Entreatment

I see my Science Communicator Friend next at a party I drag him along to, where we have a long and involved conversation, and where I introduce him to the hosts and to some other people.

It is so easy to talk to him and so comfortable, and he’s so easy and comfortable with talking to other people, while I’m distracted talking to other people still, that I begin to formulate in my mind a fantasy that features him and me together. This, I think, is what I would want in a ‘boyfriend’: somebody I could be so comfortable, so perfectly at ease with, who could hold his own, but, when he didn’t need to, would find me interesting enough to converse with me, and who would be interesting enough in his own right to be conversed with, and who had enough going on in his life and thoughts to think and friendships to maintain to be effectively self-sufficient, most of the time, while affectionate and appreciative enough to enjoy some time with me, sometimes.

In retrospect this fantasy grows stronger, not weaker. For a good long while I forget about it, not least because Christmas comes around, and I go to Switzerland, while he has his brother staying over from Greece. Then we see each other once or twice briefly and then not again because he’s off to Greece himself. This may or may not have been Easter.

By the time he comes back he has brought me a tea that he has made himself. It’s a jar of leaves, and it’s my favourite infusion straight away, not just because it’s from him, but because it has sage in it, and I love sage. It has one or two other ingredients, maybe three, but I don’t now remember what they were. I am touched that he thought of me while away, not least because we’re not actually ‘together’ in any way, we don’t even really have sex. One of the first things he’d said, after a bit of what could easily have turned into sex, was: ‘let’s not get onto sex, it just ruins everything.’ And that was all right with me: I found it interesting, but also perhaps true.

Although sex does not, in my experience, have to ruin everything, it certainly can be or become a complicating factor, and several people I’m still excellent friends with I don’t think I would still be excellent friends with if we were still having sex, even though I personally tend to think of sex as not much more than a particularly emphatic way of saying ‘hello’. I accept that this perception is perhaps not strictly conventional, and I allow for the possibility that I might change it quite drastically too, if I were to actually find myself in a relationship. 

We then don’t see each other again for a while, this time because I’m away from London for two months while my flat is being renovated, and he’s traipsing around Europe, I believe.

By the time we’re both back in London, he is enrolled for his MA, whilst I’m not, because I had failed to sufficiently toe the line or impress the course convenor at King’s College, London, or both. I am not unhappy about this, though I am of course a bit peeved; but I’ve since been told, by my Philosopher Friend, that this is not in the least bit surprising since what interests me in philosophy does not, apparently, interest philosophical academia, in fact ‘they resent it,’ she tells me. I feel reassured by this.

The branch of philosophy that interests me does not yet really exist as a field of academic study, and although I made that clear in my ‘submission’ to King’s (I don’t so much like the idea of ‘submitting’ my work or my thinking to start with, I would consider it more a ‘putting it forward’, or ‘out there’), they still did not think that either they could offer me anything, or I them. This jarred with me, just a tad, absolutely, not least because I believe that a university course should be open to anyone who wants to take it and fulfils some standard, agreed-upon entry requirements, not to a hand-picked group who already fit an existing institutional mould, but it did not really, in all seriousness, irk me. It would be frivolous to suggest that I had applied for an MA at King’s on a whim, but it’s also fair to say that I hadn’t thought through the implications of studying philosophy at master’s level thoroughly.

When I told a good friend from my school days in Switzerland about all this, he looked at me and said, without hesitation: ‘Academia is not for you. You’re much better off out of it.’ I reluctantly concurred, and told him I didn’t want to do an MA in philosophy to go into academia but to gain a better grounded understanding of where philosophy stands today. He counselled other avenues to obtain this. I heed his counsel, at least for the time-being…

The fact that my Greek Science Communicator Friend is now doing his MA is neither good news nor bad news as far as I am concerned, it just means he’s now back in London, and so am I. I am reminded of him, partly because he gets back in touch and proposes a catchup, and partly because of the book I am reading in the bath at the moment, which my first ex and still very good friend has given to me, Becoming a Londoner – a Diary. It’s written in an easy-going, relaxed, near conversational prose by a man who had come to London from the United States in his twenties during the early 1960s and quickly started a live-in relationship with a sophisticated Greek man of a similar age, whom he nevertheless appeared to rather revere, if nothing else intellectually.

