Chapter Thirty Four ~ there’s big and there’s BIG

That prison workshop job might have been improving but dragging myself through the other one, the one on the outside all those months before was very different.

In the time after abandoning my family and involving myself in the shady, if excitingly intimate world of young sex workers, nothing was going well. After the brief but tragically poignant episode with Michael, light had been shone on the life he and many others like him sadly led. The stolen moments we had spent, despite the pitiful failed attempts at full gay sex were so different to those I had put up with for however many months. Considering if it was just that the grass is always greener etc., deliberately spending less time in the shadow of such beauty and unattainable bounty, things were starting to get painfully too realistic. Wishing I could have spent more time with the tantalising Irish boy, I had tried to track him down but only caught a glimpse of him once and I couldn’t stop the car before he was gone. This did nothing for my general mood and the world was slowly slipping away from me and I couldn’t see any way of pegging its accelerative decline.

Michael had however, left me a small present although it took a little time to find it. A few days after I had spent the night with him I noticed an itching, down below. Closer examination showed a few bright red dots on both my stomach and down into the crevasses of my groin. Picking at one, just like you probably shouldn’t, I found it came off with a little persuasion, stuck to the point of a nail. Closer observation saw little legs thrashing in the air and the full horror was exposed. Crabs. With no experience of these beasts and one else to confide in I asked John if he knew what they were. His practical and pragmatic approach to most things had a comprehensive dermal cleaning and polishing regime which thankfully cleared up quite quickly. His enquiry as to how they had been acquired went unanswered. Although I couldn’t think of blaming Michael, it was just something else I could have so easily taken him away from. All it did was force me to take another step downwards on the happiness ladder.

Just how few rungs there were left I didn’t know of course or I might not have fallen for the next, and as it turned out, the penultimate personal humiliation. It was proving hard to wean myself off the beauty and potential which Paul or Steve would never allow me and sadly there was ever declining physical contact. Their attempts to ply me with small ‘treats’ and compliant ‘friends’ thankfully seemed to have stopped although it was just another minus in an already negative world. The long unproductive drives to clubs and bars were defiantly less attractive and thankfully getting very rare. Whether it was the adventures or the company I longed for I couldn’t or more likely didn’t want to work out. To find out for certain would mean a trial by omission, in each case I would potentially lose even more of whatever little life I was left clinging onto. My unremitting search for unattainable perfection was near to its unfruitful end.

In my head, I had decided not to go on the latest outing which Steve had suggested. It was unusual for him to make any plans as he now had a regular partner and they did most things on their own; in-between the money-making work of course. As it was so unexpected it seemed rude not to agree. His associate, as I had already experienced, was an almost carbon copy of Steve, skin head, perfect dress on a perfect body, perfect persona wrapped around playful potential so what was not to like; although it would never be of course. To make this Saturday night outing even more curious, there was no Paul. He was apparently going to meet us there; for the first time I could admit to, I didn’t feel the same sense of loss which I might have in the past.

There were just the three of us with the happy couple in the back. Having already established I liked to be in the company of the exquisite, having to watch the interaction of the two said beautiful people thorough the rear-view mirror, I found it most uncomfortable to have the two of them getting more than a little friendly with each other; friendly almost to the point of penetration. At that point, I had to step in with a comment as I was in danger of crashing the car. Sarcastically offering to pull over so they could carry on perhaps more discretely, I added the spoiler of course that I would need to watch put them off their stride. It was always worth giving it a shot, what was there to lose? The rest of the journey was rather more subdued; we had all missed out.

With only the briefest of exchanges to arrange the regrouping, the two of them blended seamlessly into the mass of similarly attractive clientèle, all of whom were out for a good night. At that point, and for the first time I could remember, I wanted to go straight back to the car and home. The bubble had finally burst.

Sitting on a low wall trying to make my mind up, the parade of endless beauty was all that kept me there. My vicarious thoughts and pointless dreams were interrupted by a pair of perfectly manicured hands as they slid over my shoulders and down inside the front of my shirt. A kiss on the cheek wafted familiar and expensive perfume into my face.

“You made it then, where are the lovers?”

Not needing to look to see who it was, I allowed the familiarity to continue; I needed something for my trouble after all. The question hadn’t really required an answer and so I didn’t give one which would have ended the moments pleasure for certain.

“What’s the plan?” I hoped my own question might keep his hand exploring a little longer.

“Nothing we’re all just having fun, like we do.”

His bland assumption forced me to take his hand out of my shirt and regretfully off my right nipple.

“Pardon me?”

I was in the right mood for an argument, but I also knew it would be a waste of both my time and my flagging energy.

“Let’s go,” his upbeat nature hadn’t registered my comment, “this is Lurch by the way.”

Looking round to see who or what ‘Lurch’ might be, I did a double take which was so overstated it was embarrassing.

“Sorry. David.”

I offered him my hand to at least justify my interest, he took it as if he didn’t shake hands very often; he didn’t return the pleasantry with his given name.

This was going to be demanding work but, Paul’s ‘friends’ had proved that all too often in the past. Neither seemed in any hurry to fill in the obvious gaps and the club’s dark corners were obviously beckoning; despite this, I stayed where I was on the wall.

“Come on then, let’s have fun, shake your aaass!”

Although Paul was looking at me I knew I was not going to be part of anything which involved him, not directly anyway.

“I’ll follow you in a bit,” my indifference was deliberately patent.

“OK if you want, I’ll see you in there, come on Lurch, let’s get down and dirty.”

I followed the comment with my eyes and was surprised at the concerned look which received it. In the split seconds the exchange took, the strange but interestingly ‘contrasting’ person he certainly was had caught more of my attention.

His height was the most notable thing, despite me being sat down, he would have towered over my adequate six feet by at least six or seven inches. His dark, half cast skin was over exposed at his shirt cuffs where the sleeves were too short; or was it his arms were too long, no matter. From the earlier uncertain handshake, I had taken in the huge, over extended fingers which, on reconsideration had given a strong but controlled grip. Above the collar his unusually long narrow neck protruded awkwardly from the pink and grey check shirt collar which held up an elongated face which was unusual but in a way attractive. It had all the required components in reasonable proportions but without any of the more classical attributes. Short dark curly hair gave away his part ethnic origin it was well manicured and suited his unusual proportions. Our eyes touched for an almost immeasurable flash and we both quickly looked down at our feet; although I was looking at his as well. The trouser bottoms only just met what must have been purpose-built trainers. Although very interesting, there was no time to consider the matter much further.

“Well, what’s everyone waiting for?” Paul was addressing the tall one as I had already stated my case, “It’ll be time to go home if you don’t hurry.”

He clearly didn’t appreciate the blank look which ‘Lurch’ gave him and I compounded his misery by pointedly adding my own.

Looking back to the one with no name, we smiled at each other for the briefest opportunity to annoy Paul more; that was my interpretation anyway. The next comment was rather more unsettling and from Lurch himself.

“Me and Danny here,” he looked at me for some confirmation which he had gotten my name right, but it was close enough for now, “we’ll follow later, like he said.”

For such a tall person, I hadn’t been expecting such a high-pitched voice. He was becoming more interesting by the minute. Paul went off in a huff and neither of us seemed to mind or notice where he went. What I was supposed to do now I had no idea; if in doubt, at least try to be sociable.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to stop you going in, you came up here with him I guess?”

The handsome giant sat on the wall next to me which did at least make conversation less of a strain on my neck.

“Ye, the prick!”

The comment caught me off guard and I had to concentrate to suppress a grin which bubbled up.

“You’re not, together?” I wanted to choose my words so as not to offend.

“Together, with that prick?” his limited linguistic range was a disappointment. “He told me we were goin’ to have a ‘good time’, there’d be loads of people around and some action he said.”

His desultory tone gave away some of his underlying feelings while a note of worry started to form somewhere deep inside my head; this sounded all too familiar. Pulling back emotionally from the conversation, it seemed a shame not to have just enjoyed taking to him a little longer.

“Perhaps we should go in,” I made it sound more of an instruction than a question.

“Fine, let’s go,” he didn’t seem very bothered.

“You don’t have to, it’s a long time till closing,” I couldn’t help but care about people could I, “do you know anyone else here?”

I could tell he wasn’t local because of the Midlands accent.

“No, only the prick.”

He joined in when I smiled at what I assumed was his accidental alliteration, he more than likely didn’t understand, not that it really mattered as long as he was smiling.

Standing up as if I needed to go somewhere, he stayed where he was, and I really didn’t know what to do with him. My brain chipped in by asking what I thought I was getting involved with now. He wasn’t with me; he wasn’t my responsibility; he’s certainly big enough to look after himself; perhaps he might not be; he looks so sad; he obviously needs someone; he needs you; he was available; you are available; Paul ‘the prick’ he’s one of those alright; had he set me up; had he really done it again? The stark realisation bobbed to the surface and any friendly feelings I might have been developing for this lumbering friendly giant had sunk without trace.

Despite being angry I couldn’t walk away I should have walked straight to the car and gone home, left them all to stew, left them all to find their own way back. Curiously I couldn’t make myself go anywhere. Lurch finally stood up.

“No, ’e didn’t, not really,” as we stood by each other he seemed even taller than he had before, “ ’e just said there was someone who was feeling unappreciated and in needed some kind of complaint company.”

He seemed lost for words, perhaps the use of so many long and obviously unfamiliar ones had worn him out; it was obviously a planted statement.

“I can guess the rest, don’t worry, this is not my first time,” looking at his confused face he definitely hadn’t understood my play on words, “you don’t have to stick around for my sake. You do know I was the unappreciated one he was on about?” I didn’t wait for any acknowledgement of suggestion.

“You just go and have your fun, I don’t know what I want to do anymore,” it was so very true.

“Come on it’s a waste not to go in, you can’t stay out ‘ere on your own?”

He seemed concerned but I couldn’t tell if it was genuine or just rather bad play acting.

“No, don’t you worry about me, if I saw him I might punch him so it’s not a good idea?”

“I might punch ’im myself when I see ’im, not because of …,” he went very red at what he was about to say, “you’re not…,” thankfully he stopped talking before he got unwittingly offensive.

“I know, don’t panic, but if you do, add a bit more on for me.”

We both laughed at the picture of dire retribution we seemed to share. Unconsciously I reached out and touched his arm and he stopped laughing rather abruptly. The look of confusion was enough to spoil the moment. My gesture had meant nothing, but he retracted by pulling his overly long limb from under my hand. Confused, I tried to defuse the moment.

“You go if you want, I might just wait in the car it’s best if I’m out of the way don’t you think?”

I could tell he was torn between following instructions and having an evening out with his peers. It was far too familiar to be comfortable. A second touch from me ineffectively pushed his huge frame in the direction of the club’s entrance. He took the hint and walked away. Heading back towards the car I had at least proved my intention and being able to park in a side street not far from the club, I was soon in a safe cocoon more of my own choosing.

Hidden from sight, my feelings were once more a mass of unresolved and confused sentiment, annoyance and perhaps even the start of being really angry. My overriding feeling was I was too old for all this with nothing to show in the end for any of the heartache and hubris. In the darkness of the alleyway, the noise of the night was thankfully far enough away and I must have fallen asleep. I didn’t realise I had until there was a banging on the window; this too was an all too familiar sound.

“Dave, mate, it’s me, Steve.”

Thinking the commotion was still part of some unremembered dream, I must have jumped up most likely looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights. As he had said it was Steve and there, his lover boy twin was lurking behind him, one grin would have been pleasant but two was too much right in my face and right through my soul. Lying back hoping to make it all go away, they were obviously not going anywhere.

“Come on, let’s not be silly,” they must have taken my action in the wrong light, “it’s cold and we really need to get home.”

I wasn’t moved; not straight away anyway.

Without the need for words or looking, I pressed the central locking switch and they both jumped in the back seat. As I rolled up the back of my seat I caught sight of the lip locked couple and issued some wordless comment; they stopped.

“Oh, sorry, did you have a nice time, we…” they giggled like the pretty schoolgirls they could so easily have been, “we have…” they gave up on any kind of reasoned explanation.

“No I didn’t but thanks for asking,” it was not difficult to work in a sarcastic slant to my comment, “where’s that prize prick…” I was lost for a more complementary adjective, “do you know what he tried to…”

It was a waste of time trying to have any meaningful discussion as they had slipped into each other’s arms again and a deep all-consuming facial clinch, I was so jealous of them I felt ill; again. Turning the rear-view mirror so I didn’t have to watch, I wished there was some way of turning off the sound as well. The passenger door opened which thankfully distracted me, but unfortunately not the kissing couple in the back. No one got in, but I could see the long legs that could only have belonged to ‘Lurch’.

“Hi,” he struggled to bend over to look in as he spoke, “ain’t you seen, ’im,” his animosity didn’t seem to have diminished from earlier, “ ’e said ’e would see me outside in a couple of minutes said go and look for the maroon car, ’e is such a…,” I saved him from further embarrassment.

“Don’t just stand there get in.”

His dark skin tine turned slightly purple as he blushed and trying to comply he had some difficulty. My head bumped into his intruding rear end as I leaned across to slide the seat back which slammed into the lover’s legs behind and broke the suck fest; uncompromising look killed off the complaint that was almost voiced. ‘Lurch’ eventually folded himself in and sat down next to me.

“I didn’t go inside in the end, sorry,” although he didn’t need to know I had told him anyway, “I’ve been asleep here,” I hoped he might feel a little sorry for me.

“Oh, sorry I …”

He hadn’t seemed to have developed any novel words while he had been away.

“What’s going on then?” the request for information had come from the back seat, “are we staying, going, where is everyone else?”

The answers could wait as my attention remained with the gentle giant in the front.

“What are you doing now, sorry,..,” I realised I didn’t even know his name but at the significant pause he didn’t fill in anything useful.

I tried again.

“How did you get up here,” pause, “I assume you don’t live here? Do you? Sorry I don’t even know your…, where is….”

My mouth was running off rubbish again and my brain wasn’t stopping it and I felt rather a fool; yet again.

“Darren,” at last, “I’ve been ’ere a few days but I don’t live ’ere, Paul said I might get a lift back if I asked nice.”

He didn’t have to go that far I thought, but at least I had a name now.

“Where is ‘he’ anyway, did you see him, did you give him a good pasting for….” my brain did stop me this time as I realised the other two were still listening.

“He’s not coming back with us, didn’t ’e tell you?”

Steve was obviously under the impression I had already been told and said so; my sideways look wiped the smile off his happy face.

“What do you think? What else did he say?”

“Nothing, no, he’s with someone he picked up last night when we…” Steve’s misaligned chain of thought was catching up with his words, “he didn’t come up…”

By turning my head further to look him right in the face, he knew he had probably said too much. His mouth closed and stayed closed, his still gorgeous eyes sadly gave away the rest of the story.

Feeling both angry, hurt and dismal all in one blinding hailstorm of emotion, I had to try to remind myself, they were all free to do what they liked, come and go, see whoever they wanted, but, while inside it hurt for so many reasons I couldn’t begin to rationalise any at that precise moment. I drew in a deep and uncompromising breath to keep myself from breaking down in-front of these hapless creatures and spoke through almost gritted teeth.

“Are you coming with us or do you have somewhere else to be?”

I had moved my gaze to the now awkwardly folded up person next to me.

My annoyance was not meant to be directed at but he looked rather scared and a touch confused. The ‘twins’ had settled back quietly into the back seat trying to keep out of the line of fire, but I had discounted them for now anyway. There was a moment’s perfect silence.

“Sorry.” I put my hand on the considerable thigh, as was the custom, “It’s nothing to do with you, I didn’t mean…” he mirrored the touch which made my leg look like a match stick.

“Don’t worry, it’s fine, it’s all O….,” not again I thought, withdrawing my hand quickly stopped him saying the phrase.

“Do you want a lift somewhere or do you have other plans,” my gruff words made his hand disappear as well.

“Thanks yes if it’s OK, I don’t wanna be…” he obviously didn’t know what he wanted to be, “if it’s no bother I could do with a…”

I had started the car by this time and the rest of his fawning was irrelevant.

It was a very quiet drive out of the city on the all too familiar road towards the motorway. Almost like being on rails, the car pulled into the all-night garage for supplies. The two in the back jumped out almost before the car had stopped, no doubt glad to be out of the unpleasant atmosphere I had obviously created with my desultory mood.

“Do you not want to get anything?”

It seemed my new companion didn’t know the drill.

“No, from there, no, do you?”

I was touched that, in the dozens of times we must have stopped, I was being asked the question with any sort of meaning.

“Thank you, no, but it’s nice to be asked,” he looked puzzled at what might have been a mocking tone, I hadn’t meant it to be, “sorry, no, but you go if you want.”

He obviously felt he should anyway after all and squeezed himself out of the car and headed to the kiosk.

Taking the few minutes to watch them scoot around the shop, gathering arms full of this and that, I folded mine and tried and work out what had actually happened tonight. Making no real progress, I naturally moved onto what was going to happen next.

In the past, the regular four of us often stayed at Steve’s flat, but of course I usually ended up being with Paul; even that was not an option now. It would feel odd going the much further distance home on my own. It had been crude but nice being a fly on the wall to listen to the other two of them making love so intensely. Although, from one side it made me feel worse about myself as I would never get to experience everything like it.

All three doors opened together, and the relatively quiet bodies settled into their seats eating the variety of sugary goods almost imperceptibly as we headed for the large blue signs directing the way home.

“I got you this.”

Long fingers proffered a bar of chunky milk chocolate; I took it with a smile. Realising I couldn’t easily open it and drive at the same time, it was retrieved to be opened for me; his hand lingered on mine for just a moment too long to be purely in passing. Looking at him was a definite mistake. He wasn’t as ugly as his physical excess might have made him. He went red as I took in his self-conscious smile which somehow fitted the odd proportion of his face, wide and deep with blush red lips. After taking a piece of the confection, we didn’t speak or even look at each other again.

The miles rolled away silently behind us but the two in the back woke without prompting when we were just a few streets away from the flat; their flat. Not stopping in the car parking area gave away my intentions and Steve leant through between the seats and gave me a rather expressive and under the circumstance, probably inappropriate kiss; he could be a terrible tease at times which I still liked. Although I would have loved to have taken more from it, as I often had in the past, I didn’t return the favour out of sensitivity for his partner; this was the story of my life. My concern was confirmed by the other one looking back at me with a less than appreciative look on his face as they walked away; I didn’t care. Steve was Steve and would always be very special to me.

