I slap my cheek, to bring myself back to the present, standing here with Shigem, and become aware that I have been chatting with him for many minutes—about what, I have no idea. I glance around, seeking the personnel I was just seeing in his memory of tonight, and I have to conclude that not every stoned tune-in should be relied upon for accuracy, for it seems I was conjuring up a mixture of truth and fabrication. Although none of the five exotic bartenders was real, I can indeed see the female club-owner, whom Shigem must have identified as such to me: I recognise her in the crowd nearby, with a leopard-skin design painted in make-up across her shoulders and down her arms, albeit sans rabbit and space-cat. “What’s she like as a boss to work for?” I ask him, nodding towards her.
“She pretends to be a holy terror but in reality she’s a sweetie-pie. Certainly a great improvement on the guy she replaced.”
“What was he like?”
“Very pantsy and high-maintenance. He had a tweezy poise and a ferny fragility, don’t you know, and really he was a bitch on a stick, though we couldn’t tell him that. I’d try and give the situation a spasmodic tweeze now and then, but nothing was going to change till he was gone.”
I see Shigem has had the name “Kim” added to the bracelet that I observed when I very first saw him on the street, just above the already-engraved “Shigem” and entwined with it, in the same slick swirly lettering. “Just adorable!” I comment, pointing at it.
“Cheesy and adorable,” he qualifies.
“This one’s for Shigem,” says the DJ through the sound system. Shigem turns to him and takes a bow. We drift towards the dance-floor. The track’s opening sounds like a fine slice of dance music, but quickly reveals itself to have been produced with a hilarious profusion and excess of faux-feral and faux-Oriental sound effects, as if from a child’s keyboard. Shigem swoops to the DJ booth and stands there with his hands on his hips. The DJ blows a kiss at him and Shigem raises his eyes and flounces back to me. The track is a cut-price version of something wild and Far Eastern, made in Taiwan to be sold in Las Vegas. There are heroically weedy “Oriental” intervals, low-budget snarls and cats’ growls, as the anonymous diva phones in her lyrics with brio. I picture a likely video for it: fake coloured animal fur, hookahs and pagodas, with a big plastic pineapple for a touch of incongruity; the caged-animal extras, between the twelfth and thirteenth takes of the “writhing” shot, raising limp claws as that falsetto background chorus warbles “Caged!”; and Pearl the wardrobe mistress picking her teeth while distributing plastic fangs. Alaia shimmers up, bringing drinks for us. She looks stunning. Evelyn and Rik bubble up behind her. “Alaia,” says Shigem, “if you want to start a wail over the music, just go up there and take the mic—for real.”
“I’d empty the club,” she says with dry affection.
Some nerdy drunken frat-boy appears, looks Shigem up and down and asks, “Who are you?”
“I’m a little Myth,” Shigem replies. The guy just stands staring like a dumb bunny. “Which means that I don’t hoi-polloi with the willy-nillies—so here’s a drink-ticket. Run along and have a Shirley Temple, there’s a good boy.”
Things are getting squirly in my head once again, after this spell of relative clarity. Soon afterwards, Kim, Shigem, I, Alaia, Rik and Evelyn are heading in a line across the dance-floor from somewhere to somewhere, with a landscape of heads and drinks and shoulders and hands and eyes billowing out in all directions, and Shigem’s “Virginity” grinning through his silver body-paint close in front of me. While we travel thus, this landscape streaks by, too fast to result solely from my own movement: I’ve only to walk at a regular pace to be treated to a rush and slant and sway of gibbering faces, as if I were speeding past them on a curving, hilly road. The music tickles, meanwhile. I speak with certain faces, when I pass them, an automatic chatter that I cannot quite hear…
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