I’m an idiot sometimes, but anyway….
I deliberately waited to go to the club till about midnight. I’d never seen her disappearing act before then, and often it wasn’t till after 1am at least. I dressed in fashionable but ubiquitous black. I spent a long time on my hair, gelling it up to the perfect dark waves, and I chose light blue contact lenses (oh yes, the irony of a film maker with short sightedness eh?) to accentuate my eyes. I wanted to look good for her. It seemed to me that I’d have more success in getting her to stay to be observed at if she wanted to look back at me.
The music at The Inferno is not really to my taste, and the average clubber is younger than me – I’m nearly thirty (yes, I took a long time over my first degree. As a friend of mine joked, first year university was the greatest five years of our lives…) and most of these punters look barely out of diapers. But I have been blessed with one of those eternally young faces. I’ll look twenty five when I’m fifty as long as I keep my hair. So no-one looked twice at me when I traversed the dance-floor, heading towards the bar, except on occasion (I flatter myself) to observe with sexual intent.
I didn’t waste any time. She was visible still. Thank god, since it seemed it wasn’t just to the camera eye that she became invisible, as I have said. She was wearing her wavy hair up in a kind of messy chignon, and when I reached the bar I realised she had a small gold cross on a chain around her neck. When she was nervous she would touch it, sometimes grab hold. I’d seen this mannerism on the film though it wasn’t clear and close enough to know what it was she clutched so protectively. Now I knew, but seeing her doing this made me worry that she might start to waver before I had a chance to make contact.
Don’t be nervous, I thought in her direction, please, not yet anyway, not yet.
I saw her nametag on her uniform, just above her breast.
“Natalie” I recited, looking her direct in the eyes.
“Yes sir,” she answered, ever polite, as George would have schooled her. “What would you like?”
“What would you suggest?” I teased her. A faint look of disgust or ennui flickered across her face, but she stilled this, enduring me. She didn’t reply though, just waited for my order to fall into the increasingly uncomfortable silence between us.
“I’ll have a vodka tonic,” I said, falling back on a staple.
She started to make the drink. Her movements were practiced and precise. I watched her unceasingly. There may as well have been no-one next to me on my side of the bar, because whomever was there – vaguely apprehended through my peripheral vision – was of no consequence at all to me.
She handed me the drink and I handed her money. I touched her hand slightly as she took the payment from me. She seemed neither to notice nor mind my touch.
“Have you worked here long?” I asked.
She looked at me, astonished. I do not know if it was surprise that someone seemed even vaguely interested in her, or if it was that such interest did not seem immediately prurient and laced with double entendre. Again I cursed the lack of audio for my filming – it would almost have been worth breaking the law just to know.
“For about a month” she replied, letting me know instantly why it was only in the recent days that I had finally seen the phenomenon on the film.
“Do you like it?” I asked.
“It’s all right.”
She looked away from me, up the bar, to see if anyone else was seeking her attention. Everyone seemed occupied. She looked back to me, almost slightly panicked – or was I imagining it? It was as though she knew if it wasn’t for me she could just fade away now. And I wasn’t sure if that was something she wanted, or something she feared. Perhaps both.
“George is a friend of mine” I said, feeling some stupid urge to boast. And why that would be something to boast about is beyond me, as I think about it now, but hey, you use what you have.
“George, the bar owner.”
Her eyebrows raised and she half smirked.
“Oh” she said, “Lucky you.”
I realized suddenly that I felt somewhat at a loss. This is unusual for me. Talking to girls has always been easy for me. As I said, for some reason they seem to like me – I’m not boasting here, it’s just a fact. Normally I just have to approach and remain approachable, so to speak, and they do the rest. Natalie wasn’t like that. There was something like a wall up around her. I don’t know how else to describe it. You felt as though you were essentially uninteresting to her, that even though she might talk with you – in fact even if she did so openly and apparently intimately – that something else, something essential to her, remained aloof. It was like she did not even consider you one of her species. At best, I thought, one might be treated like a favorite pet.
It was extremely uncomfortable. I found myself partly angry and offended by her, even though she hadn’t said anything offensive in the slightest. I was also, if I was honest, somehow partly afraid of her. I became aware that I was perspiring, and it wasn’t the heat of the club. The sweat tickled slowly down my throat, as though to give me away. My stomach was coiled.
