35 – Houses Of The Holy
Hannah listened to her mother not sure the where or why of this, hardly a revelation but Gloria had a point to make now. “You see, you and your brothers, your father, the house, the nuisance position, everything, for years, had eaten away at my soul till I had nothing left to call my own. I was 27 years old and everybody thought I was for them and I wasn’t, I was made for me and basically, with those words, I was dismissing who I had been and becoming who I am now. I didn’t love you enough to give my life for you, I only have one and people thought I should be something else that I wasn’t. I was about ME. Why you, why the boys? Why did Stan think my life was over. It hadn’t started. And I was very conscious, very very conscious, so aware that I was handing over something, handing over you to someone else.”
At the age of 27, Gloria hadn’t been certain if she was going through an early midlife crises or whether it was a tacit embrace of something that had been hidden but always there, there was those for whom family was enough, or part of something that was enough, but suddenly her world was one long sigh of dissatisfaction. Who, and how, could she be old well before she was 30. She wasn’t even half way through her life, and so why was she giving it to something else. She didn’t want to, “It was a different time”, she muttered to her daughter. But it was a time where she was meant to be a pawn in a household, or a queen but not a Queen, why were people insisting she be something she didn’t want to be.
Blake would die of an AIDS related disease in 1988, a devastating loss for Hannah, redoubled two years later when her father died. Blake took Hannah over and never returned her, Blake became Hannah’s Mom and when he grew ill the entire family, even though they weren’t certain how you got infected, gathered round him for his last year. For Hannah, just two years old when Gloria gave up on raising her, had the care and concern of a beloved Mommy. He was just where she turned to as her Mom gave them more secrets to keep, more men to have.
The day after Gloria met Shaw for the first time, she kept him waiting an hour behind the wheels of her choice of six, a slim smooth two seater corvette,, then when she showed up, in a summer dress and sunglasses, she looked him over and shook her head. “No, this isn’t a business meeting. Jeans and a tee shirt…” Shaw just about scowled at her, he had a prickly sense of self, and Gloria had unsettled it for the second time. But he didn’t say anything and on his return it was probably just as well that she had her shades on. because in boots, jeans and a white tee shirt with a v neck, Shaw looked exactly the way Gloria wanted him to look. Gloria didn’t say anything., she just looked at the eight tracks, didn’t see what she wanted. “Go and get some Led Zeppelin.”
“What do you want? I don’t…”
“Go inside, speak to Blake, get Led Zeppelin IV and the new… Holy Houses…”
“Houses Of The Holy”.
“Yes, both. And some flasks of rum and coke.”
Gloria felt nervous, she felt him linger in the air even she left, and when he was back she had him pour her a drink and put on “The Song Remains The Same”, he climbed in to the machine right beside her and Gloria could smell his rough soap and shampoo. She breathed.
“Just drive” she would say.
“Somewhere pretty” and they were out of the gates and out of the community, they were gone and then she said “Go back” He looked at her surprised. “I forgot my camera” and he smiled and his face creased, his green eyes shone as he helped back laughter. Gloria scowled for a moment and then began to laugh herself and the tension, was, not broken, but distilled.
“That was the happiest day of my life”, Gloria told her daughter.
“Happier than the day I was born?” Hannah asked but Gloria didn’t hear her at all, she was that girl again, sitting close to Shaw, “Dancing Days” on the eight track, speeding through the day to who knows where, waiting for the click when the track moved from one of its four programs to another. The coupe was small and close, with no backseat, and whenever Shaw shifted from third to fourth gear, his hand would graze her bare knee. It was like a shot of electricity that jolted them both. Such a small thing but such a large promise and Gloria felt an overwhelming happiness, she felt filled with life, unbounded by anything, least of all morals, she felt as though she could jump for joy, even as she moved her knee, once , twice, three times. It was a losing game and she gave up. It was like she had given up territory, like some of her rights had been folded away. Yes, now it was legal for Shaw to graze his knuckles on Gloria’s knee. That was now permitted. She would allow it. And she wouldn’t move away. She would sit there in the carseat and feel his skin on her skin. This was alright, this had nothing to do with anything but that exact moment and how close they were. She could feel him glancing at her knee, could see her dress move a little further up her thighs. She moved to her handbag, and tried to light a cigarette. Shaw slowed down, drove to an off ramp looking down on Beverly Hills. The sun was high up there and it looked down with a calm indifference as they began to think in sync about the possibility of the opportunity of infidelity.