That done, it just left the other ‘big’ problem.

“Can I drop you somewhere?”

“Well if that’s OK, I don’t wana put ya to any trouble.”

No, I thought cruelly, but you will anyway.

With little control over my feelings I doubt I appeared to be the caring soul I knew I could be.

“No that’s fine, where do you want to go,” one more stop wouldn’t matter and what was there to rush home to, “as long as it’s not in Manchester…”

I didn’t know why I tried to make a joke.

“It’s just nearer town if that’s OK?”

He was still looking at me sideways and rather sheepishly having not appreciated my questionable wit. Squeezing his leg to emphasise it had been a joke I don’t think he got it even then; by now I was too tired to care.

“Tell me where.”

Following his initial directions and realising I knew the tower block he had described, I went straight to it. We stayed quiet, too quiet in that difficult transfer time and the entire ‘what do we do now’ thing.

At the nondescript block of flats, I pulled in off the road but didn’t bother looking for anywhere specific to park as I hadn’t planned on stopping. My passenger seemed to hesitate. Despite me looking everywhere but at him I imagined he was uncertain as to whether he should offer me anything for the courtesy I had so generously shown; he just shuffled his large frame uncomfortably in the small seat.

“I know what you said earlier but I really didn’t know what Paul had planned I don’t do what ‘e does for a living, ‘onest,” honesty, that would be a first, “I just know ‘im and the others from around town. He messes with people’s ‘eads all…”

I cut in to save him further painful and unnecessary explanation.

“I know what he is, I’ve had enough experience of it and this is not the first time he…”

I trailed off as this was not the time or place to air dirty washing.

“You seem a nice guy, I’m sorry,” he opened the door and put one huge foot out onto the rough tarmac, “look, do ’ya wanna to come up, a cup of coffee, tea, just to say…”

He didn’t say for what exactly although I did wait a second of two to see if he would come up with something; but he didn’t.

“Why not.”

What are you saying, what are you doing; no, no, no; you idiot. My head continued to protest profusely but I stubbornly ignored it. My body was considering some rather baser, desperate, instincts with dark pictures and crude expectations forcing my tired organic structure into a degree of arousal.

“OK, good, that’s nice,” his tone told me he hadn’t expected me to agree, “we might ’ave to be quiet though,” my face, must have given the thought away, “no, it’s OK but I don’t live ’ere, it’s not my…”

Having already completed the picture I still slid out of the car to save further confusion.

Looking around more carefully there was no room to move the car anywhere safer, but it seemed to be out of harm’s way and I wouldn’t be long; I told myself that anyway. What was possibly going to happen; was I just being nice; nice to whom; hopefully him; perhaps me; who knew? By the time my head had stopped its musings, he was waiting at the outer door holding it open for me to catch up.

Inside I had expected something like Steve’s building, but this was in a far worse state, the stench of stale urine assaulted your nose and the ill produced graffiti dazzled your eyes; it was a disappointment although not unexpected. The lift was slow and the wait awkward; as any expectations were still unknown for my part at least and I guessed, as much so for his. Coffee, what harm could it do? He didn’t do what the others did and just because we had the same sexual orientation didn’t mean we would be throwing ourselves at each other any time soon, or at all even. Madness, utter madness; the voices of decent were pushed roughly back into their box as they tried to escape and spoil any moment which might arise.

The lift arrived, and it was even worse than the shabby lobby. Darren looked embarrassed again, but I smiled him what I hoped was a disarming acceptance that it would be OK. The doors eventually closed behind us and opened noisily again at a floor which I didn’t see him select.

“Let me see what’s going on before we go in.”

Here we go with the cloak and dagger stuff despite preferring to know what I was walking into. I watched him let himself into a door just a few feet along the dim corridor and disappear inside. The questions started, should I stay, should I make a run for it, the lift was still there, only a few steps and you could be out of there; go; get out. Ignoring all the annoying nagging thoughts, I followed a beckoning gesture made by the long shadowy arm at the door to the flat.

Inside it was dark, but he stood holding the door open but with a finger to his lips to indicate how this should be played out, once the gesture had been acknowledged, he reached out to one side and pushed open the door next to him. Peering around and not actually sure who was going to go where first, my eye was caught by a low ghostly grey, shape coming down what I presumed was the hallway. My companion followed my eyes and whispered near my ear.

“It’s OK ‘e won’t ‘urt you, it’s just ‘is dog.”

Who the ‘his’ was referring to I didn’t need to know, but understanding I should be safe was more important. The shape solidified into a huge white boxer dog, he easily pushed past Darren’s attempt to keep him out of the room and ignored the curse which followed quietly behind it.

“Come in, quick.”

I didn’t quite understand the sense of urgency but complied.

Once the door was closed, we all seemed to relax. Darren switched on a very small table lamp which allowed me to see some of the cramped bedroom. The dog had stretched himself out on the bed easily taking up most of one half and obviously used to his place. Miscellaneous boxes seemed to fill every corner and clothes were piled up on a chair; the total chaos didn’t seem to bode well. Assorted posters covered most of the wall space but gave me no clue as to who the occupant was, it was random, mismatched, confused, perhaps that was him; hopefully not.

“Sorry about the dog, do ya want ’im out?”

Still not actually knowing if it would be I just shook my head, to speak yet but I could see Darren hadn’t taken my silent answer, so I whispered.

“No, it’s fine, he’s lovely,” for other more covert reasons he certainly was.

With the extraordinary size of the animal I wouldn’t have tried to shift him off the bed anyway. He, it was and prominently a ‘he’ and seemed happy to see us.

“This ain’t my place, I’m just crashing ‘ere for a while,” I had already worked out something along those lines, “ ‘e’s asleep so as long as we don’t make much noise it’s OK, the dog wont’ bark while ‘e’s in here, you sure you…”

Putting a hand up his inane mutterings stopped.

“Coffee?” I would at least try for a drink.

“Coffee. Do you really want,” my face must have fallen and I unconsciously took a step back towards the door, “sorry, no please don’t go, I mean,” he looked upset at the misunderstanding, “sorry, please, stay.”

He stepped forward and put an enormous arm round my shoulder to settle the confused moment, and probably to stop me leaving. I playfully thumped at the massive chest pressing against me not really knowing what to say. The dog lifted his head in curiosity.

I thought I should try again.

“Coffee?”

“Coffee.”

He left the room after indicating I should sit on the bed. The dog sniffed at my hand and licked it liberally leaving a great deal of slather which I didn’t really mind but with nobody else there to see, I wiped it on the bed cover well away from where I sat. Stoking the massive white head, neck, and shoulders to help pacify the beast which he seemed to enjoy, I was able to look round the room more closely. It would have been difficult to identify the person from the décor but as he had said, it was only temporary. What did I know? All this was bound to be another type of ruse or a con and for all I knew it was more likely to be his boyfriend who was supposedly fast asleep in their big comfortable dog free bed next door. What was I doing here?

The dog licked my hand again as I had momentarily stopped fondling him and looking down couldn’t help but notice the state of sexual excitement he had reached. Unfortunately, I had no time to see what could be done about it as my rather oblique chain of thought was interrupted by a quietly spoken curse as the door opened. The drips from the bottom of one of the mugs showed where he had spilt some of the dubious drink. He handed me the other one hopefully still dry. In the dim light I could see the liquid had milk and I expected some sugar but I hadn’t specified any preference. Putting whatever it was down on one of the few bits of free space next to the bed, I doubted it would be drunk.

“Are you OK?” It was me asking him this time.

“Ye, fine, it’s still quiet out there so we should be OK.”

It seemed everyone and everything was ‘OK’

“How long have you…”

Realising my arm’s length gesture around the room probably didn’t look very complementary, I withdrew my hand and cut short the comment.

“Not long,” he paused, pushed the dogs fully extended back legs to one side and sat on the bed, “I know you don’t know me but, I really don’t do what them others do, honest,” that would still have to be proved as far as I was concerned, “if you want to though….as a thank you for the lift and everything…,” he made the conventional move of touching my upper thigh, “I’m told I’m good at it,” obviously he was not used to using words, “I….”

Putting my hand onto his, he stopped his awkward waffling.

“I don’t expect any…”

I was stopped abruptly because he stood up and pulled off his still buttoned shirt over his head in one swift and perhaps well practised movement.

“ ’ow about you just….”

Again, he seemed lost for the words, but I had nothing which would help him just at that moment.

With the palpable tension, awkward movement and potential excitement, the dog had sat himself up and was paying a great deal of attention to us; it didn’t help to make the situation any more comfortable. Darren took the two small steps to stand right in front of me and reached out to touch my shoulder, I took his hand to stop any further damage being done.

“You don’t have to….”

My words of caution were ignored as his trousers fell to the floor, deftly undone with just his free hand. He did stagger a little to get his trainers and the trouser legs fully off and it was very comical momentarily; the dog thought so anyway and slavered more as he began to bounce about behind me.

“Most people like to get a load of this.”

He stood up straight which left nothing else to look at but the most enormous penis I had ever seen; even in magazines where you knew they were generally faked.

“I don’t…”

There was a great deal of this being lost for words but the dog’s agitation beside me and even the wet lick to the side of my face couldn’t remove my stare.

“What do you think of this then?”

He slowly stoked what had to be the 10, 11 or 12 inches which swung loosely below his flat hairless stomach.

Glancing at the rest of his exposed body it was truly wonderful in its muscular definition despite still having that peculiar ‘stretched’ look. With enough to distract me, my eyes couldn’t help but fall back to the absurdly proportioned member. He made no move or further suggestion as to what he was going to do as if this was part of a bizarre but mesmerising freak show. Without any direct stimulation, it began to raise its tilted head and I felt I had to react to it in some way.

“You don’t have to you know. I’m not your average punter, sorry, I know you don’t do… I just mean I, no you….” thankfully the meaningless words petered out.

“Let’s just see….”

Let’s just see what? I had no idea. Shuffling back on the bed as he pressed forward I still didn’t want to be too close to the monster, but I was curious enough not to stop looking, the dog seemed to take it as a signal and pushed himself between us. Alternatively licking my face, Darren’s stomach and fleetingly at his now fully engorged member; he obviously didn’t want to miss out on the attention.

“Yer can… ye know… if yer wanna.”

Darren looked down at me, caught my wide-eyed stare and he took my hand and placed it on the thick pulsing tube.

“It don’t bite ye know,” I took his half-smile as an attempt to relax the situation, “’ave ye ever seen such a thing…,” he moved my hand for me and seemed to happily accept whatever pleasure it gave him.

The growing, almost unbelievable stiffness was being reciprocated by one of my own albeit in a more modest way and thankfully hidden way; I had to shift my position to relieve the tightness in my trousers. Our knees touched and slid between each other.

The third member of the party still seemed to want to join in which was almost as disturbing. It was more because I had never been with anyone else when I had experienced canine company before and I didn’t really know what other people might think about such things; not that I wanted to discuss it there or then. Dragging myself away from the possibility there were other things to concentrate on.

As the now nearly fully erect, curiously banana shaped rod, bounced gently in time with his heart beat, Darren twisted to sit next to me and lay back on his arms to expose the magnificent appendage to its full advantage. It was impossible not to notice the dog’s excitement as he shuffled even closer to the action with his own prominence more than adequate for the purpose. Perhaps this was not his first time, the dog’s that is, perhaps it was the pheromones; perhaps it was just luck. Darren reached to pull him back by the thick chain he was wearing but I made some sort of a noise to say it was not bothering me; I didn’t really care neither did I know what to concentrate on the most.

This was obviously not going to be any kind of normal sexual encounter. Darren obviously knew it was not exactly normal either. To a casual observer, it would have looked like I had never handled another man’s intimacy and I didn’t really understand why it was proving to be so difficult, I had manhandled all sorts of things in my time, in this case it was just bigger than any other; anything human anyway.

With one, or even two hands progress seemed to be ineffective and even uncomfortable for him. The marked curvature took the comparatively small head to about 30 degrees from the shaft and the foreskin was painfully tight across the tip although he forced it back as if to show he could, I saw the grimace on his face as he completed the movement. The amorous activity of the dog did not help the strange routine still trying to indulge himself in our attempts at, well whatever you would call what we were trying to do.

With this odd behaviour seemingly going nowhere fast, I was starting to feel sorry for Darren and ended up sitting back away from where the action should have been. He seemed disappointed and started to wave his now slightly limp penis like a toy rather ludicrously. I had the feeling he was trying to indicate I should make use of it while I could; I couldn’t really contemplate it, not now. Despite its size it looked so fragile and to be honest, being a little unkind, not very appealing. Darren looked very uncomfortable and perhaps rather disappointed. With my conscience pricked, pardon the pun, I leaned back into the clinch and gave it some tentative and hopefully gentle attention with my tongue and took just the tip into my mouth despite it being rather dry with fear; hopefully I was saving us both from any unnecessary humiliation.

Out of the corner of my eye I was distracted by yet another potential embarrassment. The dog hadn’t moved far from the activity and had got even more excited at my oral attentions. Now fully exposed including his apple sized ‘knot’ he pushed it into my face where thin watery liquid dripped down my cheek. With everything getting too confusing and overtly complicated, I eventually had to let go of poor Darren, for breath if nothing else. Although I hadn’t managed to taste the dribble of creamy semen which had started to dome at the red eyes of both of their penises, the dog lurched right in to lick avidly at Darren’s and along its full length to the base of the now crest fallen erection. With mixed feelings and even a tinge of jealousy, I noted Darren didn’t stop him.

My most outstanding feeling was one of excited fascination, more so than anyone else in the room I would have wagered. Memories of another life flooded back to which my attraction might easily have been interpreted with disgust. As it stood, or in this case lay, there was no adverse reaction to the enthusiastic licking and I had the feeling this was not the first time this might have happened. The extremely muscular pure white body was pushing itself against me obviously trying to get a better angle. Despite wanting to lay my hands on the beautiful creature but not knowing if I might lose a few fingers if I did, I kept my poorly veiled desires to myself, although still desperate to explore the perverse but not wholly unknown possibilities. Feeling my resolve slipping away I eventually reached over his solid hind quarters to push past the thick muscular shoulders and take my own pleasure from both. Neither of the participants reacted to any of the stimulation and we slid apart, none of us having reached any great degree of satisfaction.

Darren must have already known his erection was a lost moment but parted his legs to let my hand cup his correspondingly large scrotum as a sort of second prize, my other found his companions. This obscure three-sum could so easily have become the perfect union. Obviously, it didn’t, although I had a very sticky patch in my underwear for my unrequited trouble.

A noise from another room stopped the action instantly. Darren looked worried, the dog quizzed for where the sound had come from, I just looked at the two of them equally disturbed by the unknown. We all sat perfectly still as an extreme and bizarre tableau until the clock ticked once more and I imagined I was the only one who was disappointed at this final curtailment of any action.

My human companion jumped up and tugged his trousers on. The dog bounced up and stood looking at the door, his previously exuberant member was unfortunately receding quickly into its mottled pink protective sheath, I just sat there not knowing what to do. Darren put a finger to his lips and I nodded my understanding. Opening the door, he listened, there was nothing any of us could hear. The dog would have noticed more than we might, but he just stood leaning his weight against my shoulder with his head on one side, the flap of one ear lifted slightly higher than the other. This time I couldn’t resist the urge to rub my hand over him, all over him and he didn’t seem to mind. Another noise, a door opening, Darren put his head out into the hallway and spoke in an odd kind of forced whisper.

“It’s only me, everything OK?”

The voice he used was deep, an atypical homosexual, I chided myself for even considering the rather crass thought and I missed whatever had been said from the darkness.

“OK, no, I’m in here, so’s the dog.”

The reassurance seemed to give the other person enough information, a door closed again. We both looked at him, he smiled, the dog bounced and licked his jowls, I breathed again and realised I had stopped during the exchange.

“He don’t like me ’aving visitors, you might ’ave to go.”

I was not ready to go but knew I needed to for my own good sense. If we hadn’t been interrupted I couldn’t honestly say what might have gone on but I was sure I could have shown the not wholly inexperienced Darren a thing or two. The moment had passed most likely never to be repeated; inside I felt rather dejected. There was nothing else to do but get things together, my trousers were still tenting slightly, and I was sure I could make out the dark patch at its pinnacle but even that should be safe in the dim light.

Trying to say goodbye to the magnificent hound and perhaps cop another feel of his attractive attributes, Darren was already holding both doors open to indicate the need to make a discrete and swift exit into the corridor. Exceeding to his unspoken wish, we exchanged an awkward kiss in passing as I slipped in front of him while he concentrated on keeping the dog from getting past us. Silence was still the order of the moment which was a real let down after such promise. In one way it made the leaving easier with no difficult meaningless verbiage but in so many other ways it was sad to know this would ever happen again.

The long, still very silent look from both faces in the narrowed doorway created more unnecessary awkwardness as I waited for the lift to grind its way up its stinking shaft. Despite my waving them in, they seemed intent on waiting for it to come. The dog had settled between Darren legs, restrained from running out, not that I would have minded, his excitement seemed to be poking out again but that might have just been my wilful imagination; or just the way he was sitting.

The lift finally came and those with hands waved a final goodbye as I stepped backward into the flickering stench of the metal box.

Darren had never been a regular on the gay scene I had been part of, you couldn’t have failed to miss him but perhaps that was a good thing for me. My righteous brain was telling me this of course while my deviant side was thoroughly disappointed.

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Chapter Thirty Three ~ it’s not all play inside the walls

Out on the wing you didn’t need an alarm, the officers morning hand over routine was nearly always enough. It was the day to try for the workshop again but the rather fitful night of sleeping and waking had perhaps not been the best preparation. Richard was up already, he always had to be ready first if he could; who knew why.

“I thought you would want to get up and be ready for work in good time.”

From just his voice I couldn’t always tell the level of playfulness, I would need to look at his face for that, but I didn’t really want to open my eyes. Following the aural clues, I listened for the right time to roll off the bunk and drag myself into readiness for whatever the day might hold

“Rollason, going to work today for a change?”