“I’m not sure it’s lucky,” I answered, taking a drink from my vodka, frightened that my hands might be shaking. Thankfully they weren’t. Apart from the sweat, any signs of my fear were not apparent. They were private to me.
She leaned forward, smiling slightly. I wanted to lean towards her but found myself moving an equal distance away. I don’t even know why. If she noticed this she didn’t show it. Perhaps that was normal for her. Perhaps people always did that.
“George is ok,” she said, almost conspiratorial. “Though he rarely gets my name right. I think he forgets I even exist.”
“Short term attention span,” I joked. “He’s a goldfish.”
She laughed. She got the joke. I felt ridiculously gratified by that. My fear abated somewhat. I chided myself for letting myself be spooked by the film I’d seen of her. She’s not a ghost, I told myself. She just films like one.
I was feeling a bit better. I started to edge towards her again.
Then something happened. I started to feel a bit ill, a bit nauseous, like motion sickness. As a kid I’d suffered from frequent ear infections, and this sense of disorientation was very similar. For a horrible second I thought I might throw up. I forgot how I saw this reaction in others on film. It didn’t occur to me – nothing occurred to me in that moment except the onrush of illness, or vertigo. She was stepping back from me. I wanted to lurch over the bar to her, as though holding her would steady this sense of dislocation and dizziness that assailed me. I wanted something. I looked at her, almost pleading. Help me, I thought.
I wanted something.
Then the girl next to me at the bar touched my arm and said hello. I blinked rapidly at her. It felt like I was just waking up. The nausea started to recede. I noticed how pretty the girl was with her wavy blonde hair and her very full lips. Lips that were smiling at me. I felt a tingle of excitement.
I looked at her curves appreciatively. She seemed very fascinating. I guess it was lust. She wore very large hoop earrings and a matching gold bracelet, the latter of which I noticed because she reached out and lightly touched her hand to my thigh. A small tease, then she withdrew.
“You look like that guy from television” she said to me.
“Can’t remember his name. He’s a comedian I think…”
I smiled at her. I knew whom she meant. People said that a lot. I wasn’t sure I was flattered by it, but it was useful. It could be very useful now. I just found everything about this voluptuous light creature quite mesmerising.
“My name’s Lisa” she said, holding out her hand. I shook it.
I seemed to remember feeling sick a few minutes ago. It was a strange memory, like something I observed rather than experienced. Perhaps it was just the noise in the bar, the incessant music, pounding in my head. Music I don’t even like, why am I even here?
It didn’t seem to matter and I couldn’t remember why and I didn’t really care. Sometimes you just end up in places without any good reason I supposed. I looked at my drink, and at her empty glass.
“Can I buy you a drink?” I asked.
“A cosmopolitan would be great” she agreed.
I looked over the bar. A redheaded barmaid allowed me to catch her eye and I ordered for us. I had this strange feeling I’d forgotten something, like losing your keys but knowing somehow, before you need them, that they are gone. Useless knowledge of course, quite pointless, but I couldn’t shake it nor place it either. I proceeded to talk with the girl.
I didn’t pick up though. Her boyfriend arrived soon after, and disappointed, I decided to leave. I got the distinct impression that had I been the television personality I apparently looked like they might have been up for a threesome, but an unacclaimed (as yet) film maker didn’t cut it. Typical for the sort of people who go to clubs like that, I thought to myself with a slight pique and a very real dash of pretension and unearned elitism. After all, I’d just been one of those people in one of those kind of clubs.
As I stepped out into the night air my head seemed to clear somehow and I wondered why I had bothered to go there at all. Surely the filming could look after itself, I thought wearily.
Then I was completely awake in an instant. The filming! The girl! Natalie!
She’d disappeared and I didn’t notice. I didn’t notice any more than anyone else after all, even though she was the only reason I’d gone there. She’d disappeared not only visibly, but also from my mind, in the same instant.
I had to go to the film viewing room now. I couldn’t wait till 3am, or till tomorrow. I had to see it for myself, though I already knew what I was going to see. And so it was. Some poor schmuck (me) trying to chat her up over the bar, only to suddenly sway in his seat as though he’d been shot, then just turning, turning, turning to the girl next to him, and in that moment, of course, Natalie wavered and disappeared. Gone to me, and gone from the film.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved