It was a more wonderful start to my fresher year than any I could have hoped to imagine. I was inducted into the happiest and most spontaneous group of friends that ever existed. I was a member of the Club, and I enjoyed every moment we spent together.
There is no definite point in time at which the Club formed. It just faded into existence in those first few weeks of the semester. All I know is that I am glad that it did. Because it would've been so easy to waste that time on study. Instead, we put responsibilities on hold, and danced in the rain and skipped down the street, snubbing anyone who dared stare. We were just having great fun.
Even the boundaries of membership of the Club are fuzzy. It is difficult to tell who were members, because it was never really announced as a Club, and our meetings could occur anywhere or anytime. It was a rare occasion when we had the full complement. But there were two of us that always seemed to end up at the meetings. I felt that we were the cornerstones of the Club,
I was the quiet Club member, content to tag along, and so I suppose, in a way, it is fitting that I tell this story. If I had an official title in the Club, it would've been Secretary. Not that there was really much to do as the Secretary of a Club that was never officially recognized, never got any mail and never planned any functions. But I did take the minutes of the meetings, although no-one knew. I was just so darned glad to be a member of the Club, and participate in their antics, that I couldn't help recording them.
At the other end of the social scale from me was the only regular female member of the Club. She was effectively our President. I described her in the minutes of our first few meetings as "thoughtful, tolerant and happily adolescent." I think I fell in love with her at once, although I was more than content just to be a friend. It is true that she was the main reason I was in that Club, She was the one who lead us on our spontaneous escapades. It was her suggestions that lead us to do the crazy things that we did. But no matter how crazy those things were, I don't think any of us could deny that they were fun in the extreme.
It was she who decided to dance in the garden in the rain. It was a Thursday evening, after the meeting of a much larger club, the Student Club. The minutes record the other participants in this meeting: me, Chuck, Parker and Billy. Of the other members, Billy was the only one who really held a definite position at that stage. He was undoubtably our mascot. He was sort of a beanpole teddy bear that the President seemed to take a liking to. I suppose I was a little jealous.
It was at 1:20 pm the next day that our next meeting was declared open. It was held in Club H.Q., the President's cosy room. Mascot Billy was due to show up and accompany the President on a shopping trip. I had rang the President to see if I could join them, and shortly thereafter I was sitting on the President's bed. I was alone with her for the first time that day, and I suppose I was overwhelmed by the occasion. I can be sure of that, because I actually chatted to her. And that's something that I am definitely not renowned for doing. The whole experience moved me greatly. But it wasn't the subject matter of the conversation that moved me. It was her.
Billy dropped by to tell us that he had to ride down the bank (sans PIN number) and make a withdrawal. Next thing I knew, I was walking down the street as the President bought some lunch. It rained on the way back. It was sort of romantic (for me anyway) to be running with her as water from the heavens poured down upon us. I was dreamy for the rest of the day.
The sun reappeared, and so did Billy. Then we were on our way. The first place we visited on our shopping excursion was the Teddy Bear Shop. The President seemed to be at home there. I could tell it made her very happy to be in that cute and warm little shop. The bears were truly exquisite, but rather expensive. But then, they were surely worth their weight in gold, because they actually seemed to be alive, watching you with pleading eyes and adorable little grins. They wanted so very much for you to take them home that they would like to make a nuisance of themselves just to attract your attention. In fact, the only thing standing between order and furry chaos was the shopkeeper. She was the schoolmistress that kept the bears in line.
At our next stop, we watched the cat and the fiddle. And the cow jumping over the moon. We saw the little dog laugh to see such fun. Then the dish ran away with the spoon. At least that's what happened the second time the aging machinery whirred into life. The first time it had stopped short of a full performance.
The President bought some pull-back toy cars to entertain a young visitor she would be having around on Saturday. Although they weren't meant for us, we surely had more fun with them than the child for whom they were intended. We turned the kitchen near Club H.Q. into a raceway, The next thing we knew, the cars had names: One-Eyed Jack (who lost a headlight to an oncoming fridge) and Whirry (who got broken, but was fixed by Billy).
The President had also bought a poster that afternoon, and much effort was put into hanging it straight. It depicts a boy and girl, sitting on a stone wall. Everything is grey except for the brightly coloured balloons that float in the air above them. It was a lovely poster. I am glad that the President chose it.
We had dinner and visited an honorary Club member, a friend of the President, who lived up the hill. As we walked, Billy expelled extra energy on the sign posts. As we watched the Mascot leap from pole to pole, the President picked a little acorn for me. Then she picked a flower, perhaps feeling a tiny bit horrible for only having giving me an acorn. I got another flower when we got to our destination. It was a fuchsia that got pushed between the threads of my jumper.
On our return, both flowers ended up in a glass sitting on the President's bookshelf, because I knew they would wither and die. But I kept the acorn, because there was hope that it might last. That acorn meant a lot to me. It sat on top on my TV for the rest of the year, so that when I looked at it, I was reminded of her and the good times we spent together. Not that I needed reminding often, because she was nearly always on my mind.
We played with the cars before we went to the Hat Party. We wore some hats that the President had. Billy wore an ornate hat with a golden design, and I wore a simple black beret. I imagine the President wore her sequined cap, but alas I did not record it in the minutes, so I am just guessing. We eventually got bored with the party and left, taking Chuck with us.
