You Can't Always Get What You Want
From what I understand the theory on time travel is still up in the air. Some say it’s possible through spatial disturbances like worm holes, most say its just kids stories set in a blue box or a Delorean. But for a few seconds I feel like the first person to prove it’s actually possible. We’ve gone back just under a decade. We’re at the Sterling Grand. It’s Graduation Ball night, and just like last time I’m totally floored by what I see, only for a different reason. She’s wearing what looks to be exactly the same classy black dress, or at the very least something similar. She looks to be drinking her usual favourite. I feel myself start to drift towards her, oblivious to the continuing demands for a reunion of the once great DJ partnership. She’s looking in my direction. She’s waving that same cute wave that summoned me to her all those years ago. But then I’m stopped in my tracks. She’s not waving at me, of course she bloody isn’t. Why would she? She’s waving at Lucy who’s walking to the bar dragging from what appears to be by the way she’s leaning to one side a giant sack of potatoes. She gets to the bar, stumbling at the last second either because she tripped on the sack, or, as is my estimation she’s half off her face on the wine! Rita disappears out of sight for a couple of seconds, giving Lucy another opportunity to put more demands on the free bar. She always did know how to drink! A huge bottle of what looks like champagne is placed on the bar with two glasses, then Rita adds the sack of potatoes. I feel the blood drain from my face.
“One of the best things you ever did was that dance game with that KLF song! Remember that?” an unknown voice asks.
“Justified Ancients Of Moo Moo?” a female voice states. “Yeah, you had everyone dancing around like cows. That was hysterical!”
“Yeah, why don’t you do something like that?”
The conversation that I’ve been oblivious to for the last God knows how long starts to taper off, and the contributors start following my gaze over to the bar. No one says anything, but I can hear what half of them are thinking. Lucy notices first, and starts whispering something in Rita’s ear. She turns her attention away from the sack and eventually finds me, like a deer trapped in the headlights of a speeding articulated lorry. She nods in acknowledgement of my presence, my neck feels fused to my shoulders. Rita whispers something in her former house-mates ear before picking the sack off the bar and dragging it out of sight, while Lucy meanders over to the group, all her concentration focussed on one foot placing itself in front of the other.
“Well don’t you look all groomed and handsome?” she blurts just before tripping on the hem of her red ball gown and half flooring me.
I say nothing; not about her alcoholically fuelled state or the inappropriate comment, or the little meeting she’s just stumbled from. I try to hoist her up, catching a glimpse in the corner of my eye of an increasingly red faced Max. “I believe this belongs to you!” I say, before handing him his wife like an even larger sack of potatoes. I try to convey my apologies to him before walking away, back the way we came in. I don’t know if people are watching, and I don’t care. I shouldn’t have come here. I couldn’t have even given the invitation the time of day. What the fuck was I thinking?
I’m near the entrance hall again, but my escape is blocked by even more late arrivals who seem to be running in from one gathering storm to another. I start looking for another way out, even trying to work out where the staff exit would be now. I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I debate for a split second whether to answer it at all, but it will be nice to hear a friendly voice. Besides, it feels almost karmic to talk to him here.
“Daniel!” he declares. Only Dad ever called me Daniel. “Where are you?”
“Dad I gotta be honest I’m not sure you want to know.”
“You’re in the hotel aren’t you? Sounds terrible!”
“I haven’t told you anything about it!”
“No, the sound. Sounds all hollow. Ikea?”
I crack a smile to myself. The man always knew exactly what was going on in his hotels, and apparently it didn’t matter that he hadn’t owned them in a while or was even on another continent, he still knew. I try a few door handles, hoping I can find a room away from all the noise. Finally the last door I try opens, and I hustle in to what apparently passes for a conference room. I breathe a huge sigh of relief as I sit down on one of the plastic chairs. Dad wants all the gossip. What’s it like being back in Bournemouth? Has anything changed? Did they get rid of that stupid IMAX building yet? Most of my responses manage to come through in no more than four syllables.
