Amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori
- Virgil, Eclogues
It was called Arcadia.
At least that was what the voice on the other end of the phone was calling it today.
To all outside observers, it appeared to be
Nothing more than a derelict airplane hangar in Ipswich, just off the A12.
Staring up at its unremarkable façade,
It was hard to imagine how I had gotten here in the first place.
Eight days ago, I’d landed in London completely on my own.
The trip was a graduation present from my parents.
They had, it should be said, caved after months of begging to let me have
An authentic “European experience” before knuckling down on choosing a college From the miserably small pile of acceptance letters that stood, neatly folded,
On our kitchen table.
I viewed it as a kind of sculptural testament
To my impending mediocrity.
A car horn sounded.
That was Daphne, gently reminding me that the reason we’d made the trip up in the rental,
From London in the late afternoon, was decidedly not so I could stare at the architecture.
I approached the door to the left of the hangar and gave it a knock.
I’d met Daphne on my first day, on the steps of the British Museum.
She was Canadian, from Edmonton, and she was the only person I’d met in London besides Nicholas, who I’d known since grade school, who knew I was an American.
With most people, I just didn’t speak.
This was deliberate on my part to avoid the commonplace assumptions
Of my character arising from my nationality.
Rather, as Nicholas was fond of saying, “John, despite being neither an idiot,
Nor stark raving mad, you still managed to find yourself American.”
After meeting on the steps, Daphne and I talked for hours in a temporary exhibit
On Buddhism by the photographer Graham Harrison.
We talked about music, school, and being on our own.
She was working as an apprentice to a seamstress and was deferring University until the fall,
When she’d pursue her Undergraduate degree in Drama.
She hoped, one day, to be a costume designer for Hollywood movies.
She talked a lot about Robin Wright’s dresses in The Princess Bride.
I told her I didn’t know what I’d end up doing, but I loved music and dancing at clubs.
Her eyes widened a little as if to say:
Do you want to know a secret?
The car horn went again.
The door opened and a long haired, unshaven guy in a huge camouflage military coat
Pulled me into a small office and asked me for money.
Startled, I gave him all I had.
He looked perplexed for a moment and gave me half of it back, then turned around.
He began looking through the drawers of a large filing cabinet in the corner.
“Five,” he said.
“Four,” I remembered.
“Right,” he said.
Turning around, he opened his hand to reveal four small, non-descript pinkish tablets.
“You are coming back tonight?”
I nodded the affirmative, holding out my hand to receive them.
“About six kilometers from here,” he went on, motioning me down the road
Where we’d just been.
“There’s a big open field, park your car there.
Go through the trees to the bus station.
Number Seven bus will take you right past here.
The stop’s just up there.”
He motioned again, this time in the opposite direction.
“But,” I stammered, “why?”
“The coppers, man, it does their heads in, right!”
He slapped me on the shoulder and started walking towards the door.
I looked down at the pills in my hand before I walked back
To Daphne’s and my rental car.
I remembered the last time I’d done this very same exchange.
Nicholas and I were in New York, during one of his many stateside visits.
We were in some gigantic warehouse in the Meatpacking District
Getting sold a hundred dollars in baby aspirin from a drag queen named Diane von Fränkenstein.
Nicholas, whose hundred dollars it was, it should be noted, was decidedly nonplussed.
But, for me, it was more than the drugs.
It was the music, the lights, the people.
And it was, high or not, magic.
Daphne and I walked through the field as the sun began to set, stopping only to phone Nicholas, begging off my efforts to repay his charity from New York City.
He’d been to many of these secret parties—
Gigantic fields along the M25—
Something of a media sensation, he’d said.
But it all hadn’t moved him in the slightest.
He wished us well and said his goodbyes, mentioning something about spending
The next few days on a trip up to Stonehenge for the solstice.
I assured him we would all meet up
Back in the city.
Having purchased our tablets, anticipating the prestigious appetites of my friend,
We considered trying to sell some of our quarry back to our camouflaged compatriot in Arcadia.
We divided them between ourselves in the wooded area behind the bus station,
Already spotted with flashlights like a dozen or so fireflies at dusk on either side of us.
Hurriedly, Daphne popped both of hers into her mouth and kissed me deeply.
