Remember The Time
I first saw Rita Kaztenberg in the University bar - a distant glance across the room. Curly, blonde/kind of Autumn-y hair, slightly bookish but a great figure highlighted by tight jeans and a tight black t-shirt, and as Max suggested, way out of my league. Eventually she joined the tide of regulars that washed up on the Landmarc dance floor, along with her housemate and Media Production student Lucy Bannister; a girl who had gained a reputation in the first couple of months at University as the resident ball breaker. The theory was she hated men. That wasn’t true at all. She just despised idiots, which to her just seemed to be a category that was heavily male dominated, and headed up by a certain Mancunian DJ. Max had also gained his own reputation as a bit of a player. I know he ended every gig with at least one girl attached in one way or another to certain parts of his body. What happened when he left or when I didn’t see him was anyone’s guess. This of course meant that the guys (idiots) practically worshipped him, and the girls stayed well clear. Of if they didn’t know any better became temporarily anatomically connected (which put them on the idiots list too! Lucy didn’t discriminate.).
We ended up starting some games, and Max had decided to take the reigns on this, leaving me with the role of making sarcastic remarks from behind the mixing desk. I knew who he’d pick out before he opened his mouth. One thing about Max he always loved a challenge. “Okay everyone give it up for Lucy!” It wasn’t going to end well, for Max at least. Everyone else loved it as the supposed stud of the University was taken down a peg or ten by the ball breaker. I think anyone else would have run off the dance floor crying like a five year old boy that just dropped his Mr. Whippy ice-cream. But Max, well he just loved the attention I guess. He gave as good as he got but he was never going to win. He’d met his match.
As the night came to an end Max had somehow managed to keep Lucy talking to him. I think he asked her what her problem was and the floodgates were just ripped off their hinges. Instead of cowering Max just lapped it up. It seemed a little sadomasochistic from where I was stood but I guess some people are just suckers for punishment and a tight white t-shirt! As ever I was left to pack up the gear, when a certain Dutch girl came over and said hello. I’ll admit I jumped a little before I returned the greeting, and then stood there like one of those annoying mime artists that has the ability to stand there and say or do nothing. “Wow you’re a lot different in person!”
“Um, how’d ya mean?” I asked, my voice croaking to get past the nerves.
“Well earlier you were all over the place and full of energy and stuff and now...”
“Now I’m stood here like one of those annoying mime artists that has the ability to stand and say or do nothing?”
“Exactly!” She smiled. I went temporarily mute again.
Eventually I pulled it together and got us both a drink. In the time I spent at the bar I could tell Max wasn’t having half as much luck with his companion as I was with mine. “Okay, give me three good reasons why you’d never sleep with me!” Maybe he should have taken a leaf out of my book and pressed the mute button.
By the time Lucy was on reason number eleven me and Rita were sat in the corner with our drinks. We talked a little more. The usual getting to know you stuff, yet seemingly more exotic when told in a Dutch accent. (Is that the first time Holland has been described as exotic?) We ended up talking the night away until Dave the bouncer repeated for the seventh and final time that he was closing up.
The Bournemouth night was freezing. It was early November. Both Max and me offered our respective companions our coats for the walk home. Lucy immediately barked the idea down. I think Rita would have taken it were it not for her housemate staring her down from the idea. I hadn’t been properly introduced to her so I stood forward introducing myself and offering a hand. It was all she could do not to spit on it. She grabbed her housemate by the hand and announced they were leaving. Rita tried to wave goodbye but could barely manage to turn around.
“Well she’s a blast!”
“I know” Max said, clearly the smitten kitten. “We’re going out tomorrow night!”
“No wonder she’s pissed off!”
“Oh she doesn’t know it yet!”
“Dude, you’re either really brave or really stupid!”
“Same difference in my experience. Might need some help with this one though.”
“You should come with us. You could sit with that Dutch chick!”
It didn’t quite work out that way. He asked Lucy, full of confidence as always that she, like any girl before her, would stand up and shout an emphatic and excitable yes. Turns out he got shot down more times than a World War II plane with a magnetic bulls-eye on the fuselage. But this just seemed to encourage him. “No means yes” he would say after every put down, “She just doesn’t know it yet.”