I let the officer have his little joke as he stood in the doorway rather comically pan faced.

“Yes sir, thank you…..sir,” the added emphasis was one step too far perhaps.

“Come on then, quick,” there was no actual rush, but I went out anyway.

“Have a nice….”

Richard’s attempt at humour was cut off by the metallic clank of the heavy door into its steel frame.

What to do now? Looking up at all three upper levels above me, the mass movement of workshop and education prisoners were far more than I had pictured it might be. Even at weekends there were not this many people unlocked at any one time. My eyes fell on a familiar wheelchair bound Des on the ground floor, I smiled, and he warmly welcomed me to the world of work.

It felt more like the first day at school and there was just as much to take in and was fascinating in its complex simplicity. People were drifting out onto the landings with most of the movement in the general direction of the main door leading outside to the rest of the prison. There were some people heading up the stairs instead of down, this brought hails of abuse and redirection from the wing officers. Attempts to use the phones were also a daily game with maximum effort but little success. Several unfamiliar faces in uniforms were patrolling the levels unlocking and re-locking, checking and re-checking. They weren’t our wing officers, but I had seen some of them take the gym groups, or marshalling bodies outside in a variety of other duties. With a type of uniform of their own, the crisp white shirts had been replaced with dark tight tee shirts, spoilt only by the prison logo emblazoned across perfect if over developed chests and arms. This was the action crew, poised for all the potential problems which mass prisoner movement begged for. I couldn’t help but admire them but realised I might have been too obvious for my own safety.

Feeling more than a little intimidated I followed Des’s instruction and gave my name to one of the two hunks sitting at one of the tall tables’ ticking off names on their multi paged lists.

“Rollason, 1, 20, sir,” not quite ‘name rank and number’ but close enough.

Flicking from page to page, running his pen down the columns of names, a tick and we seemed to be done so I went to walk away, if only to stop anyone noticing my obvious considerations of his considerable, muscular build.

“Hold it, hold it,” pause, wait, “OK, get on.”

He hadn’t looked up, fortunately, or he would have caught me trying to decipher the intricate tattoo on his left arm where it had enticingly disappeared up under the arm of his body-hugging top.

Following the crowd once more, we all drifted slowly towards the now open door. After months in virtual isolation, this was proving to be almost too much, I had never liked crowds at the best of times but there was nowhere to hide out here.

A queue had formed near the doorway and we had to give our names yet again, to one our own wing officers this time. Apparently, the first had been for the workshop lists, the second was the wing release list. One of my personal officers was on the job this morning; a young, good-looking but cocky ‘boy’. He looked up as I gave my name and cell allocation, again. It was obvious he wanted to make some inane comment but, being under pressure to get us out into the holding yard, he was lost for any of his usual stinging words for once.

“Thank you Mr Collins,” he had already moved onto looking for the next name.

Obviously, I had been out in the mini yard before, it was the main, non-emergency, way off the wing. Before today though it had only been for visits and the library. In the relatively small area there must have been 40 or 45 slowly animating bodies in various states of dress, wakefulness, excitement, or affliction. For many of them it was a time for a quick smoke and I quickly squeezed my way up-wind of this faction to where I could see Des. He was talking to a couple of others who I recognised from the main exercise yard at the weekends. After the initial banter around being the new boy on his first day at the office, I fell back into being the quiet, moody, indecipherable, misplaced lug I seemed to have been labelled; it was OK for me. Picking up names as they were offered or called out between other prisoners, I did now at least have an idea of who some of these people were.

Everyone else around us seemed to be discussing the previous night’s excitement’s mostly with made up pseudo professional analysis. The fate of individuals who were missing or gone elsewhere was chewed over and spit out with a sense of general disinterest. Continuing to listen to the exchanges, it was as productive an education as having to bother to ask questions; the former activity was much safer in almost every case. After a while though, I did start to wonder why we were standing here for so long.

Officers were placed both inside the gate and outside on the road waiting for what I assumed was permission from central control to move us. The crackle of radios was a constant background noise. One of these messages, amongst the many unintelligible ones, spurred the officers into some sort of reaction. The tall smart Mr Collins was in the doorway of the block making sure no one sneaked back in without permission.

“Cleared to go Mr Jones,” he waved his radio above his head to make sure the other officer was looking, “get this lot off my wing.”

From his exaggerated gaze around the amassed crowd, I assumed it was a regular quip and it received only a half-hearted cheer from the inmates. The gate was opened, and we started to move towards it. Progress was tediously slow.

Outside, a few paces away from the fence, there were three officers performing the basic pat down procedures. The crowd filtered naturally into three lines which indicated this was the normal policy; I choose the line for an officer I recognised. Curiously, my rationalisation was, if I messed up in some way I might get a better result from him than I would from a stranger. Despite everyone being aware of what we should or shouldn’t have with us, several people had been protesting for the return of their smoking or food items as well as several other things I wasn’t interested in. It was a very unromantic few seconds for me as the officer rubbed his gloved hands up and down my person and, as usual, I silently chided myself for over-thinking just about everything in this life of pillared privation.

Having passed through the bottleneck, the crowd had all but dissipated, I looked for a familiar face to latch onto as I had no idea where I was to go or what to do when I got there. There wasn’t one I could see but it was obvious there was only one way to go. The roadway was lined with officers who would have no truck with dissension; it was written all over their subdued faces. I had seen some of them from the cell window of course but now I was on the outside of the block, the limited view from our window had not allowed this interesting vista. The attendees of the workshops from the main wings passed ‘P’ wing four times a day and as with the exercise yard experience, it was prudent to keep out of their direct line of sight.

The ‘route’, as it was descriptively known was not a very long one. Each road junction, gate or compound had an officer standing next to or across it. Groups of two or even three stood at the most open and obviously vulnerable spots. In all there were probably about twenty officers. Off in the distance, along other roads, there were others wandering into position, but I concentrated on not involving myself in anything but getting to the workshop. Knowing this mass control of ‘the route’ was mainly for the other wings. Up the hill, through one of the wide double width road gates on into another outdoor compound and through the usual heavy door arrangement we filed into a single storey building I had passed by many times before. Our short journey didn’t get too much attention from anyone during the two-minute walk and we were locked safely away once more.

Once inside, two of the smart but dressed down officers, were ticking off names from yet another set of sheets. Well, one was ticking the other was doing little more than glowering silently as we walked through. Once past that stage, there seemed to be two distinct groups ahead of me. One was picking off white cotton aprons from a row of coat hooks; they seemed to be taking specific ones rather than just the first in line. These people moved on towards sets of tables laid out in large rectangular patterns. With no indication if I was to have an apron, I passed them by. The second group of people I noted were mostly those who tried to be the more vocal and vicarious of the wing, always into things, always at the front for any trouble or excitement. They were filing through a door right at the back of this room and presumably into some other type of occupation. Thinking about it and reading the sign, it was obviously the ‘canteen’ preparation area. Having heard stories of the controversial activity in there, I was glad not to be part of it; or was I? Relieved at the sound of a familiar voice, I knew I was in this first space because Des had indicated I join him on his table for now.

“You’re new today…..”

The quiet voice of the older of the two officers spoke up from behind me and I spun to face him, nearly knocking the clipboard out of his hand as he was searching for the name I had given him just moments before.

“Rollason, sir.”

“Rol…Rol…Rollason, OK, see him there and get your peg number, they’ll tell you what to do.”

He smiled, I thought so anyway but it was hidden by the dense white moustache which accompanied the full head of wavy white hair. Looking in the direction his pen had pointed, he moved away into the small office before I could ask anything more; not that there seemed anything to ask anyway.

“I’m to have a peg number?”

One of the three inmates who were now seated at the long table to one side of the workshop stared up at me, smiled, and asked me for my details to put on a sheet he had in front of him. Number 26, he pointed to the rack near the door and I fetched the said item. This was just like school where we had used the same type of aprons for woodwork.

“Dave, ova ‘ere mar maerte,” Des, his broad Black Country accent rather over exaggerated in his excitement, “yow cun joyun tha ‘ardest workin taerble in ter shop.”

His statement raised a small cheer from the occupants of the table and a hiss from both the other set ups further along the room. Waving a mock thank you to all, I could feel I had gone very red and sat down quickly on a chair which had been pulled out for me. A banging on the office window quelled the ebullient noise to a murmur. Having sat as directed, I ventured a quick look around the circle of seven but had no intention of getting myself noticed.

Although I had no idea what it was we were to be doing, it quickly dawned on me; breakfast packs. I couldn’t believe it took seven people to achieve the simple collection of items most of us enjoyed each morning. Each person took one item, bagged it, and passed the bag on finally it was sealed with a tape machine, tossed into a metal bin to be counted off into large outer boxes by the ‘head’ of the table. These, when full, were again sealed with tape, marked with the contents and date etc. and stacked on a pallet. That was the job. Day in day out, three and a half hours in a morning, two and a bit in the afternoon, Monday to Friday excluding visits and other prison business. What more is there to say? Not a whole lot to be honest and other than the occasionally change to preparing variations; drinks packs, no cereal or jam; condiment packs with just salt, pepper, and vinegar. These were few and far between and it was nearly always the breakfast packs going around and around the tables. Occasionally each shift had the excitement of you changing from packing cereal to jam or sugar to tea bags but as nobody liked the tea bags because they were so dusty, of course I started on tea bags.

During the day, breaks for drinking tea seemed to be short but frequent, two in the morning but only one in the afternoon although these were liberally augmented by toilet breaks which were more often than not inappropriate and used for rule breaking smoking sessions. It was not until a fire inspector’s report found the offenders who the practice officially banned. Prisoners were nothing if not inventive and the exercise hardly stopped but invoked the eleventh commandment; ‘Thou shall not get caught’.

Work should have been simple but although some people were only capable of counting one, two, three or four items before stuffing them into a bag, some of us just couldn’t help but notice the inefficiency and waste of available resources. It was no business of mine of course but naturally it annoyed me. For the first weeks I kept my head down, the workshop clique was very strong, and it took a while to be accepted into it anyway; especially if you were as naturally quiet and circumspect as I was. Eventually though, as usual I just couldn’t help myself and I was making waves by filling the many toilet driven gaps on the table to keep the line going, doing two items at a time if the table was shorthanded or moving to another group if they were a man down; I didn’t realise until it was too late that my extra-curricular activity had been noticed.

The most exciting part of the job, comparatively speaking that is, was to count off the bags into the outer cartons, tape and label them. This heady position held the illuminating title of ‘head of table’, I couldn’t stop smiling each time the over inflated description was used. Ours at the time was Stan. We got on quite well. He went to church on the wing and we sometimes walked the yard together on outdoor exercise if the weather was nice. At the point where he went into hospital for a few days, I was rocketed up the ladder of seniority and took on the spurious job as head of table. This new position was at least slightly less mind numbing and I got to tell, sorry, to ask people to do things; that was nice in its own small if pointless way. Working at this level, there was the need to interact with the ‘Top Table’ and it was this entity which had intrigued me.

It was a table, but it was not physically at the top of anything. Each shift, three inmates would be sitting at it, they didn’t seem to change very often, and each seemed to have one solitary duty, each appeared to do no more than that duty. The first marked off who was seated at each of the three tables and what they were packing at the start of each shift. The second marked off the various boxes of goods as they went from the storage area out onto the tables for packing. The last shrink wrapped and marked up the completed pallets of packed items on another simple form. Occasionally the lowest person in the chain would double-check the contents of a pack or two before marking the degree of miss counting on a sheet, I noted it was a different sheet. Because of the dual role he had two clipboards, but notably only one pencil. Strangely, the system was a fascinating one to watch but the amount of inactivity was excruciating compared to what I had been used to in real industry on the long-lost outside.

Notably, the level of office and workshop interaction was very low. The top dog of the top table was normally the only one to venture into the office at all during the working day. A notice taped to the door read ‘Do not disturb until after 10.30’, I only twice saw anyone break the unofficial rule and suffer the verbal consequences from the second, rather officious, officer. This lack of communication seemed to work most of the time so why change; it caught me out one afternoon.

“Rollason isn’t it?” the white-haired officer had wandered out of the said office and stood next to me as I was counting finished packs, “you can count, can’t you?”

I assumed his rather dry wit was in play.

“Yes sir,” I played along with him.

“You can read and write?”

Unfortunately, it was not always such a stupid question.

“Yes sir,” this was an inordinate number of questions to be asked.

“You can use a tape gun?” I didn’t answer that one before he pronounced. “You can take over from dopey Dave there when he finishes on Friday,” there was no more to it than that.

‘Dopey Dave’ was better known to his friends as ‘big fat Dave’ not that it phased him in any way. He was pleasant enough, always happy, an habitual criminal, this stretch will have taken him past spending more than half of his 28 eight-year life behind one sort of prison wall or another. As his nick name also implied, he was very fat. It seemed, despite things being kept secret until the morning of any move, he was due for transfer. Unofficially I guess this was a helpful hint for him although he didn’t seem too bothered, just another move to another facility and another set of prisoners to get to know. At the start of the next shift I was taken off the tables and given the grand tour where he explained the minimal number of duties, I did note that most of these I had never actually seen him do. The following day he had gone.

To be honest I didn’t really want the new job, it was less work than the tables, but I was happy doing the menial side of things for a change. With no need for an apron now, taking up my clipboard and regulation if well used pencil, I tried to write-up the staffing list but soon realised I didn’t know any but a handful of the other worker’s names. Knowing I was out of my comfort zone even before I started, I was surprise how well I handled the fun and games which went on in the attempt to procure such simple details. It was this activity where I soon learnt to make up most of the information. It was the same as checking and double checking the finished boxes. Officially at least 25% had to checked each day but the traceability and quality control information which we were supposed to work to was a complete work of fiction. Creativity was called for; creativity was what I was good at. However, as was my way I made more than the required percentage of checks, I made corrections to any miss packed goods on the tables and I weighed in to help other people pack, stack, and secure pallets. The alternative was to sit for the allotted hours and do virtually nothing, as I had seen most of the others do. Perhaps if I had been in the environment for twenty or thirty years as some had, I hoped it might have been different; it was never going to be that way for me.

The biggest crisis came when I lost my pencil. They were never to be taken out of the workshop and it was a reportable offence to be caught with any item from the workshop; literally any of them, food or drink items, paper, pencils, bags, tape, anything. The loss of the pencil meant a trip to the office and a formal request for a new one, it was into the lion’s den; you may well laugh but I only lost the one. Resorting to crime I stole the rest, but they didn’t go missing very often and I was more creative in hiding mine from then on.

On the up-side it was nice to get to know more people. An Egyptian guy taught me to write numbers in Arabic, he would test me while counting items in a box, I got it right often, much to his rather simple and un-attestable amazement. There were even the occasional opportunities to flirt, discreetly of course with one or two of the less butch members of the workforce; hopes of it going further were never realised. There was even the bonus of the occasional cup of branded instant coffee. Not very often and never to be officially taken from the workshop, it was normally reserved for officers but never the less, a very welcomed perk of the job.

Just before Christmas, after working there for a couple of months a new prisoner appeared unexpectedly on the top table. He didn’t seem to have any official position but he was dyed in the wool prison material. Feeling rather intimidated by him for no obvious reason, it took a while to work out and realise what and who he was.

“Smudge,” it was a statement and he shook my hand, it was weighty, confident, and rather badly tattooed.

“David,” it didn’t seem to be required knowledge, but he had it anyway.

He was and probably is still is, another career criminal, he freely acknowledged the fact and you name it, he had been involved in it. Strangely, while relating some of his many stories and other general thoughts on a wide range of legal, criminal and prison issues, I warmed to him. His frequent time behind these walls had seen him being the first ‘top dog’ in this workshop and, according to him anyway, he had helped set it up as it was now.

His unprecedented familiarity with the officers seemed to confirm everything he often alluded to and I graciously gave him the same respect everyone else seemed to. It would be fair to say he was far more capable, certainly more helpful, and more organised than anyone I met in there, from either side of the regime. Problems and people alike were regularly sorted out fairly one way or another although there was never any unjust treatment; as I didn’t tend to court trouble I was never on the receiving end of his retribution. From even an arm’s length association, occasional benefits could come your way in the shape of newspapers, coffee, fruit, black pudding, you didn’t ask questions you just smiled and was ever grateful.

On the other side of things, his justice was swift and on more than one occasion, ruthless but both the workshop and the wing were unofficially better places for him being around. Beyond the bluff and bluster, below the genuinely hard exterior were the makings of the type of ‘good guy’ to have on your side. Rather excitingly it was all very gangland, and I pitied those who thought they knew better and crossed him, the proof of that was often made very clear to see.

One day he had been taken out of the shop by officers to be rearrested for various other offences that would eventually see him go to another facility. Again, it was only the day before that when I got the dubious nod that I would be taking his place; just in the workshop that is and not the rest of his over-lording. It was not a question of do you, more a question of you will and you are. Unfortunately, the next day in question was my own court hearing. With everyone’s expectation being a sentence of at least the ten years, the shock of my not returning to prison rather scuppered the best laid plans of men and prison officers. Somewhere inside my ego, I was looking forward to doing the job, but other events overshadowed the matter.

Chapter Thirty Two ~ the morning after the night before

By the time I woke up, the previous confusions had been safely locked away. With the immediate crisis apparently over and much needing to be forgotten, it was at least the start of another day. Content to just lay and watch the sleeping beauty still amiably attached to me, the hideous events seemed a world away. Exactly which world I was in at that moment I didn’t want to question. The mugs up on the chest of draws were stone cold but I needed a drink. Torn between staying and moving, I brushed aside the mass of curls and kissed the top of the delicate sleeping head, gently peeled off both his arm and leg before rolling away; the stiffness of being unfit took its toll and my struggle to get off the floor would have looked better on an eighty-year-old. Michael turned over but stayed asleep, his soft relaxed smile begged to be kissed but I couldn’t get down there again, even for that.

The cleansing light of a new day showed our situation for what it was, client and commodity; I wished it could be different but, it wasn’t. Michael certainly new it and however hard it would be, I had to accept it too.

The process of getting up and ready went without incident or undue affect. Bladder relieved, residue wiped up, I risked making another hot drink while still in the nude. While downstairs waiting for the kettle to boil I had heard him take a shower, I had just sprayed myself liberally with a perfumed mist thinking I would deal with my own dirt later. We both drank the tea I had made, and I hid my embarrassment badly while we tided the room a little and were ready for the next stage.

