How I longed for today to arrive. The invitation that lay dormant on my mantelpiece was coming to life at 7.00 pm. I held it tight and read it again: Yours Truly had been invited to Boris Johnson’s (BoJo from now on) garden stroke office party.
Come on BoJo! Pull the other one – if you can find it. Have you really sent me an invite to join an office party, and not a political one? I thought we were in lockdown and, in any case, since when is a garden not part of a house any more? Estate agents will be in trouble, because I can hear the potential buyers yelling,
“I love the house, but you can take the bloody garden with you. I’m not having it!”
But what if the invitation I got is a hoax? Of course, there’s no party. Just the balloons and booze to cheer us all up and let us forget (between two Martinis and a Canada Dry) that there ever was a lockdown, that the virus just gives you a snotty nose, and that’s it. So, before I hop on the train to London and Downing Street, let me propose the first toast: it’s for Mrs Womble of Wimbledon, now residing for a couple of weeks in the intensive care room with the sunbathed window, on the twenty-second floor of Guy’s Hospital. How she ever managed all those stairs, I’ll never know.
It was all a dream. Of course, there was no party. BoJo always plays Abba when he’s making tough decisions that will affect the whole country.
“So what was it, then?” asks the Metropolitan Police, as I sit in one of the understaffed interview rooms.
“Gosh,” I say. “It was a couple of years ago, and my memory’s fading and turning the same colour as my jeans.”
But yes, I do remember what I saw with my own eyes, and I’m not the only one: there was Me, Bobby, and Bobby’s brother. I knew we would have to testify having seen a dancing queen in the garden of number 10, as well as a rock ‘n’ roll band that went on and on and on.
I should have turned back because I sensed something was wrong when I rang the doorbell: it went ring-ring instead of dum dum diddle. The young woman who opened the famous black door was quite a stunner, though. Mamma mia, she’s my kind of girl, I thought. Just too bad I couldn’t impress her with my worn down jeans and smelly shirt.
“Why didn’t you put on your white sombrero?” she asked.
“Well, this shirt is as good as new.” I lied. Of course, I always lie when I’m in trouble. But this lie served a double purpose: first, I don’t really know what a sombrero is (have to look that up when I get home), and two: mistaking a party at number 10 for something it wasn’t – a party at number 10. What a disillusion!
My mama said that love isn’t easy (but it sure is hard enough), so I just had to forget about the lovelight at the entrance, and move towards the garden, where the real fun was happening.
“Fernando!” screamed a voice from the patio.
“Yesss. That’s me!” I shouted back. I just love these parties, where the girls are so friendly and I’m so lovable.
She rushed towards me. “It’s been so long,” she said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
I blushed like I always blush. “Well,” I said, looking down at my jeans. “It’s been a long time.”
I didn’t remember her name and, to be honest, I don’t think I even knew her name during our last summer together. Yes, we did spend the summer together, but no doubt about it, I didn’t know who the hell she was then, either.
Miss Santa Rosa (for want of a better name) seemed to catch on. “You don’t even know my name, do you?”
Well, I thought, one of us knows her name, and it’s just bad luck it isn’t me. Buying time, I muttered very slowly, “I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!”
She didn’t react. Her face was turning colder by the minute. Should I laugh or cry? I had to do something, even if it wasn’t calling out a name. It’s been so long, and this time I didn’t want her slipping through my fingers like she did last time. Why did it have to be me forgetting her name?
“My love,” I grinned my sweat away. “Knowing me, knowing you, is neither here nor there.”
And then it came. Out of nowhere. A flash in the mind that electrifies your vision of the world. I felt dizzy. Number 10 was swaying between numbers 9 and 11, like a pendulum. And my mouth moved, my tongue swirled, and my teeth parted: “Nina, Pretty Ballerina. How could I forget you after what happened last time.” What did happen last time?
Oh, I’m so cool when I want to. And this was a great party, after all. Who cares about social distancing and odd-numbered families where there’s always one who has to stay at home to keep the numbers even. Thank you BoJo. Thank you for the party, and thank you for the music. I had no doubt about it and, even if she was just the office girl, and not a ballerina, she would take a chance on me.
She smiled, “Yes, that’s me.”
My brain relaxed. “You owe me one,” it said. Yes, I thought, whatever you want, Super Trooper.
I got her number, of course. Promised her I would call. I probably would, eventually.
In the meantime, I left my brothers at number 10 so that they will be able to testify that the party went on until late into the night.
I was a happy man, having had a great time during lockdown. I took the Underground to Waterloo mainline station, music ringing in my ears, a face mask clinging to my lips. Bye-bye London, Hasta Mañana, number 10! Another town, another train – I went back home to a bare mantelpiece.
Me, Bobby, and Bobby’s Brother
Rock ‘N ‘Roll Band
On And On And On
Dum Dum Diddle
She’s My Kind Of Girl
Put On Your White Sombrero
As Good As New
My Mama Said
Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough)
It’s Been So Long
I’ve Been Waiting For You
Our Last Summer
One Of Us
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do
Should I Laugh Or Cry
Slipping Through My Fingers
Why Did It have To Be Me
Knowing Me, Knowing You
Nina, Pretty Ballerina
Thank You For The Music
Take A Chance On Me
You Owe Me One
Another Town, Another Train