Pearl had no idea where she was going.
“Keep walking across the park, past the bus stops and dustbins until the roads get narrower and emptier. Do not use your phone map or you will look lost.” That’s what they said.
There were overflowing bins, shopping trolleys and broken bottles on the pavement. She arrived at a red brick building with boarded up windows. It reminded her of youth clubs and school discos. It was dark. There was a man standing outside wearing sunglasses.
“Are you waiting?” She asked.
“Yeah – but it’s locked”.
Just then, a thin young man wearing a track suit opened the door from the inside.
“Ha! They must be waiting for you,”
Pearl stepped inside the building and breathed in the air. She had never been here but she knew it intimately. Wendy house – village hall – church room – rock city. All rolled into one. A place where people go for events. To find extraordinary things. Always the same, year after year. The floor was sticky. Walls were curved, painted black and it was smaller than she expected. Like an opaque goldfish bowl.
Now that the door was open, people trailed in behind her. She recognised a few of them and smiled. They couldn’t have recognised her but some smiled back. Easy vibes. Familiarity. Everyone waiting for something. No-one noticing the time shift.
She waved to the band and started chatting with the artist couple next to her. It was comfortable. Her feet sank into the floor. The wooden bench expanded like elastic as more people sat down.
They offered her pink wine. Same as they were having. Pearl thought of the ‘drink me’ potion in Alice in Wonderland. Better drink only the bottle of water she brought in with her. “Don’t get trapped in the worm hole” she reminded herself, “no matter how much it pulls you in and wraps you up”.
The sad-eyed woman in cargo jeans told her, between songs, that she had teenage children. Their father gone. She was with the small man in leather trousers and blue lurex shirt, her partner and drummer in a tribute band that played at weddings. He was erratic and frenetic. Buzzing around the room. Reminiscent of a blue-bottle. Just then he pulled his girlfriend in front of the stage to dance. There was something familiar about him. About a decade ago, a production manager described Pearl’s ex-boyfriend as a blowfly. The conversation flashed back now and she laughed at the accuracy. It is so hard to see things clearly the first time around.
The bass player carries the melody in the next track. Pearl stands at the back, swaying with the room. All the songs are originals. Unlike her. She is a tribute. A cover version of yesterday. She clings to the second hand moment for as long as she can. Like a morning duvet.
“Come with us for hot chips before home” encourage the beautiful souls at the end of the gig.
“Thanks – but I can’t tonight. Gotta drive all night back to real life.” She half-jokes.
The couple nod. They have consumed a lot of pink so this makes perfect sense.
It’s cold outside. Her hips start to ache as she walks around the park (never go through it after midnight unless you’re on a bear hunt), past empty cans and full sleeping bags. She falls into the car, glad it still has 4 wheels.
On the open road between Wonderland and Sunderland it rains so hard she can hardly see. Wipers are useless. She knows she is right at the edge of the time limit. A blue light flashes behind her.. she holds her breath then it blurs out of view. She puts her foot down and heads north as the storm fades away.
Dawn is breaking when she gets home. Wormhole closed. Dream over.
The cat uncurls and stretches hello with a knowing look.
Pearl opens a tin of tuna and kneels down on the kitchen floor to share it with her.