This often-difficult transition from lover to leaving was done as the rest of the morning, in almost complete silence. A touch, a look, a smile, whatever my problem had been last night, it all seemed to be forgotten now; perhaps ‘it’ wasn’t so uncommon. The day was slipping away, and he decided it would be best to drop him back near the city centre.

The drive into town was once more uncomfortably quiet. Despite the palpably awkward air, it was impossible not to breathe in the mixture of fragrances as he leaned over and gave me a goodbye kiss; I put that one safely away for later. Having pulled the car over in a side street where there were no shoppers or other interruptions I had hoped for something more but anything like it was only in my head. He was going to go to the pub in the hope of seeing people he knew but I had already said I wasn’t going to join him. Any disappointment on my part was, I hoped, hidden sufficiently well. Heading off into the traffic I was lost for what to do next but just drove.

Braking too sharply and scuffing the tyres, I had driven right past Paul who had waved me down in a nearby street. He trotted up to the car and tried to get in but I had pressed the central locking button just in time. Winding down the window instead, I got my comments in first.

“I have to go, no time for anything, sorry I…” he ignored my preemption.

“Did he give it up?”

My brain struggled to change into the correct parlance.

“Michael, yes, great thanks, he…” he interrupted again.

“He didn’t did he, I’ll kick his thick Irish arse and get my….”

Knowing he was going to say, his ‘money back’, I didn’t want to let the sordid contract raise its ugly head again.

“No, he was great honestly,” I put on my best smiley face, “never had better. I have to go.”

Paul’s look confirmed I couldn’t lie well enough.

He scowled but was looking up and down the street, I didn’t know if he heard me or not, but he seemed to be distracted anyway.

“Catch you later, yes?” I waited to see if he was paying attention or not before throwing in, “or tomorrow?”

That bit did.

“We’re going out later, you’ll be there,” it might have been either a question or a statement; I took it as a statement.

“I might not, I don’t….” my words trailed off as he romped away towards a waiting car on the other side of the road.

Feeling deeply disappointed and annoyed at the same time but still not knowing what to do or where to go I just rather mechanically drove around in circles. There was no point or productive reason for it, but the memory of the CCTV incident moved me and the car further out with each pass.

Eventually and unplanned, I was outside the house where Michael slept, sometimes anyway. Not wanting to think about the activity he suffered inside, I was glad he was at least safe elsewhere for the moment. Passing Paul’s house which was remarkably close, knowing he wasn’t in either, the car just kept going aimlessly. At Steve’s flat there was only one parking space which I took, turned off the ignition and sat, listless and lonely. Although he would be in, it would be in the arms of his new and very beautiful boyfriend. Nowhere else appealed, I reluctantly re-started the car and went home to my cold and solitary room.

The whole house was very empty and crushingly silent. Mechanically boiling the kettle again, and again in the kitchen, it must have been left to go cold at least three times as I meandered up and down the stairs picking up clothes, towels, displaced bedding, but generally just putting them down again in a different place around my room. I gave up on the exercise.

Under the steaming water of the shower, I let the soothing irrigation rinse the surface skin only partially clean, reluctant to let my hands join in the process. The last thing I needed was to feel the excitement which hot soapy water normally provided. Reliving the passion which had been taken only the night before was not proving helpful, so I got out. Still damp from only a cursory wipe down with a small towel, I pulled a blanket over me on the remains of the bed and slept. The faint scent of the night’s excesses drifting in and out of my nostrils with each breath as the covers moved; it was both welcome and despised in equal measures. Sleep came only from a state of complete mental exhaustion.

Things seemed to have changed, I didn’t like change. For days after I tried to avoid everything and everyone; it worked most of the time but not all. John tried to rearrange the game of squash by leaving more notes, but we left it unresolved in the end. Work was miserable although I was just about able to keep most of the usual problems at bay.

At one point I found myself outside Michael’s dilapidated green door again. The paint didn’t look any better in daylight. Why I was there I didn’t want to admit but the chances of seeing Michael there were slim to nothing; deep down I knew it but still felt a need for it. Despite all the issues I knew would go with him, after trying different times of day and night, short stays, long stays, multiple drive pasts, I eventually gave up. Not wanting to admit to the feeling of loss, it defiantly refused to be put away in a box and lurked menacingly in the background. For what seemed like ages, each time I saw someone like him, sometimes nothing like him at all, the urge to shout out welled up but never quite brimmed over, it was wearing and stupid but, that seemed to be my life for the foreseeable future.

As luck would twist me in its evil fingers, I only just managed to sound the car horn in time to catch the attention of a familiar dark curly head which was going through one of the city centre pub doors. He turned at the sound and smiled. Michael. He thought about it but thankfully, he joined me in the car instead of his original goal. Getting us swiftly out of the immediate traffic, I didn’t want to go too far. Exchanging pleasantries as I drove, I soaked up his soft lilting voice and the update on his recent life and loves. It had been less than a week so there was nothing more than general chat to share but he said he was thinking of moving on, I thought he said London, but I wasn’t concentrating. It would have been so easily made a fool of myself again, but he saw it coming and made things easy for us both once I had parked up. No real explanation followed, just a ‘thanks for everything’, ‘hope it all works out’ blah, blah, blah, I couldn’t get a single word in to stop him and with a flash of a kiss, a squeeze of my upper thigh with knuckles gently pressing against my groin, he was gone. I felt a part of me die.

The next time I saw Paul he took great if mock delight in blaming me for losing him his back up rent boy. His half playful comment of ‘just how bad had it been to make him leave the city’, didn’t sit well as I failed to see the funny side. Nothing seemed funny about him anymore. A call from the office on the car phone was not ignored for once and I pushed him not so gently out of the car door and drove off while I spoke hands-free. Work was coming to a head and I didn’t need an audience to my disappointments, frustrations, and ultimate demise.

For the rest of the week I hid from everyone. On Monday morning I didn’t want to hear the alarm hammering relentlessly into my brain.

Chapter Thirty One ~ a naked dream which almost came true

The double fronted detached Georgian house where I had my room was impressive, even to the most undiscerning eye. In only the harsh yellow street light it was hard to see the beautiful narrow mortaring between the fine smooth faced red bricks and the carved details around the stone window mullions; it did get a whispered whistle of approval from my passenger.

“You’ll have to wait here a minute, I’m not supposed to have people back.”

Waiting for some acknowledgement, there wasn’t any.

“I’ll see if the coast is clear, but you’ll have to be very quiet.”

I really hadn’t thought this through.

Letting myself in as noiselessly as I could, having realised the time was closer to dawn than dusk, there was no sound from the rest of the house; I didn’t know what I was expecting as the neither of the other cars were in the drive. Standing again for a moment to listen, I spotted a note standing up prominently on the hall table. ‘Can’t play game tomorrow, gone away until Sunday afternoon, sorry. Thanks. John’. This could only be good.

With rather more of a spring to my step, I put the outside porch light on and went back to the car. My passenger had been left sitting in the dark and silence as I had taken the car key with me; I wasn’t completely stupid.

“All clear, they’re out.”

Now on home territory I was a little more confident in myself and it was Michael who looked less comfortable as the wide front door closed behind us.

“Would you like a drink, tea?” I wasn’t going down the hard-drinking route at this point despite my need for Dutch courage.

“Thanks, that’s good of you, two sugars for me,” he was busy taking in the rich appointments of the place; I was still thinking perhaps this was not a clever idea.

“Come into the kitchen while I make it.”

It was not that I didn’t trust him, but in the kitchen, we wouldn’t run any risks. Once the drinks were made I broke yet another difficult silence.

“Let’s take these up to my room, I don’t like to use the sitting room when they’re not here,” it was true, I had always not tried to impose myself, “don’t look so worried,” I had noticed his little face was starting to screw itself up.

My room was just that, a room. With the use of other facilities of course but most of my time was spent in the large, bay windowed, upstairs front bedroom. There were a few pieces of furniture but no bed. It had previously been part of a two-room arrangement; the last occupant had the additional use of a bedroom proper at the back of the house. Currently there were the two of us lodging so he had the bed but I contented myself with a fold out sofa arrangement to make the room self-contained. The other lodger was on an extended student trip somewhere out of the country, hence my now more relaxed state of occupation.

“Make yourself comfortable, sit wherever you want,” it was a choice of only two places.

“Are we going to do it in here?” He was looking round puzzled, “You don’t have a bed?”

“We don’t have to do anything, I told you that, just relax, it’s fine.”

I must have sounded unsure as he smiled a tight uncertain grimace, but I continued to outline the other arrangements of the house. He didn’t seem any more settled, obviously still unsure about his procurement he started to mumble and fidget.

“No, it don’t feel right. If the others find out I didn’t do anything for youes they’ll have something to say about it, it’s all their money after all,” his rather frank correct deposition of the facts spoilt the mood, yet again.

“Look. You don’t want to, I don’t know if I want to, I don’t know if I can,” I paused too long which highlighted that rather sad admission, “can’t we just be together, you’re safe, I’m happy, we…,”

I realised I didn’t really know what ‘we’ were.

“OK, relax yourself, it’s OK.”

There was too much ‘OK’ing’ going on but no real resolution for my liking and I cut him off.

“I’m going to have a shower; do you want one?”

“No, not unless you want me to?”

This was too much.

“Look. If you do then do, if not, then don’t, if you want to just go, I’ll take you. I want a shower, I will have a shower and the rest is up to you,” a little too harsh perhaps?

He put the cup down and came perilously close to me.

“Sorry,” he whispered, “I’m not used to…”

He didn’t finish the sentence but put his arms around me instead, I didn’t hug him back.

Knowing I was going to break one of the golden rules of renting male bodies, as I looked down at his sweet face it didn’t stop me. In the split second it allowed him to pull away, thankfully he didn’t, and I took advantage of the soft compliant lips I had longed to kiss all evening.

Despite the slightly hamburger, onion, and larger breath, once the airtight seal was made between us I didn’t care. My experience in even this simple pleasure was limited, with men anyway and I hoped it didn’t show. Whatever we were managing, it was having the right effect in other physically reactions I had absolutely no control over. Pulling away to breath, I hoped I had made my point.

“I’m taking a shower,” I felt I needed to repeat my intentions to keep some reality about the situation, “do you need one?”

“Do you want…”

“Don’t start again! Yes, I’d like you to….”

He was already stripping off his top and kicking the fancy trainers into a corner of the room; I didn’t care about them as it was the rest of him which was engaging my attention.

He was much leaner than I had envisaged, skinny would be a better description. He slipped off the jeans and whatever he had beneath them in one flowing movement, I didn’t see any underwear, perhaps he didn’t have any. He stood up to let me admire the now fully exposed torso that, to my beleaguered and wanton eyes, was just perfect. A slim waist sat above hips which could have been better covered but smooth skin flowed round to the back to neat, tight, high, round buttocks which bulged seductively. He ran a hand over them as if to emphasise their perfect proportions, but it was probably just an innocent nervous gesture. At the front, there was the promise of something, but it was indistinct among the excess of pubic hair nestled below his slightly inset belly button on an otherwise flat stomach; the natural if unattractive hairy pubis could be improved easily. My calculating mind had interrupted the spectacle without being asked, the hair clippers were just in the draw there, a quick trim and a few strokes of a razor would tidy all that up without any effort at all. The interlude of my staring too intently would have looked more like a hungry dog wanting a juicy beef bone instead of just a caring concerned individual. No, let’s not get carried away, I was only just another punter hungry for the potential of his dick.

“Shower?”

He was smiling, almost laughing at my obvious indulgence and I flushed from the neck up at being caught out, again.

“Yes, right, I’ll…” lost for words once more I went to run the water.

Water and sex had always been one of my special ‘things’. It had started when I was younger and developed all through my sexually active life. By the time I had set the temperature and lowered the bamboo roller blind which constituted a shower curtain, a hand was exploring the front of my now greatly distended trousers trying to help me with my belt and shirt buttons, I knew this was going to be the most difficult part of the event; for me anyway.

Although I let him undress me, I felt distinctly awkward and yet thrilled at the same time. He obviously had some experience but it all became too much and with some gentle discouragement from ‘helping’ me, he climbed over the edge of the bath and under the now steaming jets of water.

The sight was a thing of ultimate fantasy as well as beauty. My eyes wouldn’t be torn away for a moment. Water channelled down the soft curves and gentle crevasses, steam rising in clouds as his body swaying and bent to catch the cleansing heat; I took a minute to just watch. He caught me watching, again.

“I thought youes wanted to have a shower,” he paused for an answer but retained his sweet if reproving smile, “do you want to wash my back for me?”

I didn’t need to be asked twice and invaded every facet, fold, and crevice, neither of us made any complaint about my ministrations to this end. Personally, I wanted to wash rather than be washed but that was just down to my obscure preconceptions of myself; Michael seemed to take the hint. Making sure I didn’t miss anywhere out, his inevitable sexual was granted easy access without comment. Hands were no longer enough. Taking up his small, perfectly formed and quickly growing erection with my prehensile lips, I teased away the foreskin from the tip of its head with my tongue. Despite having a variety of experiences like this in recent times, this seemed so very different, so much better; I couldn’t or rather didn’t want to think why; I managed to stop myself thinking altogether.

It didn’t take much to get a greater reaction from the quickly engorged but still delicate protrusion. As he gently but positively pushed himself further into my mouth I got the feeling this was not the usual way his oral sex was administered. He was not as mechanical as I had experienced with some of the others. His soft moaning seemed less spurious and came in gentle time with his movements. All this was helped by my grip on the soft mounds of his flexing buttocks. With one cheek in each hand I pulled him further onto my face to a point where he gasped and pulled away, fending me off from the rapidly twitching member. By pulling away, he had inadvertently pushed himself against my fingers resting against his rear opening; it was unfortunately squeezed tight against the water. Back at the front I watch a creamy droplet hang at the oval opening of his cock before being washed away; I wasn’t quick enough to taste it.

Although I was slightly disappointed, in one way his self-control might mean the glorious moment was yet be savoured. Both of us continued to carefully retreat from any climax each time either of us appeared to be reaching a point of no return. Despite the control, I think we both had an adequate amount of fun. He tried to include my heavily erect penis in the frivolity, but I had resisted the advances, now I just wanted some other glorious moment whatever it might be.

With the hot tank having only a finite amount of water, it wasn’t really meant to last the half hour or more we had been in there and I felt the chill of the room despite my excitement. Taking a large thick towel from the radiator, drying one’s companion was almost as much fun as washing them in the first place but to speed up the process, I managed to resist any further over excitement.

Returning to the bedroom I realised I hadn’t unfolded the bed. Again, very conscious of my nakedness, I switched the lights off before Michael came in. With the curtains still open the street lamp was enough and I was good at doing things in the dark remember. Within less than a minute a sheet was smoothed out and the duvet dragged from the bottom of the wardrobe and billowed out over it. Pillows flew from their storage place in the bottom draw of another elegant antique just in time for a now modestly towel clad Michael to join me. Wishing I had thought of covering myself up while I had the chance, I pulled back one corner of the thick duvet but went quickly round to the other side before climbed in and comfortably out of sight except for my face. Dropping the towel Michael stood for a moment as if just to show off; it was impossible not to look. He stood provocatively playing with the remains of his erection only to start the enlargement once more. Eventually he slid in next to me and pulled the cover over him, but his naked image was imprinted on the back of my eyes.

“You don’t have to do anything, I mean it, it’s just nice to have someone here, you don’t need to…”

He stopped my repetitive rambling with another kiss, shorter, harder but just as indulgent as before.

As if to try to emphasise my contention in another way, I slipped my arms around him and pulled his slight figure closer where he couldn’t do much of anything he might have been considering. Despite my now obvious excitement hidden under the covers, he didn’t make any further moves just relaxed into my chest entwined in my arms. This was nice; this was very nice.

Within a few moments I felt a gentle rumble through his chest cavity as his breathing fell into the easy rhythm of sleep. With slow, soft movements I took advantage of his somnolent state, caressing his neck, shoulders, and upper arms as I had often done with other people, when I was allowed. Any reservations I might have had about taking advantage of his carnal availability were not going to be so easy to hold off. With only positive but autonomous reactions coming from him, I ventured further into the darker reaches of the warm duvet.

His back was rather bony, the lack of meat or muscle made each vertebra more prominent than it really needed to be. Equally, each of the raised ribs was thinner although more delicate for it. Hard hip bones felt like coat hangers for the soft round buttocks which were not so much gluteus maximus and gluteus minimums with each one fitting easily into the cupping palm of my hand. Here they felt as wonderful as they had done in the shower, relaxed and receptive and there was no retreat from the tender crevasse nestling between them this time. My delicate exploration made the still sleeping form turn back slightly, pressing its full but still only slight weight further into my hand. Trapped but comfortable, I continued to let my fingers explore the divide and without any effort they located the delicate, slightly puckered outer edge of the secret hidden orifice.

Reacting involuntarily to the touch, it gripped tightly closed but relaxed again, each movement of a prying fingertip stimulated further reactions. A groan of some sort slipped from Michael’s slightly parted lips and I paused to see what, if anything I might have motivated.

“I thought you didn’t want to do anything?”

His soft whisper caught me unawares and I pulled away from him in what was a ridiculous and disproportionate gesture. Regretting it as soon as I had done it, I didn’t know how to recover whatever it was that had been going on.

“I, no, sorry, are you….” he stopped me from rambling on, this time with a firm grip on my quickly retreating genitalia.

“Ssh, it’s all cushty, It’s OK, it’s…” it was him who seemed lost for words this time. “Sorry… you needn’t…” another carefully weighted squeeze told me it was time for us both to shut up.

“Just relax, it’s OK, turn over.”

He guided me by gently pulling my reactive penis until I lay on my side facing away from him. My imagination was going haywire but all I felt was a gentle coming together of our bodies as he spooned softly but positively into my back. Once we had settled into place I could feel his arousal pressing itself into my lower regions, a gentle rocking back and forth stimulated us both and he slipped himself between my buttocks but no further. Was this what I had wanted? Was this what I had always been denied by the others? Was this going to be much better than using some inanimate object?

