[Image: “Pleasure B1919+21,” Alex Pappas]
From just outside, standing in the queue, I can hear the pump of music drifting out into the night from the club and I am here again in the fuzz alcohol cigarette smoke dark and I look up to the stars, breathe in as I wonder if they will let me in.
In Life the choice is going to the cloakroom or tying coats round our waists because that four pounds is four shots and cash is running out. Don’t You (Forget About Me) is playing and I run down the stairs as fast as possible to catch it. You hate my 80s taste because you think it’s tacky, but you let me buy us vodka-lime-and-lemonades. Later that night we see a naked man do a streak around the club from the gents. We dance to Steps and when you kiss a boy much prettier than me I know I’ll never love anybody like I love you right then.
In Heaven I am in the back room, which is empty apart from me, because a Pop Idol act is on the main stage. By mutual agreement the DJ plays me nothing but Kate Bush until the main act is over and people come trickling back. Underneath the brick vault I am alone amongst the lights and it is a galaxy pressing up against me with each song, hard to hold, a man that I’ve already lost.
In The Pyramid Club you head downstairs where you pull a twenty-year-old dancer from New York City Ballet, and I don’t see you for three nights, but on the fourth night you return because his cats were giving you allergies and the sex wasn’t as good as you’d hoped for. That same night an older man drags his hand across my face on his way to the toilets, as if that’s meant to entice me to follow him, that clammy paw trailing my nose and mouth with a taste of mould and the streets, but I step out into the New York dawn, the last of the stars, the spark of lighters on cigarettes, go to a diner to eat pancakes and drink coffee as the early morning construction workers flood in along with the glittering drag queens.
In Fuel Set You Free is playing and I’m against the wall, alone, looking out on the faces making shapes in the black-and-red shadows, then the cheap gin knocks me back and something is loosed from me into the press of bodies, clouds of pollen floating over us like the smoke, the hit of the poppers, strong perfume, and I am drawn into the crowd and dance alone with strangers no edges now, just bodies.
In Berlin the club has a darkroom which I realise is empty. Knackered and hot, I sit on the leather sofa after turning the cushions over like a suburban housewife mindful of stains, and have a catnap in front of the looping pornography.
In Traumfrau I Feel Love is playing and I am screaming in a toilet cubicle because I’ve taken something and everything is hard and shiny and I can’t get out. The drips of the cistern are so loud, the only thing in my head. My phone changes size in my hands and the water on the floor is beautiful, hard domes that have caught the moon. You find me, wearing your long green embroidered coat, and I sob hard with happiness into your shoulder because I truly believed I was in hell and was never going to get out again.
In Twat Boutique a woman on ketamine urinates in a corner behind where we’re sitting and we lift our feet up slightly to let the piss trickle across the concrete floor. I want to turn round and confront her, but it’s a warehouse party so I feel to do so would betray my lack of edge. We see Peaches with her leg in a plaster cast, and drink smuggled-in vodka from a Sprite bottle that glows fluorescent green under the lights. Later we see the woman again, writhing on a leather sofa, her body sinuous, tranced from the tranquilizers, gazing up at the mirrorball above her head, eyes partly closed, mouth open as if she is receiving a goddess inside of her.
In London a young man is pinned to the pavement by bouncers outside the RVT. His friend is screaming at them. The young man’s eyes meet mine and they are terrified. There are six bouncers on top of him. We hear police sirens. You go over to see what you can do, and start arguing with the bouncers. I am worried you’re going to get hurt. The young man is really in pain, is sobbing with fear. I am helpless. People are filming on their phones. Before the police arrive the bouncers rise up like an insect, and the young man walks quickly away, shaken and bruised. Everybody left outside is edgy. The bouncers grin, laugh with each other as they go back inside, bolt the doors of the club against us.
In Hull I am walking the six miles home because there are no taxis. The lights in the houses are out, owls swoop overhead. I am a ghost, the only person in the world. My head thrums with the club and the taste of the boy I’ve spent the night kissing but couldn’t go home with, because neither of us had a home that was ours we could take another boy back to.
In The Loft we are accosted by a bouncer for locking ourselves in a toilet cubicle. What the fuck is the point of toilets in a gay club if I can’t have sex in them? I shout as he escorts us out. We go to a car park in the dead December night and crouch behind a bush, foxes in heat. Your body is lean and you have two swallows tattooed on your abdomen that ripple as you twist and turn with the freezing air.
In Spiders I lead you out of the press of teenagers, holding your hand, the low ceiling and red lights making you smaller to me, vulnerable, as if I am going to lose you in the crowd. When Love Will Tear Us Apart comes on I can feel something break through in you as we dance downstairs by the metal webs and I twirl you round, hold you tightly by the waist. Later that night you are asleep next to me and I feel as fragile and alive as the shivering frost-covered birds outside.
I am standing in the queue. I can hear the pump of music drift out into the dark night, feel the reverberations in the night air around me, as I wait to gain entrance, to be admitted. In the long heat of the night my heart opens wide like an orchid. It beats, and beats, and beats.
Thomas Houlton is a writer, performer and academic living in York. He is currently completing a monograph looking at monuments as critical and cultural objects, to be published by Routledge in 2020, and is also working on several new fiction projects. His writing has appeared in Derrida Today, Burning House Press, and Skive Magazine, and he has previously worked at the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence at the University of Sussex. He’s not on social media anymore but seems to be managing fine without it.