Chapter Twenty Six ~ one prison cell is much like any other

My initial impression of Richard was he seemed to be a pleasant enough guy although he was no Fletcher to look at; but who was. We seemed to be about the same age, his organisation of the cell boded well although I got a small but unsettling feeling of being an intruder in the very concise world he had created for himself. We ate our first meal together in relative silence, his dominance over the table seemed to be more exaggerated by my having taken the second plastic chair which could only be tucked away at the end of the bunk by the door; I felt like a naughty child being removed to the other room, so they didn’t embarrass the visitors. Of course, there was no other room and I was just being over sensitive. A ritualistic and thorough cleaning up when we had finished eating did at least confirm my hope of a clean and tidy stay. With the trays collected, he asked me if the selection he had made for that evenings television would be OK, each programme was marked off in a TV Guide. Organisation, I liked it although I would have no choice in any selections.

Any reason for feeling Richard was being a bit ‘stand offish’ I couldn’t quite figure out other than us being complete strangers. He obviously kept himself to himself as I didn’t recall seeing him on or around the wing. He had played the odd game of pool during association but didn’t ever go outside that I could remember. On reflection, I decided I would give him the courtesy of having his own space and just wait for whatever conviviality might develop between us.

He certainly seemed to have his set routines. At this post dinner moment, the tea time quiz programmes were on the television. He offered an answer to all the questions which, to give him his due he did for the most part get right. My attempt to intervene with an answer of my own received a strange sideways look, it was nothing aggressive but enough to say, ‘this is my bit of fun and you don’t need to join in’. Thinking I didn’t need to try so hard, I took to my bunk and stretched out to get used to being on the more confined lower level. Getting along with new people was perhaps not always so easy. Maybe I had just been lucky so far. My musings didn’t seem to improve the atmosphere and I just lay there bemused.

While I had been in with Dave in those first days, it had been a case of taking charge of the running of the cell, Fletcher had his own organisation filled neatly in here, Richard had created a very personal ‘home’ for himself that I had somehow to fit into.

From where I was lying it wasn’t possible to see the television, the steps cum shelves arrangement blocked the view I just lay for a while and listened instead. Once the one programme had finished the sound was turned down and I tried to picture the schedule; I remembered there was a gap until the next pre-selected programme. The news was obviously not a favourite of his. The sound of movement made me open my eyes which I hadn’t realised had closed. Richard had turned on his chair although all I could see were his knees; he was obviously ready to talk to me now, although it turned out to be more of a speech than a conversation. He laid out his general story in what seemed to be a well-practised format and many of the questions which came up were answered without me having to ask them.

In a nut shell, he was four years into a long stretch; it seemed to be open-ended at this point. By piecing together many of the snippets of stories about his past and the series of events that had finally led to incarceration, it made complete sense for the charges, the conviction, and the length of time he was serving. We all have our past to deal with, but it was enough to say that not all sex offenders are the same as each other and we had nothing at all in common in our crimes or our personalities.

He went on to speak of his last pad mate, the perfect pad mate, according to him. He had gone off to hospital some two months before to have a hip replaced. Coming back to the prison soon after the operation he had been ensconced in the hospital wing where his recovery was to take about another month. Several times during the explanation he mentioned the perfect way they fitted together, the wonderful sense of humour, fascinating hobbies, and many other shared persona interests; some of which hinted at the reasons for both their convictions. I could tell I hadn’t a chance of filling the shoes; not that I really wanted to.

With me properly put in my place, suitable noises of indulgence seemed to assure him I would be no bother to him if I could help it. Having imagined the move from one cell to another could be a difficult time for everyone, in this instance I thought I had done relatively well; it could have been just luck of course. Dave was in his drug fuelled heaven, Fletcher and his new pal were a world away and there was no point in mooning over things which would never happen. Over the first days we, Richard and I did fit together quite well. Doing my best not to interrupt or upset his routines, he didn’t involve himself in my doings, not that I had many; perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad.

In the outside world at this point my legal case was going on for longer than the initial legal advice had suggested but that was all part of my steep learning curve in this sort of situation. Although I would have regular updates from the outside world during my numerous visits, legal matters were limited to letters, video links or a very occasional face to face in the prison’s legal suite. These meetings with my solicitor were like the normal visits only a more formal version. They could happen at any time during the day and varied in length depending on the prisons various operational issues.

The legal suite was made up of a series of glass walled rooms on the ground floor below the main visitor’s facilities. Although much smaller than the visitor’s room above, there were twelve semi private meeting spaces and the same separation of VP’s was enforced much to the annoyance of some of the officers who had more work to do in accommodating us. The ‘normal’ prisoners were often collected in a group from around the various wings before being put in a large holding cage where they noisily waited for their legal reps to show up. We ‘special’ ones always went straight into one of the rooms to wait for ours. The only disadvantage to this was you were very much like a fish in a bowl for everyone who passed by, staff, outsiders, and prisoners alike. It was not a comfortable place to sit for very long. After a few times of being stuck there, rather than look back at the potential antagonists, I got to know by heart all the notices and information sheets which were pinned to the walls; it was better than the inevitable verbal aggression from other prisoners

As well as the criminal issues, I also met with legal representatives of the liquidator for my company; sadly, that once daily confabulation seemed a whole world away now. Snippets of what was going on there came from my normal visitors, but I generally chose to switch off from them, there was nothing I could do or say to make it more than it was; a confounded mess. In a way, the removal of that responsibility had been a big relief although I doubt my employees saw it that way. While signing the various powers of attorney which were presented to me, I watched twelve years of my life and thousands of pounds of my money walk away in a nondescript, if expensive, legal briefcase. Knowing I had to close that door, it was difficult, not for my loss as much as the disruption I had showered on the heads of the seven people I had duped into thinking they had a good working life ahead of them.

When face to face or court attended meetings weren’t required, the use of the video link was almost the best thing within the legal system so far. The trauma of getting in and out to courts through the reception process was as much a problem to the prison system as it was to the prisoners. Although I was sure some officers had great fun and games at our expense, I might have been a little biased. Apart from that contentious point, the cost of prisoner transport and complicated man management outside the prison must have been considerable. As I had been a regular tax paying member of society, once at least, I still had some vested interest in how my money was being spent.

Video links were made to the courts for lesser elements of legal matters like the continuance of my remand conditions and other routine matters. Anything that had even the remotest possibility of you being released or meant your case was progressing significantly had to be done with there you in the court itself.

My first experience of going to court from the prison was for the transfer of my case to the crown court which although routine seemed to be such a waste of resources; for me it was another day out but certainly no picnic. Apparently, the severity and complexity of the charges against me meant the magistrates didn’t have enough sentencing powers to lock me away for long enough. My legal team had warned me to expect both the transfer and the long sentence but curiously, neither caused me too many sleepless nights. The prospect of years of confinement and exclusion should have been my main concern, but I don’t really think it ever was; perhaps it was just my coping mechanism working overtime for me. A term of ten years had been dropped into more than one conversation with my solicitor, but I had the feeling he was more concerned about that possibility than I seemed to be. In truth, I had already accepted the idea of a long custodial sentence, what my reaction would be to actually being given such might prove to be different. For my own sanity, I didn’t and couldn’t allow myself to consider it at that or any other time; denial, fear, acceptance, call it what you want; only time would tell.

Soon after the move to number 20, I started to go to the library each week. It had taken the standard two weeks that everything took to arrange for me to be on the list but, the hour-long outing was very welcome despite having to pass other wings and exercise yards and the verbal abuse it involved.

Having not read a book since I was about twenty-five, not in earnest anyway, I was surprised how quickly I got back into the habit. The last book I had read was on my honeymoon, I still smile. Here, I was soon to be up to about three a week. This was essentially to fill in the long hours but the choice of rather substantial ‘who done its’ had the added benefit of making a welcome addition to the height of the pillow which helped to make sleeping much better.

Richard’s own book had a mountain of research material to go with it and I would often collect or return several items for him while I was there. He would request them in writing through the library office but never wanted to collect them himself; I never did find out why perhaps he was just lazy. He also never seemed to go outside or have any visits of any sort, legal, personal, medical, perhaps after being away for that long it might be just the way things were; I quietly hoped it would be the same for me when my time came.

By managing to accommodate simple things like slotting my ablutions and personal care in around his routines, he cooperatively adjusted his use of the facilities and his writing obsessions. Further on from his original explanations, he didn’t bother me with questions and I didn’t ask him anything about his life in return. Peace and harmony was a state of mind which was well worth the small effort it took to accept other people’s idiosyncrasies. We never did have a crossed word or any other upset between us that I recall. However, after a while I could understand how that might not have been the case with the many past or for future pad mates. However, within our mutual acquiescence in most day-to-day things, Richard did have one annoying habit although even with this I chose to put up with for the sake of the bigger picture of concord.

Although I never asked him directly every now and again I was subjected to long and graphic stories of things he was interested in relating to his conviction and personal sexual preferences. These tales had not been retold just for my benefit either, several other people on the wing had commiserated with me once they knew who I was two’d up with and warned me of this immanent sharing. On this unfortunate basis and the pretence of asking for my opinion of something he might have written, I found that every now and again I had to sit through the tedium of his latest thoughts on the darker side of his interests. I was not sure that most other people would have just made their feelings clear and been spared it all, I was too nice for my own good. He didn’t ever want to hear any constructive criticism as I found out the first time I tried it so I just reverted to making noises of agreement at appropriate junctures and keeping the rest to myself. To make the situation slightly better, I tried to tell myself I hadn’t had to sit through the full 800 plus pages of fantasy he was writing and the same number again which were planned.

In between these sporadic episodes, just once or twice a week, he also felt the need to relate the content of what he claimed to be films or videos he had owned or watched. His stories were generally of a triple ‘X’ rated nature and nearly always involved or climaxed in some form of female ejaculation. It was a phenomenon I had never come across; unsurprisingly. Not wanting to go into it here, it is not for the faint hearted, even if you had as broad a mind as I do. It is enough to say, in the interests of pad-mate politics, I tried to get out of any direct eye line and have a book of my own to read, mostly covertly so as not to appear to be rude.

The advantages of sharing with an otherwise perfectly reasonable and personable pad mate were not worth spoiling for such an obviously much-needed outlet for whatever demons Richard had within him. There were times I wondered if I might share some of my stories, but I didn’t get the feeling such personal two-way traffic was welcome; it seemed to be a strictly one-way street. Despite my being of a different sexual persuasion, the extremes of my youth and other general preferences were not for public consumption at this stage in my proceedings. If he had been slightly interested, I could have told him about my experience in what was, for want of a better description, squatting in the cold empty council flat.

Not having exactly planned or even asked for it, the obscure location of the 13th floor flat made it easy to hide away from the world. Despite having no electricity, no furniture or in fact anything of a domestic nature, I was still very grateful for the bolt hole and the relative anonymity it afforded me.

Although not really moved in Steve had one if his bright ideas of us going off to ‘do something more exciting’ which meant he wanted to go out into town. I carefully to change his focus back to my minimal needs where thankfully he took it as his idea to collect the mattress and one of two other things from the house. Getting these to the flat was a purely selfish device on my part as I need to be more confident in my new solitary life style; however long or short-lived it might prove to be.

There were no problems collecting the items although a little hilarity ensued trying to get a double mattress into the back of a saloon car and I was glad of the falling twilight helped hide the strange activity. The lightening of spirits was welcome, but it was only a temporary mask on the reality of the situation. Somehow, we had managed to pick Paul up on the way back he was no use at all of course but decorated the proceeding in a very pleasing fashion. Along with the main bedding items there were all the de-constructed pieces for a shop style mobile clothes rail, a kettle with no plug and a toaster; both rather redundant given the lack of power but it gave me hope. Up in the still empty living room, once a piece of the floor had been swept clean, the single lonely mattress looked ridiculously out-of-place next to the rail that held my five items of clothing; they looked sadly pathetic now. Steve had picked off a poster from his bedroom wall but had forgotten anything to stick it up with so, despite his best intentions.

The harsh cold sodium yellow street lighting from below illuminated the ceiling and was cold and unforgiving which is how my mood was going and my change in humour must have been obvious; from being low it was near being in free fall. Someone suggested we went and got something to eat and go out into town. Feeling like a sad old man, it was obvious to me that I didn’t fit into the vivacious adventure they lived. This was just another working day for the two of them but as I had no other suggestion I agreed to finding something to eat; already knowing I wouldn’t be staying around for anything else that they had in mind.

With a variety of fast food options supplied, I told them of my alternative plans to go ‘home’ and sort out my things and thankfully, they seemed not to mind. Reluctantly leaving both at a convenient and safe corner in the ‘village’, I headed out-of-town again to taste the delights of squatting; cold and on my own.

Getting into the flat alone for the first time was difficult and nearly never happened. The security guy on the door was less helpful than I had been led to believe and took a deal of convincing that I wasn’t going to wreak havoc. But with my eventual entry to the amber lit room, the feelings of disorientation and loss swept over me in a dissolute wave I had absolutely no control over. What was I doing here? Could I have gone to my parents? Could I have gone to friends? Could I have gone home? Perhaps I should have chosen at least one of those options. Eventually, in the empty, chilled, solitary rooms which seemed less inviting than they had only an hour before, taking refuge on the mattress, facing the wall to dim the light from tired eyes which didn’t want to close, sleep must have slipped over me at some indefinable point.

This state was only recognised when I woke with a start having hit the bottom of the vast well I often fell into the depths of sleep. Throwing my hand out to stop my fall, it hit the wall and I felt the sharp pain shoot up my arm. Consciousness seeped back only slowly and the disorientation my brain was struggling to decipher became all too real. A chill on my cheek and neck matched a damp patch on the mattress where my face had laid. Soreness in my eyes bought together the two elements to be the tearful reality which I hoped had just been in my dreams. With the cold and only sparse support underneath me, I struggled to turn to find a more comfortable way to lie. Rolling to one side I was met with a grunt and something more resilient taking up the rest of the bed.

“How much room do you actually want?”

I recognised the voice, but my confusion was not much clearer for hearing it.

“Sorry I, sorry, what…” I fell back to my previous position.

A warm hand touched my cold shoulder, it felt accommodating and gentle, but I still didn’t move.

“You make a hell of a noise when you’re asleep, I don’t know what was going on in there.”

The observation was well-meant unlike the tapping on my head, but I still couldn’t summon up a reply.

“Are you OK?” The tone had become one of concern.

“Yes, I suppose so, sorry,” I somehow managed to be civil at least, “what time is it, what’s happening?”

“Don’t worry about anything, it’s still early, I just came in to see if you had topped yourself or something, you didn’t seem to be very happy last night?”

Steve’s concern although obviously well-meant had an inflection that didn’t sound quite as sincere as I thought it might.

“Thanks,” mine probably didn’t either.

Although I had put my coat over my legs and added another layer of jumpers to my upper body, combined with the inadequate support from the second-hand mattress, the rest of me ached, literally from head to toe. Sitting up against the wall for support, Steve just lay there and stared at me. Even in such dire circumstances, he was staggeringly beautiful even the dark circles around his eyes were starting to make his otherwise flawless face even more fascinating. How much more ridiculous could this get. How low could I sink? How much had I lost? Even if he had plied his practised trade right there and then I don’t think I could have lifted my battered spirits off the hard, lifeless floor where they lay sprawled, naked, limp, and lifeless.

Eventually, needing to use the bathroom, I struggled to stand up. He tried to give me a push, but it was not the welcome touch which it could have been despite my involuntary and obvious morning erection, the situation was far from the idyll I hoped for under such circumstances.

Bladder empty and my brain slowly catching up with the rest of my body, I was surprised to find a proprietary container of coffee lidded and waiting on the window sill in the living room.

“I got you a drink on the way up but it might be cold by now,” peeling the lid off I found it was, “did you sleep OK…,” his rolling cheery banter was a strange counterpoint to the actual situation.

With most of his other questions going unanswered he was getting either cross or bored, I couldn’t tell which. Knowing I should be more thankful for his help I tried to pull myself together. It probably looked and sounded more artificial than I had hoped for and in the end, we both realised that any reasonable show of gratitude was now a bit of a lost cause in the morning.

“I’m going to go home and get some proper sleep, what are you going to do?”

Steve’s ability to just carry on was something I had to somehow again in myself.

“I don’t know, I didn’t have work for a while, I should just think about things I guess.”

I wanted to talk about the abandoned part of my life, but it didn’t seem appropriate to involve my host, he had done his best for which I was more than grateful, but I was sure he didn’t want to be involved in that side of things anyway.

“You do what you need to, I’ll either come back here later or you come around to mine? There’ll be no one in ‘till about four when the schools kick out, see how you feel.”

His cheery nature still seemed a little incongruous but, he was right, lives went on regardless.

“Fine. Good. OK let’s just see what happens,” I didn’t think I sounded too convincing, “do you want a lift back, I probably need to get outside.”

“No, you’re OK,” from what I remembered it was only a short walk.

As he pressed against me to say good-bye in a more suitable manner, the lingering smell of a night out was more prominent than I had noticed earlier. As it oozed out of his clothing it was pleasant, but nothing you would have bought from a perfume counter. However, it was a pungent reminder that he had been out, which delivered images of what he would have been up to, to the front of my mind. With the all too impersonal hug, and a soft peck on the cheek, he was gone.

The next two weeks were like moving to a new country, not being able to speak much of the language and knowing very little of either the culture or life style. Despite it being a destination, I had never thought I would visit it was not exactly unpleasant but not a holiday; this was more like a disaster zone.

Like well-meaning relief agencies, both Steve and Paul kept me occupied which helped my mood and bouts of madness. Between the three of us we collected several items to make living in the still lifeless flat just a little less like the legal squat that it was. There were more pieces of bedding, towels, this and that which he would have the use of anyway when Steve finally made the move from his mother’s. What would happen to me at that point we all seemed to avoid talking about; which, for now anyway, I was glad. The electricity was due to be put on at the end of the second week but, I had gotten used to washing in cold water each morning and most nights. There were of course many ways of finding hot water in the daytime, Steve’s house during family absence, McDonald’s wash-room although you get very funny looks from other customers as you wash more than your hands. Clothes which had become dirty, or more often just rank, disappeared, and reappeared, clean; which one of the two was responsible I never did properly acknowledge. It all seemed to be part of a barter system where I helped with transport and other little things for either or both of the boys and they did these other things for me. Whatever it was, it was only small recompense for their overall kindness in my hours of need.

Quite often they both wanted me to go out socially, but I rarely felt in the mood or fit for public display. Eventually though I had to give way before I caused offence and lost what support I had. It was a disaster. Having changed into the best of my clothes, I still didn’t feel very clean underneath. Having perhaps made too much fuss, I took the suggestion of using the bars facilities if I felt that bad. It was still early and there didn’t seem to be many people about but washing one’s privates and other diverse body parts in a gay men’s facility tends to get you noticed, for all the wrong reasons. Despite several generous offers of help which came my way, I was soon out of there; despite being the right place, it was certainly the wrong time.

One of the more important things I was aware of through all the difficulties, was the need to watch my expenses and I did my best to limit my outgoings. Not feeling like food much, I only bought one hot meal a day. Not feeling like socialising, I let the boys pay their way and mine when I felt I could. The rest was very frugal living off sliced white bread, rather soft unrefrigerated margarine, and a large bottle of tomato ketchup. I might have still been somewhat shell-shocked, but I didn’t miss the simplicity of what you could call normal living. Food and clothing were just unimportant ‘things’ while on the whole day-to-day living was just a blur. Any specific day’s mood would vary wildly from being relative stability to devastating misery. How or why my companions kept giving me in their company was a mystery. None of this was their problem but it was hard to be sensitive to that all the time.

Just very occasionally, and more out of pity I’m sure, I would have some company at night. While not in the frame of mind for anything overtly sexual, the lack of material things didn’t exactly make it the love nest that would have been nice. It was enough to just share the mattress with someone warm and comfortable, it was if nothing else warmer. Strangely it was Paul who stayed rather than my obvious preference. While neither approving, nor disapproving, but understanding that I was just part of a much bigger picture, at the same time I felt I needed more; more of them or at least their kind.

My limited ability to relax meant that when someone did stay with me, I could have the pleasure of watching their sleeping beauty. If it was Paul mostly who I had helped him drift off to dream land by gently stoking circles or figures of eight on his perfectly formed, blissfully smooth chest. Once deeper in repose and if my mood would allow, my hand might drift these slow soft shapes further down taking in well-defined although relaxed abdominal muscles and on down round his neat naval which stuck out slightly in a tight curl. If he hadn’t reacted at this point, further down there could be the warm comfort of his normally hidden but easily animated delights to caress. Although many things had changed that part which had been so wonderful on paper or in my head, was still the one thing that never quite happened as I had hoped again; with hindsight, it was just so ridiculous it was laughable. At the time, though the possibility of something dramatic happening, despite it always ending up as nothing, it was that one small hope which I had to hang onto and did at every possible opportunity.

To add a little perspective here, normal life went on inexorably around me despite my meandering difficulties. After two weeks of hiding away at the high-rise, I did eventually make the call to my now estranged and as it turned out, panicking wife. Having decided that just turning up at the house would have made things worse, but timing it to be able to speak to the children if I was allowed, I made the call. Following the awkward and short encounter I spoke to my parents, my mother anyway and it was as horrible as I had tried to convince myself it wouldn’t be. They all thought I had done something stupid, not just losing my mind but all my other faculties and possibly even my life. It was however not the time to tell any of them the why or the wherefore of any truth of the matter. Any explanation would have to be put into a format which I could first accept myself and hopefully put into words which everyone else might understand. It was going to be difficult.

 

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Chapter Twenty Five ~ unpopular at work, but in with the boys

It was a working day and the world turned on its commercial and economic axis as usually. Why I thought about it I didn’t understand, perhaps I hadn’t but I ended up driving to the office. Quite what I had hoped to achieve was not clear but there was nowhere else my brain could think of going. Any alternatives were at best, sketchy. Perhaps I could find some legitimacy by just wandering the streets until something else happened or, a real knight in shining armour turned up or, I got run over by a bus; bang, there, problem solved. The cars bumper cracked sickeningly as it rolled against the low wall outside the office. No one seemed to have heard as I made my way sheepishly into the building.

“I hear you’ve done something really stupid, I didn’t have you down for being a complete prick,” emphasis on complete.

It was Ray, the mutual friend who had gotten me the job. Now scowling from behind his consistently messy desk he continued his commentary

“I think you’d better go and explain yourself to Peter.”

“Well that’s for me to sort out,” I said rather blankly.

I had nothing really to throw back at him, but the truth generally hurts; it certainly did here.

The boss. I could imagine how the jungle drums had been set off last night; Peter’s face told me all. Going straight to the inner office without speaking to anyone else, I firstly apologised for my sate of dress. The shirt was slept in and hideously creased, no tie, jeans, not the order of the day for work, nor was the dark shadow of stubble which had started to show itself on my pale unwashed cheeks. Trying to explain what had gone on without too much detail, being brief seemed the best idea but in the end, it probably all sounded far less serious than I knew it actually was. The tone I had tried to adopt was one of concern for the aftermath but somehow without my own sensibility slipping into complete insanity. There was no visual clue from Peter as to how it had come across and I just waited for some sort of reaction; anything would do. Fortunately for me, my boss had had his own fair share of marital disharmony, not that there was any similarity in our estrangements, but he seemed to take all my trouble on-board without the drama that Ray, the now former friend, obviously had.

Although I was grateful for not having another grilling, I was glad our attitudes towards the fairer sex were very different. As if to prove the point, he started to make some inane comments about some of the things he had gone through, but it was lost on me. Not being able to see any similarities in the things he was saying, I hung onto the reality that even as a closeted gay guy, I still had more compassion and understanding than he seemed to have had with his own difficulties. The argument I could see brewing skidded to a halt and he changed the subject just in time.

“Anyway, I don’t want to know the what’s and the wherefores of any of it, you can be an idiot in your own time,” I could see his point, “but, I can see the problems you’re going to have for a while,” I couldn’t quite see which side of the fence he had decided to sit, “if you do this one job for me, go and see them, sort out the problem, you might be better off taking some time to sort the other matter out?”

My unconscious mind was already replying it for me, let’s not forget work comes first shall we and say thank you very much; I managed to give just a half-smile.

“Thank you, you’re right, you probably already know how some of them out there feel…” he jumped onto my concern not wanting to get into the subject.

“Yes, yes, as I say, you do this one thing and take some time, it’s better for everyone. Give me a call in about a week and let’s see how the land lays, how about that, yes? Good. Go.”

The conversation was over and I took the folder he had quickly extended to me and left.

The few paces across the office to reach the internal sales girls felt like a death march; I was sure every eye in the office was swivelling in my direction. Glancing up furtively while I took in just some of what was being said to me, there was in fact no one looking at me at all. A knowing smirk as a dismissal from Carol smashed the tiny bit of confidence I had summoned up, but I was done and out of there. Using the back stairs was the closer exit point meant going all the way through the factory but the noise and my general anonymity, even after being there for some seven months, was a welcome if oily refuge.

The job I had to deal with was nothing really and it could have been sorted out over the phone but I was grateful for the obviously concocted excuse to get me out of the brewing storm. Sitting back in the car, after checking how much damage I had done to the bumper not that I cared just at that moment, I was rather listlessly trying to pull my thoughts together. It wasn’t happening. From the corner of my eye I caught just the sense of a movement. Turning my head enough but not to be obvious, I could see Ray coming out of the office door. He was making straight towards me with a face which would have soured milk. Slamming the gear box noisily into reverse I lurched out of the space with one of the forward gears engaged before the car stopped. The wheels spun on the loose surface and I was away. In the mirror, I could just see his sullen face which faded with distance and speed. Not being able to cope with confrontation at the best of times, this was not the time to practice.

Although Ray was thought to be a renowned womaniser, despite being married to my wife’s best friend, he seemed to have displayed his double standards perfectly on that day. In the back of my fuddled mind I had always thought he played for both teams, like me, he was certainly camp enough with his foppish hair and limp wrists; note to self, don’t end up like this one whatever happens in the future.

The drive was only about an hour, not that I noticed very much as my mind kept drifting back to the events behind me. The customer was surprised when I got there but seemed glad of the free mugs and a few boxes of a new design of self-drilling screw we were marketing; my ability to switch off scared me sometimes. Heading back, with hopefully nothing else to distract me, reality tried its best to creep back into my head but it wasn’t going to be allowed, not yet. Too soon, too difficult.

Looking back, I was incredibly selfish. The sheer enormity of the things I had said, as well as the wider outcomes were just too difficult to contemplate for very long or at any one time. Deep down I knew I hadn’t meant most of them but some had probably been true. Nothing was ever going to be clear again. In the end, it was all I could do, nothing.

Trying to console myself, on the plus side there was money in the bank, she would have all the benefits of friends and family, my presence was obviously an irritant she had made her feeling quite clear on that, or had she, no she hadn’t, not truthfully. Then there were the boys. The boys, I just couldn’t contemplate what I might have done to them; the thought of their confused faces was too much. The car screeched to a halt as I realised I couldn’t see where I was going through the wash of yet more pathetic tears. With the road thankfully empty, I swung the front of the car into a garage forecourt and pulled away to a corner to collect myself. This was ridiculous, this was never going to work, what had I been thinking? With the waterworks eventually stopped but still a little breathless, I picking up the phone and pressing the speed dial for home, all I got was the engaged tone. Trying again there was no difference but there, I had tried, not that I knew what I would have done if anyone had answered. One rather pathetic gesture but at least it was a gesture.

The hand which very shakily replaced the phone receiver into its cradle was testament to the fact that the situation was far from sorted out but I didn’t really know what I was thinking or saying to myself. Having managed to switch off almost completely, I wandered over to the shop but when I tried to eat the egg and cress sandwich it was like eating concrete with thistle dressing. Two bites forced their way down but the rest of it was thrown into the foot well and yet more stinging tears washed down my throat I sat and shook silently crying in the corner.

What now? It’s so quaintly described as ‘gardening leave’ so whose furrow shall I plough now? The car was moving again but its driver had no idea of where it was going. In a long and meandering journey, it had passed the end of the road where it used to live, past the road to the parents’ house and back to the other end of the road where two confused children had probably had the day off school. Still there was no sense of direction. Moving away eventually, the city skyline loomed like a magnet. Past the office, don’t slow down people might be looking. Turn off, not to town, go somewhere else, anywhere but not into town. No don’t turn into that street; keep going; no; not round again; no! Of course, my direction took me to the only place I had left to go.

Still mindful of the police warning, it was rare for me to do the old circumnavigation routines any more. Knowing I was just looking for some comfort by re-living past and pleasant experiences, I was disappointed when there was no one around that I knew; I moved on desolate. It was completely the wrong time of day, what was I thinking? Disappointment was not an option, not today, after everything else not today. I kicked myself up the arse figuratively of course; I might have picked up anything which was on offer. What there was on offer was pure and perfect danger in the form of smooth skinned youth. Jail bait was so easy to find, you didn’t have to look too hard if you wanted that sort of thing. Despite knowing the consequences and never admitting to being interested in that age group, I still found myself looking but with less conviction at least. Luck was very much against me that day in all senses of the word.

Having moved away from the usual haunts I found I had caught the eye of a sweet young thing and all sense of responsibility and morality disappeared. He was being almost too attentive of the passing cars, far too obvious but I soon found myself in the first quiet side street I could find. Parking up I left the engine running while I stared in the mirrors for any chance of action to rear its fine-looking head. This sort of extreme activity was difficult and so dangerous I had only ever fallen into its trap once before. Fortunately for me it had not worked out that time, not that it was ever a sure thing anyway. Despite the obvious problems surrounding the subject, failure in that instance hadn’t sat well but at the time, the challenge rather than the prize was what seemed to be more important. This now was still a possibility more than the probability, but grief and desperation were the driving forces for what was pure lust. Part of me didn’t expect to even get the chance to refuse any sort of physical event, but there was something in me which wanted to have them in the car, in my hand, in my control; who knew what could happen; I wanted to find out.

A small slim shape grew in the wing mirror and passed right past the car without stopping but gave a telling tap on the wing as it passed, a signal of something and yet nothing; not having to deal with direct confrontation I breathed a sigh of relief. The reality was, I just didn’t know what I would have done if he had stopped. Common sense decided that I needed to get out of there. Putting the car into gear and slowly moving forward, I realised the street was a dead-end and now both of us were heading into it. The rather smart figure was standing in the shadow of an industrial waste bin, obviously waiting. Reversing the car would have saved us both the embarrassment but I was either too slow or too engrossed to think about it. With nowhere to run I tried my best not to look directly at the vulnerable but so very attractive target. Some sense of decency fought its way to the surface but the execution of a three point turn unfortunately meant I was just moving back and forth in front of him so I couldn’t help but take in this youthful vision of beauty. He hadn’t made any attempt to leave but must have taken my glances as a challenge and he stepped out of the shadows towards the car as I fumbled with the controls.

The thought of his company loomed like a beguiling monster I so wanted to take on but for some reason I didn’t. Instead I gunned the car out to the top of the road. He had been just too perfect, too vulnerable, too much to be just ‘trade’. My feelings were torn between wanting to take him away, either to safety or showing him the very graphic danger he was obviously trying to get himself into. Neither were actual options, not now, not here, not with this one. In the rear view mirror an unpleasant gesture was being thrown up at the retreating or rather escaping car. Knowing full well what it had looked like, ‘teasing trade’ as others used to call it, I felt bad for not stopping and at least being honest with him. The immaculate image lingered like a ghost as I pulled up on the piece of rough car park several streets away. It was too far for him to follow me but perhaps not far enough to stop me from going back there again. The tears of self-pity flowed again; I didn’t know where they were coming from.

It was late afternoon by now and some of the other cars had started to move off eventually mine was left sitting there like a rather sore thumb. Thinking this was not really a good place to be; I started the car and reversed. A loud thump behind made me slam my foot on the brakes; what now? Looking around for what I had hit, I hoped I wouldn’t see anything although with my lack of concentration it might have been anything. My heart contracted as a figure stepped out from behind the car. From the view I had in the passenger side wing mirror I couldn’t see who it was, at least they were walking and of an adult stature. The passenger door opened; stand by for trouble.

“All on your own?”

It was Paul.

Not wanting to go through the unpleasantness again I mumbled some off-hand remark and imagined I must have looked somewhat cross at the intrusion; it was not the reaction I thought I would have had for such a friendly face which had now sat inside the car. Further enquiries met with an equally curt set of answers before I could pull myself together and not be rude.

“I’ll go then if you are going to play Mr Grumpy, things to do, punters to play with, you know how it is, you can get back to picking up the baby face trade,” my heart sank, he had obviously seen my earlier activity.

The facts of how I had first met Paul and what he did to earn a living were never in dispute but, hearing him acknowledge it so openly was still difficult for me to deal with. None of this was his fault it was me that was in the wrong. Putting my hand on his arm to stop him getting out, I could already hear the voices in my head screaming, what are you doing, what benefit is any of this having. Of course I ignored them, and got a feeling I was going to do a lot of that from now on.

“No wait, I’m sorry,” I wasn’t very sorry but I also didn’t want to be alone either, “I saw Steve last night, did he tell you?”

