Saw my friend Zoe outside the Le Tigre gig last night, looking pretty, her black eyeliner slick and thick and perfect. She asked how I'd got a ticket and I said 'guestlist' and mumbled it like I was ashamed, but really I was proud as hell. I felt like that Bukowski poem where he writes about his Gold Card and his BMW just to annoy his critics. I'm so sad, hubris floating round me like cheap perfume.
Inside was a tiny venue, red and dark, full of indie kids. All the old ugly blokes (like, 28), clustered at the back. The kids were down the front, excited, talking loud, showing off to each other. One waved a kiddie's light-up magic wand. Another - a boy - held a glow-in-the-dark green water pistol, which he pointed at the girl with the wand. Both boys and girls were fey, pointing knees, turning toes inward, tilting heads to the side, pouting and dimpling mouths and scrunching up their eyes.
I bumped into Little Neil who inquired about San Francisco (I'd spent January working there in my new incarnation as web yuppie writer-lady). He introduced me to his friend Nicky. 'How do you know Neil, then?' I asked. 'Oh, I just kept seeing him around, and finally I got up the courage to speak to him,' she said. (How do they do that? All these people I meet now, these scenester kids, they do that. See each other at clubs and just start chatting and hanging out. I'd love to know how it works.)
Nicky introduced me to her friends Rhona and Charlie, warning me that Rhona was 'scary'. Rhona was a mammoth girl with lots of eyeblack and pink hair in bunches. She wore heavy chains round her neck and plastic beads, a Bikini Kill t-shirt, studded wristbands, and big, swishy jeans. Charlie wore wide jeans too, plus a t-shirt under a lurex 60s girls dress, accessorised with plastic beads round neck and wrists, and lots of facial jewellery. He was confident and dismissive: 5 years and a million miles away from me.
The support band had a lovely name - Comet Gain - like comets having a race. I bought a drink and sat on a DJ record crate in the corner; tore a page from my notebook and started scribbling. I hoped no one could see me. I started to feel like I looked freaky, there on my own, all dressed up in red, scribbling notes on paper resting on my knees.
In the loo a pretty blonde girl was fiddling with her hair in front of the mirror. 'Gawd, your weather really messes up my hair' she drawled. 'Doesn't it yours?'
'Mine's always curly', I grinned. Talking to American strangers was second nature now, after San Francisco. 'Where are you from?'
She looked away. 'New York', she said, dismissively, like I should have known. 'Wow...' I said, and looked at the wall. Perhaps people from New York weren't as friendly as people from San Francisco.
When Le Tigre were due to come on, I stood near the front. My bag was on my back. The blonde girl from NY walked onstage. Oops. They joked around, set stuff up, then Kathleen came on to screams. She was pretty: hair in a ponytail high up on her head. We bounced along, and everyone knew all the songs. They made a cool trio: Kathleen in her yellow Le Tigre shirt; Johanna from the loos foxy in pink, Sadie Benning ugly-chic, all Sarah Lucas cool in a blue bodywarmer. She got cheers and yells of 'foxy lady!' from the club V dykey contingent at the bar, five young ladies sporting matching 50s mens hairdos and Morrissey specs.
The gig was great: I bounced up and down till my toes ached, sang along, even clapped after songs with my hands in the air, looking at the sleeves of my red and white frock glowing in the pink lights. But once it was over, what to do?
For a while I chatted to Mick, a guy with a girl's voice who runs a zine distro down in Wales. He writes beautifully. He was tiny, shy. He drove all the way up for the gig and had to drive off after to get to work the next day. I asked where he worked. A petrol station. I asked if he wanted to move to London. No, London was too unfriendly. It made him depressed. I felt bad because I knew my questions were making me look like a yuppie. I felt like a yuppie. I wanted to take him by his little grey shoulders and give him a shake till his pint slopped on the floor. 'Don't work in a Welsh petrol station!', I wanted to say. 'You write like an angel!'
I left Mick, pumping his arm like I'd learnt in America, then apologising profusely for it. 'Do you know who Jen the press officer is?' I asked as I made my excuses. 'I've got to meet her'. 'Er, no' he said, and gave me a look. The get-away-from-me, you-careerist-yuppie look.
No press officer. She said she had a black fringe. I got a glass of water and sat at the bar. I could see myself in the mirror, all curvy-round in red, round curly-red hair, plump arms, red mouth. I felt conspicuous, like a lush or a roue or one of those other old-fashioned words I always think I'll end up being.
I wanted to leave so bad. It was just like the party I went to in SF: I wanted to sneak off, disappear, sneak out of the door, slip out of the world. I saw Little Neil around handing out flyers for a disco he's having with Frances and Alex, and I smiled at him, but what was there to say? I stood up and leant against the wall. A boy in glasses stared at me quizzically. I got my things together and left.
I rode home listening to the drunks. A girl opposite detailed her straight A's at GCSE, masters and degree level. She was hurt at not getting some job. Loudly, drunkly, her colleague commisserated. It was a loud drunk train and a loud drunk bus.
On the bus I wrote a hundred times 'I can write short stories'. Writing stories, I decided, was the perfect cover for my inadequecy as an indie kid. I couldn't talk to stangers and thought wands were affected. The new breed of indie boy, cute and confident yet wearing plastic childrens jewellery, repelled me. The large girls scared me. The ubiquitous uniforms they all wore bored me. I would write stories about it all, I decided, and then my rudeness and shyness and meanness would all fall into place. I just knew it.