them to let him back.
‘Nah mate, haven’t heard from her.’
‘She probably will be though, everyone’s at Lakota tonight.’
‘Trust Maxxy to ask about Sapphy!’
‘You’re so in love with Sapphy aren’t you Maxxy?’
The boys laughed in a disaffected unison, allowing themselves to make far more noise than usual on account of their drunkenness so that they might be slightly more noticeable amongst the crowd. Maxxy rode it off cockily.
‘Yes mate, I’m in love with her. You got a problem?’ he asked in a faux-sincere voice.
Doogie, who was standing one step ahead of the others, turned around and cut into the general laughter of the group.
‘Alright lads, reckon we’ve got about 5 minutes til we’re in. We all got our materials?’
They all nodded sagely, suddenly seeming very sincere and secretive. Maxxy had his pill tucked neatly into his underwear, as the others had told him to. It was a strange night for Maxxy, because he had never taken MDMA before.
The music boomed from within the nightclub as if the heart of hell itself was beating inside. Slowly the queue moved to the bouncers at the front, where the lads displayed their ID’s and tickets, each appearing bored at the process. Maxxy felt a certain fear at the thought that they might search him and find the pill. He looked at each bouncer, and he thought, ‘They know.’ They knew that every last person they let in had something illegal on them. He told himself that everyone does it, and even the bouncers are in on it otherwise they would catch more people. They gave him a quick patting down and then, finally, they were in. Maxxy twisted one last time around him to see if Sapphy was there, but she still wasn’t.
Immediately after walking through the doors the night outside seemed to be sucked into the huge main dance floor and enmeshed with flashing lights and internecine sounds, punctuating the spaces waving between the figures that flitted in and out of the lights and the music like dark ghosts in a hellish pit. Humidity and sweat greeted the boys as they put on the faces that told everyone around them that they were in their element.
Knowing the procedure, Doogie pointed towards the bar and, en masse, they each collected their cups of tap water and headed for the toilets. Maxxy waited in a short queue in the disgusting room by the urinals for what seemed like an age, with bouncers parading past just outside the door behind him. Finally he got to a cubicle, and, taking time to be certain that the door was firmly locked, he extracted the MDMA from his underwear. The pill was rectangular and white, like a paracetemol tablet, plain and innocent. He studied it for a moment, then swiftly dropped it into his mouth and swallowed it with a mouthful of water.
‘Did you take it in halves?’ Swag asked Maxxy when they reconvened by the dance floor.
‘No mate,’ replied Maxxy, ‘I took it in one. What did you do?’
‘Mate!’ exclaimed Swag. ‘You’re going to come up so hard!’
‘What, did you take it in halves?’
‘Yeah, they’re really strong! You’re gonna have a crazy night!’
Swag laughed explosively and slapped Maxxy on the back.
‘Let’s hit the dance floor shall we?’
Seeing Doogie, Nick and Tommo bustling in amongst the crowd of waving students, Swag and Maxxy shuffled their way forward to join them, achingly aware that people they knew might be seeing them as they entered the fray. The DJ shouted something incomprehensible over the speaker, to which large parts of the crowd screamed excitedly in response, and Swag and Maxxy waved their arms in the air ironically. No one really knew what the DJ had said, and no one really cared.
‘Alright lads!’ shouted Doogie when they were all together again. ‘Halves or wholes?’
‘Whole!’ shouted Maxxy back.
‘Mate! The rest of us have taken it in halves!’
‘I know mate, what can I say I’m a loose cannon!’
They all mimed laughing loudly because their ordinary laughter could barely be heard over the music. Maxxy felt a hand grip his arm. Turning around, he found that it was Bella.
Bella had come out in the secret hope of ‘bumping into’ Maxxy, or possibly another guy she knew, Matteo. She had dressed carefully for the occasion. Her top was the silver sequined crop-top she knew showed her cleavage and body shape in just such a way that it was sexy without being slutty, like a hand brushing suggestively on the knee of a man, and her waist-high leggings showed her bum and leg shape in a way she knew flattered her. She had systematically tried on every pair of trainers she kept in her room before deciding on the pink Nike high-tops, which seemed like an ironical flirtation with her black leggings, and her make-up had taken her an hour to perfect. She had insisted on her flatmates starting their make-up with her at exactly the same time that evening, so that she wouldn’t feel any more vain than them. Of course, she tried to carry off her own vision of beauty effortlessly, as if really looking like this was nothing and she had simply waltzed out of her room like a butterfly does out of its chrysalis, embracing compliments about her looks and fluttering them back to her girl friends, whilst secretly harbouring the ambition of being the most beautiful among them. She was just another suggestive neon light that evening, fiercely insecure and fiercely aware of herself. She could only begin to comprehend that boys might in fact be just as self-obsessed as her, but, of course, girls are vain, just like boys.
