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
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
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.
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