He shook his head but looked intrigued.

“Not playing away are you,” he wasn’t to know the significance of his joke, “you aren’t going to leave me I hope?”

That albeit innocent quip was another last straw and my already shaken composure crumbled, again. He didn’t know what to do with me as I heaved and wailed.

“Stay here,” he tugged his arm out of my grip but squeezed my leg, like they do, “stay here,” he paused to see if I had taken in the order before getting out of the car and walking quickly away.

Recovering my composure quicker this time, survival or sanctimony I didn’t either know or care. Without knowing how long I had sat there, the car door opened again and much to my confusion, Steve jumped in. He looked as fine and glorious as he normally did, far better than this morning anyway.

“So, what’s happening?”

He didn’t smile even though I thought he might have at least returned mine.

“Nothing. Paul must have seen me here and he just got in the car, I don’t know,” he continued to stare at me obviously not buying it, “what, I don’t know what you want me to say?”

“I hoped you were going to apologise for this morning,” my mouth opened but nothing came out, “if mum had seen you what do you think I was going to say?”

He paused for the answer I didn’t have but supplied his own.

“Do you think she’d buy, ‘It’s OK, don’t worry it’s just a punter with nowhere to sleep, go back to bed while we make ourselves comfortable.”

I hadn’t thought about it at all had I?

Thinking it was not a good time to make any alternative suggestions, my only hope was that I might have looked genuinely sorry; I was; very. Now he had made the point I should have said something; anything might have been better than the silence which stifled the air.

“Don’t panic,” he touched my leg but retrieved his hand quickly before I could get to it.

“I’m sorry, this is all such a mess,” the welling up was happening again but I caught it in time, “I won’t do it again. Perhaps I should go?”

“Yes you should, I’ve just lost a punter because of you, that fucking big queen has got him instead so, now you owe me big time.”

If it wasn’t for his inability to keep a straight face I might have believed him.

“Sorry.”

My hand was reaching into my jeans pocket for what might have been my wallet but was a tissue; Steve obviously thought the former.

“Yeh, right,” his hand returned to my leg, “what are you doing now, no, not that.”

Fortunately for once the thought of any ‘business’ hadn’t crossed my mind.

“I don’t know, I’ll have to sort something out I expect. Thanks anyway, I didn’t mean to burden you…” a tightening of his grip told me to stop my whittering.

“Why I’m even thinking about this I don’t know but,” he paused and stared at me for several seconds, “I’ve had the keys to a flat come through, only council but,” he paused again, “if you need somewhere to crash you could have them for tonight.”

I had to concentrate hard to hear the rest of what he was saying, just looking at him was becoming a major distraction.

“I’m not planning to move in for a while so I guess you could stay ‘till I do, if you need to,” he mustn’t have been able to read my face but who could, “is that a yes, or a no?”

I still couldn’t formulate an answer but somehow managed to drag my sordid mind away from some of the many other possibilities, I think I managed a nod.

Pictures of a million or more outcomes crashed into one another and totally blacked out my normally reliable mind’s eye. Switching the process off with some effort, there was no one thing which came as any clear or sensible resolution from his offer. Yesterday I had a nice home, a family, a life, today I had nowhere to live, a job which was hanging in the balance, a boot full of crumpled clothes and rent boys jumping in and out of my car in broad daylight. My ingrained common courtesy thankfully came to the fore.

“That would be great, thanks, are you sure, is it OK, are you, will I, will we…,” there were so many questions I couldn’t verbalise any one of them properly.

“Hold on, hold on, calm down, it’s only an empty flat.”

“I know, no I mean, I…”

“Shut up and drive, you idiot.”

He obviously wanted to say something else but ‘idiot’ would do.

The deal seemed to have struck although I still didn’t know quite what I had got myself into. When I turned my head to reverse away from the fence, he sealed the deal with a quick kiss, I tried to make it last longer but he tutted a mock admonishment; I didn’t mind that time.

Under his instruction, we drove in the general direction of his house, or more accurately his mother’s house. Again, following his indications we turning off before we got that far and pulled up at the foot of a high-rise block with what looked like a building site around it.

“It’s on the thirteenth floor, you get a great view and all at no extra charge.”

I had been wondering about the matter of cost but the descriptive tour continued.

“They’re still upgrading it which is why I was waiting to move in,” it seemed a reasonable idea, “it’s all OK inside though, the builders have almost finished so you might have a crack at pulling a ‘bit of rough’,” the joke was lost on me for once.

“What will I do, look first, go in, what, I don’t know.”

I started to feel close to a state of panic again for reasons that weren’t clear.

“Just come and look, it’s OK,” he must have sensed my concerns.

Feeling rather like a fish out of water, I followed him through the messy entrance and nodded at the guy behind the glass; Steve had spoken to him as if he knew him; knowing him, perhaps he did.

“There’ll be electronic keys to get in soon but, for now, you just have to know the bloke on the door,” unfortunately I pictured the two of them getting to ‘know’ each other rather too easily, “if he knows you’re with me, it’ll be fine.”

Getting into the lift which already stank of urine despite all the building work, the cold checker plate metal walls were at least free of graffiti; so far anyway. When the door scrapped open at the 13th floor, the long corridor ahead of us was equally blank, bland, but without stench. The freshly painted maroon door to the flat was only a few feet along the poorly lit tunnel; it didn’t seem to be a place to hang around. Steve fumbled with a key in the new lock. Once on the other side of it and with the door closed, I felt a little safer although I didn’t really know why.

The flat was just as he had said, empty. The walls were all smooth and white from the refurbishment but a thick layer of building dust to covering everything. The hard floors would have been those dark brown heavy-duty industrial tiles if it wasn’t for the residual mess; we left two clear sets of footprints as we moved through the four rooms.

The living room was huge, three large windows looked out over the city skyline with the University clock tower standing proudly over the array of academic halls. In the far distance I could see the hills where I had lived just yesterday; only yesterday.

“It’s only got one bedroom but that’s enough for just you,” I was glad of the distraction but sad at the ‘just you’ bit, “the kitchen’s through there and bathroom just down the other end.”

No one had been in there for some time, I didn’t even know if Steve had.

“I can get you a broom and a duster, I have no furniture yet but there’s a mattress at home I said I would take.”

Leaning against the window sill pretending to look out at the view, I wasn’t really listening to what he was saying more too how he was saying it. If you were none the wiser, this could have been a well-adjusted, well spoken, attractive young man setting out on the next leg of life’s big adventure. It was all so different but did it matter? Just at that point it really didn’t.

“When do you think, I can stay?”

The fact I had decided to still hadn’t sunk in.

“Whenever you want, you’ll need the mattress, the floor’s a bit hard. There is no electric yet but there’s a fridge,” he had the same thought as me at the notion and we both laughed; just one small chuckle anyway.

Still looking out of the window I had a sinking feeling this just wasn’t right, this was never going to work. Why was he doing this? He didn’t know me that well? I had nothing to offer. Age was obviously a problem as I was 16 years older than him. We, well I, had never been extraordinarily intimate enough to make all this worthwhile for him on either physical or financial grounds. He knew I didn’t have much money. He had far better looking friends. I wasn’t even a friend in any conventional sense. I was a punter, I was a pay packet; I was nothing.

“You know this is all wrong, this,” I turned to sort the situation out but he wasn’t in the room, “where are you?”

“What, sorry?” He appeared from the bathroom, “What, no it’ll all need a good clean but it’s OK underneath,” he stared as if waiting for me to say something.

“No, nothing, it’s all a bit much that’s all, are you sure about this?”

“Yes, fine,” I must not have looked convinced, “let’s go and do something more exciting.”

He came over and thumped me playfully on the arm but moved away before I could engage him in anything else. He really was majestically beautiful and all I wanted to do was hug him.

As we made our way out towards the lift I ran my hand up inside the back of his sweat shirt, along the smooth sweep of his back and round to cup the curve of one of his gently defined pectoral mounds. He didn’t comment or complain but I felt it better to unhand him before we got back down to the entrance area; with any luck, there might be other times.

That image is only a memory but, it could have been replaced by Fletcher, except for the touching part that is, it was not an idea to contemplate to seriously. The similarity between the two of them was uncanny, disturbing even. He had just finished doing one of his twice daily exercise routines on the now spotlessly clean floor. He seemed to have a well-defined routine of push ups at different angles against various pieces of furniture as well as just flat on the floor. He moved onto pull ups by hanging onto the edge of my bunk but his shapely head bobbing up and down rhythmically was teasingly close. Sit ups were done at a frighteningly rapid pace with loud expelling breaths in time with his actions. It was still early autumn and the weather was generally warm which gave me the benefit of him doing all this marvellous activity in very little clothing. I had to limit the time I spent watching him however covertly I thought I might be doing it.

He had mentioned he had been used to the daily access of equipment at his last place, but that had been only ‘Cat C’. No matter how much he complained about it, access to the main gym here was only twice a week for an hour at a time and of course only when the other wings were safely locked away. It was the same for everything and everyone on the VP wing and he would just have to make the best of what we had.

As a gauge of just how much I enjoyed this daily spectacle, other than the very first night inside this was the only time I put up with sharing a cell with a smoker. It was a disappointment but, he had at least asked if I really minded; I was in two minds to say I did but had been swayed by the obvious, rather than the practical. His restraint and careful use of the extraction vent over the toilet minimised the horrible stench and was generally only a few times a day.

The system of accommodating prisoners varied personal preferences came from the European Human Rights Legislation, as were many of the much-improved facilities and general treatment. Overall, we were allowed only be ‘padded up’ with those of our choice, smokers with smokers and none with none. For good or bad and despite the variety of feelings amongst the officers on the wing, it made for a much easier time in what should have, and previously had been, a ‘proper’ punishment regime. It is a subject which had differing views but I for one was not going to complain about anything just at that moment.

The contradiction of healthy exercise and bodily contamination was always a mystery but for whatever difference it made to me, it was worth it.

My apologies for harping on about his fitness but the most spectacular thing he used to do was his ‘commando’ push ups. When he first told me about it, of course my mind went to the carnal with ‘commando’ equating with naked, but it was only a fleeting indulgence; honestly. With an easy handstand against the only plain piece of wall at the foot of the bunks his feet almost touched the ceiling. Once balanced and poised, he would slide down on bended arms to where his elbows were at 90 degrees to the vertical and back up again, simple, strenuous, and spectacular to watch. Although there wasn’t an ounce, even a gram of excess material on his broad classical body, this was no easy exercise to do. Managing only six at a time, it was a short-lived but fascinating enterprise to behold. The best times were when he did the exercise in just his boxer shorts; apparently, the extreme exertion meant he needed to be cool to start with. With gravity doing its very best, the hint and even the occasional peak of his male genital magnificence was well worth any other disappointments. How ridiculous, how banal could I get; seemingly very much.

Other than the many secret delights I took from our brief enforced association, there were no other similarities to the ever-helpful Steve. In here Fletcher and I had no common interests, I didn’t have anything I really wanted to share and it could never be a truly satisfying co-habitation. As the days moved on, the look but don’t touch policy was getting more difficult to live with and I didn’t know what to do about it; even if there was anything. In the end, it was Fletcher who made the move. It had only been eight days but what a glorious if confusing week. Someone had come onto the wing who he had known from a previous stretch and they had somehow arranged to get two’d up together although this meant that it was me who had to be moved out, for the other to come in. When I saw the new guy, I could understand why they were interested in each other, he too was a fellow ‘body beautiful’ although not quite up to the same standard as Fletcher. It did cross my desperate depraved mind they might have been more than pals but I knew it was sadly nothing to do with me.

The non-working members of the wing had just enjoyed an afternoon exercise period out in the yard. Fletcher hardly ever went outside which I found strange but, perhaps he wanted some time on his own. When I went back to the cell, there were the two of them plus an officer, standing in the open door-way.

“Rollason, you’re moving,” there was never any discussion, it was just what it was.

“Moving sir?” I hadn’t done that exercise yet and didn’t know what it entailed.

“Get your stuff together on the double, you’re over there in 20, don’t waste any time I want you away before the workshops come back,” he looked at his watch as if to emphasise the point.

“Yes sir,” I was courteous by default but he had already walked off down the wing.

“You don’t mind moving, do you?”

I didn’t answer Fletcher’s remark. Both he and his pal stood aside to let me get to my things. Thinking I would pack them up neatly, it seemed it wasn’t the way things were done for just a simple pad change.

“It’s easier to just pile them all in the bed roll, you’re only going over the way, here I’ll give you a hand,” he did just that while his pal smiled at my obvious ignorance of prison protocol.

“It’s been good to share, thanks, you’ll be glad to be in with a non-smoker I expect, good luck over there,” I think my now ex ‘pad mate’ was being sincere and I took it that way.

“Yes, thanks, it’s been a blast.”

I wished I hadn’t bothered; ‘a blast’, just how old was I?

Bed roll rolled, I gathered myself and my stuff together, Fletcher picked up the one or two things I couldn’t carry and followed me over from one unusually unlocked cell to the other unusually open door, just three down from the servery.

Inside, a short, stocky, bald man sat at the worktop with some sort of writing in front of him. He looked up and grinned a toothless grin.

“Hi, I’m Richard, you are?”

“Dave, David. David if you don’t mind.”

The magnificent Fletcher had dropped my items silently on the cleared bottom bunk he slapped me on the shoulder and wished me luck. Now was not the time to get to feel of his strong warm touch; life was just not being fair. Before I could acknowledge him or his help he was gone to his new best friend.

“You’ll be OK on the bottom bunk I hope,” I didn’t know but said I would, “I’ll stay out of your way and let you get your stuff put away. We can have a drink when you’re done,” he smiled again and turned back to his work.

With my usual and very strange way of prioritising things, my ‘stuff’ was not actually at the top of the list of things to interest me. My fascination was drawn to the fact that Richard appeared to have no hair, none, and from what I could see of him not just his head. He must have or have had Alopecia, how fantastic, no hair at all. Although I didn’t know anything else about the condition, oddly I had always envied those who no longer had the bother of that which I had an uncontrollable excess; just another something I hated about myself. With Richard, it was quite difficult not to look him as it had been with my previous titan like comrade but this time I didn’t do a good enough job of hiding it. He looked up at me rather poker faced but I was too late in looking away.

“I’m sorry, I’m not being nosy.”

“I’m writing a book, it’s rather a tome, sorry I’ll just finish this section off if you don’t mind?”

I breathed a silent sigh of relief and busied myself with settling in.

Over the years to constrain my hairiness I had spent many hours shaving and trimming, depilating and tweezing but nothing ever worked for long. This, of all the problems I had, or have, is one of the more difficult things to work around in prison. I could hardly sit and shave my privates or my chest or my buttocks without creating some degree or comment; I had never felt confident enough to contemplate the logistics, let alone the practicalities.

With little to put away and only small, predetermined spaces to put it in anyway, it was soon all done and dusted. Turning to the bedding arrangements I must have hit the back of my head half a dozen times while I struggled to make my bunk underneath the overhanging upper one. Eventually, I sat rather shattered from my labour and let Richard take his cue to make the drink he had offered us.

With no other distraction for the moment, I fell into the trap of staring again but unlike last time I didn’t get away with it and the object of my attention. Although I was suitably embarrassed, he seemed to be used to talking about it, his baldness, and we got the subject out in the open and off the awkward list. Although there was probably no real need, I did try to explain about myself and my contrasting problem but I soon realised he didn’t seem to care; I was obviously hoping for too much too soon. Any further embarrassment was curtailed by the calling of the levels for dinner.

“I hope you don’t mind I use the table to eat at, I have all my things out anyway and have sort of got used to it?”

I took it as a statement rather than a question, but did it graciously.

Richard had cleared away his writing but I had already noticed there had been no space left for me to even think about using the limited area. That I had entered his space, perhaps I had no rights to make a fuss over anything; we would just have to see. He was ready and waiting impatiently at the door as it was unlocked and shot out like a hungry whippet. I stepped out soon after but got caught up in the queue which had already formed right in front of and past our door. Pushing my way through the crush I had to go several places back to get to the end which was why Richard had rushed out obviously; next time I would be more alert.

Looking around just to get used to the new perspective, I spotted Fletcher and his pal as they came out of their cell, they were laughing and chatting away and for a few unexpected and rather unsettling moments, I felt a stupid and nonsensical impression of what might have been jealousy. They did make a very handsome couple, not that they were, I hoped not anyway but, it took me completely by surprise and left me feeling rather sad.

Chapter Twenty Four ~ how not to end a marriage

The police warning did of course have some effect on my behaviour; it had to in order to remain undetected. Seeing either of the beauties was not something which I was prepared to give up lightly and in a way, the new arrangements made things much easier as well more safe. Before, out on the streets, they had often been in the company of a wider band of intrepid sex workers although too many altogether always seemed to look more suspicious than it needed to be. The difference now was our meetings were prearranged; sadly, safety had to replace some of the wider thrills which ‘open’ trade possess.

Having known the boys for a few months, I still didn’t want to admit what made any of it work the comfortable way in which it seemed to. At its most basic level I was just a ‘sugar daddy’ although I didn’t ever have very much sugar to spread around. What I did have was, some of my time, the car and a willingness to help them out with any number of things, all this for little apparent shared benefit. I didn’t need the advantage of hindsight to tell me what the problems were although admitting to the reality of the situation was always going to be a problem; that was what mental boxes were for. It was never more than an infatuation. It never really fulfilled my sexual needs, even if I could have afforded it. It was far more than just a base, carnal relationship. In my head I told myself that if I insisted on and paid for, a normal sexual exchange it might have happened, but it would have changed whatever wider relationship I had convinced myself we had; I use the word relationship in a very vague context. However, much I wanted to experience the heights of physical satisfaction, however much it would have been just perfect, I couldn’t run the risk of losing everything else that seemed to go with ‘us’. There was always enough ‘hands on’ affection handed out to keep me happy, a moment here, a lingering there, a kiss, a caress, enough to tease and yet at the same time to torment; enough to keep me going back anyway. Calculated, contrived, controlling, it was all those things and yet in the irregular and limited time they were around me, I was happier than I could remember.

The activity was eventually much more diverse, no longer just meeting up and driving around or sitting playing in the car. With a growing confidence in myself and my discretion, I often found myself sitting enjoying a cup of tea in Steve’s kitchen while his mother was at work, or waiting with the car outside a nondescript building while Paul performed some variety of ‘business’ service. For me nothing was too serious, nothing too momentous, nothing too much at all. This degree of contact with the outwardly perfect kind of people was all I needed to answer so many of the personal shortcomings in my life; thus far anyway.

Another incident dragged the reality of the situation into perspective. The where and the why doesn’t matter but, having picked up Paul from his house one day, he eventually found he had forgotten something. As ever of course I obliged and we spun round and eventually pulled up just a few doors down, as I did when picking him up from home.

“Come in, the rest of them are gone today,” it was hard to refuse him anything, so I did.

Never wanting to miss an opportunity or the potential for an opportunity, I followed him up the garden path. Standing behind him at the door and admiring the curve of his tight jeans while he fumbled for his keys, the door was opened from the inside; I nearly died.

“Oh, it’s you, what you forgot this time.”

It was a woman. She looked about my age but I remember thinking not wearing especially well; it was rather a cruel thought as I didn’t know anything about her.

“Who’s that Paul?”

The high-pitched question with rather an elongated ‘au’ in Paul, came from a bright if dirty little face which appeared from behind the woman’s legs, we all looked down at the inquirer.

“Just a friend, shift please, I need to get something. Now.”

He pushed past both without waiting.

As the injured parties retreated, I just stood rather uncomfortably it has to be said, while the forgotten item was being retrieved.

Two other younger children appeared in various states of dress, or rather undress. Liberal amounts of food were splattered across their faces but they didn’t all look very clean underneath either. The mother, I assumed she was anyway, had left us all to it and was crashing about in the kitchen. She did glance out at us or rather me every now and again but I tried not to notice. Paul was thumping around upstairs while the rest of the family just stood, sat, or lounged, and rather unnervingly, stared at me on the doorstep. Aged from about two up to perhaps eight, they were not ‘out for the rest of the day’ at all.

Fending off the silent treatment as best I could for what seemed like ages, but was only a minute of two; my heart was pounding fit to burst. The thumping in my ears was almost as loud as the heavy footsteps coming back down the stairs. I was rescued by my rather more elegant companion, with an offhand remark thrown backwards as he pushed me out of the doorway before banging it closed behind him. Glancing back at the house as we both got back into the car, a set of scruffy little faces were peering out of the window, the net curtains pulled roughly aside for a better view. We didn’t speak of it but he was obviously very embarrassed. Not wanting to make him feel worse I resisted the urge to find out any more about them and the rest of the day went well; for me at least.

A few days later Paul was rather more animated and very amused as he told Steve and me that his mother had asked if I might be interested in going for a drink sometime, with her; I was mortified. He went on playfully to ask if I could please please please be his new daddy and, if I played my cards right he would let me tuck him up in bed at night. Not as amused as you might imagine, the image of bedtime did have its more appealing side and would come to fruition eventually; thankfully not under those circumstances.

Just how all this strange and diverse activity managed to slot together defied any logic and certainly wouldn’t survive any close analysis. Stupid, self-destructive, sacrificial even, it was all so obvious but I didn’t seem to care as long as I could get closer to my bizarre dream, being wanted, being needed, however superficially at times or illegally. Being part of something and yet at the same time part of nothing, had it not been for the small matter of the rest of my life, my real life, my dependent life; I would have taken it every time.

The day, the big day, finally came. It was one that I had thought about quite a lot but always managed to stop myself putting it into realistic and horrific pictures. In trying to keep everyone happy there are only so many lies one can tell, so many egos one can feed, and so many disappointments you can brush off before it all implodes in on itself. This was to be the day.

Having already fitted together elements from the three lives I was living, I had also managed to get back home in good time to see the boys, have a game with them and put them to bed. Stories and a bit of play always went down well as I was the ‘good cop’ against their mother’s attentive, friendly, but disciplinarian ‘bad cop’. With them safely settled, I entered the lioness’s den already aware she had suffered from another stress filled day for one reason or another. In general, I was always the calm one in the partnership but some things were beyond even my legendary mediation skills. This evening’s hostilities began because of me naturally; I had forgotten she had planned to go out for some much-needed R & R. Although still not too late, the damage had been done and I was to be the target for whatever venom she felt the need to expel. Normally I would just soak it up calmly, unemotional, try to rationalise the problem and hopefully get things back on track; this time I didn’t get very far before I uncharacteristically snapped.

Most unusually for me I threw my personal thoughts down on the table about managing a home and family; they weren’t appreciated in the least and were summarily annihilated. Despite knowing she was right of course, this time I didn’t fancy just being a sop and continued to argue albeit ridiculous and ultimately pointless points. At some obviously important juncture, I lost my usual restraint. My more logical side was telling me she was right but the other, much stronger side recently, over-rode all the sensibility I might have had left in me. With an uncommon fortitude, I could hear myself proclaiming it was me who wasn’t appreciated, me who had to do a job I hated to put food on the table, me who had to put up with her moods, me who had to keep the kids happy, me who never went out with their friends; me; me; me! My rather lengthy and inarticulate rebuttal ended with the assertion that I should stop doing what I did and perhaps someone might notice what didn’t get done around here. The ridiculous contention fed my now rather over inflated self-importance. Having nowhere else to take the argument I still couldn’t stop the disturbing emotional mudslide which had been set in motion. The ridiculous, nonsensical argument that was now devoid of all logic and the harsh hateful words flying around were becoming almost unintelligible to either of us.

With my body shaking from the adrenalin, it was only an involuntary reaction that made me duck out of the way as, across the width of the kitchen a jug of boiling custard only just removed from the microwave, crashed against the wall behind me. Fortunately, the container was plastic and bounced away although the stinging splashes of its contents snapping my concentration back to reality. My wife wasn’t a violent person so this reaction was as much of a shock for her as was the stellar level that our argument had reached. The distraction of the custard created a natural end to the proceedings and I didn’t make any attempt to stop my aggrieved other half as she barged her way out of the kitchen and up to the solitude of the bedroom.

Listening quietly for a few moments, I couldn’t move; I didn’t know what to do. This had never happened before, this was not the real me, this was not the real her. Despite feeling as wretched as I knew she probably was, there was nothing I could think of that might go some way to putting any of this right. There were footsteps on the stairs.

“I’m going out,” she didn’t give me any chance to reply, “and don’t think I’m clearing that up either.”

I should have stayed quiet but the lingering remnants of the argument just couldn’t allow it.

“Well don’t think I am either, I’m on strike remember.”

I don’t think the words were heard as she stamped out through the front door.

Knowing there was no reason for saying it, to me it sounded far worse than it needed but she was gone. As I listened to her car pull noisily away from the back of the house, I started scraping the congealed mess off the wall, door, floor and tiles; boiling custard at speed goes an awfully long way.

Checking on the boys they were thankfully still fast asleep. There was only the adjustment of teddy bears and pulling up of quilts to do but I stood, as I often did and listened to their slow shallow counterpoint breathing. It was the one terrifying silence that I had always dreaded for no rational reason but, over the eight years which I had been a father, I must have spent hours in the dark just listening to their innocence. My concern satisfied for now, I was rather at a loss for what to do next.

In our bedroom, the unusual disarray of a hasty change of clothing showed the extent of the upset I had caused; my wife didn’t put up with mess. Not wanting to touch any of her stuff and provoke a different set of accusations, I stripped off my day clothes, tucked them out of the way in the laundry basket and went to run a bath.

Since the time of childhood independence had allowed, the bath had been the second most secure place I could rely on. The first, when appropriate, was to disappear out into the solitude of the fields. Things must have been bad now because, as an adult I didn’t do baths. It was not for any health concerns, sitting in your own dirt and all that, I had given them up for the practical purposes of speed and economy.

Waiting for the water to fill, it seemed to take far longer than I remembered. Sitting on the edge of the bath, it had also been a mistake to undress so quickly beforehand. Testing the temperature frequently and waiting impatiently, my already low but rapidly threatening mood wasn’t helped by the inescapable opinions I still held about my body. As if to drive my spirits down further I stood up and looked at the hideous shape in the partially steamed up mirror. The water trickling down the overflow pulled me back from a brink I didn’t need to look over now. With water almost spilling over the top lip of the bath as I slid in, the all-enveloping heat and comfort felt just as it had some twenty years ago, and again, just what I had been looking for at this unpleasant time.

With the silence broken only by the dripping of the hot tap to keep the temperature from sliding away too quickly, the salient points of the argument which had just unfolded drifted back into my head. Not knowing if they were facts, home truths, wild extrapolations, figments of an angry imagination or deliberately harsh, barbed verbal wounding, for once I couldn’t see past what had been said between us.

In the past I had always backed down and dealt with the veracity of things only when there was calm and ordered thought. This time I knew I had said too much. The problem was I had been the most honest with her than I had ever been. I did feel I was unappreciated, I did feel put upon, I did feel something more which I couldn’t, or wouldn’t put into words. The more I reviewed, argued and counter argued the wildly different points and protestations, the more confused and sad I became. The more confused I became the more the memories of other things about my life crept into my head. The more they crept into the equation the greater the disparity between life and happiness seemed to be. The more unhappy I saw myself, the deeper I sank into a type of misery I hoped I would never have to feel again. These feelings had to go. I had to go. I needed to go. Just go. But where to go?

There was nowhere that came into focus through the blur of indefinable images coursing across my mind’s eye although slowly, a veiled realisation floated to the top just as the soft face cloth floated lazily over my, for once, unmolested genitals. The distraction of the item caressing the softness underneath it made me appreciate the quickly cooling bath water. The hot water tank was empty and I had to make a decisive move. It was now or never. It had to be now. It couldn’t be now. It couldn’t be ever. It just had to be.

Unfortunately, the streams of tears flooding down my rather flushed cheeks, were accompanied by wave making sobs from the very depths of my corpulent, now wrinkled mass. With water splashing out over the edge of the bath I had no concern for the kitchen ceiling below it I hauled myself up. The sobs of pain and resentment of myself were cut off like light a light switch as a heavy thump came from the bedroom next door. Silence followed. Perhaps it was just a teddy bear. What I wouldn’t have given for the love of an impartial teddy bear right then.

With the floor already wet, I saw no point in trying to dry myself too circumspectly and did it as quickly as I could. Moving across the landing the chill across damp skin spurred me to dress in the first things my hand touched in the darkness of the bedroom. Putting the lights on would have brought a reality I didn’t want to face; I was used to moving about in the dark, both physically and emotionally.

Once decent, I checked on the boys again. What I thought had been a bear was a toy car which I put safely back at the foot of the upper bunk ready for the morning. The morning, that wasn’t going to be pretty but I wouldn’t be there for it. The thought was too hard to consider and I couldn’t let myself think about it more than I needed to. Instead, I indulged myself with one more lingering pause to check the still gentle even breathing; both OK; both innocent; both perfect.

It was time to go. From the wardrobe in our bedroom, it was just a case of gathering up an arm-full of neatly ironed and ordered shirts, trousers plus a couple of suits, perhaps a tie with luck although I didn’t check the detail of any of the items which came to hand. They all fitted underneath one arm and I stumbled down the stairs, grabbed the keys from the bowl and let myself outside to the car. It was much later than I thought, not that I had considered time much but fortunately everything was quiet in the neighbourhood. The local pubs had already turned out the last of the drinkers and no one else was around to notice my uncharacteristic nocturnal activity. Laying out the bundle of items still on their hangers, they fitted neatly into the large boot space. The lid closed noisily and I looked around expecting the twitching of curtains; there were none I could see. Back in the house, taking a large holdall from the top of the wardrobe, it soon filled with shoes from inside the now eerily one-third empty space and everything from the three small draws next to it. Crammed rather less neatly than I would have liked, the zip was hard to close so I gave up hoping I wouldn’t lose things on the way out. That was my material world. A bag of assorted underwear and jumpers plus a boot half full of irrelevancy. I grabbed a small frame containing a photograph of the boys from the dressing table; it might have been the last time I would ever see them.

The bag also went into the car but on the floor behind the front passenger seat, out of sight but unfortunately not out of mind. Once I had finished all the running up and down, the chill that touched my skin now reached my heart. Was it just my stubborn streak doing its worst or was it a desperate cry for help or just the inevitability of living an unnecessarily complex and unfulfilled life. As I stood in the doorway of the house I still had a soul wrenching need to go upstairs one last time to stand outside the boys’ bedroom. Knowing my resolve would have failed me if I had gone in, I knew I never really wanted not to hear that slight, perfect, low sighing sound of their breathing. The tears rolling down my face were silent this time, but no less acidic.

With an outdoor coat already on and zipped up although it wasn’t cold, the flickering of the real flames in the mock fire were all that gave the tastefully appointed living room any light. Sitting in the simulated heat I was waiting for the sound of a car bumping up over the edge of a curb with the familiar roar of the engine as it drew to a standstill. The clicks of the car door opening and closing were followed by the crunch of small feet over soft grass and then on hard, badly laid, patio stones. Finally, the rasp of a key in the door and the soft swoosh of the draught excluder against the thick carpet signalled the end of the line; I spoke quietly but impersonally.

“I have to go away for a while. I must sort some things out. I’ve left some money in the kitchen, tell the boys I love them, please, but, I need not to be around, I’ll be in touch as soon as I can.” I couldn’t look at her but knew, hoped even, that she was shocked, “I’m sorry.”

There should have been a discussion, there should have been a resolution but I couldn’t allow any time for anything like that to start as I knew I would have caved in to sensibility and conscience. I think I gave her a kiss on her silent cheek but that could have been one of the many visualisations which had formed in my head, in the dim flickering light of the fire as I had waited. Driving off without looking back and being thankful for the quietness of the roads; both my real, and mental vision, was blinded by the salty outpourings from somewhere deep inside me. Selfish, self-serving, self-preserving, self-obsessed, what other self could I be? Shallow. No not shallow, sanctimonious, no. No, that was enough. Face the truth you had abandoned them, you were an absentee father and husband, surely that was enough to cope with for now; but cope you must.

Not wanting to think about the last few hours, my thoughts rather dramatically narrowed to the possibilities of where I wanted, or where I could go now. My parents only lived two miles away but the thought of an inquisition didn’t make that an option. Subconsciously I thought I knew where I would end up although I couldn’t picture exactly what might happen when I got there. It was not to friends in the traditional sense it was not to anyone reliable, it was no-one who could offer any reasonable hope but with luck, I hoped for just practical help.

By the miracle of fortune plus having a mental auto pilot, I slowed the car outside a row of quiet dark houses in a dimly lit street. Other than the sparse amber street lamps and this one car’s brighter but dipped headlights, there was no other illumination to its life at that moment. The deep recesses of the unlit front gardens hid the detritus which lurked behind most of the unkempt hedges. Hoping I had pulled to a halt in relative silence, I took a moment to check all the assumptions I had made I sat and tried to block out the reality and futility of my situation; it didn’t work and I felt terrible.

