I do try. I try very hard. Smile, make eye contact, of course I remember you, but that hunted weasel look comes into the eye, my gaze slides sideways. They can always tell, but what do you say? I do remember you but not your name; I think I'd remember if we'd actually slept together but I wouldn't bet on it. You can't say that. They'd just think you were self-centred, solipsistic.
"You're rather self-centred, aren't you? Almost solipsistic. You're not interested in anyone; you just stand there and a coterie forms around you." "No I'm not. And it doesn't. I'm..." "What sign are you?" Whock whock ocka-whoppa whock whock ocka-whoppa, usque ad nauseam. On the dancefloor executives and sub-editors and 19-year-old inexplicables twitch and lurch. On the stage, four talentless people solicit attention. A sampled cacophonous industrial obscenity loops endlessly while a thin slack-jawed youth occasionally tootles tunelessly on a trumpet; a thin slack-jawed youth who cannot play the saxophone "plays" the saxophone, a lot of waggling and the occasional harsh note like a stubbed toe or sudden vaginismus; a thin slack-jawed youth waves drumsticks around, from time to time striking a cymbal or a tomtom; a pinguid female in parody S&M kit protrudes her bosom. The exaltation of the mediocre. It makes for ill-humour. Nobody can begrudge Cecilia Bartoli or Ivo Pogorelich their fame or their money; you listen to them and think "I could never do that" and are glad that they can do that. But these people... anyone could do that, so why are they getting paid? Why are they pleased with themselves? Why don't they slink away, whimpering with shame?
Whock whock ocka-whoppa whock whock ocka-whoppa... there's a junior newsdesk reporter with his hand up an ad-saleswoman's skirt, his tongue down her throat. Big security people man the ropes separating the "VIP Room" from the rest of this vile club, although it's been hired for the night and there are no VIPs and the rope is just... just silly. As demonstrated by the woman who meanders elegantly from the, excuse me, VIP Room and trips straight over the rope, whock whock ocka-whoppa CRASH. The porn-film-reviewer's clever girlfriend says "I knew it would all come to grief", the sorrows of life sounding in her voice like a Sybil. Your man is getting it in the neck. He's a shit.
"You're a shit, you know? You haven't got a clue. You make moves on half a dozen women and then whine that your life's in a mess." "That's ridiculous. Anyway you don't have to worry. You're a genius and I love you." "Well fuck you. And me too." "...and fuck you too."
I lead her away and get the man speech, look at that bloody woman there, 22 years old and no brain but wiggles her arse and do you know how old I am, in two years' time it will be over for me, nobody wants to know, you haven't a clue what it's like and my book didn't succeed and I'd like a baby but who's going to want me, men, you're all horrible, you stink, you're... You know. The man speech. Man Speech Number 2. I have already had Man Speech Number 1: you know what I like?, I like my flat, I like slobbing around, I like my daughter, I like sleeping in my bed alone, I don't want a man and I certainly don't need a man.
The Great Foreign Correspondent heaves into view like a Titan, eyes swimming behind his spectacles, majestic belly leading the way. He has drunk himself into benevolent speechlessness. You do not often see men as drunk as the Great Foreign Correspondent. Not that they don't get as drunk; it's more that the GFC has a ironclad inner ear and remains upright (though down at the bow and listing a little) when other men would be horizontal. Aauuuer, says the Great Foreign Correspondent. There is a pause.
Aauuuer, he repeats, smiling oddly, and moves away. The music continues. Shrieks from the unisex lavatories. Apparently I am horrible. "You are horrible." Your man decides to attack the women for... what? It is hard to tell. They denounce him for chauvinism, insensitivity, thuggishness. He bares his teeth in a carnivorous smile. They all want to sleep with him, even though they'd hate themselves. The lights come up. Time to go home. An icy pre-dawn Smithfield Market echoes to the sounds of raw meat for sale. Merry Christmas.