It’s time for a slow set, the deejay declares in his singsong voice, at the Sunday afternoon hop in Baldoyle Village Hall. It’s the first Sunday after Christmas and my pal Derek and I are dressed to the nines in our brand-new holiday glad-rags. I have on a vivid pink shirt with a button-down collar, a lemon-colored cravat, navy-blue bell-bottoms and brown wet-look boots with pointy toes. I have hair down to my shoulders, layered on top and parted in the middle. The year is 1969. Derek likes black. Gunslinger we call him, after a TV cowboy programme on in which the hero always dresses darkly. Derek has on his new black velvet jacket with a tapered waist, a red silk shirt with a full collar reaching up to his earlobes, black bell-bottoms with a 26-inch flare and black Beatle boots. His tie is magenta and he has a pageboy haircut.
He cuts a fine figure on the street but the jacket is a mistake for the hop. A black velvet jacket is the worst thing you can wear under dance-hall lights if you are, like Derek, a hostage to the blight that is dandruff. When the strobes hit them, the white flakes on his shoulders light up like a cacophony of tiny neon polka dots. I say nothing, though. On the way home, I’ll share with him the dandruff-busting qualities of Vaseline Intensive Care Shampoo. Meanwhile I’ll let him enjoy himself.
There’s a pecking order for the males at the Baldoyle Village Hall. The older guys hang out at the left-hand side of the stage. They have a year or two on the likes of Derek and me. They have standing and prestige and the deejay knows their names. They’re finished with school and some of them have jobs; they’re apprentices, factory workers or messenger boys. They smoke in their houses in front of their parents, they have cash in their pockets, they dress to kill and they strut like peacocks. The Sunday hop is peanuts to them; it’s just a warm-up for the evening gigs. On Friday and Saturday nights they go into town to the likes of the Ierne Ballroom or the Television Club and their exploits there, their fights and their women, are legendary.
On the right of the stage are the up-and-comers like Derek and me. We’re on our last legs at school and we can’t wait to be out working. We’re in a mad hurry to have ready cash in our pockets, to get served in pubs and to smoke at home. To be contenders and embody prestige.
Prestige is the thing. Respect. Sometimes when I’m leaving my house, I light a cigarette in the hall and I walk out the door with the ciggy hanging casually out of the side of my mouth, as if me firing up a smoke in the house is the most natural thing in the world. My mother would kill me if she caught me but it’s worth the risk.
The rest of the hall is left to the straights and the squares. They don’t smoke much and they don’t seem to be bothered about getting served in pubs. They’re obviously lacking in the righteousness department. They’re hopeless cases, we reckon, and they’ll never amount to much.
The DJ lays the needle on a disc and declares the set a ladies’ choice. The record is Michelle and the Beatles go into their act. My blood pulses a fraction faster, my cravat seems just a tad tighter and the hairs crackle on the back of my neck. The girls usually zero in on the older guys for the ladies’ choices and I rarely get asked up. Once in a blue moon maybe. But I don’t give up hope and I never fail to get that little thrill of anticipation.
Derek digs his elbow into my ribs to catch my attention. I look at him. He grins and tilts his head to his left. I follow with my eyes and I behold Carol Costello elbowing her way through the dancers. By the looks of her, she’s making a beeline for me.
Carol is gorgeous. Her body is shaped like an hour-glass, her jet-black hair hangs loose around her shoulders and her lips are scarlet. Her eyes are big and round and brown. Torchy. All the blokes fancy her - mostly, like me, from a distance. I’ve had dreams about her, which I won’t go into. She’s wearing black platform boots, black stockings, a mustard-coloured mini-skirt and a yellow silk blouse with the top three buttons open to show off her cleavage.
Carol usually hangs around with the workers. Terry Flood in particular. Terry works in the warehouse in Cadbury’s chocolate factory and he and Carol have been going out together for months. This puts her way out of my league but here she is, coming right at me and looking me straight in the eye.
She stops in front of me. “Are you getting up?” she says.