Luckily for me it didn’t stop me getting to know Rita. We’d strike up the occasional random conversation in the University bar. Bump in to each other in town a few times. And she practically became a groupie at the Thursday gigs – bringing more of her classmates with her which made us look good. But it was really thanks to Lucy of all people that we ended up together. One section of her course required her and her classmates to write and produce a soap opera. Rick Shapiro & Jenna Turner were responsible for the writing. Lucy was to direct and edit. With Karim Chennapragada demanding to do nothing else but film it (he was a total camera nerd!) the team came up with a highly original concept of a university campus filled with a host of tantalisingly interesting characters like the new girl from a foreign land, the cool dude rock-star from The North (??) with a dark past, the spoilt rich kid unsure of what to do with his future, and the drug taking alcoholic with a death wish and a newly bought Mini coupe’. In fairness they could only work with what they had around them, but there seemed very little artistic license.
Fortune favoured on my character though. The newly arrived foreign girl didn’t have a soft spot for the brooding rock star from The North with a dark past. She favoured the clueless rich kid instead. Maybe it was the maternal instinct which was apparently present in every foreign girl. Or maybe something more simple like the money. Unfortunately we never got to find out as the episode was only fifteen minutes long, but “Dita” and “Stan” became the loved up couple in a moving scene at the end of Boscombe Pier (which was bloody freezing at 15:23 when we filmed the kiss!) The script was clunky, and speaking from experience we weren’t so much directed by Lucy as we were manoeuvred over-and-over again until muscle memory just did the actions for us. But even without Karim’s camera work it would have looked a tad better than anything Genius Jalena starred in. It was this small, thin Indian kid from Birmingham’s talented eye that gave the ‘show’ a lift. He made it look like poetry in motion. Waves (I’m guessing because of the coastal setting) won the group a 2:1 from the tutor’s, got Karim noticed in his group for something other than his garish outfits, made Max even more besotted with Lucy, her more annoyed with him. It also got me a date to the winter prom.
I mean yeah we were supposed to be there working but I wasn’t going to be the only one there without a date. Max had managed it; not Lucy, but Danielle Williams. She was the exact opposite in many ways to her predecessor, brains being at the top of the list. I know he was actually gutted Lucy had turned him down yet again. I think she was slowly breaking his morale. The girl he wanted more than anything else and he couldn’t have her. It must’ve been torture.
Dan And Max (I never said it was original or inspiring, but it did the job!) wowed the student body at the Bournemouth University Christmas Ball hosted by The Sterling Grand. The music, the games, the banter. Everything was perfect even before Rita and I finally got to dance together. It was the Frankie Goes To Hollywood classic The Power Of Love. She loved the song. I thought it was a bunch of sentimental crap, until she kissed me. Since then it remains the most romantic song ever produced. We kissed again, soon stopped when we realised everyone around us was cheering so loud I thought they were watching some kind of “important” football match. “To Dita and Stan” Rick shouted. Everyone cheered again, raising their glasses in toast.
I was kind of used to being the centre of attention by now. For Rita it was a tad more mortifying. Without wanting to draw any more attention I waited ’til things had returned to its inevitable course of mild drunken debauchery before subtly leading us out to the main reception area. It was blowing a gale outside. No escape there. Rita pointed behind the reception desk to where a couple of spare keys were hanging. Both rooms had all been declared as ‘Unusable’ by both Jason and Dad after a workman had done some dodgy re-wiring work. I imagined him hanging upside down off the end of Boscombe pier, held from one ankle by a very angry hotel mogul.
I grabbed a key and lead us to room 117; as luck would have it the one with the best view over the sea. We snuck in and turned the lights on. She kissed me lightly, thanking me for saving her any more mortifying embarrassment.
There were noises coming from the room next door – strange considering Jason had demanded they should be made a little more sound proof to give customers more privacy. They sounded like scratching noises. We put our ears against the wall, reeling when we heard and felt an almighty thud. I remember thinking it must have been one hell of a big mouse that had caused those wiring problems. We went back out to the corridor and listened in on the room door. It wasn’t a bedroom. Turned out it was a cupboard. There was moaning, then a scream. I pushed the door open to find Max and Lucy, their ball attire half ripped to shreds, their bodies contorted in slightly compromising positions.
“Rita!” Lucy screamed. Half shock half embarrassment.
“Lucy” Rita replied knowingly with a smirk on her face.