Maxxy threw on an oversized smile, hugged Bella tightly, shouted ‘How are you!?’ overenthusiastically and overall pretended to be happier than he really was to see her. Of course he was making the fact he was drunk as apparent as possible so that any careless actions could be blamed on it, and when she asked how he was he replied, ‘Drunk!’
He wasn’t as inwardly thrilled to see her as she was to see him. They had got with each other on a few previous occasions, a few times in nightclubs, twice at friends’ birthday parties, and they had slept with each other three times. The things that united this strange and occasional liaison were drunkenness and the fact that Maxxy had no one else to get with at the time, which led his needy loins into her hands over and over again. He regarded her very much as a ‘back-up’. She, however, felt rather differently about the whole thing. When he had feigned affection for her she had felt something very real back, like when, at a birthday party, he had said she was beautiful and held her hand secretly on the sofa so no one else could see, and she had wanted to brush away the loose lock of hair behind his ear so she could kiss his rosy cheek. Moments like that hung with her in a way that they didn’t for Maxxy. Somehow she knew that he was only doing it for the sex, but she still clung like a kitten to the possibility that he might really like her. She grew desperate for his attention. It led her time and time again into his trap, and as much as she raged about it to her friends, she continued to repeat herself. This pattern was also very similar to one she had with another boy, Matteo, whom she continued to keep an eye out for in the club.
The lads laughed as Maxxy forced conversation with Bella, both of them pretending to be drunker than they really were.
‘It’s good to see you!’ shouted Maxxy.
‘It’s good to see you too!’ she shouted back. ‘You look good.’
‘Thanks, who are you here with?’
‘My flat, they’re all just behind me.’
She was annoyed that he hadn’t complimented her back.
‘Do you like my top?’ she suddenly asked, hoping for her drunkenness to save her.
‘Er yeah. It’s sparkly.’
She persistently kept dancing beside him, waiting for him to say something else.
‘I’ll see you in a bit,’ he said, ‘I think we’re going over here now.’
‘Okay,’ she crooned, and watched him walk off to another part of the crowd with his friends.
‘You gonna get with her Maxxy?’ asked Swag.
‘If things get desperate, mate, she’s my back-up.’
‘She’s such a slut.’
‘Nick didn’t you get with her once?’
Nick and Maxxy screamed with laughter and high-fived each other.
‘Amazing, maybe we can double-team her.’
‘I bet she’d love it!’
‘Bet she would, the slag.’
‘Boys, smoking area?’
They thrust their way out into the smoking area, where each of them recognised someone they knew and proceeded to light up cigarettes with them. Maxxy ran into his friend Plum, whom he made conversation with for the next fifteen minutes.
‘You on the lookout for Bella?’ Plum asked some way into their conversation.
‘Only if things get desperate, mate.’
‘I see,’ laughed Plum, ‘got a backup. Keeping an eye out for someone else are we?’
‘Maybe, maybe not.’
‘I see, I see. Oh, I know who it is!’
Maxxy smiled indifferently.
‘It’s Sapphy isn’t it?’
‘Ssh, shut your face Plum,’ smirked Maxxy, again casting woollen eyes around the scene for that unmistakeable glimpse of her face. She still wasn’t there. He doubted that she was even out.
‘You ever taken MD before, Plum?’
‘Yeah, man, of course.’
‘Oh right, ‘cos I’ve taken it for the first time tonight.’
‘Really? No way! You’re gonna have one hell of a night my friend! The first time is the best.’
‘Yeah, that’s what everyone’s said.’
‘Honestly mate, the first time is unlike anything else. You’re going to fall in love with the world. I bet you’ll wake up tomorrow morning and say last night was the best night of my life.’
Maxxy smirked his cocky little smirk.
‘Yeah, guess we’ll see shall we.’
‘What have you taken exactly?’
‘Some pill called a domino?’
‘Did you halve it?’
‘Nah man, no one told me so I took it in one!’
‘Seriously dude, strap in ‘cos you’re in for one hell of a night! How long ago’d you take it?’
‘About thirty minutes, I think.’
‘You feeling it yet?’
‘Not really no.’
‘You will soon, buddy.’
‘What does it feel like?’