The diary is rich in anecdotes about the London literary and art world of the day, and although I came to London nearly twenty years later, much of what he writes about, and much of the way he writes about it, resonates with me strongly. Also, he visits places that I have been to, in some cases frequently, such as Lucca, or Paris. But most enjoyable for me are the insights into the lives of people like Francis Bacon and, most particularly, Stephen Spender, with whom both he and his Greek partner had a close friendship. Each time I read in this book, I am a little reminded of my Greek Science Communicator Friend and of my fantasy of being together with him, which I know full well is all it ever was and ever will be, which is partly what makes it so enjoyable, so safe.

Today, I was hoping to see him for an event at Lights of Soho, which I’ve recently become a ‘member’ of. I’d suggested to him that we go there and he’d said, in his usual, non-committal way, that ‘this sounds interesting,’ but already flagged up the fact that he normally had a seminar at college on a Tuesday and didn’t know when this would end. I’d parked the idea, more or less assuming he wouldn’t come out with me Tuesday, and indeed, when I sent him a message earlier today, he declined, saying he couldn’t get away. I was a little deflated but also quite relieved, since by then I had decided that unless he were to come along, I myself wouldn’t go either and had started to hope, almost, that my assumption would prove correct and he wouldn’t come out, so I didn’t have to go.

Instead, I had a bath and read in my book, which reminded me of him, and then sat down in my white towelling dressing gown, which I hardly ever wear, and when I do then only ever after I’ve had a bath, and poured myself a glass of white wine and put on an old vinyl record with Eugen Bochum conducting Mozart, and realised that I am very content, almost happy.

I discover a message from him, in response to mine saying not to worry as I was getting too comfortable on my sofa and might not go out myself, in which he says: “Yeah, you should be one with the sofa.” And I agree. I am fairly much one with the sofa, right now.

The funniest line so far that I’ve read in David Plante’s book is about Auden, staying with the Spenders: “Stephen said that once, when Auden was staying at Loudon Road, Natasha rang him up to say she would be late, and would he put the chicken in the oven? Auden did – he simply put it in the oven, didn’t put it in a pan, didn’t put the heat on.” I so relate to Auden.


< {Closure}       {Thoughts That Can’t Be Unthunk} >


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{Closure}

Somebody I speak to at length on a regular if not particularly frequent basis, and whose thoughts I greatly respect—not least because they are more abstract than any other thoughts I hear routinely expressed—plays through the possibility apparently inherent in a Large Hadron Collider, such as the one operated by CERN near Geneva, of accidentally causing a mini black hole and thus precipitating and essentially causing the End of the World.

Instinctively, I consider the likelihood of this happening minute, but she holds my gaze a little longer than I expect, and I read from this that to her mind—and this is one of the finest minds, certainly in theoretical matters, I have ever come across—the probability is not so remote as to be dismissed lightly, let alone completely.

In a philosophical sense you could argue, and I possibly would, that no probability is so remote as to ever be altogether dismissed, whether lightly or not, but I’m a little startled that of all the people in the world she should contemplate this particular portent so earnestly.

I forget—as I do most things—our conversation momentarily, but then it keeps nudging its way back into my thoughts where, far from frightening or even greatly disturbing me, it fills me with a curiously warm feeling of comfort: If the world were to end, I seem to feel (rather than think, because thinking this would to my mind in turn seem counterintuitive and quite irrational), then, no matter how likely or unlikely that may be, the idea of the world ending by a picturesque lakeside near Geneva strikes me as strangely appropriate and disarmingly ironic. And, I should say, because of this alone more probable (if, at this diminutive level of probability, that is still the right word) than almost anywhere else…


< Indiscretion       Entreatment >


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Indiscretion

The man who runs the studio in East London where we’re filming has everything he needs to be happy today. A smoothie, the sun, and a freshly cleaned lounger. His is an oasis of rare and extraordinary freedom, and encroaching on it, from all sides, are the capital, the development, the oppressive tentacles of material wealth, and he reckons the days of his haven of creativity are certainly numbered.

‘Do you live here?’ I ask him.

‘Yes,’ he says. And then, after a moment’s reflection: ‘You know, if you’re an artist, you have to live differently; otherwise I’d be working for some client now in some graphic design studio.’