Eventually, turning the cars lights off and finally the engine, I let the window whir just halfway down, the city’s hum seemed to be suitably distant and was only interrupted by a dull thud of unrecognisable music from somewhere on the other side of the street. With nobody around that I could see, I let the motor wind the window back up to close out the world once more. The thump of the glass fitting into its frame and the door locks closing signalled the last sounds I needed to hear for a while. The seat back reclined a little but certainly not enough to be comfortable; it didn’t matter very much. Trying to keep my eyes closed was impossible and for once my mental boxes didn’t work for me and their contents flowed out in wild chaotic disorder. In the overall confusion, I couldn’t focus on any one thing and must have let myself be overtaken and dragged into a dark silence.

The next thing I remember was a heavy knocking on the passenger window. Glancing wide-eyed at the disturbance, I recognised the slim midriff and shapely forearm that was waiting next to the car. Moving my head too fast had caused a crick in my neck and the pain made me wince and cry out loud. Despite that, I did manage to return the smile from a face which had bobbed down into view at my level.

“Cup of tea?”

Steve was still in his usual early morning dishevelled state but a very welcome and beautiful vision complete with soft welcoming words.

“Come in, you must be freezing,” his observation proved to be true.

Not really knowing what I should do despite the offer of help it took me a little while to summon up the strength to move; the rest of my body protested as much as my neck had. Steve had reached what was left of the garden gate but looked back towards the car. Seeing that I hadn’t made much progress he came back and signalled for me to unlock the door. He sat twisted in sideways. Turning further to look at least partially at me, he seemed conscious of his less than acceptable appearance, perhaps this was just my shallow interpretation; there, I knew I was shallow.

“The rest of them’s still in bed, you can wait in my room if you want, ‘till they’ve all gone?”

It was starting to dawn upon me that, without any prompting, he seemed to understand what might have gone on but perhaps he had a sting of lovelorn strangers turn up in the middle of the night and sit on his doorstep looking lost and pathetic. At that moment, I neither cared nor considered the wider implications.

“Thanks, that would be good, I…,”

He cut me off.

“Let’s just get inside, I’m cold even if you aren’t you big dumb idiot.”

The words of mock abuse felt almost as warm and gentle as his smile.

A milkman passed by in his clanking electric trolley but nothing else moved except the two of us. Without speaking I followed Steve inside the house feeling very self-conscious. My saviour silently indicated that I go up the stairs and to the right. The few times I had been in his house, I had never considered a whole family might live there perhaps it was just to avoid the reality of it all. Steve had gone through to the kitchen at the back, presumably to make the tea he had offered. I went up as instructed.

At the top of the creaking stairs I expected to be greeted by the rest of the clan, a mother and two younger siblings but thankfully, all was quiet. With only one door open it seemed safe to assume that it was Steve’s. Taking a cautious look around the door first, it was empty and as messy as I oddly thought it might be but that didn’t stop me from sitting on the small bed which in comparison to the car was heaven. Soft footsteps padded up the stairs and the door swung open further to allow the two cups of steaming drink to enter with their maker following behind them.

I really hadn’t thought any of this through and it must have shown on my face. The times I had pictured this sort of thing, me, a bed, a boy, now that it was real it was not the delightful thing of fantasy I had hoped for. Taking the cup before he spilled it over me, I bounced along the bed to make room for him to sit down. He didn’t.

“They’ll be up and about soon but you can stay in here, they won’t bother you.”

He had already pushed the door closed behind him with a foot.

“I’ll go and get dressed and see you later,” this was not how my dreams had played out, “have a sleep if you need to, no one will come in if the door’s shut.”

With instructions given he left, his mug still in hand. Again, my face would have given me away but he didn’t see it; how much more pathetic was I going to get. The answer was probably lots more if the truth be known but, it had at least got me another sweet, sympathetic smile.

Alone again but in more comfortable surroundings I had to succumb to the desperate need for some proper sleep; if only to stop me slipping backward and thinking about everything else which I had made happen. Still with my coat on I lay down and curled into the comfortable semblance of a foetus, aware of nothing else within seconds of being horizontal. Although I had been looking forward to the hot tea, it slowly formed a creamy congealed skin as it cooled to room temperature on the corner of the bedside cabinet. The noises of a rising family went completely unnoticed.

With only a slim hold on reality, I could see my hands trying to pull the misty cover of an uninvited awakening back over my head not wanting to face the next hideous thing whatever it was going to be. Go away, go away, go away.

It didn’t work.

My eyes remained tightly closed but from behind them I had listened to the activity both in and out of the house. The impending possibility of someone barging in and finding this stranger in their brother’s or son’s bed had been a good antidote to sleep but eventually it all went very quiet.

“What are you going to do now?”

Steve’s entrance was the one movement I hadn’t registered, but now that I had, his voice was quiet but obviously waiting for an answer of some sort.

“I don’t have a clue, sorry.”

I was thinking, perhaps if I stayed here and was very still all this would go away. Steve was now sitting on the end of the bed. There was a hand resting heavily on my lower leg but only because he didn’t want me to go to sleep until we had sorted out what had, or more what was going to happen next.

More than likely he just wanted me out of his way; I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did. Who was I to him, a punter, a taxi; I just wanted him to be a friend. On the other hand, he had at least taken me in and hidden me away. What was going on here? What was I doing? In my head I could see him pulling me against him with strong smooth welcoming arms; I would hug him back feeling the contours of his firm chest against my much less attractive body, his spiky hair against my cheek, the heat and humour from his body drawing me into beautiful safety. To stop the fantasy meant opening my eyes, it was too bright, too real but once open they wouldn’t be allowed to close again for a while.

With the full reality of his look bearing down on me, he seemed to be rather more serious than I had hoped but what was I expecting.

“I’ve made some more tea, you didn’t drink the last one I see,” he went out and back down the stairs.

By the time I had pulled myself together, slipped my shoes back on and taken my coat off, the cold light of what had happened shone rather uncomfortably in my face. Despite not really wanting to face the world, I made myself go down the stairs where we met in the living room.

“Sit in here, relax, no one’ll be in for a bit.”

Sitting as instructed, Steve joined me with both cups of tea but it didn’t seem this was going to be a very social event.

We had sat together like this several times and I couldn’t help but reach out a hand and rest it on his firm thigh; although this time I was looking for no more than a little of comfort to go with my self-pity.

Going over the events of the previous night but leaving out most of the more sordid and personal details, I left enough in to make the situation clear; well I thought I had anyway. His reaction was to grab my wrist, not so very gently to stop me from stroking his warm, firmly muscled leg; I hadn’t even realised I was doing it. This was obviously more serious than I had calculated and I had the feeling I might have overestimated how much help might be available, if any at all; he confirmed my worst fears.

“I don’t know understand what you want me to do,” he was at least being honest, “what were you hoping for, you can’t think of staying here!”

“No, of course not, I…”

I didn’t have an answer and I removed my hand from his grip to make some sort of a point of my own.

There was no answer. This was not going well and resolve crumbled again and the tears flowed and not so silently this time.

“No, don’t, this is no good, you big bloody idiot, come here you flippin’ nut job,” it wasn’t quite how I had hoped it would come about but I took the strong embrace without question, “let’s just drink this tea and see what we can come up with, eh? Pillock.”

With the few moments of warm comfort managing to calm the first flood, although I lingered just a little longer than I needed to, my hands started to move but it was more just habit and under these circumstances, thoughts of anything more were certainly and genuinely off the table. He must have misinterpreted my movement and although I tried to pretend I was just trying to get comfortable, he thought I was making a move. It seemed I wasn’t going to get anything right today. He pulled away and looked rather moody.

“I haven’t been in long so I need to go to bed,” he gave me an obvious look, “to sleep! You can stay down here if you like, mum will be back at lunch time so it might be an idea not to here.”

He de-tangled himself further and stood up.

“Do what you want, more tea, more sleep.”

I looked pathetically up at him and although he was scowling down at me and shaking his head; he still moved me.

“I’ll catch you later.” he offered no further suggestions, arrangements, or any glimmer of hope.

“Yes, great, I’m sorry I’m taking advantage, I just didn’t know what…”

“Enough, you don’t have to, let’s just leave it for now, you get yourself together and I’ll speak to you later,” I could tell I had almost gone too far, “let yourself out if you need to if I’m not up.”

He lent down and planted a kiss rather heavily on my forehead and was gone. His footsteps went noisily up the stairs, moved about a bit, and padded back down again. My brain immediately took it as a change of heart but the bundle of pillows and a thick tartan blanket soon squashed that idea; I wasn’t too surprised. Without further comment but at least a proper lingering kiss this time, he disappeared again. Not knowing if I should stay or go, I exchanged the last half of the tea for a long drink of cold water from the kitchen but it did nothing to help my decision making. An involuntary sigh said it all; I really hadn’t thought this through at all had I?

Needing the bathroom but not wanting to seem needier than I already had, I waited for about fifteen minutes. The blanket felt warm laid over my knees and when there was no more sound of movement from upstairs I crept up. After using the facilities, I couldn’t help standing outside the closed door, just to listen. From inside there was a gentle but deep note of snoring, what I wouldn’t have given to be able to go in and pull the duvet up over his shoulders, fondle the perfect curve of his head and stroke a kiss onto that soft downy cheek. The correlation of what I had done the previous night, just before I had abandoned my children shot through me with terrifying pain. There were so many disparate levels to all this madness, hideous images in every one, good, bad, perverse, horrible, emotional, they tumbled and overlaid themselves so I couldn’t make any sense of any one of them. Running down the stairs missing one or two on the way, I grabbed my coat from the front room and crashed noisily out of the front door.

Once in the car, one half of me wanted to hear a knock on the window to rescue me again, the other was telling me to just get out of there. It was obvious I couldn’t be trusted to do anything sensible as my just being there had shown. One last glance at the faceless upstairs window flashed me the image of what was behind it, what I wanted it to be, what would never be. The car moving off had made the image slide away but a beep of a horn from someone who was overtaking snapped me back to the moment. Checking the mirrors properly, a degree of concentration returned.

In my head the image of the three of them back at my former home this morning was too hard to look at. The boys looking for their dad and their breakfast, not necessarily in that order, their mother not able to cope, angry, tired, confused, it was too hard to think about, too hard to acknowledge just, too hard. Taking the coward’s way out, they were all quickly locked away in the deepest box I could find, the depth only exaggerating the shallowness of the feelings which were left behind.

Chapter Twenty Three ~ one of those costs

Although home life had fallen to a mixture of niceties and rather brief impersonal meetings, on the surface it was all relatively civilised but the recent dramatic developments had triggered another level of disinterest. The desire I felt was more fear than I wanted to admit to. The drive home for dropping the boys off that day was slow and stinted, prolonged by calling at the local shop for a treat for the kids to find the next morning; anything to make the excuse not to get back at all

I was trying to convince myself that if I did my bit providing us with money, my wife always had the kids well dressed, there was always food on the table, our home was always a clean and tidy place to live in. She bought all the glamour and the home making together into one very acceptable package; unless you are a fixated, deprived gay man living a straight man’s life that is. It was this guilt and confusion which kept my employment a priority; I didn’t want to let any of them down again unless I really had to. Underneath it all, I was getting to feel increasingly like a convenient pay packet which babysat whenever he had to. Even my love for the kids and an ingrained disposition for the appearance of ‘normality’, I knew I was slipping further and further away from them day by day.

Trying to live a decent life but knowing I was quickly failing, by having juggled all the balls of everyday life but now adding to them with more secret and invisible ones; it was only a matter of time before I was bound to start dropping one or all of them. This latest boy shaped ball was both perfect and as beautiful as it could be but it was much larger, heavier and so more influential on the day-to-day balancing act.

In a crazy twist in the fabric of reality it eventually felt as if things had started to somehow meld into a better pattern of life. My general mood was slightly more elevated, my over compensation for the more illicit activities showed, by being more attentive, more appreciative, perhaps even too much so at times. With careful if dubious management, I kept a work, home, personal life balance, still precariously but it seemed to be OK.

Living this life of fairy dust and fantasy I would swing round to look for any of the working boys once, perhaps twice a week or even more often if I could engineer it. Sex was not always on the menu and perversely it was not always what I was after. What I took was comfort from was the companionship and the thrill of it all; being thirteen years older than the oldest of the two usual protagonists just didn’t seem to matter. For the short times we spend together, I could feel the same age as they were so what was there not to like? Although the reality went unacknowledged, I did know what was happening. I was an easy target for transport, for treats, I wasn’t too pushy for physical fun, in fact, the perfect stooge. Despite all this, who was going to admit to being a patsy when you could be out with and, be seen to be out with the staggering beauty of either boys; or more often and better still, both together? I don’t admit to that lightly as I found myself in the sort of heaven I had dreamt of since my first wet dream all those many years before; I unconsciously decided I wasn’t going to give any of it up lightly. An incident made me think more realistically; just a little anyway.

Since the use of the car phone had been questioned, I had taken far more care about how and when I isolated myself, choosing often to ignore the thing rather than switching it off; explaining that away was marginally easier to do. One unsuspecting day, after the device had rung three times in close succession, I thought it prudent to take the next call; no caller ID in those days of course. It was one of the sales office girls.

“What have you been up to?”

Not understanding her context, I didn’t answer but she continued anyway.

“You need to go to Steel House Lane police station; they want a word about something.”

Having already created a few stock answers for various scenarios, unfortunately none of them seemed appropriate for this one but, I did manage to mumble some inane comment to put her off the attempted inquisition.

“You have to ask for DS Christianson, he didn’t say what it was about.”

She tried her best to dig some dirt but I cut her off with another nondescript curt reply. As I was in town anyway I would go straight away, my nerves wouldn’t have stood any prolonged delay. Steve had sat quietly next to me but wasn’t very happy at the thought of either being turned out of the car or going along to the station with me. We had been in the middle of the very important discussion of what colour he should dye his quiff for the weekend. Of course, I loved the blonde but he wanted to go with a shocking pink; I let him win the argument just so he would get out of the car. His victory allowed me a ‘farewell for now’ kiss so I didn’t really mind.

Managing to park near the police station, I went rather nervously into the reception. My enquiry taken, I was asked to wait. I sat. I waited. With this rather uncomfortable time to think, it made me realise I had been asked to see a DS, a Detective Sergeant, this was perhaps no small thing. It wasn’t. After answering to my name being called, I was ushered through a heavy door and into the offices we proceeded silently through to an interview room. Blank grey windowless walls, utilitarian furniture the twin tape recorders. It was just like it was on the TV and now I was nervous.

After formally identifying himself by showing me his warrant card, I nodded my acknowledgement and took up his invitation to sit.

“Just a few routine questions Mr,” his blank face gave nothing away during the slight pause as he glanced down, “Rollason, you aren’t under arrest or anything, yet” a flash of a tiny smile was, to show he was joking; I hope.

The tape recorder remained switched off but I was sure the camera high up in the corner was taking everything in.

“Are you the driver of a maroon Peugeot registration number…”

He reeled it off and waited for my ostensibly unnecessary confirmation.

“It’s registered to a lease company and they gave us the details of your employer,” he paused again perhaps for greater effect, “would you say this information is correct?”

Hoping he would get to the point sooner rather than late I answered his question perhaps just a little too curtly; he frowned.

“The car was seen in Station Street, here in the city centre on,” he referred to a printed piece of paper and read out the times and the days, three of them in all, “would it be you who was driving at these times?”

There was nowhere to go other than to the truth.

“I am the only one that drives the car so yes, it must have been me, I don’t recall the specific times.”

Neat and factual might hopefully save the day. He continued.

“I didn’t see the car personally of course but it has been reported to us by the CCTV operators from the control centre. They didn’t see the face of the driver but, you’ve cleared that bit up for us at least.”

He was nothing if unambiguous.

“It probably was me yes, I work in and out of the city at all sorts of times for this and that to do with my job.”

Stop now, shut up, enough said.

“The car, your car, was actually flagged up because you seemed to be driving round and round the same area for no obvious reason. Can you help us out with anything here?”

He leant back with a rather smug look on his face, as if he already knew the answer he hoped I was now going to confirm.

“Like I said, I’m in and out of the city for all sorts of reasons, I’m in sales, I don’t recall those specific incidents.”

It was at least superficially true.

“Do you know the area well?” He didn’t give me time to answer. “It does have an unfortunate reputation if you didn’t, do you know anything about that?”

My thought was, why not just tell me what you are going to go on about.

“No not really,” I played his game.

“They call it the ‘meat rack’.”

Just who ‘they’ were is one of the age-old questions but the point was not important, all I hoped was that I had managed to keep my look of blank ignorance.

“We are actively trying to reduce illicit and illegal activity around there,” now, at last he was getting to it, “it’s a favourite haunt for prostitutes, mainly male prostitutes.”

He allowed himself another dramatic pause, I didn’t react; I hoped not anyway.

“Sorry I didn’t know, perhaps I should be more careful, I can’t say I’d noticed anything, not that I was looking, there’s often too many cars to notice anything anyway.”

Again my brain told me to shut up and stop digging a hole for myself.

“I’m sure you don’t but there are plenty that do, I’m just trying to prevent any more trouble, more than there is already that is.”

He had made his point and now we both knew the score.

“We’re increasing this more preventative work all over the city and this is just to let you and others like you know how we are trying to help the community…”

His prepared speech went on for a little longer although I was distracted by the ‘like you’ part. The inference which counted me in a certain category of citizen had probably showed on my face. His rather crooked unattractive smile confirmed it. I had waited for a suitable pause before interrupting him.

“Thank you, sergeant.”

“Detective Sergeant,” by the tone of his voice he hadn’t appreciated my misrepresentation.

Closing the folder, he had been referring to rather too dramatically, I knew I had pushed my luck and grovelled a little to soothe his ego and change the subject; I managed to get shown out of the building without further incident knowing my card had been well and truly marked.

Thinking it might be prudent to go back to the office, if only to show I hadn’t been arrested, I managed to think up some cover story which sounded plausible; driving incident, traffic lights, something simple, memorable, I forget it now. On arrival I was called straight into the boss’s office before I could share my prefabricated tale of woe with anyone else. The story seemed to satisfy him much easier than I had expected although there was a crisis of non-delivery of goods to Leicester that seemed to be more important, thankfully and I grabbed the paperwork with only a fleeting explanation to some of the others. Once in the car and safe, the drive was long enough to calm my nerves and give me time to think of alternative plans for my boys, my other boys, my rent boys.

Chapter Twenty Two ~ what cost for sex?

Still doing just enough to keep the employment and domestic roofs from caving in on me, I inevitably reverted to doing things I knew were more productive, more satisfying, if only in very small ways. By parking up and watching people, trawling shopping centres, building on past experiences, finding new ones, if nothing else, it made the hours heave themselves past each other marginally quicker than before. While questioning myself, as I did constantly for why I continued to do all this and although I knew I was being self-evasive and deliberately contradictory, I could always manage to come up with any number of good reasons not to stop.

Unfortunately, amongst all this pointless activity, my remaining confidence and sensibility failed in their arguments which only left my deeper and as yet unstructured desires sated by increasingly diverse and questionable experimentation. It seemed to be better than nothing. Reality finally faded and I convinced myself that there might be a way of not having to go back to Kansas after all and when I was down at one of my lowest points, the yellow brick road I was following one day had a group of three rather attractive characters standing on the side of it.

On any mundane week day, once I had done some form of work or as little as I could get away with, it was getting to be a regular practice for me to drive around the city centre streets rather than disappear to the solitude of the countryside. It was partly to pass the time, partly to see if I could spot anyone I might have met up with before, partly to try anything that might defer the growing sense of depression I was feeling. Parking and walking about had become too time consuming for only a limited or more often, no reward. Driving was at least less depressing and far easier to make an escape if I had to. My eyes were well trained to both watch the traffic and scan the passing crowds for any potential prospects or just some eye candy. For three obvious reasons this day was different.

The gang certainly stood out from the crowd. They seemed to take note of my car with a furtive glance, but I was driving slower than most of the other traffic. Having noted the small and very fleeting event, not really understanding its implications, I drove round the block again. They were still there and now that I was paying more attention I could see they were sharp, confident, and very beautiful. Although they didn’t seem to be looking directly at me, they did react as I got closer. While appearing to be chatting about something to the others, one of them stepped to the edge of the pavement. This is the point where I should have driven off of course, but history has me doing anything but the right thing; this was no different. Pressing the button to slide the window down as I slowed, still thinking such a thing was a luxury I needed to show it off, I pulled the car to a halt as he waved a small, shy, discrete, but elegant hand at me. Once I had stopped he leaned down and flashed a wide smile which lit up his classical but naturally deeply tanned features. In reply I just smiled back and fiddled with the gear stick, if he was waiting for me to say or do something he would be waiting a long time.

It wasn’t that I had no enthusiasm, I had stopped after all, it was simply that I didn’t know what I was expected to do next. Obviously, I knew what was going on but having to admit it to myself was different. Things like this didn’t happen to me and this was now far too real. There was obviously a spark from my side anyway as he fitted my preference in almost every category as did the others for that matter if not to quite the same degree; my stomach turned over as I knew I was simply out of my depth. Up to now it had been easy to pretend to be shopping where any specific contact could be shrugged off as a simple mistake. Here there was only the one way out and I knew I wasn’t going to press the accelerator and drive off. Would this be my undoing, could this be the start of something new, could this be something fantastic, was this a bad idea?

The conversation, if there ever was one, was short and most likely sweet although I don’t remember the detail. However, we were soon driving off. The tall, slim, very attractive passenger had settled easily into the seat beside me and within seconds, not even minute’s, a degree of common sense had kicked in and I admitted to myself that I had just picked up a prostitute; a rent boy; in the middle of the afternoon; in broad daylight; right there in the busy city centre. The admission came as rather a shock. My dream was being made real but I still didn’t understand or appreciate what was happening. Perhaps it was all a mistake, they hadn’t worn badges or stood under a neon sign, it was all too late now. My desire took over and flushed any doubts away. I really didn’t want to stop it; whatever ‘it’ was.

He must have been used to people like me; people who were so obviously new to this sort of thing; People like me who were obviously paying for company, potentially paying for sex. Was I going to have sex with a professional guy? My brain couldn’t cope and almost switched off. Automatically following his directions hoping it looked as if this was all very normal and my tingling nerves weren’t going to give too much away. Strangely I do remember thinking, why hadn’t the other one stepped over, he was slightly more attractive in several ways but I didn’t know you had some choice in these matters. Despite this fleeting disappointment, the images in my head confirmed the reality of what might be about to happen.

Way in the background part of me was screaming, what are you doing but any line has been well and truly crossed now. It was the weakest of my resolves but the strongest of my addictions which proved to be responsible for not stopping the car and putting the beautiful creature back out onto the street as I should have done.

Without any encouragement, my outward senses were taking in the chatter, the compliments and the very specific directions of where I was to drive. What was left of my inner sensibility was eventually squashed down and ‘safely’ out of the way; this was going to happen whatever I told myself. A line had been crossed, that was true but, what use was there in having a line if you didn’t know what was on the other side of it to make an informed judgement? Any other dalliances had always been initiated by the other person, the difference with this unfolding escapade was that I had made the conscious decision to stop the car; it was time to stop kidding myself. The realities of the moment overtook the pointless psychological meandering and admonishment as we had pulled into an almost empty temporary car park not far out of the immediate city centre. It was just an open piece of unused building land and I questioned its validity for a second or two but, it was close, it was free, it was quiet; it was valid. Choosing the furthest and most deserted corner as instructed, I parked up and waited, still not knowing what was going to happen next.

Not having the distraction of driving, my nerves were starting to take over but it seemed I didn’t have to worry as he was the businessman here after all. A brief discussion took place and his cool and calculated patter was obviously well practised. Things were worded to disguise the fact that there was a menu of sorts to pick from. Like a good waiter would do, he quizzed me for what I liked, what I wanted to do, what he didn’t do and systematically, all aspects of the transaction were neatly covered. Despite this efficiency, I don’t recall making any precise choices but from my hums, nods, and nervous coughs he seemed to have worked out what I might be happy with. Looking back, I can’t think how pathetic it must have seemed perhaps that was how all we ‘punters’ acted, who knew; who needed to know.

Having at least negotiated something, the event played itself out with very little input from me not that it was anything but wonderful but somehow, it was just not how I had allowed myself to imagine it could be. The transaction over but still feeling slightly confused, my offer of a lift back to town was accepted. Although we were within walking distance it seemed only polite to offer; didn’t it? Part of my confusion wanted a chance to see the others again anyway; why, I had no idea. My vigour was spent for the rest of the day in many ways, but I could still window shop; couldn’t I? On our quiet return, the better looking one wasn’t there but as my companion got out of the car, a friendly squeeze of my still sensitive lower regions took away some of the disappointment.

If there was a time I was glad of my separation techniques, it was from then on. Although I knew I was being unfair to everyone else in my life, for the first time in a long time, I felt as if there was just a little something in this crazy mixed up world which was there, for me; just for me.

After that short but momentous incident, I should have been a little better to live with although, that may only have been a large slice of self-justification on my part. The unfortunate consequence of such a tiny piece of happiness was the life boat now had a bit bigger hole than it had before and was taking on water fast. Nothing was going to stop me from going back to the same stretch of street the next day.

There was no one there. Why should there have been? My life didn’t work like that. Although I had only been buying what could be loosely considered a commodity, it wasn’t a shop in the conventional sense. In the end, I just drove out of the city and took a very long detour to waste the time I had allocated for the possibility. The let down and the harsh reality check, made me avoid going back for if I could cope with. At work, I was even less in the mood.  With family, I couldn’t risk breaking the vague pattern I had established. With increasingly sombre moods I knew I couldn’t risk telling anyone why I was feeling this way; I was more alone than ever.

Several days later I had to pass down the ill-fated street anyway, on some sort of legitimate work business. Now they were there but when I didn’t really have the time. It seemed this didn’t matter.

For some mad, thoughtless reason I piped the horn and waved as I passed; that was a mistake. Everyone on the pavement seemed to turn their heads in unison to look. In truth, there were only a couple of pedestrians and no one seemed to be bothered, it was only my imagination which had created the hint of drama. Unfortunately, because my over enthusiasm, the looks on the two painfully attractive faces told me the intrusion was not welcome. One quick fumble in a car park and I thought I was top of the shop, how much more stupid was I going to get. Another horn sounded and stopped me from crashing my car but only with the help of a rather dramatic swerve out of its way. With my head lowered, although now much too late, I drove on embarrassed out of the immediate area to relative safety. Obviously, I had a lot to learn.

Letting the rush hour pass while I ate a consolation portion of chips, my curiosity decided I should see if my earlier escapade had messed up whatever it was I thought I knew. Knowing I should have just gone away, nothing was going to stop me in this new world of possibilities. The rest of the world would just have to wait.

Much to my surprise, but also to my delight, the two boys were both still there and now with another, if slightly less interesting character. My escort of the previous time was just getting out of a stationary car having presumably done some business. It sadly emphasised the reality of the situation but, it certainly didn’t put me off. I waited. The other one, yes definitely the more attractive, or was he, I couldn’t decide now, anyway he must have recognised the car but signalled discreetly for me to drive on which I did without any further thought, my heart sank; I didn’t like rejection.

Taking a lingering look back through the mirror, I thought I saw him signal something else but it was all in reverse and I couldn’t be sure; desperation was starting to set in again. The car, my car, went around the block but cut down a one-way street to make it that little bit quicker to get back to the main point of interest. It was a dark narrow street and despite there only being space for one car at a time, there was almost another crash. Swerving almost involuntarily, I managed not to hit the figure which had stepped out in front of me, the anti-lock brakes thankfully stopped the car dead. The person I had been busy looking for was now smiling at me; if a little nervously. With one hand on the bonnet and the other melodramatically gripping his chest, his friend also joined in the mockery as they both jumped into the car; yes, into my car. Another vehicle had pulled up behind and was beeping his horn trying to get through, my concentration on getting out of the way quashed the obvious question of exactly what the passengers were expecting from this unexpected intervention.

My first thought was I was going to have trouble. Given my earlier faux pas and now this near running over, their mood was hard to judge. Thankfully they were both laughing about it and gesticulating in rather base terms for the other vehicle and its occupant. The good-looking one I had been with before had got into the back, the other one and the one I had fancied rather more, was in the front. Now, right up close to both, I couldn’t make up my mind; the questions flooded. Which was the better looking? What was I doing here? Why was I even thinking about them like this? Were they just commodities? Why not? They were, weren’t they? What had I sunk to?

While my mind was grappling with these weighty matters, I swept the car out to find a rather quieter place, quieter for my head at least so all the sensible questions could be locked back into their little boxes; there was no time for realistic nonsense now. The real world could go to hell and wait.

In a suitably quiet side road under direction I pulled to a halt. We all looked at each other; the obvious physical attraction they presented made it so I couldn’t concentrate to tell from just their faces what they were expecting. The number one boy spoke.

“If you give Paul a lift somewhere I would be very,” he paused, glanced down to my lap and slowly back up again, “very grateful.”

Knowing what his friend Paul was capable of, I was easily convinced and was certainly not going to say no but, his best ‘please please’ smile and seductively tilted head melted any remnants of my already fragile will.

With two all too perfectly formed young men plus a little knowledge of what they can do, together with a total lack of will power on my part, what else was I going to do but comply?

“I suppose so.”

My mock intolerance was deliberately measured to be seen straight through although in truth, just at that point I would have said yes to anything they might have suggested.

Knowing I should have been nervous of something, although finding I wasn’t, we drove away from the city centre and ended up in an area I knew quite well and I tried to take more notice of what they were saying between themselves. Not wanting to be part of it necessarily, it was more that I might have some warning of any other surprises they might spring. As it turned out, in between the rather intermittent directions, the two of them were only making plans for the rest of their evening; where to drink, where to pick up some other punters and which clubs to go to. In the confines and complexities of this new experience, most of it was a mystery to me.

The one in the back, Paul, asked me to pull up outside the house with the blue gate. He put his fine long fingered hand gently onto my shoulder and squeezed it intimately, as I had experienced before. It was both strange but all very natural at the same time, as if we knew each well and, to be perfectly honest, it was hard to remember that we didn’t. He released his grip, opened the car door, and swung his long, tightly trousered legs out onto the pavement. I caught the curve of his perfectly formed buttocks in my peripheral vision and I think I uttered a quiet sigh. Although I hoped it had been silent, as he popped his head back into the car he was wearing his most glorious smile.

“Thanks…” he paused, obviously looking for some sort of help, I filled in the blank.

“David.”

He nodded; apparently, it was OK to have names now.

“Perhaps I’ll see you around?”

I could tell he was only being polite but it still felt special. Madness, it was absolute madness. The voice in my head was fighting to be heard; I mentally pushed it out of the way and turned to the other passenger. Over his shoulder although I still managed to watch Paul swing his hips along the ill laid slabs of the paving towards a row of houses. Managing to multi task, only just, I spoke but rather rudely didn’t look at the remaining vision of beauty

“Where to now?”

I had easily assumed the role of mock chauffeur and he stroked and squeezed my thigh to show his appreciation although the gesture seemed to be the standard thing to do as a sign of gratitude; I still enjoyed it.

Following more directions, we ended up back on the outskirts of the city centre but he manoeuvred us into another remote car park, a multi storey layout this time. Having an idea of what might be going to happen I also knew I had no money on me; not enough for anything more than a cup of coffee anyway. Pointing this out to save any embarrassment later, he said it was OK, he didn’t drink coffee anyway and suggested I drive all the way up to the top level. As we swayed from side to side round the tight turns of the ramping he added the practical comment that it was free parking at this time of night; beautiful and thoughtful what more could you ask.

Parking up on the empty level, with the engine off, I half turned in my seat expecting the negotiation for whatever it was he had in mind. It was more than a surprise when he started to ask some personal questions, about me rather than just my sexual preferences. Even someone as dim and inexperienced as me knew this wasn’t the way things worked. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable enough to give out my life story to an almost complete stranger and said so. With what seemed to be a genuine and sincere edge to his apology, we started the conversation again.

He told me about himself this time although I had no idea if what he was saying was true or not. How could I? Why should I? It was probably no more than a sob story anyway. Filtering his words through my mental sieves some of it was but I couldn’t help reacting rather sympathetically to his situation. He was yet to know anything about my, let’s call them proclivities but when I reached up and touched his tightly cropped hair, he stopped talking, seeming to understand the compassionate gesture I was making. To be honest I had wanted to touch him since I had seen him the first time and it felt just as I had imagined it would have done; beautiful.

Crowning this expertly crafted tapered cropped style was a defiantly bleached and sculptured ‘Tin Tin’ style quiff, tight up on his forehead; it was this beacon of blonde who had set him apart from the others in the first place. Skilfully gelled into its elegant curving shape, once I had plucked up the courage to slide my fingers into it, I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was firm but pleasant to the touch. As I received no adverse reaction let it sprung back to its cartoon elegance as I teased at it again. As he still didn’t offer any complaint, I increased the range of my stroking to the firm but shapely curve at the back of his head and down to a strong but softly contoured neck. This was too good to be true but what all this indulgence was going to cost me I had no idea.

A set of headlights were swinging round and up the ramp behind us and the spell was broken as I glanced back in concern, they shone glaringly through the car and I quickly removed my hand and started to panic. There were few reasons I could think of for being here with someone like him. Seeing my concern, I received some appropriate but now forgotten words of calm, accompanied by more comforting touches to my leg and groin. The vehicle behind us moved on without pause but the delicious moment was lost.

