As I was saying, two weeks into my great adventure -- moving to the U.K. -- I started to realize that maybe things weren’t going to go the way my optimistic view was envisioning.
Then Blackheath co-denizen, Jools Holland, rang up.
“Allo? Is that Lauren? It’s Jools. I’m having a bit of a party tonight, would you like to come by?”
Being open to anything that sounds remotely interesting, “Sure,” I said. Now, what constitutes a party to some isn’t exactly the same to others. That’s why shared definitions are important. There are “parties” -- woo hoo, lots of people, music, good food, drinks you like, cold and hot -- and there are “hangs” (or hang outs, just a few peeps, very low key).
I leave it to you, dear reader, to define what happened that night:
This so-called party occurred in a small, dark room in the basement at Jools’s flat. Two other guys were there, and everybody was drinking Bitter, from cans. I can’t drink that kind of beer at all, so I asked for a cup of tea and they all laughed. One large young man with an almost indecipherable accent was incredulous.
“Gor, the Yank’s wantin’ a cuppa?” Bollocks, wrong choice!
The guys drank, sat around, mumbled a bunch, every now and then shot me a look or asked me something.
“Um, sorry, could you repeat that?” or I’d ask, “Um, not sure what you mean?” The conversation wasn’t exactly scintillating, as their garbled talk, peppered almost entirely with south London slang, escaped me. Hey, it could have been the most brilliant small talk in the history of tiny parties, but I doubt it.
Jools put on some records, Ray Charles and Professor Longhair, of course. He wasn’t much of a talker, but he and his mates had a comfortable, very familiar exchange. I don’t know why I was there, maybe they were checking me out.
I drank sips of water (didn’t get tea after all) and struggled to understand and be polite. Soon the spliffs, or hash joints, came out. Several pieces of rolling paper were fastened together, rolling tobacco added. Then lumps of green (or black?) hashish wrapped in foil were produced, burned for a short while, then pieces picked off and added to the tobacco leaf. The spliff was then rolled up, tightly, and a piece of semi-tightly wound cardboard about ½” thick and 1 inch long, was stuffed into one end as a makeshift filter.
Well, I can’t say I didn’t inhale.
Social anxiety running high, the hash joints weren’t really helping, but at least it was something to do. More time went by. The bigger bloke moved closer to me on the couch. I squirmed. He shot a few glances at me, shyly but kind of creepily. He moved closer. . .
The party went downhill from there.
Suffice to say I left the party shortly afterwards, and was never again invited back. I never did get chummy with Jools or become a friend (aaawww). Anyway, what happened that night wasn’t a real party, it was more of a “hang” in my book. . .
. . . an uncomfortable one at that.