Episode 1: David
It’s well past midnight now and the city is alive. It’s been a long time since I’ve walked these streets but now that lockdown’s over it feels like nothing’s changed. I’m yet to come up but the nervous excitement is a high unto itself, and looking at my friends I can tell they feel the same. We’re across the road from Xe89, a club that I’m almost certain I’ve been to before but those years are all a blur now. Sitting outside a McDonald’s looking at my Mount Franklin water bottle, it strikes me that tonight I’ve acquired super-human vision: I am really looking… at this bottle.
Jake crosses the road from the club, oblivious to the fact he’s in the way of traffic, and approaches our bench. “Okay, so they’re checking vaccination statuses…”.
“For fuck sake” Ben replies, to the laughter of the rest of us. Ben never got vaccinated and this is probably the first time he’s left his house in months after he was dropped from his job.
“… specifically Moderna” Jake finishes. Now we share a silence. I got Pfizer along with roughly half the group, and this was long before clubs and restaurants started getting selective.
“For fuck sake” I mumble to myself.
Ben stands and stretches. “Well who cares? If they actually check us we’ll just get kicked out of the line. Compared to getting caught with drugs it’s a cake walk”. He had a point. The line wasn’t very long, given the screening process, so now was a good time to try our luck and go somewhere else if we get the flick.
“Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose”. Joel Simmons: Arrogant asshole, who got Moderna after it was cool but tells people he got it before. Also slightly taller than me. “And I personally don’t want to come up at a maccas”
We cross the road to the club, some of us polite enough to do the awkward penguin walk when your crossing blocks traffic, and get in line. The group in front of us is talking about some new music they were listening to and it’s clear they’re from the northern suburbs based on the hoop earrings and bowl cuts. I’d say there’s about a fifty percent chance this guy hasn’t actually heard of these bands but just says he has to save face. What kind of stupid name for a band is ‘Lonely Bear’? Even I’m surprised these bums got Moderna: and I’m supposedly less than them? What a fucked up world.
We reach the front and Joel Simmons shows his vaccination passport like it’s nothing. The bouncer, an enormous… Torres Strait Islander? … sees that we’re all in the same group and shuffles the rest of us in without bothering to check anyone else. No scan-tech too which I’m grateful for.
As we descend into the club the deep bass hits me and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m entering the mouth of Hell. Has there ever been a movie where the descent into a night club has not marked the part where things start going to shit? Well, a man has needs and if he needs to enter Hell to satisfy them, so be it.
I realise something’s happening to my shoulder: somebody’s tapping it, it’s Ben, he’s saying something. “WHAT?” I yell directly into his ear.
“BEER?” He yells back, making a gesture with his hand. A wanking gesture? No, a drinking gesture. I glance at the lonely looking bar, offensively well-lit compared to the dance floor.
“AREN’T YOU ROLLING?” I respond. He just shrugs. Why not, I’m feeling pretty anxious anyway what with my departure from the surface world and all.
We stand timidly drinking our beers, ridiculously illuminated by the recessed ceiling lights. This is what it feels like to be a clown in a circus, except that no-one’s laughing.
Ben breaks the silence. “MAN, THIS YEAR HAS BEEN SO FUCKED UP, YOU KNOW?”.
“YEAH”. I know where this is going. I recall we can’t actually be in Hell because the mouth to Hell Ben’s front door. Things have not been great with him and I can’t say I’ve been supportive.
“I FEEL LIKE I CAN’T EVEN TELL DAYS APART ANYMORE. I’M NOT ACTUALLY SURE IF I SLEEP. LIKE I KNOW THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE BUT I’M PRETTY SURE I DON’T SLEEP”.
“THAT SUCKS MAN”. I’m always at a loss for words in these conversations. “AT LEAST TONIGHT WE CAN KICK BACK A BIT, RIGHT?”
“YEAH, RIGHT”. The ‘RIGHT’ came out particularly loud because this DJ likes doing that thing where you pretend that the sound system has shut down but then you’re actually just muting the track for a second or two before coming back with more bass. We share another silence. Again, Ben’s the one to break it: “SO, I WAS THINKING…”
A girl on the dance floor catches my eye and millions of years of evolution combined with months of isolation bring me to my feet as I say “I’M GONNA GO AND DANCE FOR A BIT I’LL BE BACK LATER”. Without waiting to check his reaction I find myself on the dance floor and working my admittedly atrocious dance moves that once upon a time I actually managed to pull off well. I keep my cool, not coming on too hard, but… she’s actually moving closer to me? That Islander must have been St Peter because things are going well. She gives me a reassuring look. This time it’s my turn to break the silence.
“THIS YOUR FIRST NIGHT IN THE CITY POST-LOCKDOWN?”. A reasonable question.
“SAME. IT’S SO WEIRD BEING AROUND SO MANY PEOPLE”. Not even lying about that: it is weird.
“RIGHT? I FEEL LIKE I’M ON ANOTHER PLANET”. This is pretty good engagement.
I don’t wanna over-do it: I keep dancing and acting like I’m outcome-independent, until she asks “WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”
“I LIKE THAT NAME, IT SUITS YOU”. King David you might say. Kind David, in Heaven.
“LINDA”. Should I say it suits her too? That’s just repeating what she said to me. I doubt that’s gonna land. But what should I say? She’s check-mated me. Maybe I need to change the subject.
She ends up changing it for me. “ISN’T IT COOL WE GET THIS CLUB ALL TO OURSELVES?”. All to ourselves? Then explain the sweaty randoms rubbing up against me right now.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”
“YOU KNOW, MODERNA”
“OH RIGHT, YEAH I ACTUALLY GOT PFIZER”.
“THE BOUNCER GUY DIDN’T EVEN CHECK ME. I ACTUALLY GOT PFIZER”. At this moment I know my night is over. The DJ muted the track right before I confessed to being an imposter. Except the music still hasn’t returned. He, along with everybody else in the club, is frozen, staring at me with a look of shock and… indignation? I shoot a look to Ben who’s still sitting at the bar and even with the blinding downward lighting turning his forehead into a light bulb I can see in his eyes he knows I’m fucked and is too scared to blow his own cover to defend me. Nearby I see Joel Simmons, that piece of shit, gleefully staring in mock-disgust.
I now know what it feels like to sneak into Heaven and then have God and all his angels simultaneously realise you were the pharaoh who enslaved the Jews, and you never actually got Moderna. I turn to see St Peter approaching, now uncannily resembling Goliath coming back for round two, and next thing I know I’m being grabbed, flying momentarily, and smacking into a hard object. Right before I pass out I realise Shit, I’m coming up.