We Go Out
by George Aitch
Tonight we're going out. Our favourite band announced a London date so we bought a pair of tickets. Karen played the new album in the car on the way to college and back. For the week leading up to it, those songs were all I could listen to. The date was circled repeatedly in my planner, as if I could forget it.
The bell rings for the end of the day but I am already halfway out of my seat then through the door. I sprint down the empty corridor and meet Karen by the Language classrooms. Other students stream around us. They are eager to get the bus home. They do not have an awesome gig with their best friend to look forward to.
Bonjour Anna, she says tu veux ton billet? She holds out a ticket to me and I seize it, giddy with joy. We're going to see them tonight! I can scarcely believe it. On the bus across town we discuss our favourite songs and the ones we'd like to hear played. Karen has kept aside money to get a 7 inch release of the new single, which she's hoping to get signed after the show. My hands clutch the gig ticket as though it could just fly away. Part of me worries that it will.
We change out of uniform in the girl's toilet at the station. I swap my clothes in a cubicle and get wee on my tights. I tell Karen and she laughs at me while checking herself in the smeared mirror. Someone has written some graffiti with a sharpie which I can't read. Afterwards we pay a quid to stash our school stuff in the lockers and catch the next train by ducking through the barriers.
In the carriage some loud lads sip lager and chant about football. Or rugby. Who cares? We laugh at them, but from the safety of behind our seats. The guy sat in front of me is balding. He only looks about twenty three. The train pulls sluggishly out of the station. Our excitement accelerates and reaches our destination hours before we do. I wriggle on the seat, its all I can do to hold on to my emotion.
Too much later we arrive and take a beeline for Nando's. My watch says we can expend an hour and a half for this meal before we run the risk of missing part of the show. Over the spicy food we talk about S.W.I.N.E. (someone who is now an ex.) and how I don't need them. Neither of us do, but I can't say we because Karen is going out with Frank. I fill up on the free refills of coke and am too stuffed to finish my chicken. Before we leave I am busting for a pee. I don't want to break the seal but all of that coke is pressing on my food baby.
By now it's dark and the lights have come on. The street lights, the bus shelter lights and the lights of the different pubs, clubs and shops. An empty laughing gas canister skitters away from my boot and lodges itself in the pavement. The logo of a gentlemans club ripples in a puddle which Karen steps into. She makes a point of stamping hard and splashing the curb.
At the door to the venue we rummage for our tickets. The queue was only fifteen minutes long. Some girl with a ponytail handed us a leaflet advertising other bands playing at the O2 Academy on the other side of the city. No thanks. Neither of us are interested. I take it anyway and fold it up in my coat pocket. It will turn up later as we're getting the train back home, but I still won't be swayed into seeing any of those bands. It already costs fifteen quid to get this far in the first place.
The doorman wants to see our ID, which of course neither of us has yet.
But we've come all the way from Swanford. Karen protests. It's not true but it works every time.
I'll let you through, just this once.
He shakes his head and gestures to the door with a thumb. We laugh and walk up through the stairs. A poster for tonight's show catches my eye. When everything's over and done I'll return to try and take it for a souvenir, but some more enterprising soul will have gotten there first. Karen will give me the setlist as consolation. She's good at getting the setlist, is Karen. It's a proper souvenir. A signed Bloc Party one from last year is the jewel of the collection. We keep a scrapbook of them together. I fold my bag inside of Karen's to give to the guy at the cloakroom for the lofty fee of two pounds. Daylight robbery.
At the bar, Karen orders and I try to keep out of sight. She looks older than me, especially with her heels which put her at two inches taller than I am in my flats. We track back across the sticky floor to the place in front of the stage. The bearded roadies soundcheck a couple of mics. She passes me blue WKD in a plastic cup. We clink glasses then manoeuvre our way closer to the front. There is the stale smell of body odour lingering over the crowd, replacing the foul smoke haze since they banned smoking indoors. I almost miss it.
Suddenly the background music is replaced by a fast paced walk-on track. My heart is in my throat as the house lights go down. Everyone stamps their feet and claps in time. The front lights come up and two smoke machines wheeze into life. Karen and I scream at each other and the crowd joins us with a cheer. An army of hands raises to the ceiling. The band take the stage and wave.
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