“Son are you okay?” His question catches me a little off-guard. The last time he asked me that with the same tone and inflection we were just moments away from our chat about my future.
“I’m fine Dad, honest. I told you don’t believe what you read in the newspapers!”
“Why? What have you done now?”
Turns out he knew nothing about the speculation over my apparent career problems. I explain it’s all a misunderstanding and that he needn’t worry. I haven’t been involved in any more crazy scandals. Turns out he’s more concerned about something else.
“I was wondering if you’d seen that girl you used to go out with. Rita, was it? Liz said you reckoned she’d be there.”
“Yeah, actually I just saw her. She seemed ok!”
“And how are you son?”
I guess he has every right to worry about this. He knows all too well how hard that part of my life was. I remember at the time he empathised because of what he had gone through when he was younger. “I’m not gonna lie to you Dad not great, but I’ll be okay.”
As quick as that he accepts my resolve as truth, although even I’m not sure if I believe it. And soon enough we’re back to daily routines. They’ve taken a bit of a hit on the money front, what with less people on holiday and having to fork out thousands for a roof repair. He’s just fired a whole team of builders and is thinking of taking them to court for bad workmanship. I smile to myself - it’s always nice when you know some things will never change. We start laughing, and I start spinning on the chair in the room as he tells me how much he’s looking forward to seeing Jason in a couple of months. Suddenly I stop, transfixed by something at the far end of the room, something that I haven’t seen in years - something that is quite frankly an insult to my entire family.
“I know you’re busy but it’s been so long since we’ve seen you. What do you think?”
I’m guessing he’s asking me about coming over to stay with them for a bit. I don’t care right now, I’m too fucking angry.
“Dad I’m really sorry but something’s come up. Can I ring you later?” I try to keep my anger in check so he doesn’t worry. Mind, he’ll probably be pissed that I’m dismissing him with such apparent ease.
“Sure!” he says, the wind kicked out of his sails. “Just make sure it’s before eight ok?”
I bolt out the door and head straight back to reception where I demand to speak to the manager. I’m told that everyone is busy at the moment but I can leave my contact details and they’ll be sure to get in touch. I tell the receptionist with the presence (and I’m betting similar or slightly lower IQ) of an over-inflated blow up doll that it’s not fucking good enough and I demand to see someone now. People are staring but I don’t care, this is personal. Stop staring, I don’t care.
Oh great, another annoying jackass from the past wanting to play catch up after ten years of not caring.
“Hey Dan, is that you?” asks the very smartly dressed sporting what I would describe as a Pierce Brosnan haircut. “It’s me. It’s Raph!”
“Can I help you sir?” asks the new snide voice from over the counter, clearly annoyed at being dragged away from whatever daytime white-trash TV is on at the moment. I make a signal to Pierce Brosnaned haircut dude to excuse me for just a minute.
“Yeah, I’m here to make a complaint!”
“Oh really?” is the response I get from this mid-forties failed McDonalds employee with what I can only hope is chocolate sauce smeared around the outskirts of his oversized misshapen mouth. “And what seems to be the problem sir?”
“You have something here that doesn’t belong to you.”
After staring at me for several seconds with the kind of vacant facial expression you only tend to find on a Madame Tussauds waxwork I signal for him to follow me back to the boardroom I had stumbled in to before. Good job I had too, otherwise no one would have been any the wiser.
“Would you care to explain why you were in this room sir? This is for private use only!”
“Would you care to explain what you’re doing with that?” I point to the far end of the room, to the portrait hanging above the old neglected fireplace.
“It’s just an old picture sir, nothing of value. Some of our guests say they like it. We even bring it out to the bar from time to time.”
“Well, I want you to remove it from this building please.”
“And why would I possibly want to do that?”
“Because I don’t want a picture of my mother hanging within a hundred miles of this shit hole!”