Friday Night

Friday night and I’m at home. The boys have gone out – the elder to the birthday party of one of his best friends and the younger to a friend’s place, where their group will all get together for a few hours. He brought one of his best friends – one of the usuals – for dinner and then they left.

As I was putting the dishes in the dishwasher I was thinking of the Friday nights of more than 30 years ago, when it would be UNTHINKABLE to stay at home. As Friday approached so did our excitement grow – and plans were made in the beginning of the week, many times from one weekend to the other – not one small piece of fun should be missed, and going out at night was certainly something we lived for!

During University years life followed more or less the same pattern. Well, not during the first years, when my grandparents (with whom I lived) were still very strict and would not easily let me go out at night. But then my brother and I moved to the apartment on the floor above and this made all the difference, as I would sneak out at midnight (a sort of modern times Cinderella) without their noticing and, suddenly, from the one who was usually the first to leave as I had very strict schedules to comply with, I had no limits whatsoever, as no one would control the time I got home…

I particularly remember the autumn of 82. During the previous summer we had started going to a disco near the Sheraton Hotel, called “Whispers”. I suppose by then it was considered one of the best (if not the best) discos in Lisbon. It was not easy to get in but we had some connections that knew the doorman and after a certain time he knew us, of course. Sometimes we “began” our weekend on Thursday nights, when it was somewhat less crowded and one could dance with more space. There would be the occasional birthday party on Thursdays and we would go. The problem would be in the next morning, as my friend Beli, I and most of us had classes at University at 9 o’clock. I remember dancing until 4 or 5 am and then sleeping until 8, getting up like a zombie (my grandparents could not possibly know I had gone out, so I had to act normally), going to University, spending the morning half asleep during classes, coming home for lunch and getting into bed after lunch to sleep until it was already dark…then I would get up and start preparing for the evening ahead.

Of course I would be in much better shape if I had gone to bed early in the previous evening. In that case, Beli and I would probably spend the whole morning at University talking about our plans for the evening. Most times we’d have dinner at home (well, mostly dinners out were on Saturday, but this could vary) and then I’d go up to my room to start getting dressed and to put on my “going-out-to-a-disco” make up. By then we wore voluminous curly haircuts and large fake jewellery was in. As for clothes, a favourite for going out at night were the “knickerbockers” (that we simply called “knickers” – Beli’s were golden brown and I had two pairs: burgundy and black). I loved to wear them with my black flat – but very elegant – shoes and would wear (according to the colours I was wearing) my deep red or golden brown Dior lipstick (a gift from Mom) and my Guy Laroche “J’ai Osé” eau de parfum, a scent so linked to those “dancing nights” that it would always transport me back then, as soon as I felt it – even years after!

We’d get together after dinner (in my case I might have to wait until midnight, for the above mentioned reasons!), and go straight to the chosen disco. It might be Whispers (our favourite), or Primorosa, or Banana’s, or AdLib or another one which name I cannot remember, that was located near Alameda…

During that Autumn I did not have a steady boyfriend but I could really say I had two “dates”: on Friday nights I went out (by ourselves or with more friends, depending on the occasion) with Paulo, a former boyfriend, with whom I kept what we called then “a colourful friendship” meaning we shared an occasional kiss and danced very, very close to each other (not to mistake with today’s expression “friends with benefits”, that means something very different). He was my date for Friday night – we’d go out, dance, talk…and have a great time.

On Saturdays I went out with Pêpê (nickname for Pedro), who was not available on Fridays because he was doing his military service (mandatory then for boys) away from Lisbon, so he only arrived home very late. He was quite handsome, being tall, slim and dark; in fact Paulo was also handsome, tall but dark blonde and with green eyes, so I counted myself lucky for two such dates. But in addition Pêpê was a great dancer, he could “really” dance and he was also fun to be with. So we danced all night and my feet would hurt terribly when we left the disco. The only bad thing about Pêpê was that he didn’t have a car, so we had to take a taxi. Back then boys were very chivalrous and would always take a girl home at night. I particularly remember one foggy night when we could only see a few metres ahead of us, and there were no taxis to be found so poor Pêpê had to walk me home (some 3 kms…) and then back to his own place, that was not so far from the disco…

I also liked him a lot, and there was undoubtedly some chemistry between us, but we were happy to be just “special friends”, as I was with Paulo, I suppose. But Pêpê never kissed me. We enjoyed each other’s company, we had a nice group of friends, we enjoyed dancing, but most of all we didn’t want any attachments, as to bring love into the equation would only complicate things… we just wanted to have fun – and that we did, certainly. I remember that Autumn as one of the times in my life when I had the most fun, maybe because it was all so simple, so natural, so uncomplicated…

…back to real life, to today, I could not help smiling. Life is a sum of all the moments you have lived through and, even if these are in a now distant past, they are there, as a strong memory, and nothing, absolutely nothing can take them away from me. If I could, if only that were possible, I would time-travel and live again through each second of those nights. That not being possible yet (who knows, one day?) I’ll be content with living them all over again in my mind, going over those happy moments, listening to the songs we heard and danced and closing my eyes and imagining myself young, naughty, enjoying life intensely…

Thank God it’s Friday, we used to say. We still say it but for other reasons. Most Fridays we are tired from a demanding week of work and children (even if teenagers or young adults!) and mostly want to relax. But as I remember those Friday nights back then, and see myself and my friend Beli making up our eyes in front of the mirror, looking at the watch to check if it was time for our dates to arrive and leaving a trace of perfume as we walked out of the door; smiling our best smile to the disco’s doorman so that he would let us in, spending the whole evening with only one glass of orange juice because it was the cheapest drink and after all we were there to dance, not to drink!, and finally dancing with a cigarette in my hand even though I hated smoking – but I felt it gave me a sophisticated look… I suddenly feel a strange sensation and…whoops! I’m 19 again, I’m walking out of my building and Paulo is waiting for me in his Mini. He smiles – he has a broad, mischievous smile – and as I enter the car and kiss him on both cheeks (the “friendly” way) he asks “Shall we go?”, and I smile in turn and say “Yes!” – and we lose ourselves in the streets of Lisbon, one more time.

On a Friday night, of long ago.

The hotel

The end of summer

The story

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