Gloria switched tapes and Shaw tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in time to “Rock And Roll”, he wasn’t singing but he was lipping to the song, and Gloria began to sing herself, “It’s been a lonely-lonely-lonely…” she sang. “You are the only one of us who preferred Zep to the Stones, aren’t you?” Hannah asked, as they left the room by the huge glass windows into expanses of nothing, the cost of nothing is huge in a mansion. There were trees and a fountain and nothing else on what was like a magical patio. The two didn’t notice it at all . “Always loved Led Zep more and I don’t know if it was because of those two weeks but I know I can’t listen to their early stuff, I can’t listen to IV, without wanting to cry.”
Gloria and Shaw were so young, so beautiful, so in love with… not each other yet, but as they drove on and on that day, stopping to take pictures, stopping at an outdoor restaurant for a fancy meal with wine galore, even though Shaw was driving, they had the aura of privilege, the top of the world, and though neither of them were conversationalists even with the wine, still, they loosened themselves with cigarettes and the Pacific Ocean now. They stood side by side, Gloria’s camera forgotten in the car, he half turned towards her, so his arm brushed her. “Too close”, Shaw thought to himself. “I think, I know… what is happening? What if I kiss her and she shouts rape?” he thought for a moment.
Then he thought, “So she shouts rape, it would be worth it.” And so Shaw turned fully towards her and pulled her towards him and he kissed her and there was no resistance as her hand slipped round his neck and from the car “Stairway To Heaven” floated in the ether. Shaw would die of cancer fifteen years later, Gloria didn’t discover that till she tried googling him and found a remarried Denise instead, but Gloria would hold on to this moment always and in her darkest his moments she would close her eyes and transport herself back there. To that one moment. Before anything went wrong, before anything could go wrong, she would be back at the very instant Gloria realized herself fully as a woman. The smell of the sea, the smell of his body, the feel of his muscles against her body, his muscles rippling on her, making her so conscious of herself, the sound of Robert Plant somewhere there.
They did no more than kiss, and later, she gave him her handkerchief and he wiped her lipstick off his lips, off his neck and put it in his pocket. They said nothing on the way back, they sat there guilty and yet exultant. It was past seven as they were driving up and Stan was just to the side of them. Gloria waved him in with a smile and a glance and they followed side by side towards the house. Shaw stopped the car and Gloria whispered “tomorrow, ten” and she ran towards her husband, camera around her neck kissed him. Shaw could hear them in the distance, prattling about photographs. He parked the car on the ground level of the garage, opened the trunk, and hid her handkerchief, then went to find Denise who he fucked for hours that night.
Gloria didn’t fuck for hours that all, didn’t fuck at all, but the impending infidelity brought out an intense compassion in her. Stan was a workaholic, always busy. Left early, returned late, a quick temper, though it subsided fast. Very responsible and more than all that, well beyond a great provider and also a truly a good husband., She loved him in her own way, but it was almost as you might love a father, she was sweet but estranged, working off a different tangent to his, and always a little cool, now, ten years after their wedding, a little indifferent. She loved something in him but something in him also failed to touch her. She felt abused. Though in 1973, she wouldn’t have used those words. But now she saw her way free, even if only for a short time, she loved him again, they slept together that night, most nights they didn’t, but nestled in the crux of his arm and she slept soundly, she slept like a woman in love but who are and what with was still a question mark.
The next morning, Gloria brought down Led Zeppelin III, got as cloce to “Since I’ve Been Loving You” as she could on an eight track and sat next to Shaw. “Where to?” he asked.
“Get us a room” she replied and off they went.
It was the best sex of Gloria’s life, it was like a dream of sex where everything he did was the right thing to do and every inhibition she’d ever had was lost in a nameless, faceless hot sheets motel, and another, and another. She brought her cassette and they fucked to a steady diet of Led Zeppelin, from morning to night, showing up at the same time as Sam, who bought the story of a photography hobby and as for Denise, she questioned Shaw once and he shrugged and told her he had it under control and that was it. One day lead to two and slowly the last barrier between the two began to crumble, he realized Gloria was born to the working class herself. Her dad had driven a van, till her Mom had insisted he stop and stay home, where he raised Gloria, he a good Christian boy, her Mom a Jewish yenta much more interested in the boys then in her anyway.
simultaneously self-effacing and egomaniacs
essentially a disco remix of “Rocket Man” featuring one of the the UK’s biggest stars…
“I literally really need you to jump up and down”
Friday night might kill us but Thursday evening is a blast
it just isn’t the triumph she needed after six years
an impressive sonic ride.
a high-spirited Post Pandemic anthem
a memorable band who were never better than here
almost Pink Floyd-esque