Tonight we find Charles in London, first at his club with his rakish old school friends, then at a place we might term ‘an amusement emporium’ purveying amusements of a distinctly dubious nature, then in a dingy garret with a young prostitute. Throughout it all Charles is prey to a battle raging inside him. On one hill are ranged the forces of sexual arousal; on the other, a natural disgust at the levels to which the desperate, the debauched and the socially disenfranchised are prepared to descend. And if you’ll permit one more indulgence of my fondness for alliteration, the denouement to Charles’s dissolute adventure is that he vomits onto the prostitute’s pillow.
This reminds me of that strange night I spent in a room above a Soho restaurant where I went with some actor friends one Christmas, the room with the subdued lighting, exaggeratedly opulent fittings, and an oversize bed on which I lay talking with a strange woman (in both senses of the term.) I remember feeling confused about what everybody else was doing, and what the hell I was doing there in the first place. The drink and whacky baccy had flowed freely that night, and the resultant perceptual haze seemed to act as a barrier to full cognisance of the finer details. I can attest, however, to the fact that nothing but words passed between me and the strange woman. Whether or not I was betraying the script, I shall never know.
And it reminds me of another night spent at a colleague’s stag party at Trentham Rugby Club, at which the strippers eagerly demonstrated that the twin forces of legality and moral rectitude have no dominion at a private engagement. You take my meaning, I assume.
My response to both events echoed Charles’s response almost perfectly, with one exception: I, too, found myself in the middle of the same battle, but the outcome was a resounding victory for the forces of objection. I never made it to the prostitute’s garret, and so there is, mercifully, no demeaning memory of vomiting onto anybody's pillow.
The mirror continues to reflect, however, with remarkably accurate resonance.