Looking round the car for some invisible thing, the car’s clock showed we had been there perhaps too long now. With the other car gone, neither of us seemed to know what to do next although, I reluctantly forbade my hand to return to the previous comfortable activity.

“If you give me a lift home we can call it quits.”

His neat but cheeky smile delivered up a pair of dimples and gave away his mocking calculation of the cost for my obvious appreciation of his beauty.

“Ye, right, like this is not going to cost me.”

My reply was tinged with the same joking tone as he wasn’t going to get away with everything, OK most things but not everything.

Straightening myself out and trying to adjust the remaining pressure in my trousers, I finally drove out of the parking area. Steve waved and blew an exaggerated kiss at the security guard who sat in the small kiosk and commented that it paid to keep some people sweet just for times like this. My imagination drew me a picture of what we might enact another time.

The sparse traffic on the road outside only needed a small degree of concentration and it didn’t stop me sneaking the odd sideways glance at the delicate profile next to me, its cartoon flick of hair silhouetted against the street lighting. Pulling up outside a house when instructed, I had been desperately trying to remember my way through the many twists and turns of an estate that I didn’t know, in an area I had always managed to avoid. Looking at the darkened row of houses his story about his home life seemed to be truer than I had given him credit for, the warm waters of my sympathy flooded back in.

“Will I see you again?”

I blurted out the carefully rehearsed phrase, but as I listened to the words stumble out I was sure it had seemed so much more sophisticated in my head.

“I’m generally around so, yes,” I assumed he was referring to his being in town which must have shown as disappointment, “if you are as well sometime, that might be nice.”

“Oh,” I didn’t want to sound surprised although I was, “OK that could be good, thanks.”

A feeling of desperation was flooding through me but I think I managed to keep it under control. What had I been expecting? Who did I think I was? So many other questions only all I got was a rushing, gushing sound in my ears. Realising it was neither a firm arrangement nor a confirmation of an undying love, nor anything other than a pleasantry it was difficult to take anything more the simple reality of the comment. Not wanting to spoil things just yet, the matter was left without further resolution.

Steve left to walk up the path and as I moved the car away, I was trying to see if he was looking back at me or not while at the same time somehow desperate to find my way out of the maze of both roads and emotions. In the rear view mirror, I was rewarded with a wave but, he was gone.

At that moment, I realised I hadn’t paid anywhere near enough attention to the way I had come in. Several streets later I recognised a clock tower on the horizon and meandered my way towards it.

Back on familiar territory, the next twenty minutes’ drive were spent trying to work out a reasonable cover story for going missing; yet again. It was the office I had to convince on this occasion and fortunately, it was well past office hours as I pulled into the empty car park and got myself into the complex through the coded lock. With some orders and other paperwork to drop off and some parts to pick up, I knew I should be in and out before the night shift noticed me. The sales office was in virtual darkness as I fumbled around the desks.

“What’s up with your car phone?”

The seemingly disembodied voice made me jump out of my skin.

“It’s not just for show you know and you’re supposed to answer it when I need to get hold of you.”

It was my boss although all I could see through the frosted glass was the light of his lonely desk lamp.

“Sorry, it hasn’t rung all day, I was in and out of the car anyway but I didn’t see any missed calls.”

The lies which rolled out of me scared me as much as I hoped they confused him.

Knowing I was waffling, what I was saying was partly true, the car phone hadn’t rung but being switched off was probably the reason for that.

“The switch is a bit tricky sometimes, you can knock it off without noticing….,” he cut me off as I think he knew of my attempted deception.

“If it’s faulty let me know tomorrow. We need to have…”

As I wasn’t near to the office, and this conversation had gone on long enough, mentally I had already cut him off. Without either of us actually seeing each other, I had manoeuvred myself silently towards the door and now made my voice quieter to simulate distance.

“Sorry, what? I have to go, I’m late for the missus.”

I heard the door click to behind me before another pointed comment could catch me out again. The inevitable breakdown of employer/employee relations was only a matter of time but please, please, not just yet.

 

 

Chapter Twenty One ~ just one nightmare after another

This self-destructive side of my voyeurism had started to come to a head when we took on our shop, about four years after getting married. When I say we and our, it was my idea and ultimately my problem. My wife had out family to cope with although they were young boys at that point. Why we had taken it all on, the shop that is, I will never properly understand; or perhaps admit to. Having bought our first house extraordinarily advantageously from a work colleague, we had been fortunate to take yet further advantage from one of the housing booms of the time where its value nearly tripled in only a few years. It was on the cards I was about to lose my job yet again so we sold up, took the cash, and ran for the hills. It was laughable how the last three prospective buyers were adding thousands of pounds at a time to secure it. It was like the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel, one of them even brought his fish round in a big tub along with his spade to start digging a pond for them without even having agreed to sell; you had to laugh.

The shop had nice accommodation over it although the Indian restaurant next door was a regular problem in the unsociable hours they kept. It was a bonus for some good food. What was my problem? With it being only a relatively small town and despite my knowing a lot of the customers, there was never enough business to justify the shops existence in the first place. If we had needed to produce a business plan for any kind of finance it would never had happened but, I had a pocket full of cash, thousands as it happens and so there we were installed and instantly failing. The new problem was that the business was not exactly running me off my feet which should have told me something. Between serving the little old ladies to their knitting wool and knicker elastic, I had just too much time on my hands for it to end happily. The whole business of running a business went over my head, despite being brought up in the very heart of our family firm; this one and me were doomed to failure.

Inevitably I allowed myself to be sucked into watching the regular parade of people who passed the large display window. The people I was interested in would have never come in the shop they were too busy discussing their school homework or a game of football or the more likely the latest pop gossip and girlfriends. However, my observations were not all lavatorial, I did try to create some scientific interest in my unsuspecting audience; honestly.

For some reason, I had always found the degree of care and attention young people give to their appearance, their hair is directly connected to their financial circumstances. Here in the cosy affluent town there was enough money to make it a depressingly accurate phenomenon. ‘On trend’ I think would describe it perfectly and I lapped every sculpted and shaved head of boy’s hair.

Just as an aside, my almost pathological fascination with hair wasn’t helped by having started to lose my own in my early twenties, as many of my family members had. My disappointment was constantly fed by other people’s good fortunes, to a point where I often started to feel physically ill when presented with certain cuts, colours, or styles. The most dramatic demonstration of this happened one day while I was out shopping fortunately where we lived. Although I would be constantly looking for suitable individuals to secretly leer at, I found myself taken completely by surprise by an innocent but rather blessed university student. The taste of rising bile and heart-gripping panic had me rushing for the nearest waste bin to vomit in. It was all rather embarrassing but no one could have any idea of the singular madness.

This mental abuse extended to more personal physical attributes. The problem had a name of course, I know it now but that was no good to me back then; body dysmorphia. Who was ever going to take me seriously? Who had even heard of it? If it wasn’t the constant parade of beauty it was the horror which I saw each time I undressed and ungenerously compared myself to society in general. At times, it seemed to be a lost cause and yet at the very same time, I could perfectly understand what I was doing to my self-esteem and confidence. Knowing all this didn’t seem to help one tiny bit. The more furtively depressed and socially distant I became, the more I felt I needed to feed the hunger of the low points which inevitably manifested themselves. To cope I pushed the feelings right to a hard and rocky bottom, it was only then I could look for a way of climbing back out of these pits of despair.

My general lack of focus meant the shop was always going to fail. With both the arrogance and ignorance I had built up, the endeavour reached a critical point after about three years although I managed to drag it tortuously and secretly out for a few months longer than it should have. Not asking for help, not wanting to ask for help, not knowing what I wanted, all was eventually lost. The money from the original house sale was gone and I was forced to sell the remainder of the lease. The sale managed to cover the debts but with only a relatively small amount left, not enough to start buying another house certainly and I had to make my still very young family homeless, literally homeless.

On the day of the sale, I stood on the doorstep to the flat, waving one son off to school with the other having breakfast upstairs. Handing over the keys of the shop to the new owners’ I could only wait for a council representative to turn up with whatever the alternative emergency accommodation was going to be for us all that night. Fortunately, and certainly with more luck than judgement, we were not put out on the street but only because we had small children; one with his severe medical condition. It was the closest I had ever been to making anyone sleep huddled in a doorway; ineptitude was a difficult thing to accept.

Although at the time I was in yet another total state of panic, you might never have known it on the outside; stubborn to the very last. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as it might have been in the end as I had received a set of keys for a new house and had also managed to secure the flat for a further week from the new tenants who didn’t want to live there. This good fortune gave me time to sort out the very nice two-bedroom house only just around the corner; I couldn’t believe my luck. Everyone hadn’t received my elation well as you can imagine, and I was not the most popular person in our family but, ‘Mr Fix-it’ had scrapped through once more; just about anyway. It had other costs though, inside my selfish personal bubble I had reached an almost all time low point and the future for us all was as clear as mud.

My priority was to try to get something sorted out for the boys and their mother and this urgent appeal managed to keep me afloat. From that point on I didn’t see myself in the family picture not because I had succumbed to any alternative lifestyle yet, I had just given up on almost everything; including myself. There were no excuses out my many disparate worlds had started to collide with each other and I didn’t know what to do about any of them.

Under the pressures of failing at something so publicly plus the secret egocentric inner turmoil, I had no idea how to handle things as they all came together in one terrifying week. The only redeeming feature was the amount of work I had to do to get the house ready to be occupied. To cope I literally switched off everything but my decorating and DIY skills, thankfully, everything else went on in some dissociated remote place.

As it turned out, the house was very good, small but enough and more than I could have expected; under the circumstances anyway. The council had stripped it to the bare walls from the last tenant so I spent seven days, papering, painting, plastering, coving, plumbing, tiling and even more painting. With carpets and curtains fitted but with most of the money gone, I could move my family in.

With the inside habitable I managed to keep myself out-of-the-way in the wilderness of the garden for most of the remaining time. Even after making the jungle into an accessible play area and putting in a huge patio to play on, inside, a new central heating system, mock ‘real’ fire and almost everything else my slightly less vexed wife wanted, I knew I was still on probation in the very sticky area of our marriage.

She, of course was the driving force for all this change. She always wanted to add this and that, inside and out and, as always, she got what she wanted. What she didn’t get was a husband. Despite of, or because of my own problems I had managed to lose her that small comfort; perhaps I had never given her it in the first place. Despite this, I continued to try to be a good father to the boys, I thought I was one up until then but, even that was never to be the same; nothing could ever be the same again. Having not quite crossed the Rubicon, I had certainly gone to the ruinous edge and dipped my toe in the water; whether I would go any further in I didn’t really want to know; I had never learnt to swim, physically or emotionally.

Despite all the difficulties it was not all doom and marital misery. Through a series of friends, I had been offered a job as a sales representative. Knowing something about screws and fixings from my DIY over the years was at least some help. What I didn’t know was the business; the shop had shown me that. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on which side of the fence you sat, the position meant I had some regular money coming in and a car. Probably more important was the excuse not to be under the feet of someone who still hadn’t forgiven me for all the upheaval and disappointment.

The job itself was a complete blur. Wholesale specialist screws, fascinating; actually, it wasn’t. As luck would have it, the sales area I had been allocated had been neglected for some months and had left an initial barrage of things to sort out, people to see, problems to resolve. Other people’s problems were what I was good at dealing with. The territory covered the whole of the middle band of the country, West Wales to the Wash, Crew to Cambridge. Crazy but do-able was how my boss put it, at least it wasn’t expected to be a breeze which would give me some cover for my undoubted incompetence. Within that huge area there were only about thirty customers and not all of those were of any real size, in sales value that is. What was so hard about all that I hear you ask?

As the weeks moved on I began to see what I should have been doing but I just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for any part of it, except the driving about in solitude and silence that is. The other reps had regular and planned routes, systematic visiting arrangements, steady, regular sales figures. To me it was one big pot of spaghetti I couldn’t find any end of, nor had any idea of what to do with it if I did. Reverting to my normal posture, I blagged it.

For the annual sales conference, only a few weeks after I had started, we all assembled in the middle of nowhere at a very fancy hotel. During the analysis of the year’s business, most of which went straight over my head, mine was the only area which had managed any significant increase in sales, curiously while no one had been looking after it; the fact managed to raise a good laugh if nothing else. Because I was ‘too new’, I was saved the ignominy of having to give a presentation of my upcoming year’s strategy as the others were expected. After the disinterest of the day, I just got drunk and went to bed. Fortunately for me the company was doing quite well at the time and there was little pressure to do much more than keep the status quo, unlike other more austere times. The one thing I did manage to work out was, on a day-to-day basis at least, if the customers were reasonably satisfied it seemed all I had to do was fire-fight any problems, stay away from any controversy; deep down I knew that the staying out of trouble part might be the more difficult part.

Once the initial novelty of the job began to wear thin, I started to struggle to enjoy any part of it and my other interests began to creep back to fill the developing gaps. The level of devious behaviour increased and eventually I dreaded the car phone going off with another lie for me to propagate. Knowing I could only twist and turn so much before my sales director grabbed me by the metaphorical balls and threw me out on the street did little to stop me.

The extremes of the job were always a valid excuse to keep me from having to go home too early and I rediscovered that I could invent any number if I had to. To be fair, if only to myself, I was generally home just in time to put the boys to bed as Angela got ready to go out on one her many evenings with friends. While I was putting money in the pot, while I was making all the appropriate noises about the everyday things of life, I was getting further and further away from any normal or real existence.

In my insular world, I was formulating ridiculous ideas of what I could be doing if I wasn’t stuck in the rut and was soon sitting in a lay-by or driving around in ever-widening circles, I started the old pick up tricks again. Sometimes I actively looked for hitch hikers; as they still did that in those days. The memory of the wild stories from my brother’s imagination had been safely stored away and the first person I saw on a motorway slip road lifted the lid of that box very easily. That would be the ‘thrill’ for the day, until the next, and the next and the one after him. Of course, none of it was ever like it as in my head, or the stories I remembered from those many years ago, I knew it never would, but. Although I often used to go miles out of my way to take them somewhere, I did eventually have to give up on it, the driving had got too tedious and I was sinking into new, deeper depressing and unfulfilled moods, which were getting harder to cover up or keep control of.

Even with all the let-downs, I couldn’t trust myself not to try even more outlandish things and avoided the longer trips altogether although I found I still did as many miles, only in ever decreasing circles of desperation.

Having to put up with more complaints from my boss about the high fuel bills and unaccountable telephone records, I couldn’t see a way of making anything any better; my whole world was spiralling out of control, yet again. My matter of fact head had started to convince its confused other self that I needed to make all the grief I was getting worthwhile, get something for myself, get something other than nothing. Having a free car, free petrol, free phone, virtually free time, it was never going to end well, was it?

Chapter Twenty ~ Adonis is alive and very well

As we three got back from the visitors hall. For some reason, although we were not too late back from the outing, dinner had already been served and trays were being cleared up. The three of us were noisily ushered down to get the trays of quickly dying out food from the hot cabinets. The additional temperature they gave the food was welcome but not its effect on the already glutinous elements. Equally as enthusiastically we were all shepherded back to our cells. The other two were billeted up on the threes I think although I had no interest in finding out where they noisily jogged up the steel staircases as I stood outside my cell door waiting, glad to be one step ahead of the officers for a change. The keys were jangled from their leather pouch but were rather uncomfortably accompanied by a wry smile on the face of the officer.

“Oh, ye’, you have a new pad mate,” the door swung open as he spoke, I stepped in and my jaw dropped silently to the floor, “play nicely boys.”

Bang, click, the door closed noisily behind me and despite the heat from the tray stinging my hands, my feet wouldn’t move to let me put it down.

“Hi, I’m Fletcher, please carry on, I’m just sorting my stuff out.”

All I could do was stare and think that he was certainly no Norman Stanley of TV fame. I eventually managed to get the tray up onto my bunk before I was forced to drop it; the temperature was starting to register through my palms although I still couldn’t speak.

“Your pad mate wanted to move, he said it would be OK, you don’t mind, do you?”

“No, no. No of course not.”

I was painfully aware I was only just managing to string the most basic of phrases together.

“He’s in with his drug pusher friend, I don’t go in for…..,” the rest of his words were lost.

He stopped what he was doing for a moment and I think I managed to close my mouth as he extended a long, perfectly muscled and unclothed arm in my direction. Rather tentatively I took the strong hand in what I was ashamed to realise was a rather limp attempt at a handshake; from my part that is. Another rare chance for a human touch was electrifying. Holding on a little too long, I rather ineptly tried to get out of his direct line of sight so he didn’t see my stupidity. In this attempt, I brushed lightly past his magnificent, broad, incredibly solid chest with my shoulder. In my head my fingers caught his stiffening nipple and flicked it sensuously hard. Really, I had just knocked rather awkwardly into him and he stepped aside to allow me room to get up to my bunk. The spark, real or imaginary had already passed between us; my dried-up food had lost its interest completely.

Now that we were not looking directly at each other I had the opportunity to take in the vision which was apparently my new pad-mate; tall, toned and outwardly just perfect. His tastefully tattooed arms extended from a pair of wide square shoulders that flanked a perfectly cropped, shimmering, almost auburn head of hair crowning a smooth domed skull which housed his exquisite, taught facial features, bordered by a pair of neat, flat, shell-like ears. The potential for long powerful legs were unfortunately hidden under baggy track suit bottoms dropping from a tiny pinched curving waist. The otherwise shapeless garment pouched out around what were obviously tight, high, curving buttocks as he moved gently to continue putting his belongings neatly away. Was I dreaming? Why was he here? Was I going to be ill?

“I think they had some meds deal going on,” I realised he was trying to explain.

Fortunately for my dignity, I had managed to quickly pick up his line of conversation despite his broad Nottingham accent and my hopefully not too obvious attraction.

“He did have something going on, I could never understand it myself,” was all I could muster in the way of comment.

“Your first time in then?”

He had stopped what he was doing and was looking right at me and I was sure that if not already bright red, my face would be very soon; it was either that or it had got extremely hot in the cell and getting hotter by the minute.

Outlining my first experiences of the regime only very vaguely, he listened patiently and seemed to appreciate what I was saying although he was most probably just being kind. It must have been the latter as he eventually cut me off but by then, even I could tell I was rambling. In return he gave me the basics of his being here, nothing earth shattering but I got the distinct impression that this was not this first time. From what little he did say I extrapolated that this time was just a progression from youth offender’s institutions to adult prison. While he was articulate, intelligent, better looking than anyone I had seen for a very long time, it all made me wonder what had gone so wrong in his life to go down this road; such a waste. My self-indulgent conclusion was such a ridiculous thing for me to be considering. The more he spoke the more I understood that, for him at least, it was all just a numbers game where some you win and some you lose; unfortunately, at the moment, he was losing.

During the explanation, such as it was, I had been formulating other details. He was perhaps only about twenty, if that; such a waste. He would obviously turn out to be straight; such a waste. He could evidently look after himself physically so perhaps I had to be careful in my musings but, overall, I was not convinced he could be all bad. I didn’t want him to be all bad. He must be all that bad; such a waste.

While he was still chatting, although I wasn’t paying too much attention, I hoped I was making enough noise and comment of my own to cover any lack of attention in what he was saying. His levels of organisation were fascinating, refreshing even after the past few weeks. He was obviously very used to the facilities, the limited supplies, and the lack of space. His various items of clothing, goods, and chattels plus a prodigious range of personal items, were soon neatly stored away and smartly arranged for either inspection or use. It did make me wonder if he had some military training, as Jim had, but surely, he must be too young for that. As he finished what he was doing, I finished my musings to concentrate on not being quite so obvious about my interest in him.

Making more general conversation he finished with a last wipe down of the surfaces with a damp towel. A flourishing twirl of it over his head gave a very theatrical and achingly perfect demonstration of his musculature.

“You didn’t mind I cleaned everything did you, I didn’t want you to think….”

“No, no please don’t worry, it was hard work to keep clean before,” I really didn’t mind as it was such a nice change, “I did try to keep on top of it but….”

“He’s a dirty little fucker but someone else can have all that now,” he chuckled but grimaced at the same time, I just smiled, “his pad mate’s almost as bad as him, I’m glad to be out of the shit.”

After running off several other expletive laden observations of his previous pad-mate and the wing in general, he seemed to relax.

“I need a good clean myself now, I hate any mess,” the sink was already filling with clean if not hot water.

Without further ado, he stripped to the waist and began to wash what I knew would be his most perfect body. This was almost too much to bare.

Being unable to look away I was treated to another tribal themed tattoo which scrolled round his left shoulder and joined itself onto the one I had already seen running up his arm. Not wanting to just sit and stare, well I did but didn’t think it would be prudent, I looked over the top of an out of date newspaper which he had offered to me during the cleaning up. It didn’t stop me absorbing the vista.

His shapely chest showed just a hint, more a mist of fine hair; perhaps he shaved it like I had to? From the profile view he presented, the warm water ran out from the small sponge he was using, the soapy bubbles which it created slid slowly down from the gently curving contours arching below his wide, shapely shoulder. The water coiled round a dark pink nipple which had reacted naturally to the touch and formed itself into a hard, prominent, dome. The soapy residue slid on down the corrugations of rippling ribs and onto the gentle undulation of well-defined abdominals. In this relaxed state, they were enticing enough, what would they be like when they tensed up in work, or perhaps pleasure; I hoped I might get to see them at some point.

Involuntary reactions within my own less beautiful body forced me to look away, it was proving too much as I had feared, all I could do was listen and try not to imagine quite so much perfection.

“Cuppa?” pause, “Cuppa?”

Oops I had missed his first time of asking; note to self, I must be more careful.

“Eer, yes, please, can I …” you really must concentrate, come on.

“No, you’re OK, I’ll do it while I’m here.”

He was wiping under and round his armpits as he spoke, his up stretched hand not far from the ceiling which emphasised just how very tall he was. Taking the opportunity to look directly at him to answer the enquiry, there was almost a double take as I thought I noticed a flaw. If I had my way he would have to shave the downy blonde hair from the depressions under those mountainous shoulders, smooth armpits generally only hold fresh sweet sweat which is much more inviting. The moment passed, surpassed by the whole rather than the particular.

With his towel catching the last of the water which had started to run down into the top of his track suit, he pushed the waistband down just enough to display the top of a firm vertical plateau that would no doubt have led down to an equally perfectly proportioned and exquisitely equipped pelvic region. Just to tease me, no, it wasn’t that, he put a hand down the front of the loose clothing to adjust himself. He still had his one hand hidden but busy as he moved to stand in-front of me, taking the kettle with the other to fill it with water.

“I’ll do the rest tomorrow,” my dream was over for now, “how do you find the food, shit aint it.”

I didn’t answer but felt guilty about the dirty tray which was still at the foot of my bunk. He continued.

“It does me no good at all, too many carbs, you can’t keep fit on all that crap.” I could understand his point, “Shit, I’m all damp now,” he had noticed the dark patch on his trousers.

My brain had to work hard to formulate an applicable reply.

“I didn’t think it was too bad, but I have nothing to compare it with, prison wise that is, how do you, what do…”, I was speaking unnecessary gibberish again.

Shut up please, my head was jabbering sense at me at last but it stopped immediately as my companion proceeded to strip off the unsatisfactory damp item of clothing. For some unrelated reason, I noticed the track suit didn’t seem to be standard issue, neither were the brightly patterned boxer shorts which he was left standing in now. Quite rightly, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to discuss this with him for the moment; if ever. With almost the full extent of his magnificent constitution exposed, I had to try to turn my attention to the paper to save myself further embarrassment; it didn’t work.

He was undoubtedly naturally beautiful but the muscle tone was obviously enhanced by exercise. As if just to prove a point he proceeded to do some push ups against the worktop, just a warm up while the tiny kettle boiled. It was so hard not to look at him. At that point my sensible head told me to ‘just give it up’, my passionate head rebutted with, ‘If you don’t want it to be seen, don’t put it in the shop window’. This was going to be so difficult and I could see myself with either a broken nose or a hand full of candy and one or the other before too much longer.

“Tea?”

He looked straight at me and I somehow managed to recover my composure. Thankfully I was already at his eye level being on the top bunk so my stare could easily have been interpreted as just answering his enquiry and nothing overtly lavatorial.

“Yes, thanks, I wish I had some coffee, you don’t I suppose?”

Although not knowing quite why I had asked the question in the first place, I knew it was more in hope than anticipation.

“I do actually,” he looked across his stuff, “oh, shit, I must have left it, fuck, sorry.”

“No problem, tea is fine, you sort of get use to …” here you go again, shut yourself up, “do you want me to do it?”

I prayed he would say no as I would have had to somehow reduce the rather full prominence in my jeans first.

He turned without answering to continue the simple job. Now only inches away I absorbed the slabs of muscle that curved and tapered down his smooth rich back. They narrowed and melted into the indent at the top of his buttock cheeks which were rather teasingly peeking out of the top of the waistband. One side of his body flexed gently as he stirred the cups to help the tea brew. He moved further to one side to take a clean tee shirt and some regulation jeans from the lower pigeon holes he had taken over. Bending from the waist his shorts left little to the imagination. Further flexing and extensions while he dressed went some way to counter the let-down of his being covered up again. Folding the damp items over the back of the chair to dry off, he passed my cup up to me before sitting down on the chair to flick through the inane early evening television. I should have sat back and recovered myself but even knowing the dangers but was tempted to reach out and touch the soft bristle of his shapely cropped head now just inches below me. Beneath its shadow, I could see he had a few tiny freckles scattered like stars across the smooth dome. Resisting the obviously stupid notion, I sipped noisily at the hot drink, trying not to remember similar visions from my still very recent past.

The difficulty I had with my exceptional new pad-mate was having no escape route, no window to hide behind no closet to hide in. The old gay adage that ‘it takes on to know one’ quickly scuppered the idea that this might possibly be heaven and I would have to settle for another manifestation of mental hell. All I could do was try to switch off some of my brain functions and think about less ruinous things; knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to manage that for very long.

 

Chapter Nineteen ~ Computer? What’s a computer?

These timeless questions surrounding the matter of happiness began to be answered in part by the commencement of my picture collecting activity. Although it wasn’t exactly planned, I was always a sucker for an easy opportunity and with both the novelty and simple availability. The activity became the catalyst for many of my sequent problems. The time line may be getting mixed up here but I had left home and was living in a rented room. Other events before this point are covered elsewhere, and it all falls into place.

Computers, all those many years ago, were generally only to be found in the larger businesses and corporations. Personal computers were still quite a luxury but they had just started to become affordable and most useful in smaller industries. It was around this time I had ended up unemployed; it was for only the second time in my working life, a fact I was quite proud of.

After six months of signing on I was required to make the choice of taking part in a retraining course or the possibility of losing my benefits; the choice was rather easy to make. The list of subjects to choose from was extensive but, there was very little I was either interested in or could see a future career being built on. One item did stand out as the lesser of the evils, an NVQ in computer operation levels 1, 2 and 3. Having always had an eye for gadgets and anything new, I signed up, still with no idea of what you could do with such a thing; nothing new in that then. The course was for six months, full time, an extra £10 per week just for going plus some help with travel expenses, what could be better; quite a lot but, it got me out of the house.

If the venue had been closer to home it might have helped but you can’t have everything, can you? Taking between an hour and an hour and a half to get into the city centre on the bus plus a twenty-minute walk across to the training offices, there were days I wondered what on earth I was doing. A free drinks machine with very good hot chocolate was some compensation.

The course material, although all very new and interesting to a point, was ultimately not quite as dynamic as I had expected or had been promised. To put things into context, this was a pre-Windows era, no hard drives in the machines, green and white screens, no colour, no mice no cameras, they were glorified typewriters. But, we had no idea of anything else so overall it was keeping our interest; if only just.

The group I was in were reasonably personable, only six of us but we all got on and finding I was nearer the top of the intelligence tree did help. There was one other attraction other than the work, one of the guys, slightly younger than me, OK 10 years younger and seemed to have it all, brains, sense of humour and looks obviously. His father was from Hong Kong, his mother was English so the product was the bearer of beautiful almond eyes, a broad rich lipped smile, round smooth skinned hair free face, perfect martial arts trained body, but no interest in men; such a shame although he at least made the long tedious days more worthwhile with his sense of humour delivered with a broad smile.

The work overall was very basic and would hardly challenge anyone who wasn’t more than just slightly bright. This gave some of us plenty of time to explore the more mechanics of the computers and their potential for greater and far more interesting things. With a little covert action, we would purloin parts out of other machines from those serving the programming course to make ours much better. They soon had hard drives and twice as much memory and with the help of the one of the more experienced guys, I managed to learn a great deal about how this new technology worked and what I could potentially do with it. Getting caught in our subterfuge was always a thrill as it is in other things, but we managed to finish the course before we were found out and most likely kicked off.

Speaking of the course, it wasn’t until we did our first modular assessment for the exam that we realised how obvious the con was; we had decided very early on there must be one. The exam material and on-screen tasks were the same as the training material and mock tests we had done throughout. Although not everyone caught on to it straight away, having already been given the answers, the rest was history. Certificates in hand, we all went our separate ways although unfortunately, I never got to see the eastern beauty again; but, why would I?

Some of us went on to do a period of work experience. Ironically one the chaps went back to the place where he had worked before being laid off and sent on the course. He had helped to build the very new Crown Court complex in the city centre where his descriptions of the extensive structures below ground were where I would eventually have an intimate experience.

Back to the story line; for my own work experience I was sent to a small computer graphics company that did, such as they were in those days but it satisfied my technological and artistic interests. This was extended past the six weeks that the government paid for, and I earned a meagre wage and so had some cash in my pocket for a change. With a degree of enthusiasm, I took up the offer of buying a cheap second-hand computer from someone my landlord knew. Although there was no internet at that time and the average computer had less power or capacity than most modern smart phones but, it was still very exciting in its own small way; I am sure the inventors of the wheel felt the same. The analogy is not as random as you might think as this technology had the same step change for society the wheel had in its day. Once I had it all set up in my room and the novelty of playing games had worn off I started to look for more interesting things to do with it.

Working in a computer based environment, I could acquire some of the latest programmes, buy or ‘borrow’ some upgrades to the hardware and things really started to move forward. Eventually I had twin hard drives, a colour monitor, the very first version of Windows, speakers, sound, high spec graphics and even a mouse; I thought it was the business.

Of course, it wasn’t, not until I had arranged to have a dial up account out into what would eventually become the World Wide Web. Then, it was just very basic access with specific interest coming via news feed services. Despite its limitations, this simple access point was to be a new friend, a safe anonymous contact point and quite sadly, I posed the question to myself, who needed people anymore; unfortunately, I also answered the question with completely the wrong answer. This separation resulted in my virtual isolation as far as real people were concerned; not that there were many to lose in the first place.

In the real world, I still had my boys to help look after, the nights out drinking were finished with the lack of money but I did take some small pleasure from an occasional game of squash with my landlord; he was a sprightly over athletic guy who was also not too hard on the eyes. Other than these few things, it might sound rather fanciful that this new-fangled electronic friend was just what I needed to satisfy a socially inept queer fish I considered myself to be; very much like I am at the time of writing

In my electronic world, it was news feeds which became my currency in one way. They were the closest thing to a web site there was at the time and were simply virtual places for people to place conversation strings, hopefully for other people to join in but mainly for sharing themselves with the world. The idea of sharing my thoughts as many others seemed to find so easy was an anathema. In this invisible world, there was every subject you could think of and if it wasn’t there, you could always put it there for that world to share.

This opportunity for sharing also included pictures which was what really caught my imagination. The often absurdly named senders or the file names themselves soon became easy to recognise in whatever your interest was. As file attachments, the images could be downloaded to your machine one at a tediously slow time. It won’t take a genius to guess in which direction I went with all this. Despite the debilitating lack of speed, let alone the cost of the telephone time, you didn’t know what you had until it had arrived; there were no thumbnails in those days. Despite most of the material being of relatively low quality, it filled one of those cold vacant spaces in my matrix of desire. My dogged persistence combined with an interest which craved more to sustain a boundless appetite, I was quickly hooked into an activity which lasted for almost 14 years.

Developments in technology, hardware and software, better, faster access continued to feed the craving with consummate ease right up to the night before my arrest. From the first tantalising images, my collection grew to dozens, then hundreds, soon into thousands, tens and eventually hundreds of thousands. Potentially it was endless of course so who needed anything else; as it turned out I did, although I simply wouldn’t allow myself to see it. There were times when I was distracted, but these were not many and none of the alternative activities or relationships ever really matched up to my core activity; however that may sound for those who tried to fill space, I am sorry for it.

Over the years, I had tried to mix it in with my attempts at other opportunities but ultimately most things eventually fell or were thrown away to nothing which only managed to enhance the one constant, the safe bolt hole that was my computer and its secret delights. Availability and avarice built a collection of some eight hundred thousand images and video clips, all filed away in more than a thousand different electronic folders. All of them were carefully grouped and catalogued, sorted, managed for duplications, improved for picture quality, series of individuals, speciality subjects as well as what I considered the more straight forward content; anything and everything was vacuumed up and filed neatly away. The cold light of exposure showed me as having what could be almost clinical autism. Perhaps that had been my problem all along? We didn’t do illness or analysis in our family so I would never have known or perhaps done anything about it if I did.

