Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Wander - Lust

He wrote a contract to (how shall I say this?) help me out of my self-enforced celibacy, on the back of an old tampax box. We both signed it in a darkened basement bar called The Crowbar (geddit?). The deal was sealed. I was beside myself with excitement. The boy with the eyebrows, he liked me back. It is a moment that I'll never forget.

It was the early summer '95 (wet Auckland winter) and I'd spent a total of two glorious rainy weeks in New Zealand. We hadn't planned on arriving there so soon. No, my travelling plan for the year around the world with my best mate, had started out a little differently:


I was 22 - it was the year of Fincher's Se7en, Oasis's Wonderwall and OJ's lies. My best buddy and I had bought our plane tickets, (8 months of folding jeans at the gap - hard labour I tell you) stuffed our backpacks, held our drunken farewell parties and hitched a lift with a band to London - ready for our big adventure.

First stop - Hong Kong. We arrived and pitched up at 'Mirador mansions' - a traveller's favourite. Perhaps it had been - when the guide book we were using had come out - 5 years previously. It is without a doubt, the most bizarre place I have ever stayed at in my life. An old mansion block that had rivers of stairs running through it and endless Burton-esque doors. Open one door - ta dah! A pet store. Open another - a sweat shop! Then the next - only to reveal a long corridor off which were dozens of pokey little rooms - with a bed, basin and shower over the toilet. Yes, you read that right - a shower over the toilet. You had to crouch around the bog to wash. Nice. Did I mention it was also crushingly clothes-stuck-to-your-every-crevice humid? To drown our sorrows we went to the nearest bar in Kowloon - some dreary Cheers effort - and proceeded to buy the most expensive pitcher of beer we had ever purchased. Too broke to eat, we chowed down on the free overly salted popcorn, until a man with a kind smile invited us to join him and his friend for drinks. My best mate rolled her eyes, but I reckoned, how bad could one drink with these over 40s be?

Turns out the guy was called Keith Billion. Swear to god. His mate was in fact his boss, a multi millionaire who owned the rights to Godzilla and they were in Hong Kong on business. By the end of the night we were all singing New York New York (why? Gawd only knows) and they insisted on seeing our room - 'you have shower over the crapper? No way!' I remember through a beer filled haze, we still checked their IDs - being uber safety conscious. When they tried to see our room - impossible with 4 people, only two could squeeze in at a time - they were duly horrified and told us to pack. Best mate said - 'We can't possibly.'

Me? I was too busy stuffing my worldly belongings in my back pack and racing out the smelly door, down the rat infested stairs as fast as my travelling sandals could take me. 

As I walked into the Shangri La 5 star hotel in Kowloon with my backpack on -  I stared at a chandelier bigger than the room we had just evacuated. Those kind guys paid for us to stay there for 5 nights. We had a twin queen-sized beds room - with a marble bathroom. I awoke the next day and fumbled for a button by my bed - and the curtains opened.

Then closed.

Then opened.

It was heaven. My pretty woman moment, without all the sex. And Richard Gere. But in the cold light of day we realised there is no such thing as a free lunch,  even less a free 5 star stay.... and so that night, as we met the guys for dinner we stated clearly that we weren't those type of girls. Silence was met with stony stares and disappointed frowns. Then it was our turn to be mortified -  when we saw how much we had offended them, as they explained they had daughters not much younger than us - and they just wanted to make sure we were ok, at the very start of our travels.

True to their word they took us to the magnificent Philippe Starck designed Felix bar on the roof of the Peninsula hotel (in the mens' loos you wee basically over the Hong Kong skyline) and for dinner at amazing restaurants and they never once tried anything on. We gave them framed Chinese drawings that spelt out friendship as thank you gifts. It was before the days of emails and facebook - we never managed to keep in touch.

We had planned to get jobs hostessing - a mate back home had instructed us in how easy it was: 'all you do is chat.' For me, the girl who can talk a glass eye to sleep, it wasn't gonna be a stretch. But when we visited the club she suggested, we were horrified to see the outfits we were expected to wear: nipples freezing in the wind, through bits of net the size of stamps.  We turned on our all too sensible heels and left. 

Next stop - New Zealand.

Hong Kong had drained our finances beyond belief,  so after a cursory trip around some geysers and a spot of white water rafting, we got bar tending jobs at a plush bar/restaurant called 'The Waterfront.' Eyebrow boy worked there. It was usual to shut the bar at 3am, then clean up and hit The Crow somewhere around 4am. There, you'd drink shots, barracuda people for more free shots (translation - you'd bite some poor fecker's arse and then duck before they clouted you one) and then affix your shades appropriately to make the ascent back up the stairs to the real world somewhere around 9am.

Mondays were quiet at work, so we tended to head to K road or Jimmies bar, downing all our wages and running up tabs, we'd most likely never pay off. On one such night Eyebrow boy told us all how generous he was, about helping out ladies if they needed attention.  I'd seen all types of women pour over the bar, desperate to be served by him in any way possible. He could have his pick of the women. I never for a moment thought he'd look at me - my best mate and travelling companion was the one that the guys always hit on. I was 'the friend.' The ugly sidekick.

But he wasn't interested in my buddy. For the first time in like, ever, a boy liked me first. My best mate knew I liked him back although I wouldn't admit it to her, or even myself. She drew up this contract and the plan was made. That Thursday we'd meet...

He told co-workers that he was meeting an old friend. I ducked out of that evenings plans saying I was heading home. I met him. He had a cold, wore a school scarf around his neck that he'd stolen from his cousin. I did three shots without even thinking, I was so nervous.

We didn't sleep together - for all his bluster, and offerings. Instead we went to my closest NZ  friend's house and crashed on her sofa. It was 2am and she answered the door, without complaining. Little did I know those two would end up married. We talked and kissed all night, in that heady daze of discovering someone new. I was convinced I'd fallen for him hard.

The next day he drove me to work and people raised eyebrows - how come we'd arrived together? Yet our secret remained intact. That night was his last in Auckland - he was leaving, for, yep.... the UK. His leaving drinks were at the Crow, (predictably) and people swarmed around him, pushing goodbye drinks in his hand and hugging him tightly. I couldn't get near. He'd promised me he'd kiss me goodbye. I cornered him and asked if he remembered all he'd said. We kissed, he left. I cried.

No one knew about me and Eyebrow boy. A year later we caught up with each other in London. Close as we'd been before - I still felt the same, and apparently he did too;  I'd waited a whole year for this reunion. He had broken many hearts along that year - but me, I'd kind of never forgotten him. I'm loyal to a ridiculous degree. We ended up in some seedy Islington dive bar, on a hot London night, where he stood up to some guy pushing in next me at the bar. The guy turned round and in a flash pummelled his face to the point Eyebrows needed 14 stitches in his lip. Obviously, this time, there was no kiss goodbye as I got on my morning flight from London to Ireland.

Did we ever sort it out?

No. There was a letter I sent, declaring how I felt, that he received the day he moved in with a girl. Then a night of vodka and regret and saying we'd find a way. We never did. He returned to NZ and the Eyebrows boy married my best friend there. She invited me to the wedding, but somehow, at the time, I couldn't go.


There was Perth and Melbourne and Sydney and Thailand and India.  There was skinny dipping with phosphorus, getting tattoos, dancing on bars, getting fired from bars, escaping spiritualists, getting held up in a robbery, and all kinds of other adventures.

But no more contracts, and no more boys with great eyebrows.

1 comment:

Ayesha said...

Beautifully written. You'd be so much fun to travel with!
I always read everything you write. Sorry I don't commen more often. X