I want to tell the story about the two boys I saw at a Pigeon Detectives concert, stacked together like a totem pole, arms spread wide while the audience milled under them like clumsy, bumbling ants. It was a crazy, hectic, coked-up-wearing-sunglasses-inside kind of crowd. One friend had pointed to another and gestured him to climb aboard. Fast, fast, fast, fast, loud, loud, loud, loud, the tiny, sweaty room had painted-black walls and the floor was still tainted with the traces of poorly mopped-up vomit. The stink of that illegal vodka never left the premises. I don’t believe it ever will.
The band were as mad as the crowd were, all curls and leather emptying water bottles over their faces, spitting it back out at the crowd where it hung in the air like mist for a few nanoseconds before settling on us like dew. The totem pole slipped over a lot and the top boy would splay on the floor. The supporting lad would stretch his arm down to retrieve him from the crowd, then he’d crouch down like a kid playing leap-frog to let him straddle his shoulders, making sure they made the most of the 120-second song. It was a good song. The band were playing ‘I Found Out’ and half the crowd were only there that night in the hopes of hearing that one song, so the current of the pit crashed forwards and backwards, up and down, but no one in that moment minded claustrophobia. The brothers must have fallen over about five times, but they stood up and reconvened even when I could see blood trickling down from a split lip, something that might only look like the result of a brisk wind but would undoubtedly swell up huge by the morning, but the top stayed on the shoulders, arms punching out sporadically, out of rhythm as he tried to balance of the top of the bottom’s jumping, precarious dancing.
We sung together out of tune, chanting like a football crowd, arms reaching forwards towards the stage in a desperate demonstration of attention-seeking energy:
‘Going out with! Yes, you’re going out with!’
And then the screams and claps and cheers.
‘Thanks for that,’ said the top to the bottom.
‘Nah, you’re alright mate, you’re alright,’ said the bottom to the top. The band were still basking in praise and glory, handing back the phones they’d nicked, engaging in the banter that I always felt sure was planned in advance, and the top looked back to the bottom and he said, in a voice like a child on his first day of school, that same innocence and endearingness, a question neglected by most adults to avoid the inevitability of potential awkwardness:
‘What’s your name?’
And I knew then that they weren’t brothers and I knew then that they weren’t friends, but I also knew that for those two minutes and eleven seconds they had been.
In crowds like this you rub against skin and taste peoples’ sweat more than you do when you’re fucking, but it’s platonic and beautiful and ugly and sexual and meaningful in ways that extend beyond the body, and the bruises and the split lips never seem to hurt and instead they become trophies like love-bites or skinned knees.
Cathleen Davies is a writer, teacher, and researcher currently completing their PhD at the University of East Anglia. Their work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, a scruffy list of which can be found on their website. Their debut collection of short-stories ‘Cheeky, Bloody Articles’ will be released in August.