Nineties Song

Nineties Song

Wan Yi got out of bed and tried to find her clothes. As she picked them up she realised she hadn’t thought about the morning. She hadn’t brought something to change into. If any of her neighbours saw her in that lacy dress transparent in far too many places and her 4 inch stiletto heeled boots when she got out of her car while her husband was away, they would definitely talk. Even if they don’t mention it to him, it could still get back to him.
Roberto had Hole’s “Violet” on way too loud. She had mentioned she loved nineties music. He bopped his head and body to the hard bass line that would suddenly come through during the chorus. He played the bass after all.
She had to shout.
“Can I borrow a T-shirt and a pair of jeans please? I’ll buy it off you in case I never come back.”
“So my neighbours won’t talk.”
He got out of bed, put his underwear on and she noticed he had a rip in the elastic that read, “Calvin Klein;” a pang of mothering instinct made her want to go to a shop and buy him some new underwear. Young men didn’t notice these things, and even though he was in his late 20s, compared to her, he was young.
“Yeah. Why not,” he said.
He grabbed a T-shirt from the floor, a black one he wore another night. Printed on the shirt a yellow smiley face with crosses as eyes, a wobbly smile and its tongue hanging out. Was the face high or dead? Roberto didn’t know. No way, he would let her have that. He loved Nirvana. Kurt Cobain was God to a musician like him, “Heart Shaped Box” being his favourite song followed by “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
“Here.” He handed a pair of Levis jeans he didn’t particularly like and a plain black T-shirt over to her.
He went over his phone and turned on Spotify and put on their Daily Mix. L7’s “ Stuck Here Again” came on. He didn’t really know that band, but Grrl bands were big in the 90s and it was on the play list.
“Donita Sparks threw a bloody tampon at the crowd once. They were pelting her with mud coz the sound kept cutting out; at some festival in Europe. That was bad ass,” Wan Yi told him.
“Gross,” he said. “But that is crazy. They don’t do that shit anymore.”
“The 90s were different. Real. Maybe too real at times.”
She told him she used work in a record company and was the girl who discovered “The Daisies,” before they got big and dated Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkin in her day. Even though she looked like just any chick at the club, when she took off her shirt and it showed her lotus tattoos up her back, he could tell she was punk.
She hurriedly put one leg then the other through his jeans, then began to fold down the waist to stop them from falling off. She threw his T-shirt on. She looked good in it.
Watching her it made no sense to him; the clothes she had just put on looked exactly like what they were: something she had borrowed from a man. Who the fuck cares what she wore anyway?
But what would he know about where she lived with their big two story houses, white washed walls with pools in the back and nice trimmed lawns in front?
She joked how she was a “Desperate Housewife,” but that was more a show his mother watched and not him. He knew she liked picking up a musician on Tinder, coz that’s what women like that want right? Someone young and wrong. And he was wrong for sure. She told him she’d married “right” to some rich guy and now bored to death.
“How much should I give you for the clothes?” she asked.
“None, I don’t need any money from you.” He lifted his chin, dismissing the offer. “Come see me play at King King on Friday instead. Bring me back my clothes then.”

She glanced at him and stared for a second–like she might.

Yan Sham-Shackleton is from Hong Kong and currently lives in Los Angeles with her son. She’s been published in anthologies and magazines internationally. Her writings and collaborative theatrical works are archived in NYU’s "Riot Grrl Collection,” and the Glasgow Women Library in Scotland. Reporters Without Borders nominated her former blog “Glutter" for a free speech award. She is currently working on a novel set during the 1997 handover of Hong Kong.

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