‘Where are you? Me and the lads are already inside.’
‘I’m – er – just in the queue now. I bumped into some old mates and got chatting to them, I’ll be in in a bit.’
‘Alright mate, drop us a text when you’re in.’
Maxxy ended the phone call and glanced around him. Ten minutes had passed since the sight of Sapphy kissing another boy had overwhelmed him and made him walk away, and he had managed to walk in roughly a straight line away from Motion. It was only now that he wondered what the hell he was doing, and turned around to go back. The pill he had taken would hit him soon, and then he wouldn’t give a damn about Sapphy and her new boy.
At length the increasingly sober Maxxy reached Motion, and he experienced that incredible sense of ironic self-consciousness experienced only when you queue for a nightclub by yourself. Every few minutes he would glance around him to make sure that neither Sapphy nor anyone else he knew could see him. Image was everything to Maxxy and the hipsters; just the wrong amount of ankle shown from a rolled-up pair of jeans, or just a slightly misguided done-up top button, and you had failed the image. As he queued he checked his facebook just to remind himself that his public image online still looked good. Yesterday Tommo had uploaded a photo of the lads all sitting on the wall by the Physics building on Tyndall Avenue, all with cigarettes lit and poses perfected, and with a filter that bronzed the image and emphasised the sunlight. It had 43 likes. It made Maxxy feel better.
It took the best part of thirty minutes to get into Motion, and just as Maxxy was pushing past security and the patrolling sniffer-dog he began to feel the beginnings of that tingling sensation around his feet and his stomach. He text Swag, who replied immediately as follows:
King area m8 get dan here it’s al kicking off’
Realising from this enigmatic code that the others had already come up, he started towards the dark and galling enthral that was the 2,500 capacity nightclub. It took him five minutes to push through the waves of people, every last one of them lost on their drug of choice. Standing at the doorway to the smoking area, he located his boys and surfed over to them. Before they noticed him, however, he overheard Nick and Swag in the midst of an argument.
‘It’s MY Bristol!’ said Nick.
‘No, it’s MY Bristol!’ countered Swag intuitively.
‘But look it says on my phone, it’s MY Bristol!’
‘But it says that on my phone as well! Well it can’t be both of our Bristols, so yours must be lying!’
‘No, your phone’s lying!’
‘No, YOUR phone’s lying!’
Amidst this topical debate Maxxy showed his face.
‘Maxxy!’ they cried when they noticed him, and the four of them piled into one enormous hug on the defenceless hipster.
‘How we doing boys?’ laughed Maxxy as throatily as possible in that way boys do on nights out, slapping their backs and rubbing their heads.
‘We’re all pretty up mate, how you doing?’
‘Yeah, yeah, I’m just coming up now actually-’
Maxxy had to break off his sentence, because at that moment he witnessed that familiar rise of nausea in his stomach, and the creeping sensation of heat and sweat burning out of his baking head. The world swirled like an earthquake inside him.
‘Excuse me for a moment,’ he said politely, and turned around and vomited.
After a moment of breathless illness, Maxxy’s consciousness returned, and his senses were restored to him one by one. His hearing came back to him one part at a time; first he was aware of the vague musical thumping in the background, then the hanging chatter of the smoking area, then the sound of laughter from the lads. As his eyesight came back to him, he realised he was staring at a vomit-ridden pair of feet – and when he looked up, he realised they belonged to Bella.
The lads roared with laughter. Even Maxxy, as his dyspepsia withdrew, couldn’t help but start to laugh. He stood up and faced Bella directly.
She seemed, however, to have barely noticed what happened. She looked in Maxxy’s horrible, arrogant face, then down at her shoes. Then, after a moment, she began giggling secretively at the ground.
Maxxy turned to the boys to show his hilarious confusion.
‘What can I say,’ he said, ‘I’m a good shot!’
But before he had a chance to whip off some more witticisms Bella finally reacted, and slapped him hard around the face.
‘Stupid slut,’ he spat, and wandered back to his screaming boys.
