THE GREEN BUSKER
It was Saturday night, mid-August, and I was due to perform my first ever paid gig. But not alone. I would be performing
with Tom, Sven, his brother Kevin (only 15, but over 6 ft tall) and an Irish fiddler by name of John at the Elephant. OK,
a share of the pay didn't amount to much, but the
experience was bullseye - with a great audience. Lots of jumping off
the stage and jigging amongst the audience, playing songs like the 'Popeye' theme and Bob Geldoff's classic 'I don't mind'.
I chucked in my vocal oar with things like 'Star of the County Down', 'Nancy Spain' and 'Dirty old Town' and other stuff Irish.
It worked well, although the next gig we did there around a month or so later didn't work so well. But I was pleased at having
blooded in my gig experience.
The concentration on the gig had the side effect of making my memory where, or when, to
meet Char slightly foggy.
I had kinda hoped she would get to the gig, but I believed I was due to meet her at the Conscience
afterwards if she could not make it.
The gig finished at twelve and, as tends to happen after a successful gig, an uprush of energy and adrenaline left me
speaking to friends or clientele at the bar. My CC experience assured me that casual arrangements needed no special time.
At around one I made my way to the Conscience to see if she was there. As I arrived I was disappointed to catch no sight
There were three figures lying down in the vicinity of the Hendrik statue - two guys and a girl. One of the guys
was groping intimately with the female, who seemed, on the face of it, comatose. It seemed the height of tackiness to be groping
a female who was unaware of proceedings in a public place - even if she was his girlfriend. In fact, it seemed the height
of tackiness... full stop.
I passed by....... and my heart leapt to my throat as I recognized the female lying lost to
the world... as the lusty youth groped with his hand beneath her jeans.
She had another boyfriend?
That's why I couldn't
Anger and betrayal welled up within me.
Just walk away and pretend you didn't see her... then forget her!
then I wondered whether she was even aware of what was occurring. Much less who she was with.
I could see her eyes were
closed... although she moaned with a distant response to the guy's stimulating. But the overall impression indicated she was
unaware of proceedings.
One inclination was to storm right up and say, "Char! What are you doing? Where was you?"
if this WAS a boyfriend I could be made to look foolish. For all I knew, I could be the 'other' in this... not him.
may have been dating this guy for months.
So.... betrayed, wretched and humiliated... I sat down within a few feet of the spectacle. With a quiet, mournful voice
I moaned in an accusing and 'how could you?' way: "Char..."
Her head moved slightly from side to side and a brief glimmer of awakening stirred in her garbled throat. I stood up
and walked to another angle. I spoke louder, more firmer, "Char! It's Brian!"
She swung her head around more urgently
and her voice spoke testingly my name..."Br..Brian?"
Her hands pushed at the Valentino creep as she realized his advantageous
pawing. The moment I realized she recalled my name, and wanted my presence, I moved in to take control of the situation.
pulled Char into my arms as the protesting Valentino wondered who I was... and what had happened to his catch.
"Brian? I'm sorry," slurred Char, "Where was you? I waited so long!"
I wept inwardly at the words. She was waiting?
Looking for me? I was not there when she needed me? The whole idea tore into me like a lion's claw.
As it was I had crashed
in onto a witnessing of her weaknesses - one she may have sought to hide from me. What sort of cocktail knocked her out like
"Hey!" interjected Valentino, " That's my girl! Who are you?"
"She's not your girl! She's not for you.! And
that's no way to treat her!" came my angered reply, " I'm taking her home!"
"I'll come with you!" stated Valentino.
friend had come alert to the unexpected interruption and was angling to back Valentino up. There were two of them - one of
me - and they weren't small in body. So I followed a tactic of diplomacy and firmness, but I didn't see any reason to mask
my contempt for them.
"No!" I insisted, " I will take her home alone!"
I stood up and lifted Char until her arm was nestled across my shoulder, while my right arm supported her stumbling steps.
Her dead weight in less lucid physical efforts made the task pretty hard, but I began the journey while telling Valentino
and his pal to go way.
But Valentino believed he had made a conquest and was anticipating the great love affair to begin.
I wasn't going to be the one to tell Char who she should date, though I hoped I was the one who fitted the bill. But Char
was not in a position to speak for herself.