‘I’m not ruining the surprise!’
At that moment Doogie, slightly out of breath, appeared between the two of them, with Nick and Swag in tow.
‘Excuse me boys,’ he said almost urgently, ‘I’m starting to come up, selfie?’
He withdrew his phone and pulled Maxxie in beside him so he could take a selfie of them. The photo was blurred, but he started uploading it to facebook anyway. Nick, Swag and Tommo came and joined them.
‘I think it’s about time we hit the dance floor, don’t you?’ said Tommo, flicking his cigarette on the ground and stamping it out.
‘Alright!’ said Maxxy, and they made their way inside.
He wondered why they were all coming up when he wasn’t – although, admittedly, he didn’t know what ‘coming up’ was like. He remained quiet about it, until Tommo asked him whether he was coming up yet. Maxxy replied that he wasn’t.
‘Give it a bit longer, mate, when it happens it’ll be something else!”
The boys thrust into the crowd with a new energy, Maxxy tailing behind slightly irritated at the fact that he wasn’t feeling anything. He watched the others as they danced, their faces lit up and seeming to find their dancing hilarious. For a while he pretended to be as happy as them, but he couldn’t keep up with their energy and felt annoyed. He wondered if his pill was a dud.
After a few minutes he said he was going to the toilet, and absented himself from the group. Disappointment had begun to bubble in him like an angry stew. He dropped at exactly the same time as the others – why had he not come up yet?
He bustled into the toilet, where he waited for a few minutes for a cubicle, then stood in front of a mirror to check he was still looking good. He decided that if he didn’t come up then he’d get with Bella and go home with her.
But then, as he stood adjusting his hair and pouting in the mirror, he began to feel something changing inside him. There was a strange buzzing sensation around his feet, almost as if all the blood had started rushing out of them, and it disarmingly rapidly began to rise up his legs until it was right up into his torso. He looked at his hands, which felt remarkably light and moved with a fascinating speed in front of his eyes, which started to feel detached, as if they had been oiled on their hinges and were rolling more freely and loosely than ever before. Then his stomach tightened up, as if it had shut itself for business and had taken a seat on a park bench, and all the blood around it began to run faster and faster, until it was pumping at immense speed all round his body, down one arm then back up, and down the other and then back up, and then flying through up his neck and whizzing round his brain and then shooting down and doing three laps around the stomach then shooting down one leg then back up then shooting down the other leg then back up then flying straight back up into his eyes then circling then shooting back down into his chest and punching left to right then right to left then shooting down into his sides and spinning then down one leg then up again then down the other leg and up again and then back up into his arms and down one arm then back up then down the other arm and back up left to right then right to left then left to right then straight back up into his eyes, my god his eyes, which darted so freely and with such unbelievable speed that Maxxy wasn’t even certain what he was perceiving any more, it was just one almighty cockfuzzlingbrainswirlingenergypeaking triumph!
Maxxy, it seemed, had come up.
Without any time to waste (for there was no time to waste in Maxxy’s book!) Maxxy turned heel and darted straight out of the toilet, past the angry-eyed bouncer whom he now couldn’t care less if he saw that he had taken drugs, through one of the downstairs bars and out onto the dance floor – and he was borne out like an agent of light, a courageous coward of Christ’s comfortable creatures, an alien sent to visit planet earth and finding all kinds of wonderful secrets all tangled up in the gorgeous, beautiful mess, oh, how gorgeous it all was! He looked at the bright faces of every gorgeous soul in the club, swaying like unaccountable flowers in the dangerous night, and he thanked someone – someone, anyone! – whoever was responsible for this social event for organising it and allowing it to happen. Every face he saw was ecstatic with beauty, the likes of which he had never seen before, not even when as a child he had looked out at the silver night and seen it gloss opal and diamond, shining and silent and holding all the orgastic secrets of all the lovers who had ever wed each other’s beauty beneath it’s immense and omniscient canopy, that flowered like daylight and hid like nightfall behind the comings and goings of the itinerant night and day, and now it was here flowering for him, holding out an impossible hand to share all these fabulous floralities of fantasies, wide and opened up as the greatest flower bud does in the spring and now flying warm wind and cloud all around his head like the certain whispering of a lover into his childish ear, whispering as leaves do when the wind passes through them to let unearthed humans know that the windy arm of nature is holding them as mother’s do their children – and such beauty! Such beauty as he had never before experienced! Suddenly he felt he was not the boy he used to be, not the unearthed, fear-ridden child wandering the plains of his imagination in search of himself, but the man the boy had intended to become, a spirit, magician, wizard, not lost amongst the crowd but silently stroking the calm and exotic hand of a lover beneath certain shadows that hid their overwhelming beauty. He was a man!