He reminds me of me when I was young, just as young as I was when I was sitting across from me at the Limonlu Bahçe in Istanbul. Except he’s nowhere near as young. He’s maybe in his late thirties? The studio at the back of which he has made his home looks and feels like—and most likely is—the kind of place that is about to fall victim to the machine that is stirring right outside the ramshackle rust-eaten gate: the ever-encroaching, cold-commercial boomtown that is spreading out from the City of London, past Liverpool Street now, into Shoreditch and beyond.

He keeps the gate locked with a fat chain and a padlock, ‘because it’s market today,’ and all manner of people might be wandering in, some simply curious, some with ill intent. At lunchtime, as we’re having a break, he unlocks it so those of us who want to can leave; and in fact the others all do, while I’m enjoying my moment of peace and quiet in the little courtyard, in the shade. The gate now is shut, but not locked.

A young man with an oddly styled haircut confidently opens the gate, closes it behind himself, and confidently crosses the yard. He has the knack: he has done this before. Confidently, a little cocky, perhaps, he strides to the staircase that’s right next to the door that we use for our studio, leading up to the first floor.

Earlier on, our host had shown us a picture of the series he was in the process of taking today, in his part of the building, at the back. It presented a man completely encased in light beige latex. Not wearing some latex suit or fetish costume, but enclosed in a frame that was covered in latex, from underneath which all the air had been drawn. The man was at the mercy of our host and photographer, completely.

‘I could kill him,’ he’d said, signalling no intention of doing so. ‘It’s incredible, the amount of trust.’ And it is incredible, the amount of trust that had been placed in his hands by a man who was willing to be trapped in a wrap that could kill him. We’d chatted for quite a while about this and that and the other, when he’d said, ‘I better get back, I’ve left him in there, he’s waiting now.’ 

That was earlier on. Right now, nobody is waiting, but the noticeably confident young man has stridden past me, and our host looks troubled. ‘That’s not a good sign,’ he says, this time only to me, because everybody else has gone out to lunch.

We’d already been made aware that we needed to treat the ‘issue’ of ‘upstairs’ with some degree of diligence. ‘If there’s any issue,’ we’d been instructed, ‘tell me, and I will go and talk to him,’ not specifying who the ‘him’ in question was.

By that time, I’d only met one person, briefly, and he was sweetness personified: I had just arrived and was not quite yet in the process of setting up, when the door at the top of a short flight of steps inside the building opened, and down came a young man who looked not unlike how you’d imagine Harry Potter, aged 23, minus the scar.

‘Do you have a safety pin?’ he asked me, which I counted as one of the less conventional opening gambits, but absolutely not without charm. He then proceeded to explain to me in terms almost apologetic that the top button of his shorts had come off, though I didn’t quite catch the actual circumstance of this minor calamity. I could not, regrettably, help him with his request, but suggested that our host might have a safety pin for him, with which the young man concurred wholeheartedly, before he disappeared.

The next thing I heard from our host was that there was always the possibility of something of an ‘issue’ with ‘upstairs’, and I naturally assumed that this must entail some ogre, some burly old man, some exceptionally unreasonable or borderline violent landlord; and so I was not a little surprised to learn that the ‘issue upstairs’ concerned none other than this young, tall, and a little gawky guy.

By now I had met him a second time and enquired after his shorts, which he was pleased to inform me had since been mended. Again, I somehow did not quite catch everything that he said; so just how or by whom or when precisely the button had been decalamitised I still didn’t know, but I had other things on my mind—such as our impending shoot—and I fancied the delightful chap’s shorts were not a matter of sufficient import as to warrant my further attention.

Now, with the arrival of confident lad who had crossed my metaphorical path in a striding fashion, a new layer of possible meanings settled on the situation. He had responded to my ‘hello’ with a curiously curtailed, so as not to say curt, ‘hello’, in which I’d detected neither etiquette nor friendliness, but a perfunctory and, it seemed to me, utilitarian tone that suggested the greeting was there purely because by convention it needed to be, while he, in his stride, cared neither for me nor for the convention. I’d thought not much more of it at that particular moment, because there is only so much significance you assign to a greeting, the greeter’s stride not so withstanding, but it had registered as slightly odd—slightly off, to be more precise—and so now it did perturb me just a little that our host so quickly assumed an expression of quite so much concern. ‘That is not a good sign,’ he said, and I could tell from the way his eyes glanced t’ward the windows upstairs that he meant it. Still I envisioned the ogre, a hideous mountain troll, not the gentle creature with his loose-buttoned shorts, and fully assumed there must therefore be somebody else up there to contend with.

