“Hey, who’s the guy you’re with?”
“That guy, I’ve never seen him before. What’s his name?”
She was one of Valerie’s set. Really long brown hair, tiny shift dress, not smoking but out in the smoking area anyway. Helena? Helen? Hot in a take it or leave it sense. I was pretty sure she’d actually been with Carl before, she’d definitely been tasked on, but not recently. As per usual, I had no idea if this girl could know Carl’s real name or if he was now operating under another one.
I pretended to look in my pocket for my blackberry whilst really watching as the name took hold, seeing her process that if she could get a surname out of me she could find it all online. Actually, if she was any good, all she needed was a first name. And Louis would lead her down entirely the wrong path. And if she went to talk to him tonight? At least Carl would know who had inquired after him.
It had been pretty hard to ignore how the girls in our old, over familiar clubs looked twice as we arrived. I saw how they stared. Still ordering drinks right next to him, begging for attention. Hilarious. Pointless. How boring it all must be to them, if Carl could provoke such a lame reaction. Just imagine them all, scanning the facebook event attending list, seeing me there and now able to guess Carl (or Louis depending on who you spoke to) would be too. Extra perfume. Maybe a new dress. Staying until four instead of two. I turned back from the balcony to the club.
It wasn’t just me that had noticed a change in Carl. All his eccentricities were sharper, more focused. They were so skillfully done they almost appeared natural. Suddenly he was best friends with a lot of bands we’d been working months to make analogue contact with. I don’t need to tell you that his first few nights back were pretty nauseating for everyone else.
“You okay?” Carl was walking in the opposite direction, away from the stage. His collar less shirt remained done up, but it didn’t look awkward like the other guys. He had his baccy pack in his mouth, his hands busy rolling.
“Join me for another will you?"
He handed me a liquorice rizla prison roll. Jesus. Europe.
We found a clear space by the balcony railings, finally able to smoke into something other than other smoke. I squinted in at the windows. I thought I could see Helen pointing us out to her friends.
“I honestly don’t know how you put up with it for this long.”
“Same way you did.”
“Hah. Yes. That’s the problem with London. No where’s quite as good.”
His expertly crooked teeth smiled through the stub of his fag.