When Regina Spektor released her supreme album, Far, and was playing in London I of course bought tickets. Two tickets, one for me and one for, let’s call him Rafe. Rafe is a very dear childhood friend of mine who lives in London. I would usually stay with him at that time. He lived above a chiropractor’s in Oakwood and I would look forward to sleeping on the top of the market air mattress.
There I was with my travel pack, riding into town on the Megabus. There is always that frisson of excitement when Old Lady Thames comes into view between the towers of London and this time was no different. I met up with Rafe and we had a few drinks whilst he told me about his new Australian girlfriend, who was a very passionate person. We finished our drinks and headed over to the Hammersmith Apollo. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Hammersmith Apollo but it has the most beautiful flyover outside it that you really must see.
Anyway, Regina was on great form. I had fallen in love with the album when it came out but played live the songs really shone. Blue Lips I remember being a highlight of the earlier songs in the set. Around half way through the concert I felt a tug at my arm. It was Rafe. We’d both had a fair bit to drink by this point and he was slurring a little.
‘What’s that?’ I said.
‘I’ve gotta go.’
‘This is some kind of sick joke,’ I said.
‘My new girlfriend has texted and she said she needs to me to go over there. She said she’d be passionate with me.’
‘You can’t do this, Rafe,’ I said. ‘I don’t know how to get back to your flat.’
‘Yeah you do, it’s easy,’ he said. ‘Sorry, sorry.’
‘But you have an eighteen year old Italian female as your flatmate and she doesn’t know who I am and I can’t just turn up there – she’ll think I’m a lunatic come to kill her.’
‘No no no,’ he said, ‘it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine.’
And that was that. Off he went into the night. I returned my attention to Regina. Ah, what a great concert that was. When it was over I threaded my way through the streets and underground tunnels of the great city and, eventually, all fun completely disintegrated after over an hour of travel, I arrived at Rafe’s flat.
My worries about the Italian flatmate resurfaced. She might be up there now, watching TV or reading or book and all of a sudden a strange drunk was about to bowl in saying he’s Rafe’s friend and it’s ok to spend the night in a flat which has no locks on the bedroom doors.
I checked the windows upstairs. The lights were out. I’d just get in there like someone in the SAS, make myself a delicious glass of refreshing water, and get to bed. She’d be none the wiser. And the plan went off without a hitch. The flat was silent and dark. I crept along the landing, past her closed bedroom door, clutching the glass of water I’d made in the downstairs kitchen. I got into Rafe’s room and breathed a sigh of relief. I was pretty hammered by this point and fell asleep right away.
I was awoken the next morning by the sound of my phone ringing. It was Rafe.
‘I’m late for rugby. You need to get my kit and bring it to Richmond.’
‘Where’s the kit?’
‘In the airing cupboard in the bathroom.’
‘No problem,’ I said.
I ended the call. I’d already decided not to shower or anything because of the Italian flatmate so I’d be gone soon enough and the episode would be over. Nobody would notice my not being showered – I was, after all, travelling on the Megabus. I got all my stuff ready and listened at the door for signs of the Italian girl stirring. There were none. This was going to be simple. I’d grab Rafe’s kit and get the hell out of dodge. The perfect crime. I edged open the door and poked my head out. The coast was clear. I tippy-toed across the landing and into the bathroom, silent, like a cat. In the bathroom I spied the airing cupboard in the corner and headed over. ‘Oh my,’ I remember remarking to myself, ‘this is a very deep airing cupboard.’ Rafe’s kitbag was on a shelf right at the back, about three feet away. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought to myself if I went in here and then the Italian girl came in just as I was in the cupboard. A wry smile and a shake of the head at my amusing thought and I entered the airing cupboard. I collected up Rafe’s bag and at that moment I heard a noise. The landing. Oh no. But, of course, oh yes.
It was one of those airing cupboards with slats so you could see through into the main area of the room. You’ve all seen them, whenever there’s a perve in a film perving on someone. In came the eighteen year old Italian in a white bathrobe. I watched her through the slats. I was now in a crisis point. I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t just stay here and wait in secret whilst she got showered, wait whilst she dried off and went about her toilet… could I? I could spare her modesty by cowering in the back of the airing cupboard, I thought, just as a cowardly rat might find cover under a pile of rotting food. But then I thought, no that would simply be too insane. There was no choice.
I psyched myself up, slung Rafe’s kitbag across my back, took a few deep breaths… and leapt out of the airing cupboard. There was a moment. A brief second where our eyes met before the she realised what was happening. I stood there, she stood there. I thought about what to say, how to explain this. But what words could there possibly be? The answer is of course obvious: none. So instead of speaking I lunged towards the door. The Italian was between me and the door so she thought I was lunging for her. Weirdly, she didn’t scream, she just stepped towards the toilet as I flew past. I yanked open the door and ran across the landing, thinking, what the hell must she think? It took longer than I thought to get across that landing and down the stairs. I could feel her eyes staring at my back as I thought to myself, well, Rhys, this is going to be a real low point in your life.
I finally got Rafe his kitbag. He found the story very amusing. I told him he had to explain what had happened but he said that wasn’t going to happen. With that I headed back to Victoria but I had a few hours to kill so I detoured to 221b Baker Street for a visit to the Sherlock Holmes museum, which was absolutely awesome.