Now the pre-rituals were over, the gang could enjoy fully the euphoric sensation of the MDMA. Plum and Ferg, a couple of their mates, turned up, and before long that speedy and sensational conversation produced by the drug was pelting like raindrops between them all. Plum and Nick took to a conversation about whether camping in a cow field was a good idea, as Plum had recently cycled 23 miles to Glastonbury to camp overnight by himself, and Nick did biology, and really loved cows. Ferg, whose aspiration it was to become a drum n bass DJ, argued with Tommo, who was himself a drummer, over how easy it would be to play a drum kit to drum n bass, and whether it would be a good idea to drop beforehand.
Maxxy, Doogie and Swag, meanwhile, opened up conversation with a girl and her boyfriend, who were both equally high.
‘I’m third year history,’ said the girl. ‘Bit of a stupid one ‘cos you can’t get employed from it, but hey, you know, all’s well that ends well I suppose, and I’m probably always gonna be able to find a job really aren’t I, arts degrees are pretty open-ended, just as long as I don’t kill myself first because I had a friend at Durham doing history who couldn’t get a job and tried to kill herself before she graduated but it’s fine now ‘cos she’s been to rehab and her family are looking after her so I suppose really all she needs is a bit of perspective.’
‘Bit morbid!’ laughed her boyfriend, and Maxxy, Doogie and Swag laughed with him.
‘Yeah, sorry, bit morbid! Would probably be better if we’d both got into Oxbridge, we both applied, you know, she applied to Cambridge and I applied to Oxford, but neither of us got in so I’m at Bristol and she’s at Durham, not bitter about it at all of course!’
‘She’s so bitter about it!’ said her boyfriend again.
‘Shut up, lover boy, it’s just both my parents and my two elder siblings all went to Oxbridge so that kind of makes me the reject of the family-‘
‘No it doesn’t!’ interjected Swag. ‘My brother’s doing engineering at Cambridge and I’m definitely better at engineering than him!’
This was met with hand slaps.
‘Besides,’ continued the girl, ‘I didn’t really want to go to Oxford because it would have been so shit, like, no one has any fun there ‘cos they work soo hard, and they all have depression and stuff and the city’s nowhere near as good as Bristol, so, the way I see it, I come to Bristol, get a sick city, have way more fun, be with people who are just as clever and have a sick time. Don’t you think?’
Throughout the conversation Maxxy cast wandering eyes over the smoking area, hoping to catch sight of Sapphy. His eyes sauntered idly over the loose souls. The canvas over the smoking area looked more phosphorescent than ever, as if it was absorbing all the brightness of the youth that was leaking away; all sorts of waving sounds could be heard: the juttering lilt of a phone playing indiscernible music; the rubbery squeal of two girls singing along to it; and the booming cry for attention of boys being loud and unprovoked, looking hopefully but in vain at the faces of every girl that passed them; the indefinite mingling of laughter and crying. Somewhere to Maxxy’s left a boy pleaded hopelessly with a girl who had used to be his girlfriend, but now was not. Packs of tobacco and the occasional bag of marijuana lay on the garrulous tables. Two boys with big muscles and tight floral shirts hugged ironically to the delight of their friends. On a stool by the wall a girl, sitting by herself, her head down, vomited violently, swayed, and fell over, lying like a damp fawn without friends or family to look after her. No one noticed. For a moment Maxxy caught her eyes, which flickered for a bizarre second before they finally cut out; and then he looked away, because she was not his responsibility.
Then, as he continued to search, he saw her. She’d just walked in with her group of friends she’d come out with for the night, and they all went and stood at the other end of the smoking area. As the ecstatic conversation buzzed around him, Maxxy waved furtive eyes over Sapphy. She was still with her rugby boy, who stood with his cruel body like a blunt tree trunk, occasionally opening his mouth widely to laugh at something he had overheard and smoking a cigarette. Maxxy could tell he was not a smoker, however, as after every drag he looked at the end of the cigarette between two pinched fingers and let the smoke dribble back out of his belligerent mouth without the moment necessary to inhale it.
