This story of sorts began all out-of-sorts on the Friday night before the morning after, with that queer excitement of hope, happiness and the promise of passionate fulfilment. Or at least the possibility of spending the weekend doing something different with somebody indifferent.
It started in a bar in the fashionably seedy part of town, wearing cheap black and white ‘go faster’ stripes and drinking expensive Red Stripe lager, whilst sending keen glances to all the dancing queens. It finished in a club in the old-fashioned seedy and downright dodgy part of town packed with dykes in drag, businessmen in bras, and plenty of sex, Lycra and Sellotape sticking the rest of our suspect sexualities together.
The friends I had arranged to meet had pulled out at the last minute, but by then I had pulling in mind and couldn’t not go. At the door of the club (which should have etched over its hallowed arches but doesn’t: ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’) the buxom bouncer eyed me suspiciously as I arrived alone. In this town, queers go out and about with peers for fear of recrimination.
The club was hot, but the girls were not, and my casual fuck-me looks were returned with serious fuck-off stares, and I had no luck at all. And that was that.
I walked home feeling stoned, cold, tired and lonely, but awake enough to kick myself for having missed another ‘now or never’ opportunity. But I don’t kid myself, I know that now, unless I am pissed, it is never. These days a night on the town results in too many tears, and not enough beers, and as the years go by, I’m not getting any younger, just colder and tireder. And as I lay in bed, the ceiling whirling around my head, I stared into the gloom while the big lights and bright city burst into my room. I was thirsty for a drinking partner, I craved a friendly raver, someone to share the limelight on a lager and lime night.
If only I had a hangover, at least then I’d have an excuse for self-abuse, but instead I’ve got hang-ups which aren’t nearly so easy to sleep off. But as a self-confessed insomniac, there was no chance of that either. All that was needed to complete my sense of self-pity were cigarettes and the weekend newspapers. As any drama queen will tell you, the first drag of the day is a beautiful thing, and though I had been a fag hag in my time, in my before life, my closeted hetero-speculative world, I’d never inhaled, so there wasn’t any permanent damage.
I leave the unchristened sanctity of my attic room and walk down the stairs hoping to avoid the stares of my housemates on that real walk of shame: being empty-handed with no acquired last-night lover in tow. No love bites or lost keys or scribbled phone numbers to show off one’s queer credentials. I tread lightly, the stairs creak, but I know where their weakness lies, and I am as stealthy and nimble as a panther in heat. Either they’re all still asleep or, as this is unlikely, since it is already early afternoon, and they are not the sleeping-in sort, they are all out for the day.
Lucky me, I have the place to myself. Again. I am in the top room, three flights up, because no one else wanted it, so I took it gladly, happy to spend my evenings staring at rooftops and television aerials. The irony of being the madwoman in the attic was not lost on me at the time.
Outside I breathe air, fresh air. As fresh as the polluted city streets can provide. I prefer to walk this city at night-time, to explore its secrets, its hidden parts. Uncovering it slowly like a new-found lover. Returning to those areas that turn you on time and time again. And sometimes, with the force of a heat-seeking missile, flinging oneself brazenly upon the city’s darkened decadent undiscovered naughty nooks, carefree crannies and sticky corners. But that was last night, I missed my chance, I lost my oomph, and returned home empty handed. And now I need something to soothe my despondency and improve my disposition.
I walk to the nearby corner shop. Ahmed raises his eyebrows at me as I enter. I was in here last night, buying cheap fortified wine with which to lay down a foundational layer of inebriation in the comfort of my own home, before roaming the streets for affordable drinking dens. It’s almost as though he was expecting me.
He places a cigarette lighter on the counter in front of him. One of those cheap translucent ones. Yellow. I’d prefer a different colour, I may mention this when I get to the till. I smile at him and wave my hand in a vague gesture, half hello, half suggesting ‘I’m still looking’. I am still looking, but I don’t know what for. What am I looking for? Biscuits, perhaps. Some more Earl Grey tea? Do I need some kind of carbonated caffeinated beverage with which to perk up the rest of my day, I wonder? No, I think not. Way too much excitement. It would only be making promises to my body that I am not able to keep.
I don’t know what I’m looking for. Something to ease the growing hunger inside, something to get me through another night. Something. And then I find it.
She walks in. I look up. She is radiant. She is the sun and the moon and the stars and she is looking at me. I look down at the gum-studded shop floor. I am not looking my best, wearing Holy jeans, a T-shirt and flip flops.
My heart stops. What should I do? I should run and hide and never return to this shop, this street, or this city ever again. Shame creeps up my face, whilst sweat trickles down my back. I raise my eyes again, slowly, nervously, hoping she has moved away.
She has not moved away. She has taken a step closer and she is smiling at me.
Hello, she says.
Erm…hi, I reply. Gulping back years of disappointment and embarrassment.
I saw you last night, she says.
Did you? I reply.
Yes, at the club, she says.
Yes, I reply. Do you go there..? And then I stop, aware that my already apparent idiocy is about to turn into sectionable lunacy.
And because she has taken my hand.
I follow where she leads me, leaving my no-longer required lighter on the counter. I feel lighter, somehow.
Kiss me, she said.
So I did.
Take me, she said, back to your place.
So I did.
Hold me, she said.
So I did.
I held her all afternoon and into the star-spangled night.
And at 3am, exactly 12 hours since her eyes first transfixed mine, she got up.
I have to go, she said.
And she did.
Into the star-crossed night.
Call me, she said.
Issue 8 & 9
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