The Journalist and the Dancer
Liam Livings © 2018
All Rights Reserved
“What are you drinking?” the barman asked. He wore a low v-neck sleeveless T-shirt and looked far too skimpily dressed for what was purporting to be another straight bar.
“Gin and tonic. Large.” Christopher winked—it was always worth a try wherever he was, and Ibiza’s bars were very mixed anyway. Straights and gays shared most drinking establishments happily. A relationship of equals, was that too much to want?
He checked the invite, scanning down for anything unusual. Among the rubbish about it being the new place to be seen on the island and where all the it people hung out, whoever they were—Christopher had lived on Ibiza for a year or so and had yet to meet these so-called it people—were pictures of men and women laughing and drinking together, so probably aiming for the straight crowd.
“Excuse me. We’ve run out of soda water. Can I get you something else?” The barman shook the hose contraption and shrugged.
“Surprise me.” Because nothing else here is surprising. The red walls were covered in likenesses of the island’s shape, with large white skulls painted on either end, and the dark corners of the club were filled with silver chairs and tables. The latest Eurotrash track boomed from the stage on the far side of the room. Christopher stifled a yawn. Somehow, this wasn’t quite what he’d imagined looking for a less materialistic life would be like.
But he still had to eat.
The barman slid a tall, multicoloured cocktail adorned with a blue umbrella and red cherry along the bar. “Surprise!”
Christopher took a sip and was pleasantly shocked that he enjoyed the bitter sweetness. “When is the actual opening happening?”
“Eight, eight thirty.” The barman talked enthusiastically about the cannons, which were going to spurt white foam over the revellers on the dance floor.
“Foam cannons? Really?” I think the year 2000 called and it wants its nightclub back. Christopher rolled his eyes behind the tall cocktail glass.
“It’s not a club here without one—apparently.” The barman shrugged and his biceps rippled in the light. “Mind you, have you seen the cages hanging above the dance floor?”
The barman pointed through an archway to the source of the pulsing noise that passed as music here.
Bit tacky. How can I say it’s a bit tacky without actually saying it’s a bit tacky? How about fanciful? Or maybe enthusiastic? Christopher pondered the right words for a few moments.
The barman left to serve another customer, tiny white shorts about two sizes too small encased his tight arse cheeks—definitely a good seven or an eight—wiggling as he walked.
Christopher contemplated what a waste that arse was on a straight man, then pulled a white wafer-thin laptop from his bag and began writing his Ibiza Discovered review for yet another nightclub opening. If I ask the barman a few more questions, that, and a few words about the ambiance—always deathly dull at these things—I’ll be done and home to chill out with the TV and Sally within the hour. Maybe that’s why I’m still single. Or maybe it’s because I don’t think I’ll ever find a man who’s equal to me…
“The VIP area is ready when you are.” A slight man in a black suit with sweat on his brow appeared at Christopher’s shoulder.
With a sinking feeling that his leaving within the hour plan was looking less likely now, he followed the man to an area with a red velvet rope and clipboard-checking woman who flicked her long brown hair more often than she checked the guest list.
Christopher gave his name, waited as the woman checked it and was then shown to a table with other people talking and toasting with champagne.
People. And they’re talking. They’re going to want to talk to me and want to know who I…Damn!
“Who are you reviewing for?” a man at the table asked.
“Ibiza Discovered.” Different people asking the same questions, probably going to suggest the same bloody drinking game as the evening progressed. Being this standoffish was definitely not improving his chances of finding a date any time soon, he realised.
After introductions around the table—a few local papers, a website mag, and a clubbing scene mag—Christopher gritted his teeth as the first man suggested they play a drinking game, based on how many times the manager said certain words in his welcome address.
He checked his watch. With no sign of the manager announcing the formal opening, and already half an hour late, his quiet evening plans were gradually disappearing, drink by drink.
One of the journalists was talking about the last club opening he’d been to, something about a fire alarm and how they’d all ended up in the… Christopher’s attention drifted from the man’s story to a gentlemen who skipped and floated across the dance floor. Nothing too unusual so far, but the fact that he was wearing only a pair of tight gold trunks with glitter over his athletic hairless chest made Christopher sit up, his shorts tighten, and his stomach flutter.
