Fragments vol. 2
Random Access Memories
I had an older first cousin named M.
He was almost a decade my senior and lived on the same street that I did when I was growing up. He was handsome, smart, funny, charming, and excelled at sports. In short, he was one of those guys that everyone couldn’t help but love.
One hot summer night when he was around sixteen years old, I was over at his house with my parents and was hanging around with his sisters. M. was late coming home, and everybody (except his father and my father) were worried. This was in the days before cell phones, and M. had relatively strict parents like I did.
Up went the garage door, with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and M.’s two aunts and two uncles relocating there from the basement to wait for him to come home. I stayed inside with his two sisters and a few of our cousins, excited to see what would happen.
It was already way past my bedtime, but this was summer and my mother was lenient when I was with family. Just as she was ready to throw in the towel and take me home, a large automobile turned the corner into the subdivision, and pulled up on the driveway.
“Thanks guys! See you tomorrow!” said M. as he climbed out and made his way up the driveway.
“M. where were you? WHERE WERE YOU?” my aunt asked angrily in Croatian.
M. just smiled at her, and kept walking.
My aunt quickly caught up to him and grabbed him by the shoulder, spinning him around.
“WHERE WERE YOU? DON’T YOU KNOW THAT WE WERE SCARED TO DEATH?”
She then slapped him in the face.
M. smiled at her after being the recipient of a powerful slap, looked at her, and said “I still love you, Mom”.
“WHERE WERE YOU?” SMACK!
M. “I still love you, Mom”, smiling like the cat who ate the canary.
“I still love you, Mom!” the smile on his face not changing a single bit.
It was at this point that my father began laughing, and then M.’s aunts and uncles started laughing, and finally his Mother too. The “crisis” was defused.
Charm will get you everything, and out of anything.
It was July of 2003, and London was unseasonably warm and sunny. I was on my way to the old country, with a three day stop in the UK capital to explore the city, and to have some fun as well.
Back then, I was not as familiar with London as I came to be later. The city is so immense that you will find it difficult to pick a location to start from in order to try and understand its rhythms and its flow. On that day, I found myself in and around Islington, walking west with no planned destination. I was in a fantastic mood as I was on vacation and had more than enough money to spend, and was going to meet my friends on an island in the Adriatic in two weeks from that time, as we had rented a villa for a whole month. It was one of those moods where nothing can bother you, and you are very forgiving of others, to the point of being helpful to total strangers, possibly excessively so.
Some time around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, I passed through a busy intersection where I caught the eye of a young woman. She was attractive and I was emitting a strong energy. “Fuck it! Let’s go talk to her”, I decided on the spot. After quickly exchanging pleasantries, I invited her for a drink.
“I know a great pub just down the road from here”, she said to me in a very posh accent.
“Sure, let’s do it.”
She worked in some office (the name of which escaped me immediately), and wanted to grab a post-work pint or two as per British custom. The pub that she selected was a fairly large one in that it wasn’t your standard four feet from the front door to the bar, but was actually quite spacious. What we quickly learned was that it was ‘Quiz Night’ at this pub, and everybody there HAD to participate. Paper and pen were provided to all the punters, and some fat man in his fifties grabbed a microphone and introduced himself as the Quiz Master.
“This is gonna be great!” I thought to myself, certain that she would be impressed by the vast scale of my completely useless knowledge.
I was quickly disabused of this notion as the Quiz Master kicked off the quiz by asking a series of questions about British pop culture that was completely foreign to me. I prided myself back home on knowing more than most everyone I knew about Brit culture, but these questions left me so far adrift that I couldn’t figure out how to play down the zero score after the first round. She thought it was funny (she scored only two out of five answers correctly).
I repeated my zero in the second round as well, and she only got one right. By this point, we were already a few pints in and enjoying each other’s company more than the actual quiz. Come the third round, and both she and I were scrawling “WANKER” on the paper provided to us as answers to this new batch of incomprehensible questions.
“They are disqualified!” bellowed the Quiz Master, in a voice reminiscent of Brian Blessed. He actually took his role very, very seriously, and was visibly upset with the two of us. So be it. It was time to head to another pub.