*******************************
*******************************
TUESDAY 10 JUNE 2003
RETS ON TOUR

*******************************
*******************************

The B-Boy, the Miss Tina, Poor Stephen, a Sibling, Mushroom Childe, and Me. We're off! We're in a plane. The Sibling and I are bellowing at each other across the plane aisle. Shut up! Chut Up! Zoooooooooem. I whisper to Mushroom Childe: Wait till I tell them this! The trains are double-decker, and you can smoke on them. Wow! Their child-eyes light up. On the top deck of the double-decker train, we are breaking the spines of guidebooks. A Dutch man is throwing words at Poor Stephen. Grasshopper, the man smirks? Bulldog?

Poor Stephen, he does not understand, and I am too far away to tell him. Poor Stephen smiles and mumbles at the man. Poor Stephen has never been to Amsterdam before and would not visit a coffeeshop like Grasshopper or Bulldog even if he had, for grass and hash are not Poor Stephen's drugs of choice.

It is midnight in Burger King, and tensions run high. Poor Stephen turns to the B-Boy with mayonnaise around his mouth, and the Boy splutters into his Whopper.

I find a brooch shaped like a sword and pin it to my lapel, and we turn the burgers in our mouths carefully, savouring their meaty gloopiness. This is not time for the indolent and pleasurable Amsterdam I have come to know. This is Rets on Tour.

Rets on Tour settle in a cheesy bar. Rets on Tour purchase cheap drinks and cheaper cigarettes from a vending machine. Rets on Tour bellow songs in time with the jukebox, and the barmaid smiles. The Boy puts his sunglasses on and the shutters come down on his face.

What is your problem?, I want to know. I just get so bored, he tells me. I need constant stimulation. I scowl at him. Temper flickers inside me. I refuse to go to the bar. A temper is passing around the Rets, getting sharper and sharper with every round.

Sibling comforts us each in turn, till the mood hits her too. Are you going to Cry again? I say. No of course I'm fucking not, she says, crying. Mushroom Childe's vowels are mutating from American to English. I hope Mushroom Childe is ok, for he is not one of Us. And we, the Rets, we are vile. We spend days, hours, weeks, months in each other's company, getting high, getting low, getting bored, getting fucked. We are a clicketty-clique, with all the distaste and unhealth that that implies. But how we love!

The next day. Poor Stephen and Miss Tina are stranded Saturdayish, wandering Leidseplien, while we feast on cheese and bread in a borrowed flat. The Boy plays Rammstein and bellows the lyrics in garbled Foreign as Sibling and I practice aerobics and Mushroom Childe snaps Polaroids. We are not leaving this flat, no: We are giving the Couple, Poor Stephen, Miss Tina: we are giving them Time, whether they like it or not.

What Have You Been Doing All Day? we grin at them, deliberately ignoring their annoyance. Waiting for phonecalls, mutters Poor Stephen in a bitter bitty voice. We skip down the lane to a bar, uncaring, and bury our faces in bottles of witbeer. Everything is gathering towards the moment coming up soon: time is folding and forming itself into an arrow, pleating and dragging and ruching itself into a point. The arrow indicates a shop that sells things you cannot buy in the UK, and we are bold and brave and desperate to try them.

Poor Stephen is rhapsodising: he is designing his ideal drug-taking environs as he drinks a frothy-headed pint of Heineken. Not for Poor Stephen are the vile paintings of goblins and the eye-watering neon glimpsed through Red-Light coffeeshop doorways: he wants clinic-ism.

'I envisage a clean white room and beds with green sheets and there is no music just silence and you get into bed and then you get dosed.' Poor Stephen wants to take his horse tranquiliser in a hospital, and there is a certain logic to this. But there are no horse tranquilisers here, Stephen. This is the Dam, and we are on our knees, snuffling for truffles.

Our Dutch friends tell us you should only take mushrooms with someone you trust. Do you Trust me, I ask Poor Stephen? His eyes laugh and his mouth says As far as I could throw you, and he pulls his grey hood up.

'Encourages positive relations' reads Sibling carefully. Miss Tina and I crane our heads at the box she is studying in the window. 'The Caviar of Mushrooms', it says. Miss Tina and Sibling and I agree that Positive Relations are most definitely to be encouraged, as Positive Relations, while not entirely in short supply, could be flowing more freely, so we stride in arm-in-arm and purchase a box each.

The shop is white and chilly, with plain speaking everywhere, black type on white labels, a cross between a gallery and a clinic, like Poor Stephen's fantasy environs. The boxes shake like maracas, wrapped in brown paper bags, and we are excited, because we suspect and fear and anticipate and demand the Holy Grail of experience: FUNFUNFUN. We have purchased it for fifteen euros apiece, but it does not come with a guarantee.