The man shouted, “Me cago en tu puta madre!” and turned to face Christopher, staring for what seemed like a minute, smiling and not breaking eye contact.
Christopher couldn’t take his eyes off this exotic passionate creature, staring so intensely and deeply it felt as if he were staring into his soul. He knew that no man dressing like that would take himself too seriously. He felt sure that a man like that would humour his partner, was comfortable with himself fully without censoring, wouldn’t mock every decision of other people like… Christopher stopped that particular avenue of memories.
Then, as suddenly as he’d arrived, the man shook his head, clapped twice, and ran through a door to the side of the stage.
That arse in those trunks was at least a nine, possibly a ten. Who is he? What’s the English equivalent to that sweary Spanish phrase? Where is he going? And why aren’t I talking to him instead of this group of idiots?
Lucas slammed the dressing room door and, in an attempt to regain his composure, tried to slow down his breathing. That last-minute dash across the dance floor had revealed there was more press than he’d expected for a crappy little club like this. At least he assumed they were the press—the table of men in grey suits in the VIP area, shouting and drinking champagne. They looked like journalists. Not that he knew much about what journalists looked like, but anyway.
All except one, who, with his T-shirt and shorts and neatly trimmed blond beard, looked like a holidaymaker. A holidaymaker with piercing blue eyes and a smile that had made Lucas want to lick his lips and set his heart racing. Even now, he remembered the stare.
That stare they’d shared for a perfect moment.
Blond Guy seemed lonely despite his casual clothing. Lucas wondered if the man didn’t want to be there—maybe he was missing his partner or something. Lucas hadn’t been able to think of much else except Blond Guy since noticing him. He felt…something, a pull, an attraction, a something towards this man, and it wasn’t just lust. Those blue eyes, that blond hair, the cute trimmed beard, the stocky build all sent jolts to Lucas’s groin. He looked so different from all the Spanish men on the island. Maybe he would also be different from the Spaniards too… And that smile, the look they’d shared—Lucas had felt a connection, a draw to the man. Without even talking to him, Lucas admired how he refused to dress grey-corporate like the other journalists. Maybe not love at first sight, but certainly lust and an attraction pulling them together.
Blond Guy was cute and an individual, clearly different from so many other men he found attractive, and Lucas knew how rare that was.
A knock on the door woke Lucas from his thoughts about Blond Guy.
The manager burst through the door with no pause for Lucas’s reply. “I told you, no glitter, no gold hot pants, none of this—” The manager seemed to search for the right word. He clicked his fingers a few times, ruffled the feathers in one of Lucas’s costumes. “—this camp. It is not bloody Mardi Gras. This is not one of your sort of clubs. This is respectable, classic, classy. Or at least that’s what I’m going to say in my opening speech.” He gestured grandly with both hands in the air. “I told you this already.”
Lucas nodded, remembering the earlier briefing, but he’d hoped he could get away with it—otherwise why would he have been given the job?
“Butch up, will you?” He tapped Lucas’s shoulders. “I know this isn’t your first choice, but you weren’t mine either, if that makes you feel any better. Money’s money. So sort yourself out and get ready to sweep the women off their feet.” He bustled out.
Lucas washed the glitter from his chest and changed into the Superman costume he’d been given, pinning it at the back to prevent the S on the chest sagging into a sad sort of I.
He couldn’t deny that money was indeed money, but it hadn’t stopped him hoping, wishing, praying, that tonight would turn from a tryout to something more permanent, or that someone in the audience would spot him and pluck him from obscurity to the mainstream so he could fulfil his life-long dream of dancing for a living. And now his mind wandered back to him, Blond Guy. Those thighs in those shorts. Those biceps from that T-shirt. Different. Quirky. Twinkly smile.
Christopher had extricated himself from the drinking game and other journalists and was now chatting to a barmaid who’d made him another of the tall colourful cocktails.
“What about the dancers?” Christopher asked, steadying himself against the bar and trying to focus on his laptop screen, and failing. He used all his concentration and worked out the time was 9:30, an hour after the manager was meant to be opening with his long-awaited speech.
