Everything that follows is true, unless you are my mum.
One Saturday afternoon in 1989, me and my mate Rob went to the local video shop, which was also a hairdresser and pornographer, to rent a film. We took a circuitous, looping route away from prying neighbourly eyes, and stopped at a big bush outside the betting shop, within which we had stashed a bottle of Thunderbird Blue and a carefully waterproofed pack of Benson and Hedges.
After checking the coast was clear, we got stuck in. Our Mr. Byrite jeans stirring in the gentle Summer breeze, we were, in our minds, members of the Mottingham chapter of The Warriors.
We drank (gagged) and smoked (gagged) until Rob got scared his dad might drive past, and moved on towards our ultimate goal, the video shop, which was round the corner between a Chinese Takeaway and a hardware shop owned by a man named Mr. Rogers (not that one).
As we approached the shop, out of nowhere and in a cloud of Body Shop ‘White Musk’, two of the neighbourhood girls, both called Stacey (I swear this is true), appeared. The girls, with whom Rob and I would have quite liked to do things we didn’t understand and couldn’t name, got to the door first.
Big Stacey, as she was known, elbowed the door open and went inside. Ginger Stacey, as she was known, held the door open for us, which was quite nice and the meaning of which Rob and I later debated at length, while looking disdainfully over her shoulder at me through Cindy Lauper curls and doing that thing where you snap chewing gum between your teeth.
The presence of girls we fancied did what it always does to old boys / young men. We tried to look cool, which made us look stupid. Rob started doing his weird ‘legs further apart than normal’ walk (imagine a non-misogynistic and actually lovely Andrew Tate); I started talking very loudly and became hyper aware of my tongue.
Rob swerved Science Fiction, which had been our intended target (RoboCop), and instead loitered in the thriller section, in front of Fatal Attraction, in case the girls wandered over and… well I don’t know what really, and neither did he.
I set out to follow him, but something beautiful caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. It was a flash of black, white, and red. An image that spoke of motion and power. Of strength. I was drawn to it, hand outstretched, and pulled the empty FOR DISPLAY ONLY VHS case from the rack and stared at it, enraptured. I know now that it was Jean-Claude Van Damme’s second best movie – Blood Sport – but then, when I knew nothing, that image of a glistening Jean-Claude, battered but not broken, and in lycra shorts, just made me feel… weird.
I stared at that video cover for a good minute, which is a long time in that sort of circumstance, then experienced a sort of full body shudder, and held it aloft. I felt irresistibly compelled to share this beautiful thing I had found.
“ROB!” I shouted, pointing at the photo. “LOOK AT THE SIZE OF HIS THIGH!”
To this day I don’t know why I did it, I’m not gay, although I have had impure thoughts about Brian Molko. There was just something about that oiled thigh. It gave me the Heebie Jeebies, but in a good way.
Neither of the Stacey’s ever gave me the time of day after that. Rob, on the other hand, snogged both of them, on the same night no less, at the youth club, something he has never let me forget. Along with the thigh thing.