‘Why,’ I asked, doing my best to sound light of heart, ‘is this not a good sign?’

‘He’s a pusher,’ our host explained unequivocally. This meant nothing to me, which must have shown on my expression, as it stayed involuntarily blank.

‘Do you know what a pusher is?’

‘No.’

‘He sells drugs.’

My brain now was trying to process the to me causally unrelated facts that a) there is an ogre, a cataclysmic Beast of Doom, living upstairs, who, at any moment, might turn into an ‘issue’, and b) there is a ‘pusher’, somebody who sells drugs, with a strident gait, who has, for reasons of his own, now gone up there to that Thing of Terror and must somehow surely either overcome or appease it, or succumb to its wrath.

At the same time I was wondering why our host was calling him a ‘pusher’ and not simply a ‘dealer’. To me somebody who comes to your house, or your place of work or leisure, delivering drugs would be either a dealer, or somebody acting on behalf of the dealer, such as a courier or delivery person. I had no experience of anyone ever coming around to my house or place of work or leisure delivering drugs, and so I could not be entirely certain, but ‘pusher’ was a term I would have reserved for somebody who hangs around school yards, for example, and ‘pushes’ drugs on kids who would not otherwise want them.

But this—the fact that strident fellow was a ‘pusher’, whom I would have thought of more as a ‘dealer’, was as much of an explanation as was currently forthcoming for the perception, on the part of our host, that the circumstantiality of our shoot at his studio had just acquired an unwelcome layer of anticipated complication, and he said: ‘I’ll give them half an hour, until quarter past three, and if they’re still here then, I’ll go and have a word.’

More than anything, what struck me was the grave worry that was written on his face and the sincerity of his concern for our work being able to proceed at all. What there was that might be said to the ogre, who surely by then would have devoured stride-boy, high on the drugs he himself had just delivered, I could not imagine. Certainly, there was nothing I felt I could do, as I had vividly etched on my mind the serious counsel we had been given that we were not to—under any circumstances, as was implied—approach the upstairs den and who or whatever dwelt in it ourselves, but must leave it to our host to deal with any ‘issue’ that might thence materialise.

My job here today was to direct a delicate scene study, and I had no intention, in any case, to risk life and limb intervening in whatever potential horror might be unfolding upstairs, seeing that it clearly was a situation of its own making. Some people have themselves wrapped in latex and left at the mercy of their kindly and concerned photographer-cum-studio-landlord, others obviously deliver (push?) drugs to a mythical menace upstairs from said studio: that’s all just Shoreditch on a Sunday in June.

At one point a little later, newly-buttoned-shorts man and the unlikely though strideous ‘pusher’, together with somebody I hadn’t yet seen or met, but who also didn’t strike me as particularly threatening, left the building, the delivery boy—to my mind incongruously—holding two cardboard boxes of a smallish-to-medium size, one under each arm. He looked every bit now the delivery boy, and whatever was in those boxes, I thought, if that’s drugs, then you three are going to have yourselves one hell of an afternoon…

Next time I caught the attention of our host, I told him the good news that the ‘issue’ had, as it appeared, left the building:

‘I’ve seen three of them leave, I think they’ve locked up.’ They had taken pains to put the chain and the lock on the gate upon leaving, which I thought was conscientious and considerate of them. Our host was neither impressed nor convinced. With that ominous glance of his t’ward upstairs, worry weighing on his voice, he said:

‘They haven’t. They’ll have to come back.’

By now, I had me a regular mystery. Since mysteries, regular or not, can only be entertained for so long before curiosity gets the better of their recipient, I now asked him outright what the ‘issue’ was, with ‘upstairs’. Young shorts man, to me, I volunteered, seemed like a thoroughly harmless chap.