I felt them on her tongue as it caressed my own and then, felt the two pills go down my throat.
Before I registered what was happening, she had taken two others from my still open palm,
Separated herself from me with a wet, smacking sound and downed them,
Wiping her mouth with her sleeve. “I’ve only ever taken one.” I admitted.
“I’ve never had any.” Daphne replied.
She smiled that irresistible grin once more.
The lights were multiplying now and an idling bus seemed just a few short steps away.
A large number seven on the side, augmented by a smiley face sticker—
Arm in arm, we boarded.
We realized now the two-fold purpose of the bus:
It seemed as if others destined for Arcadia had been given instructions to arrive at various stops
Along the circuit, stay on the bus and disembark at Arcadia only when they had come up
On whatever drugs they had gulped or snorted in the woods and alleyways.
The route was slow moving, with multiple stops along the way.
Number Seven ran from Constantine Road, where the station was,
Across Russell Road, up Princes Street
To Civic Drive and back again.
This kept the attention off the hangar, which, to all onlookers looked just as dark and abandoned
As it had earlier in the evening.
If and when the hangar itself did attract the attentions of the constables, little or no evidence
Of drugs or drug paraphernalia were likely to be found on the premises.
Number Seven would be a silent accomplice, and the carrier bags, cans, cellophane,
Rolled up £5 notes, Rizlas and Other detritus littering the floor would quietly be swept away.
At the end of Number Seven’s shift, it, and its contraband would disappear into the night
Far away from the prying eyes of the cops.
I was considering the ingeniousness of this plan when Daphne gently touched my leg.
I looked up to see Arcadia languidly approaching.
I felt a warm feeling spreading through my chest.
As the doors opened, we walked towards the hangar, holding hands as a gentle thumping Grew louder and more sustained.
We knocked on the door to the office, as I had before.
It quickly opened and we were ushered in.
The bouncer, a heavyset man in his forties, stood alone in the empty room.
The office had been cleared of almost everything that had been there before
And where the filing cabinet had been stood another door.
I passed a folded bundle of notes to the bouncer and he opened the door.
It was completely dark and we had to let go of each other’s hand to walk in, single file.
The hangar had been completely transformed.
A far wall contained a huge movie screen showing clips from a film projector hung from wires.
Blade Runner jump cut to 2001: A Space Odyssey which faded out to Barbarella
Which wiped to Zardoz.
A bank of strobes bathed the entire hanger in skittering flashes of light
And lasers struck out in greens, yellows, and blues over the already sizeable crowd.
A makeshift bar had been established at the back of the hangar,
The rest of the cavernous space given over to the dancefloor.
As we walked up, the warm feeling was spreading now to all parts of my body.
I felt lighter, oddly buoyant, as if I would soon begin floating.
I looked to see Daphne in conversation with three other people, standing at the bar
And admiringly studying the dancefloor.
She tugged on my arm slightly to introduce me over the music.
“This is Mena,” Daphne shouted, pointing to a girl with a shock of ginger curls.
Mena had makeup that made her look like a China doll.
She shook my hand limply, smiled and pulled her companion closer.
I already recognized her.
It was former Canadian children’s television personality, Alanis Morissette.
Alanis waved sheepishly.
To her right was a strikingly handsome East Indian boy bored with the goings on.
But he limply lifted his hand up,
To shake mine and managed a smile.
He was mouthing words, I could not hear as the DJ began playing a mix of Phuture’s
“Acid Tracks” I’d never heard before.
I found myself mesmerized by the boy’s mouth,
Which seemed to be moving in time with the music.
When I finally started to hear his voice through the din.
“Madhupuspa,” he began, before the bass sounds rendered me deaf again.
“Mod…duh…” I stammered.
“Mopsy, we call him Mopsy,” Mena shouted.
Another group arrived and we all had to disperse to make room for them.
Soon the five of us found ourselves drawn further and further into the mass of people dancing.
Lured in by the rhythmic fluctuations, working our way through the throng
Gave Daphne an opportunity to explain how she knew her companions.
She had met Mena once before, at a party thrown by the seamstress.
Mena had, in turn, met Mopsy in a fields along the M25.
“What about Alanis Morissette?” I asked. “Why are you using her full name?” Daphne asked.
“Well, she’s a celebrity. I do that with celebrities.”
