Our Friends Electric

Ward Wood Publishing, 2011


Just Can’t Get Enough (3:43)

The only woman I ever loved stepped onto a plane four days before Christmas to leave this city forever. I wasn’t there. Another bloke waved goodbye to her. I know his name. I’m not going to tell you it. Let’s just call him Cecil for the time being. Suits him from what I’ve heard. Anyway, not sure I care about either of them , to tell you the truth.

Okay, so where did it start? Dame Street. June 25th 2009. 11.53 in the PM. Third date with Lisa. We were getting on really well. We’d met in a café two weeks earlier. We hadn’t kissed yet. This was part of what I reckon made me attractive to her. I had behaved like a gentleman, which is apparently unusual these days, or so she kept telling me. Truth was, I was scared shitless of her. She was very attractive: tall; high cheekbones; long raven hair; all that other stuff. I’d lost my confidence with women some time ago. For most people some time ago might mean three to four weeks (from what Lisa was telling me), but in my case you can convert those weeks into years.

I also happened to like her a lot, which made me even more scared. She was just so damn intelligent. And funny. And the other stuff I just mentioned. I let her do most of the talking, which I think also helped my case. She liked music as well. I didn’t know most of the stuff she listened to but that didn’t matter. She liked music, that was the point. I mean really liked music. She even played in some band that I hadn’t heard of, but I suspected that they must be pretty good from what she was saying. Anyway, we had a common passion. Or so I thought at the time.

We were sitting at the window table in Café Mocha, overlooking the street below and all the people hanging around the Hairy Lemon, joking and laughing in groups, leaning against walls, or sitting on the pavement with their pints. I looked at Lisa as she stirred the sugar into her decaf skinny latte.

Do’ya have a keyboard player?’ I asked, hoping she would say no because I had just bought a Yamaha PSR-S550 and was learning to play it (and had spent six months of hell working in a video shop to pay for the bloody thing).

She looked up from her cup and said thoughtfully, ‘No. We prefer acoustic instruments. Purer sound?’

I was a bit taken aback by that. All sound was pure, in my opinion, particularly non-acoustic sound.

The Yamaha PSR-S550 can sound like anything you want it to sound like,’ I said encouragingly, ‘even an orchestra if that’s the kind of sound you’re interested in bringing into the, yunno, mix or whatever.’

Not the same,’ she replied bluntly, and I could see she had maybe a strongish opinion on the subject.

I was always surprised when people considered electric guitars an ‘acoustic’ instrument, let alone electric basses. I let it go though because, as I said, I liked her and she seemed to like me back, so why break the circle of mutual interest and respect at this point, or any other for that matter.

Sure. Whatever you’re inta. You’ve gotta be comfortable with your sound. With your general, yunno, sonic texture.’ I thought she’d dig that bit. ‘That’s the most important thing.’

That’s just… That’s just such a nice thing to say. You’re such a sweetheart. Most people don’t realise just how important it is,’ she said with what I’m pretty sure was an air of admiration.

As I say, whatever you’re inta. I’d love to hear your band sometime. Sound like you know what you’re after. That’s important too,’ I added, following on from the success of my last comment.

Yes. Very.’

She looked down at her latte again, then looked up at me across the red tabletop and smiled. It was weird the way she could do that. Smile and not blink. Yunno, the way people do it for photographs. I felt kinda intimidated in a way and grinned back for a moment, then looked down into my coffee, trying to think of something else to say.

Later we stood on Dame Street, after our third, hard session of cappuccino drinking. She leaned close to me and said: ‘Had a really good time with you tonight. You’re just so different from most of the guys I meet. I mean you’re sensitive. Shit, I know that sounds like bollix but you are.’

Then she kissed me. I didn’t really kiss back at first, because I was a bit scared at the pace of development in our relationship, but I threw caution to the wind and got into it. God it felt good though. I was quite overwhelmed by the whole thing really. I knew it was 11.53 because I still had my eyes open and I could see the clock outside the Stag’s Head and all the people standing there with their pints looking at us. I closed my eyes at the exact moment she stopped, then rested her head on my shoulder.

I was a bit surprised by the silence and, I guess, I suddenly felt a little nervous. And when I feel nervous I tend to – one: talk; and two: fall back on other people’s inspiration.

When I’m with you baby

I go out of my head

And I just can’t get enough

And I just can’t get enough

All the things you do to me

And everything you said
I just can’t get enough

I just can’t get enough…’

Lisa looked up at me like she was about to speak, but I wanted to get the much better second verse in first…

We walk together

We’re walking down the street
And I just can’t get enough

And I just can’t get enough
Every time I think of you

I know we have to meet
And I just can’t seem to get enough of… you.’

Lisa looked up into my face with those sparkling, corn-flower-blue eyes. ‘That is so beautiful. Who wrote that?’

Oh, some band. Can’t really remember who. I just remember the words.’

Total porky. I knew all too well who wrote that. Vince Clarke (before he abandoned Depeche Mode), from the track ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’. The album: Speak and Spell (1981). Always hated the way people shouted out ‘SEX’ at the school disco whenever Dave Gahan sang ‘I just can’t get enough’, but I guess Lisa would’ve been too young to know that.

Well, I’ll never forget them either,’ she beamed. She kissed me again, briefly this time. We stood there for a moment, not knowing what to say, then she said quietly, ‘Well, I suppose I should head home.’

Of course,’ I stammered, a little unsure of what to do. I dashed to the roadside and hailed a taxi for her. I waved to her as the car pulled away and she waved back. I stood there for a moment, watching as the taxi disappeared into the traffic, then headed up towards Christchurch and the warren of tiny streets beyond it, where Lisa was living with some people I hadn’t met yet.

