Rikii had been coming to Blockbuster for as long as I could remember. He was always very polite, well dressed and loved the odd bag of popcorn or three. Very quickly, he became one of my favourite customers.
We had had the odd conversation, mostly about what was the best release for that particular week but never about either of us being gay. Although it was probably more than obvious that I was, I was rather uncomfortable about customers finding out.
Being uncomfortable was not an option now as here I was with Rikii in Queens Court . He walked over to me and said hello. I reciprocated all be it with a rather timid response.
He could see that I was nervous and asked if I was ok. I proceeded to tell him that it was my first time on the scene and that I was petrified and didn't really know what to do. His reaction was not one of surprise but of concern.
We chatted for a few minutes longer and he managed to calm my nerves with his caring and understanding nature. Then it was suggested that I join his party for the rest of the night. I was more than happy to take him up on this offer, especially as the party only consisted of two more of his friends.
We made our way to where his friends were waiting and instantly my nerves came back. They were also customers that came into the store where I worked. I hadn't told my work colleagues about my homosexuality and my first thought was what if they let it slip? One person knowing I could handle..but not three.
Rikii introduced me to them, his close friend Danny and good friend Susan. Danny reminded me of a young Micheal Stipe, the lead singer from REM. I have to admit, I was rather taken with him. I said hello.
Susan was the first to chat to me. Like Rikii, I think she could see that I was very nervous and a little shy. She remembered me from Blockbuster and we chatted a little about that. I was shocked but also pleased at how easy I was finding it to talk to her. She made me feel so at ease and I absolutely adored her Scottish accent.
With Danny it was a little difficult, almost a chore to maintain a conversation and it wasn't helped by him disappearing every few minutes. It didn't matter. Rikii and Susan were doing a splendid job at making me feel welcome and within minutes I felt so much better.
It was whilst my anxieties were leaving me that I noticed how good the music was and how it was making me feel. It was as though it was soaking into my entire body and giving me the urge to dance. The more music I heard, the more it fuelled my urge. I was sure Rikii could read my mind, as no sooner had I thought this when he suggested we do. Whilst I really wanted to, dancing in front of so many other people had never been an option before.What if I was really rubbish and everyone just laughed? The only way to find out was to give it a go.
We found a little space in the middle of the dance floor and off we went. At first, it felt a little awkward but by the second song, I started to feel the music and the awkwardness disappeared. Dancing was amazing. It made me feel alive inside. Song after song was played and I continued to dance. An hour earlier, I had felt so scared and so alone and now, here I was with three other people, having the time of my life.
It was then that a realisation hit me. I had truly found a place where I belonged, a place where there were others like me, a place where I had met three wonderful people, a place I had wanted to visit on so many occasions...a place called Queens Court!
I had several more nights out with Rikii and Susan and occasionally Danny too and the conversations with him did become easier. Maybe, at the beginning, he was also a little shy.
Queens Court has had many face lifts since that first time and over the years my visits have become less and less. Nevertheless, I will always look back with great fondness for this institution of Gay nightlife.
Susan became one of my closest friends and I cannot imagine a life without her in it.
Rikki decided to move away from Leeds to start a new life. I do miss our nights out and can never repay his kindness to me on my first night on the scene. For that, I will be eternally grateful.
Finally, I would like to thank my Dad. If not for him, I would never have gone to Queens Court that night.
Until next time, I bid thee farewell.