Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy 2- Roy Bentley
Here, the Rolling Stones are on a tour plane hurtling to their deaths
Part One: The Crash (Continued)
It was rainy and cold, and I was in a mac and blue trousers and a white shirt and we were just sitting there, bored, just watching the world go by, no nothing but the moment going on and David turned to me and said: “I am so tired, Mike”
“We’re all tired but something will change, the world will change. No war, at least.”
“Yeah but at least they had a war, something to believe in and what do we have?”
“We have rock and roll?”
”That’s your answer.”
“It is something, it matters, it is ours. It matters.”
“I can’t see it, and I can’t feel it. All I see is this great country is so fucked up and I am at the bottom of it and nothing I can do will change it and nothing you can do will change it.”
We lit cigarettes and the smoke was everywhere, everything smelled of fags, empty packs of Embassy’s, and Dave, with this odd habit of cutting off the filter, like it changed it or something, Maybe he thought it made him look important and really Dave didn’t think he was important.
“I can’t see why I should bother. I didn’t deserve to be born into this, this… it is like this train ride to a beach without sand. It is just wrong, you know.”
We went to the penny arcade and we didn’t discuss it again. We lost money, on prizes, tried to talk to girls. Maybe if Dave had pulled a girl he would have been here today but he didn’t. Girls are so cruel, you know. They ignored us, like looked right through us as if we didn’t exist though I didn’t care. If I cared about girls with bad manners I’d be dead myself. You can’t worry about girls, they fuck upwards. And we aren’t there now. I’ll get there, I can feel it, I am working towards it. I don’t bother saying this to Dave. He wouldn’t believe me, he didn’t believe me, but I believed I need self-confidence, I need to be calm, I need to be collected, I need to work forward on and on.
We bought a beer and leaned on the rail and stared into the North Sea. It was rough. It is always rough. It is rough in the middle of summer, and it was rough last week, the sky seemed like something out of a David Lean film, it was dramatic, crackling and not raining but as though it was in a terrible mood. Dave wasn’t depressed anymore and the sky was so dark, and we were so wet and the future so close. The decade was closing and suddenly the world was open to possibility. Perhaps he did drown, if he was as obsessed with Chicago as I was maybe he jumped in and tried to swim the North Sea and then the Atlantic Ocean and then to New York and then… to the home of the electric blues where all his heroes lived in castles and gin joints and hung out with Elvis and where I would join them as well. Maybe a guy could lose his virginity there. It suddenly seemed like a good idea to swim away from London, London is all I know but I just know there is much more.
I will never do this to myself. I watched his Mummy, unable to stand up, staring at the empty casket, perhaps Dave had… perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. My friends stood round me, we stood there so solemn, as though something had intruded and was interfering with us. If all we had was this moment of being young why must there be so many shadows? I wish I’d be born in time for the war, I wish I had a reason to fight, I have nothing but this ambition deep in my bones, this certainty.
I walk away from the cemetery and Gladys comes up to me and takes my hand.
“I am so sorry for you Michael,” she says. A pretty, tall, nineteen year old girl, with a quick smile but a way of treating you as though you weren’t quite good enough. I’d seen her all my life but I can’t remember ever speaking to her before; she was too good for me. I wasn’t magical, or old, or rich, or handsome. But death lights on the living, my closeness to death gave me powers I didn’t have.
“Such a senseless way to die,” I said. I know if Dave had been there, he wouldn’t mind the lie. “I thought maybe he was swimming to the US?”
“Does it go there? The sea, I mean”. I didn’t correct her. “Could you do it?”
“I would if you could, you know.”
“Would you leave me, Michael?” Gladys asks, and I could hear if not a flirtatiousness, just the way her voice went upwards a little. I could feel her fingers entwined with mine, they were workers hand, a scrubbers hand, rough and untidy, but they excited me and she squeezed my hand, and moved a little closer. It was still raining and we were getting wetter and she moves in closer to me, though I didn’t have an umbrella so I don’t know why but I could hear her raincoat brush against mine and a sense of her body so near mine.
