I picked this optimistic title for a reason—the Oxford nightlife is so bizarre that I hope many more stories will come out of it.
I’ll be honest—I know pretty much nothing about any other city’s nightlife; maybe all cities ooze weirdos and creepers past the witching hour. But my first foray into the Oxford club scene couldn’t have been more fitting for my consistently over-the-top life.
It started well enough: Megan, Corey, another RPC visiting student named David, and I all met up with the OOSC kids at Maura and Joe’s house. We all ventured together to our destination for the night: an underground club off Cornmarket called The Purple Turtle.
The Purple Turtle is more or less a series of underground tunnels and caverns that form a U-shaped club. There’s a bar immediately on your right as you stoop to enter, the bathrooms (I refuse to use the British term ‘toilet’) are just after that, and then you have to turn left to follow the path. Three semi-circle couches accompany a small table, and we saw more than one group try to cram all kinds of shapes and numbers of people into the small areas. Stooping to pass under another tunnel/cavern entrance, there are two bars on your right and an immediate left turn. Standing here, there are couches and small tables on your right and a bar and stools on your left. If you continue walking forward, you’ll eventually hit the teeny-tiny dance floor. We parked ourselves at the last set of couches next to the wall that separated the dance floor cavern from the rest.
The music (almost entirely imported from America, thank you very much) was so loud that it was nearly impossible to hear each other, even when shouting directly into the other person’s ear. The lights were dim, and the dance floor featured a blacklight. The air was stuffy and mixed with the smells of damp earth, alcohol, body odor, and stale cigarette smoke. Basically—everything I’d ever imagined a club to be.
After returning from a dance break, I discovered Annie wasn’t sitting at our couches any more. Corey said he’d seen her talking to some British guys at a counter, so I went off to find her in case she needed a rescue. But as I turned the corner, she was walking straight towards me with the three Brits in tow: one who looked like Mario Lopez; one with crunchy, yet greasy, bleach blonde hair and a hook nose; and one who was cute, tall, and wearing a shirt that said OSAKA on it.
“Oh!” Annie said as we practically ran into each other. “This is my friend Melody!”
They all took turns shaking my hand, and Crunchy Blonde planted a long sloppy kiss on my cheek, precariously close to my ear.
“Uh…” I said. Are you supposed to say “thank you”?
They came over to our couches, and I got sandwiched in between Mario Lopez, who was completely infatuated with Annie at this point, and Crunchy Blonde. OSAKA was on the other side of him. Just my luck, CB was verrrry intoxicated and eager to talk. But as I said before, the music was so loud I could barely understand my American friends, much less a drunk Brit with a thick accent and no discernible train of thought. Here are the snippets I managed to grasp:
“…hate Oxford… travelin’ the world… lived here 22 years… been to eight countries in the past year… money’s no object… went to Cambridge myself, spent a year studyin’ there before I was like, ‘What am I doin’?’… etc.” That may sound like a decent amount of information to pick up, but for 15ish minutes of rambling, that was pocket change. He also asked me questions, but I’d just shrug and say I didn’t know, since I really had no idea what he was asking. But then, I did understand his most important question:
“So, what are you doin’ later, then?”
“Oh, I don’t really know,” I said. “I think Annie’s in charge.”
“Well,” he said. “I was thinkin’ you would invite us back to your room for a bit.”
“Uh… um… uh… no,” I said. “No. I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Ever ever ever ever, I added silently.
Crap, I needed a reason to turn Crunchy Blonde down?! “We, uh, we live really far away,” I said.
“You don’t live at the Uni?” he asked. For a slobbering drunk, he was a little too coherent for my liking.
“No, I mean, we do,” I said. “Well, not really. We live about 20 minutes north of there. It’s a long walk. A really, really, really long walk.”
“Ah,” was all he replied.
Obviously that killed his desire for “conversation,” and fortunately Annie was having a similar experience on the other side of Mario Lopez. She stood up, grabbed my hand, and said we had to go to the bathroom.
Once in the bathroom, we both began vigorously washing our hands and screaming. As we caught our breath and marveled over the creepsters we had managed to reel in, who should stumble into the girls’ bathroom but CRUNCHY BLONDE.
He looked at us, then pointed to a stall and said, “D’you mind if I use this?”
“YOU’RE IN THE WRONG BATHROOM!” we yelled.
“What?” he said, looking genuinely astounded. “No I’m not!”
“YES YOU ARE!” we shrieked. “GET OUT!”
He stumbled out without another word of protest, and Annie and I bolted from the bathroom to go hide ourselves on the dance floor. It worked for a long time. Maura came and joined us at one point, and she and I managed to attract multiple stares at our… creative dance moves. The shower, the airplane, the shopping cart… you name it. I even saw a couple of the less polite gentlefolk pointing at us.
Back on the couches, Annie and I looked up to see Mario Lopez and OSAKA motioning for us to join them on the dance floor—Crunchy Blonde was nowhere in sight. Having just reseated ourselves, we waved our hands to signal we weren’t interested. But these fellas just wouldn’t be turned down. Finally Annie got up and grabbed my hand once more, and I frantically motioned to Joe to follow us in case we needed rescue. Mario Lopez was now leading the way, dragging Annie behind him, and I was following them, OSAKA a good three yards behind me. When we got to the dance floor, I turned around to look for OSAKA, but he was still standing by the couches. I cocked my head like, “Well?” and he looked at me, turned around, and walked away.
Completely relieved, Joe and I returned to our couches yet again. When the song ended, Annie was back by my side, saying I had abandoned her in her moment of need, etc. We hadn’t been sitting for more than seven or eight minutes when the three amigos were back, once again beckoning for us to come dance. We rolled our eyes and waved our hands again, but they were insistent. We moseyed over there, heading for the dance floor, but they stopped us.
“Let’s dance here,” they said.
“In the hallway?” Annie asked.
But they didn’t actually want to dance. They wanted to stand there gripping their glasses of beer while Annie and I bobbed our heads in time to the techno beats. It lasted for about thirty seconds, until Crunchy Blonde tried holding my hand, and then we were back in the bathroom, reading the graffiti in the stalls and waiting for the three amigos to get the hint.
We managed to avoid them for the short while we remained at the Purple Turtle, mostly by getting our whole group of friends on the dance floor and making it apparent that we didn’t need anyone else up in our business.
But as we left, Mario Lopez managed to stop Annie, give her a lingering hug, and ask for her phone number. She gave him a fake one.
As we emerged from the stairway back onto Cornmarket street, we all inhaled the fresh air and considered it a good night.