I stood there for a long time imagining her in the taxi thinking, I hoped, of me also. God, I really had impressed her. I could do no wrong it seemed. I was the king. Who would’ve thought? Couldn’t wipe the grin off my face as I walked up George’s Street past all the pretty people framed in the window of the Globe. I usually envied them. They always seemed so at ease and super-confident and always so interested in each other. But none of it mattered to me that night. I just kept walking and felt that I was just like them really. Maybe I didn’t know what to say to a hairdresser to get a decent haircut, or still wore jeans instead of combats (or whatever they were wearing now), but I could be like them. I mean, Lisa was like them and she was with me now.

I stopped at the canal for a breather and sat down on a bench. I could see the swans with their heads tucked under their wings asleep in the rushes like pale ghosts oblivious, like me, to all the Saturday night madness going on around us. I took a cigarette out of the packet, lit up and thought about the night, reliving each line that Lisa had said to me, though I kept getting them muddled, which was surprising because I’m usually pretty good at remembering stuff. ‘I’ll never forget them, either.’ Yes, that was it. I was about to go home when some young one in a Daz-white belly-top rushed straight past me and into the bushes, then puked. The moment had been kinda ruined but I didn’t mind. The swans didn’t seem to notice either.

I put out my smoke, got up and asked her if she was okay. ‘Grand yeah, thanks,’ she said, still bent over double, then retched again. Suddenly, some bloke came running down the pathway out of nowhere, grabbed me by the shoulder and swung me round to face him.

Are you trying to shift me bird, you little prick?’ he fumed, his nose pushed up against mine.

Fuck sake, I didn’t need to. Couldn’t he see from my face that I had the contented look of someone who already had, and not the bothered look of someone, like him, who was still trying? And besides, he must have thought I was either desperate or as drunk as him to try to shift someone who had just, moments before, unceremoniously vomited in the bushes. Then again, maybe at this point the contentment I just mentioned had been replaced by fear.

The girl blurted out in a raspy voice behind us, ‘Samo, it’s cool. He just asked me if I was alright. Leave him alone for fuck’s sake.’

I was pretty relieved that she’d intervened at that moment, because Samo seemed like he was looking for a fight one way or the other. He grabbed me again anyway and pulled me down into a head-lock which he held for what seemed like ages, then laughed and let me go. I stood there trying to catch my breath, as pale now as the girl.

Fair play to ya. Just taking the piss, bud. Don’t worry bout it. Too mucha dat bleedin vodka and Redbull. Can’t hold her drink or what. That right, Samantha,’ he said to the girl as she stood up and wiped her mouth, like he was trying to impress her. Or maybe me. I laughed a little back, more out of relief than anything else, and said in a trembling voice, ‘No problem, Samo. I think she’ll be alright. Night now.’

I started walking briskly away down the pathway towards the Portobello Bridge, and when I looked back Samo and the girl were snogging away there beside the sleeping swans. My legs were shaking a little, so I decided to avoid any more drunken encounters and went the long way home, up past the sleeping houses of Mount Pleasant Avenue, passing the occasional ol’ fella stumbling home from a local pub, and finally onto Belgrave Square with its red-bricked Georgian houses and their tall, white-framed windows.

I was relieved when I opened the door of my flat and collapsed on the couch. I thought again about what had happened with Lisa and wondered if it had really happened at all. At least, the way I remembered it. Was it just some Saturday night snog, like Samo and his girl, or a real kiss? I wasn’t quite sure .

I didn’t put on any music, though, like I usually did, but just sat there slumped looking at a poster I had bought when I first moved into the flat and stuck up on the magnolia wall with bluetac. It was one by that Austrian fella Klimt, ‘The Kiss’. I realised I hadn’t noticed it for ages. It was just there, I suppose, like the dun-coloured couch with its golden tassels that I’d bought for a tenner in Oxfam; or the fold-up table by the window where I ate my breakfast.

But that night I saw the poster as if for the first time: the way the man leaned around towards the woman, and she nestled her head into his shoulder, her eyes closed. The moment just before they kissed. Or was it just after? Which got me wondering why it was called ‘The Kiss’, given that they weren’t actually kissing. Still, I liked to think my kiss with Lisa was like that, though I was realistic about my abilities in that department. I also noticed just then that the poster was slightly crooked and wondered why I hadn’t spotted that before.

Anyway, I guess my kiss with Lisa was the real thing alright. She called me again the next day and we arranged to go for a meal this time, which I took to be an encouraging sign.

Three weeks later, Lisa was kicked out of her flat for falling behind on the rent. Being a musician is a precarious lifestyle if you’re on the wrong side of a record deal. I understood that very well, so I offered to let her stay at my place for a while. I don’t think she heard the last three words in that offer, and I guess we ended up living together because she had become distracted at the end of a sentence. And, anyway, I was too in awe of her to point it out later when she arrived with all her stuff, including a potted plant for every available corner, table top, counter and shelf in an already overcrowded flat (actually bedsit is a more accurate term) as well as one of those inflatable, red couches that people were into lately, though personally I thought were pretty uncomfortable and kinda impractical if you were a smoker like Lisa. And me for that matter. Still, I didn’t mind putting my old couch in the neighbour’s skip. Those golden tassels really were terrible. As she pointed out, her stuff brightened up the place, and I had to agree. Out with the old and all that other stuff.

It was all a bit sudden, though, I have to admit. But I was kinda flattered too. And we had, after all, a common language: the power of music. That was the most important thing. I was feeling quite optimistic about the whole thing really, which surprised me.

©Noel Duffy, 2011


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