“What about the dancers?” the barmaid asked. “They dance. In cages. Above the dance floor.” She beckoned him closer. “Come, see. I will show you.”
The Superman theme tune filled the club.
Christopher yawned so hard he almost fell off his barstool. He packed up his things and walked towards the door. How cheesy. How eighties. How tacky. I’m off to bed. Who would have thought that leaving the rat race for this life in sun-kissed Ibiza would mean a different race but the same rats? He’d left his banking job in London and wanted to take things down a notch, to simplify but not so simple he could feel his brain ossifying from boredom.
The crowd cheered and Christopher shook his head. There was no accounting for taste, that was for sure. He turned to take one quick picture of the club to help with writing the review later when a man in a Superman costume flew across the stage, right to left, with his cloak fluttering behind him in the breeze generated from a large fan off stage. The effect was somewhat spoilt by Superman then flying backwards left to right, across the stage as his cloak covered his face.
The sight of Superman so obviously suspended by wires, swinging from left to right on the stage, while he remained deadpan, was too much for Christopher to maintain a straight face. So Christopher laughed.
During the last swing back to the right side of the stage, Superman turned, made eye contact with Christopher, and smiled back.
Christopher recognised the dancer from earlier and mourned the covering of all the tantalising glitter-covered flesh that had been on display by the ridiculous sagging outfit. Christopher waved at the dancer, not believing where that had come from, and quickly sat on his hand in embarrassment.
The dancer waved at him and Christopher found himself smiling, staring into deep dark eyes. Poor man, he was obviously much better than this Superman twaddle. I wonder why he’s not wearing the gold glittery skimpy outfit. Wishing he’d taken a photo of the dancer’s previous outfit, Christopher continued staring at the dancer who pulled the cape from his face and, with the slightest nod of the head, signalled how he really felt about this whole Superman charade.
A screen covered the stage as the silhouette of Superman continued to swing from side to side. The manager walked in front of the red curtain, coughed into a microphone, and asked if it was working.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the opening night of Ikon—the hottest classiest club destination in Ibiza. Sorry that Superman had to leave, but he’s got to get back to Metropolis, speeding through the air like a…bullet?”
Christopher had seen and heard it all before. So, satisfied he had enough to write a review, he left for home, pausing momentarily to notice Superman waving at him while swinging from side to side once again.
Holding the gaze for another few moments, he enjoyed the smile—and was that a wink too—that Superman was shooting back at him.
In the early hours of that morning—in another bar because half the evening in Ikon had been more than enough, without spending the whole of it there—Lucas and a few of the other dancers were talking and drinking.
“Why Superman? I don’t understand.” Lucas frowned.
“What would you have done?” Giovanni stared.
“A peacock. An elephant. A lion. With a big mane…and a long tall tail like a peacock. I don’t know. I wanted something a bit more—fun. Sometimes, I feel like an animal and I can move like a cat. You want to see?” Without waiting for a response, Lucas threw himself on the floor and walked slowly on all fours, pretending to lick his hand before wiping it against his imaginary ears on top of his head.
“You could be in that musical. What’s it called, with all the cats, singing and dancing? It’s been on all over the world.”
“Cats?” Lucas took his seat again.
“That’s the one.” Giovanni, who’d somehow designated himself in charge, checked everyone’s drinks. “Who’s staying for another?”
“Better not. Who knows when I’ll get another job?” Lucas stared at his drink, feeling pretty dejected and downtrodden by the whole experience.
“Didn’t the manager ask you back?”
“Nope. Said I had done him okay when he was stuck for anyone else to do it, but that next time he wanted someone who could actually fill the costume. Big, broad and full of muscles is what he really wanted.” Lucas shook his head. “Bloody Superman. Tacky or what?”
“I’ll get this. He asked me back. Want me to put in a good word for you?” He raised his eyebrows slightly.
“Will it change my body shape?” He’d trusted the manager when he’d said more would come from tonight’s tryout dance. He’d believed tonight would be the start of something big; something more than scrabbling about for work and borrowing money off friends and promising he’d buy the next meal or round of drinks.