“I’d protect you, Gladys I know you’d need me to be a man and that’s what I’d be for you. I’d take you with me and carry you on the back, swim so far out of worlds and oceans, from time to time and place to place where in a new world we could be alone under the stars and… and …” I knew I had her but I didn’t know why.
“And what, Michael? What would we do?”
I directed her across a field, abandoned though not for long, it would be rebuilt, but now it was empty and we walked hand in hand the rain washing us away and our shoes ruined. We stopped in the middle of the field and it was really quiet and green and like it must have been 10,000 years ago and the only thing I could hear was the steady rain splashing on the grass, splashing me, and I held Gladys close to me, she tilted up her head and a little to the side, and I knew what happened next, it was what always happens next.
This kiss? It matters so much. It is like my heart lifted up and my place in the world was exulted, Gladys fit nicely in my arms and she had no hesitation in her, it was all melt and vanilla and lipstick. I feel as if this is a better reason to be alive than Muddy Waters: than the electric sound of the heart, better was the beating of another heart as it comes right down on you and moves you and you connect downwards on gravity, we tumbled to the floor, like all the bones in our legs were gone and we kissed and Gladys kept her eyes tightly closed as though to see anything would be to tell anything, the clingy wettiness of her, the clingfilled desire of her, the smell of soil on the ground on her legs like a stain she wasn’t worried about and her break in my ear as I put my hand between her legs.
“Oh, Michael, Michael, Michael” she said, all soft sigh, like we are in a picture, like we are jumping through the screen and on to the ground and my name, me Michael, whispered in desire, in sexiness and want. The want of America and the want of her and me so young and serious we are willing to risk our lives to be free. This is what I have waited my life for, freedom and girls, freedom with girl. A type of being protected from life, from the meaninglessness that caught Dave and wouldn’t let him go ever. This is what we wanted because it wasn’t just sex, I don’t even know what sex is or what it means, but what I know now is how it feels to be wanted. Maybe if Dave had had this moment he could’ve found a way back from the darkness, but he never could find it.
When we are done, it wasn’t my finest moment but Gladys seemed happy enough, we walk her home, I have stains all over me and Gladys hair I a mess, she has lost her head scarf and I think she looks every bit like a girl who has just had sex and I think how I might want to capture the way she looks and feels better if I don’t become an accountant. Just hits me as accountancy is not what I need to be dong with my life.
This moment, that moment, they are flooding me like an information overload, I am sitting with Keith and Dave on the pavement near our house and it is mid-Summer, very hot, we are out of breath and I tell them to come home with me, Mummy gives us some lemonade and we sit in the living room gulping it down and listening to the radio, easy listening, a comedy show. The jokes are so spare and we start laughing at how bad they are and I am a Grandfather again, a phone call from the hospital on my cell, the important cell phone. I am in a meeting with HBO discussing another special. They want to make a deal with the Stones, or me, anything, they want anything at all. Rupert is there as well, and we are both sitting quietly, a trick I learnt a long long time ago, as they make large deals, large promises. We know we’re going to do something, they know we’re going to do something. They want a Stones bio, want to marry it to another idea, a documentary about something else. I shift in my seat, but we know they know whatever this is, it is business. It is a place I feel a certain comfort in, the road not quite taken. I wonder if they are star struck. People are, everyone is, people who shouldn’t be are, they lose sight of my humanity. It can work well, I get given things other people don’t. But it also works against me because it becomes unclear if I am really winning or only think I am winning. We shake hands, walk out, agree to think about it more. I am not inclined to worry, if not today tomorrow.