“I’ve never, actually….”

I didn’t want to utter the words as once the admission had been made it made it all more real than I wanted to accept.

“Relax, we aren’t going to do anything you don’t want…”

This was getting to be too much like the business transaction I didn’t want. I did want it to be more of a teacher and pupil but too much contemplation and over analysis was evident as my erection fled.

“Relax, just lie back and think…,” it was the last thing I needed to hear.

“I’m sorry this isn’t going to work.”

Rolling right away from him and sliding flat on my back, my erection long since disappeared, I could feel him looking at me in the dim orange light, but I certainly didn’t want to look back.

“Oh, I thought you wanted to fuck but just didn’t want to say so,” it seemed my foreplay had been all too obvious.

“I’m not just another punter, sorry if I didn’t make it clear. I didn’t ask for any of this!”

“I just wanted to help you out of whatever crap you were in, nothing more.”

I hoped if I said it enough times it might become true, the lie was failing but I ploughed on anyway.

“I liked you and didn’t think you were very happy back at the house. All this was not supposed to happen, I just wanted some company, just a chance to relax, just a chance to get to know someone a little better, I…,” there was nothing else.

Lost in confusion and self-pity, I was teetering on the edge of yet another tearful outburst. Michael put a finger onto my lips to stop them flapping and quivering but I still couldn’t bring myself to look at him.

“It’s OK,” he must had realised he had said ‘OK’ once too often, “I mean I’m sorry. Your so-called friends insisted I got you to relax and have some new experiences, that’s all. They can be very persuasive, but you probably know that already. I just wanted to give you the …”

It was me who stopped him this time by laying several fingers across his soft, deep pink lips. He tried to continue the dialogue, but it was just a comedic mumble and we both couldn’t help but see the funny side and slipped into sad if unrestrained giggling. The unpleasant moment had been ended.

Biting at my finger very gently, I didn’t know if it was an indication he wanted me to remove them or let him play, rather reluctantly I took them away.

“Let’s just sleep shall we, it’s very late, well early actually,” he had glanced towards the window which was showing the pale blue hues of a pre-dawn sky.

“Let’s, I’m sorry for being a drama queen,” I genuinely was and he seemed sympathetic which was good.

“I’m going this way, youes do what you want.”

He rolled away from me but looked back as if to say, ‘don’t you dare leave me here alone’; I didn’t. He fitted so perfectly and snugly onto my lap that all the angst and drama I had created immediately evaporated from the situation.

In my head though, all the usual mixed up conversations continued; relax; don’t relax; what are you doing; get him out of here; this is a chance to get what you want; why are you taking advantage of him; this is going to be a car crash; it’s only been a twenty year wait; get on with it; you simply can’t force yourself into him; not now; not here; not ever! While trying to switch off these ramblings, even the simplest of facts were becoming confusing. What was the problem? When I finally managed to calm down it seemed there was only one; me.

Despite the upset, nature was soon doing what it often did without encouragement. The direct physical contact, the warmth, the gentle motion of the soft curled up body in my arms, what else could happen to make it any better. With no chance of sleep, or being able to ignore the obvious, I tested the water once more with one hand exploring the captive and captivating creature.

Moving slowly and gently over the less contentious areas of my sleeping companion, his shoulder, his neck, his chest, Michael’s body relaxed even more to my meaningful but gentle touch. Almost imperceptibly he moved to allow space and access between us. My hand had reached his wistful waist, but it was reluctant to go lower and just rested in the slight but erotic dimple at the base of his spine; a quiet giggle showed I might have found a sensitive spot. The added wriggle which came with it rubbed against both my quickly expanding ego and groin. Rolling further away from it, he pulled his one knee up which seemed to indicate a route to much greater rewards.

Still not believing what was happening and not wanting to go too fast, or even too far, I left my hand resting up on his hip. By pulling gently on it I reluctantly felt the gap close between us to indicate I wasn’t necessarily insistent on doing anything more. This had the unintended consequence of increasing the pressure on my now fully firm penis and it slid easily between the space between the top his thighs. We both rested for a moment; still not knowing if what I was doing was right or acceptable my brain couldn’t rest. One step at a time; don’t rush; you don’t know what you are doing; get off him; he’s only doing this because he’s been paid to; get to the bathroom; bring yourself off and be done with it; cursing myself for this I could have screamed at the untimely interruptions; inside I think I did.

Back under the duvet, either the pause was too long or just very badly timed but either way my indecision was more than obvious; perhaps my befuddled brain had won. Not knowing which, I froze at a half-way point to somewhere or more likely nowhere. How ridiculous can this get? Nobody has these problems. It’s all very simple. It’s just mechanics. It’s just natural. Michael raised his shaggy head and looked round.

“You OK?”

The reality of his beautiful face meant I couldn’t give him the true answer. With a very firm grip I took hold of one of his buttocks. With his leg already bent almost to his chest, the soft flattened dome was stretched tight, but it offered me open access to the main prize.

My unpractised and inelegant enthusiasm must have been far too rough for the moment to be acceptable as he grabbed my fumbling hand.

“Slow it down, here, slow, slow, sl…ow…”

He directed it more precisely and softly to its target.

Following his lead after letting him select my index finger, the resistance I had expected at the threshold of his soft gentle opening wasn’t there. The initial twitch of muscle faded quickly, and the orifice engulfed the single probing digit. He pulled away and I thought I had done too much again but his slid straight back onto it presumably to demonstrated just what was going to be possible. One finger was easy but after a few moments of already pleasurable access, he found my other fingers and bent another one to within reach of the first which was still embedded in the damp recesses of his rectum. Taking his own butt cheek in hand, he pulled at it to open the area even more and the second probing digit joined the first as he rhythmically rocked on and off them, clenching and releasing, teasing, and taking them in, I only had to lie there and accept these delicious feelings.

Without realising it I caught his upper body in a quickly tightening one armed grip which was too much for such a slight figure and he shrugged me off struggling to free himself just a little, settling for just my cupping his upper chest with his neck resting in the crook of my arm. Contact, control, concentration, you must concentrate on what you’re doing. Feeling more comfortable by the second, I knew I needed to see the hidden depths I was being given access to. Pulling slightly away I could see it was both very real and yet surreal at the same time. Michael took this pause as further ignorance; that was my hope at least.

“Wait a minute, let me…,” but he did, rather than describe.

With my hand still impaled in him, he twisted away and slid up onto his knees; I had to follow. My fingers were held in place by the strong muscle spasm, but I pushed further inside to prevent any unwarranted release; I never actually wanted to let go.

“You need to get behind me,” he had barely whispered the instruction, but I understood.

Of course, I knew what I was doing, in theory anyway; I was struggling to stay focussed; concentrate; think you idiot; you’re going to lose this; lose him; lose everything.

Once we had assumed the position, I could see exactly where my hand was and all his magnificent glory was presented openly to me. My now rigid, twitching penis was poised readily assisted by unconsciously driven thrusts from my tortured hips, primal urges dripping copious amounts of premature lubrication from the expectant excitement and ancient anticipation. In one fluid movement I removed my one impaled hand and let it join the other in cupping each butt cheek to hold open the target area as wide as it would go. All I had to do was replace one entry with another. Despite taking my fingers out the opening was maintained, enticing, pulsing but fully accessible as if daring something to fall deep into the darkest pleasures within. Dam my over active mind, I had looked just too long, yet again. Someone’s words were dragging me back to the futility of the moment.

“Take me, take it and fuck me you monster, go on pump it ….”

‘Monster’; ‘fuck’; why was he speaking; what was he saying; they don’t speak; no; stop it; shut up; please; please shut up. Somewhere in my head I knew very well what darkness was lurking, waiting for a chink to push right through the pleasure and slam into the front of my cretinous cortex like a sledge-hammer. What little mental control I might have failed me completely. Here it came, flooding out in one brainwashing cataclysm of fear and over analysed retribution I screwed my eyes closed but my mind had won.

Don’t complain about it he’s right, you do have a big cock compared to many others; not many though; don’t worry about the others, those strippers are just abnormal; go on, all you have to do is shove it in; in and out, hang on tight; it’s just a piece of meat; just bang away, what if it’s too much; who cares; you might hurt him; this is another human being not a man; a boy; we aren’t built for this; he’s not built for this; it’s not natural; he looks too small; no its too tight you’ll rip him open; none of the other’s you fucked were able to complain; they couldn’t get hurt if you tried; what are you thinking; look, your dick knows it’s not right; it’s not what it wants to do; it’s not what he wants either; oh dear, look, it’s shrinking; where’s it going; what do you do now; nothing, you’ll never have it; you’re a freak; a pervert; he’s being paid to put his arse in front of you; all this danger; all this pain and perversion; bought and paid for; what pleasure; meat on a slab, is that really what you want; you don’t know what you want……….

The tears were streaming down my face without me realising what they were. In front of me all I could see was a hideous pulsating anus winking in the gloom as my hands cruelly stretched the skin away from it. Sharp fingers were digging into soft flesh to keep it from moving, resisting the body which was pushing backwards to get nearer for some blind incomprehensible reason. The once stiffly erect arrow was fading, no longer full and firm with its engorged purple head, foreskin strained back against heavily veined length and girth; where was it now; nowhere; crest fallen; limp; useless. What are you doing you stupid, stupid idiot?

Falling forward in the agony of it all, the impact was not quite the result Michael had been expecting and he collapsed helpless under my considerable weight. He was confused but couldn’t move, I was confused but didn’t want to move.

If I moved I would have to face him. If I moved I could hold him and hug him and defend him. If I moved he would see the ugly face of failure. He didn’t want me now, he would just laugh, he didn’t need to see my ridiculous tears. I could feel Michael desperately trying to get out although I had trapped both his hands, one I realised had been bringing himself to climax in the anticipation of our double union. In the background my brain was relentlessly hammering away. Cry baby; It’s only a fuck; It’s nothing; You can’t even take it when it’s offered on a plate; You’re crushing the life out of him; He’s so small; So vulnerable; So get off; Get away; Freak; Monster; Get out of there! The final screaming voice prompted a move and I lurched ungainly out of the room.

In the bathroom, I sat on the toilet seat with my face buried deep in a towel which was still damp and smelt of my lost love and like it was now cold. I thought I was going to be sick, I think I was just a little but choked it back down leaving an acidic lining to my slathering mouth.

Hearing footsteps I felt a gentle hand rest on my back.

“You OK?”

Why did people keep asking if everything is ‘OK’! Do I look OK? Do I sound OK?

“Yes, I’m OK, just give me a minute.”

The footsteps padded gently away.

What to do now? If this hadn’t been where I lived I would have just left and never shown my face again; but I did live here. Back there in the bedroom, my bedroom, was someone who was probably as confused as I was, upset, fed up, disappointed, angry, humiliated, most likely all the above? With luck he might have gone. But he couldn’t go, how could he, stupid stupid stupid. He didn’t need to be here, why did he come? You bought him here on a vague promise of saving him from some monster and yet you had just replaced one unknown with another. Stop. Stop using words. Stop talking. Just stop.

The tears pressed at the threshold of their soft ducts wanting to start flowing but I squeezed my eyes tight shut against them. They should never be opened again. Footsteps sounded once more in the miasma of confusion, panic, and regret.

“Shall I make us a drink and we can all try and calm down a little?”

The soft Irish lilt was almost musical, and the gentle tone was certainly not one I deserved for my behaviour.

After I had managed to nod, my face still deep in the cold damp cloth, the footsteps moved away once more. Picturing them in my mind as they went down the stairs, I hope he had dressed, the others might have come home early. Did he know where the tea was? Did he remember I don’t have milk or sugar? There, the practical recumbent me I was back. Who needs all this grief? Give me a problem and I’ll give you a solution. Problems, you don’t have them, other people do.

It was going to take a minute or two for the kettle to boil so I managed to get back to the bedroom unseen. The bedding was in disarray, there were damp patches from different kinds of fluid here and there and our clothes were scattered around mixed up with each other. It took too long to find some that were mine and I could only pull on a jumper before Michael gently kicked the door open having mugs in both his hands. Knowing I didn’t want to look at him, I pretended to stare out of the window; I was looking at nothing but thinking of everything.

My head was drawing pictures of explanation as it always did, and I mentally watched him put the cups down on the chest of draws; did he use the coasters, they will be hot and might mark. My body jumped forward at an unseen and unexpected touch of a very warm hand heated by the tea which cupped itself round one half of my bottom. What now?

“It was to be your first time?”

This was a conversation I didn’t want to have but it wasn’t going to happen.

“Well, aren’t you the clever one,” knowing it sounded too sarcastic, I glanced back to check if it had struck a nerve or not.

“Yes perhaps I am, do you want to try again?”

I didn’t know if it was a comment towards having more sex or just being a normal human being.

Was it me? Was I on the same planet as these boys? Yes of course I did, no of course I didn’t, how I was ever going to look him, look at anyone in the face again.

“Youes just need to relax OK, it’s all OK.”

That was it. Enough. Turning to face him full on, despite my immediate intentions, my pent-up annoyance disappeared instantly and effortlessly. Seeing that sweet little face feeling the warmth as he pressed himself against me, his other hand had now reached round and cradled both sides of me with a gentle movement which made our bodies rub softly against each other. Somehow, I managed to resist the urge to wrap my arms around him as a pathetic reply. He took my indecision as a positive and proceeded to manhandle me again as any good prostitute would.

“What are you doing, please don’t, please,” my feeble pleas sounded as if they were meant to be ignored, deep down I knew they were.

“Ssh, rela….,” he remembered in time to not ruffle my feathers again.

“What, no, I….”

There was nothing to say. My brain might have been distraught, but my body still knew what it really wanted. Pulling my jumper off with a little help from the eager urchin, we slipped back under the rather besmirched duvet.

Despite my grossly mixed up feelings there was no attempt to go as far as we had previously tried. Instead I followed his lead so as not to run the risk of making any more stupid mistakes. He surrendered his genitalia to my mild assaults and I took the intense pleasures from the ways he had of inflicting some onto mine. As I pulled too hard on his small contracted scrotum he shouted a vague Celtic curse but it didn’t stop me pumping my final few exploding stokes into his willing face. Pressing my hips across his features in climax, I was glad I had stopped vacuuming his modest erection fearing I might have bitten him in the cataclysm of my ejaculation. Feeling both guilt and pleasure at the same time I lay and watched him finish his off own expulsion; I could have helped but I was too exhausted. When he eventually came, I lapped at the pool of milky fluid quickly filling his cupped fingers. Moving towards his cock he pushed my face away, his soft noises indicating he was too sensitive for any more oral attention. Lifting his hand away from the now flaccid member I relieved him of the collected seamen in one gentle mouthful despite the protest. To escape, he spun 180 degrees and we lay side by side.

“Youes oh….” his brain was still a little slow but caught up in time to stop himself finishing the annoying question.

We lay for what seemed ages, I didn’t want to move, ever. If this was all I was ever going to experience, perhaps it was enough, enough to be some semblance of achievable happiness. If things got too desperate there were always the memories, the assemblage of other things to do on my own, a little mix and match perhaps, was that was how it works? Who really knows?

My rambling mind picked up the gentle nasal reverberation which brushed against my chest as Michael’s head lay there seductively. I pulled him closer and dragged the corner of the cover over us both. This was what I wanted. As if in response to my ridiculous thoughts, a slender arm slid further over the rotund mound of my belly and a slim leg hooked gently into the space I made for it between mine. We both fell soundly asleep.

Chapter Thirty ~ the games people play

There was a far better and certainly more scenic view from the tall elegant Georgian bay window in the room I had moved into, having eventually felt the need to move out of the high-rise flat. One of the ladies at work had offered me an option to take the room in the house of a friend. With things at the flat having only ever been temporary the move itself was made with no practical problems but sadness at the loss of my nigh-time companions I chose not to share with anyone. The decision to move had not been as easy as I would have hoped but, in a rare moment of clarity I went with as little fuss as I could manage.

The boys, rather satisfyingly also had mixed feelings about my departure but I knew they wouldn’t miss me for my wit and repartee. My assurances that I would not be disappearing out of their lives completely was taken with the sincerity which I had meant. In a sad way, I felt I couldn’t do without them now, not without something to replace it anyway, something I had no idea what it might be; better the devil and all that?

The move was some distance from the city out into a small, provincial, self-contained town, nice but remote and without the use of a car so perhaps keeping the job was becoming more important.

Although no one at work really knew what I got up to day to day, what I did was obviously not what was expected as a salesman. Sales? What sales. The initial euphoria of my career had lasted about four days but since then, it had obviously fallen onto stony ground which became even more obvious at one of the sales meetings that took place more regularly; this one about six months later. The meeting was different from the annual drunken bun fight but was focused on work and for my part, the lack of such. As it unfolded it was a difficult few hours for all of us. My lack of experience plus the many other problems granted me some allowance but the meeting showed my total lack of performance and unfortunately was clear for all to see.

My activity in the more personal areas had been known but given the delicacy of the subject they were never openly discussed. It was easy to see my culpability was having the effect of making life difficult for the whole of the sales team. Plans were put forward by our boss which included several performance monitoring instruments making me even less popular if that was possible; it was to get even worse.

For the first time in the company’s recent sales history, the series of forms and check lists had been created meant that I, and the other now heavily frowning reps, had to account for the customers we visited, the miles we drove, the sales we made, the expenses we claimed and every other aspect of being a road bound rep. Up to that point it had all been done on trust and reliability but I had single-handedly blown all of that out of the water in my tidal wave of misuse and abuse. It was the start of the end and everyone knew it. My creativity could only hold off the inevitability of my leaving the team for so long. A new mental box was duly created for the impending problem and I left the meeting to seek the company, if not the comfort, of others.

While all this mess was going on, I had at least been making some positive moves for my formal separation from the family. Arrangements were starting so I could see the boys on a regular basis; my own boys that is. With my living arrangements being more than adequate for me but not for anyone to stay, I was limited to just having days out with them. My parents, their grandparents, were only too happy to help and the distraction they found in the youngsters helped make my more contentious situation slightly less fraught.