I simply knew instinctively she loved me. Or did she?
I knew instinctively
she would give Valentino his marching orders the moment she became aware of him. Or would she?
Still, however, Valentino persisted - and insisted on helping Char home also. I guess it did make the journey a bit easier.
Char virtually had to be carried. The procession stumbled its way to the apartment she lived in with her brother. It was around
two in the morning and a light on in the
apartment showed that her brother would be up and awake. Another tactic to get
rid of the luggage...
"Thanks for helping, but her brother is here. He won't appreciate three guys coming in this time
of the morning."
Actually, I had not yet been in the apartment, nor had I met Char's brother - so I really didn't know
anything about what he would think...or say.
"No,I'll come in too," insisted Valentino. There were a heap of stairs
to struggle up, and with Char all but brain dead I had no more right, in Valentino's eyes, to enter the apartment than him.
It was hard to counter such a claim because Char had NOT, heretofore, taken me into the
apartment. It may be she would
not wish me to visit the apartment if she was sober.
So, in a semi-polite circumstance of verbal fencing, we carried Char
up the stairs to the apartment, where Pierre, her brother, stood waiting for us.
With dark, curly hair and eyes, like Char, of black, fathomless depths, Pierre displayed, like Char, the history of Spanish
blood in Belgium. There is no direct confirmation of this, but the Spanish occupation 300 years back suggested this impression
to me. Originally, Char and Pierre were from the French speaking segment of Belgium, but they had lived long enough in Antwerp
to consider themselves Flemish. Both, however, spoke English with a strong French accent. Naturally Flemish was their first
Pierre was twenty one, studious and quiet spoken. Char's bedroom was accessible only through Pierre's living
room cum bedroom.
The entourage gave a greeting and a few words to Pierre... and then we proceeded into Char's room, where we laid her
gently onto the floor. I sat down by her and she curled up around me as I placed my arms protectively around her body.
Valentino could see very clearly that there was a heavy bond between Char and I. His competitiveness began to slide and
he turned slowly into self piteous melodrama and despair.
"Every time I try to get a girlfriend - something goes wrong,"
Well... I guess...from what I had witnessed of his ideas of gallant wooing.... he might have to change his
attitude a bit in his quest for a female.
So I found myself playing emotional councillor to a guy who sought a massive
step between creep and attractive.
"Somewhere there is a girl for you, but Char.." said I, unapologetic about my presumption
while she was unable to speak for herself,"...is NOT for you!"
With the comment I tightened my hold on her and her semi-conscious
hands tightened their hold on me. Even in her condition I could see the happiness in her smile whenever she became aware that
I was there... guarding and holding her close.
After drinking the coffee Pierre had made, Valentino and his friend departed... with the re-assurance, from me, that
Valentino would have his girlfriend within six months. Something almost holy seemed to possess me through my interaction with
Char. Even Valentino seemed assured by my statement.
A few months later, while I waited to play the Conscience, I met Valentino once more by the bench surrounding the tree
in the square...
"Hi!" he said, "Remember me?"
I didn't immediately. There was a lot of stuff crammed into those intervening
months. Nonetheless he reminded me of our meeting that night and the blanks were filled.
"This is my girlfriend, Anna,"
said Valentino proudly, in a way that suggested it was in some way thanks to me. In a way of saying, "You were right!"
I guess I did spend a bit of time telling him how to make himself more appealing.
I really can't remember.
Once Valentino had left, Pierre and I laid Char gently onto her bed - and then we retreated into his room to talk.
is not the first time she has been like this. Sometimes it is worse," explained Pierre, " Three times she has been to the
hospital because she had over-dosed. It is worrying, but what can be done? She needs to return to school to re-take exams
in September! She has hardly studied! If she is to go to University she must pass these exams."
My feeling was that this was Fate. I had a task! In addition, I was in love.
My task was clear. I had to see if I
could turn around Char's life.
"Thanks for bringing her home safe," Pierre continued, " If you wish, you may stay the night here. There is a spare mattress
in Char's room."
So I slept a short distance away from the girl I was growing to obsessively love. Enough to reach across and hold hands
briefly before sleep.
End of Chapter 9 of The Green Busker