An excerpt from

Felix Romsey's Afterparty

Tim Thornton

Felix texts me at 8.30am to say John Lennon will be early.

     I wasn’t asleep. I’d been awake since about five, going over a few things in my head, ruminating, worrying. I poured myself some coffee at six, gazed over the lake, watched the sun come up. As usual, a pretty underwhelming experience. It hovers near the horizon for a while and then just plops itself into the sky, like someone’s flicking a switch somewhere. Perhaps they are. Then I turned some music on, did a bit of pacing. I’ve become very good at pacing. I finally lay back down at about ten to seven, but no sleep came. I’ve only had four hours, but of course that doesn’t matter. We don’t need sleep, but people do it anyway.

     So Lennon was supposed to arrive at eleven, but now Felix says half nine. Everyone’s always early around here. Drives me nuts. I’d better get my shit together. I sigh and swing my feet out of the bed onto the perpetually fluffy white carpet. It always amuses me, this carpet. Actually, that goes for the interior of my whole house: it’s like some display home for a Floridian housing development. Yellow walls and pastel sofa covers. Too many cushions. Nondescript art in rubbishy gold frames. Glass coffee tables with those horrible curvy metal legs that I always bash my ankle on. Felix says this is the kind of stuff they give you when they don’t know what you really want. Fair point, I suppose: I never did have a particularly strong sense of home style.

     But my wardrobe, they got right. Decent jeans and some combats, Doc Martens, a couple of jackets: a reasonable denim, a bashed up leather and a geeky blue blazer with a few badges. Then an acceptable selection of rock T-shirts, including – coincidentally or not – one from a festival Saffron and I actually went to. So I don’t have to fake anything there, at least.

     I dive into the shower. We don’t need to wash, but people do it anyway. For me it’s one of the few things I actually enjoy; it feels real, calming, and it’s free, obviously. I’ve been known to shower for many hours. Today I allow myself a diplomatic fifteen minutes and then I’m ready to throw some clothes on, but I stop for a moment to glance in the mirror.

     This glance reveals a curious crossbreed. The hair is from that brief moment in my late teens when it had both texture and gravity on its side; dark brown with the slightest hint of sun-bleached red, it flops in the right places and stays back if I ask it nicely. But I haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on with the body. It’s relatively tanned and the shoulders are broad, but there’s back hair, which is totally wrong, and an unbelievably horrible beer paunch that nothing will shift – and believe me, I’ve tried. To make matters worse, whichever dipshit selected the T-shirts didn’t account for this bulge, and they’re all size medium. Everything but the festival shirt makes me look like an out-of-shape A&R man. Just as well nothing needs to be laundered.

     I sling on some jeans, light a cigarette and call Felix. He picks up on the first ring.

     ‘Podge,’ he says.

     ‘Morning boss.’

     ‘Nervous?’

     ‘Yup.’

     ‘Bollocks,’ he replies. ‘You’re gonna charm the little round spectacles off him.’

     ‘Why’s he so early?’

     ‘Who cares? Everyone’s bloody early. But listen. I need you to bring him round to the West Gate instead of the East.’

     ‘The West Gate?’

     ‘Yup. Robert Palmer’s meant to arrive at ten and I don’t want one of those bloody awful clashes like when Barry White arrived at the same time as Luther Vandross.’

     ‘Ah,’ I respond distractedly, searching around for my sunglasses.

     ‘Is that gonna be a problem for ya, Podge?’

     ‘No, not at all. Got it.’

     ‘I don’t want any nasty surprises today, yeah? Things being the way they are.’

     ‘Sure.’

     ‘It’s better anyhow, ‘cos you can bring Lennon straight to my office before taking him through security, okay? I wanna say hi.’

     ‘Will do.’

     ‘Good luck. Oh… and don’t ask him loads of Beatle questions.’

     ‘Yes, yes. Of course not.’

     ‘All right. Later.’

     He hangs up. Bloody Felix. I wasn’t even considering asking Lennon any Beatle questions. Now I have hundreds, and I’m more nervous than ever. Thank goodness it’s Lennon and not Macca, is all I can say. I glance over at the drinks cabinet – I mean, a drinks cabinet, a mahogany drinks cabinet, who on earth did they think I was? – and I wonder whether I should have a quick shot of something before leaving, although I know this is certain to be completely pointless. I eye the rather dispiriting selection, if you’ll pardon the pun: blended whisky, nondescript gin, random vodka and a bottle of dark something I’ve never investigated. I settle for the vodka, of which I pour a generous measure in one of the fussy cut-glass tumblers neatly arranged on the little shelf. I knock it back. A slight tingle, a minor burn in my throat, a brief feeling in my head like I’m floating along… then nothing. Straight back to how I was before.

     It’s impossible to get even remotely fucked up around here.

     I finish my cigarette, locate my shades in the kitchen then return to the wardrobe to grab the geeky blazer – I’m thinking the record-shop nerd look might soften a few of Lennon’s famous edges – and stride to my front door. As usual, I stop at the picture I’ve stuck to the wall. A girl’s face, hand-drawn, using some old coloured pencils I found in one of the bedroom cupboards. I was never any good at drawing, and the general rule is: everything I used to be crap at, I’m still crap at. But drawing is the one area where I’d have welcomed an exception. To say my drawings are childlike would be of considerable insult to most children I ever knew. This sketch hanging next to my front door is supposed to be a portrait of Saff: a pretty girl, but for some reason I’ve made her look like she’s recovering from major facial surgery. But I got the eyes right. Every day I stare into her dreamy hazelnut eyes for a few moments before I leave the house. I kid myself that she’s aware of me doing this, and that maybe she’s doing something similar, and that it’s keeping us connected somehow. Sad, isn’t it? And we’re not supposed to feel sad. But I do anyway.

            ‘Have a good day, Saffy,’ I mutter, then wander outside.