Nub nub nub. Nib nib nib. I am snipping my fresh truffles to shards with my front teeth and swabbing them down with swigs of witbeer. If it touches my tongue I will retch: I have already. Across the table Miss Tina is grinning and laughing and chomping with glee: she likes the taste.

The Boy has disappeared because he wants to have a Shower before he goes to a Nightclub because he truly believes that the Rets on Tour, on Mushrooms, can get it together to get to a club, and that once there, he will have Sex with a Man. O misguided youth!

Poor Stephen looks confused and frightened because he does not know what lies in store. With the horse tranquilliser, you know where you go. You go to World of K, and it has its own time, and each time you go there you pick up where you left off before: thinking of your grandmother's washing line, floating in a swimming pool, kneeling in a forest: whatever nonsense insights your numbed brain presents you with. But where will he go this time? And will his fragile mind support him there? But his hand floats to his mouth.

Sibling and I chew and retch, giggle and retch, chew and retch, snap photos of retch. Our Dutch pub-table has drawers, which provide handy storage for our Mushroom-boxes. We like our drawers. We like them a lot. And what is Mushroom Childe doing?

Mushroom Childe, across from me and Sibling, is doing as his name implies. Chomp chomp chomp and mush mush mush. Chew chew chew chew chew and mush mush mush. The whole box is gone, though we don't know this yet. O foolhardy Mushroom Childe! He knows not what he does.

Temperatures are rising and giggles are being bled from our insides. Sibling and I are together and safe: but what of the others? We snap our drawers shut and rise to our feet. We Are Going To The Toilet, we announce, and we stomp across the bar hand in hand. On my way I spot a mulleted dwarf. This is pretty cool, and I run up the spiral stairs after my Sibling tugging at her coat but she cannot see him. Then we make it in. We are in the toilet. We are safe. We are warm, and safe, in the very yellow toilet.

Shall we call a Friend? Miss Tina is in the cubicle, it's quite magic. Hello! We are all hot and bright. I turn to the mirror anticipating dread but… its contents… will save me. We place our bags in the sink to adjust our mascaras and the taps come on automatically, soaking them. This is funny. Five seconds later we forget and do it again.

'My face is so red!' says Miss Tina. I have white concealer stripes painted on mine, like a warrior, and we fantasise tripping down the stairs like that. The yellow hot room is full of Us and Giggles. It couldn't be much nicer. We all feel Strange and Good. As long as we are together we are alright. It's nice in the toilet. We could stay here forever, but it is not allowed. Social Decorum prevents it, and downstairs, Mushroom Childe and Poor Stephen are feeling slightly different.

Poor Mushroom Childe! Poor Stephen! 'Can we go home' says Mushroom Childe to me, very small. I am the designated Leader of the Rets, with Sibling Leading from Behind, fnarr. 'No' I say, looking into Mushroom Childe's wide and dark-fringed eyes. We cannot. Go. Home, because the other Boy has the keys.

Mushroom Childe swallows and nods, and he and Miss Tina and Poor Stephen go for a walk around the square, leaving Sibling and I here with the non-Mushroom people. I pour a time message into Miss Tina's answerphone. The message is made of giggles and pleading. 'Don't go! [giggle] Don't leave us! [giggle] Don't… disappear! [giggle, click]'. We will hear that message for the first time at the end of the night, when the person who left it is long, long gone.

And now, it's all about the drawers. We are taking mushrooms from the boxes in the drawers, and handing them to a non-mushroom friend called Scott, who is pretending to eat them. We love our drawers so much! All tables should have drawers! What a wonderful thing the drawers are! Look, you must put all your special things in them!

Sibling's drawer is the best because she has two packets of cigarettes and two mobile phones and three beer mats and a small origami dog that Scott has made for her in there! My impoverished drawer fares less well: just the one telephone and one flyer for a club called Bastard, but I love my drawer anyway. How much we are laughing, my wonderful Sibling and I! It is the nicest feeling ever, on the nice table, with our nice Drawers with nice things in.

A non-mushroom person is warning us about the Drawers. 'Look, you shouldn't put stuff in the Drawers. You will forget about it.' Oh. My. She doesn't understand, this non-Mushroom girl! She doesn't get it! Poor girl. This calls for action stations. Snap! I can snap out of this whenever I want, me, I can. Look! I wipe my laugh from my face and incline my head and speak very slow, as to an idiot child. 'The things in the drawers we will never forget. The drawer is where we put the Most Important Stuff. Look!' I slide my drawer open and show: cigarettes, phone, club flyer. 'Do you see?' Her face spells out one word: DUBIOUS. Meh.

Sibling is taking a folded paper bag from her Drawer and showing it to me with pride. She is laughing because she is the happiest person on earth, with one Drawer, a folded bag, an origami dog, and she makes me happy too. I love her. We are love: the Drawers are full of invisible love, and it doesn't get much better than this.


Actually, it doesn't get any better than this. It gets Worse.

previous : : : about : : : next