Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Inside the Cavern Club

It was cold outside, but inside, it was sweltering. I imagine it must have been that way when the Beatles played at the original Cavern Club all those years ago---dim lights, smoky haze, brick walls enclosing a throbbing crowd that twisted and shouted to Hey Jude and All You Need is Love and Do You Want To Know A Secret.

I danced among eccentrics: dandies in pinstripe suits and costume glasses, pin-up girls with glittery fake lashes and bright red lips, a foreign couple who got every other word wrong but sang along with gusto anyway.

They were exactly the kind of people you'd expect to find in Liverpool, a city that, as I delightfully discovered earlier, held a wealth of stories within its silent, static streets. You won't understand a Liverpudlian unless you listen intently, and you won't recognize the city's quirks until you look closely. Only then do you see the strange lambananas, the two anachronic cathedrals that seemed to try to outdo each other as they stood on either end of Hope Street, the pub with the gilded urinals, that flat with a bright red door where Brian Epstein used to live with John and Cynthia. In Liverpool, you have to go inside to see the colors, and hear the music.This was especially true for the Cavern Club.

It was a Thursday and a Beatles night when I found myself there. It was the last stop at the end of the free tour led by the owner of the hostel I was staying in. I squeezed through the crowd, trailing behind my fellow hostelers, clinging to them desperately only because I didn't know how to be alone. As soon as I heard the music though, it was easy, and suddenly I had left the group behind and found myself inching closer and closer to the stage, following the sound of the songs I knew so well.

In a minute, my eyes were shut and my voice was rising, my hips were swaying, my knees were bouncing, and my heart was singing out all the words I loved and believed in. One song turned into another as the band played on and on, and I just kept on singing She Loves You yeah yeah yeah Na na na na na na na na na Hey Jude Cant buy me loooove looooove cant buy me looooove yeah yeah yeah.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, someone I didn't know told me that he and I must be awesome, because we were the only two who knew all the words. I smiled and echoed his sentiments, but then the song beckoned and he understood, and both of us went back to singing, as if the night depended on it.

And then somewhere in the middle of all that, he took my hand, and this song I've known since I was a child suddenly meant something new. I suppose you can say I felt the song for the first time in my life, the words physically rippling through my skin. And when I touch you I feel happy inside. The song faded in to the next (She's got a ticket to riiide) as my hand settled comfortably into his.

When the music died down and the band took a break, we sat down on the floor, away from the crowd, and began the conversation that would go on and on until we parted ways.

People walked past us, and I wonder now if they saw that my cheeks were flushed and his eyes were shining. I wonder if they saw the fingers still laced through each other, the pale thumb that drew patterns on brown skin. I wonder if they saw the ear that fluttered to mouth, thirsty for answers to questions, the lips that broke into smiles at the discovery of shared loves. I wonder if they saw the walls that were breaking down, the friendship that was becoming.

All I know for certain is that none of them saw heart dropping to stomach as head inched closer and blue eyes bore through brown. None of them saw blood rushing through veins as mouth met mouth. People must have seen only the kisses, only the fingers that brushed through hair, and pressed on neck, the bodies now tangled together. The tremors caused by the collision of our lips were felt only by me, maybe by him too.

By then we had gotten warm inside, and suddenly even the club had become unbearably sultry. And so we made our way up its winding steps and stepped out into the cold, starry night.

We talked. Mostly about silly things that meant the world to us. It was a conversation I only ever dreamed of having, a conversation I always have with myself in my head, but never get the chance to have with another actual human being. And yet there it was, finally happening in real life with a total stranger who seemed to have a knack for reading all the cues in our exchange, who laughed at exactly the right moments, and responded with a charming kind of awkward wit that made me feel that which I rarely feel even when I am talking to my closest friends--that is, completely at ease with myself.

We walked too, until we found a corner shut off to the world. And then after more kisses and messier tangles, we started again, winding our way through a city that neither of us knew too well.

Pretty soon, we were lost but it didn't seem to matter. Our hands would not let go, and our laughter pierced the silence. When he felt me shiver from the cold, he wrapped his arms around me, and when he looked at me with a certain smile, I gave him a kiss. At the time, that was all we needed.

And then time was up. The real world managed to pierce through our warm little bubble: my backpack was still exploded all over the hostel floor, my bus was coming, I had no money, I had to go. We were lost, but we found our way again somehow. We had to. An embrace, a kiss, a promise never meant to be kept, and he turned left, and I turned right, and we took the first few tentative steps only to turn around again for a cursory smile and a nod. And that was it. I turned away to face the path ahead, never to see him again.

Without his arms around me, I was shivering on the outside. Inside, however, there was only warmth, perhaps because even as we turned away I could not remember saying goodbye.

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