‘Oh he, is; he’s all right. The problem is just that he likes to get high and then get fucked over his desk.’ I now had an image in my mind that I was pretty sure didn’t belong there and felt that I’d been given more information than strictly I needed to know to continue with this afternoon’s proceedings. Then again, I had asked…

It still took me another moment or so to compute why a delightful young man with moderately problematic shorts and a predilection for sex on drugs at his office should be an ‘issue’ for us, even if it were to happen this afternoon, until the penny dropped, and I realised that the ‘issue’ in question was simply one of sound intrusion. And maybe a little bit of dust too, because the floor boards of the ‘upstairs’, which were old and creaky, were also our ceiling, and we were shooting a dialogue scene of quiet intensity.

They didn’t come back. Or maybe they came back later, after we’d already wrapped and gone home. Our sweet-shorted friend may or may not have had his desires met, but there was no ‘issue’, that Sunday, for us, from ‘upstairs’ or elsewhere.


< {Felines}       {Closure} >


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{Felines}

I really like cats.

Maybe that’s why I really like men who behave a little like cats: who come when they feel like getting some strokes, or some food, or just enjoy sitting with you on the sofa, and then for no apparent reason decide they’ve had enough now and seek out their own space and leave you alone to get on with the day.

It’s the opposite of what most people like from their men: most people seem to like their men to behave mostly like dogs.

Dogs, with one or two notable exceptions—one a woolly creature I once met in the outskirts of Munich and the other one Harry, a cocker spaniel living with a family of best friends of mine in the country, who has sadly since been run over by a car—disorientate and bemuse me: their potential for aggression on the one hand and their pathetic neediness on the other disturb me. (Harry, I should point out, seemed to have no potential for aggression. His neediness though was quite pathetic, in a forgivable, canine way.)

Cats don’t disturb me. They often make me laugh out loud, and in the main they strike me as abysmally stupid, but when you put an intelligent brain on a cat, say that of a mathematician for example, or a young lifestyle editor, or a social practitioner, then suddenly you have the most perfect pet.

That then begs the question, somewhat, of course: am I primarily after a partner, or am I really after a pet?…


< {Threesomes}       Indiscretion >


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{Threesomes}

The conundrum of the three bed hotel room.

Every standard business hotel seems to have them. I don’t get to stay in business hotels that often since I rarely ‘do business’ as such, but occasionally somebody needs me to be somewhere, and they put me up at a hotel, and while it’s normal for the room I stay in to just be an ordinary double bedroom with an ordinary king or queen size bed, every so often—probably because all the ordinary double bedrooms are booked—they put me in a three bed room, and my mind fairly boggles: it’s practically never a room with three single beds, it’s usually a room with a not very big double bed and a single bed.

Who stays in these rooms, and how? What do they do there? I try to imagine the scenario, but it doesn’t stay salubrious for very long, and then I take a step back, and I try not to imagine the scenario, but instead the moment somebody says to themselves: well, there are three of us anyway, why don’t we share a room.

Who are these three people? Are they parents and their one, lone and lonely child? That would make some sort of sense, if the child weren’t very small any more, so it wouldn’t be better off in a cot, but not yet grown up enough to want to stay in a room of their own. But why stay in an ugly business hotel if you’re a family of three? Why not go to a nice seaside or mountaintop hotel, or a charming B&B? Maybe they’re visiting the grandparents in this particular city, but the grandparents’ house isn’t big enough to put them all up. But that surely can’t account for the number of these three bed rooms in these standard business hotels?

Who else travels in threes? Probably not the managers, that seems unlikely. The more lowly personnel who are expected to share rooms, like the sales people? But then how do they do this: do two of them share the double bed, and one sad creature has to sleep alone in the single bed, hugging a pillow? How do they choose who gets to sleep with whom? Do they rotate, if they’re there for more than one night? Are they there for more than one night? What are they there for? The staff conference? Some sales training? An illicit adventure? A chance to experiment with their respective gender and sexual identities? And how do they cope with the bathroom situation? The questions are virtually endless…

I keep my door ajar, habitually. Not when I’m staying at hotels, of course, business or otherwise, but when I’m at home or sometimes when I’m staying at a very good friend’s house. I like the idea of my bedroom not being closed. It’s not as if I was expecting anybody to come and join me in my bed, it’s just that I like the idea of the air circulating, and my sleeping self not being entirely confined to a closed room. I also sleep with the window slightly up and the blinds or curtains open. I like seeing a bit of the night time sky as I’m falling asleep, especially if there’s a cool moon, and I like being woken up by the rays of the sun alighting on the tip of my nose. I may make an exception to all and any of these behaviours, as and when that seems advisable, which sometimes it is…

