Strict Machine…

The day’s been long, the night longer. What time is this? Through the haze of alcohol I release my gaze, which has, for the last hour been captivated by the blue spot in one of the DJ’s proud-standing light-boxes. In alliance with its colourful neighbours, its filament throbs to the notes which pick at the needles on the records on the decks of the sound system. For an apt few minutes ‘Daydream in Blue’ resonates through wire, amp, more wire and speaker, converting my captivation to mesmerism. I attempt to draw meaning from this, but fail; only to replace it with the puzzle of why I’m at my most philosophical when drunk.

So, gaze dropped to my faithful Casio: a blurry 1:04am, and back up to the blue. What life is this? I find myself the last man standing. Or sitting if my description is to be sharper. And further, for accuracy’s sake; only the last man remaining from the group with which I set upon this drinking session. Recent acquaintances, I don’t mourn their loss. They were happy to have me along though, so some gratitude for that I will in the directions they’ve travelled home. Thankful they accommodated me over the bed and breakfast that usually holds the privilege; steeping me with its austere aura. Back there the paper-thin walls, lumpy mattress and shared toilet, I’m convinced, all conspire to devalue my worth. Back here, the revelry this eventide has faded—some rugby win or other at national level—echoes of the last winning conversion’s fan roar, long since replaced by the all-drowning music choices of the DJ, who I’m sure is coked up.

I slump, dogleg arms dumped on the table before me, sleeves soaking up the spilt dregs of beer and slammed out salty tequila. I rest my chin on the face of my Casio, and wish I could stay here till a few hours after sunrise, all content in my anaesthesia. But lights more artificial will come on soon, and needles’ arms will be clipped to turntables’ cradles. Licensing laws will see the landlord call time and evict us into the night.

Us is me and the other stragglers—strangers that populate this space, some twenty I’d surmise if I could conjure the ability to count. One such stranger’s outline cuts across the blue. Female in form, she stops, turns and surveys the room. Prey I wonder? Me her’s, or she mine?

From my sit-point the yellow spotlight radiates its glow from behind her head; from the blue, my blue; the swell of her bosom, and the green—her hips. Some psychedelic angel of dark she is. And focused on me, I think. She’s saying something and smiling. I cannot however detail her features, nor hear her voice through the shadows and the sound. Her movement in time portrays her unheard words; she’s dancing now, flexing elegantly beyond the range of mortals. Her limbs and torso the boughs and trunk of elastic trees, in a gathering windstorm on a tremulous land. A flaunt of femininity which I’m sure she’s practised many times alone, to perfect her allure. And it works. The tune that graces the decks, the amp, those speakers and this environ is ‘Strict Machine’—it chimes the bells of that which is primal. She twists, she shimmies, she sways: a mime to the lyrics who steals and surpasses all previous transfixion.

The haze too clears, a fast lifted fog, my blood’s infused with excitement flavoured adrenalin. I unstick my chin from my Casio and sit upright; chest puffed up and arms drawn back to frame it. I am a King I feel, being entertained before a feast. My appearance though, would belie such arrogance and such assumption. I’m puzzled by the attention, I lack the complexion and the symmetry to win an instant lover. At least one to match the preferable side of my double standards. Impressive finery at 4pm I’ll confess, but these garments now evince the night’s indulgences. This face and this hair are as creased and crumpled as the clothes that lead to them. I don’t doubt my ability to charm, but any success with seduction for me, is achieved largely by avenue of wiles and wordy witchcraft. As awake as I’ve just become, lust sullies my wits, so I befriend delusion, steadfast in the fascination of this lady’s form. To be pricked only lightly from the outside by the wonder of being chosen–I have no qualms about enjoying her gyrations and blindly accept the good fortune.

The music stops, she stops and looks away as if seeking out a friend in this room of fitting misfits. Was I merely the subject of flirtation? I’m a second away from falling from such a heady and wonderful place, to the slum of a slump from which I’ve just risen. I was content there only minutes ago – to be one again with the blue filament won’t be so bad. No, NO, my heart beats too fast, my mind’s too alive. My wits: I demand they come to me. I stand and play a gambit; If I’m to lose, I’ll leave here right now and wish my proposal be scratched from the record of whatever being records my deeds.

Body language—a sweeping arc of my arm grabs her attention. She looks over and follows the movement through to see me point to the chair opposite. I slide it away from the table to make space, and beckon her over. That’s the gambit, the pivot on which the rest of this overstretched night rests. She turns her face away, then her back, walks a single pace and continues to search the room. Failure was always an option. I’m out of my chair, I do the same but with extra paces, the exit to which I turn is directly behind me. There’s an illuminated ‘Fire Escape’ sign over the door that holds the backlit symbol of a running man. ‘You and me both’, I mutter as I pass under him.

The night is dry and cold—colder for my lack of foresight, lack of coat, and the addition of wet sleeves. Stars fill the gaps between the glowing of the sodium streetlights, and mix with my bellyful of drink to form a tonic for my melancholy.

“Oi, wait for me!” invades the stillness.

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Museworthy Man

Typically atypical man from Manchester with aspirations that'll never/maybe/could one day be realisations :-D

2 thoughts on “Strict Machine…”

  1. I am only too pleased to be the first to comment on this wonderful gem of a story. I had a good laugh, because you painted the scene and the drunken behavior so well. I too get philosophical when drunk or high, so I can connect to this character.

    My wits: I demand they come to me

    I think this was my favorite line. The thought of just being able to summon one’s wits like that really made me laugh. I read a couple of your stories to my wife and her I agree that your little stories are just tiny masterpieces. Just beautiful to read. Perhaps you would be so kind as to answer a question to settle our debate…in this story the very last line “Oi, wait for me”, it was a little unclear as to whether you were calling out to your recently departed friends, whether you were calling out to no one and was just a sign of complete drunkeness, or whether you were calling out to the girl, who I didn’t think left the bar, but I could have read it wrong.

    1. I’m pleased your comment flag brought me back to this. Glad even more so it’s getting an airing, a reading aloud somewhere, and being praised at that too. Thank you for making me a little warm and fuzzy this day.

      It’s been a while since I wrote it Swarn but I can declare that on your score; you read it correctly. The intent to leave (looks about to make sure Hariod’s not watching) it ambiguous and open for a ‘part II’ more in the vein of ‘was I calling out to friends?’ or ‘was someone calling out to me?’

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