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Thursday, October 08, 2009

real girl

In one of my former lifetimes waaaay before Bryan and Hamish and Stella I was a teen of the pointy-booted angsty variety, desperately worshipping almost every new wave band to come out of The U.K. Beneath my teased mess of dyed black hair whirred a brain hellbent on becoming the girlfriend of a pop-star. I strategized when I was supposed to be studying, fantasized when I might have been better off fulfilling my academic promise, and pined, yearned and lusted until the pain of my deprivation thickened into a mega-mix of sticky bong-fogged sob-fests. If anything could have made me feel worthy, the pop-star seal of approval was it. Or so I thought.

Last night I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands onstage again at The Trocadero here in Philadelphia. They rocked. And Richard Butler is just as dreamy today as he was twenty-five years ago the first time I saw The Psychedelic Furs when I was fifteen.

In honor of the girl I used to be and maybe to warn myself of what the kids' teenage years could possibly unleash, I give you an excerpt from one of my personal essays which the concert last night inspired me to revisit. I hope you enjoy.


Mirror Moves
October, 1984

I'm in the front row swaying and lip-synching to Love My Way. The stage comes up to my hipbones. Richard Butler slinks around the stage crooning through crooked tobacco-stained teeth. His hollow cheekbones and hooded eyes entrance me even though he's so skinny I could tuck him into an envelope. I could touch him if I wanted. He leans over me, stares into my black-lined eyes and then saunters to the other side of the stage.
"Oh my God did you see that?" I say.
"What?" Krista says.
"He looked right at me!"
"Hm," says my friend like it's no big deal, like it didn't even happen. But it did. I'm sure of it.
During Ghost in You Richard slinks back to our side and reaches his hands into the adoring crowd. I'm expecting him to just graze my fingertips since he seems to be going for quantity over quality, but instead he stops and clasps my hand between both of his hands like a love hand sandwich. I don't dare look away, so I can only pray that every girl including Krista is witnessing this show of love he is having for me. I want to say Ha! I was right! I want to feel their tears of envy dripping down my back. Because I am Richard Butler's new girlfriend. Obviously.
When the concert ends I'm supposed to call my mom to pick me up but instead I'm standing outside the ballroom under the marquis with Krista and a handful of other girls who obviously missed the moment when Richard Butler fell in love with me. I have to stay and meet him. My mom will just have to wait, chain-smoking her Tareytons and pacing a dent in the living room floor.
This guy who's dressed like John Taylor from Duran Duran walks up to us. He's cute but doesn't look like John Taylor, even with the white parachute pants, bolero jacket and eyeliner. He reminds me more of the boys from camp Nock-a-Mixon, Jewish and from the suburbs.
"You know these guys?" he asks, blocking Krista, pushing his hands into billowy pockets. He's tall and skinny and standing so close I can see up his nose. I back up to the wall.
"The band?" I ask, holding my breath and he nods. "No. Do you?" Does he really think I know the band or is he giving me a line?
"Yeah, I used to sub for their keyboardist. I can introduce you. They're good friends of mine."
He takes a step back and I exhale. I can't fucking believe it. I am so lucky. I am meant to be here. I need a moment to think, to plan my new life. Why did this John Taylor guy choose me? Is he an angel in his white suit and jazz shoes sent to bring me together with Richard Butler?
Krista taps me on the shoulder. "Uh, I'm gonna go now," she says.
"Are you sure? Call me tomorrow?" I try to make my voice sound disappointed that my friend is leaving but instead I betray my excitement at being cut loose.
"Okay," she says and walks away leaving nothing between me and my destiny.
"Don Gorelick*," the angel says, and holds out his hand.
"Elise. Abrams." We shake. "So you play the synth?"
"Roland Jupiter 8."
"Like Nick Rhodes."
"You like Duran Duran?"
"Not as much as I used to," I say. I don't tell Don that I have almost every record domestic or import they've ever made, every magazine or book they've ever appeared in. I don't tell him I made a scrapbook, three inches thick.
"Yeah, they're a great bunch of guys. Great friends of mine."
"Oh my God do you know them? What are they like?" I have to will my feet to remain planted on the sidewalk.
