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To Kiss A Gangster

by Hagen Engler / Illustration by Sasan / 07.04.2014

I’m in PE for a school reunion. And not one of the tidy ones. This one happens after just enough time has passed to realise that the arseholes in your matric class weren’t necessarily arseholes, they were just 16. Everyone’s a bit of an arsehole when they’re 16, and so were you.

So we convene at a restaurant opposite the golf course and spend the next several hours catching up and telling each other, “Yuss, it’s so kief to see you again,” or else, “You know, I used to think you were the biggest cunt!”

And then another beer and a shooter ad infinitum, ’till you can’t remember actually drinking the beers, you just always seem to be queuing for the next one – or the next two, to save on queuing.

In much the same way, suddenly it’s 3am, and I can barely remember anything that’s happened. The evening has passed in the blink of an eye and now it’s just four of us loitering outside the darkened restaurant, determined to still go party somewhere else.

Someone mentions this nightclub – it was probably Van who mentioned it, in between insisting he’s alright to drive after eight hours of non-stop boozing and one coffee.

The club is called Precarium. I’m cool to pop in there, because I even knew the owner from around.

It’s a sketchy underground trance-house club in Central with loitering dealers almost indistinguishable from the dead-eyed punters in the street outside. But it can be fun if you’re wasted enough, and I certainly qualify on that count. I’m feeling brave, so I take a taxi and give up trying to save Van from his drunk-driving self.

I arrive at Precarium, and one of the first people I meet is Shane, the owner. He’s a dreadlocked beast of a man, with a neck tattoo of the Motherwell FC club logo and stoked to see me again. He orders us a couple of tequilas and we have a chat at a little table between the downstairs bar and the dancefloor. The volume of the EDM music just envelops us and we’re communicating as much by winks and thumbs-ups as by words.

As we’re exchanging tequilas and hand signs, a guy wearing an afro and an enormous purple anorak comes striding into the club with a crew of associates and a heavy attitude. He looks wasted, but he’s got a gangster strut like he owns the place. Shane seems unsure about introducing us, but he does anyway.

I can’t catch the guy’s name over the music and we lean in to try converse. As we do so, this guy, kind of wasted, playfully pretends we’re kissing each other and puckers up for a big smooch. I reckon that’s pretty funny, so I call his bluff and give him a big smooch on the lips back.

Bad idea.

The guy immediately rears back as if he’s sustained an electric shock and starts wiping his lips off like it’s disgusting. He’s shouting, “He kissed me! He kissed me!” But because of the noise, none of his mates can make out what he’s saying. I try apologising, but none of us can hear each other. The guy starts getting super-irate, and storms out of the club with his crew trailing in his wake. It’s like they’re off to strategise, like they’re rallying their forces or planning some reprisal.

Shane is ashen-faced. He’s seen me smooching this gangster guy and he’s staring at me in total disbelief. He’s like, “Oh god. Why’d it have to be him!” This guy is clearly one of the scariest customers on his roster!

I can see which way the wind’s blowing, so I repair to the bathroom to do some strategising of my own. In the bog, I’m suddenly stone-cold sober at the urgency of my predicament. Luckily there’s just enough quiet to have a telephone conversation. I urgently place a mercy call to the cab company who’ve just brought me to Precarium. At this point it might be nothing, or there might be a street gang planning to assassinate me for kissing their leader.

I get directly through to the taxi driver. “Mate, are you  still near Precarium?” He’s like, “Ja. I’m still parked outside.” I reckon, “Okay perfect. I need another lift out of here. I’ll be out there by you in one minute.”

I remove my jacket, so appearance is a little different, then I take a deep breath and stride out of the toilets, through the dancefloor, past the bar and out of the exit without even looking around once. I don’t say cheers to Shane, I don’t look for my mates, I just walk.

Out on the street there’s some kind of commotion. But there always is at this place, so I weave my way through the throng as if none of it concerns me. The troubles of this world are not mine. No eye contact!

I spot the taxi, a silver Corolla glowing like the Millennium Falcon about to exit the Death Star. I slip regally into the passenger seat like Princess Leia on business of the Imperial Senate. Then I slide down until my head is below window level.

“I think I’m calling it a night,” I tell the taxi driver. “Let’s go. Let’s go!”

As we pull into Rink Street I find myself wiping my lips off. It was one of those ones where you kiss the lips and catch a little bit of tongue on the way past.

I shudder a little as I rub my lips off on my sleeve and peer out the back window at the scrum of people spilling out of the club onto the pavement. Somewhere in there I’m not very popular at all. That wasn’t wise. That wasn’t wise.

*Illustration © Sasan

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