Reviews Nights Out
JG Ballard gained a fresh appreciation for the baser aspects of the human experience on Mark's birthday. So why does he feel so empty after the event?
I must confess to some trepidation as I cross the threshold of Revolution to join young Mark and his friends in celebrating the anniversary of the day of his birth. The venue is gloomy and tastelessly appointed, and it soon becomes apparent that the soundtrack to my evening will consist mostly of dated electro-house, which may have sounded mildly edgy in 2005, had you been easily frightened.
However, I'm pleased to say that most of my misgivings are dispelled the moment I meet Mark, who greets me warmly before introducing me to the rest of the group: Chugger, Knobber and Todd, known collectively for this evening as Pussyman's Cock Boys (Mark is Pussyman, of course). Here I am, a frail, old, dead man, confronted with four perfect specimens of alpha-masculinity - tanned, athletic and dressed, as the fashion dictates, in block-coloured shirts, untucked, with rolled sleeves and raised collars - and for tonight, they are willing to accept me as one of their own. Though I have - successfully, I think - created, and lived according to my own definition of manhood, theirs is a classic, pure, perhaps innocent form that has always held a fascination for me. Like many others who share my disposition, I have often stayed up until the early hours of the morning, watching hardcore pornography or World Wrestling Entertainment, marvelling at the raw, unrefined visions of maleness presented therein and wondering, what if?
But as of tonight, I need wonder no longer, for I am permitted to taste it: the beer-soaked sleeves, the aggressive pheromones, the gym-cultivated sweat lightly washed and masked by a liberal application of Joop! Homme. I feel a slight stirring in my trousers. My mumbled apologies are met with benign laughter. It seems that phallic activity of this nature is tolerated in this world, indeed positively encouraged, taken as a sign of healthy virility. The boys pat me on the back, and together we down our first shots of the night: foul, violently-coloured stuff that tastes of cough medicine and diesel.
Every close group of friends has its own peculiar set of codes and conventions, and Mark's is no exception. As the evening begins, we place hands on hearts and solemnly vow to sound the 'Titty Klaxon' upon any sighting of naked female breast during the course of the evening, thus alerting the others to its presence. Superficially, the Titty Klaxon is little more than a guttural "arooga!" sound amplified through cupped hands, but encoded within it is a sacred bond of trust, a declaration of comradeship and a willingness to involve others in one's masturbatory experience.
Yes, we are the Cock Boys. Young, thrusting gunslingers out to sexually assault the night - but only in that cheeky, grey-area way that a sympathetic male judge might shrug off as boyish hijinks. In this particular area of society, it is standard behaviour to lift the skirt of a young lady, or else why would they wear such tiny dresses, eh? At worst, they shall simply appear wearied and annoyed. Other times, they might just be game enough to play along. But if you are especially fortunate, the Pussyman tells me, you may even get a slap. That means she's a feisty one!
My world is suddenly alive, fizzing and squealing with fresh possibilities. Everywhere is flesh - perfect, taut, youthful flesh. Temptation at every turn. My penis by now is straining against the fabric of my trousers - or at least it would be if I hadn't had so much to drink. In fact I am rendered cruelly, ironically impotent by the very source of my renewal. I am a rampant spirit trapped inside an ancient, atrophied body. I am Tantalus, ceaselessly beguiled by things forever out of reach.
Pussyman, his Cock Boys and I are swaying in our seats, trying to make sense of our surroundings through cloudy, blunted eyes. Chugger demonstrates the provenance of his nickname by casually vomiting down his duck egg blue shirt. I am dimly aware of two large figures approaching our table through the alcoholic mist, and in a seeming instant we are out on the street. Chugger is urinating into a bin. Mark and Knobber are engaged in a rousing chorus of the Kaiser Chiefs hit I Predict A Riot. Todd is standing in the road, pulling his shirt up with one hand and his trousers down with the other, which he then reassigns to the task of tugging uselessly at his limp penis. Very slowly, the friends regroup and we part ways as they wander off back to their halls of residence. I hail a taxi and stumble, alone, to my hotel bed, where I half-heartedly attempt masturbation until I am snatched away by sleep, fingers still wrapped around my lifeless rod.
I awaken to a powerful nausea, a monstrous headache and a profound sense of shame and inadequacy. Over breakfast, I try to recall the events of the previous evening. Dim, smeared shards of memories momentarily bob up to the surface before sinking back down into the depths of my unconscious. A lascivious comment here, a pinched bottom there, my head wedged between the squirming (possibly with delight, most likely not) thighs of a girl young enough to be my granddaughter. When I was a Cock Boy, such behaviour was appropriate. Now, however, I am but an ordinary fellow, with healthy social reflexes, a code of ethics and no more than a justifiable level of self-esteem. The world seems flat and colourless, the whole night feels now like a strange and wonderful dream, and I realise that I am experiencing something akin to a drugs comedown.
I cannot recommend Mark's birthday highly enough! Indeed I have made arrangements to go out once more with the boys next weekend, so that I may know again what it is to be a twat. Perhaps I shall see you there.