My brother and I would have been no older than eight at the time and our sister perhaps ten. With the winter days closing in, it would be almost dark by the time we arrived home from school. Our mother cooked earlier in the winter, giving us about thirty minutes to spare before we were called for dinner.
The three of us would run into the front room – where antique furniture stared vacantly towards an old, wooden television with dust on its screen – and pull the thick, green curtains to a kiss. Jessy would light the candles with a small box of matches, because she was the oldest, whilst Jake and I would clatter through our mother’s rather humble, and certainly less than fashionable, collection of CDs; Roy Orbison, Lucinda Williams, Cliff Richard and, finally, ‘Ragga Heat, Reggae Beat’, a compilation of the 90s’ finest reggae tunes. We would push it eagerly into the CD player, climb onto the frail sofa in the dim light and wait for the music to begin.
We had listened to the album scores of times, if not hundreds, and knew the exact order of songs without reference. We, too, knew the entirety of the album’s lyrics, we knew the instrumental intros, and, most worryingly, we knew the rhythm of the crackles between each track. However, despite all of our worldly ‘Ragga Heat, Reggae Beat’ knowledge, there was one major element of the album, and more specifically, the opening track, ‘Sweat’, by Inner Circle, that had evaded our attention, blissfully, innocently and, most certainly, thankfully.
At the top of our voices, and without a sniff of a lewd thought, we would sing, ‘Girl, I want to make you sweat, sweat til you can’t sweat no more, and if you cry out, I’m going to push it, push it some more.’ What must our mother have thought? And, for that matter, what about the neighbours?
Jumping, twisting, flailing and yelping, the song thrilled the three of us to within inches of implosion. I felt so utterly content, not a care in the world, other than to make my siblings laugh at how silly I could jig, or how odd I could sound. The smell of the old cushions – a little musty perhaps – puffed into the air as our small feet sprung from their feathers, the floorboards thudded as we landed clumsily, and the candlelight flickered above our heads on the wood-chipped ceiling, mirroring our motions. Its beats addictive and its lyrics memorable, we would have danced all night long to Inner Circle’s reggae, if not for our mother’s call to the dinner table, where we would slouch our tired bodies over creaking chairs, smiling through deep breaths as we ate our mash.