I am in the South Of France at Keith’s house and he is a wreck and I am losing patience and I snap at him but he is too out of it to notice. I don’t know what to do. It is incredibly strange, it is like something out of a Gothic novel and so is Keith. “What can I do to help you, man?” Keith mumbles his reply and Gram wanders in slouched over, a mess. “Get him out” I scowl at Keith, but nobody is listening, nobody is paying attention and really, why did we come here to do this? Is this what France means? It has been raining all day…”
I am holding this woman and there is this huge dancefloor and she is showing me how to waltz, and I am naturally good at it and I am swinging her and flying across the floor and she is saying slower, now tip, and all I can do is hear the places where my feet should be landing, it is like something in the sound is telling my brain to lift my leg. It is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever felt ever… I bet this is what sex will be like.
This is how death happens, as if you are living your entire life in an instant, less, in less than a blink of the eye, and I am feeling the most mundane moments. I am laying on the carpet and my parents are at a table, I can hear the murmur of their voices and the sound of cards being thrown down and picked up, the cards are worn but clean from where my mom has put them in the kitchen sink, they are drinking tea and I am watching football on BBC, it is a Sunday afternoon, Chris is annoying me, he has a tinker toy in his hand and racing it around me, as though I am a racetrack and I am getting annoyed. I speak softly but not pleasantly at all. There is all threat in me. “Stop it now or else…” I warn to the only person I can boss around. “I have no problem with dealing you out.” I snarl and I kick him hard, my gray socks falling down to my ankles. Chris moves back but he doesn’t say anything. “I want to watch the game. I am learning here how tp play, I’m gonna be a football star. Stop it, Chris, look.” He watches the blurry images on our telly , not impressed. “That’s what I do,” I tell him. He looks at me, not even slightly convinced.
“That’s not what you do.”
“No it is, that’s exactly the same.”
The speckly screen and deep intonations don’t connect back to last Friday’s fame. The only similar thing was the grayness of it all. Friday it felt like all color had been bleached away from our lives.
“That’s Roy Bentley” I said, excitedly.
“Bentley” he repeated not quite getting the entire concept.
“Yeah, that’s my position, Center Forward, I’m gonna be like him.”
“Soon, when I’m grown up.”
“I wanna be a jet plane pilot or like daddy.”
“Or a center forward. That is really cool because everybody loves you and you never grown up… look look.”
Roy had just scored another goal and he was tumbling on the football pitch then jumping up he was hugging everybody. Everybody so happy. I wanted more than anything to be the cause of that happiness and also, you know, my heart pounding and the fans screaming an everybody loving me.” I opened Chris’s little fist and took his toy car and I hurled it as hard as I could out the door and watched it land on the stairs in the hall. I’ll give Chris this: he was a scrappy one, for sure. He jumped on me and we began to fight, louder and louder, till it finally caught our parent’s attention.
“Michael, stop hitting your brother immediately.” That was Mum. I ignore her and every time I hit his face his cheek got wetter till I split the skin of his cheek and blood began to gush out. “Joe, this is your fault.”
“ How is this my fault. You make the decisions and I enforce them, that’s the deal.”
Everybody is making a noise and my attention drifts back to the telly, and I am in a strange place, like injury time or something, and as I blink my eyes I can see pictures of my career, I can see all the success, all the dream, of everybody so impressed by me and I am a sort of savior, in charge of everything, willing to meet you half way not ever. I am free entirely in my mind, racing down this huge football field, mud on my cleats, and it is sunny but the grounds are bog like and I race the ball down field, so young and invulnerable, ever closer to the goal and everybody else is standing in the goal line but I don’t care at all, I lift the ball with my knee and punch it in with my head. I’m the greatest.
Two hours ago I was in my bedroom with my girlfriend, and I was watching the rough cut of some concert footage from last night when the plane shook from side to side, it felt like crib death, it felt too strong, stronger than I’m used to and I fly a lot. The girl was asleep, she liked her pills and that was at least for the best. I put on my jeans and a fresh white shirt, looked in the material and counted the years in the lines of my face. The plane shook again I buzzed for assistant and some attractive girl was at the door. “What’s the problem?” I asked.