All the world had swirled into life and had presented itself at his doorstep like a puppy flown in from the snow – no, not a puppy, a lion! A great goddamned lion, snarling and powerful and ready to eat people! Graarrr!!
Maxxy ran straight through the crowd and found Doogie, Nick, Tommo and Swag, and they all embraced him as if the meaning of their lives had been resting on his return.
‘Maxxy!’ they all shouted, ‘Maxxy! How are you buddy!’
‘I’m amazing! I’ve never felt like this before – this is amazing!’
‘Ah man I’m jealous, I haven’t felt like that since the first time I took mandy, it’s so good isn’t it?’
‘I can’t believe I’ve been living my life without this feeling! I’ve never felt so good before in my life!’
At that moment, as his eyes swung frantically and joyously from face to beautiful face in the beatific dancing mass of people around him in the crowd, he perceived a face he recognised immediately, and it was with such unprecedented joy in his heart that he could say – it was SAPPHY!
Without a second to lose (there is never a second to lose! Life has to be lived as fast and as full as possible!!) Maxxy jumped to the side and embraced Sapphy, before she had even had a chance to see who her mystery embracer was.
Sapphy was very different to Bella. In fact, she was very different to an awful lot of girls. In a word, Sapphy didn’t give a damn about the way she looked. She wore, it seemed, whatever she felt was most comfortable and most appropriate. If large hiking shoes were suitable then she would wear them, and if her top didn’t match her trousers, she wouldn’t think twice about it. There was never anyone she wanted to impress. She only occasionally wore make-up, and if she did it was on those occasions when she chose to make herself appear more beautiful than she already was. Certainly she was a very good-looking girl – in fact, she was beautiful, but in a deceptive way. Her beauty seemed to stem more from her character than from her looks. She was beautiful when she tried and beautiful when she didn’t, and it didn’t matter one bit whether or not she did. She was one of those girls who seem to inhabit the space outside conventional femininity, who ignore the codes of appearance and behaviour most girls abide by as if she were unaware that they existed, delightfully friendly, eccentric and unafraid of herself, and who, as a result, had a different boy fall in love with her every two weeks. Not that she seemed to notice.
‘Sapphy! So good to see you! You look unbelievably beautiful!’
‘Maxxy? Oh! Lovely to see you!’ She sang his greeting as if he was only the person she wanted to see, meeting him with her great, tonic-like grin.
‘Sapphy I’m so glad you’re here.’
‘It’s lovely to see you too, how are you!?’
‘Sapphy, you would not believe what’s happening inside my head right now-‘
‘Why, what’s happening inside your head?’
‘I’ve dropped! And I’ve just come up! I’m so hiiiiiiiggggghhhh!!!’
He tilted his spinning head backwards and breathed it all in, the circulating edifices of flashing lights and flashing music with flashing people flashing in and out of each other’s love, and he had never felt so in love with everything, like he had entered into a kind of oneship with the world and everything in it. Then he looked down at his hands and gaped in amazement at the sheer brutal force of the energy coursing through his veins, like the Amazon river but moving at the highest velocity water has ever moved at, an unbridled force of orgastic power!
It was only after a moment (though it felt like barely a fraction of a second to Maxxy) that he noticed Sapphy saying: ‘So have I!’
‘What? You’ve dropped too?’
‘Yes! I’m buzzing pretty hard right now!’
‘Oh my god, it’s the best isn’t it? Isn’t it just the best? Like, I’ve never even taken MDMA before, like I’ve barely even taken drugs, though, like, people have offered them to me all the time, ‘cos I’m the kind of person that hangs out with people who hang out with people who take drugs all the time, so the drugs all kind of filter down to me, but this is the first time I’ve done and, Sapphy, I’ve literally never felt so good, like, this is unbelievable, I’ve never experienced anything so amazing, like I could go and get with every single girl in this club right now if I wanted to and no one could care less because I’m so goddam high, like it’s unbelievable, like every girl in the world could fancy me right now!’
‘Oh,’ said Sapphy. ‘I don’t think I’m as high as you.’
‘That’s a shame, I wish everyone was as high as me right now!’
She laughed and regarded him queerly, and he wondered whether he was embarrassing himself, but then stopped caring. He saw a girl walk beside them carrying a cup of water, and he reached over and took it from her hand and poured the majority of it over his face, then handed the empty cup back to the witless girl who didn’t know quite what to say.