Sapphy, as usual, was looking radiant. She moved liquidly from person to person, laughing and complimenting and somehow seeming at all times to remain the welcome centre of the group.
Maxxy watched intimately the breaking of her smile to the people that weren’t him; the sliding of the lips over teeth and the completion of her face; and every time she smiled it hurt him a bit more. He realised then that Sapphy was attractive because of the way she used time. To Sapphy’s friendly mind, everyone is worth time. Boys fall in love with her because she’ll give them time enough to grow to like her, and then start giving time to someone else, and grow jealous. She’ll come bounding up to you out of a crowd to hug you, kiss you and smile at you as if to say that you are the only person in the world she could possibly want to see at that moment; and then she’ll be gone, spreading her loveliness elsewhere. Even now Maxxy could see her new boy watching her play her conversation to all members of the group and growing restless each time her attention shifted away from him. He began to reach out unsettled arms around her to keep her fixed, but each time she would hold his hand or stroke his arm for only a few moments, then drop it and return to her conversation. She was just one of those girls everyone falls in love with: dazzling, delightful, and dangerous.
‘What are you looking at, Maxxy?’ asked Plum, swinging his gaze over the low decay of young people. ‘Ah. I see. Sapphy.’
He slapped Maxxy on the shoulder.
‘How’s it going with her? Heard it didn’t end too smoothly last week.’
‘I dunno, mate… I think I’m in love with her.’
Anyone else would have laughed and shared this news with the others, but Plum simply nodded and looked at her again.
‘She is an amazing girl.’
‘Tell me about it.’
‘Who’s that guy she’s with?’
‘I don’t know… I think they’re getting with each other.’
‘He looks like a dick.’
‘He also looks like he could kill a man.’
‘Want to go start a fight?’
Plum laughed, then looked at Maxxy’s face.
‘Oh are you serious?’
‘Nah, but I do want to go talk to her.’
‘Lads,’ said Plum to the others, ‘we’re heading over here.’
The lads all looked in the direction of Plum’s gesture and saw Sapphy.
‘Ah, Sapphy! Maxxy’s got his eye on her!’ they all said, and got up to move over.
En masse they approached Sapphy’s group, and fortunately for Maxxy the rugby lads’ back was turned. For a moment Maxxy was tempted to steal his snapback and throw it away, but he resisted. Sapphy turned around at that moment and saw Maxxy at the head of the group.
‘Maxxy!’ she cried, embracing him lovingly as her boyfriend watched. ‘Are you feeling better?’
‘Yeah, much better thanks Saph,’ he beamed back at her. There it was, he thought; what a pleasure it was to see that immense, tonic-like grin directed at him once more. ‘How you doing?’
‘I’m pretty up right now!’ she sang, and laughed musically.
At that moment the rugby boy decided he ought to establish himself.
‘Alright, mate,’ he said, reaching out for a handshake. ‘Chris.’
‘Maxxy,’ said Maxxy, taking his hand and looking him in the eye.
Chris gave a reserved raise of the hand to Maxxy’s boys, who all nodded back and smirked to each other once he’d looked away. Chris somehow didn’t seem as energetic or happy as the others. They wondered if he’d taken anything.
‘Maxxy’s a good friend of mine,’ sang Sapphy. ‘He’s in Badock.’
‘Oh right,’ said Chris, ‘I was in Hiatt Baker.’
‘Was’; that meant he wasn’t a first year. That meant he was older.
‘What do you do with yourself, Chris?’ asked Maxxy, allowing the confidence instilled in him by the drug to carry his words out thoughtlessly.
‘I’m studying geography, and I play rugby and go to the gym a lot,’ was his reply. His words were fast and concentrated, rather as if he’d consumed a hundred cups of coffee in the last minute. Then he turned to Sapphy and said, ‘time for another line.’
‘Ah,’ said Nick. ‘Coke.’
Chris turned to Nick and tapped his nose.