With my children happy to see me when they did but still too young to ask any difficult questions, I was very careful not to make any situation more testing than it needed to be. Overall, during their more innocent years, it all seemed to work out. In later years, especially over the matter of my conviction, my eldest son made a complete separation. He had already moved away from home for personal reasons, not entirely to do with me but although I have never had the opportunity to clarify matters with him; I certainly couldn’t do any bridge building while being locked up. When I eventually settled into prison, I tried to explain myself in letters to try at least to keep a door open, however narrow the crack might be. So far it hadn’t worked out as I would have hoped; not at all in fact. My guilt, real or imagined, will obviously be very difficult to resolve with him.

With the change in my living arrangements out to the provinces and my insistence I try being as much of a father as the situation could allow, there was a rebalancing of my legitimate free time. Work was still as vague as it always had been, I filled in the forms to satisfy the management but with them being mainly fictitious, it could only sustain me for a short while longer. The logical part of my head knew that, on some level, this could have been a well-paid and even reasonable job if I had tried hard enough I knew I could even have made it work properly. Unfortunately, the complications I had created were never going to allow me to make it a career.

The fallout from having taken Paul to meet my wife had eventually settled down although, the backlash was far more severe and much longer lasting than I had ignorantly anticipated. Being aware of the lady’s volatility, ironically it was her fiery attribute which had managed to maintain some of the more lasting interest in our marriage. With my having added fuel to the fire, she could be up and down and back up again in a single sentence, all I could do was manage it as best I could, roll with the punches and take the better times for what they were.

With time came a greater stability and I managed to find ways of keeping everyone happy. Disappointingly, the many pieces of my life cake were divided up amongst the various factions they were rather too small to really satisfy any of the responsibilities or indulgences I tried to hang onto. Slowly each became smaller and less coherent. Quite what else I had expected I didn’t know.

My time with the boys, the grown-up ones, was curtailed more than I had hoped but moving away was bound to have that effect. Perhaps it was a good thing? Steve had found a more stable relationship; Paul didn’t seem to change and continued to flit from man to man and back again. Stability was not his most prominent attribute but, why should such attractive, vibrant young people ever limit themselves to a middle-aged idiot like me? We still spent some time together, still one, two or more of us at a time, going out, staying in, and travelling around, never too much to rock any of my many boats but never enough to allow me to be truly happy; even if I would have recognised that if it happened.

The matter of sexual satisfaction during these later times was becoming a more difficult matter than I would have hoped for. Quite what I expected for any degree of satisfaction I still hadn’t resolved, I was never going to get what I wanted was all I knew; seeing all sorts of other activity which didn’t include me didn’t help my inner feelings. After the initial euphoria of all things new, the shortcomings in most of any physical entanglements were becoming increasingly obvious.

At one rather desperate point I even attempted to re-negotiate for the full services, with payment but, as it was pointed out, I had already crossed a line from being just a punter to some no man’s land and there seemed to be no way back. When I pressed the issue by throwing a wad of money at a rather bemused Paul on afternoon, my demands for satisfaction clarified the demarcation of this nefarious state of living. Our rather unpleasant exchange pointed out a few obvious things which I had chosen to ignore; punters never get to kiss the rent boys; you didn’t fuck friends for money, there were several others but as usual my head was having difficulty coping with such frankness. These points might be small, but it was all true. Given my limited inexperience I still didn’t understand the significance of any of the points only that I clearly didn’t appreciate the relationship we had developed. Not wanting to admit it, I saw that I couldn’t be a punter and a friend. Punters could have what they wanted, friends only what the other would give.

If I had known or been aware of all that side of things before, I might not have been so quick to experience so many of the delicious delights and wider experiences I had; at some level I must have chosen to ignore the obvious as I had always tended to do when things weren’t going my way.

This specific intimacy of having full penetrative anal sex which would have made all the difference to my ‘love life’ was never going to happen, with him or any of the others, not now. I needed to be with someone who I had made a connection with rather than some random fee taking stranger; however attractive they might be. Once Paul had pointed out some of the other more obvious pitfalls of what he thought I really wanted from him, I could see the necessary emotional divide of what was otherwise a purely business relationship, any other avenue seemed to be closed.

When I was feeling particularly low I even attempted the move to pastures new and picked up another rent boy but from a different area of town. Despite my not finding the chosen individual remotely attractive, we got as far as agreeing terms. At the critical point, his lack of personal hygiene lost him his money and saved me from the certainty of acquiring some sort of infection or worse. The episode fuelled more confidence, enough to make a shameless move on the beautiful, still perfectly quaffed, still very young, Peter. Of course, I was rebuffed, not that I was ever sure I would have gone through with it anyway.  Mentally and physically I knew even before it had crystallised the half-baked idea it was doomed to failure and would have been statuary rape anyway; I wasn’t that desperate, or was I?

My expectations from then on were limited to the original protagonists Steve and Paul. My wider disappointment didn’t move much further than my fetish for cropped, perfectly shaped heads; stroke-able, smooth firm chests; hard, dark responsive nipples; cup-able, rounded, warm buttocks. Anything more was taken secretly during sleep or just occasionally under extreme duress and my powers of pseudo blackmail; none of which were the best way to ingratiate you for the longer term. This intimate side of life continued to be difficult and even unsettling with my frustrations and expectations becoming more vocal and ultimately divisive. As ‘working boys’ they were quite used to dealing with difficult punters but attempts to push the matter further didn’t improve or sway things to my advantage in any way at all; not that I stopped trying

At yet another low point, there was a convergence in my flagging feelings towards everything and I threatened to get out of their lives all together. As soon as I had hurled the harsh words, it was clearly as much of a shock for me as it seemed to be to them; to Paul anyway. Uncharacteristically, I cut short our time together just to emphasise the point, despite cutting my nose off just to spite already unattractive face.

It all started after turning up unannounced at Steve’s flat late one Friday afternoon. From what I could see the normal pre-weekend preening had not long commenced. Having already had words over my status not long before, a game of who could ignore whom the most started in earnest. There was no doubt who would win, I was the one who would capitulate, and they knew it.

After making us all a drink as some sort of unspoken apology, I just sat and enjoyed the spectacle of preparation as it unfolded. For me, this part of any outing was almost the best bit, casually observing the joys of the youth I could never have. The expressive styling and restyling, the immodest dressing, undressing and dressing again and often redressing once more, all this combined beautifully with playful, often very personal banter between rival friends, what was not to like?

“Are you going somewhere nice then?”

I thought I would mix it up a bit and leave myself out.

“Huh?”

It was obviously only mock deafness.

“Are you going anywhere interesting tonight?”

I would continue to play the game.

“Pardon?”

Who would win this one was anyone’s bet.

“I’m going out myself in a while if you want a lift anywhere, you need to be ready soon.”

That got Paul’s attention, Steve had his head stuck in the neck of a tight designer tee shirt and couldn’t find the way out.

“Out, where? With who? Not without me?”

He was not so mock anything now.

“Just out, I have a life you know.”

“Oh ye, and we all know what sort of thing that is don’t we.”

He was right of course and suddenly I didn’t want to play the game anymore.

“I’m off then,” my annoyance was not of the playful type this time, “see you around.”

I got up to leave but the game persisted.

“Bye.”

“Bye, see you if I see you,”

I had made it to the door.

“See ya.”

Still playing.

“What’s going on?”

Steve had reappeared fitting perfectly and provocatively into the tight top.

“Bye.”

I was out in the corridor and heading for the lift. I was in the lift. I was waving to the security guy, a new one in the last few days, a bit rough but nice, straight, who cared. I was out of the building. I had reached the car, how long was this going to go on?

Getting into the car after taking my time fishing the keys out of my pocket there was no sign of anyone…. I fiddled with the radio…. I adjusted the mirror…. I put on my seatbelt…. I started the car…. I put it in gear…. out of gear…. back in again…. I played with the radio some more…. I drove off.

It was too late to look back now, that would have confirmed I was as desperate as I felt.

With my bluff called, the drive back home was a long one. It was Friday rush hour with far too much traffic which I would have normally avoided by staying with at least one of the boys.

After eventually getting back and having something to eat, I decided to get myself washed and changed. For sheer bloody mindedness I was determined to go out just to prove a point; I was unsure to whom exactly.

It was a long slow evening, but the clock eventually ticked round to a more acceptable time to set off back to town. Inside, I wanted to rush in and hang around like a faithful old hound waiting gratefully for the scraps from their beautiful made table. My patience surprised me and chatting with my landlord, who lived in the rest of the house, we arranged to play a game of squash later the next day as we did sometimes. We both knew he was just being kind in my times of trouble. His girlfriend arrived, and I made my excuses.

Part of the current problem and my growing frustration involved the long drives to Manchester, Stoke and London. With the novelty wearing off they were becoming emotionally less worthwhile. Not that I really counted any of this activity in monetary value, it did seem I was not getting very much for my money other than just a quick and generally unacknowledged late-night fumble. Sex was only a small part of the experience, but it didn’t seem to be working up to anything more substantial, not in the way I wanted it to be anyway. Perhaps I was getting to be a problem. Perhaps I had a problem. What was I supposed to do now?

The drive back into the city was taken very slowly. Knowing where the boys were most likely to be at various points of the evening, I had already decided to avoid the obvious early evening activity; not wanting to hamper either their business or to look desperate; it sounded like a reasonable motive. The gay bars didn’t really start to get interesting until mid-evening and again I didn’t want to look too pathetic and prop up a bar obviously on my own. The first one on the list was where I found my timing was definitely all wrong. There were just four of us, two over glittered youths and an unfortunately proportioned dumpy little man whose persistent gaze I only just managed to avoid; I was trying my best to ignore them all without seeming to be too rude. Sitting like the proverbial ‘Billy no mates’, I decided to hide a little and found a booth for me and my solitary, but cold, bottle of Coke. Why was I here? I gulped at the drink, belched most un-lady like and started to leave. With what felt like all eyes staring at my rear I didn’t quite get to the top of the stairs which led up to the street.

“Who do we have here?” it was both the first and the last voice I hoped to hear.

There was nowhere to go. Playing it cool, well trying to anyway, I couldn’t manage more than only a few seconds of mock indignation; it was something I had to practice.

“Well fancy seeing you here, business quiet,” my comment was not very kind and Paul’s look confirmed it.

Steve took my arm to defuse the moment and I followed him rather too willingly back down the steps, enjoying both the contact and the vision it created for the other customers; unfortunately, the ready-made if small audience didn’t even look up.

He and I stood awkwardly at the bar while the drinks I had ordered were being served. Where the other one had got to I didn’t know but for some unsettling reason I was getting more concerned by the minute.

“Where did his royal highness go?”

I tried to sound as if I didn’t really care but my face probably gave my concern away.

“She’s on a mission but am I not enough for you anymore?”

I knew he was joking and joined in to defuse the moment.

“You my love are all a sad old queen could ever need,”

I stoked his face as emphasis but hopefully, only I knew how real my secret sincerity was.

“He’ll be back in a bit, we have something for you,” he grinned an odd but knowing smiled.

The music had started to build up now there were a growing number of patrons and several more had drifted in while I had been distracted by my ‘one true love’. With more to look at now, I was able to make my staring at Steve slightly less obvious. His gaze moved to the stairs and mine followed it but only after a few more stolen moments.

“Here they are.”

Paul was in full resplendent flight through the now large and undeniably admiring crowd. He had something about him you just couldn’t help but look at. It was not just his exquisite looks, he had an aura, a confidence which positively oozed out of him. If it wasn’t for the fact that he knew exactly the reaction he created, it would have been just perfect.

“Hi, again.” he had obviously got over his tantrum; or had it been mine?

While accepting the double air-kisses in my best camp exaggeration, I noticed he seemed not to be alone. He eventually remembered the ‘something’ he had bought with him.

“We have a present for you,” he stood aside and gestured towards the slight but attractive boy hovering one pace behind him, “a nice piece of rather succulent ‘chicken’, just for you.”

Understanding the lingo all too well, I knew he was referring to the obviously embarrassed figure who painfully tried to hide himself, hands in pockets, head down, brow furrowed.

“Thank you?”

I was asking a question this time.

“That’s OK,”

It was not the answer I needed.

“What?”

“Something for the weekend.”

“What?”

I was lost for any other word to try to move the conversation forward.

“He’ll do anything you want, and I mean anything, beautiful little tramp he is to be sure,” a mock Irish accent sounded off-key.

He touched the boy’s arm, but it was withdrawn with a disapproving shrug.

Paul was smiling broadly throughout all this jibber jabber but ignored my obvious concerns and indicted to Steve that he needed to drink up and they should go; there was emphasis on just the two of them.

“Come on you.”

He was still encouraging Steve who was choking on the gulped bottle of beer, to fill the gap he did offer another comment to me.

“I mean it, he’ll definitely sort out your ‘little problem’ for you!”

He was speaking in riddles which were unfortunately lost on me.

“I didn’t know that I…” my observation was lost as he moved out of ear shot which was not very far because of the music.

Steve had put his arm around my waist in an all too familiar way and spoke warmly and closely into my ear.

“Just have some fun, maybe you might even know what you want afterwards. He’s paid up for the whole night, so it’ll save you having to pester either of us so much. Just have some fun?”

The sting in the tail was something I could have done without.

Repeating the suggestion of what I should do with this person didn’t give me any more confidence or solve my confusion. The smirk I spotted only added to the problem, but I was momentarily distracted as he attended to his already perfect hair in the mirror to the side of us but was too late to do more as they marched off.

“Oh, yes, he’s called Michael, he’s Irish but you can still understand most of what he says.”

Paul and Steve had left. The ‘chicken’, Michael, and I could only stand and stare as the elegant pair of rear ends swung into the crowd and out of sight. Looking round nervously, my ‘date’ seemed to be a lost as I was. I didn’t like it.

Michael and I just smiled at each other. Do we sit, do we leave, do we rip each other’s clothes off right there and then; this was complete madness.

“Drink?”

Using a degree of sign language for the question, we obviously understood as he nodded his answer and I indicated he should sit while I went to the bar. Looking back at him while the bottles were being opened, he caught me trying to be subtle and we both blushed; even at fifteen paces and in the semi darkness it was obvious. With drinks in hand as some sort of informal barrier, conversation was impossible. We tried a few very general and obvious comments, but it meant getting very close to each other and it just didn’t feel comfortable. In the end, I excused myself to use the toilet. Half expecting him to follow me, as I had seen many trade and punters do in such circumstances, I didn’t know if I was disappointed or relieved when he didn’t. When I went back to the booth, I had also half expected him to have taken the excellent opportunity and disappeared altogether. He hadn’t but I was neither pleased of disappointed, just confused.

“Shall we get out of here?”

Leaning in to make myself heard, I noticed the same familiar smell which I had breathed in earlier, it was Paul’s cologne.

“If youes want,” the Irish twang was southern, soft, rolling and rather pleasant.

Nodding my agreement, we left. Having someone follow me for a change was very strange as it was normally me playing the trailing role. The relative silence of the pavement gave me another problem, I now I had to talk to him.

“Are you hungry, you look hungry, I’m hungry, let’s find something.”

He put his hand on my arm which stopped me from making even more of a fool of myself.

“We’ve all night, there’s no rush, we can do whatever youes want.”

It didn’t help and we walked on in silence although I had no idea where we were walking to.

“How are you two getting on

,” it was the voice I didn’t want to hear, again, Paul, “we’re all going to the club, join us?”

It was a statement, as most things he said were. Michael seemed to be following him already, the others joining us seemed to boost his confidence and he looked back and threw me a comment.

“We’ll eat later, I might even eat you if you want,” the remark sounded rather too robotic, practised, as if I needed reminding who and what he was.

Our entry past the club’s bouncers was paid for by Steven but once we were all in, within seconds the two of them had disappeared into the crowds. Although there was nothing new in that, I normally didn’t have the problem of the attachment I found myself with now.

“Drink?”

It was going to be a long evening.

“Lager, thanks.”

My face must have given some ambivalent connotation, “shall I get them?”

“No, it’s….,” the words failed me.

Despite it still being only early, in club-land anyway, the crowd around the bar was too much to contemplate so I made my way towards another one in the quieter lounge area. Michael was behind me and despite all the things I should have been feeling, expecting, clamouring for even; I felt nervous.

Drinks acquired I asked what he wanted to do, dance, walk around, sit, I really didn’t know what to do with someone in tow like this.

“You don’t have to stick with me, not if you don’t want to you know.”

It was difficult to balance my spoken volume to that of the music to be clear but not overheard as I gave him the ‘out’ I thought he might want.

“What? No, I’m yours, the others told me to stick with you, it’s OK,” he didn’t sound too convinced.

“No, you really don’t have to just because they said so, I didn’t ask for this, not that you aren’t…,” I knew I was painfully digging another hole for myself and paused, “if you want to stay that’s fine but if you want to go, I don’t mind. Honestly”

“If I just go and have a word wi’ a couple of mates over there, I’ll come back to youes. Wait for me?”

He looked directly into my eyes while he squeezed my arm, not for the first time but presumably to make his point and I felt something odd going on in the pit of my stomach; what was it with all this squeezing.

Of all the wild or simple things which went on in clubs, none of it had ever really seemed to be my ‘thing’. Having only ever taken pleasure from watching other people having fun, it was something I had never expected to be included in but my glass wall had always kept me safe from disaster. This, being ‘with’ and responsible for someone was new and could feel the heat of panic rising.

To calm myself, I reverting to a more comfortable and conventional activity and leant against the wall out of the way while I followed Michael’s roving progress around the room. Now a little more comfortable I had time to consider the matter more dispassionately.

He was not bad looking, small, dark, thick curly if unattended head of hair. His clothes were basic, functional even but not standing out in the crowd was, in this case anyway, a good thing. He was eventually having a laugh about something with two other young men; boys. As none of them seemed to take even the slightest notice of me, I assumed I was not the subject of the joviality.

My admiration of the usual crowds helped to get me over the boys rather crass ‘purchase’ scenario but eventually, I couldn’t help letting my gaze return to the small group with Michael at its heart. With the reality of what he was, I was embarrassed when he did eventually look back at me and nodded a silent mark of contact; I nodded mine back and pointed to the toilet. To my horror, he indicated by basic sign language if he should join me, my hastily waved response would have been ridiculously obvious to anyone who had been watching and I might as well have shouted across the room. Embarrassment changing my mind about the toilet I just shuffled my feet rather self-consciously staring down at them.