I say a silent prayer of thanks for the shadowy dimness of the dance-hall lights because I can feel my face blushing hotly. “Okay,” I stutter.
She grins, takes me by the hand and leads me out onto the dance floor.
“These are words which go together well,” croons Paul McCartney as Carol Costello wraps her arms around me and molds her body into mine. Her breasts squash against me, making two hot spots on my chest where I suppose her nipples are. She rests her head on my breast and nuzzles her dainty little snub-nose under my cravat. Her hair is soft and silky against my throat.
She smells like Heaven on Earth. Three aromas waft up my nose. The first is her shampoo - she must have washed her hair this morning. The second is her perfume - it’s Charlie, the most popular brand of the day. The last aroma is her essence, her natural human smell. It’s like the scent of baby fat but sweeter. It’s delicious.
My throat is as dry as a bone. We move off.
There’s not much to slow-dancing. Basically, you just clasp your partner and rotate on the spot. It’s more like hugging to music than dancing. How tightly your partner wraps herself around you is normally a barometer of the level of her affection. Carol Costello has me in a bear hug.
She hums along with the music. As her breathing fluctuates with the tune, her breasts rise and fall against me. Her breath comes out of her nose at the base of my throat and whistles gently down the inside of my shirt, brushing along my chest and my belly. I feel each individual hair in its path come erect, quiver and bask in the delicious glory of Carol Costello’s hot breath.
Derek, watching us from the edge of the dance floor, is bug-eyed. He shakes his head in consternation and points at the door. Derek is a worrier. He’s anxious that Terry Flood might arrive and catch me dancing with Carol. But I couldn’t care less. She is wrapped around me, the ebb and flow of her breasts making a beach of me. Her warm breath is dancing along my chest and my belly and the smell of her is all over me and in me. Beyond all that is just that - beyond all that.
Around and around we go. “Michelle, ma belle,” goes McCartney. Carol Costello moves her mouth full against my neck and slowly exhales. Whoosh goes my blood, white-rafting through my neck. And the rest of me is jelly. Then my neck feels wet. She’s licking it. Whoosh goes my blood again. My soul is in my neck. There’s nothing else to feel of me except that glorious hot spot where Carol Costello has her mouth. She bites me gently. Then she puts her lips there and she moves them along my neck. They feel like angels in satin slippers dancing on my skin. She lightly bites me again and she sucks.
The thrill of it engulfs my neck. The rapture of it radiates like electricity through my hair; it scorches down my back and around to my belly. And the rest.
McCartney croons about needing Michelle and I am full of Carol Costello. I am enchanted. Enraptured. Mesmerised. My entire world orbits around her mouth. On and on she goes with her lips and her teeth and her tongue and her breath.
Then she stops. She kisses me lightly where my neck is on fire and I come slowly back to the land of the living. I think we’ve stopped dancing - or maybe we haven’t - but we start again anyway. “I want you, I want you, I want you,” goes McCartney. Carol hugs me tighter. Her body seems to soften; it’s like butter melting into me.
Around and around we go. She hums along against my skin. I pray that she’ll put her mouth back. She hums a little more. “Michelle, ma belle.” Then she answers my prayers. Still humming, she puts them all back - her lips and her teeth and her tongue and her breath. And she hums and sucks and blows. She hums and sucks and blows. I feel like I’ve died and gone to Heaven.
She wraps her arms tighter still around me and she rubs herself against my groin. I am fit to burst. And she hums and sucks and blows. And rubs. She hums and sucks and blows. And rubs. I am Mount Vesuvius. And she hums and sucks and blows. And rubs. She hums and sucks and blows. And rubs.
The music stops. And she stops. And she draws away from me. I open my eyes. Everything is a bit misty. The part of me that isn’t still lost in Carol Costello sees Terry Flood come in the door, sees the dandruff dance on the shoulders of Derek’s new black velvet jacket, sees Derek jerk his worried chin in Flood’s direction. I couldn’t give a monkey’s.
“Thanks,” she says.
And she goes away and leaves me there. In the middle of the dance floor.