18c 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 and 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, 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 would be interesting enough to be conversed with himself 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.

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’.

I found that interesting, but also perhaps true. Although sex does not, in my experience, have to ruin everything, it certainly is a complicating factor. And many people I’m still excellent friends with I don’t think I would still be excellent friends with if we were still having sex.

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, and I am 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 marginally 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 that. The branch of philosophy that interests me doesn’t yet exist, 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 out there’, or ‘on the table’), they still did not think that either they could offer me anything or I them; this peeved me, just a tad, absolutely, but it did not surprise, nor really in all seriousness did it irk, me.

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 I am reading a book which Stevie, my first ex and still very good friend, has given to me. It’s called Becoming a Londoner – a Diary and it’s written in an easy-going, relaxed, near conversational prose by David Plante, who had come to London from the United States in his twenties during the early sixties and quickly started a live-in relationship with Nikos, a sophisticated Greek man of a similar age, whom he nevertheless appeared to somewhat look up to, 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.

The insights into the lives of people like Francis Bacon and, most particularly, Stephen Spender, with whom both he and Nikos had a close friendship, makes Becoming a Londoner not only an enjoyable read but possibly also an invaluable historical document.

I read this book – as I read most books – in the bath, because only in the bath do I really have the peace of mind and composure to sit down with a book while also being awake enough not to fall asleep over it. And each time I read in this book I am a little reminded of my Greek friend and my fantasy of being together with him. 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 ‘this sounds interesting’, but already flagged up the fact that he normally had a seminar at college on a Tuesday and he 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 on Tuesday, 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 either.

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.

And I adore Stephen Spender who at this point “is teaching at the university, but feels he is doing so badly he wants to go into the loos and write on the walls SPENDER MUST GO!”

{Threesomes}

The conundrum of the three bed 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 in 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 usually not a very big double bed and a single bed.

Who stays in these rooms, I wonder, and how? What do they do there? I try to imagine the scenario, but it doesn’t stay salubrious for 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 but not yet grown up enough to want to stay in a room of their own, but why stay in an ugly business hotel, why not go to a nice seaside or mountainside 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 up all of them. But that surely can’t account for the number of these three bed bedrooms these standard business hotels have? Who else travels in threes? Probably not the managers, that would seem 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 lonely 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 when I’m staying at a friend’s house. I like the idea of my bedroom not being closed. It’s not as if I expect 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 open 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 that is sometimes advisable. For example should one be having a threesome…

I like to read in the bath and in fact I almost exclusively read books in the bath, because I daren’t take my phone or my laptop to the bath lest I should drop them or they should 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 I just maybe post a picture of the day to Instagram or watch a video someone has posted to Facebook; and I don’t commute and when I do use the tube I like to play Jass on my app from Samschtig and when I’m on a train during the daytime I like to look out of the window and ponder the imponderables (such as the conundrum of the three bed bedroom), 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, the diarist David Plante says “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 so I value serendipity over completion, that I so relish the random more than I delight in the foreseeable and foreseen? Because it’s true, truer at any rate than that which we think we control.

Abandon. (Gay or otherwise.) Non-sequiturs. This most pertinent of questions: why do you need a reason?

32 Sedartis

Sedartis appears out of nowhere and joins me on my train journey from Zürich to the unfortunately named Chur, making his presence felt in the empty seat next to mine, as I glance out of the window. (When I say ‘Zürich’ I mean a small lakeside town some ten minutes along the way outside Zürich, where I boarded the train having spent the night on the other side of the hill with friends and colleagues, talking mainly about things I am only ever half sure I half understand, but which nevertheless never fail to feed my hunger for thought, invigorate my imagination and massage my malleable mind.)

Where did you suddenly come from, I want to ask him, and how is it I know your name, but before I can speak we are already in conversation:

‘So’, says Sedartis, ‘wouldn’t you like a boat on Lake Zürich?’
‘Most certainly not,’ say I in reply, though the question scarcely seems to warrant one.
‘Why not?’ Sedartis insists.
‘Why,’ retort I, ‘what would I with a boat on Lake Zürich?’
‘Whatever you fancy,’ Sedartis enthuses: ‘sail on the water, enjoy it, splash about in it a bit!’
The puppy dog wag of his voice wearies me.
‘I enjoy water much as I enjoy women,’ I say in measured tones, unsure of the ground I’m suddenly treading on: ‘from a distance. To look upon and marvel at their splendour, be it shallow or deep. I have no need to sail upon or splash about in them.’ 

Sedartis seems saddened by my lack of vigour on the matter and produces an apple, far too symbolically. He contemplates it for many a long second and then takes a bite in a manner that could, though perhaps it ought not to, be described as ‘hearty.’ 

He vaguely reminds me of a character in a book I undoubtedly once will have read but I don’t remember the book or the story (not least as I’m unsure I’ve even done so yet) and I feel that now he’s here it would be rude of me to dismiss, blank or reject him or send him away, and so part of my onward journey he simply, unassumingly and, I am inclined to say, innocuously enough, he becomes.