BCN: The night of the seventeen year olds (2008)

We had decided, as usual, to meet outside the Jaume I metro station and go on from there. If the hour was right perhaps we’d secure a frankfurter from the Placa and take a gander down an unknown street.
But the streets were growing further away from ‘uncertain’ and veering towards the ‘accustomed’ category. There were, however, as always the Rule of Barcelona, twenty or thirty little bars where we had had fond accounts and regurgitated sciences, but whose whereabouts were now completely forgotten. Many a night in this rich Catalan capital have I marched off in search for a particular bar only to find that it no longer exists, that it was sadly consumed by a mass of cement and shoe shops…or rather – my memory had failed me.
Visitor: always obtain a card when you enter these bars.
And so now…as he arrives behind a fog of Marlboro and stubble, we converse towards the remembered streets…
‘Where’s Sam?’
‘Out…doing his thing.’
‘With Hats?’
‘With the seventeen year old.’
‘Jesus.’
He inhales.
‘Where to?’ An almost rhetorical question, but a question nonetheless.
‘Sugar?’
‘Check the sights?’
‘That’s what I was thinkin’’
He exhales.
‘…one beer in Sugar…if nothin’s goin’ on, maybe we head to Chango’s…or Nevermind.’
‘What’s that place with the elevator?’
‘Elevator bar? We could go there…Hats is in Cegale.’
‘Kaisa said there’s a party in Poblenou…’
‘Poblenou?’ He stressed the word, as if its very suggestion was offensive.
‘That’s pretty fuckin’ far man.’
His mild intolerance amused me. After a couple of cañas resting in his throat – they’d either all change or turn him into a fowl beast verging along the Darkside.

Sugar was packed. Which was unusual. Not unusual because it was packed. But unusual because it was packed when we wanted it to be. Packed not just with other men but hordes of women.
Christ. These were desperate times.
Let me attempt to justify…as previously mentioned: women, during this era, where not a ‘means to’…they were the end. They were a grand portion of the fruitfulness of our night. Not just a moment in a bed, or a romance on the side of the street…but their very presence…the company.
–    but actually that’s bullshit. I’m lying again. Trying to be humble I guess. Women were the end…one of them anyway, amongst our truer friends and the beers we shared, the women came a close second and there was only one thing we wanted at this stage. We were simple men, with simple pleasures. Our desires were held open. Everyone shared in this role, the facts were known. We were honest. Even Diana knew what was coming to her yet still she chose the dangerous path.
Henceforth, Sugar. Packed. Women.
We knew our chances were high because the eagerness we had we didn’t show. Whilst the other men in the bar were sweating Vaseline and undocking their chest-hair from their collars and pouting lip-gloss mid-conversation; we were the casual-goers, the confident conversationists, the un-egotistical men with smiles on our faces…
At least, that’s what I like to imagine we were.
We were probably just another pair of arseholes.

Pandolfi secured the alcohol. I was most likely broke at this moment. I was broke most days and spent the majority of my money on tattoos rather than buying my good friends beer and mojitos and frankfurters. In hindsight…there were many things I should have done.
I spotted a voluptuous blonde sitting on a bench against the wall, dressed all in black with a soft, symmetrical face and a baby’s chin. She was a girl made entirely out of mammary glands. She was the Mother Ship. The Queen Nest. Her small face only complimented the enormous monstrosity of fleshy gold-fish bowls which framed it. A night with her would be a night spent back in the Beloved Womb. And, further more…she was surrounded by a gathering of more voluptuous and tasteful females of her leviathan kind.
‘They look English.’
‘They look young.’
‘That’s never stopped you before.’
Pandolfi wasn’t the sort of chap who just barges in. He takes his time, his long time. Whilst fiends like Patrick need no second opinion and bowl right on in, unconscious of anything else. So I stepped forward and made introductions. It’d begun about something English. They adored Pandolfi’s accent. Thus, realising gimmicks were in, they quickly ‘discovered’ my tattoos and got overly excited.
My skin and your voice, I thought, and the night is ours.
We didn’t buy them drinks too soon. We probably didn’t buy them drinks at all. Drinks were limited and reserved for customers like Samuel. If he ever showed up.
‘So how long you been in Barcelona?’ A brunette asked.
‘A year or so.’
This excited them. It had hardly been so easy.
‘How about you chaps?’
‘Just a couple of days…’
A holiday?
‘Er…not quite.’
‘Business trip?’
The crowd of women burst into laughing.
Suddenly, with a slow horror, I began to realise how young they really looked.
‘We are on a school trip.’

This was some vile joke. A trick played by Samuel. Some revenge for laughing at his schoolboy lovers.
‘How old are you?’
She hesitated, which made us fear the worst. It spoke volumes about prison cells and front-page news of The Sun where British Pervert Teacher Letches Over School Girl. And with Pandolfi’s Cuban stubble the passport photos would be evidence enough.
She said eighteen. Although I speculated seventeen. Which really meant sixteen.
But then there were the breasts…
It wasn’t right. Yet many a fourteen year-old has developed twice as much as her mother.
I think I even asked to see her passport, but her teacher, Miss. Anderson, was keeping them safe…
‘They look young.’
‘That’s never stopped you before.’
More rhetoric: What would Samuel do?
We were teachers, but we taught adults, not teenagers. We debated for a while and decided that the best thing to do was continue, forthwith, and not waste a moment looking back. For it was certain that a couple of perverted men would try to seduce these young women and so really, we were protecting them in a way…safe-guarding the security of pretty tourists. We were doing the world a favour – if we left now, a couple of ugly creeps would surely get in and these girls wouldn’t want that playing on their fond memories of Barcelona. Neither would their mothers. We were nice people. Mothers liked us. We were helping out. And so, we battled on. One fowl second of procrastination and it’ll all disperse into air.

A few hours later the schoolgirls took me and Pandolfi by the hands and led us to a tiny, shiny club on Placa Reail, underneath their dormitories. We’d never been there before. I think it was on the same side as Kabul, but it wasn’t the Jambore. [spelling?] The floor and couches were filled with AS Level students, zits and haircuts. Not to mention hordes of massive cleavages. What was it with these women? Pandolfi and I felt slightly wrong. We were surrounded by this gang ten years our junior and soon I began to feel nostalgic about that summer in 2001 when we all left school.
Yet we weren’t treated as strangers. Pandolfi had famously disappeared into the crowd on the dance floor, surrounded by teenage Brits and braces, whilst I brought my girl – the one with the gold-fish bowls – a couple of Rum and cokes.
Was this a wrong thing to do? How much was her limit? How much can a ten year old take these days? What if she collapsed by this dark part of the bar?
‘So…you’re seventeen?’
‘Eighteen.’
She kept mentioning Miss. Anderson, her Spanish teacher, and how beautiful she was. She kept saying that I should meet her.
‘I don’t think she’d like me much.’
And she certainly didn’t. Miss. Anderson came down into the bar to check on her children and found two of them kissing a couple of strange looking men on the couches in the corner by the dark side of the bar. They looked like convicts from the 50s. No words but her presence were shared as the clock struck midnight and we all walked upstairs into the bar, past the three glaring teachers and got into the street. I felt punishment would shortly occur. I felt I’d broken all the rules again and that I was a grubby schoolboy once more.
But we were men, adults; and we were teachers; yet they were the real teachers. They were the ones from back home who represented ORDER and STRUCTURE and TESTAMENT KNOWLEDGE. They’d survived PGCEs and OFSTED reports and health and safety checks whilst we were vagabonds in Barcelona preying on big-chested twelve year olds and pretending to know about language. We were just a pair of fucking jokers. Was there no middle ground?

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