Into the pages of Kickstart My Heart

AN EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 3: ‘DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY’

At the height of my revelry, I noticed what may or may not have been a man wearing a pair of tight silver pants. His face was framed by black shaggy hair feather-cut to his shoulders, his Marc Bolan features smudged with mascara and lipstick. He looked over and smiled as he swung his hips campishly to Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’. I replicated his sways, albeit just out of sync. He was watching, so I giggled and waved my cup in the air, which resulted in half its contents surging towards the floor, but not before splashing a Megadeth patch on the back of a biker’s jacket. Marc Bolan grinned encouragingly. The biker’s expression was slightly less welcoming.

Wow! I think this Marc Bolan guy might kinda like me!

To pause the scene for a moment, strange things happen when you break up with a long-term partner, particularly if you’re the dumpee. You’re likely to conclude that you’re about as appealing to the opposite sex as a carrot grater, or that your personality is comparable to that of a battery hen. And, as you toy with the idea of a lobotomy or some harmless plastic surgery to reduce or enhance the parts of yourself that so obviously horrified your former partner, it also hits you that you’re Suddenly Single. You’re not sure if you’re ‘allowed’ to be with other people. It’s hard not to break into a rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares to You’. You don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

But because Marc Bolan’s doppelganger had vaguely acknowledged me, I was determined to keep the faith. I placed myself conspicuously closer to him, hoping to appear aloof yet seductive, and joined a circle of head-banging men whose hair was doing a full workout to Iron Maiden’s ‘Number of the Beast’. As I yelled the devil’s preferred number and stabbed a finger at the ceiling, I tried gauging the glam rocker’s reaction. He peered past my shoulder.

After I was certain that I’d come across as edgy and cool, I awaited his predictable approach. He instead began chatting to a bunch of leather-clad friends, presumably about my sex appeal and its proximity to chicken and coleslaw.

Hang on a minute! This isn’t how it’s supposed to work! Isn’t this the part where he approaches with his laddish mates, full of intrigue? Where I half-smile from behind a cupped hand and ooze geisha girl coyness? Where we all become fast friends and Marc Bolan makes it evident that he wants to get it on?

Given that I was a newly appointed single, I thought it wise to take matters into my own hands. I boldly strode into Marc Bolan’s personal space. But the nearer I got, the more he resembled a lady. He placed a forefinger to his lips, pushed a hip out to the side and widened his smoky eyes. It was like ‘Lola’ in reverse.

‘Oh, hello,’ he greeted with a tilt of the head.

‘Hello. I’m L–lana.’

‘Hi. I’m Tracy.’

The name threw me. His sexuality was ambiguous enough as it was. He pursed his lips.

‘Are you g–gay?’ I enquired.

His hand gravitated to his heart. ‘No!’ He tittered like a queen. ‘Why?’

‘No reason. Wanna d–dance?’

I must point out that nobody in the club had taken to forcing anyone into a spontaneous dance routine. Nobody. But as far as I remembered, this was Step One of playing The Game, which in the past had been achieved in all manner of ways, from doing the Nutbush really, really well to full body spasms in the spirit of David Byrne. I worried that during my partnered years, Step One had become obsolete. It wasnot the same as it ever was.

And it didn’t occur to me that continuing such practices might come across as socially awkward or perhaps slutty. No, I persevered, my limbs convulsing until Tracy was obliged to join in on the fun, and he soon moved like a stripper in an all-female revue. He pouted and slapped his behind. His hands flew to his hips as he marked time. In between a succession of thigh taps, his mouth inched closer to mine. Oh my God! Something was about to happen! I tilted my visage to mirror his.

‘I’m a part-time carpet salesman,’ he screamed in my face.

Tracy’s hands fluttered like a pair of delicate butterflies as I explained that I vacuumed the carpet of a pop star. And by the time the lights came up, I was more confused than ever by his sexual orientation. The only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to stop rocking. Ever. So I politely asked Tracy whether he’d care for more aperitifs and a further dose of my irresistible company.

‘Everything’s closed now, lovey,’ he dismissed.

‘My place isn’t!’ I blurted, and by ‘my place’, he no doubt assumed I meant legs. ‘And I’ve got alcohol! Are you in?’

With my choice of words leaving a lot to be desired, Tracy shook his head like a go-go girl. And as I carefully examined his Adam’s apple, Stella bounded over, her fiery hair bouncing even more ferociously than Mick Hucknall’s during an overly-ambitious tambourine solo. She’d been observing our exchange like a drunken behavioural psychologist and began her inquiry.

‘Who’s this?’ she asked, her voice sexy and husky.

‘This is T–Tracy. I asked him to come home for a drink and he said n–no.’

‘Are you gay?’ Her voice cracked on ‘gay’.

Tracy de-smudged his coagulated lipstick.

‘No! Why does everyone keep asking me that?’

‘Then why won’t you go home with her?’ Stella was confused.

‘You’re coming too, right?’ I invited.

‘Nah, we’re going home.’

Oh dear. I’d asked a boy home minus any adult supervision. How deliciously . . . single?

Tracy twirled a finger through his hair.

‘Well, I suppose I could.’

‘Good! Let’s go!’ barked Stella.

Declan re-buttoned his shirt so that one collar aligned with his ear and the other with his nipple and we all fell out of the club. Stella and Declan held one another steady then meandered off into the night. And soon, within the confines of a quiet Notting Hill lounge room, Tracy went to great lengths to prove that he wasn’t gay while I went to great lengths to prove that I wasn’t a slut. Instead, I regaled him with tales of a broken marriage, which he no doubt regarded as a compelling approach to foreplay.

Although our blossoming relationship was consummated only by a brief dining out on each other’s tongues, I’d at least confirmed that I possessed the ability to lure effeminate men into my life. All I needed was a wing woman to bully them into the arrangement. I also now had a fairly good idea of what it might be like to hook up with a transvestite. It felt weird . . . kissing a stranger. However, at the very least I’d gained a new friend, perhaps even a boyfriend. In the days that followed, an onslaught of text messages began.

Being single was starting to get interesting.