Istanbul

We wander on for a bit, and I breathe it all in: the people, the tourists, the tram and vendors; the noise and the scent and the flavour.

George, I’m beginning to realise, is telling me everything I need to know. He’s hardly said more than a couple of dozen sentences since we met, improbably and unfathomably, a few hours ago, but I know now that seeing him, listening to him, looking at him, being with him—in his presence, in no other than that simple, literal sense—has triggered in me the abundance of memories, connexions and emotions, the thoughts and the synaptic excursions, the diversions, the captions, the mild insurrections of heart, mind and soul, that I need, to move on.

Move on from what? Had I got stuck? Most severely. Had I manoeuvred myself into a dead end? More than of sorts. Was I on the verge of becoming obsolete, not just to myself, but to the universe that has somehow produced me? I fear me I was. Is that now all at an end? Who knows…

I again put my arm around George, instinctively, without thinking, and he doesn’t shirk or pause or look at me, he just lets it be. My George: that’s how I know him. We wander, like father and son, like brothers, like friends, but not lovers—can one constellation embody all these in one, even, ever?—and I feel me an abundant sensation of love. Of loss too, and of forgiveness. Most of all of forgiveness: I forgive you, George, for everything, really. All your inadequacies. Your presumptions, your misunderstandings. Your aloofnesses and your hesitancies. Your delusions and your noble intentions. Your foibles, all of your weaknesses. Your constant quest to connect, your patent inability to do so in so many senses. There are too many things to mention.

Too many things too, for which I do not need to forgive you, for which I can quietly, humbly, respect you: even admire you. Your sense of justice and your faith in humans. Your optimism, your hope. Your openness, your curiosity. It may, ultimately, have killed the cat, but the cat had nine lives and so it continued. It lived. You’re not unlike a cat, George, I’ve known this for centuries, for all the millennia that I’ve known you. And I’m beginning to know you now, George, and I’m glad on’t.

We reach Taksim Square where we take a turn to the right and keep wandering. Not aimlessly so much as non-directionally. We both have no particular place to go, not at the moment. We end up by a steep small street that looks a little familiar and quite attractive, and decide to head up it, rather than down, and before long we recognise a wooden house and a half hidden entrance: we have inadvertently come back to right where we started: the Limonlu Bahçe.

There is, probably, in some way some significance to this: have we actually gone round in a circle? I like to think not, not least because we are not moving in three dimensions. We have, at any rate, walked a spiral, a triangular shaped one, as it turns out, but that is most likely quite by the by. Some things have meaning, others less so. Some things are profound though we but capture the surface, others are really surface. Or maybe I’m being lazy. At some level, most likely, everything has some other layer, some other meaning, some other significance that could or could not be, or become, at some point quite relevant. We can’t take it all in, all at the same time: we do need a filter. And that’s yet another insight I’m having, right there.

We’ve not walked very far, maybe less than an hour, perhaps a bit more; we’ve been ambling really, rather than striding. We’ve not been saying all that much more. Metaphorically, though, we have come a long way. In my mind I have travelled a little light year. Is there a big light year? Or even one of average length? Aren’t all light years the same? It is not, of course, and I realise, a year, and it’s not one of light. Some metaphors don’t stack up. I have percolated, I feel me, through my own conscience and come out enriched. If that makes sense. Does it have to? Make sense? To me, it doesn’t have to, even though somehow it does. I don’t think it matters to George if it does. Does it matter to you?

I realise I have a reader. I realise I need you as my reader, because without you I don’t exist. I realise I am not alone in this, nor only with George: I realise we are, in our own constellation, triangular. Hello, Reader: welcome to my world.

George and I are both creatures of habit, and having walked for an hour or so—maybe a little less, possibly just a bit more—we both fancy another drink, and we readily, easily, without thinking or negotiation, decide to go back to the Limonlu Bahçe: we liked it there, we were comfortable there, why would we not now go back there, seeing we are already here.

I like that about George and about me: we can stay in one place for hours and never get bored. We both never get bored, George and I. That is a realisation I had and passed on to him long before I knew I would be him: if you watch paint dry close enough, it’s entirely riveting. At molecular level, let alone subatomic: there’s a riot of things happening, a mesmerising display of spectacular wonder. How could you ever get bored?

We head down the hidden staircase back into the garden which is now not full and not empty, but at that agreeable mid-to-late afternoon state when luncheon has petered out and dinner hasn’t yet started. The table we had been sitting at has been taken, but we find one as pleasant in the mid-to-late afternoon speckled shade two or three tables removed and sit down, and our angular waitress returns and recognises us and smiles, and we order another couple of mojitos and some chips, just to nibble.

Now, for the first time in maybe a million years, I am here. George, because of the configuration of the table, the bench and the chairs, has naturally sat down next to me, not opposite, so he can survey the garden with me, this paradise of our own making. This Eden. “Look at me now, and here I am,” she had said, and I had understood her, immediately. Joyce, Shakespeare, Stein. Then Shakespeare again, then no particular order.

I can be at home with myself in a paradise of my making that doesn’t know what it is, in a city I’ve never been before, within an instant and find me not tempted by knowledge, in no need of a companion, at ease. Not forever, of course, just for now. The curiosity and the fascination, the alertness and also the need will soon get the better of me, that I know, it has ever been thus.

But now. And here. We are.


< {Memories of the Past}



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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, but 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} >