"Really dedicated to music." Dedicated to music? That's the best he can do? I want to know if they do drugs, cheat on their girlfriends, sleep with flat-chested girls who are still in high school. Important things. But I can't ask any of that. And anyway, I'm not a fan. Not a groupie. I'm on a much deeper level than that. Sort of like a friend who they don't know yet.
The Furs finally emerge from the auditorium and start milling around the small crowd of un-famous people. I shove my chin in their direction to show Don who by now is telling me that he's going to be replacing Joe Leeway from the Thompson Twins, that they're going for a whole new sound, that Joe is leaving the band. I ram the thought out of my mind that it's possible Don Gorelick doesn't know anyone because Destiny is serious business and I don't want to fuck it up.
Don notices the Furs and shouts, "Hey Richard!" I pray to God that Don's not a big liar and when Richard turns and walks toward us I feel like a real girl, who actually exists.
"Great show," Don says, pumping Richard's hand. "You guys sounded really tight."
Don pulls a pack of Dunhill's from inside his bolero and offers one to Richard who takes it in his vampire fingers.
"Can I have one too?" I ask before Don gets a chance to pocket it away. I want to say, See Richard? We both smoke Dunhill's! We're meant to be together! I'm really mature for my age! Let's be married! But instead I glare at Don, willing him to introduce us already.
"Oh yeah, this is my friend Elise," he says finally. I can see that Richard remembers me, remembers our special moment, I can see it in his black slitty eyes. I concentrate on gracefully handling the cigarette without dropping it or burning anyone so I can offer my hand, hoping I look like a girl who knows her way around a smoke but instead of just shaking my hand, Richard Butler, lead singer of The Psychedelic Furs pulls my hand to his lips and kisses it! For the first time in my life, I am enchanted.
"It's very nice to meet you. You guys were great," I say, grinning like an idiot.
"Thank you," he says, bowing slightly. Then he asks, "What do you do, Elise?" His voice is husky with singing and smoke and Englishness, and he said my name. I could lick his carbon dioxide molecules.
But oh God, what do I do? I'm a sophomore in high school. I have to say something better than that.
"I'm a student," I say. And it's not a lie.
"Do you study art?"
"Yes." I study art. I study art. I am an art student, soon to be Mrs. Richard Butler. A fantasy flickers to life: the two of us walking along King's Road overloaded with shopping bags, I'm decked out in Boy of London, studded leather, silver lipstick, Richard whispers in my ear, nibbles my neck. We throw our heads back and laugh.
But then the real Richard on the sidewalk is saying he's very tired, he's going back to the hotel, pleasure to meet you, goodnight, goodnight, and all that's left is a wisp of English cigarette smoke. I count to ten willing him to turn around and look at me one last meaningful time but when he doesn't I know he doesn't love me, he never loved me, I'm going to kill myself.
"Do you need a ride home?" Don asks, and I look up at him. He cocks his head to the side waiting for my reply. Dreams of my future lay all around us like a shredded wedding gown. I can't just go home now. So I notice for the first time that Don's lips are full and pouty, and that bleached chunk of hair he's got in the front is kind of sexy. I'll bet he's a great kisser. In less than a second Don Gorelick is the coolest cutest sixth Duran member, the new Joe Leeway, Richard Butler's best friend, I believe it all and want to have sex with him right away.
"Uh, yeah. Okay. I need to call my mom though."
God, I hope I didn't just ruin it by saying that, but Don just nods and lights another Dunhill so I head to the pay phone across the street.

2 comments:

Amelia Plum said...

Your tramp! Just kidding. Reading that essay (which I loved) the Mom in me acts up. I see how young you were and don't like those men trying to take advantage of someone who was needy (who isn't as a teen, but I think it's different for those coming from a dysfunctional home) and very vulnerable. You look so cool and crimped and far out of my league, I don't think we would have been friends in High School, but, once again, the Mom in me sees how flipping young you were, with cheeks still just a tad full from the childhood so recently left behind. I want to give that 15 year old a big hug. I'll give forty year old you a big hug tomorrow. xox

Larissa Phillips said...

That picture is so cute! All you needed was a bunch of broody boy musicians to back you up.

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