Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bruce At Club Romeo

In the pub typing this on my new NetBook, just to prove I can.

As with most 'Bruce' stories - this one is ADULTS ONLY. Be warned.

Parental Advisory!


Paralysis mode struck me earlier on today. After having a coffee with Izzy I went to get some fruit and stuff...

I stood stock still in the supermarket. Cannot move. Decisions. Buy raw foods and cook dinner? Buy prepared food and heat up dinner? Eat out? Head phones in, I listen to singing voices in my head. How to begin? I stand stock still.

The rain is teeming, tropical mid-afternoon rain. I sit in the pub for a Sunday afternoon brew and the sky has opened though the blue is still visible from my vantage and the light is high. I sweat, sip a beer and sweat some more.

The gradient of least resistance took me to the pub, where I open my tiny little computer pull up the files on Bruce.


Bruce is an enigma. The late, great Bruce; I have his disk of collected ramblings here, copied to the fresh HHD of my Samsung computer. (Who would have considered buying a Korean computer 5 years ago?)

He entrusted me to do something with it. But how should I prepare the texts? How to avoid law suits, the loss of friendships of a Thomas Wolfeian "Can't Go Home Again" nature? I am sure he doesn't give a fuck, laughing at us down from whatever stale hell he now inhabits for this time around eternity.

Sometime he writes of himself in the third person, sometimes in the first. I haven't yet determined a way of telling which of them is more likely to be true. Or, if not true then factual. Yes, factual is probably what I mean. No less true for being factual, and no more for being less so.

Sometimes he writes about himself and I realize as I continue that it is a story I have told him about myself or about another friend that he has appropriated and inserted into his personal mythology. For what reason does he need to obscure his actual history, or to embellish it?


Bruce was in town again with a group of his friends to play an expat soccer tournament. One of the many characteristics of expats is their love of playing sports for which they are completely past the use-by age. Back home, there is no way a sports club would foot the insurance bill for these high-cardiac-risk "atheletes". Living a social life week-end after week-end that is almost indistinguishable in alcohol abuse, bad food and moral disreputability from a brief end-of-season footy trip does not mean that they still have the ligaments, joints and muscles to engage in the same physically demanding sports as those partying younger selves. Yet they do. It is all about reliving a life mis-lived on first attempt, pre-expatdom. Remember living as if responsibilty meant something, how fucked was that?

Bruce called me to catch up the day before his sporting efforts were to begin and I contacted some local friends and soon enough we were on Sentosa having an alcohol-based picnic on its (appropriately) imported sands at sunset.

I knew enough of Bruce's dark side to realize that some aspects of his personal demonology had not been completely exorcised and he could be quite frightening in public. He was always fun though as well. But he was not always in control. And after his slow predictable magic of making half a bottle of vodka disappear, the conversation of the party was becoming centered around his habit of making light-hearted provocative statements at a stentorian volume, scaring the children and passing animalia.

- He is joking, right? Some of the less worldly girls from Singapore were looking at me as if I had the answer. Bruce's illness at this time was not widely known and he was nothing if not a healthy-looking, rolly polly Falstaff in the typical outspoken expat mold. If no-one successfully challenges your bullshit, you just keep pushing, right?

- Well, so what if you pull a lady-boy? What's the problem? he had been saying. Just gives you something to steer with as you fuck her. He reached around an imaginary 'girl' and mimicked the idea, making the outrageous statement even more graphic and shocking.

- You can tell if they're a ladyboy by their Adam's apple, he continued. It sticks out a lot more when they're blowing you. But by then, who fucking cares, eh?

There is are several photos of us in the archives, taken at this picnic. One of them shows me with a completely stunned expression as I stand next to Bruce listening to this stuff. I am completely horrified and amused at the same time. If I had slightly more than an inkling of where this evening would go, I was not conscious of it at the time.

When we trundled into taxis later that evening, there was no ambiguity about where we some of us were going for next drinks. OT - the 4FoWs. As there was a Scandinavian couple with us who didn't want to be too existentially shocked by the depravity of upstairs, we first went to DownUnder Bar. This is a drinks-girlie free zone where you could hold a conversation and knock a few Dutch courages down if that was the issue. But it is not particularly chic place. The Scandinavian left looking for some herring milkshakes and so just Bruce, myself and a Brit, a craggy-face Mancunian named Brian, were left contemplating the approach of the small hours by ourselves.

- Time to head upstairs, said Bruce. I grabbed his arm just before he managed to smash his beer glass into the corner.

A Flip bar called Follow Me Home (FMH, done in the font of the FHM magazine) grabbed Brian's attention as we left DownUnder. Dozens of doe-eyed Filipinas beckoned, promising to swamp us with their thick-waisted affection. They tried to remove our shirts and unbuckle our belts the instant we came through the door into the almost pitch-black room. Brian's missus back in Shanghai was a Filipina ex-hooker. He had a weakness still that married life hadn't burnt away or satiated. I said that I didn't want to lose my load so early, and he just smiled back, and we agreed to leave before we spent any money there.

- Hey, where's Bruce? he asked.

Yep, there was just the two of us in the bar. Some weapon in my head fired a warning shot.

- Club Romeo, I said without completely realizing what the implications of that were.

We crossed the foyer and parted the curtain. Instantly, a different Lynchian world of dim lights and strong shadows confronted us. Several girls called out in greeting, huskily. Large hands on long thin arms emerged from silk dresses, grasping at us. Club Romeo was almost empty of customers, as it was still relatively early. Deeper in, up the near the bar, I saw what could only be Bruce's large head turned away from us. He was chatting with several of the transvestites. Brian and I felt that it was our task to remove Bruce from these temptations. We grabbed him and tried to convince him to come out of there. He laughed and agreed, like it was all a joke. I can't recall what happened about the bill. It was timeless, surreal experience and I only have several moments of recollections from what may have taken several minutes.

- C'mon buddy, we're going to Bali Hai.

There was live-music of sorts in there and some table-top dancers in super-short shorts and flashy underwear teased you into buying more drinks without being particularly annoying. We ordered drinks and tried to settle in, but it was quite a few minutes later when it struck me that I was only chatting with Brian. Bruce was not there.

- He went for a slash, Brian said.

- When?

- When we came in. Brian seems to not really care. I wonder why I did.

I looked around. My beer was nearly empty. It must have been fifteen minutes.

- He's gone back to Club Romeo, I said.

Brian was looking down the make-up enhanced cleavage of the dancer who had leaned right over to pretend to kiss him.

- Do we go get him again?

- No, fuck him, said Brian. He slapped the dancer's denim-belt-shorts covered butt-check

Yeah, I thought. Someone will. I just hoped they use a good strong condom.


I realized, when I sobered up next day, kicked out the dancer who somehow I had ended up with, that Bruce's story about that tainted blood transfusion in China had been a complete fabrication. But sometimes when you thought Bruce was joking, he wasn't really joking.



Dick Headley said...

There's something post-modern about Bruce.

expat@large said...

DH: there's something post-modern about E@L in general. Wouldn't be the books he read as an impressionable and arrogant youth...

Dick Headley said...

Could be, but he's not the only one watching himself watch himself.

expat@large said...

DH: if only the stats backed you up there.

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