[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12 & Chapter 13]
A narrow escape
After fifteen minutes of driving through near empty streets, James slowed down and parked. They left their jackets and bags in the car and started walking down the block.
The icy cold wind cut through Diano’s tee shirt making him shiver. They arrived at the entrance to find a long queue of people waiting to get inside. Rock walked up to the bouncers and spoke to them for a few seconds. Then he signaled the others to join him. They walked past the crowd and followed Rock and one of the bouncers inside. Rock knew the owner and had called in advance.
A dark passageway led them from the entrance to a big hall. There was an oval-shaped bar in the middle, lined up with barstools. One end of the hall had doors leading out to what looked like a kitchen. On the other end, there was a flight of stairs leading up to another level. An overhanging balcony ran three-quarters of the way round the hall.
James and Rock walked away to speak to some friends they had sighted. Diano and Andy sat down on the barstools and ordered drinks. The dance floor, which was next to the bar, was not crowded. People were dancing in small groups to songs from the 90’s.
“Do you wanna dance?” Andy asked.
“Yeah, after this round.” Diano picked up his glass. “Cheers!”
Andy picked up his drink and took a sip.
“Shit.” He put down his glass and turned around to face away from the bar.
“It’s my boss. Shit.”
“Which one?” Diano asked.
“The guy in the red shirt. He’s here with somebody.”
“He doesn’t know you are gay?” Diano turned to look at the guy in red shirt. His first impression was bad. There was something sinister about him.
“I don’t know. He may have guessed. I’ve never bumped into him outside work.”
“Well, just ignore him if you can. Or do you need to go and say hello to him?”
“He’s a creep. I don’t wanna talk to him.”
“Shall we just go to another place instead?”
“I don’t want that guy to spoil our evening.”
“He can’t. But I want you to feel comfortable.”
“Let’s go dance?”
“Yeah.” Diano put down his empty glass and followed Andy to the middle of the dance floor.
“Just ignore him,” said Diano, as they moved to the beats.
“Who are you smiling at?” Andy asked.
“You lor. Ha-ha.”
James and Rock joined them with a few friends. Another DJ took over and played better music. That pulled more people to the dance floor.
After a while, Andy and Diano wanted to use the washroom. They walked off leaving the others on the floor. Diano looked around but could not locate Andy’s boss.
The washrooms were on the second floor and so they walked up the stairs. Diano discovered another bar on the second floor. This one was in an area marked as private and had a non-Chinese bartender.
They walked past it into a long washroom. Diano took a stall while Andy preferred to use the common area.
After a few seconds Diano overheard somebody speak up.
“Well, well, well. Look who’s here!”
“Hi. How are you?” Andy responded.
“I’m fine. What are you doing here?”
Diano guessed the voice belonged to Andy’s boss. One part of him wanted to walk out but another part of him wanted to stay put. He didn’t want to make the situation worse for Andy.
“Just hanging out with some friends.”
“Is that right? Why don’t you join me and my friends? I’m sure you’ll have a great night with us.” It sounded more like an order than an invitation.
“Is this the guy you’d mentioned before?” The voice belonged to a third person.
“Yes.” replied the first man. “Where are your friends? Join us. It’ll be fun.”
“Er… I’m here with friends.” Andy replied.
“Ask them to join us too.” The second man said.
“Okay. Let me talk to them.”
Diano heard Andy’s footsteps go out of the washroom. Taking that as the cue, he flushed the toilet and walked out to a washbasin. From the corner of his eye, he could see Andy’s boss and the other guy over at the urinals. They were looking in his direction.
Diano washed his hands hurriedly and walked out. He spotted Andy on the stairs. He had panic in his eyes.
“Let’s get out of here before they come out.” Diano put a hand on Andy’s shoulder and guided him down the stairs.
“What about James and Rock?”
“You go outside and wait. I’ll tell them that we wanna go to another place. I’ll ask for our stuff from the car.” Diano said.
“Okay. God. That man is obnoxious. I hope he doesn’t catch me again tonight. I don’t like his friend at all.”
“Don’t worry. You go outside and wait for me.” Diano turned to look up at the stairs. There was no sign of the two men yet. Andy walked towards the main entrance.
Diano threaded his way in through the crowd. Somebody made a grab at him. For a second his heart jumped. He turned to see a drunken girl trying to regain her balance. He helped steady her before joining James and Rock.
He explained why they wanted to go somewhere else. Rock looked disappointed but James was okay.
“How about you give us another 5-10 minutes to wrap it up with our friends and we shall join you guys?” James asked Diano.
Diano rushed outside and found Andy waiting behind a tree next to the entrance.
“They’ll come out in ten minutes.” Diano smiled.
“Let’s wait over there.”
They moved away from the entrance and continued down the road.