“That was when she was twelve years old,” Daphne replied, trenchantly.
“Children’s after-school television raised me,” I replied. Daphne smiled.
“She’s friends with Mena. She’s here, I’m told, to meet with record executives
About a demo she recorded. And I didn’t have a television growing up.”
With that, she kissed me again while her hands explored the leather on my jacket,
Luxuriating in its smoothness.
In all honesty, my hands were doing the same thing.
The next thing we knew, we were in amongst the crowd, still kissing.
Our bodies were automatically bouncing
In time with the music.
My mind began to get hazy and, I thought I was going to lose consciousness,
But then the door to the toilets erupted.
A naked man emerged.
“I AM JESUS! LITTLE BABY JESUS!
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE!”
The crowd parted for the man and he ran out the door and into the night.
Following his path, I felt a poke in my ribcage, and looked up to see Mopsy
With bottles of water for Daphne and myself.
Feeling the coolness and the moisture move slowly down my throat was amazing and kept the Haziness at bay. I nodded my thanks and kept dancing. The DJ was still warming up a crowd
Chemically enhanced to dance until the wee hours of the following morning.
His track selection combining early disco hits from the 70’s, before segueing into recent fare.
“Move Your Body” by Marshall Jefferson and M/A/R/R/S’s “Pump Up The Volume.”
Blurs of bodies moving in syncopated rhythm.
At nearly two hours in, the white labels started to make an appearance, including bootlegs
Of current chart hits by Coldcut and the Beatmasters.
At the three hour mark there was a mysterious new test pressing by an act called the KLF.
And the crowd had become a living thing, a symbiotic creature feeding off the collective energy of its members as if some coagulated organism, shedding its wastes of sweat and saliva.
Coming together in a variety of ways to celebrate its newfound intimacy.
My body moved in time with Daphne’s, until Daphne was gone and replaced with Mena,
Or Mopsy, or a complete stranger.
Young girls, who could not have been old enough to enter a pub alone
Were dancing alongside football hooligan types in their early forties.
As Nicholas had mentioned, this “communal thing” was taking hold and dramatically changing
Every person who encountered it.
As “Strings of Life” came up on the decks, I couldn’t have been any happier
That it was happening to me.
I have no idea how much time had passed before I looked up to see Alanis Morissette
Awkwardly beckoning me off the dancefloor and back to a little alcove behind the bar.
Still moving in rhythm, I fought my way through intertwined bodies.
When I reached the outer circle of the dancefloor, I had to fight every urge to let myself
Be subsumed again by the mass of humanity, but I managed to break free
And, jostled, I stumbled into an obviously upset Alanis Morissette.
“Alanis Morissette,” I said, a little too loudly in her ear, “what is it? What’s wrong?”
“Why are you using my full name?” Alanis Morissette shouted back.
“I don’t know. What’s wrong?” I shouted again.
She looked stricken.
“It’s Mopsy,” she said. “He’s gone.”
I made an exaggerated turn of my head to scan the dancefloor for Mopsy.
In my mind, he had been here just moments ago.
As my senses adjusted themselves, I realized that the song had changed.
It appeared that a much longer time had passed than I originally thought.
“When did he leave?” I asked.
“About twenty minutes ago. He was on the dancefloor with that boy.
Terence, or Bradford or Johnny or something.
I told him that the boy wasn’t interested, it was just that one time.
Anyway, after the boy told him to fuck off, Mopsy threw a tantrum.”
Mopsy, apparently, wouldn’t come out of the toilets.
I made my way over to the queue of men and women, mostly, patiently waiting.
After a few minutes of gentle knocking, and cajoling over the sound of
A Guy Called Gerald’s “Voodoo Ray,” the doors exploded open.
Mopsy, followed by Mena, burst forth.
He stopped, and turned his face, smooth and unwrinkled, began to crumple in a barrage of tears.
“Don’t you think I’m pretty?” The ugly face asked. And when I nodded in the affirmative, Mopsy’s tears stopped, As Frankie Knuckle’s “Tears” started and he leaned in for a kiss.
“Easy does it,” Mena said, pulling our lips apart, as Alanis and Daphne emerged
From a fog of dry ice.
Mopsy was inconsolable and pulled away from Mena’s loving embrace.