The one common theme in my collections was of course, the male of the species and not always human; to be more precise it had to be ‘man on man’ or at least ‘man on anything other than female’. It was not all sex related either, my attraction to specific attributes had encompassed all sorts of haircuts obviously, age, body types, skin colour, tattoos, piercing, sport, film stars and so on and on; and on. The overall theme was the captivation of pure beauty, that and of a youth who I had never achieved, the extremes of interpersonal involvement which I could never experience and a world I considered was simply unattainable. Again, to keep some degree of context, relatively speaking the parts of the collection which proved to be my downfall were only a small proportion of the legitimate, legal, if morally questionable whole; the business of my conviction involved only forty thousand illegal images and videos. I am more than used to the gasps of horror that I can hear, so please don’t be too concerned.

In my indefensible defence, the range ever expanding of the subject matter seemed to become a progression based on the availability. Over indulgence in anything often brings its own self-administered inoculation against the obvious and often ignored problems, if I had been a drug addict I would have progressed from cannabis to crack before killing myself; at least my habit wasn’t fatal.

Strangely or possibly bizarrely, I hardly ever looked at any of the collections once their novelty had worn off only to check for duplications or additional items in various series. As there was so much material out in cyber land either to find or be anonymously offered, there was little need to re-live much of what I already had, given my ability to recall most of them to mind at will, even now I hold most of the interesting of them in my head which seems an odd thing to do; memory is a powerful thing over which we have little control over it. Meeting other addicts afterwards, they had generally looked at such things but hadn’t kept any of the evidence as I had.

Being an addict, during the last two or three years of my collecting, there seemed to be a greater need to see what else would give me the same or even new thrill, how far could you go, how far did the dark supply chain extend. Not all the seemingly endless subjects would give me the expected result, in fact quite a lot I was appalled by despite my obtuse proclivities, but there were enough to keep the project expanding and my nerves numbed to the reality of the whole sordid experience. I was ‘king’ of my own sad, insular little world. The email to France was the first and fatefully last time I let anyone inside the walls of my disreputable kingdom.

Reflecting on the events as I often do, I didn’t and still don’t understand why I did any of it; it seems it was always one box that would never be filled, one more potential thrill, one more sad attempt at cajoling a little empathy for my rather miserable life. None of that matters now of course as it, and so many other things in my life are gone.

Chapter Eighteen ~ first times are always the hardest

My conviction and imprisonment was for downloading and possessing images from the internet, but my need, being part of the unattainable, had started some thirty years before; as we have already explored. The internet didn’t exist them of course but as technology developed it made the life choices I had made so much easier to accommodate.

To put some perspective on things, my early collecting of the novelty newspaper’s titillating bums and boobs during my pubescent years had quickly moved onto legitimate ‘part work’ magazines with animals had been the most obvious subject matter, mainly for my zoological interests. Another set of magazines on the history and development of humanity also managed to supply enough naked fun, both legitimate and covert. By putting the beautifully crafted cover pictures up on my bedroom wall, I was faking an acceptable art form while behind many of them were secreted other far more graphic items extracted from the inner pages. All forms of mating, fighting, and birthing fed my excesses, each adding to my body of knowledge of the world, or at least the specific bits of it I was interested in. The hidden collection was eventually revealed by a well-meant spring clean but not openly questioned. As time moved on, a copy of the desperately illicit Lady Chatterley did something to expand my horizons. At least when that item was discovered under my mattress I could at least appear to be what I thought the general perception of normal was.

Much to my great disappointment, once I had realised it existed I had no way of getting gay related information without the risk of blowing my cover that is. I didn’t get my first piece of mainstream literature, a copy of Gay Times, until after I was married. Perhaps if I had managed it before, I would never have gone down that route at all; who knew?

It was the whole ‘normal’ business of courtship and eventually marriage which curtailed my previous rather extensive activity in favour of the quest of fulfilling the meaning and acceptability of a modal heterosexual life. For many unrelated and generally misunderstood reasons, I had decided that perhaps the majority vote was the right one; ultimately, I knew I was just too cowardly to go against it. If it had not been so public an event, I might not have, but whatever conflicts I had were boxed away for a while and the job of being a husband somehow managed to satisfy many of my issues around being valued and useful, which I thought I did a respectable job most of the time; even if I say so myself.

I had always wanted children, I loved them; I still do. To kill off the obvious questions and incorrect answers which everyone will have at this point; NO, I am not sexually attracted to children; NO, I have no bizarre or deviant interest in them; NO I have never broken the invisible moral barrier; other than collecting some of the images I did of course but for the simple beauty which youth holds. Knowing the difficulty in separating the two aspects of the matter, it is a subject where I know there will be little chance of me ever having a fair hearing or any acceptable resolution so, I will move on; comfortable for at least being honest with myself.

In my marriage, with my vivid imagination plus a bucket full of something that came very close to being empathy, I did all the husbandly things I thought needed to be done. All I couldn’t seem to do was produce children. After several years of trying, plus all the difficulties and pressures of a range of medical investigations, it all proved to have a rather sad and adverse effect on both of us. It is possibly then when I began to slip once more down the slippery slope to what was perhaps my more natural level, as the feelings of inadequacy and failure became too difficult to share, or resolve. If not that, I am sure it would have been something else eventually but, on the upside, we did eventually adopt two beautiful boys and despite my calamitous behaviour, one of them at least is still close to me.

Being honest about it, I had never stopped my discrete voyeurism, but I had abandoned all the other activity. Despite resisting most of the temptations from having engineered free time, some of my locked boxes were opened just a tiny crack and often this sliver of hope or expectation was more difficult to contemplate than having things either fully exposed or shut tight away.

Although we had agreed time for ourselves, it should have meant time together; instead it developed into time apart. A void was starting to open up and I did nothing to try to fill it.

As I had always gone out for a drink one night a week anyway, I didn’t complain about however many nights she now wanted, to get away from things and get whatever support she needed that I was so painfully incapable of supplying. Inside this unexpected freedom, I should say with some degree of restraint, I reverted to earlier life and started to do the things teenagers must have done since time immemorial; not that it was any excuse. Although I was long past that age group I found myself now buying dirty magazines, wanking myself stupid and dreaming of all the things which would never be. Disingenuously, I think I managed to convince myself I was just a very late starter but never did let any other considerations stop me. Somehow, I hoped such indulgence and release might make me a better, calmer, and more considerate husband; and of course, pigs might have flown.

Inside this gross self-delusion, it took me ages to pluck up the courage to buy my first copy of any gay specific magazine; for whatever reason, that top shelf had always been just too high for me to reach, metaphorically of course. Eventually it happened and once the barrier had been breached it was more easily repeated although the most I ever got at that time were four editions. These were safely hidden in my private draw in the bedroom and as far as I know, just like it had been at home, never discovered.

Reading about things was great but looking at the pictures was better and to some degree replaced much of my desire for other activity. My interests and confidence strengthened. Late nights alone in bed with no chance of comfort I would occasionally call some of the numbers in the personal ad’s and listen to the recorded messages for ‘men seeking men’. Of course, I didn’t leave any reply or take further action, not until I had left the marital home that is but it was just other missing link I could now find perhaps. The next phase came eventually, as I expected it must.

Having taken myself off on yet another pretence of a shopping trip, I was really cruising around the city’s busy shopping centre to take in the human sights and indulge my fantasy with so many of the male attractions. Having only ever spent time looking, the first sign of any interest being shown in return would have me running for the hills; well the car park anyway. Having had made several attempts to get the latest magazine I was probably in my third shop by then. This last one appeared to be quiet enough, for long enough, to allow me to get a copy down off the shelf and over to the check out without any undue attention. This was helped by a suitably dim-witted assistant who would have been incapable of formulating an adverse opinion until I was long out of the shop. The item was bought. Agreeing to ‘want a bag for that’, the question was always a bit of a challenge where silent sales were always the easiest, I made it out of the shop, shaken but safe.

It was my custom on these rare occasions to make my way out of public view before appraising my purchase; my prize. In the attempt to get down to the car park below the shops, I got caught up in an altercation between a teenage mother, her children and a pushchair which wasn’t going down the rather awkward curve of the stairs very easily. Stepping back so as not get involved, I was leaning against the wall trying to look intelligent but unhelpful when I voice appeared to one side of me.

“Anything good in the magazine this time?”

I was horrified. It was obviously me who was being addressed as I was on my own. The voice was hushed and conspiratorial which rather confirmed its intent. Gripping the brown bag tightly I tried to look around without being obvious; impossible I know. Why was this person talking to me? What did they want? What did they know? Why didn’t they just go away?

My troubled gaze eventually rested on a rather cute little face; even in times of distress I just couldn’t help myself could I. His rather obvious smile elicited an unintended and elongated stare which must have indicated some sort of interest on my part, I honestly wouldn’t have known.

“I saw you buy it, I can never pluck up the courage.”

Of course, I knew exactly what he meant and if he was genuine, surly I should know he was a possible safe-haven; this is precisely where I was lacking any of the interpersonal skills. All I could do was stammer some unintelligible muttering which sounded too loud for the occasion. Glancing round for anything to help me, I could see my escape route was still blocked. My brain was spinning but my legs didn’t seem to want to respond and they kept me right there in front of the boyish good looks. At the same time as all this panic, the other side of my physical process, the calmer side had taken time to process the vision properly and I could see he was quite attractive.

“Perhaps we could have a look at it together?”

“I don’t know, no, not here?”

My mouth was speaking my thoughts without me consciously processing them.

“Do you have anywhere we can go, do you have a car?”

“I don’t know,” realising just how my stupid my comment was, I nodded towards the still partially blocked stairwell, “yes, I do, it’s down there.”

“Come this way, there’s another way down, I’ll show you.”

The option he had suggested was obvious of course and what was equally patent was that I shouldn’t follow him; I found myself doing just what I shouldn’t. My brain switched onto auto pilot which allowed me to start calculating all the many eventualities this escapade would possibly end in. While the fog of the various and varied outcomes passed before my mind’s eye, we had made our way down the two flights of empty stairs. We reached the next point where I could easily have my escape; of course, I didn’t.

To one part of my head it was obvious I had settled on a course of action or at least the acceptance of an opportunity for sex of some description and it was this particular chain of thought led us to the car; I unlocked the driver’s door. Slipping easily into the driver’s seat, I let him into the passenger side; this was another opportunity missed to just drive off to safety. Now he was in I was at a complete loss. My imagination might have gotten me this far but what it was going to do next was a mystery, or, was I just in confused denial. As it turned out my accomplice knew full well what he was doing and I, once the occasion became obvious, put my brain into record mode and let it all happen.

From what I had learnt albeit in different circumstance, it seemed prudent to copy the other person’s actions as if in a mirror; as it had seemed to work in my married life, despite most of the working parts being different. What started to happen seemed to be as natural as I had dreamed it could be; considering I didn’t know what ‘natural’ was. OK, I had not been without some experience, college, farm life, school gossip, but this was now very much hands on, in full daylight and with a warm human being, and, now I had more time to consider him, a rather attractive young man.

He reached over easily to my groin with a good but still gentle squeeze, I pushed forward against his hand to make what he had found more obvious. My nerves hadn’t stopped nature doing its worst and he was soon finding it quite difficult to get the zipper of my jeans to slide down away from the tightening bulge behind it. In response, I had moved my attention to his corresponding hump and he reciprocated by spreading his legs giving me ample access to it. In the end, I had to deal with my own zip as I was not going to waste any more time. Once down, I left the monster for him to wrestle from its lair. A car starting up nearby made me jump and I was reminded just what we were doing and where we were doing it.

“Is this all OK, you know, down here?” my ineptitude was showing

“It’s all fine down here as far as I can see,” my rather ambiguous question was easy fodder for the smutty quip, “no, it’s fine, we’re well out-of-the-way over here.”

We were in the corner of the car park admittedly, well away from the main entrance and exit but I was still concerned; a little bit anyway and it seemed that was becoming less and less.

“OK, but if…”

I didn’t get to finish the warning as he bobbed down and sucked my still only semi erect member deftly into his mouth, the shock of it and the memories which it instantly dredged up drowned out any thought or worry about getting caught.

Trying my best to give some attention to his now freed appendage, I found I couldn’t concentrate on two things at once and selfishly settled for being toyed with instead. Although he had come up, presumably for breath and had settling for some rather rudimentary movements that couldn’t really be called masturbation, I still enjoyed the attention and the rapid progress towards a climax. My smile must have given me away and, although I was trying to indicate I was getting too close for comfort he didn’t seem to take the hint and took my twitching length deep into his mouth again. Knowing this was all too fast, I tried to get hold of his bobbing head away from its task, the intimate touch of his not soft attractive hair had the very opposite effect and I found myself pushing him further down rather than lifting him off. A few moments of coughing and spluttering didn’t remove the grin from the sweet smiling face once he surfaced. I couldn’t resist wiping a dribble of creamy liquid from his chin and he obligingly licked my thumb to recover it. With a tilt of his head as a question, it appeared to be my turn now. In all honesty, I had had enough at that point but my apparent reluctance must have been taken as inexperience for which I was disappointed, even if it was obviously true. It seemed share and share alike was only fair and in that spirit of fairness, I obliged the now expectant passenger.

Taking my cues from the last few minutes, I tried my best to replicate the event which had just played out. Having only ever been on the receiving end before, I hoped it might prove to be just as fantastic as I had dreamt. Unfortunately, I sensed something was not quite right. Perhaps it was the result of having already spent myself, or perhaps the chemical reactions which happen post ejaculation had calmed things down too much, whatever it was my brain wasn’t working and my mouth seemed to be failing to get the reaction I had imagined. Unlike my speedy and strident erection, this one was getting nowhere.

“Hold on a minute, let me get it going.”

He was obviously aware he was not performing and I was glad it was not totally my fault. I enjoyed watching his self-administered privation as much as I did when I wanked myself. I could feel a second rising here on my side of the car.

“Here, now, let’s go, quick.”

It was not the sensuous bold encouragement I had dreamed of. Even fully erect as it seemed to be, I was rather disappointed at the length and girth of the member which now presented itself. With still only limited comparison, I knew I was not too bad in the size department but had never objectively thought about other people’s reality and obviously, their differences. Blocking these rather counterproductive thoughts away, I managed to administer what I thought would be a good enough job; at least it had the same explosive result, eventually. As he pumped himself into my mouth as best he could in the confined space, my head was considering perhaps size wasn’t everything after all but here, it certainly might have made it a better first experience.

Now he was spent I was rather disappointed he couldn’t wait to get away. Despite the very public car park, I was erect and ready to let him have a second bite of my cherry but, he was done.

“Thanks, that was nice.”

Nice, just nice? Perhaps I hadn’t been as good as I thought I had. Taken aback somewhat I didn’t have time to think of a suitable reply and he was out of the car, closed the door, waved a single low discreet wave and was off, weaving his way between the other cars; and gone. All I could do was stare at the windscreen watching, hoping for just a quick look back, but no. A couple walked across the front of the car, arms laden with shopping bags and it struck me what it might have looked like if they had been there just five minutes before. A whirl of horror and hubris settled on me not helped by trying to tuck my still rigid trouser snake rather awkwardly and painfully back into its burrow. That one relatively successful event was the start of something much bigger and far more dangerous.

It must have somehow become obvious to others that I had attained some degree of experience as there were several other similar escapades around the shops with different people, men, and boys alike. In fact, the very many chances and regular successes started to fill one corner of a great void in my life and the taste of it, literally the taste, fuelled fervour for much more.

The confirmation that there were people out there who wanted to take part in anonymous sexual encounters was a revelation. Being honest, it was rather seedy and in the early stages often unsatisfactory. Despite all that, it was a learning curve I was prepared to climb if it continued supplying me the information and hope which I was increasing desperate for.

Repeat offenders, I mean encounters seemed to be a good option as there was time to practice and build on mutual experience but it wasn’t always possible. Cold stair wells and windy car park roof tops were not the palaces of pleasure I had dreamed of, but despite these minor disappointments, I never wanted to go to the next stage of going to anyone’s home or other private places again if I could help it. Although I did get pleasure from these short bursts of activity, it still didn’t give me what I wanted. There was more to it and was out there somewhere waiting to be taken.

None of this new activity came at any obvious expense for anything else in my life, but I did find myself making more effort in general day-to-day married life which seemed to create other opportunities in this specifically more personal area. If anything, the attention I paid my public face became perhaps rather too exaggerated although with care, I thought I managed to create what I considered was a suitable balance; with the hope no one would get hurt in the diverse process. How naive can anyone be?

My more devious side had convinced itself that, because I had not been with other women, I wasn’t being unfaithful, obviously; history and the more realistic world would judge me rather differently. The same history had yet to deal with my whole ‘coming out’ episode but I will elaborate on that later.

Reality would find me lost between two worlds where extremes of pleasure and pain gave me something, but neither made me truly happy. Continually searching for answers which were most likely not there to be found, it was the happiness that was all I wanted so where on this twisted and troubled world could I find it. The extramarital activity, although slowly becoming less, was stemmed completely for a time when I moved the whole family to a shop which we bought although it only created a fresh facet to my complex affliction; this to be explored another time.

Chapter Seventeen ~ prison visitors, not always so easy

The lunch trays were cleared away and the wing went into its half hour quiet respite before the workers went back to whatever work they had to do. As far as I was concerned, time had ground to a halt. The television was still being flicked from channel to channel as Dave couldn’t decide which piece of drivel he wanted to watch, I just wanted to get to see what form my visit would take.

Trying to stop the river of ever-changing images and sounds, I attempted to distract the button baron with some simple questions. He had already told me all the gruesome details of his most recent life and I knew there was little I could build up to a normal conversation, but I had to try. Despite my patience, each subject I tried eventually twisted round to yet another attempt to get my own story into the open and that was never going to happen. My patience eventually ran out and I lay back down to wait for presumably officers to come and get me.

It seemed the only common interest we had were dogs. Although I had never owned one of my own, for the 25 years I was at the family home there was always one of them wandering around the place. When I was very young they always seemed to be old, shaggy, and not very interested in playing or being played with one. In my pre-teen era, we had a large monster of a brute innocuously named Jack. He was kept purely for guarding purposes and was as far from being a household pet as you could get. He was lived outside attached to a long heavy-set of chains for most of each day and could run up and down in front of the house with the chain making fearful noise as he did. Everything that passed on the road or came into the farm started this terrifying rattle and a barking hell storm as he would rush out of his kennel straining at the limits of the restraints which I was never quite sure would hold and avoided getting too close; just in case.

Once or perhaps twice a day we seemed to be corralled in the house for an hour when the black behemoth would be let off for a free ranging run around the farm. On the odd occasion, he came into the house after this exercise, I would be terrified. Eventually age and most likely the Dickensian treatment, insanity finally overtook him and he got too difficult to manage and the vet had to come down and shoot him while he was locked away in one of the cow sheds. My grandfather had been the main keeper of the animal and I had never seen him so upset about anything before. The rest of the household felt relieved at our loss.

Not long after that my father was the one taking charge of a new, rather friendlier blonde bouncing beast, a mixture of Labrador and Lurcher as far as we could tell. Creamy yellow, short smooth soft coat, ridiculously long legs; he was lovely in both nature and looks. He came from a rescue home and was already partly grown but despite being a very nervous individual to begin with, it didn’t take long for him to get over whatever dubious past he had suffered and he was soon freely ranging around the house and gardens enjoying many supervised excursions into the fields, always friendly, always fun, always a friend. He also managed to get me over a few more educational hurdles much as the other animals had. Thankfully, he was equally inquisitive and interactive as I was and for several years we had many, if intermittent interludes which we both seemed to enjoy, satisfying our needs for unquestioned comradeship and fumbling fun.

“What’s up with you?

It took me a moment to register the change in tone from the bunk below.

“What? Nothing, no I’m fine.”

Having obviously lied, I had hoped it was only me who had heard the rather sad sigh that I made from yet another fond memory had slipped out of another one of my more personal mental boxes. The mood was broken and I returned reluctantly to the real world.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get Dave to stick to one subject at a time and gave up; yet again. While I had been playing this verbal table tennis and reminiscing through my own experiences, the pointless noise from below me had become more of a pathetic bleat and I was glad for the afternoon’s action to finally bang and crash its way back into life. The workshop workers went off leaving just the staff meandering noisily about doing not very much at all; as usual.

Having no idea about the visitors’ timetable and not wanting to waste my time by asking my compatriot for any insight, I could only sit and wait for something to happen. Having already had a wash and tidied myself up to help pass the time, eventually the flap flipped open and an unfamiliar face peered in.

“Rollason, visit?”

It was posed as a question but I took it more as just a confirmation. The door was unlocked following my nodded acknowledgement and it swung silently wide open.

“You’re not dressed, sort yourself out will you.”

Not knowing what he meant I could feel another inane blank look settle on my face, obviously, this was yet another thing I didn’t understand; I didn’t like to not know important things. He seemed to recognise the expression.

“You need a visitor’s shirt.”

Dave had attempted to pipe up with the same information but too late. Rather uncharitably, I was thinking that if he didn’t have your head so far up his arse I wouldn’t now look rather like a dick; I smiled briefly at my crude homosexual humorous analogy.

“I didn’t know what I had to do, sorry,” my mumbled apology to the officer didn’t seem to cut any ice.

“Go and see Jones in the clothes store,” he took a step back from the doorway and I stepped towards the door hopefully to show my compliance and understanding, “be quick about it, I’ll be back in five.”

Moving promptly outside the cell, the door was locked behind me. He went one way I went the other and I heard his heavy footsteps bounded noisily up the metal stairs to the office level. Trying to control the redness of my face, I kept my eyes to the floor as the wing workers all seemed to stare at my obvious ineptitude; they probably weren’t taking any notice at all but it felt very uncomfortable.

Thankfully, the clothes store was also on the ground floor so I didn’t have far to walk in my head hung shame; I had seen the sign many times but only once managed to glance inside what was just a converted cell. The walls were fitted out with wide shelves and the floor space contained several deep wheeled bins. There were none of the residential fixtures and fittings and a small hinged counter top blocked the doorway. The attending Jones was busy folding clothes, stacking them into very neat piles in their allotted places around the room. He looked up eventually, his stare and lack of smile confirmed I had intruded into his quiet working afternoon.

“I need a visitor’s shirt,” I was polite despite it not being the general way of the wing, “please?”

“You just come in?”

Despite his rather unfortunate face, his tone was friendly enough.

“Yes, well no, a while ago, I just haven’t had a visit before that’s all.”

Knowing I was rambling with my nervousness and had said far too much for the simple question, I saw he wasn’t interested in my life story and he cut me off.

“What size?” He didn’t wait for my estimate. “Large, probably extra, try this.”

The fact that he was looking me up and down as he spoke was distraction enough and I almost managed to not catch the neatly folded item as he deftly spun it across the width of the storeroom and skilfully through the narrow doorway. The heavy cotton shirt was in pale blue with narrow white stripes, or was it white with blue stripes; shut up please my head was telling itself. Realising I had already seen many of them on the wing, I hadn’t associated exactly what they were used for.

“Try it on then,” he was standing looking at me rather expectantly, “don’t be shy.”

He managed a lob sided grin which fortunately morphed into a smile, perhaps he meant well. Glancing around and seeing I was not as much the centre of attention as I had imagined, it didn’t stop me still feeling very self-conscious. Pealing the sweatshirt off over my head, I found myself sucking in my ugly hairy paunch of a stomach and continuing to hold it as I tried on the shirt. It was too small even with my rather inept attempt at size reduction. The mistake had already been noticed.

“Try this one,” another shirt winged its way towards my head.

“Sorry, sorry,” I had managed to drop all the items by this time.

“Don’t rush, make the bastards wait,” his rather calming comment helped to cover my embarrassment, “they can’t take you down ‘till you have your shirt so make ‘um wait.”

Although I didn’t necessarily agree with his assessment of the situation, I did slow down to get this rather simple matter sorted out as fast I could; for my own peace of mind if nothing else.

The second shirt was a much better fit so we seemed to have settled on that one and I had to admit to feeling quite smart in it. Despite the short sleeves, the crisp, starched, coarse cotton felt and looked better than I had imagined it would do.

“You got the rest of your kit OK?”

I didn’t understand his additional comment.

“Just what I was given when I came in, I don’t know, I guess so, one of everything I think.”

My head told me I was starting to ramble again but I put it down to not being used to talking to my fellow felons; it seemed to impede my ability to act normally.

“What pad are you in?”

He obviously hadn’t noticed my concerns, or perhaps he was just ignoring them; I told him which one.

“Oh, you got that dirty lazy fucker, I pity you,” I started to enjoy his sympathy, “leave it with me, I’ll drop some things in for you later,” he turned away and the consultation seemed to be over.

“Thanks, thank you for your help,” but I was too late, he had gone back to his folding activity.

“Rollason, ready,” it was a voice from on high and an instruction not a question, I didn’t feel the need to reply this time, “stop all the chattering and get yourself over there with the other two.”

The officer had landed on the ground floor by that time and was indicating two other smart, appropriately dressed inmates. As I joined them only one nodded me his greeting. Realising I didn’t know either of them other than by some fleeting sight, either on the wing or in the yard, it didn’t seem to matter. The friendlier one was scuffing his feet against the shiny floor, the other just stood, head down, arms folded, neither of them smiled again. Not knowing either the official or unofficial protocol, I didn’t make any further efforts. Unconsciously, I did take the time to notice that both seemed to have made some effort to look their best under the circumstances. It was all relative of course although the one who had nodded did have a rather smart haircut, quite how it had been achieved I didn’t know; something else to find out about.

“Let’s go boys,”

The lilting tone of the warder seemed much happier now we were all in order and ready to go. Hanging back behind the other two, I still wanted to try to fit into the regime as best I could and there were obviously many things still to take in.

Any prisoner movements started only after formal confirmation over the radio from central control; the process was the same as any other transfer I had been on. As we moved off, no one in the group spoke, no one put a foot out of place, no one wanted to create any problem, the risk of losing a visitor privilege was oblivious.

Once all the workshops had been safely locked in place, there were only a few outside workers moving cages and trolleys of assorted matter but the estate seemed to be quite busy in its own way. Each group or individual had their own officer escort but I felt the looks and stares burn through uncomfortably although perhaps these were magnified by my fear of the unknown. Neither of the other two in our party took any notice as far as I could tell, but they still had their neat heads down so I followed suit. The only times we glanced up were as we took in the various cat calls and some rather colourful descriptions of us floated down from one or two of the wings which we had to pass. Trying hard not to look up, we all three failed and this small lack of self-control only fuelled the excitement; I made a note to try to stop my curiosity killing this particular cat.

We twisted and turned our way through several sets of gates and walkways, back towards the reception block. My memories of my first night came flooding back and as we got nearer to the door clearly marked with its regulation sign, my stomach clenched in some unsupported trepidation. Thankfully my fellow visit candidates stood to the side of a different door but I found myself staring at the other one.

Dragging myself back to the moment, the door we were waiting by had a clear sign above it, one I hadn’t noticed before but it helped to calm my nerves just a little, Visitors Hall. The regular open and shut process took us into the bottom of a narrow stair-well where we waited to one side once more as the officer locked up behind us. Once safe, the other two started up the stairs ahead of him and I followed suit step for step. They stopped near the top of the second flight just short of the next gate which blocked the way ahead. The gate itself was nothing new but the noise from beyond it was. I couldn’t see what all the commotion was but the others obviously knew what was happening and looked rather nervous for some reason. Trying to get some sort of visual clue, all I got from one of them was a swing of a head to silently tell me to step to the side, out of the way. Stepping smartly in answer to his unspoken suggestion, the officer passed us, unlocked the gate, and swung it open. No one moved and I was yet again confused.

Our gaoler had gone through the now open gateway and was unlocking another door opposite it across the corridor. Once this one was open, my two companions almost ran across the gap and through to the room ahead of us.

The speed of the movement caught me unawares and I lagged behind them by quite a measure. The increased commotion which had set off to our right almost made me stop in my tracks. What I assumed were the other visitor inmates were giving full cry against us thankfully behind another barred gate. It was obvious they knew our status and revelled in the sport of VP bashing; verbally that is. It was over almost before it started as we disappeared out of sight. Although it was rather unnerving it was just one more thing to put up with; next time I would be better prepared.

Our route now seemed to take us through a series of store rooms, a small kitchen area and into a holding room lined with wooden benches. We had passed a couple of wing workers in their ‘greens’ overalls, busy making several mugs of tea and coffee. One of my group spoke to one of them, exchanging basic pleasantries but without stopping in our progression.

Now in the waiting room, following the instruction to sit and wait, the lead officer went on through yet another door and into a large open room; we three sat as instructed, well spread out on the benches.

“You need a vest,” it must have been obvious to the others that it was my first visit.

“Thanks,” it didn’t seem to be an opening for conversation but I could at least be civil.

In a cardboard box, there were a number of nylon tabards in fluorescent orange, the smarter of the two inmates stood up and passed me the box and I fished a vest out. They were all rather tatty but I followed my companions lead and draped one of the better-looking ones over my head as best I could after untangling the Velcro fixtures which served no real purpose any more. We all eventually sat down again, still well-spaced and silent. As there didn’t seem to be any conversation to be had, in an uncomfortable silence I contemplated the possibilities of the event in the hall ahead of us.

On the other side of the wire reinforced glass partition, the visitors’ hall was large, brightly lit, and relatively inviting with potted palms standing between the large mirror glass panels around the walls; observation windows no doubt. Across the floor, I could just see the tops of rows of chairs set around low tables spaced orderly across the floor. With one seat on one side and three opposite, it wasn’t difficult to work out that the single was for the prisoner the three were for the visitors. Half way down the room, set to one side there was a large wooden desk raised up on a plinth of some sort. At it sat an officer who was fiddling with paperwork and occasionally speaking on a telephone.

We three looked round as one of the wing workers came into the back of the waiting area with a tray of mugs; the hot drinks he had been working on. Reaching the locked door to the visitors’ hall he kicked roughly at it to announce his presence. A woman officer appeared on the other side and unlocked it for him, re-locking it immediately he had passed through; one of my waiting companions snorted derision.

“What I wouldn’t give for a good cup of coffee,” he seemed to speak to no one in particular.

Outside I could see the drinks being distributed to most of the officers who had now gathered in front of the desk and seemed to be receiving some sort of briefing. The door was unlocked again for the tea boy to return to his kitchen, closely followed by another older gent with a large mop in a wheeled bucket. He had been cleaning the floor, cornering himself at the door to finish off the task. The door was locked again although just where they thought we were going to run off to with all those officers sitting around I couldn’t imagine. Someone spoke; the neat good-looking one.

“He’s been here 35 years you know.”

The comment made no sense to me and again, didn’t seem to be have been made to anyone as far as I could tell. The other guy didn’t respond and we just sat waiting. Another comment came.

“He was in for the riots, when they tried to burn the place to the ground, got him another 15 years.”

Trying to piece the comments together, I assumed it was the older of the two workers he was talking about. There was still no response from we other two. There was still just the waiting.

Eventually after the awkward silence, I almost jumped at a direct question, obviously now directed at me.

“Your first time?”

The guy sitting nearest to me, the good looking guy, smiled as I looked up at him and I saw he was waiting for some sort of reply.

“Yes, yes, it is.”

I knew my ‘virgin’ status was rather more than obvious.

“You can’t wear your jumper in there, shirts only.”

“Oh, OK, thanks, I didn’t know,” I felt myself go red, again.

Unfortunately, it was the full extent of the exchange and rather self-consciously I took off the tabard and peeled off the still tight sweatshirt, feeling very self-conscious. Annoyed with myself for doing the ridiculous sucking in of my stomach again, I tidied myself up perhaps rather too much, to try to cover up my over-heated embarrassment. Despite knowing vanity would get you anywhere in here, I tucked myself neatly away, tidied what little hair I had left on my head and replaced the worn fluorescent cloth.

Knowing I probably shouldn’t look around as much as I would normally do, I concentrated on the large wall clock at the far end of the hall. My eyes were never good but the added distortion of the wire mesh in the window made it difficult to see what the time was very accurately. Knowing all prison time was only relative, it didn’t really seem to matter; I just needed a distraction while we waited. The big hand had reached the top of the hour, the other was hovering around the number two position.

“Can’t they ever be on bloody time, the bloody idiots,” it was the other one this time, “my missus has to get back for the kids and we get little enough fucking time as it is, bastards.”

The complaint seemed to be to the world in general. The tension in the room went up a notch or two. We other two smiled our acceptance of his assertion and he settled down again into a brooding silence.

Outside there was some more concentrated movement and the officers had started to disperse from their meeting. Some went to different corners of the hall and sat on tall wooden stools to overlook the hall. Two others went to the far end and opened a door hidden from our view behind what looked like a vending machine. Others went out of sight on the other side to our waiting room and what I presumed was to the hoard of belligerent inmates, thankfully still well out of our way. Everything went very still again, the deployment obviously wasn’t the start of the session, just another tedious step in it.