“Shall we sit down?”

He had come back from his friends without me noticing and we sat on one of the large leather sofas but were only alone for a few excruciating moments.

“You’s two getting on OK?”

The dynamic duo bounced themselves into spaces on either side of us but there was no time to offer any sort of reply.

“Some guy gave us these,” Paul was indicating the ‘us’ to be just himself and Steve, “VIP tickets to the casino over the road after it finishes here,” he was obviously delighted with his latest coup.

“All of us? That’s great,” I knew the answer before I posed the rather mischievous question.

His look was enough to confirm my suspicions and after a liberal amount of leg squeezing and more bouncing about, the two of them left. Michael and I just looked at each other, but this time with a sort of amused smile being passed cautiously between us.

“Do you want to stay or go?” I hoped my slight emphasis on the word ‘go’ would offer him a clue to how he should answer.

“Shall we go? Are you still hungry?”

Thankfully he had noticed the subtlety and I realised I was peckish.

“That sounds the best idea of the evening so far.”

Standing up while I spoke, my balance was compromised by the low seat and I grabbed Michael’s quickly outstretched hand to steady myself. Not being overtly or openly tactile with strangers, I surprised myself by hanging on to him. He pulled away to stand up only to grab my other hand and lead the way towards the exit; this didn’t feel right, but it didn’t feel wrong either. The dim lighting hid whatever I was feeling, not that anyone else would have been watching anyway; why should they?

Once outside, back in the cold and very public domain, we disentangled ourselves and were just two people amongst the many looking for food.

“How hungry are you, do you want to eat in somewhere, or a burger, pizza…,” I was trying too hard again and he interrupted.

“A burger will be fine, thanks,” thankfully he was taking control in his own quiet way.

While we waited in a rather awkward silence, I spotted a distinct and familiar head of blonde bobbed hair further down in the queue He was with others and some way off, but I would have spotted him anywhere. It wasn’t as if I would have spoken to him but he turned, saw me, and turned away. Eventually he turned again this time smiling and nodding a passing if indistinct note of recognition. Further to that, the perfectly formed Peter gave no further notice of our knowing each other. Although disappointed, I could understand his embarrassment or whatever it might have been in his world.

My sighting of him had not gone unnoticed by my current companion.

“You knows the little prick teaser?”

“What, no, well yes, just from being around.”

“No point in trying to get into his trousers, he likes to play the game but won’t go all the way,” his frankness took me aback somewhat.

“Well I, I wouldn’t know, he’s cute but who would….” what was the point in playing games, “he’s a friend of Steve and Paul’s, like you, isn’t he?”

“Friend is pushing it, just because we do the same sort of things doesn’t mean that we’re all friends. Pretty boy though, do you like that sort of thing?”

He was far too frank with his questions.

“Well he’s OK, good looking.”

“Young?”

“Young, yes, very nice hair.”

“Young?”

“No, yes, good looking, cute even, jail bait, far too young,” I was drifting onto dangerous territory, “no, nice hair, I was there when he had it cut like that, it was done just for me at it happens.”

There it was out.

“Oh, you’re the one were you?” he smiled his cute Celtic knowing smile again, “it’s OK you can have anything you fancy you know, when you’re paying for it.”

I didn’t really understand the subtle politics of renting, but the subject had to be changed to something less embarrassing.

“Do you want sauce on yours,” we hadn’t reached the front of the line but it was an imperative answer to have for when we did.

“Thanks, no,”

He gave me that cute sideways look again and then back to Peter who was thankfully walking away with his attendant group.

With the appetising if rather too greasy items procured, we wandered away from the crowds a little but staying safely within view of the other gay fraternity. Sadly, even in these modern times ‘gay bashing’ was still a late-night sport for some parts of an ever-mysterious society. Eating our food covered the lack of conversation which would otherwise have been a strained limbo. Across the road, I was watching a large maroon Bentley coupé which had slid silently to the curb. It’s one huge passenger door swung effortlessly open and two very familiar persons looked over the roof at us. One of them waved as both slid into the back of the car and it growled quietly away into the night. Michael had seen them as well and knew we were on our own now. We just looked at each other but I felt I needed to speak

“You don’t have to stick around you know,” I felt obliged to give him plenty of opportunities to get away, “just because they said….”

“They told me to stick with you for whatever youes want, they’ve paid already so you don’t have to worry about any of that,” the very thought of it made me shiver.

“No, OK, that’s fine.”

I was ready to run off into the safety of the night.

Having no idea why I felt like this, the situation was potentially something I had been hoping for, longing for, searching for, but it took a lot of strength not to politely ditch him and get out of there; was it strength or just cowardice?

“Shall we go to your car, we can do it in there if youes want,” he had obviously not noticed my state of panic, “I normally do it in cars, I’m OK, nothing fancy but OK.”

No matter how ‘OK’ he thought it was I didn’t feel at all comfortable and my indecision started to show. Michael decided the uncertain situation needed factorising.

“They told me youes just need a good fuck to get over yourself,” his frankness snapped me out of the malaise I was slipping into. “Sorry I thought you knew, I,” realising he might have the wrong end of the stick and he too was at a loss now, “sorry, do youes want to….”

“No, sorry, no, it’s me, they, I…” this was getting us nowhere and I took a deep breath, “I didn’t ask for any of this you know, they can be such a pain at times, you don’t have to, you know, keep the money, you’ve probably already earned it being stuck with me for…”

“No, I would’ve been long gone if I thought that.”

“Well, that’s, what, OK, no…” the implications were disrupting my chain of thought.

“Let’s just go somewhere quiet and see what it is youes really want to do.”

He took my arm and we walked, I was totally lost in the fear and reality of what might be going to happen.

As we walked away from the après clubbing crowds, a more relaxed and even ‘normal’ atmosphere settled around us; this was normal for a lot of people and I wanted it to include me.

The car was some way off and I knew we had too much time not to speak at all. For once I started off with something harmless and asked him more about himself. Essentially, I didn’t expect to get more than the standard line he might feed to other punters, if they ever got as far as conversation that is. Perhaps he was good at angling for a sympathy vote or perhaps I was just a sad sap but, by the time we got to the vehicle things were much more relaxed. Even if I didn’t believe everything he had told me, it was enough to have some sort of picture in my mind. It, he, was not just a commodity as some preferred to think of them, he was a person, a sentient, warm, soft, human being; I liked it and I liked him.

“Do you want to do it here?” the subject collapsed painfully back to the core subject.

“What, no, why, I don’t even know, you don’t have to ….”

It was clear I didn’t know how to complete the deal or say the words to end it all.

“OK, if you don’t, can I have lift somewhere instead,” his stark and yet simple decision took me by surprise as much as my inability to make one of my own.

“Er, yes, OK.”

I hesitated to see if it was a ruse.

“It’s not far I’ll show youes where to go.”

Deep down I was mortified. So near and yet so far, how stupid was I for thinking I could make this work? Just do it, take the goods, take this piece of trade for what it was, you had looked at his rear-end often enough throughout the evening, now just get on and fuck it. My mood fell to the floor as my face must have done. He took my arm and pulled me to face him.

“Youes do want something don’t you, you just don’t know what it is,” his quiet insight was painfully telling, “don’t worry, when youes are ready, you’ll know.”

We got into the car and drove in cold silence except for his quiet and infrequent directions.

Under instruction, I pulled up outside a tall town house which had definitely seen better days. Even in just the dim street lighting I could see the once dark green paint peeling off the battered front door. The windows didn’t seem to have had anything on them for a long time either. An accumulation of black rubbish bags and other extraneous detritus littered the front parking space. Steps leading up to the door itself were equally cluttered with indeterminate debris. We sat silently for a moment, Michael seemed reluctant to leave, or was he waiting for me to say or to give him something, a thank you, a cash tip? Sitting in this dim dirty street I was string at his unremarkable but still attractive features which seemed incongruous to both the surroundings and the situation. My eye was distracted by the flash of light from the second floor of the house where a curtain had been moved briefly to one side.

“Oh no, he’s still up, bastard,” he spoke to himself, but his face looked worried.

“Who, oh, the guy who lives there, I though you said he’d be out, asleep, drunk or something?”

He had already told me the general living arrangements which had sounded rather fanciful until I saw the building, only then did it match to the story. He, Michael was staying there much as I had done in the flat, as a type of squatter; he hadn’t had a home that he could call his own since leaving Ireland many months before. There were several other people in the house who came and went, using the rooms more as a refuge than a home.

“Is he the one?”

Apparently when Michael couldn’t regularly pay his rent in money, it was often taken in kind; his chosen occupation seemed to make it a reasonable proposition. Piecing more of the picture together, I had started to imagine the horror that must go on but, what was the difference in what I had nearly done; was I no better than them? The curtain opened wider although the figure peering out wasn’t distinguishable to my eyes Michael obviously knew who it was from the room and the prolonged interest it seemed to be showing us.

“Do you really not want to go in?” I felt again he needed options, “you don’t have to ‘till later, not if you don’t want to.”

As soon as I had said it I realised my suggestion didn’t sound much of a choice.

“No, it’s OK, you don’t want to do,” he squirmed rather than say the word “no, it’s OK, I can keep him out of my room if I have to.”

The beleaguered image which flashed into my head defiantly hadn’t improved my opinion and for once I made a positive decision.

“Just because I can’t have a piece of your ass it doesn’t mean he has to instead.”

I didn’t know what I was saying or planning and was speaking to myself when I said, “Let’s go.”

The car started and we moved off at speed, the figure at the window didn’t seem to move, Michael glanced back at it over his shoulder and I think breathed a sigh of some kind. Whether it was relief or disappointment I didn’t know which; I didn’t need to know which for now. We were both confused by now and the protracted silence probably made the point. I had no idea where I was going to go and I imagined he had no idea what he was going to have to do in response to this rather indulgent rescue I had visited upon him.

“You don’t have to worry about me y’know,” he was either trying to get out of the situation or justify it, “I’ll be OK, I’ve done it enough times.”

“I know, it just doesn’t seem right, you shouldn’t have to…,” I was lost for a description, “you just shouldn’t, that’s all.”

There was no narrative for what I felt.

He put his chubby little hand on mine during gear changes, but we said nothing else about it.

“We can go back to mine for a bit,” thinking only after the words were out, “not for a bit of…”

I still had nothing; this explained perfectly why I didn’t hold conversations.

“Thanks, I know,” he patted my hand, “you can drop me off anywhere here, it’s fine,” we had reached the outer edge of the city centre again by this time.

“No, please, I didn’t mean, you don’t have to go,” here we go again I chastised myself, get a grip, “come back with me, at least for tonight, you’ve been paid, not that you should do anything, I…”

“OK that would be nice,” at last a resolution of sorts and a hint of a cheeky smile I thought was tinged with relief.

The car turned away easily from the city leaving all its complexities and unpleasant darkness behind; quite how this new situation was going to work I had no idea. Switching the radio on, I thought it would make the still awkward silence less so and hopefully fill in the gap of not having anything to talk about. My brain was desperately trying to decode events and I had no idea what we had listened to, but the journey was over almost before I realised.

 

Chapter Twenty Nine ~ ups and downs of a prison day

Prison days were generally monotonous, but were running like clockwork between me and the unfathomable Richard. In line with both the clock and the rule book, we were both always up, washed and dressed by 7.30am, Richard ready to write and me normally to do nothing very much but watch, wait and think.

This morning, I was ready and even excited at the prospect of starting a job in the workshop. Having gone through the process of application with one of the wing reps who already worked there, my name had been on the waiting list for a couple of weeks by then. It was just a case of waiting; as with everything else in the establishment. The more helpful of the two reps, Des, a younger guy and rather more outgoing than the other had called me into his pad the night before as I passed on the way to get the evening meal. He was pleased to tell me the good news. With the mix of nerves and excitement, that night had been a long one. Richard was rather ambivalent about me going to work but took the opportunity to relate yet more tales of woe and his mixed experiences; again. He had his book to hide behind and deep down I imagined he was looking forward to having the cell to himself again for a few hours a day. He never actually said it and perhaps I am doing him an injustice but, he didn’t exactly beg me to stay. At least I would get a break from his endless and cringe worthy stories.

The job market in prisons was at the time and probably still is, rather misunderstood by many prison inmates. If you were to calculate just the hourly rate with it being pence rather than pounds, the work being menial, demeaning even, many seemed to forget it was a prison and supposed to be a place of punishment and not profit.

For me, the workshop had the simple potential to be a much better option to sitting and staring at grey walls all day long. Before the implementation of human rights legislation prison life had, by all accounts, softened every aspect to its current level. Just listening to the many stories from people who had lived through these earlier times was enough to make me feel grateful; unlike many others. Interestingly, it was not all that long ago and personally I couldn’t understand how those who moaned on day after day could justify themselves; of course, when pressed they couldn’t. The regular pointless arguments would often settle back to the old chestnut of most of us being innocent of any crimes and that all sentences were a heartless injustice; and so on. Personally, I held more of a ‘glass half full’ opinion but any attempts to express or explain such would be met with heated rebuttal. It was not something I pursued very often as it didn’t do you any favours to be openly different to the masses. Eventually, taking the additional monetary allowance with a smile, I just kept my head down and would stuff jam or sugar or tea into plastic bags as and when required; it was yet to start.

Sitting on the end of the bunk, listening, and visualising all the usual noise and movement going on outside the cell, with my jumper in hand I waited patiently for the door to be unlocked. My nerves were already on edge but they became more so as the familiar sounds started to move away from us. Richard noticed as well.

“You’d better put the light on.”

Having always been reluctant to use the call button without very good reason, after a moment’s consideration I got up and pressed it. The red light blinked silently in its stainless-steel plate. After a while, quite a while it seemed, the flap on the door flipped back.

“Yes. What now?”

I always expected the annoyed tone of the officer, but it still caught me off guard.

“I’m supposed to be in the workshop today, sir.”

I also couldn’t understand why my voice would become so uncertain whenever I had to talk to officers. The rectangular sliver of face at the window was difficult to read but it wasn’t smiling.

“Well obviously, you aren’t, are you,” my loss seemed to brighten up his morning.

“Obviously,” it was also unusual for me to answer back, he hadn’t appreciated it.

“Your card’s not been marked,” he had glanced away from the window to the side of the door where my card was, “leave it with me I’ll find out.”

The exasperated tone which he left me with was exactly what I had expected. Bang went the flap and off went the blinking light. There was no point in waiting now as nothing was going to happen anytime soon. Richard had already understood the position.

“You can make us a cuppa,” his smile was not taken in the spirit I was sure he meant to extend.

Despite my disappointment, I started to make a drink anyway although I couldn’t help but keep looking up each time there was a noise outside the door or a shadow passed across the considerable gap at the foot of it.

“Let’s have some music, cheer you up,” good old Richard had an answer for every situation.

His radio was on for most of the day if he was writing, the television was only for meal times or evenings. He had his own small DAB digital radio with a CD player bought, so he said, from the very last of his own money when he had first arrived. The speakers were only small, but the cell was not very big to start with and they were, in general, more than adequate. He was rummaging around in the back of one of his pigeon holes while I made the tea and eventually pulled out a small pile of about eight CD cases.

“Will ‘War of the Worlds’ do you,” it was not a question, “it’s the Jeff Wayne orchestral version,” I could see his face had lit up in anticipation.

“That’s the only good version they did,” unfortunately he seemed a little crest fallen I knew to what he was referring.

“You know it then?”

He was.

“Only my most favourite album of all time, I had it on vinyl when it first came out.”

There was no actual need to rub it in but I had few opportunities to ever best his know it all attitude.

“Let’s see how loud we can get it to play shall we?”

I had few hopes for the small machine to reproduce the fantastic orchestral arrangements well but once the tea was delivered up, I lay back on my bunk content to listen to the dulcet tones of Richard Burton’s rich baritone narration. Much to my surprise it was not too bad at all and in fact did exactly what it was intended to do, and my mood at least didn’t slip any further than it had already.

With no choice in what I was going to do for the rest of the day, we both fell into the usual repetitive pattern. Lunch time rolled around, and the workers came back as they did each week day, noisy and complaining from a morning of doing whatever it was I should have been helping with. A knocking on the door got our attention but the flap remained closed. From the side of the door a voice called my name, my first name so I knew it wasn’t an officer.

“Dave, what happened to you mate,” it was Des, “you didn’t get unlocked?”

Quite what other information he thought I might have, was lost on me.

Going to the door I could just see some of him through the narrow gap, he couldn’t open the flap or rather it would have been no use anyway as he was in his wheelchair. Despite this, his consistent bubbly nature was as infectious as always and my disappointment lifted almost at once.

“I pressed the buzzer, but my card wasn’t marked or something, I don’t know.”

I related the officer’s offer to go and check on the problem but we both knew it was unlikely to be fruitful, even if he had remembered in the first place.

“Leave it with me I’ll see Mr Stevens after dinner,” his use of the blue-collar demarcation in lunch being called dinner always made me smile; in a nice way.

After I had thanked him, he wheeled off for the pre-lunch, sorry, dinner lock down and prisoner head count. When I eventually fetched my lunch, he repeated his assertion of sorting things out for me. He was the best guy on the wing for getting information and advice or just for fixing things. Although I knew he was the same helpful soul for everyone on the wing, literally everyone, he always made you feel as if he was focusing on you whenever you needed anything.

Lunch over, I was still in two minds for what to do but, in the end, decided to wait at the end of my bunk once more, ready, if not too excited; it was impossible not to feel a little excited. The rather slower return to work in the afternoons started, built up, slowed down, but I still jumped as the flap opened. Why I did that every time was a mystery.

“Rollason.”

“Yes sir,” I stood but not because he had called my name, I wanted to look keen.

“Your name’s not on the list so you’re not coming in,” the use of an old song lyric gave his age away but didn’t remove his enjoyment of the quip, “you should be on for tomorrow though,” he looked directly at me and I took it as a good thing, he was one of the better officers we had at the time.

“Thank you, sir,” I was genuinely grateful, “I’m looking forward to…,”

I would have enjoyed a chat just to soak in his rugged good looks, but my comment was cut off by the closing flap.

The look I got from Richard as I turned said it all; he didn’t need to add the knowing smile.

“Thank you, there’s no reason not to be civil, is there?”