Brian was playing eight-ball in the common room, and was having a distinct run of bad luck with his remaining small ball. The exercise bike proved to be popular. Billy tried to be macho, and had a go with with the weights and the punching bag. Then he asserted himself further by beating Brian at eight-ball. He went on to play the President, but he was no match for her. I couldn't help smiling.
That most wonderful day was capped off with a meeting in Club H.Q. Hot chocolate and Paul Simon eventually put the Mascot to sleep on the President's bed. Chuck and Brian chatted. I was silent. The president was lying face down in the middle of the room. At 12:40 I left, detecting our President's increasing disinterest in the proceedings. I hoped that the others would perhaps follow my lead. I hope she got to bed not too long after that. First removing the Mascot, of course.
The next Friday we went shopping again. I popped out of room to do my laundry and noticed that Billy's door was open. I walked towards the door just as the President and Mascot emerged. They told me that they were going downtown. I asked if I could come, remembering how much fun we had the week before. The President's face twisted into some uninterpretable expression before she said sharply, "Of course you can come." I detected a feeling of disapproval, and it sort of spoiled the afternoon for me.
But one thing about it sticks firmly in my mind. It's a story that the President told us as she donated half-a-litre of her blood to the blood bank. As Billy and I watched her being "drained", she told us the most heart-warming story that I have ever heard. She told us that she had been in a plaster cast when she was one year old, unable to do anything but crawl awkwardly. That seemed very, very sad to me. But it wasn't really, because there was a boy who lived next door who would visit her and cheer her up. As soon as he was on her side of the fence, he would limit himself to crawling. He would crawl about with her, and play with her, and make her happy. It struck me as the kindest, most thoughtful thing that anyone could ever do for the poor little girl. If I knew who the little lad was, I would give him a medal. Of course, he wouldn't be a little lad anymore, and he has probably forgotten his good deed. And that's a shame.
Sunday afternoon rolled around. Chuck, Parker, Simon, Brian and I were playing a computer game called Scorched Earth. But I wasn't enjoying myself very much. It was a beautiful day outside, and I was kind of hoping for a Club outing. As if answering a prayer, the President turned up then. She too had noticed the sun shining, and suggested a walk. I told her that I'd be glad to go with her. Her lack of a reply was much less than enthusiastic. She went to grab Billy, and my heart sank a little. I almost asked her, "Do we really need to take the Mascot everywhere with us?" But I knew that she believed that we did. Because in a way she loved the Mascot, although I was slow to admit it to myself.
After a bit of quick organisation, the President, Chuck, Billy and I were on our way to the beach. This time I can say for sure that the President wore her sequined cap, because I recorded it in the minutes. I also recorded that Billy said she looked like "Daffy Duck with lots of eyes." We picked up another honorary Club member that afternoon, Mona. She was another friend of the President.
On the beach the President told us another story about her early childhood. It is a funny little story that deserves to be told on its own. It was about a little boy called Samuel. Although we all laughed, I could see that the President regretted telling us afterwards. I hope she can laugh at it herself one day, but then perhaps the story runs deeper than she tells it.
We all had ice cream and walked back along the beach to a marina near Wrest Point. There we found Mr Yummy, and had some more ice cream. We rested in a nearby playground before making our way to a park with a very long slide. The President ended up getting sand in her hair due to Billy's inability to "save her" at the bottom of the slide. Eventually we made our way back home.
I felt a little bit off colour that night, and could only manage strawberry ice cream for dinner. I took a hot bath. It was that night that I made my first gift to the President. It was a sign for the door of Club H.Q. It was a labour of love, and passed away a few lonely hours.
I would give it to her the next evening, at 5:47pm. I had to knock twice on the door of H.Q., because she had been sleeping. I sniffled and heard a faint "come in." She was sleepily standing near the middle of the room. "Special delivery. It's a sign for your door." I slid it out of its plastic wallet and handed it to her. The smile which appeared on her sleepy face was fantastic. She was essentially speechless, but managed to say something about it being "cute." I forgot about the cold then, which had made me miserable all afternoon. In its place came the most wonderfully warm feeling I have ever had. It was then that my infatuation really began.
A couple of days later, Chuck, Parker and I went down to give the President some of Parker's chocolate birthday cake. But she wasn't there. She had gone out with Billy, probably to the beach. I visited Parker's room for a while before I returned to my own. I was a little upset to find that I wasn't invited to Parker's birthday celebrations.
But that was nothing compared to the coldness I felt when I went to bed that night, It struck me suddenly, as my mind was mulling over the day's events. I remembered, in vivid detail, the moment when we were outside Club H.Q. I realized that the sign was gone! The next morning, I left a note on the President's door: "Where's the sign? Archer."
Then the Easter break came, and it was a sad and lonely time for me. It was good to go home and see everyone again. But it wasn't very long before I missed the Club and its President. Especially its President. Although I would see the President again, the Club faded after those holidays. The meeting that marked the end of those happy March days occurred to the sounds of Jean-Michel Jarre. It was a sad meeting with just the President, the Secretary and the Mascot present. A jug of water was knocked over in a ceremonious gesture. Nothing was the same again.
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