‘Shall we go outside, Sapphy? Let’s go outside, yeah, I’m going for a cigarette, come on let’s go outside.’
‘Oh okay! High Maxxy’s quite insistent!’
He grabbed her hand and walked towards the smoking area, giving her barely enough time to explain to her friends where she was going. Maxxy couldn’t stop to think about anything, enjoying the sensation of immense happiness and confidence he was feeling right now.
Outside they found a spot to the side and Maxxy extracted his pack of cigarettes and asked if she would like one. She said that she would, as she was in the mood for one. However, when he tried to produce one he found that his hand was moving too energetically for his fingers to close around a single cigarette butt, so he turned the pack upside down and laughed hysterically as, one by one, the cigarettes began falling out. Sapphy began laughing as well, and as they fell out they danced like children beneath a waterfall and ran their hands through the waterfall of cigarettes, and then when all the cigarettes were out they fell to their knees and scrambled for them, laughing uncontrollably at themselves as they did so. Maxxy hadn’t laughed so hard at anything for as long as he could remember. Both of them lay fully down in fits, eyes dampening their faces, distant from the outside world and forgetful of existence beyond themselves.
And then, when Maxxy opened his hilarious eyes again and saw Sapphy’s face, he saw something that he told himself he must have known all along. He had never seen anyone look quite so – florid before.
Yes, that was it, he thought to himself. For in that moment the naked bud of Sapphy had sucked nectar and bloomed for him, like a black hole opens out in space, like a bomb explodes with flowers, like a kaleidoscope blooms with colours. He had never felt more certain of anything, ever.
They picked up the cigarettes and got to their feet and lit them. Maxxy looked at Sapphy and made what seemed to him the bravest and most natural decision of his life.
‘Sapphy-’ he began, but then decided to change course first. ‘Sapphy, what do you think of me?’
‘What do I think of you?’
‘Yes. Do you think I’m a good person?’
‘Well, er, yes of course I do.’
‘Really? Are you sure, because a lot of girls don’t seem to like me.’
‘Well, you do have a tendency towards selfishness and wild misogyny.’
‘What does misogyny mean?’
‘But I’m a good person though right?’
‘I think it’s good that you can see that people don’t like that side of you, because I don’t think most guys can see that about themselves.’
‘That side of me?’
‘Yes, it’s like another half of you. All guys have it. I’m sure you can be sweet sometimes, too.’
‘I just want to be a good person, but to be honest tonight I fell like I can do whatever I want-‘
Maxxy was suddenly interrupted by someone hugging him, and when the hugging person let go it turned out to be Bella. One quick glance at her dilated pupils told him that she was as high as a kite too.
‘Maxxy! My goodness you look so gorgeous tonight!’
‘Bella, fuck off! Okay, just fuck off! No one wants you here! Not me, nor Sapphy, nor anyone else! Do you not understand that everyone fucking hates you? Everyone thinks you’re a fucking scummy slut, and you sleep around with anyone who gives you two seconds’ attention, and it makes you annoying as hell. Fuck off back to wherever it is you fucking come from, you fucking filthy little slag.’
There was a stunned silence that was totally unnoticed by Maxxy as the effect of his words sunk in. Bella stared in absolute shock into his grinning face – then, feeling tears begin to crawl into her vast, swollen eyes, she turned clean around and ran away, by herself.
Maxxy, enduring his grin, turned towards Sapphy, not seeming to notice her disbelieving face.
‘Now where was I? Oh yes, I was about to say something smart, really smart – my god, I was about to say something amazing.’
Sapphy, stunned and horrified, said, ‘what?’
‘I was going to say I – I think I – I think I’m in-‘
‘You think you’re in what, Maxxy?’
‘I think I’m in love – hold on…’
Maxxy suddenly started to feel rather different. He had started sweating profusely, like he had just stepped into an oven, and his breathing had become three times as heavy. He turned away, the world around him entering a cataclysmic swirl…
‘Maxxy, what are you going to say!?’ Sapphy demanded angrily.
Maxxy staggered to within a yard of her, opened his mouth to reply, and vomited on her feet.
The next few minutes were a bilious blur to the young Maxxy. He remembered Sapphy running away and hearing a scream that sounded like her voice, then he was sure he recalled recovering enough to face the bouncers who came over to ask him if he’d been sick. The next thing he fully remembered was being outside, alone on the street, and shouting at the night –