Eventually though there was action and the first civilian appeared in the far corner of the visitor hall. They handed a slip of paper to one of the two waiting officers and made their way to the coffee machines rather than the seats which had been indicated to her; a drink was an obvious priority. One of my companions, the smart one, stood and straightened his jeans, brushed his shirt down to remove any creases, ran a hand over his perfectly trimmed hair and sat down again; it was easy to tell he was nervous. Perhaps I should have felt the same but I didn’t so what should I be feeling; I discussed the issues silently with myself inside my head.

More people drifted in from the far side of the hall and eventually made their way to the seats which the officers indicated with outstretched arms. We couldn’t hear anything that might have been said although there was little general conversation from what I could see. Behind us, around through the storage rooms and corridors, it was possible to hear the increase in excitement from the other prisoners. There sounded to be quite a lot of them now and if the number of seats indicated anything, there would be. Just how they were going to react to us, the special ones, once we were all out there mixed in the open room started to make me as nervous as my fellow VPs now looked; I concentrated on the activities going on in front of us instead of the noise behind.

Slowly, with cups of hot drinks, packets of crisps and various other vended snacks balanced in hands, under arm pits and in vulgar red lips, the visitors made their way to the allocated places where they waited for their respective prisoners. There were the bold and the glamorous, all high heels and hair dos, long legs and plenty of cleavage, no doubt for the benefit of the hard pressed detained. There was also what seemed to be the ordinary in fact the full spectrum of a modern society. Old and young, some very young still in nappies, some very old, parents or even grandparents perhaps, their expressions seemed to cover everything from nerves, being bored, to disappointed. Some of the toddlers started to run up and down until they were scolded by staff and sulkily returned to sit and wait as patiently as they could for someone they might call Dad to appear. The pantomime of people was rather a culture shock after the rather monocular solitude of the wing.

This eventually started to happen once the first visitors were in their places. Not knowing quite what I was feeling, all I could do was hope I wouldn’t react badly when my time came to go out into it the melee. As the event continued to roll out, the main wing prisoners seemed to be more interested in their loved ones which was a relief, but we were still safely behind glass. My concerned thought was interrupted by one of my group standing again, the nervous, good-looking one. He moved to the door and paced up and down a little in front of it. Perhaps he had seen his visitor arrive? Not being able to make out any proper facial details of anyone, I wondered if I would manage to spot my own kith or kin, whoever it was on their way here. My companions’ quickly reducing patience was rewarded by the door being unlocked for him. A young girl had already sat down at one of the tables right in front of the window where we were waiting. I hadn’t noticed her make any exchange with our guy, but it was obvious now that they were lost loves soon to be reunited; if only for a short time.

Access to the hall required us to have a pat down body search, more thorough than the exercise yard regime, but painless enough in the great scheme of things but he was eventually let through to his beau. The door was locked again by the young officer after a few words in our general direction.

“Sit quite lads, not long now I’m sure,” the officer seemed to appreciate what effect the waiting was having on us.

It was only a minute or less before there was more action although I had been rather distracted by the other prisoners filing in on the other side of the room.

“Here we go.”

The other chap stood and tidied himself as the first had, moved to the door, waved at his visitor and another girl with them and waited to be let through.

“She never lets me down.”

He spoke the words of gratitude for himself rather than for me I was sure.

From my seated position, it was difficult to see out across the sea of people to try to spot anyone I knew. Then, there they were.

I had missed him coming in, too interested in everyone else as usual; it was disappointing that even now I still didn’t have the inner strength to blame myself for my unwarranted interest in other people. By the time I had ended the mental discussion, my visitor was sitting down, he mouthed a ‘hello’ and I immediately felt myself welling up inside. The tears were teetering on the edges of my eye lids and I knew I would lose what little self-control I had in the next few minutes; the only saving grace was I was alone in the room. To help get past the moment I stood up pretended to straighten my shirt and jeans, brushing off imaginary dust and examining my hands for invisible detritus. Not wanting to look at my visitor, but also desperate to get this first meeting under way, it must have looked rather strange from the outside. In my peripheral vision, I could see my son was trying to get my attention, I could see the wave but I couldn’t bring myself to look straight at him; not yet.

After what seemed just too long, the officer ran the extraction protocol and I was let out of the relative safety of the waiting room. My fears of the other prisoners melted away as my direct focus settled on what seemed to be a very confused young man. Although as a family we were not big on physical expressions of any kind, the hug and kiss on the cheek were exceptionally potent. A tear rolled down both of our cheeks and we were unable to speak for some moments. Eventually we sat, the table between us awash with drinks, snacks, and packets of sweets, I went for the hot chocolate first, a veritable luxury on my side of the prison wall.

Although it had only been a few days, a week, I couldn’t remember how long, it seemed as if it had been very much longer. The conversation, once it started, turned into rather more of a free-for-all and I had difficulty in answering one query before he threw another one into the mix. There were no real answers to any of his questions, none I wanted to give yet anyway, but I hoped to just keep him calm and try to get used to the catastrophic changes in both of our lives. Somehow, I was managing to keep up with appropriate positive reassurances about myself and my treatment and I hoped I gave a satisfactory picture that I was doing OK, under the circumstances anyway.

It was becoming difficult to avoid some of the more direct questions, not because I wasn’t able to talk about them, it was more that I just didn’t understand how the difficult information might be interpreted. Any adverse reaction here in the rather harsh environment and under the scrutiny of the staff was the last thing either of us needed; a scene of any kind would no doubt be dealt with summarily. Fortunately, once I had slowed my heart rate to nearer normal, it seemed he was more interested in the actual prison system rather more than the circumstances which got me here. It reached the point where I had to try to calm his general enthusiasm and rising voice, to keep us out of anyone’s frame of interest.

Once past the obvious subjects, we had started to stray into more day-to-day things, business, home and general ‘people’ issues. Up to this point I had always been the problem solver of the family and had to bless his enthusiasm for trying to take on some of my previous roles. Unfortunately, and rather obviously, that was going to prove impossible or even harmful. This was all very difficult to try to explain without getting into other matters, or let out too much information about my activities. Ultimately of course, I had no way of stopping his attempts to pick up things from the point I had disappeared; he was willing but just not too able. In the end, after much repeated insistence, I hoped we had an understanding on the matter and the outline of a plan for what he could or should do.

Eventually, the conversation was starting to go around and around in circles and I rather uncharitably felt the need to get away from it. Fortunately, the two hours which the afternoon visitors occupied were nearly over, I had tried not to look at the clock as it was out of my direct line of sight and would have been painfully obvious but, I needed it to move on now. As the hands moved slowly closer to four o’clock, we moved the discussion onto future visits and the tension softened a little. Having outlined who I had put on the list, he suggested others who might have been added, most of whom I mentally rejected my general veto point being too much too soon being but we were thankfully interrupted before I had to explain myself.

“Start to say your goodbyes please ladies and gentlemen,” the first visit was over.

Officers had been rather discreet during the visiting time, not that I had paid much attention to them, but it was noticeable that they were now adjusting their positions for what I imagined was the more difficult part of the whole event. As there were about 60 or 70 visitors in the hall and only one security system to get through, I suggested it might be a good idea for him to leave sooner rather than later to avoid the crowds; he didn’t want to leave at all. It was never going to be easy but I needed to move the separation on quickly for my own sake as much as his so I took the lead. Another hug and tear dampened kiss and I pushed him off in the direction of the visitors exit. Sitting down quickly, but not wanting to look about too much, we did manage a last wave before he disappeared. A quick glance sideward showed I was not the only one finding the conclusion of the visits emotional. It was discreet and all rather macho, but we all three seemed to be suffering similar emotions now. Picking at the last piece of a chocolate biscuit, I didn’t know what to expect next. As the VP tables were on the outside edge of the hall, all I could do was sit staring at the wall; it had seemed a good idea our backs were to the rest of the attendees.

Without the benefit of seeing what was going on behind me, my over active mind did its usual thing and filled in the blanks with a wide verity of implausible possibilities. The noises were unfamiliar and I felt desperate to look around to piece it all together, but I didn’t want to run the risk of being the focus of the other, non-VP, prisoners. Although I could just make out an officer standing near us, the movement behind us was generally increasing as some of the inmates were starting to get restless now their own visitors had gone. In my head, I felt the cold blade of a knife slide between my shoulders, one of the thugs affecting an unwarranted revenge for me being a nonce, a kiddie fiddler, a queer. The image was all too realistic and when it was realised by the touch on my shoulder, my nerves reacted and I physically jumped away; it had scare me half to death. An involuntary look round showed it was just an officer, she nodded an instruction to go back to the waiting room with the other two. They were already on the move. We were all body searched once more back into our room. Curiously these checks were much more thorough than during the inward process, contraband would be the obvious target, I had nothing to hide; the event was uneventful.

If you did try to smuggle something in, you would have to endure a more rigorous search procedure; fortunately, in all my many visits I never had to sample that delight. However, after every session there would be a few bodies taken out of the hall before the rest of us could leave, and into what I was told was a ‘special’ suite. Here, a full strip search, internal as well as external, would confirm or dispel officers’ suspicions or observation of a prisoner’s blatant stupidity. There was an x-ray chair for the less accessible orifices, but none of this stopped the most determined in their attempts of trafficking. To stop it all together they would have had to treat everyone the same, the practicalities of which would have taken longer than the visit itself. In the end, it was just a numbers game and because of that of course, all sorts of illegal substances and contraband slipped through every visit, every day.

The most fascinating items I heard about were the mobile phones, including chargers; I know they were small these days but the plug? It was interesting to visualise at least. As far as I could make out, the victims of these twice daily intimate searches were selected based on a combination of the regulation percentage quotas, observation during the visit and your past or present history. With only ever a maximum of four VP prisoners Allowed per session, it allowed us sufficient protection purely by the ratio factor although it was not unheard of for our kind to play the smuggling game.

“Sit and wait lads, we’ll get you off as soon as we can,” the officer locked the door again.

Outside in the hall the visitors had all gone, locked out and safely on their way home before the rest of the prisoners were allowed to move from their seats. The delay to get back to the wings gave me the time to safely take in the diverse populace from the many other parts of the prison. Knowing the animosity which there was towards us, as VPs, it was hard to keep focused on the dangers but, it was all out there to soak up danger or not. Parading right in front of me were all the many hair styles, tattoos, muscles, attitude, to put me as close to heaven as I was to a bruising hell. With no idea what I could do with the information and the feelings which this still covert assessment was stirring up, I was glad of my mental box system and secreted it all away; for now at least. After a few harmless but still quite intimidating non-verbal threats towards us through the glass, only some of which were returned by the other two, an officer eventually came into the waiting room. She was mid-way through a radio request to take ‘three from the visitor’s hall back to P wing’, several crackled and mainly unintelligible exchanges later, she seemed to get the clearance she was looking for.

“Right lads, let’s get you out of here before the rest of the crowd, shall we?”

It was a question none of us needed to disagree with.

Getting back to our wing on the other side of the estate would always be a bit of a challenge. It came down to a toss-up between getting out first and putting up with the haranguing from the other prisoners as we passed their cage or alternatively, sitting and waiting for all of them to be despatched to their own homes before we were allowed out. The need for separation would always be a point of issue every time we needed to go anywhere off the wing; this time we went first and I for one was glad of it.

The visitor experience during my time away was, overall, a positive one. My regular twice weekly allocations were always filled and often by people who I might not have expected, given the circumstances. All-in-all, other than the already expected dressing down for my obvious stupidity, no one was anything less than supportive. My youngest son only missed the opportunity to see me when some of the others said they wanted to come on their own for various, more personal reasons; he didn’t mind most of the time. As in any situation there were personality differences between some of the people on the list and I tried to manage these aspects as best I could. There were some occasions when I needed to have more frank discussions I didn’t really want others to be involved in. Other than that, everyone’s support was outstanding, better I should have enjoyed but something I wasn’t going to take for granted. There were old friends, new friends, a few of my wider family; they all had their opinions and shared them carefully. Surprise, annoyance, incredulity, sadness, disappointment, I had all of them and more at one time or another. Fortunately for me few people wanted, or seemed to need, a deeper understanding of my rather chequered background. Strangely, I was rather disappointed not to be able to have an outlet for it, now the bubble had been burst; keeping the feelings to myself didn’t really help.

There was even a little divine intervention. A lady I had only known vaguely in relatively recent years had written and asked if she could be added to my list. There had been letters from several people I knew, I doubted most were ever in possession of the full facts, but their offers of broad support had been very welcomed. This person had been more of a surprise but I processed the request more out of curiosity than anything else. Although I knew her to be a good, upstanding member of the community, our paths had only crossed on irregular occasions, what on earth could this be about? Fearing the worst for some reason, the initial visit rolled onto the calendar.

The details of the visit itself are only relevant to the two of us but overall it seemed her faith in me, had been driven by her faith in a much higher power. My own religious belief had been patchy to say the least although I had always held some faith in the power of prayer, if not in direct intervention. Darrilyn had received her instructions from both the prison system and the higher power and now, here she was. If nothing else we had a good laugh and the occasional cry about it all, however inappropriate it might seem from the outside. Some of the difficulties surrounding my case and the extreme nature of the subject matter were touched upon in passing, but I always hoped for, and generally received, the understanding that there was a deeper appreciation of the wider person I was, rather than the image my current situation painted. Despite the rather dark side of my being, she brought something that seemed to offer a degree of hope and understanding if not redemption; not just yet. Whatever it was, I clung onto it then, and still do today.

If the voice of the divine had spoken to me at all, I hadn’t been listening but I was glad if a little puzzled at the route through which the messages were trying to get to me. That link, personal and spiritual, has lasted and strengthened to the present despite the many revelations that, for even the most understanding person, would have their toes curling up.

On a similar line the vicar of my original home parish, also arranged a visit but through the prison chaplaincy. When we came face to face on the wing one unsuspecting morning, I don’t know who was the more terrified. The cell door was opened by the ecclesiastical collared prison chaplain and he introduced the poor man into the confines of the space. With no real opportunity for a private meeting, my pad mate, but not Dave, he was ushered out to sit to read the paper with one of the wing officers on duty.

It turned out it was Nic’s first time inside such an institution and he did a very good job at holding his nerve as I tried to make it as comfortable as I could, emotionally that is; the bunks were just as hard as ever. As I had hoped, he was supportive but of course I also knew he was there as much for my long-suffering mother as for my well-being. Twenty minutes later, we exchanged appropriate thanks along with a prayer and I let the poor man go back to the real world, slightly more experienced if nothing else. He visited me once more when I was in the workshop, another first for him and I got a bit of a ribbing from the others for having my own direct line to the ‘big man’; I didn’t care. Just knowing there were people who held a little faith in me was good enough.

Understanding I most likely wouldn’t be struck down by a thunder bolt, I got myself onto the wings church list. There was a large chapel in the grounds but we VPs had to be kept out of the main stream of course and had to use somewhere else. A mixture of different worship events were taken by a wide range of Christian and non-Christian faiths each week. In a small room, up on the threes, anything up to twenty of us would gather to share communion, sing or at least try our best sometimes we would get all ‘happy clappy’, pray and proclaim but always be some sort of support for each other. It may have only been spiritually but it was very welcome. If nothing else, it was a chance to dress up in your best visitors’ shirt, have an hour or so out of your cell on a Sunday morning and share whatever you needed, with what were generally a nice if eclectic group of guys. What was most unexpected were how some of the most outspoken ‘hard men’ of the wing who would roll along, share their thoughts and feelings openly but it was obviously the reaction you might get if you were to take such things outside that small bubble of protection. We all had our own needs and different ways of sharing them; let’s say it was interesting and leave it at that.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, the more I integrated myself in this small Christian community, the more difficult thinking about my past life was proving to be. Trying to legitimise it, it was hard if not impossible not to wallow in the bold extremes of beauty and banality, attraction and excess which had been my addiction. Moreover, and mainly because of the perception of myself, I just couldn’t seem to find a happy place to fit into, even in the extreme miasma that is by default, a prison population. Even when I had been on the outside, with access to like-minded people, I must have felt the same so, why I thought it would it could be any different in here eluded me. Because of all this disarray in my head, a rather cloudier version of my imaginary glass safety wall was starting to appear.

As a youngster, I think I found some comfort by celebrating my differences, with and to myself if not in public. It was the only way I had found to make me feel better about my myself. It also allowed me to have what I considered to be an emotional safety net. My activity on the farm would have rocked the rest of my small part in the world to the core, if it had ever been found out but, that possibility was hopefully managed; with self-delusion in hand I don’t think I let it bother me despite knowing it should. To me, I had simply discovered and so was the beneficiary of, a world of pleasure no one else had access to; not in any circles I moved in anyway. Time, experience, and opportunity built this side of things into a life of debauchery which was secret and yet no less real than anyone else’s; it was also becoming almost impossible to imagine having to give any of it up.

Even with the onset of proper, or shall we at least say normal relationships, my inner cravings never went away completely. Nothing in the real world quite replaced the feelings and satisfactions I could get elsewhere. Whether it was because of, or maybe despite it, no-one ever quite fitted the absolute if extreme vision I had locked away in my head. Unfortunately, a pattern had been set and I could see few reasons to break it.

Chapter Sixteen ~ out doors for the first time

Day to day routine behind the walls was all very straightforward now, although I was still amazed at how easily I had fitted into it all. Today, Dave’s extended efforts in complaining had used up most of his energy and he was even quieter after he had tossed his lunch into the bin as some sort of retrograde protest. Noting his apple had rolled away to safety under the worktop, I made a note to retrieve it later when he wasn’t looking. The workers eventually went back to their toils, Dave fell asleep and I was thankful for small mercies.

“Lights on for exercise,” the officer’s voice was familiar but the instruction was new.

“You had better put the light on if you want to go out,” a sleepy voice wafted up in a dreamy muse, I was still none the wiser.

Having an idea that they might have been referring to the emergency call button by the light switch, and having already overheard what happened when prisoners misused it, I hesitated as I didn’t want to fall foul of the wing officers and spoil my short but so far untarnished record.

“Is it the call button I need to press?” I didn’t get an answer but dropped to the floor and pressed it anyway.

The small neon light next to it started to flash slowly as it would do in time with the corresponding one above the door on the other side.

While I waited for whatever would happen next, a glance back out of the window showed it was sunny outside and I contemplated if there was need to wear a jumper or not. Deciding there might be, I fished it down off the shelf and pulled it awkwardly over my head catching the narrow neck edging on my glasses which I had forgotten to take off. Peering with some difficulty in the mirrored plastic tile that constituted a looking-glass I reset the frame across my nose but was dismayed to notice my already portly outline unflatteringly emphasised by the acrylic mix of the garment; it must be one or two sizes too small, or was it me? I quickly prized it off again just as the door was being unlocked.

“Both of you?” I looked back at Dave already knowing the answer.

“You not coming?” I knew it was only a common courtesy for me to ask.

“Well there’s a surprise you lazy fucker,” the officer obviously knew him well.

Stepping quickly through the door before it was noisily locked behind me, I had successfully managed to avoid Dave getting up to speed in his usual protestations.

There were only a few prisoners meandered towards the doorway to the exercise yard and despite verbal encouragement from the officers; no one seemed in any great hurry to get some of the hopefully fresh air. So as not to do anything other than fit in, setting my own pace to that of the others we slowly drifted to the end of the wing. A short queue was forming at the inner gate where three officers were waiting for we prisoners to gather together; it was obviously not a free-for-all event. From the smart black fleece jackets which the warders wore, I wished I had put my sweatshirt on now. With experience, I would take note of what the officers who did the pre-exercise fence checks would wear, to gauge whatever temperature it was outside. As there was generally only one chance to do anything in here, I had to put up with things like this, for now at least.

The heavy steel barred gate behind the wall of officers was unlocked and we filed through into a small lobby area. From here you could just see the adjoining wing through yet another set of doors, a small window and, although there was little time to take in anything else as we all moved forward for a body check, it was another snippet of information to store away. With arms out, feet apart, palms open, the standard procedure for any off-wing activity proceeded to roll us one by one out into the yard.

If you didn’t have anything on you which you shouldn’t, it was then only the ritual humiliation of distrust you had to suffer. If you tried to sneak anything other than the items allowed it just created an unnecessary fuss for nothing. Smokers had all their bits and pieces, asthmatics had their inhalers, nothing else was allowed. On reflection, it would be the perfect place to swap illegal meds or the many other types of contraband. My own rather jaundiced recollection of US prison drama’s saw the yard as the place for a good fight or other lethal retribution; even with my over active imagination I couldn’t see it happening here but I had no real idea.

Once we were all counted out, I found myself uncomfortably in that great land of the lost once more. Having only just got used to the confines of the cell and even the restrictions of the wing, disturbingly, out here, there was just too much space. Once everyone was out there was no going back either, not before the allotted time unless it rained, snowed or there as a major incident of some sort. On this my first outing, obviously not knowing the form, I slowly wandered off to one side to see what anyone else did while being careful not to seem overtly interested in anyone; this was an easy thing to manage given my many years of practice.

Some of the crowd made off to the farthest corners of the area obviously planning to be out of easy sight of the three officers who stood resolutely by the door; there was nowhere to hide out here. Some of the fitter looking inmates started to walk purposefully around in a rough circle near the fence line, others just stood in huddled groups, chatting but suspiciously keeping an eye on everyone else at the same time. Outside the fence there was an officer watching us, perhaps for something perhaps for nothing, his radio in hand he was pacing up and down the wire corridor between the this and the yard next to ours. We were the only prisoners outside at that point, but we were ‘special’ after all.

A few inmates were sitting on three metal benches spread out along one side of the space, they too were huddling together laughing and chattering over this and that but nothing I could make out. Feeling rather lost and exposed, I started to amble slowly and rather aimlessly, hopefully in tune with some of the others walkers all the time trying to spot any clue as to what I should actually be doing.

Glancing around at nothing, but seeing everything, I noticed an elderly guy walking rather stiff-legged in my direction with more of a purpose than most of the others. He was smiling and his rather rotund outline made him roll like a caricature Santa, without the red coat, the hat, or the beard come to that; nothing like Santa at all really and I knew it was just my panic bubbling up.

“Walk with me,” he said it with a smile and I followed alongside him without thinking or questioning.

“Thank you,” I didn’t really know what I was thanking him for.

I had seen the outwardly amiable chap in the meal queues chattering to other prisoners about all sorts of things, sometimes having a laugh and sometimes a more serious conference. Here, his general assurance and friendly demeanour passed on some degree of confidence for me to trust him.

“My name’s Sam, I’ve been trying to get to you since you came in, sorry for that.”

“Sorry, I had no idea,” immediately I realised my own apology was unnecessary.

“I’m the wing rep,” although the title was lost on me I kept quiet this time, “I’m a sort of go between for we inmates and the officers, or anyone else for that matter.”

Although I nodded my acknowledgement, what he was saying seemed to be part of a predetermined speech and I didn’t want to spoil it.

He went on to describe the sorts of things he dealt with, where prisoners might have trouble relating to issues or just didn’t know how to manage for themselves. He moved on to me specifically, about for my stay so far, nothing sprang to mind that I thought I might need help with although I was realistic enough to know something was bound to crop up eventually. Hoping I looked suitably serious and nodding in all the right places, he eventually finished the pleasant and informative diatribe. What I was more anxious about was the way I might have looked to the other chaps, some of whom seemed to be taking note of my being so obviously, the new boy having his induction speech.

“How are you settling in?” my attention was pulled back to Sam.

It sounded like a genuine question and I told him my general thoughts on things, not that there was very much to tell. He, in exchange, gave me the same warnings about my crazy, lazy, pad mate which the officers and others had; we shared a chuckle about him and some of his antics.

“One other piece of advice I give to all the new people, especially first times like yourself,” I changed my face to match his more serious tone, “prison is a state of mind. There are three golden rules to making life easier than it can sometimes be, while you’re in here….,” he went on to list them for me.

Each seemed to be simple enough. First, be respectful to officers and staff always, they are Sir or Miss and this small courtesy should get you a sliver of respect in return; from most of them anyway. Second, keep your head down and stay out of trouble; if there is any to be had, it will find you soon enough without going to look for it. Lastly, don’t talk about whatever it was which got you in here, he added the caveat that it was a personal choice, but often it would work against you eventually; even VP’s amongst their own kind aren’t always safe from inmate retribution.

“I won’t ask you about your issues and I don’t expect anyone else to ask me about mine, it should apply to everyone but it’s up to you, I just try to help people out as best I can.”

The chat had taken us twice round the yard and I noticed his limp had become rather more pronounced.

“I need to sit down for a while if you don’t mind,” of course I said I didn’t, “come and join us at the bench over there and I’ll introduce you to some of the better reprobates.”

He had said it loud enough for the guys in the huddle to look up and raise cheers of mock indignation. As each was identified I didn’t bother to try to remember all the names but nodded to each. Having nothing to contribute but welcoming the inclusion in the small group, Sam was soon fielding questions, dispensing suitable advice, real and comedic, encouragement or warnings. Taking it all in, in silence, but continuing to absorb the rest of the yard’s activities, the statutory one hour a day of fresh air soon passed.

“OK you lot, let’s be ‘aving you,” the call to heal came from the supervising team but was blatantly ignored by most people.

“Let’s be ‘aving you please gentlemen.”

The officer’s mockery was met with a range of suitably growled rebuttals and complaints but we all made our way back inside to the comparative airless confines of the cells.

“Any gossip?”

My pad mate hardly dragged his eyes away from the television as he spoke.

“If you had gone out you would have found out wouldn’t you.”

I surprised myself at the retort but the half-joking reply had a more serious point to make; of course, it went unnoticed but that was expected. Another hot drink would help change the subject and to my amazement, he had already put the kettle on; I had to admit to being a little suspicious. Nothing came from it after all and the rest of the day ran its course; as did the next; and the next after that too.

Several days after, I don’t remember how many, my morning ablutions were interrupted by a loud shout at the side of the door, through the gap.

“You, Rollason?” I didn’t know if it was a question or an accusation.

“Yes,” I spluttered towards the disembodied voice through a mouth full of toothpaste.

“Visitors slip,” a narrow sliver of paper fluttered to the floor at my feet.

“Thanks,” I continued to spit and slaver but he had gone.

Wondering what it was and who had delivered it, I knew it wasn’t one of our usual officers from the accent and the level of educational tone. I stood looking down at the paper but realised how ridiculous I must look. Dave spoke up breaking the spell.

“You have a visit, that’s good I guess. Who’s it from? It’s very quick. Who do you have on the outside? Will they come often?”

His stream of inane and intrusive questions went unanswered.

Being wiser to Dave’s game of kiss and tell, without the kissing bit of course, he didn’t get anything out of me easily. Although I didn’t know it, he was right in that it was too soon for my visitors list to have been approved. It turned out someone was determined enough to have sought a compassionate visit through the Governor’s office; very resourceful of them. At least someone wanted to come and see me, I hoped so anyway, but I would have to wait for the afternoon visitors’ session before I could find out.

Chapter Fifteen ~ first and explosive encounters with boys

The first prolonged periods of this voyeuristic activity had been when we, my married family, had taken on a small shop in the town near where I was born and brought up. Knowing exactly what and where I would be engaging myself to, I had been wrestling with my conscience around the many emotional and physical desires which would rear their beautiful if dangerous heads, before we even moved to the shop; it didn’t stop me though.

Starting with just tentative steps to see what I could get away with, I still managed to fit into the outward normality I had chosen those many years before but it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage on a daily basis. Here in the shop I was faced with the regular reminder of my inner conflicts as the stealthy if innocent fashion parade of my old school uniform wrapped around new, young bodies, passed along the single street which funnelled the students unknowingly in front of me. Time and tendency washed over me in waves of almost painful disappointment and despite knowing I could have avoided these things, I found that I didn’t.

As I had become older, being in my late twenties, I thought I had developed a maturity in hiding my darker side but now, here in the maelstrom which seemed to suck me in, I realised I had only been fooling myself. The sensible part of my brain put it down to the simple impossibility of availability and, although it didn’t change the situation, there was nothing to be gained from the activity so I should keep away and stop torturing myself. One the other side of the argument, the more desperate side wanted to make me take every possible advantage. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, I could accept neither argument and as had become customary, did nothing; I chose to ignore the growing pressure in the back of my head that was expanding towards my heart, and of course my ever-frustrated groin.

Although I never really had it the first-time round, the extremes which youth allows bombarded my fragile resolve and in my mind’s eye I pictured myself with perfectly styled hair, smooth flawless skin, the clothing, the camaraderie, the courage. Torturing myself endlessly every day, I was inevitably falling deeper into the miserable memories of my many fruitless years in this world.

The thoughts of school dragged up specific memories which were both comforting and exasperating. One of them involved a boy named Clive. He was a great looking guy, not exactly top of the range like some others in the class but, close enough for me. Good skin, no sign of facial hair, tidy dresser, smart almost military haircut, fit, but not so that he would be dragged off to join in sport; almost perfect. Unfortunately, he was saddled with the nick name ‘Gypo’. Not because of his looks, as my junior school crush had, but because his father worked on a local motorway construction crew. The lifestyle had them moving around to follow the work so he had never had any real home to speak of. In this instance of their migratory life, it also meant him having to start mid-way through one of the terms which immediately gave him yet further disadvantage. Trying to intervene in my own inept and ultimately ineffectual way, it wasn’t until it was too late that I realised, by association my own low status had rubbed off onto him and he would get picked on almost by default and I could see the signs before the bullying started.

To support him, as well as an excuse to get closer to him, I was very active in retrieving his shoes, football boots, satchel, or anything else that was regularly purloined and hurled over school fences and roofs. He seemed to take it all in his stride but I would lose my temper on his behalf and was not so accepting of the daily ridicule. My heart went out to him and in a way where I wished he could feel in some way, enough at least to appreciate my friendship or possibly more but, it never happened. As a consolation, I had to be content with just his rather distant interpretation of friendship and of course his more attainable good looks.

One morning there was an abnormally long pause in registration which proved to be a sad but silent event.

“Clive Jones, anyone seen Jones?” No one spoken up. “Oh no, sorry, he’s gone.”

My heart sank; I hoped not too visibly.

The only other secondary school chum who came close to any sort of friendship, was not from any degree of attraction for a change but more comrades in adversity. He was also of a ‘large’ build physically and equally uninterested in sports because of it. Academically we were a similar match and often high up the unwritten league tables, together we unwittingly fell to being the class swots. By that age, I knew a little more about how boys worked and certainly enough to know that he didn’t have the same interpersonal interest as me. He was also the only class mate to invite me to his house, after school and occasionally in the holidays which held out some vague if unimaginable hope. Overall, I was grateful for my inclusion and most certainly his friendship. Ultimately it only served to highlight my differences to other ‘normal’ people. Rather ungraciously it also demonstrated how I didn’t want to be the way we both looked externally. Such personal revelations seemed to fix my decision to do without, rather than put up with things, just for the sake of company. If I hadn’t had my regular alternative activities I don’t know how different things might have been but, with my mind seemingly made up that I was destined to be different, I would never know.

While we had the shop, Andrew came in one day but, after only ten years, he needed to prompt me into recognising him; my embarrassment was a sad testament to my rather selfish solitude.

During this ongoing personal crusade towards adulthood, there were not many significant events and only one came close to fulfilling a long-held dream; a dream being the operative word. During the year when we went over to decimal currency in 1971, I was very lucky enough to be sent on a school trip; a trip with very much difference to the usual day’s out at the local park with a picnic and games. Two weeks cruising around the Mediterranean on a liner with several hundred other school children from around the county was potentially something rather magical; or so my limited experience gave me to think. Previously, my brother had been to Germany for a week in an army camp luck bugger, my sister had visited a pen pal also in Germany but now, I was going on a luxury cruise. In my head, I was cock-a-hoop at the prospect of having something better than the others two just for a change.

The tarnish soon began to show as what we all thought was going to be a luxury holiday, when integrated with the strict and restrictive timetable, it looked more like a fully functioning educational event with only minimal time for fun.

Being at that peculiar age of 13 I had no care for the sacrifices my parents had made to allow me to go. It was my father who amazed the rest of the family when one afternoon he asked if anyone was ever going to notice that he had given up smoking. It had been two weeks and no one had. In the early 70’s it was still socially acceptable to smoke although I was the only one in the family who never had; I hated it then just as much as I do now. The grand disclosure was prompted by my mother wanting her daily, post dinner, inhalation but found she had none of her own left. With suitable mock horror and exaggerated surprise, we all pretended we knew all along, but of course we didn’t. Being suitably uninterested in how my father had managed to give up his 40 a day habit from well before his RAF days, the important result for me was that he had been putting the cash equivalent away and, after a few more months of frugality and healthy living, I got to go on the cruise. He never smoked again, neither did my mother and ultimately only my siblings were left with the disgusting habit; if you discount my grandfather’s snuff taking that is.

Leaving the chill of a very British February, we flew out to Naples and spent 14 days visiting Italy, Sicily, Crete, Turkey, Greece and finally flying back home from a very wet and cold Venice. It was a whirlpool of culture, sightseeing, sea sickness and stupidity. Despite all that or perhaps because of it all, I am left with what is most likely, a rather rose-tinted memory of having a splendid time. Dozens of rolls of film, copious notes and drawings, every daytime minute filled with history and histrionics, trips, and trivia. These generally good things thankfully managed to overshadow the more difficult aspects of mass living which I had never experienced before. Dormitory sleeping arrangements, intense airless sweaty heat, constant crowds, and noise plus the diabolical food managed to cripple my already fragile confidence. While I lost about two stones in two weeks, not which it should have done me any harm, I did decide that if this was being part of society, mixing with fellow humans was not going to be something I could relish.

