Sunday, June 7, 2009
Queen's Birthday long weekend 1990
You’re in the Book Grocer at Kingston trying to decide whether you don’t have time to read the Sebastian Faulks Bond remix or Mark Twain’s adventures in Australia when Throw Your Arms Around Me starts playing softly over the sound system.
You wonder whether there's an Australian over the age of 35 who doesn't think of an old flame when they hear this song. You remember when you were younger, hairier and much less self-aware.
But most of all you remember her.
You met in 1989 in Alice Springs, she was an accountant working for the NT office of a large east coast firm but her goofy charm crunched through your brittle sense of cool. You couldn't help but like her, and you suavely expressed this by attempting to alternatively tease and patronise her.
Apart from that you said nothing. Except months later, when she danced with Les, the station’s resident sleazy salesman. You sounded like a dad and she couldn’t manage to keep a straight face.
The two of you had a few mutual friends and kept running into each other but it was still a complete surprise when she said she wanted to sleep with you. Your chest puffed out like a prematurely deployed airbag while you tried to be offhand, as though this was a burden you regularly had to shoulder. You were such a tool.
And the time went too quickly. You were leaving, she was staying. It was something to savour but instead you gorged.
You remember in one of his autobiographies Clive James, looking back at how poorly he treated one woman, writes he put his fingers in his ears and made nah-nah noises to try and drown out the memory. You weren’t that much of bastard but the nagging regret you didn't cherish that brief time chases you around the book shop.
Fuck... Not another Chabon book, you're still trying to get over the Holmes pastiche he squeezed out a few years back.
You remember that when you rang the accounting firm where she worked and had to leave messages, you used the names of famous economists to make her laugh. The receptionist never picked up on John Stuart Mill or JK Galbraith but rumbled you on Milton Friedman. She preferred Galbraith.
The last time you saw her was the Queen's Birthday long weekend 1990. She gave you a lock of her hair and you still have it, tucked away with a couple of letters you can't bring yourself to read anymore.
You realize it's unlikely she's thought about you at all in the past 15 years but you always think of her around this time, each year. Except this one. You almost forgot, until the song started playing and for whatever reason, this twists the sad/self-indulgent dial up another notch and you have to get out of the shop.
Music sometimes flings us back to places we’re not always comfortable with and people we should have done better by. You leave the store, shaking your head to dislodge the memories and the tightness in your throat. Of course, it could have been worse, it's lucky Can You Feel It by The Jacksons wasn’t also on the playlist.