“Cut,” says a quiet voice.
Dark, quiet. Where is this? A fluorescent light flickers on. Ahead are three cameras; over there, a bank of faders. The studio. Again a squint at great events, seen from a narrow room…
Rik pops up from behind the three cameras. Evelyn gives a joyful whoop, standing up from behind my chair. Alaia comes out from the sound booth and the two of us high-five.
I find myself in rather a dreamlike state as the four of us leave the studio. “OK, you guys, we got a fridge-ful of cheap champagne upstairs,” says Evelyn, “so let’s go drink it.”
Well, if she puts it like that, how can we refuse? So down the long corridor we bubble, past a screening room, up the servants’ staircase and into her and Rik’s apartment.
My dreamlike state transmutes very easily into the effects of the promised cheap champagne, and then further into great mirth when Evelyn, peering at me from close up, gives me neither warning nor reason before sticking the very end of her tongue unmistakably into one of her nostrils.
“That shouldn’t be allowed!” I say, recovering the power of speech from the clutches of my laughter.
“A useful skill, that one, I can assure you,” laughs Rik.
Then I realise something else that’s funny, as well as thought-provoking: “Hey Evelyn,” I say through my subsiding giggles, “when you watch that footage of Angel we recorded, you’ll see yourself standing on the strip with him, wearing that exact same magenta skirt you’re wearing now! Isn’t that interesting, that it lost nothing in translation through his memory? I bet that skirt paid for itself—” and I grind to a halt, remembering that Alaia is perched on the back of an armchair nearby, listening most curiously. Oh shit! my face broadcasts without speaking, and I see her take this in too, before a frown of fascination and bewilderment spreads across her features.
An instant of guilt flickers between Evelyn and me.
Well, Alaia won’t be letting that one go. No, she’ll sink her teeth into it and chew away at it until it’s dead.
“OK, Alaia—come with me, honey,” says Evelyn, taking charge. “I need to talk to you alone. Alaia and I are going down the corridor to the little girls’ room,” she tells me.
I glance towards the door of the kitchen, where Rik is making drinks. “If Rik comes back in and asks for you, what shall I say?” I whisper.
She cracks up with laughter. “Jaymi you doofus, Rik’s in this with us! He was our cameraman this afternoon, remember? So please tell him Alaia and I have gone to sniff coke… No, seriously now, the reason I’m taking Alaia out isn’t because of him—it’s because we’re just about to have other guests who can’t hear any of this, OK?” She exits the room, pulling along an increasingly mystified Alaia who turns upon me a flash of dark interrogation.
Kim follows Rik into the kitchen to deposit the bottle they’ve brought, while Shigem and I hug in a quick greeting without words, giving me an extreme close-up of the topmost squirls of his “Virginity” tattoo, the rest being covered by his mauve T-shirt.
Soon Kim emerges from the kitchen with Rik, comes up and shakes my hand. “Evelyn lent me a copy of Sound & Vision this morning,” he says. “It was incredible. It swept me away, it was wonderful. It was like a drug—you two were like a beautiful drug. The effect reminded me of when I used to put the headphones on every night before I went to sleep, and lit a joint and listened to music that I absolutely adored, really loud, and just went somewhere else, somewhere beautiful—but you two achieved that without any joint.”
“Thank you, Kim,” I say. “Thank you very much.” Watching him speak so straightforwardly, I realise that what he just said was something I’ve wanted to hear all my life. It’s obvious, I suppose, at least with hindsight, but I’d never identified the desire as such. And now it’s been identified, I observe that it survives in me for only a few seconds more before I register its fulfilment and consequent demise. So that’s what it feels like to have a lifelong wish granted! Most such wishes, once identified, survive rather longer than the may-fly life-span granted that one.
“What exactly were you both doing in the studio?” asks Kim. “I couldn’t quite work out how it must have been set up.”
“I’ll tell you,” I say. And I do.
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