That winter Rayleigh’s first ever nightclub opened. It was called Crocs because there was a tank with 3 or 4 live crocodiles in it. The crocs at Crocs attracted bored teenagers from as far and wide as London and Canvey Island. The gimmick and late opening hours worked well.
To begin with Friday nights were hippy night. Marnie and I called Hippies Hairies, can’t remember whether this was standard, when I googled Hairies not much came up.
We didn’t fit in with the disco nights and there was nothing alternative when the club opened, so we descended on the first hairy night for something to do after the pub.
The club was dark and packed and smelt of weed and booze. Through the smoke and head bangers I spotted a guy I fancied. He had long dark brown hair and was wearing a red paisley neck scarf, he looked a bit like Jim Morrison of The Doors, I fancied him. He leant on a pillar by himself, looking at me, smoking a joint, being cool. When he walked towards the cloakroom I followed, brushing up against the coats and his slim body.
“See you next week?” he asked
“Yes” I beamed
The following week I was back at Crocs for hairy night to meet the mystery man.
Head banging with stoned hippies wasn’t the most intimate way of copping off, but at the end of the night the DJ played Led Zep Stairway to Heaven and everyone made their move. We gravitated towards each other and chatted over the track until she’d bought all of the stairways to heaven.
Roy had moved to Rayleigh from a troubled estate in Basildon. He lived with his mother on the same estate as Julie. We moved to the dark corridor of the club and snogged next to the crocodile tank.
“Want to come back to mine for a coffee?” I slurred.
“Sure,” he handed me his joint, I toked on it, coughed, then gave it back.
“Got to get my coat.”
Roy followed me to the cloakroom then just stood there, bare skinny arms sticking out from his black cap sleeve t-shirt. I found my leather jacket on a rail. It was thin cheap leather but something to put on for the cold night air.
“You not got a coat?” Roy watched as I slipped the jacket over my black faux leather top.
“It’s fucking freezing” he said, then our eyes met on a dazzling white afghan coat left in the now unmanned cloakroom. Roy took the afghan off its hanger, put it on, and we walked out of the club back to my house.
Roy was a few years older than me and more forward. We didn’t bother with coffee, just had sex on the sofa leaving spunk marks on another of the green fabric cushions as he pulled out of me. He wasn’t risking anything, I wasn’t 16 yet and not on the pill. I turned the cushions over. We laughed at all the stains then he said something about my Dad that pissed me off, as the booze was wearing off, it wasn’t funny anymore.
“You need to take the coat back” I said.
I kind of knew who the coat belonged to, suddenly feeling sober I didn’t like that Roy had stolen it, he was already in trouble with the police, I think that’s why he and his mother had left Basildon.
We slept on the sofa in the living room with the afghan covering us. He left early the next morning, before my parents got up. I didn’t invite him to my room because when I’d had boyfriend No. 3 up there, my mother had said at breakfast: “I don’t ever want to find a boy in your bedroom again” we hadn’t even had a fumble, my bedroom had twin beds in it , what a waste , we wouldn’t have had to sleep together had Roy been allowed to sleep in my room.
Roy allegedly returned the coat to Crocs’ cloakroom the following week. Despite this gesture being what was right, karmic and what I’d asked for, I became less interested in him. He was older than the nice boy but was becoming even nicer which I didn’t seem to like. Being nice wasn’t cool. After a few evenings in The Crown I ended it by dodging his phone calls and laying low in the Spread Eagle saloon bar.
The live crocs at Crocs didn’t stay for much longer either, but the empty tanks remained there for years until the club was renamed The Pink Toothbrush with the new logo of a nearly topless woman riding a huge red/pink toothbrush like a broom. The crocodiles (that weren’t really crocs but alligators) were taken by the RSPCA to Colchester Zoo. They got a better life and Roy, who was lovely, got off lightly as my emotionial numbness began to set in.