Heaven is a Disco

Coolness is like morality: difficult to define and everybody thinks they have it. But she was born with it. Bowie, Ferry, Camus. And Hannah. Absolute devastating coolness. People like me and Hector, we could only pretend. Flummoxed facsimiles, confused copies. That’s all we were, everybody knew it apart from us. But we didn’t care.

T’ain’t no big thing, to wait for the bell to ring…

1981. Tower’s Disco on Sheol Street. A glittering, piss-stained limbo for dispossessed teenagers. I guess looking back, Hector was always destined for misfortune. Forever a Goth with a New Romantic soul. A misfit torn between genres. Me? I couldn’t decide if I was David Ferry or Bryan Bowie. There I was. Drunk on cheap beer. Hair Brylcreemed and bleached, leaning against the bar in dad’s old brown suit with an eyepatch over one eye. Looking more like some ache-ridden, polyester pirate from Mars than any approximation of my heroes. But that night we felt untouchable. School was out forever and everything belonged to us. The future was in our beer stained hands.

Showing out, showing out, hit and run, boy meets girl where the beat goes on…

Hannah was blonde, detached, and cool. Cool to the point of recklessness. Like she’d just walked straight out of a Truffaut movie. And she didn’t care who knew it. Every girl secretly wanted to be her. And every boy wanted to be with her. She hardly talked to anybody. But that night she talked to me.

Late that night I park my car, stake my place in the singles bar…

Slow motion. 14 frames per second. Lights glistening off her hair that swayed to their own beat. She walks my way. The crowds part. All eyes fixed on us. I lean against the bar, cigarette lounging nonchalantly from my mouth. Fingers running through Brylcreem as I adjust my eye-patch. I nudge Hector. But he’s slumped over drunk. Muttering something. Hating and loving life at the same time. Agonising as he always did between suicide and hairspray.

Lumber up, limbo down, the locked embrace, the stumble round…

She stands next to me and says nothing. Nothing. Just rests against the bar in her black, sleeveless dress. Smooth arms outstretched. A picture of absolute and dispassionate coolness. She looks me up and down, smiles, and winks.

I say go, she say yes, dim the lights, you can guess the rest…

I am plucked from limbo. Blessed and forgiven. Suddenly, Heaven is a disco in a broken down town; the chorus: Roxy Music; and through tobacco scented clouds, an angel in a black sequinned dress has been sent my way.

Oh, oh catch that buzz, love is the drug I’m thinking of…

She leans in close. The smell of perfume on her neck mixes with my own beery breath. Sequins touch polyester. For that brief eternity I breathe it all in. I wanted her and I wanted her to want me too. I felt I could swim, like dolphins could swim. That I was a king and she was my queen. We were lovers and that, was that.

She leans in close and says: ‘I saw you from across the dance floor.’ Takes my cigarette into her mouth. Smoke rises from her lips in a detached manner all of their own.

Oh, oh can’t you see, love is the drug for me…

‘And you know what?’ she says, ‘You really should zip up. You’re showing tackle.’

I shield myself against the bar. My eyes colluding with my embarrassment as I tuck my half-expectant, inebriated self in and zip. By the time I had rearranged I wanted to die. She was gone. Hector had fallen asleep. And the record had changed.

Sometimes I feel I’ve got to run away. I’ve got to get away from the pain you drive into the heart of me…

I thought about her every day but I didn’t see her again until Hector’s funeral six years later. Poor Hector. Never able to tame the Goth nor satisfy the New Romantic inside. Life for him was forever either a Killing Joke or a Spandau Ballet, for Hector there was no middle ground.

I had no idea why she was there. But she hadn’t changed. Still cool. Still detached. Still timeless in a simple black dress. Smoking French cigarettes from a holder. And still saying nothing. But by then I was a changed man. I’d left the eye-patch on the dance floor of the Tower’s Disco, swapped the polyester for pastel seersucker, my leather shoes for espadrilles, and wore my mullet without Brylcreem. And I always made sure I zipped

Based on something I wrote a while back set one of my favourite songs. Just a fun piece that recalls the awkwardness of teenage longing and ’80s fashion.  Not autobiographical!

© 2016 Occasional Dreams
Image: “Disco” by Hitchster / CC BY
Love is the Drug, written by Andrew Mc Kay, Bryan Ferry • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group
Tainted Love, written by E. Cobb • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc


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