We were encamped in large dull dormitories far below decks, holding about 30 bodies. Describing them as large is misleading as with bunks four high, every inch of space was filled with pubescent pimply people and their unwashed baggage.

The night times were always the worst nightmare; for me anyway. Having hardly ever had to share a bedroom at home I was not used to sleeping with other people, let alone this company of hormone brimmed boys. As you might imagine, night-time was not necessarily for sleep not with all that fun and freedom to be explored and exploited. The teachers were billeted just across the gangway but only made token attempts to control the mayhem.

My role in this chaos seemed to have been decided very early in the trip, from my dubious reputation I was the miserable one, the too serious one and in the end, because I was constantly told so, I thought I played my part very well. All I wanted was to sleep and not get into trouble, but it hardly ever happened without one big fuss or another. Even the ship’s company in the form of the Chief Petty Officer had difficulty in applying any degree of authority; he did better than our own staff but only with the threat of the Captain. Eventually, very eventually, the self-styled pirate hoards and their merry followers would get just too tired, fall into their bunks, and drift off to the steady rocking of the ship and the background hum of the engines only a few more decks below. It was in this relative quiet of the night when my most feared and yet deeply desired dream nearly happened; it might have been a dream but it was certainly very real at the time.

This night, everyone was settled although you could always find someone getting up or quietly moving about. Thinking it was just another toilet call, I lay there and hoped-for sleep to finally fall. My assessment had been right and I listened and pictured the relieved bladder as it came back into the cabin and padded quietly, feet slapping gently on the hard metal floor. What I wasn’t expecting was someone climbing under my blanket at the other end of the bunk. Peering tentatively over the edge of the covers, the dim night-lights allowed me to recognise one of our own boys. One of our classmates was a sleep-walker. We all knew about it as it had nearly stopped him being allowed to go on the trip altogether. He lived in the same village as me and was unfortunately, one of my early somebodies on whom I fine-tuned my voyeurism; mainly because of his tightly curled beautiful blonde hair. This now unkempt hair settled itself down seemingly with no notion of where he was, I couldn’t help wondering if this was my reward for being patient or if it was just one big sleep walking mistake.

Not knowing what to do nor wanting to miss any chances, I could only lie there and wait to see what might happen. So, I waited; and waited. Nothing really happened. He made himself comfortable and that was it, so what was I going to do now? As I had no frame of reference, I still did nothing. No one else seemed to have seen him get in the bunk or be bothered about it if they had. Silently, although almost forgetting to breathe, my heart and head were getting close to a state of pure panic. Frozen to the sheets rather than animated by my fears I tried to take in what might be happening.

His breathing had slowed and his warm smooth weight had settled comfortably against my legs. He didn’t react as I eventually managed to lift my head up enough to see if there were any clues about what I should, or even could do next. His eyes were shut tight in his angelic face and the blanket gently rose and fell over the contours of his rounded torso, he was fast asleep.

The bunks were narrow enough but long so although we were very snug, lying head to toe there was no other option than to be touching at several points along our length but. Despite my normally fantastical imagination, my fear, if that was what I was feeling, couldn’t contemplate any action.

Someone else got out of bed a few bunks down and went to the toilet, passing right by us as they did, fortunately neither of us moved to attract attention until they had passed. This terrifying moment for me did prompt Owen to roll over, still asleep, to face my legs curling and sliding his one leg up over mine and planting his foot unintentionally in my groin. The move had me completely pinned down. As there was little I could seem to do, I was interested to find that some of my fears were being calmed by this rather intimate contact. To add to the confusion, I could feel my groin expanding at the gentle attention of this soft warm foot. Equally mechanically, I felt the added pressure of his not inconsiderate genitals pressing against my knee; I had no idea what was I going to do with it.

We were both in our fully enclosing night-clothes but this degree of closeness was something I had longed for and had dreamed of so many times, I couldn’t believe that this could be happening, not here, not now! Despite my visualised and now potentially real pleasures, I couldn’t find the strength to make any kind of action. Being so close and yet so, so far from something turned out to be far worse than having nothing at all.

Eventually because of the pain building up in my extremities, I did slowly move my one arm from beneath his outstretched and rather heavy leg. With this one piece of freedom I desperately wanted to reach out to at least make myself more comfortable but the inevitability of touching my soft erection. My rather darker consciousness was pushing for me to reach out further and touch him instead so I did; not being able, or even wanting to resist. A tentative and gentle touch to the back of his enfolding leg didn’t seem to get any negative reaction. He stirred a little but to my surprise, not very much. He rocked a little from side to side to settle himself further and he was now facing down over my outstretched legs and I felt the twitch of his penis against them which in turn stimulated mine even more.

After what seemed like a lifetime, I slid my arm further out into the covered darkness and it met with the firm but relaxed roundness of his buttock cheek. Beautifully warm, it clenched up firm and round to the almost feather light touch of my palm and finger tips. The minute but perfect movement moved more than the earth of my obscure erotic fantasy and I had to quickly grab my now solidly erect member to stop it from exploding its sticky mess over both of us.

With my legs tensed against the possibility of ejaculation I hoped the immediate danger was ebbing, Owen rolled back off me with a soft groan. His hand brushed against mine as he searched for and then stroked his own tented pyjamas. Knowing I was closer than I had ever been to another fully erect and seemingly compliant contemporary, I couldn’t move the last few millimetres to touch the enticing member. He moved again and I pulled my free hand away as he slipped sideways silently onto the floor from under the blanket; fortunately, we were on the bottom bunk. Even in the dim light I could just make out the shadowy outline of his still distended pyjama trousers. With the coldness of the floor his eyes flickered open momentarily before closing again as he made his way silently back to his own bunk just opposite mine. All I could do was lie there, disappointedly gazing out into the gloom as he settled into a deeper unknowing sleep, leaving me with improper hopes and dreams dashed and a puddle of now cold seamen sitting in my hand.

The following morning, I didn’t get up too quickly not wanting anyone to see my still expectant morning-glory with its halo of damp expulsions. It wouldn’t have taken much to prompt comment. With some relief, it seemed my fears of hell and damnation were unfounded and the subsequent days passed without incident or accident in the now normal confused mix of tedium and exuberance.

A few days later, for some unknown reason the subject of sleepwalking came up in conversation much to my horror although tempered with just a little unrequited hope. In my head, I took the opportunity to speak to Owen about his night-time outing but of course, in the real world I did no such thing. Nothing relevant was said about anything and it turned out Owen and I were not the basis for the laughter and derision which was being heaped on some other poor hapless soul. Seeing Owen many years later with his wife and family, I knew I was right not to have been so familiar, even if I could have made myself do the things I dreamt of; would there ever be an appropriate opportunity?

The only other school time experience was, unfortunately, on another school trip. This time I was 15 and it was a long week-end walking and camping trip to North Wales.

It was one participant who swung it for me as I uncharacteristically signed up this being the new sports teacher that year, the delectable Mr Sewell. He was constructed with a tall, faultless, sculptured body, exquisite ginger blonde hair the sort that looked like feathers lying flat against his perfectly domed head. A flawless face blushed with freckles surrounding his vibrant pale green eyes; I had an instant crush so deep it almost made me sign up for sports teams! Although I still actively avoided any activities in games periods, there were no complaints from me anymore about being told to clean the changing rooms or sort the kit out. A few times I even managed to barge into the staff changing room on some stupid pretence but only ever managed to catch him in his underwear, never the shower; not for the want of trying.

The outing unsurprisingly was not the holiday experience I had pictured or hoped for, knowing it was probably some sort of penance for being so devious. There were no proper toilets, some questionable camp fire cooking, typical wet Welsh weather and somehow, I seemed to get the only part of the tent to sleep in with an uncomfortable hole underneath it. The other lads were not taking any aspect of the trip seriously and spent most of the time showing off; and not in a clever way. Consequently, Mr Sewell and the other member of staff were constantly grouchy and I for one just wanted to go home; the Sunday afternoon just couldn’t come quickly enough.

By the time, it eventually did, we had all quite rightly decided it had been an all-round disaster and took the decision to make the last afternoon as fun as we could, for a change. A game of British bulldog was instigated with the targets, obviously, being the members of staff. They seemed to fall into the spirit of the game and didn’t notice or mind as it moved closer and closer to the river. Closer and then, too close. In they both went amid a hail of expletives and laughter. Most of the other boys were straight in after them but not me; I couldn’t swim. all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the magnificent view. Clothes were stripped off to make the fighting and tom foolery easier and safer; I gathered up some of the clothes to prolong the pleasure

Some of my class mates were more than acceptable to look at but it was Mr Sewell now just in his very transparent ‘Y’ fronts which made my day, and the trip, if not the year. As I had hoped and expected, he had nothing less than perfection in his near naked magnificence. No-one seemed to take any notice except me and during the journey back I could wallow in my memories as the others slept off their excesses; memories were all they were ever going to be. In my last year of school Mr Sewell moved on, a sad loss.

It was also the end of my own school days not long after and it all ended with very little fanfare and was, for me at least, rather dismal. Some people had over inflated emotional partings whereas I just slipped silently back to where I had come from. Looking back, it was more likely that I didn’t give anyone the chance to include me, but it didn’t really seem to matter, I was still the odd one out. Whether it was real or just self-effacing it didn’t seem to matter, I could look after myself and needed no-one; it was the insular side of my divided mind which won any internal discussion on the subject.

The normal school holiday delivered its usual pleasantries, but they were cut short by the reality that school did not actually existing for me anymore. After a brief respite and a token holiday period, the more serious matters of the rest of my life had to be addressed.

My exam results were very average and well below expectations but when asked the question what I was going to do next, I simply had no idea and realised I hadn’t given it any consideration at all. Unlike my siblings, I was somewhat of a let-down although no-one had ever said it aloud.

Being marginally good at a lot of things, but not good enough at any one of them, I was hard pressed to see how I would make a career out of any of the things I really enjoyed. My sister had gone to catering college, my brother into an engineering apprenticeship, I was good at ironing, making Sunday lunch and staying out of the way. Narrowing my sights to the few options which were left, it came down to what I was most reasonable at and that was something to do with art. It was true I did enjoy it but had no idea as to what you could do to make a living from the medium. After being led along this route rather than take any sort of initiative, I somehow ended up with an interview for a place at a local Art School; I have little recollection of how it all came about which was a testament to my enthusiasm at the time. I was duly taken to the place by my father, I went through the haze which was the interview process and I won myself a place.

The next task and probably the most exciting so far, was to go shopping for the myriad of things I would need to start whatever it was I was going into. In a couple of marathon sessions, I had all the drawing and painting products from the long lists which was supplied. With heavy impractical tool boxes to put it all in, oversized folders to store and carry the work I would be expected to produce and even, to my great surprise, some new clothes. For a change, they were of my choosing, although I had no idea if they were suitable for the big new world of grown up life. If all that wasn’t enough, my first moped. Without me knowing, my brother had been tasked with the job of procuring it for me, my parents paying for it and me trying not to kill myself riding it.

The teaching style in this new academic environment was very different of course, which came as rather a shock after the strict timetables and formal structure of the years before. For those of you who haven’t been in higher education, it was more a case of this is what you must do, now go and do it. If you do you do, if you don’t you will most likely get moaned at but ultimately, it’s up to you. Being fair, that is a rather over simplification but of course you can imagine how I only did just enough to stay off the radar.

In a class of 8 people, seven boys and one girl, it should have afforded some sort of chance for feeling part of a team, but it didn’t seem to work; again. Although I could appreciate the girl being the focus of attention for most of the group as she was the first female who most of us had been in regular company with who didn’t ever wear a bra, I would have been in the shadows anyway. She was stunning to look at and knew what her attributes were and from what I could tell, used them to every advantage. She was a very intelligent and an all-round ‘nice’ person but just not the right gender for me. The self-appointed class stud was quick to stake his claim on her the very first day and they seemed to be a couple even before the first coffee break. He had never been good-looking and not even that nice a person, I knew him from school. As it happened, their families’ relative bank balances were well suited and they would no doubt eventually sail off into the sunset on either of daddy’s yachts.

With an otherwise mundane group, there didn’t seem to be any other ‘buddying up’ likely to happen, the closest I got to making a friend was one guy, Steve, who at least seemed to have the same work ethic as I did; minimal. We had little else in common and he certainly didn’t have the same personal or social preferences as me but, I would never say never just in case. At least one afternoon a week we would skip lunch and head off across the wilderness of the park. If the weather was good it was a wonderful place to be and the two miles to his house for an hour or so of relative freedom became a welcome respite from the academic melting pot. We only ever had food and drink at either his house or in the local pub where he worked at weekends so why I put myself through the agony of expectation and the certainty of disappointment, I would never admit to myself. Although I did enjoy the exercise, he was as quiet as I often was but there was never any tension between us which was nice; if nothing else. We would chatter about things which might have constituted flirting by the more experienced but, I certainly didn’t recognise it. Disappointingly nothing else ever happened but, I didn’t know how to initiate anything and he was obviously not inclined that way anyway.

The closest we ever came to the key subject was during a field trip to the city canal system for a term project. When he told me about it being part of the city’s gay cruising area I found myself a little on edge despite my many hidden hopes. Naturally I pretended to know what all that meant but had no actual picture in my head of what it signified. It was probably another lost opportunity but it was just that, lost. It might have been that we were both waiting for each other, but if it had been the case I felt sorry for having wasted his time. Despite these shortcomings, the freedom, and the best company I had had so far kept me going back, more in vain hope than real prospect.

It was another rather more significant event which made that year one of the most unsettling and yet superb. That year’s intake was the first to use the brand new shiny building and state of the art facilities, rather than the elegant but old building wherein I had received my interview. There was everything you could think of to produce art, including a large darkroom, deep in the bowels of the building. Although I enjoyed most of the subjects on the syllabus, the most interesting of them was photography. It was years before the digital age but we still had the use of expensive cameras, full reproduction facilities, creative freedom, the complete works. We had a free range of the facilities if it was on genuine college business, and I used that as a regular smoke- screen for not being part of any popular clique. Using the darkroom as a regular refuge during lunchtime I was working in there preparing film to produce prints for my part of a group display. It was completely dark as I was processing film so not even red safety lights, I paid little attention to the light-proof revolving door as it scraped noisily round, presumably for someone to enter.

“Hi?”

Speaking out more as common courtesy, I didn’t want the person to be surprised, or worse, turn on the safety lights. There was no reply but it was nothing new. What did take me by surprise was the closeness I felt from my silent, unknown companion. There was just a warmth and the almost indistinguishable sound of their breathing but enough to make me pause and listen more intently; my curiosity was pricked but I carried on. Going back to winding my film, I almost dropped the canister when something touched the back of my jeans just below the waistband. By the time I had recovered control of the expensive instrument I could feel it was a hand and it was starting to explore the topography of my right buttock. Stunned into silence, I froze on the spot as all the things I should have done passed through my mind in one light-less blinding flash. This, whatever it was, could be anything but possibly not what I had dreamt of, longed for but had absolutely no idea how to react to. The exploration continued across to the other, now slightly less tense mound. Of course, if I knew then what I know now, I would have reciprocated, probably mirror the attention, and hopefully enjoy wherever it took us. Indecision was my friend that day and by doing nothing I now know I must have signalled my acceptance of the initial touch. A second-hand joined the first and now had both cheeks cupped. Reacting to the squeeze I clenched my reply without consciously knowing what I was doing. Common sense would have dictated I at least acknowledge the move or make some attempt to find out who it was, but I found I had nothing to offer; language hadn’t featured in my encounters to date and I had no natural inspiration for anything relevant even if I could have been able to breath.

To be safe I put the film equipment carefully down on the work top but my movement prompted a tightening of the grip. Confidently but carefully I was spun round by the hands which moved deftly to the front of me holding my hips. Despite the bizarre circumstances, even this small intimacy was having a most productive effect which manifested in the growing mound between thumbs which pressed gently but confidently into the creases on either side of my thickening groin. I braced myself against the work surface behind me.

It was obvious from the first touch that we were not simply bumping into each other in the dark and this was a deliberate move on their part and, from what I could tell they must have greater experience than me; which wouldn’t be difficult. While the automatic reactions were going on down below, I found my brain desperately wanting to know who it was feeling me up. Thankfully, the distraction of such pointless thoughts was frightened off by my now raging hormones. Taking the opportunist option, I just stood there, steady, and expectant.

From the size and strength of the hands I had assumed it was a man, but still didn’t know who, what or even why; I tried to stop the questioning distraction but it was difficult. There was no smell to give the game away but not all teenagers were interested in aftershave. It might not have been a student, perhaps it was a tutor? There were any number of trendy bright young things as well as the usual grumpy old men. The pleasant prospect which some of the potential candidates brought, helped to drag my attention back to the event in hand.

Should I be doing something here? Speak? Touch? Indicate my fear? How about showing my acceptance? What was it I would be accepting anyway? This might be a mugging. Although it was a reasonable enough consideration, the unzipping of my jeans suggested that it was not my wallet they were after, but another rather more intimate package. With most of the other options quickly dispelled, I concentrated on the matter in hand or rather in his or her hands.

One of these was fumbling through my clothing for the rather enlarged organ caged in my underwear and it would have been easier for me to do it, but by moving in that direction, the other hand had started to gently rub my bottom again gripped what I took as a silent admonishment. By the time my brain had registered the notion, my arm had already brushed against a combination of short, spiky curves and soft silk locks of hair around an even softer ear. My overriding reaction was to want to run my hand over and through what I clearly pictured as shaved short at the base, sculptured up through the neck line and stepping out to longer flowing bouncing silky waves of chemically enhanced blonde; beauty personified. My imagination was fully captured and my thoughts could only go in one direction now. The soft cushion of their head moved away from my touch and although rather disappointed by it, I took the hint and put my roving hand back on the counter top out of the way.

During this brief event, my semi erect manhood had been released from my rather mundane, functional, but thankfully clean underwear. The rather paltry gap in the ‘Y’ had been slipped tightly behind my testicles which I found to be a new sensation, the gentle forward pressure helping to maximise the now full rigidity of my erection. In my head, I could see it in full and glorious Technicolour; the stuff of dreams; the terror of nightmares. Although I knew I should have been doing more than just standing there, neither of nature’s fight or flight instincts seemed to be working, here in the darkness all I could see were the imaginary stories of my various privations playing out. Garishly illuminated by my imagination and fuelled by a yet unrequited expectation, my brain went into slow motion and the sensations lingered in graphic but uncontrolled awe.

The darkroom was never a cold place but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the warm wet cocoon which enveloped my now rigidly twitching shaft. The envelope slid with firm lips right down to the base in one long smooth motion. As it did I could feel the tantalising flicking of a tongue along and around the sides, it rolled off, not quite to the end but locking in behind the now solid bullet head. More vigorous and varying actions followed this initial thankfully gentle incursion both up and down, in and out, all around and back again. My erratic and laboured breathing was making my head spin from a lack of oxygen. Fearing I might spoil the event, I managed to hold back some involuntary thrusting hip movements but the hands grasped both of my buttocks again, kneading and pulling at them in time with the avid attention being plied at the front. Tense and trembling I reached a point of needing to move in unison and I tried to time my own action to those of my aggressor; they didn’t attempt to stop me this time.

The pressure continued to grow in my groin and the urgent need to push the pregnancy of my ejaculation out into the void was becoming almost too much to contain but my twitching and pushing against the human suction machine eventually created the glorious response I had pictured oh so many times. That moment arrived.

As I was taken deep into the soft wet warmth for what would be the last time, it felt as if I was falling, falling too far, falling further into the still strong vacuum, deeper than I thought I could or should have gone. Despite being well endowed, the energy of this glorious excitement seemed to magnify my already ample length and girth to bursting point. The end was close, closer but never quite there, hanging on, grinding ever closer to its peak by the ridges deep at the back of the over accommodating gape. Seeming to go further, higher, and deeper than could possibly be safe. I had little regard for any consequences as I burst my thrusting ejaculation down the hot, wet, accepting throat. My hands gripped onto the edges of the counter to stop me grabbing at the now fully impaled head, wanting desperately to keep it in place to prolong the ecstasy but afraid of the outcome if I did.

Our synchronised moments ended abruptly except for some residual but pointless pumping of my hips. This appeared to be more annoying than productive as the once enveloping entity quickly retreated leaving a chill to settle along my wavering and quickly failing erection. An almost eerie silence fell over us tinged only with our breathless exhalations. The sounds we had made, the slapping combination of breath and suction echoed on, but only inside my head.

Still not knowing what I should do now the event seemed to be over, a lick from a still warm sticky tongue gathered up the last drips from my now flaccid penis and sent a final shudder of ecstasy and pain around the hyper sensitive head. With a soft kiss, up on my damp pubic mound, perhaps to calm the pain or perhaps to thank me for the pleasure, the still firm hands released their hold behind me; there was a soft groan, a brief shuffle of feet and then silence.

Silence. How was this ever a time to be silent? How could I not share even the commonest of courtesies? How did I not do something other than just stand there limp and used? If I had been fitter, my breathing might have slowed more quickly at least enough to pull my thoughts together but by the time that had happened, the door had spun its rather noisy rotation and the experience was most over.

It seemed like ages before I could think what I should do next while at the same time not really wanting it to have ended. A chill reminded me of my still exposed genitalia and I felt the need to tuck myself away. With the vivid images already fading, I managed to hang onto some of them to store away in a hurriedly formed mental box. Feeling the remains of the day still oozing from the eye of the member now safely back in its cage, I reached in and picked at it, transferring the droplet, and allowing it to linger on the corners of my mouth; the taste of paradise. Popping the film cassette safely into one of the many draws, checking for a second and third time my jeans were safely zipped up and still in total darkness, I left.

Wanting to look for clues for who it had been but at the same time desperate to be alone, I headed straight outside. It was bright, blindingly so in comparison to the darkroom and I closed my eyes while sitting on a bench as I tried to relive what surely must have been a dream; fortunately, the remnants of an ache between my loosely crossed legs signified it had been all very real. Although still only early afternoon, I didn’t want to go back to any classes but desperately wanted to find out who had just been so generous to me.

Why did I think it had to be someone from my group? Why did it happen at all? What would I do if they made themselves know to me in some way? Thinking through how I might handle any sort of confrontation, confirmation, or conversation on the matter, in the melee of confusion I did what I usually did when I was unsure of anything, I ran away; literally.

Fortunately, it was one of the days when I was supposed to stay for an evening class and I had gone on my bike, but lessons were the last thing on my mind. None of it seemed as important as getting away from there. Once I was, the journey back was taken very slowly, even less than a 50cc moped normally manages. When I eventually got home, a not fictitious headache took me for a long walk through to the furthermost solitude of our fields where I could focus on what had gone on and what I was going to do about it; if anything at all.

Having to go back to college seemed to be difficult as I was torn between someone knowing what had happened and knowing someone must know, but was not saying anything. Did they know it was me? Was it just a chance encounter? Could it have been a beautiful mistake? Yes, that had to be it, a peculiar but impressive mistake. Once I has sorted it out in my head as well I as could, after I had run through as many scenarios as I could picture, I wandered back to the farmhouse generally unnoticed and life seemed to continue quite unaware of the enormous leap in my sexual evolution.

There were many more expectant lunch-times spent in the darkroom, just in case the mistake might be repeated. It never was. Interestingly, there were no other significant changes in the day-to-day happening of college life either. My sense of observation was strong enough to have noticed anything, or anyone around me might have changed their routine, have a look, or display a level of embarrassment. No one treated me any differently, not even a sore throat to give me the tiniest clue. At least there would always be something to look back on and even work towards in however many years it might take for me to be presented with any similar opportunity.

The cell door swung open and I jumped, visibly I think. My absence from the present had missed the normal preamble for unlocking the door. Quickly checking I was both descent and hadn’t embarrassed myself again, I was relieved to find everything was tucked away and dry before the wheelchair was pushed back rather roughly into the small space. Its occupant didn’t bother thanking the officer for the help, but I didn’t expect him to somehow. He was too busy trying to contain himself in some sort of excitement.

Once he had rather easily, if a little over animated, thrown himself back onto the bunk he couldn’t wait to share the details of the morning’s outing. If I had hoped for a positive recitation I was to be disappointed. The rather vacuous ranting, liberally coloured with expletives, concerning the unsuitability and ineptitudes of the medical centre and its staff. Once in full flow, his accent deteriorated into almost unintelligible babbling and I switched myself off again, having already got enough of the gist after only the first few words. Fortunately, the workers had come back at the same time as he had and there was not long to suffer before lunch was served.

Chapter Fourteen ~ prison regime, how to fit in

Not really wanting to go to back to sleep I had to be content with just lying there, cold and alone. It seemed like hours although it probably wasn’t but without a time piece it was difficult to tell. Perversely, in the gloom it began to feel that some of the trivial things were becoming more important than the bigger picture. Having not worn a watch for many years was it something I must work on; perhaps there was one on the canteen order sheet. Being used to a well-ordered life linked closely to the calculated movements of the clock, this new existence might prove more difficult. Although I had always considered myself adaptable, here in the stagnant atmosphere, it was getting clearer that there was nothing I could do about it, nothing I could organise for it, nothing I could take charge of within it.

Trying to remain quiet, both in my body and my head, I turned to look out of the thin slither of window. It was still night-time but it would never be dark. The yellow orange flood lights reflected off the wire mesh fences behind which the background was a pale watery indigo blue. Still looking for a little comfort from somewhere, I took my shrunken manhood in hand, wiped the few drops of salty but familiar fluid from its unseeing eye and wrapped myself back around the only solace I seemed able to find.

On the wing, the night’s formal routine slowly wound down with the last check up on we guests. The regularity of this watching brief was only changed by how many special-order inmates there were on the wing. It was easy to spot the worst offenders from the coloured cards placed next to their picture on the door, silently indicating you were part of the special observation regime. With intervals of anything down to 15 minutes, it could be a real pain even for those of us who weren’t designated so. To be fair they were necessary for some prisoners and, after the first few nights. I was only affected if they happened to be in the cell next door, or in one case and only for one night, in the cell with me.

Several things triggered the timed cell watch, mainly self-harm. Some people just couldn’t cope with being locked up, some with the solitude, others with the relative silence. On the other hand, there were those who were just hell-bent on harming themselves and of course, some cases were pure belligerence. Having no psychological training and only a basic appreciation of mental issues, perhaps that was too simple? On the whole, I managed to steer clear despite my natural urge to help people with problems.

There were some I didn’t want to leave to their troubles. One pleasant, articulate guy, perfectly calm and composed in the daytime, suffered regular and extreme night terrors. When it happened, he would hide away under his bunk and console himself with a razor blade prized out of the disposable items issued to us. When it got too bad he was on hourly watch. This meant he was unlikely to bleed to death although he did make an incredible mess of his cell each time. Once discovered, with attention from an often-annoyed nurse, copious bandages and with any luck a calming word from an understanding night officer, he would be kept going for a few more nights. He was one of the few people I talked to regularly and I was torn between trying to be some sort of support and just minding my own business. In the end, I opted for the latter but felt sorry for him each time it happened.

Most self-harmers would wait for the night shift as good delaying tactic. While I was there it was not customary for the night staff to have cell keys, only those for getting on and off the wing; it was a security measure for reasons I could never understand. However, any medical intervention for cutting up or other general disruption required an exchange of crackling radio calls to central control, copious garbled exchanges, and the often-long wait for the keyed officers to turn up with whatever support the situation required. Ambulances and fire engines were a regular nightly light show if you were on the road-side of the block, which I was for most of my stay. With sleep often eluding me anyway, there were many nights when I just couldn’t help peering through the narrow cracks at the door edges and listening silently to the chaos and complaints. It became a rather perverse and macabre game to work out who had done what and where they were going to be taken. It passed the time if unfortunately, at someone else’s expense. There was a lot of that sort of behaviour but after a while you had to learn to switch off from most of it or at least distance yourself for your own sanity.

Other annoyances included dirty protests, arson, or just general smashing up of the cells. Whatever the trouble, I never could understand the mindless destruction of your things out on the few benefits we were allowed, especially the television; what was the point?

One afternoon there had been an altercation with an inmate and the staff, it was nothing new so no one took much notice of it only to stay out of the way. The individual had stormed off the floor and slammed his cell door behind him with a chorus of foul language. As we didn’t have to be out on the wing if we didn’t want to, nobody amongst the prisoners took too much notice at the time. The first thing any of us knew of a problem was the alarms going off and an emergency lock down being ordered loudly. Officers were immediately running about with purpose and you had no choice but to return to your cell and keep out of their way. All doors were quickly locked and the day’s routines unceremoniously cancelled. It was difficult to work out what was happening from just the activity passing the very narrow gap in the door frame but, it didn’t stop me trying. After the initial panic, the rather more hushed tones and leisurely pace of the staff became a good indicator of the incident. The arrival of an ambulance and the equally unhurried pace of the medical team confirmed it had been a fatality.

It wasn’t until the next day that snippets from several sources and other people’s experience slotted into place. The discussions were so matter of fact it was almost as disturbing as the even itself. The Plexiglas in his cell window had been melted through in two places, one either side of the internal bars. With some dexterity, a piece of bed sheet had been threaded through and back on itself. The rest was just down to gravity. It certainly wasn’t an operation you could do on a whim and everyone was surprised at the number of cell inspections which must have missed the careful preparations. Although no amount of speculation or recrimination could bring him back, I felt rather aggrieved when I overheard an officer complaining about the amount of paper work such an incident produced, not to say the triggering of an outside investigation. Of course, I kept my mouth shut but hoped I would never get to that degree of despair or frustration. One other attempt by a different prisoner was either poorly timed and most probably deliberately poorly executed but I noticed that any such attempts would bring the whole wings mood down for several days; testament to us all being human to some degree or other.

Just another morning and while still curled up and relatively comfortable on my bunk, the flaps eventually started to flip flap their morning chorus to mark the formal transition of night to day. If you were good boys and stayed in plain sight, there was no need to have the cell light put on; you were expected to be in clear in view at all times. These modern cells were very clever in their design. There were only two places to hide and only if you were a midget. The table cum worktop was too narrow for an average sized person but under the bottom bunk was the favourite when someone wanted to play silly buggers. Anyone daft enough or just plain bored would suffer the wrath of the officers for wasting their time. There was little leniency on this simple rule and the black mark it placed on your personal record didn’t come off.

With the night shift leaving, the first of our own daytime officers would trickle in. The first on duty would do yet another head count but generally with a little more verbal buoyancy and banter to help us wake up. Counts done, status verified, numbers shouted up to the office on the threes, hopefully correct according to the list, it was off for their important first cup of tea of the day; many of us had ours as well as although you couldn’t hear them This job done, the staff, with ties now clipped neatly onto the stiff white collars and the crisply ironed shirts tucked into a variety of waistlines, officers were deployed to the levels and yet another day was ready to roll.

Officially, inmates had to be up and dressed by 7.30 on weekday mornings and 8.30 at the weekends; most of us were, as far as I could tell. Getting up was always easy for me; not being one to lie around unless it was either very cold or there was someone to lie with. Having had a quick swill of my face and brushed my teeth, I was generally bright-eyed, if not always bushy-tailed. For my pad-mate it seemed to be the morning sport for officers to verbally prod him to get himself up and dressed, not that it never seemed to work very successfully, the only demarcation between the two-time zones for him was a laboured and complaint ridden transfer to the toilet. Here, a series of un-pleasantries would emanate from his dishevelled body, followed by an equally noisy and effort ridden return to his pit. The language was colourful from both sides of the door but it somehow helped to brighten what might be a particularly dismal morning; just a little.

In an effort to manage Dave’s general personal hygiene issues I had worked out a scheme to get him to wash himself most mornings. After I had finished with my own attentions, I would replenish the hand basin and make suitable noises about not wasting water etc. If the weather wasn’t too cold and there was enough hot water, which wasn’t always the case, he managed to help himself quite well. It worked well most of the time and the levels of BO were more acceptable at least.

Outside on the wing the days assorted processes were swinging into action regardless of what we were doing, safely locked away. Forms were being collected for the copious and regular complaint or request systems. Everything to do with prisoners was done in triplicate, literally and forms were snatched from their carefully balanced position in the gap by the door lock. For some categories of grievance, an inmates signature was required before the form could be processed. This always managed to create a degree of fuss as it meant unlocking, reading the detail of the form, signing it in front of the prisoner concerned before handing the bottom copy back as a record of the transaction. There was always an unwarranted commentary but again, it broke the boredom. Most officers had rather adverse views of our human rights and were not shy about letting you know what these were; it was easier if you had a thick skin which was very easy for me.

The officers on P wing were supposedly hand-picked to work with we VP prisoners and although difficult to spot, their attitude towards us was expected to have an appreciation of our issues. To be fair, most were OK, some were even good but, it took time to work out who they were and more importantly those who were not.