“Dude!” Max said, his face flushed red.
“Duuude?” I don’t know why I was surprised, this was Max after all. I certainly wasn’t impressed.
“We were here first! Get your own room!”
“We already did!” I held out the keys.
“Duuude!” Max nodded with approval.
I let the key hang there a second too long. It was Lucy who pounced forward grabbing it from my hand and dragging Max behind her in to room 117.
“If you don’t hear from me in seven days” Max shouted as the door slammed shut “just wait longer!”
I turned back to Rita. She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. Now if this were some kind of American teen comedy movie you would see a hint of some rampant sexual activity taking place behind a hotel door, with a fade in to the two protagonists lying satisfied in each others arms, wrapped in sheets staring wondrously at he ceiling. Sadly I wasn’t the star of that film. Max was. I was the star of some foreign independent art-house film where the two (almost) lovers kissed and talked (lots), before Christmas break came along and the female character returned to her home land leaving the hero to wallow in thoughts of what could have been. I wasn’t so confident with the ladies back then you understand.
At the end of the party The Sterling Grand had another notch in its reputation – this time as the ‘Cool Student Place’. Karim had been hired by the Student Union as its official photographer. (Yep, he got paid too. Not much mind, but the photo’s he took at the party made David Bailey look like a child with a disposable camera.) His work was also a handy reminder for all those who’d managed to forget what had happened that night, for one reason or another. Lucy had finally succumbed to Max’s incessant charms. Apparently she was testing him, trying to work out if he was genuine. Max called it teasing of the cruellest nature. And I got a kiss on the cheek and a promise to keep in touch over the four week festive break.
During that Christmas/New Year break me and Rita cemented our relationship over email and MSN. She would send increasingly racy pics of herself. I would almost rip my cock off. Upon her return we’d consummated our relationship within six hours of her landing. She became my first girlfriend.
It was like that for the next eighteen months – every day the relationship felt fresh and new. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other, which made studying our respective courses all the more challenging. Add to that a couple more DJ-ing gigs over the weekend. It was a hectic schedule. Lucy ended up starting a University Radio Station. Originally the plan was to have just Max do a show on his own. Made sense I guess – she was his girlfriend after all. But Max didn’t think it fair so demanded that I join him to continue the double-act. I don’t think Lucy was too impressed - even less so when Max and me decided to “divide and conquer”. Three shows a week were too much for us to take when we had all that studying to do - we were students after all. So while we jointly kept our Landmarc Thursday slot he went off to do Tuesdays at the Koko, while I did Monday’s at Walkabout – our earnings split down the middle at the end of every week, which Rita didn’t understand especially when my profits seemed to be slightly more than Max’s. I still think that was more down to the timing of it. But it was good for me as I got to really cut my teeth on the job. Developed my own style, and in turn a reputation as the trouble maker my current listeners seem to enjoy.
Despite my hopes to the contrary everything changed after graduation. For starters I got a First Class Degree with Honours; news so surprising it practically floored Dad. He was even more surprised when I said I was chasing the DJ career. I don’t think it was necessarily the choice of career, more the fact that I’d stuck at it for so long. He didn’t agree with it – not a “proper job”, but as promised he respected me. He made one demand of me though. “If you’re serious about this, you have to change your name” he said, very business like. Personally I was a tad insulted – who wouldn’t be. But the business side of me could only agree. My troublesome but successful career could bring an unwanted air of disrespect to the Sterling name, and as such to the hotels. Everyone knew who The Sharp One really was. In the end it was Rita who came up with my current alter-ego. It was official – I was going to be a highly successful DJ and all round media God.
Max came out with a high 2:1 – apparently he was right on the cusp. He still liked the idea of chasing the dream, but his priorities had changed since meeting Lucy, so much so in fact that he was talking about asking her to marry him. It was a far cry from the leather-jacket, ‘avin’ it large Manc that everyone had come to know. Jason said it was the equivalent of having a Rottweiler neutered. Sure enough, six months after graduation Peter Maxwell Miles and Lucy Bannister tied the knot at St. Andrews Church in Charminster. It was a beautiful ceremony - Karim did another amazing job on the photos which is the only reason I know. I didn’t make it myself. Strangely romantic ceremonies were the last thing on my mind at that point in my life.