‘Need a few more lines to keep my buzz.’
‘I’m not really such a fan of coke, are you?’ said Sapphy to Maxxy.
‘Never tried it to be honest, though I guess I’d be open to it, I mean now I’m into mandy and that I guess I might as well broaden my horizons, experience new things in the world.’
A very happy, very fast conversation about cocaine and new experiences ensued. Chris left to go and top himself up.
After a few minutes, it became clear that the general consensus was to go and dance. ‘Dancefloor, dancefloor, dancefloor!’ chanted the lads, and the girls giggled as they moved out of the smoking area. Maxxy walked laughing beside Sapphy, bumping shoulders and brushing hands with her, thrilled that he was getting her onto the dancefloor before Chris reappeared.
And on the dancefloor the mandy began to carry them away…
Maxxy began seeing in sound. Every movement of his was a sound, every sound was a movement; the world had become such a pleasant place to be, all synchronised to music and pulsing in and out of his bloodstream, bleeding like flowers into the blue darkness. With every twist of the arm or raise of the leg the swell of sudden ripples would clear out over the crowd, who were also moving inside and outside the music, pulsing and waving as one ecstatic, weatherworn mass. More than ever Maxxy felt the plunging blueness of ecstasy, that fed into his limbs and into his heart, that caught him as he tried to run away and brought him sailing sky high like a flock of birds, all dizzying and patterning in their flight. Everything was so plungingly beautiful. He looked at Sapphy, and – oh – dear Sappy looked so gorgeous, so emphatically, non-undeniably beautiful and stunning and striking. What a girl she was! She was wearing a silvering glitter of a top, that parted just so that the cleavage of breasts, braless, appeared like a golden waterslide on her gliding form. Maxxy could not believe the way she looked. Her hair hung down as if it was damp, sliding down her sliding form. How did she get her hair to look like that? And in her top, like a swimming costume, her chest looked as if it was bronzed and varnished… This was a love that Maxxy was feeling, the most intense, painful kind of love that a boy can possibly feel for a girl, that was instigated by a fancy and that MDMA had driven into an inferno. What to do! What hell to unloose? Kiss her then… Kiss her!
Just as Maxxy was running these words through his idealistic head, and he considered making a lean into the open bubble of the bubbling Sapphy, the dark cloud of Chris passed like soft motion into the background. Doogie, Swag, Nick, Plum, Tommo and Ferg all realised what was happening immediately, but Maxxy was too entranced in Sapphy’s transplendent waltz to take his mind outside her. Chris was shaking furiously, tense with his cocaine buzz. The lads all jumped on him to stop what they saw was coming, and Tommo even managed to hold one arm back, but Chris, manic and enraged, raised his other arm and struck out as hard as he could. His timing, however, was slightly off. Maxxy, unaware that the blow was coming, at that particular second jumped to the side in what he felt was a deliciously delivered dance move; and Chris, poor thing, punched Sapphy straight in the face.
There was a scuffle as the boys jumped on the rugby lad and wrestled him to the ground. Maxxy, realising what had happened, grabbed Sapphy immediately.
‘Security!’ shouted Nick. Three of the enormous bouncers were charging over to their spot on the dancefloor. ‘Run!’ shouted Plum, delivering one final punch to Chris’s stupid face.
In the ensuing moments the world swirled, and the boys ran as fast as they could for the exit. The bouncers, of course, caught them, and within moments they were thrown out onto the street outside Motion, laughing and laughing and never happier than they were then.
‘CHAMPIONS!’ cried Swag.
‘LEGENDS!’ decreed Nick.
‘LADS, LADS, LADS!’ proclaimed Ferg.
‘ALL THE BOYS TOGETHER!’ agreed Plum.
‘HEROES OF MOTION!’ suggested Tommo.
‘WINNERS!’ decided Maxxy, who had a secretive, fulfilled smile on his face, because in the dying seconds before the boys had run, he had kissed Sapphy on the cheek, right where he knew Chris would never kiss her again.