by Bradford Middleton
Peter had enjoyed a pretty sheltered life throughout his teenage years but that all came to an end one Wednesday afternoon. His college employed a rather liberally interpreted study period every week and Peter had told his parents that he had joined a study group which may well adjourn to the SU bar after for some liquid refreshment. The education that Peter had in mind that afternoon had nothing to do with college work, it was more a personal mission. He had decided some months ago, upon receiving his offer of a place to learn at an institute on the periphery of central London, to learn of all it had to offer over the upcoming two years. Despite having lived in the city for his entire life, eighteen years to that point, he had never had the opportunity or reason to go there alone. This was his moment.
Within minutes of boarding the train across from where his college was located he was disembarking off the same train at Charing Cross station. As he walked out the first thing to hit him was the noise. He had thought that where his college was located was loud but this was something wholly new. It sounded like the noise of a proper city and Peter could feel the adrenaline run through him. This adrenaline drove him off the station concourse and into the wilds of St Martin’s Lane. His vision took in the beauty and modernity of what lay out in front of him as he walked off up the street. He couldn’t quite believe his eyes as he took in the duality of old theatre houses and state of the art modern office blocks but somehow he felt there was something more real which would really educate him the way he so desired. As he reached a large roundabout he took a left and headed off down his first small thoroughfare through to another large tube station. This one was Leicester Square where he headed off down the nearest side-street he could find. Instantly there was a change and he suddenly found himself surrounded by a huge number of people who sounded differently to anything he had heard before. All around him were restaurants and shops selling Chinese delicacies and goods. He was curious as to what lay in front of him so his pace slowed and he really began to soak up this really new experience. As he turned the corner again he walked past a restaurant with a bar located underneath and outside of which he was handed a flyer by a beautiful punky looking Chinese girl. It was an introduction he would never forget, yet he dared not say anything to her as his experience of women was at that point non-existent. She had handed out several more once Peter had got his head together enough to move on into a street unlike anything else he had ever seen. Gerrard St runs through the centre of the tiny community and despite the poor autumnal weather was heaving with people, most of whom seemed to be working.
At the end he turned north. He was unsure why he chose this direction but within seconds he knew he had made the right move. He was starting to crave a drink and having just crossed over Shaftesbury Avenue he entered Wardour Street and he was agog. He was stood next to a sex shop opposite a church when he heard in the near distance the faint rumblings of a song. He carried on his gentle stroll and the noise grew louder until it was clear it was The Ramones and what’s more it was emanating from the confines of a pub. He decided to slide in, grab a beer and see what was happening.
Several hours later he stumbled out of the pub and within minutes he was in the heart of the red-light district. He couldn’t quite believe his eyes. All around him were beautiful sexy young women parading around in door-ways wearing nothing more than their underwear. He had been accompanied from the pub by a young woman named Becky who claimed to live nearby and who was willing to show him the real side of London. The side of London he craved to see. She grabbed his hand and walked him off out of the neon-lit selection of shows and off up to the entrance of Berwick St.
“What do you wanna do then?” Becky asked him enthusiastically.
“Well I’m not sure, what can we do?”
“Anything, anything you want. Wanna get high? Wanna dance? Wanna fuck? Wanna get drunk? We can do any or all of these.”
Peter had never got high or fucked before and so it became a no-brainer of a decision instructing her to take him off somewhere to get high. They moved off up through the streets of Soho. It was already gone midnight and there were still people out on the street. This was a real nocturnal community into which he had been welcomed. The cafés were still open with people sitting outside drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and looking like they lived the kind of life that Peter craved. As they crossed Oxford St he again looked around. More people, this time it appeared to him they were queuing to get into clubs.
“I had the best time in there last week” Becky exclaimed pointing to a club with a prohibitively long line outside, “…fancy going in?”
“Look at the length of that queue though!” Peter retaliated.
“Don’t you worry about that.” Becky continued moving straight over to the doorman and announcing that the two of them were on the guest-list.
Peter’s life would never be the same again after that night in the heart of the city. The next time he went home to the suburbs it felt boring and he couldn’t wait to go back uptown again.