At home, my comparatively small bedroom has a very small ensuite bathroom, but I like that bathroom, because it has an actual bath in it, and I like to read in the bath. In fact, I read books almost exclusively in the bath, because I daren’t take my phone or my laptop to the bath lest I should drop them, or they should otherwise get wet, and I hardly ever get around to reading books anywhere else, since by the time I usually go to bed I’m too tired to read, and so I just maybe post a picture of the day to Instagram or watch a video on YouTube or Facebook.

I could read on the tube, of course, but I don’t have a daily or otherwise regular commute, and when I do use the tube I like to play Jass on my app; and when I’m on a train above ground during the daytime I like to look out of the window and ponder the imponderables (such as the conundrum of the three bed hotel room), or if it is night time, I’m more likely to be doing some work on my laptop.

In the book I am reading in the bath at the moment, Becoming a Londoner, which I’m almost certain my very first boyfriend in London who is now still very good friend gave me relatively recently, the diarist David Plante writes, “the unintended is truer than the intended.” He in one succinct sentence answers one of the most enduring questions I’ve had as a writer and as a human being: how is it that I so avoid the plan and favour the detour, that I so value serendipity over completion, that I so relish the random more than I delight in the foreseeable and foreseen? Because they are true. Truer at any rate than anything we think we control. That’s why, I’m sure, we all of us, one way or another, seek abandon; gay, or otherwise.


< Shakespearean Lunch No 3       {Felines} >


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Shakespearean Lunch No 3

The first three Shakespearean lunches take place at almost exactly monthly intervals in April, May, and June. The first two more or less set the tone, but they still don’t entirely prepare me, for the third.

The first one happens at a beautiful Spanish tapas place just by the entrance to Borough Market, and—like all of them—is scheduled to last for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, starting at one, though I don’t remember leaving before four, maybe four thirty. Still, there is much to talk about—writing, crowdfunding, and, of course, Shakespeare—and so my stupendous Writer Friend and I take our time and order another bottle of wine, but eventually we decide to have done, mainly really because the place, beautiful as it is, isn’t entirely cheap, and both of us are effectively skint.

For the second one, the tapas place is full up, and it’s raining off and on, and so we head a few doors into the market to a nice fish restaurant, which is all covered in glass and lends a view onto Southwark Cathedral. Much as on the first occasion, we meet at one, and we talk about writing, a little less about crowdfunding, a little more about adventures with agents, and about Shakespeare, a lot. I have another drink to go to that evening, so reluctantly, somewhat painfully, I drag myself away shortly after six.

For our third Shakespearean lunch we are fortunate in that a small outside table is available back at the tapas place on the corner, and my excellent Writer Friend is already parked there by the time I arrive.

I have recently written a play about Shakespeare and his relationship with the recipient of his ‘Fair Youth’ sonnets, and my friend is researching a story about William Shakespeare’s brother Edmund, so on this occasion our conversation for obvious reasons focuses almost exclusively on Shakespeare. Not having strictly learnt my lesson from our previous lunches, one and two, I have once again brazenly booked another drink on the Southbank at seven, but with a friend who has stood me up so many times and has so frequently been so unreliable that I think not too much of it when, around about seven, we just really have nowhere near exhausted our topic and order another bottle of wine.

It is at around this time that our luncheon turns epic. There is a fine line between an ordinary writerly lunch, which can easily last five or six hours, and a lunch that turns into something memorable, noteworthy. This is approximately the point at which that happens, because at approximately this point we have, between the two of us, had between four and five bottles of wine, and in all seriousness our conversation is likely by now to have drifted off said topic somewhat. I don’t remember onto what. I am pretty certain my formidable Writer Friend doesn’t either, though I haven’t asked him.

