Tales from the back of the eyelids


It was a dreadful night: dark, bitterly cold and blustery. The street was eerily deserted. I was standing at the steel security door, which was lit up by a neon sign above, and put my plastic card into the machine in the wall.

As the card disappeared inside, I realised that I wasn't sure what my PIN was. I entered a number, which I thought was right but turned out to be wrong. I then made another attempt which also failed. I started to panic. If I got the number wrong one more time I would lose my card for good. I retrieved the card and thought hard.

Fortunately after a few seconds I remembered and confidently inserted the card again. But to my disbelief, as I was about to tap in the number, my mind went completely blank. Fretting and frantic, I stared at the keyboard. Suddenly the steel door opened. This was strange, as I hadn't typed in a number. The explanation was standing in the doorway: two large and mean-looking bouncers, both in black suits.

"What do you think you're playing at?" one of them snarled.

"I'm really sorry," I said as apologetically as I could without seeming completely dishonest. "I can't remember my PIN." I felt guilty but I don't know why because I was telling the truth.

After a contemptuous pause the same bouncer drawled: "What's the password, then?"

"Password?" I gulped. I didn't know of any password.

At that moment an attractive woman's face appeared between the two gorillas. "What's up boys?" she asked.

"This joker says he doesn't know the password, Jou-Jou," the fellow said, crackling his knuckles.

"It's ok, guys. He's all right." said Jou-Jou. She was an old friend of mine. "Come on, Philip! Try to remember the password!"

"Did you give me a password?"

Jou-Jou nodded. "Please try to remember it dear!" She said.

I tried. I tried hard. A few moments later, though, I wailed - "I can't!"

Jou-Jou sighed. Luckily she has a soft spot for me.

"It's 'Happiness'," said Jou-Jou. "Say it!"

"Happiness," I said and I was let in.

Jou-Jou hooked her arm into mine and guided me into the building. We came to the main lounge which was huge but intimate, with mellow lights and soothing music. Split levels divided the space up into cosy nooks of different shapes and sizes. There were groups of people chatting and laughing in every corner.

Jou-Jou's Happiness Night Club, I discovered, is a magnet for celebrities. In the lounge I saw Robert Redford, as handsome and as young as he was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Richard Gere was also there that night, about as old as he was in Pretty Woman. He had a delicious beauty hanging on each arm and was clearly enjoying himself. Another famous face I spotted was Leonardo di Caprio's, looking as it did in Titanic. He stood in the middle of a large group of admirers (both men and women), making witty remarks which were appreciated by everyone. He was completely in his element.

Jou-Jou took me under her wing and introduced me to many of the people there. She treated me as her special guest and probably because of this everyone was exceptionally friendly to me. She was, I would say, held in awe by the famous and the less famous alike.

I soon found out why. It wasn't that she was beautiful and graceful – although this certainly helped. It wasn't her success in becoming the owner and manager of such a large establishment while still in her twenties either. Quite simply, it was because at Happiness everyone always has a wonderful time.

What was the secret? Jou-Jou grabbed my hand and took me to the club's concert room to show me. There, on the stage, a swinging band was playing exuberant jazz. Facing the stage, at tables, which were in rows to the back of the hall, men and women were vigorously bobbing their heads up and down in time to the music.

"They have to move their heads up and down like that, to keep the mood of the music," Jou-Jou told me. "If they resisted and kept their heads still, they would be kicked out of the club."

I must have seemed puzzled because Jou-Jou went on to explain. Happiness only had one rule, she said: customers had to discard all the rules they had accumulated during their lives and do what they really wanted to do. As long as people kept to this, they could do anything they liked. But the club was uncompromising with those who tried to break the rule. If anyone was discovered doing something they didn't want to do, they would be expelled immediately.

Just as Jou-Jou finished talking some people jumped up, and abandoning themselves completely - as they were obliged to - started to dance between the tables, arms and legs flailing wildly in all directions. Soon everyone in hall was up and dancing - between the tables, on the tables, and on the stage between the musicians. Jou-Jou and I also began dancing, our bodies being pulled irresistibly by the rhythm. Before long we were swaying and swinging in harmony, each of our moves perfectly mirroring the other's. As we danced Jou-Jou would from time-to-time throw me a seductive smile; at other times I caught her looking at me in a way that I felt showed that she loved me.

I have known Jou-Jou for years. To be more exact - we have known each other for thirteen years – that is, from the time we were five years old until we were eighteen. Then we lost touch. We had been classmates and almost neighbours. We ought to have been lovers too, but it never happened because of adolescent bashfulness, carelessness and stupidity: a mistake I regret to this day.

However one afternoon last week quite by chance we bumped into each other in the metro on the opposite side of town. We both said we were thrilled to see each other again – and I, for one, certainly was. Unfortunately, though, Jou-Jou was in a rush and couldn't talk for long, but she said she really wanted to see me again, so she gave me a card, the PIN, and, apparently, the password to her club and hurried off. Which is, of course, why I came there that night.

When we had finished dancing, Jou-Jou showed me around the rest of Happiness. The club has a swimming pool, a solarium, a sauna, a massage palour, several bars, games rooms and a bowling alley. All top quality, all luxurious, all impressive. On the upper floors there is a five star hotel, where rooms can be booked by the hour, or for days at a time, if you prefer.

Jou-Jou opened the door to a suite, and there, sprawled on the sheets of a king-sized bed, were two young women, dark-haired, voluptuous, as gorgeous as you can imagine - and naked. Jou-Jou let go of my hand and the two girls came over and started kissing me over my face and neck.

"But Jou-Jou," I asked, concerned, "don't you mind?"

Jou-Jou gave me a stern look and said: "You know the rule of Happiness, Philip!" Her frown then relented and she gave me a kiss. "Go on," she said, "have a good time!"

What makes Jou-Jou great above anything else is her total professionalism. What I mean by that is for her the most important thing is that her customers are satisfied. She would do anything and everything to make sure that they are content. Devotion to duty is her foremost priority. Her own concerns are of secondary or sometimes even of no importance.

And tonight for her I was a customer - and her job was to make sure I was satisfied. I don't know for sure whether she loves me or not. But as she sat in the armchair opposite and watched me on the bed with the two girls, she certainly didn't seem as if she were jealous. If anything she seemed to be pleased I was enjoying myself.

When it was over, Jou-Jou came up to the bed. She bent over me and put her lips on mine. We kissed deeply. Then she fell into my embrace and we rolled over each other in unrestrained joy.

It seems that love, just like Happiness, only has one rule.

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