Black Riot’s “A Day in the Life” dominating the dancefloor,
I reached for Daphne’s hand to find her already following the others
Out the door.
The warm feeling now burned hotter as I followed the shadows that zigged and
Zagged from what seemed like the inside of my eyelids out.
It was hard to catch my breath, like a weight was above me pressing
Down on my head and chest.
And then, in an instant, we were through the tiny office and back outside again.
Following Mopsy who was crying and had broken into a run.
A gallop, like a horse breaking away from the herd.
The breeze was cool on my forehead, where beads of sweat had formed.
“Please, can you—please, slow down,” I cried, as Mopsy’s speeding shadow shimmered,
In the moonlight. And I dropped to my knees.
Daphne appeared at my left, while the man from Arcadia appeared at my right arm
He quietly spoke in my ear, in his distinctive accent:
“Bruv, you will be alright, yes, because we cannot have too much disturbance outside, yes?”
I nodded, and just as quickly began to regain my strength and stand up on my own two feet.
Daphne, whose own forehead was now beaded with perspiration, came in close
To kiss me quick, her tongue finding its purchase as I focused intently upon her hazel eyes.
My hand reached behind her and found the small of her back where I pressed firmly,
Drawing her closer to me, and kissed her deeply, holding her as tightly I could manage.
She responded by opening herself, letting her body hang limply.
It was almost as if I were floating above myself, watching from a distance, only a few feet higher
Than the top of my head, just below the trees.
Mopsy was running ahead of everyone, crying.
Mena, exhausted by the effort, was following slowly, begging, pleading for him to return.
Alanis was distractedly talking with the Man from Arcadia.
As feverish as I felt, as muggy and humid as the inside of the hangar was,
And as temperate as it was outside, at the base of the woodland, I was shivering.
I got so lost in her eyes and so lost in her smile, I could not keep track of anything else.
It was as if she were silently communicating to me everything I ever needed to hear.
Without even saying a word, we held one another, absorbing the warmth of our bodies like
Planets in close orbit around one another.
I could have stayed there forever—forever did not feel so long at all.
Again, there was a cry in the night, and movement, with streaky shadows darting past
Where Daphne and I were standing, tightly holding one another in a mutually shivering embrace.
We stepped forward as one and stumbled a bit when we were blinded momentarily
By the headlights of the Number Seven bus, speeding along the road.
The bus roared toward where we were standing.
Time seemed to freeze in an instant.
The shadows around us seemed to close in, as if to shield us from the halogens.
Finally, sound broke through the rattle of teeth.
“I AM THE RESSURECTION AND THE—”
“Get out of the way!” Mopsy’s voice intruded.
The naked man, who was at the wheel of the bus, turned it sharply to the left,
As I was pushed to the ground by Mena.
There was a shrieking of air brakes and a small thump, like someone had slapped
The front of the bus with their bare hand.
I looked down and saw Daphne’s eyes reflecting moonlight while blood ran down
In a small trail from her forehead.
The haze I had been in for the last hour snapped back into sharper focus
As I bent down to see Daphne.
She quickly sought out my hand and intertwined her fingers in mine.
She was trying to say something, but having difficulty speaking.
Around me, Mena, Mopsy, and Alanis stood, along with the bouncer, who
Held the naked man, who was now covered with the man from Arcadia’s army coat.
No one said a word.
In the distance, a siren.
The bus, blocking the road at a crooked angle,
Steam rising from its radiator in the early morning air.
“She needs a doctor, yeah,” the man from Arcadia said.
He gently grabbed my shoulders and lifted me from the ground where I was kneeling.
He stared deeply into my eyes.
“She will be ok, mate, yes?”
“But now, you need to go.”
The siren wailed again, closer this time.
I could see Daphne’s eyes go wide and angle upwards, searching for me,
The man led me down the hill, to a path that meandered through the
Forest, back to where our little rented Peugeot sat, undisturbed.
I don’t know how long I sat in the car, crying, and shaking,
As the small dark shadows of people, one by one or in small groups appeared
From the woodland path, got into their cars and left,
Darkness and blue lights gave way to dawn, I have no memory of the drive to London,
Or the tube, or the airport or how, eight days later, I was flying back home.
But I wasn’t really there at all.
That whole time, in Arcadia, I remained.