I feel a little reluctant to ask him what he remembers of our third Shakespearean lunch, because I would not for one moment wish to embarrass him or make him feel uncomfortable. Not that there really is much reason for either of us to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, save for the fact perhaps that we first pay our bill at five thirty, but when we finally say goodnight to each other some time close to eleven, another bill for wine has been clocked up and paid for, and I have given up any attempt at catching up with my other friend, two or three increasingly incoherent text messages having failed to establish where exactly he was, or why exactly he wasn’t, as I suggested, simply joining us, ten minutes’ walk from where we had arranged to meet on the Southbank nearby.

But there’s also one bottle of wine that’s unaccounted for. At some point after the second bill, we must have decided to have just that one more, and our brains at that late stage of our lunch were no longer, it seems, capable of placing paying for it into the category of ‘things to do before leaving’.

Not that we were trying to do a runner. When I phone the restaurant the next day, on my first attempt there is nobody there to take payment for the bottle, but they say they will phone me back. When they don’t phone me back, I try again, and this time round a Maître’d who doesn’t seem in a particularly appreciative mood recalls: ‘Yes, you paid for the first ones, and then you kept hugging the guy, and then you were gone.’ He is still for some reason unable to take payment over the phone, but promises to call me back, for certain. For a second time, nobody calls me, so I accept that last bottle as a drink on the house and consider the matter dealt with: thank you, it was much appreciated.

But when he says: ‘you were hugging the guy,’ he is, I think, being diplomatic. Or is the term I’m looking for ‘euphemistic’. I am fairly certain that by the time we finally staggered to our feet we were effectively snogging. This is slightly unusual and also unexpected behaviour from both of us because we’re just mates. Also, my affectionate Writer Friend as far as I know has never yet been gay. Then again, it doesn’t really matter whether or not anyone is or isn’t, and I don’t hold with these labels in the first place, and so I really don’t have any concerns about this, at all.

Still, the image that I couldn’t have seen at the time, but that is now ingrained on my imagination, cheers me no end: the two of us, men in our no longer quite forties, winding up our lunch at a Spanish tapas place in Borough, at close to eleven o’clock at night, cuddling and kissing with really, by that time, not a care in the world, and still so much to talk about for, I would hope, many a Shakespearean lunch yet to come…


< Reprise       {Threesomes} >


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Reprise

My Science Communicator Friend takes me right back. Back to when everything was different and new and a little bit daunting, but also, obviously, exciting. He is up for things, he’s up for seeing some local art on a spur of the moment, he’s up for hearing Morcheeba, he’s even up for a book launch next Tuesday, though that is now unlikely to happen as he seems to have mistaken Thursday for Tuesday and realised he needs Tuesday to cram for a deadline Wednesday morning. Either that, or whateverthiscouldbecome has got stuck in its tracks now and shuddered to a sudden but not in its entirety incomprehensible halt.

When I say ‘whateverthiscouldbecome’, I should first of all quickly check back with the reality I am currently vaguely familiar with. The last time we saw each other, there was a moment that went like this:

We’ve arrived at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and the place is as yet fairly empty, with only a couple of dozen people or so huddling near the very front, by the stage, so we are able to get ourselves a couple of drinks and leisurely hang about the part of the stalls that will soon fill up with  gig-goers, standing.

I don’t remember what prompts the question, but it comes mid-conversation, as an aside, almost, or a sub-clause, certainly not a big deal, when he asks me how old I think he is. It’s a question in parentheses (a by-the-way kind of question that may or may not have slipped into another, much more pertinent topic of conversation) and I say, ‘well, putting together the information I have, I think you’re probably a bit younger than you look’—bearing in mind I originally thought he looked comfortable in his very early thirties—‘so I’d say possibly mid towards late twenties, about twenty-seven?’

‘Yes, I am twenty-two.’

In view of this, any notion of ‘whateverthiscouldbecome’ acquires its very own peculiar kind of perspective.

It takes me right back, all of this, to when things were new and a little bewildering, but also mostly handled with aplomb. There was a period—I’m not sure where it started, where it ended or, if not ended, was left dangling, suspended—when we faced each day with a healthy nonchalance. For me, it wasn’t my twenties. I went through my twenties with extreme caution and an at times crippling level of self-deprecation, but even then a tingling sense of thrill that anything at all might happen (even if very little happened, or nothing at all) was more or less always there. It was there now, with my very young Science Communicator Friend who had agreed to see me again, but then cancelled, but then—yeay!—agreed to, and did, see me again…


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