24 On the sky, that face

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24   On the sky, that face

"We don't wanna be in there right now," she says outside, chivvying us to the van. "This could start a war again. But I'm not gonna think about all that shit tonight, because we're going to Paradise. There's only about an hour before it closes, but we should go say hallo to Shigem. I'm on his list. Though if the door-whore saw the broadcast, I doubt we'll have any trouble getting in for free anyway—Shep wouldn't exactly complain about that kind of publicity for his club."

"Talking about publicity," says Alaia, looking troubled as we climb into the van, "I'm sorry we're not being as discreet around town as we're meant to be."

Evelyn flaps her hand through the air. "Ah, lighten up. Rules are there to be broken, so let's just have fun. We may be dead tomorrow."

Soon she parks the van back outside the Metropolitan and we get out and walk three blocks to the club's entrance, where many cars are now parked. The girl at the door doesn't bother looking for Evelyn's name on Shigem's list, perhaps thinking it too late for lists, and doesn't seem to recognise me either, but just waves us inside. Evelyn heads to the bar to get us drinks, while I take in a smallish but happening venue with banging sound and light systems, almost filled with a reasonably cosmopolitan crowd that must have come from a catchment area quite a lot wider than just Asbury Park itself.

Electronic dance music pumps across a busy floor. "There's Shigem," says Evelyn, pointing towards someone I recognise from somewhere, and we set off through the crowd. After a moment I remember that I first noticed him earlier from the Cadillac, while the car was sitting at a traffic-light on Main Street, right beside where he was on the pavement talking to a girl. The first thing I registered then was a golden bracelet with the name "Shigem" engraved on it in slick squirly black letters, because it reminded me that Evelyn had told us this name during her guided tour when she first drove us into town. I almost tuned in to him then and there, but Angel ended up beating him to this honour because we were all too much in transit in the car, so I should not have been able to give Shigem a proper tune-in. The only thing I got as far as picking up from him was that he was Malaysian. He had long black hair with platinum-blond highlights in, warm bright eyes, and beautiful high-fashion facial features that were nevertheless prominently acne-cratered all over, especially on a pair of perfect high cheekbones. Here in the club he's dressed with stylish flamboyance and a certain flash and trash, like a whore on Jalan Raja on a hot Kuala Lumpur night in Fashion Week. A thin silver earring hangs from each ear, and the word "Virginity" is tattooed on the honey-coloured skin of his left shoulder in the same script as the name on the bracelet. Inhabiting the femininity of his slim and delicate body with a simple, quiet and sensual pleasure, he reminds me of sunlight and moves with divinity.

Here he's in his element, much more than on the street. Hosting a club night, it's clear he is a natural. Just within the time we take to cross the room and approach him, he has mixed in all directions. Tied to no one, he succeeds in connecting with everyone: faster than quicksilver, light as air and never once intrusive or demanding, he yet reaches somehow into every person's presence, one to one, and draws them out and upward like a chime through the strobe-lights. Riding the crowd, he electrifies the dance-floor with effortless charisma, in tune with the dirty hard electro playing, as he lights up the faces and the spaces in between them with the bright sexy flicker of his presence. He curls his fingers round in the air as he speaks, and I see that malice cannot touch him here: no matter what may happen in the outside world, here in club-land he's unbeatable. If all the land were set up as a chic nightclub, he'd be absolute monarch. I lean over to Evelyn. "Why is he not in Manhattan?" I ask.

She laughs: "I dunno—because he's here, I guess. And he's ours, and he's way too good for Manhattan!"

We have nearly reached him, but now he becomes embroiled in conversation with a group, without yet having noticed her, so the three of us hover nearby. As we dance, I contemplate him where he stands half turned-away, his left shoulder facing me with that word "Virginity" ... and while we wait, Shigem, I think I'll take a look inside you, before we've even met. And although I've been half-expecting that your mind would be a nightclub mind with "disco" VIP Room emotions to match, this is not the case. You see what you're doing here as showmanship, neither more nor less. You do it, as you should, because you love it and it pays you and you know you're the best—and you wish that the days were as dark and bright as this room, and that people spoke in dance music, permanently liquored-up and high like these. And yet you function in the real world too, I see, with only subtle changes and little disappointment.

But here's a rich crevasse, for me: I see how you were several hours back, at home, when you settled down to watch Sound & Vision. As Alaia's voice welled up, you sank to the floor and sat immobile, gazing at the TV screen. Silent tears sprang forth and ran down your cheeks. For hers was a song that had echoed in your head since early childhood, a song with untranscribable notes, without a name, which you'd treasured in yourself as yours alone ... but here it was without you, for all the world to hear, paired up with that beautifully alien face on the screen. Somehow Alaia had discovered it—but how? It had always emanated from forbidden lands of cruel sun and sweet sensual nights; and it poisoned with bewitchment of yearning and delirium and glimpses of sublime bliss, ensuring that the real world would always, ever after, fall short. The first time you'd heard this song, coiling like the vapour of a scarlet wine throughout your head, you knew it was forbidden but ignored this of course. Often since then you'd heard it carried on the wind, in the fevers of the deep small hours, blown across a hundred years to land in you. It always sang of sweet dark and sorrow and enormous love, unearthing ancient things within yourself while it played.

And always joining this song, from your childhood onward through the years, every time it welled from your depths or echoed off the folded hills of the night, there would float up, several seconds after its opening, that face, Shigem... Oh, that face: yes, you know the one, I think. It's this face, my own, upon the screen you watched tonight, in its soft unearthly lighting and the smooth coloured make-up that you saw on it—the first time you witnessed it projected without you, in the outside world, for all to see. So large had it always loomed, for you, that it seemed to float upon the sky, its gaze ever fixed on a point above your head that you couldn't quite reach. But its gaze from the screen today looked at you, and you shivered to be looked at thus, for nothing of yourself could you hide from it. Somehow I'd embodied it. How? But there it stayed, on the screen, in all its melting permutations, with your endless private song wrapped divine around its lineaments—a shatteringly magical conjunction that floored you. Every last thing in you it saw, accepted, knew, without expression. "You've got everything," you mouthed at me onscreen, in silent passion. This face, you saw, was all you really needed to know now, and all the rest would follow. It's the only game in town, so to speak, despite the anguish of your knowing you will never be inside it. Along with Alaia's song, this face has lived in you since boyhood, Shigem, and will remain in you till death. It's majestic and familiar—rich and inevitable—powerful and beautiful—addictive and eternal!


For some nice reviews and interviews about The Imagination Thief, in The Guardian and elsewhere, see http://www.rohanquine.com/press-media/the-imagination-thief-reviews-media/

For a quick synopsis of it, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/synopsis-and-characters-list-the-imagination-thief/

For the 12 Films in The Imagination Thief, see http://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/

For the Audio-book version and the Video-book version of each of its 120 mini-chapters, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/audiobook-tumblr-wattpad/

For links to the retailers, see http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-ebook/ and http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-paperback/

And for its Amazon pages, see http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909 and http://www.amazon.com/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909

The Imagination Thief is about a web of secrets, triggered by the stealing and copying of people's imaginations and memories. It's about the magic that can be conjured up by images of people, in imagination or on film; the split between beauty and happiness in the world; and the allure of various kinds of power. It celebrates some of the most extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and language, exploring the darkest and brightest flavours of beauty living in our minds.

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