Being trapped in an en suite bathroom in New Jersey during Live Aid


The day of Live Aid,  even though I didn’t really like telly, it just seemed like one of those things you had to watch, so you could tell people, years later, that you watched the whole thing.  A momentous pop occasion, like Woodstock, without the mud and bad acid.  Actually maybe less like Woodstock, more like Eurovision, without a winner as such, apart from, if it worked, the starving people the concert was meant to save from starvation.It was just one of those things you had to watch with other people, and eat snacks, and at some point, give them some of your fookin money.

I rang my best buddy first thing I woke up. She was living in New Jersey with her boyfriend. I was living in Brooklyn, having just finished a pretty awful year as an assistant schoolteacher in a progressive school. This meant this kids progressed at their own rate. So some, by the end of the year, were still playing with He men action men, and building perilous towers of wooden bricks, and others were starting to form alphabet letters. They were only six. Sometimes I google their names now. They are children of big telly stars, or magazine editors. I worry myself when I do this. It’s a bit serial killerish, a bit stalkerish. I am just pathologically curious, if this so called education did them any good, or harm.

I called my bud and said, “Can I watch Live Aid with you? My telly has bad reception. I can stop off at West Fourth Street and get deli stuff. We can have a picnic in the bedroom.” It didn’t occur to me that as we were tucking into cream cheese bagels and coleslaw, across the screen there would be scenes of emaciated and dying children in long queues. Too tired and dehydrated to swot flies from their eyelids. Cut to sunburnt girl in Philly, on boyfriends shoulders, singing along to a pop star and raising her arms in the universal gesture of girls on boyfriends shoulders at arena gigs.

I got on the train at Carroll Gardens and stopped off at West Fourth, and found a deli that wrapped everything in about three lots of paper and containers, so my t shirt would not get oily.

I got on the Path to New Jersey, the smell of my heavily mayonaised feast cutting through the great unwashed smell of the subway.

When I got to the house, my friends were sitting on top of the bed, half reading the papers, half watching huge crowds of fans and then huge crowds of starving people. Everything felt enormously wrong. I felt as if I had invited myself, because I had. I laid out the greasy feast in the living room and then joined them on the bed. We all had coffee from their Mr. Coffee filter machine, and watched in awe and horror, the well fed crowds at the gigs, the starving crowds who were meant to benefit from the gigs.

None of us felt hungry enough to tuck into the deli feast.  We just kept drinking more coffee. When nature called, I could see the bathroom was off their bedroom, and there was no way to get in or out of the bathroom except to walk through the bedroom. I hopped off the bed and went into the bathroom. I had a pee and looked in the medicine cabinet for interesting drugs, knowing it would be a very long shot if they had any. Apart from the odd joint and cans of beer, they were pretty clean living.

I had been in there five minutes when I heard ruffled, muffled sounds coming from the bedroom. I knew these sounds. They were the sounds of a couple about to make love.

What to do. I said, “Um, it doesn’t feel right to come out of the bathroom right now, unless I close my eyes and run past.”

They both uttered with urgency, “No, not now.”

I thought, maybe I should ask them to turn the tv up. In a way, how life affirming, to make love in front of footage of starving and sick children. Or how wrong. I could not decide.  There again, maybe they turned the tv off, or the volume down, as I heard the sounds of building passion rise , then fall, as if one had his or her hand over the other one’s mouth.

I will say this. They did not hurry things up in order for me to leave the bathroom. I ran the taps and flushed the loo a few times, to pretend that I was still there for a reason other than not butting in to their love making. When I heard the final stifled cries of pleasure, I decided to wait for about a three minute cooling off period. I found floss on the sink ,and flossed each tooth with the utmost care.

When I felt it was safe to go back into the room, they were both propped up again, drinking cold coffee and watching Live Aid again. I noticed my gal pal had a red rash going from her clavicle right up her neck. I know that rash, it is post coital. It signifies pleasure was had.

There was not much to say after that. There was a lot of shouting from Bob Geldof. I got his point, but it was irritating. I don’t recall him saying fucking money, but the tone was , hectoring  Fair play, if you are going to hector people for money, this is a good cause.  I wasn’t even sure I had enough  subway fare to get back to Brooklyn. But I did, and I got back on the PATH, back on the F, with the cleanest teeth I had had all summer.

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