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Real Dating Stories: The Punk in the back alley

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

For this story, I had to delve deep into the hard-edged crevices of the brain that safely stores unwanted memories and cataclysmic experiences. This night didn’t start with me chasing tail down a back alley, no, it started with my best friend who’d been swooning over a man 20 years older than her in a cesspit of a bar on the edge of Soho where he was set to perform.

My role that night was written on the wall in thick black, permanent marker. My assignment was clear - I was to be her wing woman, I was there solely to help her fulfill her vagisires (vagina-desires). At no point in the evening was I to get distracted with my own, which seemed unlikely, as I was a punk in a sea of noughties indie kids. We were by definition, sworn social enemies.

If I could put the events of that grungy little back alley and that crusty-faced punk back into the storage cupboard from which they were found, the world would certainly make more sense to me, alas, pandora’s box is fully opened to relive the escapades of that night, in words, for your reading pleasure.

The bar was filled with vintage berets and smokey black eyes. Women were chomping on their beer coasters to get closer to the stage action and the unattainable quirky guitarist with black-top slick-back hair. Full disclosure, the coupable amounts of gel on his barnet was just a cover-up for his trendy grease-mop. Being unkempt was actually very attractive in the mid-noughties.

My friend Harley was one in that sea of 50. But Harley had an advantage, she’d been warming up Nathan for nearly a year and they’d already been nurturing a virtual romance. Harley didn’t need to chew any beer mats to get Nathan’s attention, as soon as his set was over, he made a beeline for our direction.

Just to clarify, 21-year-old me wouldn’t be caught dead in a murky indie establishment filled with cheap Pete Doherty look-alikes, no. I was much more comfortable in crowds of mohicans in rooms where dilapidated walls were caving in around me, I had my grime preferences.

Once we were graced with the presence of his indie-lord, I spent much of the evening watching him and Harley sip negronis from a distance while batting away the trash.

One woman after another appeared from the trenches of melancholic drum rhythm trying to impress our indie-lord with their uncombed hair and thrifted cowboy boots. I felt like cupid's goalkeeper creating an invisible force field around budding young love.

An hour into my post as lust's goalkeeper, the night had begun to feel a little tedious. I needed a break from my new position as sportswoman for a nicotine break. The bar was attached to a back alley which was conveniently shared with London’s most famous guitar shop. As I took my first inhale of the delectable smoke fumes, I became aware of a mohican in the distance. This didn’t make sense, it went against all social constructs to find a man dripping in tattoos, leather, and spikes in the midst of this offbeat-jungle.

He took one single glance at me, and he saw me. He knew I was the same, we were two outsiders among the outsiders and together we created a metaphysical bridge to our chosen angst-filled reality. Within seconds the spikey-haired John Travolta walked over to me and offered me a racy side eye followed and a chiseled grin.

He smelled like testosterone and vintage leather, just my type.

He murmured in a low-toned husky voice “do you have a light?”, I swooned at his elemental request and scrambled into my handbag to offer him my Clipper.

He told me his name was Carl, he asked me what I was doing in a place like that. I told him “I’m the third wheel tonight for my best friend, how about you?” he grinned “I work in that guitar shop right there” and he pointed to the back-alley door. Of course! Carl had more punk credentials than me, he was only in that alley by accident.

The more we connected over the ear-deafening bands we liked to go and watch play, the sooner I realised that he was not only the sexy guitar shop man, he was also the lead singer to a very popular London punk band, Thrash. I’d seen his band play at least eight times. “I knew you looked familiar, I love your band!”, queue the unapologetic and cringeworthy fangirl moment.

After 10 minutes of sharing our distaste for all other forms of music, he disappeared back through the golden alley door from which he came, though not before giving me his phone number.

My alternate state of reality was over, and I resumed my goal post position. The rest of the night was spent nodding and pretending to understand half of the peculiar art fetishes Nathan dabbled in while sipping double rum and cokes. Between the explosive ear garbage and booze, me and Carl arranged a few more back alley smokes. With each passing cigarette, I grew a much deeper attraction to Carl. It could have been the rum running through my veins, or perhaps our love for poorly formed guitar solos, but Carl began to feel like the man for me.

I can honestly say now looking back, our taste for puke-inducing heavy punk music was about the only thing we had in common. But that night, Carl was by spikey-haired prince charming dripping in body modification and tatty clothes, and he was just my type.

After about my sixth rum and coke, it was time to leave the moth-infested grunge hole. My mission was accomplished, the two love birds had been cradling one another for over an hour, and were coordinating plans to fly back to his, or the cuckoo's nest as it became later known. I sent Carl a goodbye text and within seconds he replied “Wait, is the party over? I’m about to finish, how about a drink?”

I read the text aloud and tested my coordination. I was still able to pull one foot in front of the other so I responded "why not?" what is the worst that could possibly happen?

He took me to the renowned Crobar, a reliable source for filthy late-night drinks. We huddled next to each other on a bench fit for one. It was here, 3 sips in, that Carl made friends with my right thigh, followed by my left, and before long, my breasts. No one in the bar seemed to care, this was quite an ordinary site in the Crobar.

Two gulps to the end of our first drink he asked if I’d like to come back to his, an invitation for cheaper rum out of a plastic tumbler in his living room, what an offer.

He groped me the whole way to the bus stop. It was here that he pushed me up against a Natwest bank and started dry-humping me in front of a small crowd of inconvenienced pedestrians. I barely remember stumbling onto the 29 bus to Finsbury Park, but I certainly remember his soiled little lair. Nestled to the side of a 24 hour kebab shop was a rotten door, the gateway to Carl's London burrow. After clambering the stairs and inhaling the stale scent of old kebab meat, I was welcomed into a small studio masked in filthy pants, socks, shredded posters, and the largest range of electric guitars you’ve ever seen. The room wasn't big enough to swing a cat in, let alone me, I was curious about how this night was going to play out...

Two seconds into entering his den, he proceeded to put his hand up my skirt and tossed me onto his man-mattress on the floor.

Slightly disappointed by Carl's lack of decorum and false promises of rum, I pushed my senses to one side and proceeded to go with the flow of whatever that night was going to be. To my hazy memory, my recollection consists of four mattress roll-offs, and two bruised knees while I couldn't take my attention off the stacked pizza boxes on the floor. The eye contact only made the body closeness more awkward, as we both stared at the wall until he was done.

When the shambolic charade was over, he rolled over with his back to me and drifted off to sleep. I didn’t even get a courteous goodnight, he really was a prince in disguise.

The next morning, I was able to see the noodle stains and stacks of pizza boxes not only with sober eyes, but with sunlight.

Carl had already gotten out of bed, and was standing somewhere between the kitchen sink stacked with noodle-encrusted cutlery and the toilet. He looked at me unlovingly and gifted me with these magical words I shall never forget “I need you to leave, I have to get ready for work” and with one eye still firmly shut, I looked up at Carl in unloving devotion “Yep. no problem, I’m leaving as soon as I find my clothes”.

I leapt out of bed unsure if I’d slept on cockroaches, and proceeded to stumble to the nearest available exit.

With that, Carl walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind him without a goodbye or even a thank you.

So the lesson of this story is: beware of punks in dark alleys. Perhaps the moral of this story is also to stick to the assignment and not deviate, as you could end up on a floor mattress above a kebab shop.

Until next time bessies.


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