Eltham 1979, sweet summertime.
Listen to Stephen narrate this story, and play parts of the song, via Soundcloud.
We weren’t in love, oh no, far from it. But we kind of circled each other anyway. I watched as others circled her, too. It was a dance, of sorts. Not much was said.
My gang was there. Plus a stack of people I didn’t know. I didn’t know her. I wanted to.
Borrowed booze. Cigarette smoke and ashtrays. Mix tapes on an overdriven stereo. Laughter, dancing and clouds of that sweet, acidic cocktail of over-applied aftershave and syrupy perfume. The host’s mum and dad had gone away for the weekend.
Someone was in tears, in the corner, being consoled. On the couch, a couple pashed hungrily. In the garden, two girls, both on knees, one holding her friend’s hair back out of her face while the other threw up on the grass. Too much Blackberry Nip.
A song stops halfway through to a dismayed collective, “hey?” Tape fights. A brief argument ensues and the mix tape resumes for the dancers.
Back in the kitchen I managed to grunt a greeting of sorts and I was taken aback by the half smile she returned. Cassandra was a friend of a friend who was a couple of years younger than most of us. A big deal back then. She wore tight blue jeans. Tight cotton top. No bra. Points all her own.
I didn’t like my chances. Too much competition. Working and practising. And she was giving the impression that nobody really interested her. So I returned to the music, like I always do. The lounge room was packed and noisy. I danced, in my own way, a kind of graceless swirl of random moves. I was a little too tall. Could have used a few pounds.
My mate Tommy had a licence and a car; the only one in our gang with a birthdate old enough to drive. Sometime well after midnight, five of us crammed into his mighty Mazda RX2. Home time.
Cassandra slid in next to me. I could smell the warmth of her body as her shoulder slid under my arm. She turned her face to mine as Tommy started the engine and as he revved it, she kissed me. Deep and sloppy and with lots of teenage tongue.
In our delicious tangle of arms and lips, I thought I’d try… no, it wasn’t a thought, it couldn’t have been a thought, it was more a formless desire, an urge to touch, an ache… I slid my hand under her top and touched the rising of her belly. I felt her hand rest on my forearm, coaxing me higher. As we roared through the backstreets of Eltham, and for the first time with anyone, my fingers touched and circled her nipple. Way up firm and high. She kissed me hard.
Tommy was a big Bob Seger fan. He had all his albums. But I’d be lying if I told you that as Cassandra and I explored each other in the back seat of his Mazda, Night Moves was spinning in his tape deck. But as I reimagine this story it’s all I can hear blasting out of the car’s back shelf speakers as the only possible soundtrack to this tale.
Strange how the night moves.