Now the wing was up, in our ‘house’, breakfast was taken as a leisurely affair as neither my pad-mate nor I had anything really pressing to do most mornings. The breakfast packs had been collected with the previous night’s dinner was, and just to be kind to them, functional. Being a category B prison and only one step down from the most secure facilities, there were no communal amenities as there were in many other places. Stories of toasters and microwaves were tantalising if fanciful, although I did hope, if not expect, to get some of the benefits when I was moved on to another prison after my sentencing. For now, we had the pleasures of a bag of cereal, 4 tea bags, 4 sachets of dried milk, 5 sachets of sugar and 2 plastic tubes of a thick sweet sticky liquid which purported to be jam. Four flavours of this dubious treat rang the changes and only the orange coloured one which masqueraded as marmalade didn’t do it for my taste buds. The others, blackcurrant, strawberry and my favourite, raspberry, were quite acceptable. All this was contained in a plastic bag and by carefully removing the tape closure and saving the bags you also had a relatively clean and practical storage system for many other things of prison life. It also didn’t take too long to build a collection of sugar and milk, neither of which I used in drinks, although I did make hot milky substitute for late night suppers of cereal, especially in the winter months. Jam was kept for snacks between meals with saved bread; if it hadn’t gone mouldy. The often overgenerous first and second lunch and dinner servings would supply more bread than I wanted but, with careful stock control it could last for a couple of days at least; never did a plain jam sandwich taste so wonderful after a lack lustre day or an often-unsatisfactory main meal.

Most of these normally innocuous food items would become my contribution to the ‘currency’ of the wing. Fruit was the most appreciated, after sugar that is, some people even liked the orange jam which at least saved it from being thrown in the bin. Having seen the results of deals that had gone wrong, although I was still reluctant to enter the whole barter scheme, these harmless items seemed to be as acceptable, in comparison to the many illicit and illegal offerings from other parts of the vicarious population. Not wanting to get involved at all, I preferred to discretely pass on a handful of whatever I had to people I liked, thus avoiding the pitfalls of full-blown barter.  Being very selective in my dealings in the first place, we few sometimes joked candidly about payback being of a more personal nature; I often wondered it my subtle suggestions were maybe too subtle as none were never taken up; perhaps I should have been more obvious.

While still not on any work or education programme, once breakfast was done and my bunk made, there was not much else to do from then on. In the early days I used the time to build up visualisations of what was going on around me, from the many sounds and smells, if not many of the sights. It seemed prudent to have at least half an idea about prison life than no idea at all so, with the occasional bits of additional information from my pad mate, I could soon identify quite a lot of the daily activities which we were so far excluded from. There were many of them in such a busy environment but most were still rather mundane. Occasionally and marginally more interesting, loud calls of ‘get off the fucking phone’ indicated were inmates taking liberties with the time, ‘Where’s so and so the lazy bastard’ was often answered by ‘he’s on a visit Mr Holland’ or ‘he’s at legal’ or ‘down for the doctor’. These were all different things which went on outside the confines of the wing, all of which I wanted to know more about. Despite the unremarkable daily life, the varied events added a watery splash of colour to the bland cream and blue dullness of the inside of the cells.

With the workshop chaps eventually gone off somewhere, the wing workers would be next to set about their allotted tasks. These always seemed to start with a cup of coffee and a chat with the officers on floor duty that morning. Coffee was a luxury item inside here and it would seem, a definite perk of the job unless you could afford to buy it for yourself that is. Having coffee of your own or at least access to other people with some was a valued step up in the wing hierarchy but not one I was keen to take up. It all seemed too cliquey to be worth it, although I would of course be pleased to accept any toll-free offerings. Most mornings, in fact most days were the same as each other. For me the first few had the diversion of visits from the welfare officers about housing, money issues, family, pets, and the whole gambit of everyday life on the outside. Despite their varied efforts, there was nothing I needed or wanted to think about, although I probably should have.

We did go through how to prepare the telephone lists and visitor applications. The instructions I had seemed to differ from my pad-mate’s interpretation but I took the official version just to be safe. Anyone you wanted to see or speak to had to be fully vetted before-hand, their details had to be supplied on various forms and after that it took several days before you knew if any legally or morally inappropriate people had been blocked, depending mainly on your legal case or personal circumstances. There were few people on either of my lists and only one was struck off but you never got to find out details.

Letters as a form of communication would become a massive thing; for me at least. My handwriting was never good at the best of times and with the general lack of practice, having never been one for writing letters, when I had written anything I often had trouble reading it back anyway. The general letters I wrote often ran to 8, 10 or even more pages and acted as a therapeutic tool for my sanity more than a means of constructive communication. Everyone had one free letter per week, each Sunday morning we had blank paper and an envelope pushed under the door. These were always pre-dated and marked as prison supplied. The paper was only just larger than A5 but better than nothing and the postage was always free. Eventually I would get my own A4 writing pad, envelopes, and stamps for all the copious and therapeutic writing I did. There was a post box on the wing but all envelopes had to be left unsealed so the contents could be read and uncensored if necessary before they were sent on. It was similar for incoming mail. There were rules about written content obviously and what else could come in or go out with it. Restrictions on photos, cards and any other material were strictly applied and rigorously enforced. The only time this rule didn’t apply was for legal paperwork. Incoming letters were handed unopened to you personally and not just dumped on your bunk. Outgoing legal things had to have a special code on them as an indication, but I would imagine they still had some scrutiny depending on who you were and what your record was like; it was another theory I didn’t bother to put to the test.

There was a sort of standing joke that everything took a week, whatever it was but slowly all my lists and arrangements began to slide into place. The visitor list was just waiting to see who wold book one; this system didn’t allow for prisoners to ask people in, I was nervous about them but never shared the fact. As far as my visitors list was concerned, I knew the system worked because at least one person I put down had been blocked. He had been of some interest to the police from my case. In a way, it was fortunate for him as he wouldn’t have coped with coming into the prison’s visitors’ system. On the other hand, he didn’t appreciate the intrusion and disruption I had set in motion. All the others were approved but there were not very many. The telephone list was the same and just a matter of waiting to see if you could log into the computerised system with your pin number given out at the induction. Once you could do this, only approved numbers could be accessed.

Remand prisoners had the huge advantage by being allowed two visits per week, in stark contrast to only two visits per month for the convicted. Eventually a third visit could be added for gaining enhanced status but for me, that was much later. The issue of who I would want on either the already limited, friends and colleague’s overshadowed the list although, it was no real surprise but in some cases, it was another valuable excuse for many of them to take me off their Christmas card lists.

Some sheets of paper fluttered to the floor from the side of the locked door and Dave perked up into his version of active life. He had been quietly watching the television while I wrestled with some of my formal paperwork and my conscience. He had already shared his thoughts and expectations on his rather limited contact with the outside world which, in an odd way, made my rather paltry expectations seem much better. The papers were our canteen sheets. To my amazement his gangling form managed to get to the pages remarkably quickly before I could even get off my bunk. Although I didn’t comment on his dexterity, it did make me smile. My more uncharitable thought was he wanted to see how much money I had in my prison account, just in case I could help him out perhaps; I immediately chided myself for such cynicism but also knew I was right. Taking into consideration this must constitute the only positive thing my self-inflicting pad mate had to look forward to each week but he was still as whiny as ever about it. It turned into another opportunity to expound upon his many theories on our restrictions and restrictive practices in general. Trying to ignore the many complaints on diet and dignity, I snatched my canteen sheets away and took the time to browse the lists.

My recollection had been right in that I didn’t have much money, but I didn’t think I needed very much at that moment. My earlier perusal of the list had shown some treats which would be nice but things like paper, stamps and phone credit would need to come ahead of deodorant, a sponge, better soap and shampoo; they could wait a week or two. Carefully balancing the few pennies in my account, I allocated what would just have to do for now. The telephone credit was difficult to calculate, but I did still have my one free telephone call from the first night to use. Not knowing if it had a time limit or not the thought of asking an officer to put in their code to initialise it made it something I could do without; quite irrationally I was finding tiny puddles of concern would quickly turn into oceans of worry if you let them and I didn’t need them at this point. The matter was swept away.

“If you pass yours down I’ll put it with mine, they get collected later this afternoon or in the morning.”

Not falling for that old chestnut, I thanked my pad mate but said I hadn’t finished looking through mine so I would keep it for now; I knew he only wanted to see what I had ordered.

“If you want me to get anything, a treat, an extravagance?”

His vocabulary surprised me more than the second attempt to involve himself in my shopping task.

“No thanks, I couldn’t afford your interest rates,” I smiled at my wit but it was lost on him.

“Suit yourself, you’ll just have to do without.”

I had already decided I would.

Only moments later and a thankful conclusion to his attempts at playing his game, another pair of sheets slid into the cell, under the bottom of the door this time; the dinner sheets. This was all too much to do in one go, what would there be to do tomorrow?

Taking my time to compare what I had been served so far, against what I might have chosen without such insight. The time was well spent and I selected what I wanted to try, despite the ongoing comments from my fellow felon. His derogatory style of conversation was having less effect on me every day despite trying to liven things up a little by daring to counter argue some of his more ludicrous points, in the end it was never worth it and I just lay back and contented myself with my mornings work.

The door unlocked. Don’t say this was yet another something to do?

“You for the doctors Patterson,” it was not a question more of an assumption.

“Yes, and about time too,” Dave replied.

The officer’s face didn’t seem to appreciate the comment and his tone changed to match it.

“Get yourself up and dressed, you look and smell a fucking mess. We’re going in ten so shift your idle bones and sort yourself out.”

The fleeting but all-knowing smile which was thrown up at me gave the real game away. Not being able to do anything but agree with the observations, I looked forward to the pantomime this was obviously going to turn into. Past the rather squat officer, outside on the wing I could just see some of the sick and sickly drifting along the wing in readiness for whatever the ‘Doctors’ consisted of. The door slammed again and I started to count the minutes to see how long it would take Dave to get himself ready. Peaking over the edge of my bunk, remarkably, he had already changed his jumper and was slumped on the edge of his bunk ready to go in what must be a record time. The possibility of medical sympathy must be a potent stimulus to one so sick.

“Can you hold my wheelchair for me please,” the common courtesy was another first.

“Of course I can,” I tried my best to sound solicitous.

Once I had jumped down I could see him more properly and, the way he had made a mess of putting his jumper on. As I straightened it out for him I suggested he also did something with his hair but was horrified to realise how motherly I sounded; it made me shudder.

Steadying the chair from behind I linked him under his frail arm to pull him across the narrow gap. It was the first physical touch I had had with anything in here, other than myself of course and without warning my brain seemed to have instinctively slumped into its baser instinct and I found myself considering all sorts of impossibilities. Unconsciously and inappropriately, I had begun to feel and squeeze the bony remnants which were all that was left of him. Only realising what I was doing as he grumbled at me for being too rough, I retracted my hand but found I was still thinking I could be a lot rougher if he wanted. The whole episode occupied only seconds in execution but hours in recrimination.

The door was eventually unlocked again and I threw away a cheery ‘see you later’ as another dishevelled prisoner dropped in behind the chair and pushed it out onto the wing; I received no reply. Curiously the door was left open behind him and I was torn between pushing it closed and sneaking a look at the outside world. It was relatively safe here inside but curiosity was a powerful thing only my momentary hesitation meant I only made one step before an officer slid into the space with his head cocked to one side as if to say, ‘where do you think you are off to matey’, I smiled an equally silent reply and quickly skipped up onto my bunk and back to safety.

It took me a moment to realise I was on my own. It was the first time since being inside the prison walls. Although I had hoped for it, at times longed for it but now it had happened I felt strangely lost. To counter the feeling, I jumped back down and fumbled with the kettle and other bits and pieces but eventually settled for flicking through the TV channels in a hope of finding something inane to distract me. Full time occupation had saved me from the perils of daytime TV and, from what I had seen so far in here, had been glad of it. Contenting myself with being able to linger on this or that programme without the usual running commentary from my friend, it eventually failed to satisfy any need I might have been feeling. Perhaps a cup of tea might be better? With a quick tidy and wipe down while the kettle boiled, I only just managed to make a ‘cuppa’ before the neighbouring wing started to filter out into the yard for their exercise period. Once back up in my corner, pressing myself against the cold hard walls I managed to become invisible to the irritants peering through the window looking for some more sport. Once their short attention span was satisfied they drifted off which afforded me the opportunity to carefully peek around the corner at the motley crew enjoying the sunshine. The tea went un-drunk as I enjoyed the spying or probably more accurately, the voyeurism. It was something I had developed into more of an art form over many years; here I found how uncomfortable I was to be reminded how much fun it could be.

Chapter Thirteen ~ hands on sex gets complicated

Warning – This chapter contains explicate sexual content

The reliving of inventive times was cut off by the less welcome and noisy intrusions of the neighbouring wings outdoor social time. The protagonists had returned to the window of course looking for further sport and were unfortunately gesticulating with their crotches and blearily calling out.

“Do yow want some of this you filthy nonce, it’ll choke you to death but that’s too good for yow yow filthy bastards.”

The limited vocabulary would always be a disappointment even if the sentiment wasn’t. The wardens moved them back behind the yellow lines eventually and I retreated to my memories of exploring sex.

From what I could gather for oral sex using the slang descriptions, it seemed you had to either, ‘give’ or ‘take’ ‘head’. I had of course tried these from the calves and to the milking cows. Knowing it was highly unlikely I would ever have the opportunity to try this out using the proper appendages or less likely with a real person, it had to be worth trying to find the next best thing and re-visit my rather unsatisfactory and sometimes painful efforts.

It had been quite a while since I had scared myself around the small eager feeding calves but, it had been enough to make me leave the matter alone. The idea though, had never left my head altogether. Obviously, I had to pick my moment and probably very soon as the animals were not so small anymore and might be less amenable as they too matured.

While masturbating regularly, with the aid of the rough stimulation sitting astride my ever-willing beasts, I had reluctantly avoided their inquisitive noses and butting heads. They would often help in cleaning up the resultant mess from my emissions, licking hands, and jeans while I was ultra-careful to always steer them away from the sensitivities of my groin. With the decision made to move forward with my quest, this was hopefully going to be very different.

Choosing one of the more malleable creatures I carefully introduced it, at a safe distance, to my now sizeable and manageable erection. The fear of being hurt made it a little difficult to maintain the normal exhilarating stiffness but, a firm grip at the base kept the blood from retreating and the twitching of the rod seemed to attract some attention. Keeping myself rigid was no problem, not ejaculating was another but I managed long enough for the stimulus of warm breath, lubricating saliva and soft mouth-parts rubbing along the shaft to add the exhilarating dimension I had hoped for. Unfortunately, the once natural suckling action of the youngsters I was expecting had been lost. The enthusiastic licking which replaced it was very good was not doing quite what I had imagined it might have been. Thinking round the problem I realised that perhaps I had to be more ‘masterful’ and take charge of the situation; as some of the stories had put it. Having come this far, I was determined to get my first ‘blow job’ one way or another.

Plucking up sufficient courage and with a small bundle of grass in hand, I easily managed to slip my fingers between a set of avid lips and curled into the prehensile tongue. Inside the safety of my hand I slid my more than willing member before removing my hand leaving me erection inside the confines of a hot, wet, accommodating mouth. Enveloping wetness and the rough surface of the tongue proved to be if anything, too stimulating but while caught up in the moment but still unfulfilled I let the animal moved off disgruntled. Waiting for a moment, breathing slowly and deeply to gain some control, I realised the experience didn’t seem to need the suction which had been described in fiction. Eager to prove the point I approached the same friendly accomplice once more, fortunately for me he was still interested; but I had more juicy grass to tempt him with.

While holding onto the soft wet eager nose for safety, I managed to position the soft jaws to emulate what I imagined were the restrictions of a more normal orifice. With my fingers being idly investigated I slid myself smoothly into the handful of warm gluttonous saliva. With long hot breaths billowing about my genitals and without anything more than a few gentle forward movements from my hips, I found myself climaxing with a ferocity I had never experienced before. With legs turning quickly to jelly in the process, I tried to maintain the heights and depths of my exhilaration as long as I could, trying to get deeper and harder with each spasm.

My grip was interrupted for those few elemental ecstatic moments and I somehow lost control of the hot passage I had finally exploded into. The moment was stellar in its final execution spoilt only by the recipient deciding they had participated enough with no apparent benefit to them. Being much stronger than me I had no option but to let it go. As my ecstasy faded and some small amount clarity returned, I realised the sensation had indeed proved to be astonishing.

It took me a few moments longer to know I not escaped undamaged. A tooth must have nicked the side of my now flaccid member and the still glistening wet surface was tinged with pink from the trickle of blood which ran down one side of it. Now I was in trouble.

The practical side of my brain kicked in and overrode the panic which was foaming up inside me. A well tied handkerchief and an immediate retirement to the house and bathroom showed it was not quite such a mortal wound after all. The blood had stopped pumping once the erection had slipped away and the small wound was already healing by the look of it. After only a few days of abstinence I managed to restore my pride and my member before attempting further exhilaration. They did and with each experience both parties became either more accepting or more skilful, for me at least it was a triumphal high point in my devilish development.

Despite this progress, there was an as-yet unclear expectation that there was more to it than just what I managed to experience. In the meantime, nothing had become obvious for tackling the other side of the oral experience other than the sucking of udders, but I expected my patience and ingenuity would find something or someone suitable. While patiently waiting for the day that it might happen, I had many thoughts on the multitude of unanswered questions which were left in the wake of my solitary and secretive experiences. Perhaps there were more interesting possibilities over and above just riding. My rather baser interests consistently considered the obvious genital differences between species but I was still interested in every type of reproductive organ just so I didn’t miss an opportunity or possibility. Overall, it was to be an experience which could only get better.

Cows had been OK for many wonderful things but, with the original expectations for my riding experience not going any further, I would need to find something more suitable to satisfy the addition of control and stimulus which I so wanted to experience. Horses were to be the next real thing to be conquered. Proper riding was going to be great, horses were going to be great and horses were out of the question; for now, anyway.

There were a lot of horses in the village but few which were accessible, covertly that is. There certainly weren’t any stallions, which was a disappointment although I understood the dangers of being around them. Despite that, I didn’t think I would have been too put off investigating them, purely because of the extremes they could potentially offer. The next best things were geldings, not that it could ever be the same. On the odd occasion when an opportunity would present itself, exploration was generally rather a let-down. It was difficult to get close to them either to see what they had or try to get it to work in my hands. Mares were too big and still ultimately uninteresting; while I was so relatively young anyway. Severely disappointed at the limitations I was finding, at least our own supply of cattle was generally amenable and at least on site, they had to be made adequate, if still poor substitutes.

A developing appreciation of having routines meant that I managed to build more sexual satisfaction which was regularly achieved and an equally fast-growing sense of curiosity fulfilled. Now, I don’t want anyone to think that I am complete obsessed about this side of my personal development but, it just seemed to be a major contributory factor in the matters which stimulated my writing this account.

Always trying to convince to myself I was not a complete freak of nature, I often sought out opportunities of more normal human, but still sexual, interests. This was generally only possible in the school showers of course and the probability of being caught looking at the offerings was too dangerous to make it overtly interesting. At home nudity was never exercised past the age of two or three although, I did catch my brother in such a state just the once. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens and I had locked myself out of the house one night and he had been the first to hear my throwing small stones at an upstairs window. He had to come down and let me in but unfortunately, for him anyway, he had been in the process of pleasuring his girlfriend at the time; the only comfort I got from the incident was that I now knew I was much better endowed than he was.

With hindsight and despite my previous protestations, I was not as isolated and abandoned as I might make it sound. There were normal role models in my father, brother, my sister, and her rather attractive husband as well as a large extended family. There were also one or two rather more distant school colleagues with girlfriends but not a gay guy in sight, so why was I having so much trouble being like any of them? The truth eluded me for many years.

The overriding fact of my development was that nothing ‘normal’ was ever going to happen to me which is why, I took my other interests as being the norm and didn’t go out of my way to seek out any of the alternatives with the hope that at some time in the future, I might be able to consolidate my sexual interests thus far, to make my adolescent days tolerable.

On another side of my multifaceted coin, despite all the everyday, even enhanced opportunities I was given, the relative freedom in the things of life never seemed to be either enough nor ultimately satisfying; perhaps there was no norm to search for? As a token experiment, I did occasionally try to make intimate contact with other boys. My confidence was strong enough, in my head at least, to know I wanted to be around them, but I had no way of getting to the point of making actual open contact. Towards the end of my single life I had learnt to engineer potential situations but had never gone through with more than looking on from an emotional distance. It didn’t help that I tended to pick boys who were straight and at least not gay, not that I had perfected being able to identify the difference properly. Perhaps it was just bad luck or maybe it was some subconscious design; I never knew.

The closest I ever got to the species was having a ‘best friend’ with a gay brother, the first confirmed homosexual who I had ever actually met. Although not the perfection I imagined for myself, he did at least play for the right team. My feelings for the straight brother were equally strong, if not more so. His perfectly honed body from years of martial arts training was a joy to behold and I often encouraged him to show off; not that he understood why. The limited efforts I did try couldn’t get the specific attention I hoped for from either of them. Realistically I doubt I made any significant or obvious moves in that or any other pertinent direction, really, I just didn’t know how to.

The result was an ongoing and constant disappointment in both me and the rest of the world for not helping me to help myself. This ultimately drove me back to the destructive, insular little world that I had created for myself. There I could bask in unspoken acceptance and the small comfort I could get from tried and tested quarters. All that abnormal behaviour was now so ‘normal’ in my strange world; it was hard to think why I shouldn’t keep going with it. The separation technique I had relied on for self-protection, would develop much further into something that I needed just to survive through the rigours of life, both physically and emotionally.

Time rolled ever onward and the things of life mainly passed me by although desire, disappointment, duplicity, deceit, all came in waves, some I bobbed clear of others I sunk spluttered but recovered, having learned a lesson or two here and there. A welcome addition to aid my desperately need independence was my own small motorbike and eventually my first car. With both I took full advantage to get myself active to more distant and discerning places. Most of this time was spent still on my own working out ways of advancing plans to fulfil my evermore obscure needs.

As far as my interactions with other people were concerned, any I did have were some just to keep my off the radar and were generally only as a ‘hanger on’ to other family members or friends. Throughout any, if not all of these, I never felt a core member of anything and nobody would be what I could call a friend rather than an acquaintance. My description of a friend was someone you could share all your thoughts and feelings with and have them do the same to you. Either way, perhaps the façade I had created had become too embedded to cope with the fear and embarrassment if I was to be exposed. There was so much of me which I wanted to share but now just couldn’t.

Over the remaining teenage years, I retreated into my cloistered world but continued to feed my riding obsession and other more personal interactions around not only our animals, but a wider world which unfolded with my greater independence and growing confidence. My rather homemade but inventive approach to equipment was satisfactory until I had the means to accumulate other purpose made items. The experiences when I managed them, were mostly satisfactory, but still very secret. Although I wanted to share these exciting times with someone the secrecy and dangers that went with them added their own frisson to the exhilaration. Perhaps I knew sharing might take some of the thrill and excitement away? When I allowed myself to consider the matter, I was torn between two trains of thought but I never actually had the opportunity to test the hypothesis so I would never know if I would have gone through with it anyway. The dangers were obvious but the potent obsession and its darker sexual gratification was something I couldn’t break away from.

In this solitary but satisfying world, I finished off what I considered to be the final discovery phase of these physical matters. With it I found an adequate confirmation where I didn’t need the complexities of any-thing, or any-one else to have my fun.

My carefully managed but manufactured persona became the ideal cover for as much physical interaction I thought I might ever need. As further self-justification I convinced myself I was experiencing much more than many of my peers might have but settled for the fact that I would never be able to experience anything ‘normal’ as much as I might want to be like them, be with them, be one of them, I know I never would.

Concentrating on some of these rather diverse obscenities might have been some distraction as I slept on in the unsatisfactory living arrangements of my prison cell, it simply resulted in the second wet dream of my stay although this time I didn’t let it happen so easily although the pain of squeezing down an ejaculation was a small penalty for my wilder recollections.

Chapter Twelve ~ We’re all animals underneath

Despite feeling isolated most of the time, I don’t think I actually appreciate the condition. Quite a lot of the time I excluded myself which didn’t count but I can recall clearly several everyday events, like Birthday parties I went to despite always feeing like an outsider. There are just three which come to mind; at least while I was at the sort of age you participated in such things.

One, we were sent home early because the birthday boy wouldn’t share his new cricket bat during a game after tea. The second, we had bread and butter with our homemade ice cream and got chased by Guinea fowl; I put up with that one to be around the rather attractive blond curly haired twins. The last came to an embarrassing end after an argument turned into a full-blown fight over who would play with the new, all action Thunderbird toys. As I was obviously losing the physical confrontation that ensued, I stuck my hand down the birthday boy’s trousers to gain some sort of advantage in the testicular department; or perhaps it was more than that? Other than, or probably because of it, I never received another invitation to his house or any others in the village; I hadn’t even got to ‘cop a feel’ which would have perhaps made being ostracised worthwhile.

There was a handful of what we would now call ‘play dates’ and at least these had a few more if still fully satisfied benefits. Having always been drawn to one very good-looking lads in junior school, his perfect build and outgoing confidence were things of desire and I wanted these for myself as much as I wanted him as a friend. When we had both grown into more independent, but still young boys, I managed to engineer going to his farm to have ‘fun’. He was of course unaware of my feelings towards his outdoor rough-edged beauty as I attempted to follow the extended games of tag, pirates and Tarzan, in and out of the many barns and through endless tunnels created by bales of hay. Despite never being able to keep up, I would be content to just hang around and watch him swoop, leap, and freely express himself, perfectly tussled hair, sinuous musculature stretched and taught, for me it was tantamount to emotional torture. Even today, I can picture him, and need a minute every time I do.

Another advantage of my visits came from the diversity of the farming business, one part of which was milking cows. Having understood the basics of cattle management from our own calves, this was rather different but equally interesting. Milk made naturally by the cow to feed the calves who were born to them, but part of a commercial milking business it meant the youngsters were taken away and sold to people like us, to be raised as we did at home. If the adult cow was milked twice a day, it was months before she would dry up. The cycle of milk production was started again by getting the cow into calf, and so on.

The mating of the cows was in some part, an answer to my questions about the pigs from all those years ago. This farm had its own bull, huge, snorting thing which I was warned against getting too near. It looked magnificent in both its general size and of course for me in its appendages. A huge swinging scrotum tempted you to reach under and touch its power and intrigue but it was not to be; at this point, anyway. One day I was lucky enough to be around for one of the carefully controlled mating events and while keeping my distance, I paid close attention to the event despite almost embarrassing myself the first time I watched having to concentrate very hard to minimise the embarrassing tenting going on in my trousers. No one else seemed to be phased by it if they even noticed.

The process was of course just a natural thing, the mating as well as my arousal even I knew that, but I had never been able to have this direct admiration of it. The event itself came with a running commentary from my friend which was equally exciting. He obviously enjoyed sharing his expertise on the subject and I learnt the full story of the birds and bees, only with cows and bulls instead. He explained all the working parts of the business and I tried to take it all in to expand my very basic knowledge. He highlighted the specific parts of the cow which would be involved as his father carefully washed the area in question. The actual mating in the end was quite disappointing after having had such a graphic build up. The bull’s erection once exposed was disappointing being just a thin short pointed pink thing; I felt that for relative size I could do much better myself. The whole event was over in seconds with only a quick jump up, poking it in, a couple of pumps of his ample hips and straight back out again. Somehow, I had hoped for more prolonged action and impressive genitals, more like an elephant’s prehensile log or at least the length and girth of a horse. Disappointment aside, where the protuberance went was equally unimpressive, if it was any realistic representation of a woman’s parts and a man’s participation in them, I thought I now understood why I had no interest taking part in the human process.

Trying to relate all this new knowledge to what I already knew, plus what I thought I knew, plus what I had read about, some of it made sense but ultimately the experience left me with more questions than answers. This conundrum would stay with me but thankfully stored away. Trying to discuss it with my enthusiastic friend was a waste of time and he had no interest in sharing further thoughts on the subject presumably as it was just one of those regular things; At least in his life. My real hope was that the subject might open up to a slightly different conversation and give me a chance to share more personal comparisons; it didn’t happen of course.

It was at this farm, while I was making pointless attempts to further my curious interest in boys, well this boy anyway, where I came closest to getting my first authentic experience of horse riding. My friends much younger sister had a pony. Fortunately for us she was too young to be either interesting or tolerated by her brother but it meant that I never did get close enough to embroil myself in the possibility of sharing either her interest in riding or her animal. In the half-baked attempts to do so I did gain some valuable knowledge of much of the riding equipment. With my analytical brain working overtime, I saw where I might be going wrong with my paltry efforts at home and where I might be able to reproduce the much dreamed of experience I was looking for; not with the cows anymore but any other opportunity I could engineer in the wider world. What I would have given to just walk off with a saddle or bridle but although driven, I was not that desperate and contented myself with just running my hands over the soft smooth leather and the cold stainless steel whenever there was the opportunity.

The matter of sibling politics was something which I didn’t get involved in so had little idea of how it worked, the result was that I was torn between our friendship and my fixation. The opportunity would not be available for long as he went off to private boarding school and I went off to the local amenity and we lost touch. With no excuse to go onto the farm any more, I just looked on from afar as the girl and pony duo scampered about the open fields.

My self-deducing sex education didn’t just cover my own and other animals functioning sex organs, I was becoming aware of other ancillary items which went with them. Having read about people and having witnessed the mating process of cows, extrapolated this to the pigs and glimpses of other televisual treats, it had been somewhat of a mixed start and I knew I would need to formulate other opportunities to investigate it all in much closer detail. My already pricked interest led inevitably to a need for the more hands on experience, hopefully with suitably docile beasts. Our own animals seemed to be too young to provide the whole story but, on the farm adjoining ours there was another herd of milking cows.

As I was good at working out the strategies for such an operation, if I could fulfil the basic safety criteria then there was the potential to learn quite a lot. Having selected a suitable time of day, I got myself next to the fence which separated our field containing the cows. Still on our safe side, with the sort of comforting ‘cush cush’ noises people used, I managed to entice one or two into the secluded spot. Out of sight from both house and yard I climbed through the fence but stayed close enough for a plausible escape if I needed it, One last check back to the house and everything was set; I still wasn’t certain of what I was going to do.

Despite the total freedom for the cattle to run away, because they were used to being handled during milking I was thankfully allowed to explore the magnificence of these large friendly beasts with little problem. The warmth and the softness of smooth coats compared to our own animals was exhilaration itself. Running your hands over the long contours from an inquisitive damp muzzle with its rasping tongue, down a muscular back where beneath the protruding hip bones you could reach down to the mystery of warm pink distended udders. These were a comforting bag of wonderment; note to self, perhaps you should try and help with someone’s milking regime?

As for the matter in hand, obviously, I knew the practicalities that these were the animal representation of human breasts and I was sure there would be some Freudian anecdote to justify my interest in them; I was too fascinated to worry about any possible issues there. The four teats were softer than the rubber re-creations we used for feeding calves and I found it fascinating that they seemed to responded to even my amateur manipulation. Once I had warmed my hands up I managed to get warm creamy milk to spurt from them. The natural extension of this, to me anyway, was to see what a calf experienced when it was feeding. You couldn’t fault my thorough process in the pursuit of my interests however misguided they might have been.

Carefully positioning myself on the ground, half under the expansive underbelly. At first, I squeezed the teat as I had before and tried to aim for my open mouth. It might have been my being underneath her, but I didn’t get any milk to come out as I had hoped. After several tries, soothing and caressing her to hopefully relax the mechanism, I had to give up. Logically I didn’t think I had the right physiology or experience to make it happen naturally but it might be the only way to proceed. Taking a deep breath, I was not prepared for the intense feeling of the warm, soft, pliant finger of flesh inside my mouth and the sensations running along my tongue and the roof of my mouth were mesmerising. My exuberance found misplaced if still only gentle contact to be unacceptable to even the mildest mannered animal; another lesson learnt and I only got kicked once but only a nudge, not enough to deter me anyway. With practice and a calm nature, the task was finally achieved and was like nothing else I had experienced. Despite it being only an infrequent occurrence, the lateral thinking it stimulated was worth the effort. The physical contact and sharing of fluids forged a link which was one stop close to something I still didn’t really understand.

The herd was eventually sold off on economic grounds but, while I had the opportunity I took full advantage of these pseudo comforts and the greater opportunity to examine other more mature parts of their anatomy that interested me. The mature milking cows were patiently used to having their ‘bits’ fiddled with although they still required careful handling. With experience, it was possible to explore the wider functions quite safely and in so many new exciting and productive ways. After this extended examination, the realisation that our underdeveloped animals could only offer limited experience and so took the shine off, I realised I would need much wider experience to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. From several teasing and testing episodes, the one thing I really wanted to try was oral sex. The milking cows had offered a tantalising and it must be said, delicious opportunity, but it wasn’t quite it.

Disappointingly there were still so many other unanswered questions and unsatisfied curiosities but with the benefit of my accumulated knowledge, my brother’s imagination, the observations around farms and my own more personal experiments, I had at least what I thought of as a nearly fully formed idea about how sex worked. Some of it seemed great; some still had work to finesse, some seemed impossible to go further with but sounded exciting, exotic and even dangerous. I hoped I could try it all in time.