Giovanni returned with some churros—long fried Spanish doughnuts—and a bowl of melted chocolate. “These may change your body shape yet.”
Lucas shuffled his chair closer and dipped the doughy goodness into the chocolate sauce. “It’s silly, but can I ask you something?”
“Did you notice the blond bearded guy with the journalists—he was the only one in T-shirt and shorts, and well, I think he was staring at me. I think he may have been laughing at me when I flew across the stage. Did he? I may be imagining it. The lights were bright. And I was nervous. But I’m sure I noticed him checking me out. And I think he waved too.” And I waved back, hopefully, entranced by his smile.
“In that place? He waved, at you? Why would he be? Just another club opening. Just another stupid over-the-top launch show? He could go anywhere to see Superman flying across the stage. In fact, if he wanted to see a giant sea horse’s head bursting into flames as someone flew into its mouth, he’d only need to go a few doors down to find it.”
“Suppose not.” Lucas rested his head in his hands and stuck his finger in the chocolate sauce, then absentmindedly licked it off.
“Oi! Dirty. No double dipping. Don’t know where you’ve been.” Giovanni smiled and handed Lucas a churro. “We dip this into the choc, okay?”
Lucas wasn’t sure where he’d been, what he’d been doing, or why he’d been thinking about a man possibly maybe staring at him and waving at him and laughing at his disastrous performance in a straight night club. All wishful thinking. Wishful that the blond hair meant this man was the exact opposite of the dark-haired Spaniards he’d tried to date but failed. Wishful that the blond hair meant this man was Nordic or Australian or maybe British. Maria, his sister, had told him that Spanish men got bored quickly and that’s where Lucas had been going wrong for all those years. He took one last, deep dip of the chocolate, waved his goodbyes, and left the others to it.
On his way home to Talamanca, a quiet bay only a short walk from the lights and bustle of Ibiza town, he replayed his swing across the stage and knew he had definitely seen Blond Guy checking him out. And waving briefly. And he in return had felt a something back. An attraction. The neatly trimmed beard and the biceps bulging from the T-shirt.
His younger sister, Maria, would understand his attraction to this handsome man. She knew all about love and lust at first sight, and fate, and people being made for each other. She and her husband proved it.
At times like this, he almost believed it could happen to him, that he could be lucky enough to find his perfect match. What else could explain his raised pulse, his dry throat at seeing Blond Guy, and his inability to forget about him after only a brief stare? All he’d been able to find with the other men was quick hookups and one or two dates that maybe ended in bed, or maybe a trailing off of texts and calls. Time and time again, Lucas wondered if perhaps what the homophobes said about men like him was right. He was sure he’d never have a family like his sisters and brothers with their husbands and wives. He was destined to be searching for the meaning of a possible shared look or a glance across a busy night club.
He was emotional and often rushed into things, but he knew what he’d seen and felt in the shared look between him and the blond man. There had been attraction and lust but also an emotional pull. The look, the wave, the stare. Sex was easy to find, love and sex was what Lucas really wanted. Why else would Blond Guy have stood out as the only man not wearing a grey suit? Anyone who came to a night club opening dressed like that would be laidback and the exact opposite of the reason he’d fled Madrid—his ex, Pedro.
At 6:00 a.m., as the sun was starting to rise, Lucas pulled the blinds in his small studio apartment, put his earplugs in and eye mask on, and snuggled up to his pillow. He wished it was someone lying next to him and hoping his situation wouldn’t become so desperate that he’d have to return to only sex, when what he really longed for was love and sex.
He knew love could come from sex, but he also acknowledged he was probably looking for it in the wrong places. At the moment. He berated himself for not giving his number to Blond Guy. “Worth a try,” Maria would surely have told him. This would have been an instance when not thinking before acting would have been useful. Only, his hesitation, too, showed him how much hope he’d already instilled in the brief encounter. If he didn’t care either way, he’d have thrown his number out in the vague hope Blond Guy would call. Instead, he’d kept it to himself because at the moment the unrequited lust made Blond Guy perfect and unspoilt by reality. But he knew his mind wasn’t replaying their first encounter again and again without good reason.