I threw in a forced smile just for added emphasis but slid out of sight back onto my bunk.

The only problem with the bottom bunk was there was no view to speak of other than the defacement of the underside of the upper one, the wall and a narrow horizontal panorama of the most uninteresting parts of the cell. It could be a very claustrophobic place if you were afflicted with such a thing, I wasn’t but I closed my eyes to minimise the many other effects.

 

Chapter Twenty Eight ~ when perfect Heaven, turns out to be hell

The world rolled on. It had been a perfectly dismal Friday morning at work and I had managed to avoid one of the regular pub lunches which the reps and technical staff enjoyed from time to time; my absence from the fraternity was no problem now.

Skipping the lunch, I sneaked off the car park to my virtual residence. Finding the flat empty, I changed out of my suit before returning to the car and heading off to Steve’s house; rather his mother’s house. Here I found the principal protagonists of my feral gay soap opera busy creating new hair styles for that night’s as-yet unannounced outing. Paul started the ball rolling.

“Good you’re here,” there was always a welcome to be found, “I need to go somewhere if you don’t mind.”

The question was both emphasised and answered with a hug and an overly wet, slobbering kiss although the attraction of the final pleasantry made me nervous.

“Fine, if I must.”

I only ever pretended to mind being taken for granted but my veiled inference was overlooked. The short journey was nothing new or even unexpected. Every two weeks, give or take a few days, Paul had a regular ‘customer’ he met up with, a truck driver who stopped over in a car park just off the motorway on his way back to wherever it was he went at weekends. Parking my car near the lake, a popular local feature, I would sit, wait, and watch the ducks being fed by preschool children and their harassed mothers. Meanwhile the cab of the vehicle on the other side of the car park, with curtains discretely draw, rocked itself to what I knew would be a very satisfactory result.

This day the exchange had taken longer than usual and the older school kids had started to drift home and some of them were joining their family groups at the water’s edge. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable and wishing Paul could have been much quicker, I couldn’t help but be forced to watch the exceptions to teenage mediocrity pass by; feelings from this voyeurism were strong and stirring. My heart leaped when the car door opened, and Paul jumped in excitedly; I was secretly grateful for the interruption.

“Well, that’s him sent home happy to his wife.”

Although the same comment struck a discordant note each time he made it, as usual, I didn’t feel the need to discuss its oblique connotations. My attention was unusually distracted by an exceptional example of my favourite hair style which had wandered across my line of vision. The near white blonde sweep of silky sculptured luxury swung effortlessly from side to side. The strands of pure, extravagant silk settled as the lavish deep bob steadied into a perfectly tailored and shapely downward peak at the back of the soft long neck. Layers of what looked like natural sun-kissed highlights made this vision of perfection turn my stomach in ways I hoped had long since been under control; today it was far from it.

“What are you looking at, am I not enough anymore,” Paul’s mock pain was just lost noise.

“My hair used to be that colour when I was little,” my unconnected musing had unusually slipped from my imagination and out of my mouth.

“What, him, you perv. Really?” I was shocked at the albeit honest comment.

“Yes. Thank you. It’s all right for you being so perfect isn’t it!”

I started the car and revved the engine menacingly.

Having noticed he had struck a sore point and possibly more harshly than was fair, he attempted to satisfy my obviously wounded heart with the usual application of inquisitive hands. Having shrugged them off, for possibly the very first time, I drove away a little too quickly for both the safety of the tyres and the other cars around it. The drive back towards the town was made in silence but despite frequent worried looks from my passenger I had no enthusiasm to indulge him further.

“Go this way,” Paul had indicated a road to the left.

“Why?” It needed to be a good reason today.

“Just do it, you’ll see.”

“Why?” No, he needed to do better than that.

“Just do it, please?”

Who could refuse him anything? When he indicated once more, I pulled up outside a rather plain but run-down block of maisonettes.

“Wait here.”

There was no time to comment before he jumped out of the car and into one of the dismal doorways. As I waited, there was an inordinate amount of attention shown to what was so obviously a ‘new car on the block’ and I began to feel uncomfortable. After continuing to wait for what seemed an age, during which I had several thoughts about driving off, he did eventually emerge from the litter strewn ally way. He was not alone.

The two of them settled into the car and I was more than happy to move out of sight of the many prying and menacing eyes behind several sets of filthy curtains and damaged blinds.

“This is Peter,” I nodded a welcome into the rear-view mirror as Paul continued, “we’re all off on a marvellous adventure.”

My heart sank at the very idea. Having experienced Paul’s adventures before, it could have meant anything.

Glancing once more at the new addition to the passenger list, he seemed to be as bemused as I was. Our eyes met only momentarily but they gave nothing away other than his obvious innocent and flawless beauty.

“We need to go and get ourselves ready,” still there was no clue or satisfaction of anyone’s nervous curiosity.

Hiding behind a hot cup of tea, I sat quietly in the corner of Steve’s kitchen in the flat and I watched the unfolding drama before me. The villains of the piece were Paul and Steve, the victim in all this was a frightened now very young-looking Peter. It wasn’t bad, or I would have intervened but, I must admit, he didn’t look too enamoured with any of the suggestions for the makeover which was being planned for his admittedly plain if attractive exterior. Rather him than me I thought.

“You know you’ll look just fabulous when we’re finished so just shut up and sit still, please?”

The over emphasised plea didn’t have much effect on the unspoken concerns.

Peter had long, pleasantly blonde if unkempt hair; it did look as if a good wash might improve it. With that wash, bleach, colour, highlight, conditioner, smoother, body enhancer and whatever product Steve had found in a bag of assorted bottles and boxes from the bathroom were optimised. To be fair, at least one of them seemed to know what he was doing and none of the original beautifully thick locks had fallen out; so far so good.

As they continued to work on the final stages of the design, the penny suddenly dropped. What they were working on seemed to have the potential of being like the example I had disturbingly pointed out earlier that afternoon.

“Do you, or more importantly does he, know what you’re doing?”

My intervention seemed to raise doubt on the combined tonsorial ability and was met with horror, albeit only melodramatic mockery.

“You just sit and watch, anyway, who do you think all this is for?”

I had an idea but it didn’t necessarily make it right.

“I just don’t want poor Peter here to suffer, that’s all,” I held up my hands to calm the continuing bluster, “sorry Peter, should I get you out of all this madness?”

Spending time with him on his own might have been very nice but so far I had managed to suppress any untoward thoughts or possibilities.

“He’s loving it, just look at that cute little face,” part of me saw it really was so very true.

Peter looked round at me with a silent thank you for the intervention but was placed back into a position for the liberal use of clippers, comb, and scissors.

In a process which provoked as much debate on technique as it did on productive creativity, I winced at the volume of hair that now fell to the floor and wondered how and when this was all going to end? As it continued I had to leave to use the bathroom and save myself a small amount of heartache and a growing degree of discomfort in my underwear.

On my return, even I was seriously impressed, although at the same time dismayed; if that was possible. The previously cute Peter, who I guessed didn’t wear his school uniform often enough, now looked the very picture of preened perfection. Being invited to inspect the final product more closely, I was both delighted and terrified they had done all of this for me and my heart went out to the boy who seemed to have been used as nothing less than a commodity for my pleasure.

“I told you you’d like it,” I thought the comment was more to convince the perpetrators than me.

Peter seemed less convinced having not been allowed to look at himself. Paul encouraged me to take a more hands-on inspection which I managed to decline but none of us seemed to disagree with the observations of how magnificent he looked; however inappropriate this venture had been. Both Peter’s and my face had gone suitably red, neither of us had asked for the favour and it was yet to be seen if it was welcome. With a mirror allowing the recipient to see the results more properly, I think we all felt relieved as he also seemed to like it.

The design was fantastic. With Peter still taking stock, and me failing in my resolve to keep my distance, he didn’t seem to mind me running my fingers through the thick glorious mop of the now bright blonde sculptured creation. Under the sharp wedge at the back of his neck, the contrasting shorter and smooth undercutting felt strikingly exhilarating. My partners in crime seemed to notice the effect their work was having on me.

“See what we can do for you if we want to? Think of it as a present.”

A present, was that the hair cut or the whole package? The implications made me reluctantly but quickly withdraw my wandering hands. The more indulgent and needy part of me found the prospect excruciatingly tempting but, I didn’t think I was ready to be part of such a specifically engineered spectacle; not yet anyway. Deep inside I painfully still liked it.

With the uncertain and rather uncomfortable moment defused for now, the younger and now far better-looking model was re-seated for yet more attention. With the application of liberal amounts of shaving foam, the previously although hardly noticeable pale ginger coloured ‘bum fluff’, was scrapped from his delicate face; I knew it was for the first time in its innocent life. The clean, if now slightly redder face was smoothed with creams and lotions which brought out his freckles markedly, he, and even I, had to admit it was a fantastic result.

“Shall we leave you two together?”

Caught out, my heart missed a beat at the suggestion.

“No, certainly not!”

My voice spoke only weakly against the silent pleading which welled up from my confused if massively stimulated feelings.

“No? OK. Let’s get ready to go,” the boy seemed to be relieved although I still suspected not as much as I was.

With everyone suitably coiffured, exquisitely clothed and my having avoided being left alone for even a minute with Peter, we set off for that night’s outing. Drinks in town first which were made far more uncomfortable than they needed by the disappearance of the dynamic duo after having reached only the first bar. Leaving the two of us alone reinstated the looks of panic on Peter’s face. The thought did cross my mind of what other people might be thinking about the two of us, I found myself looking more dispassionately at him than I had been. My dawning concern was, how had he been allowed into the bar in the first place? Realising my culpability in this venture I did my best to openly reassure him I had no untoward designs despite how I was feeling inside. As personal compensation, I continued to take more than obvious pleasure in being seem out with both him and his newly acquired and gaze drawing looks.

Although two silences do not a conversation make, we seemed to have reached an understanding. It was a bitter-sweet situation, he had been told to stay with me despite it most likely being the last place he wanted to be. Fortunately for both of us, the music was loud, and the growing crowds were entertaining enough to watch. He eventually saw someone he knew and indicated, by signs that he would be back in a moment. We both took the distraction as some small relief without a second thought. Keeping in sight, he was obviously more relaxed with his peers and it bought to mind just how cruel it was to make him hang around with someone twice his age and certainly not in his circle of comfort or enjoyment. It was not long before more familiar faces collected him up in their wake on the way to gather the original party together for whatever was next on the now aggravating agenda.

The group’s original number had been swelled by two. There was nothing to get emotionally or physically excited about in the others, not as far as I was concerned anyway but that was getting to be the way of things. One was a regular on the street corners, cute but not in the same league as my original choices, the other was obviously his more intimate companion; he had his hand down the inside of his friend’s trousers if it wasn’t already obvious.

“Come on then, we’re all here, there’s an all-nighter to get to.”

Paul had taken charge as usual, but my blank look was not to receive any enlightenment.

The ensuing journey was as unremarkable as usual, just a little noisier. The rather crushed collection of ebullient, bawdy if beautiful bodies managed to grow their excitement as we neared the usual Manchester venue. The normal evening’s process rolled into action and we all split up to our one’s or two’s in different directions. Peter’s age had been questioned at the door, but we had all spoken up for him; anyone would have under the circumstances. The still obviously nervous youth had vanished more quickly than the others. Despite this, it was impossible not to spot him standing out from the crowd; I deliberately stayed out of his way, embarrassment in private was one thing but I couldn’t do it to him in public. When observed in a now more relaxed state, I noted again how so very much improved he was by the makeover. This difficult fact made me steer my course in the opposite direction each time his beauty shimmered into view.

Unusually early I bumped into Paul and he already had a couple of the other people with him.

“We need to get going,” it was almost impossible to hear him over the thumping beat of the bass speakers, but I caught the gist.

Giving my best quizzical look, I tried not to hide my disappointment at not receiving the kiss I thought he was going to give me when he got close to my face.

“I thought this was an all-nighter?”

Neither my words nor my look seemed to have conveyed any of the query.

“See you outside, I’ll find the others,” he disappeared back into the crowd.

With a decision obviously having already been made, the clock behind the bar in the design of a naked man was only reading a little after 11.30, I was confused but made my way outside anyway. By chance I was pleased to find I was following the delectable Peter up the stairs to the entrance, he jumped when I put my hand firmly onto the curving seat of his smart black jeans. He shot a look backwards, his face giving away his disappointment.

The music was much less intrusive up here, but he didn’t seem to want to engage in conversation. Steve was already waiting at the top of the stairs.

“Do you know what’s going on?” I knew he wouldn’t have the answer but I felt the need to ask anyway.

Steve didn’t, nor did the others as slowly they drifted up to join us.

We all watched as, at the foot of the stair-well, Paul disengaged his face from that of an obviously well-appointed guy. The man was much nearer my age than Paul’s if not older. Being discreet, most of us tried not to stare as he watched Paul’s elegant retreat to join us I watched and waited for some sort of discussion about the apparent change in our plans. There was none forthcoming. Annoyed by this, I didn’t move when the others made to leave. Steve came back to get me but I was reluctant to follow, even with his considerable charms obviously sent to work on my failing resolve.

“We’re going to another all-nighter,” he didn’t seem convinced himself for some reason but continued, “Mr ‘Lover man’ down there,” I assumed he meant Paul’s earlier conquest, “has just funded us all for a trip to London,” the theatrical applause didn’t enhance the proposition.

As I still didn’t react, we just stood, and he must have considered this to be a normal event, in many ways it might have been, for them anyway.

Despite this impasse, I had neither words nor thoughts on the subject, but I did allow him to manhandle me as we eventually made our way the short distance to the car. When we were all sitting comfortably, if still rather squashed for those in the back, my not starting the car gave me the upper hand for once.

“Would you like to tell us what we’re supposed to be doing? Just for a change?” I added the last bit because I could.

Only after much protestation and complaint because we were not already on our way, it turned out there was some sort of special night already in progress, billed as the night of century, blah blah blah…

“Cut the crap and just tell me what’s going on,” my patience was perilously thin.

“If you get on the road now,” emphasis was made on the ‘now’, “and if can we can be there in time, the doors do shut at 2 o’clock, you’ll be in Heaven,” Paul smiled his dazzling and disarming smile, “in more ways than one,” his excitement seemed to spread, if not to me.

“What?”

Because of my continued refusal to move, he was getting more serious.

“Please just let’s go, I’ll fill you in on the way, promise,” his exaggerated glances at the car’s clock highlighted a sense of panic.

Starting the car got a cheer from the rest of the party and a now customary squeeze of my nether regions from a more satisfied, or was it relieved, Paul.

The madcap plan was that, we somehow drive down the motorway at some break neck speed and arrive at the rather special venue hidden behind the Trafalgar monument before it the closed. Yes, London. If this was achieved we would get into what was, at the time, Europe’s biggest permanent gay venue; Heaven. Having read about it and seen pictures in magazines, heard the stories across bar top counters, I was more concerned about the safety of the journey than the promise of every delight which even simple me could ever think of. My judgement would remain reserved.

When everyone had quieted down, several of them asleep, Paul slipped a folded wad of bank notes into my shirt pocket. I didn’t look to see what it consisted of but accepted the lingering kiss and the external massage of both my groin and my ego without further comment or complaint. With a three-hour journey to compress into fewer than two, it needed to be distraction free and sadly I forewent my usual playful pleasures; which was an obvious disappointment.

How the distance was covered without being stopped by the police or crashing the car will be one of the great untold stories of the decade. With no-one knowing exactly where this place was, it was more luck and combined sharp eyes spotting other gay people, who eventually got three of our party into the line of hopefuls waiting at the entrance.

Other than the neon lights and a milling crowd of ‘beautiful people’, the place was just a set of dark, dirty railway arches. Using the remaining passengers as spotters, it was proving difficult to find a place to leave the car. Eventually, at the dark end of a dead-end street, and against the clock, I managed to reverse into a space. It didn’t look too secure but it seemed to be the only option. Catching up with the rest of the group Paul was working his best and most alluring charms on the door staff to allow us to squeeze in with the disappointingly plain clock above the door telling us it was already 2.10am. The money he had put in my pocket had paid the entry fee for us all; the punter back in Manchester must have been either a mug or had too much loot for his own good but we were in.

On first considerations, the evening’s two venues seemed to be very much the same, the music the décor, even the customers, there was just more of everything and everyone in this one and I was left wondering what the benefits of the wild adventure might be.

A wide flight of star lit stairs led down to the club itself. By the time I had reached the bottom I was on my own; again. With too much to look at all at the same time, I found myself more distracted than usual. If it wasn’t for having overheard two of my crew shout some vague arrangements to each other, none of us would have known we needed to meet outside the main doors at the end of the night; I thought I heard 6.00 but wasn’t sure. Not everyone knew where the car was but each must have taken my smile and nod as an acknowledgement of my understanding the arrangements; it seemed to matter very little either way as I had the upper hand and the car.

Sliding through the sea of hot bodies into the first huge open room, a disquieting feeling was already starting to meld together somewhere deep inside me. What it was and what I needed to do about it was not yet obvious. As I pressed my way to the front of the wall of humanity to try to get a drink, the extortionate cost of just one bottle of coke which made me wince. Deferring to the money which Paul had given me, I discretely transferred it from my shirt to my trouser pocket after paying for the much-needed refreshment. The remaining wad of notes was more than enough to cover these prices and leave plenty of change; I didn’t want to think about the transaction which had been involved in its acquisition. Bottle in hand I tried to manoeuvre my way through and around the crowds of not just attractive but exceptionally beautiful examples of our species.

What began to dawn on me was the sheer size of the place. Not only was there this huge open space, complete with a high and well patronised balcony, there appeared to be several other rooms and intimate spaces spreading out around its edges. Weaving through the many arches that were holding up the railway somewhere over our heads, it seemed to be endless. Cosy corners with large soft seating were occupied with rather over familiar couples. On route I passed several doors displaying the universal toilet sign, each had a constant stream of traffic through them although they seemed not to take notice of the gender specifics. Somehow, I didn’t expect all of it was for relieving bladders, there was bound to be all manner of goings on either oral, nasal, and anal, none of it was my scene; not in public anyway. Noticing the powdery residue being avidly brushed from the noses of some patrons as they came out, I knew the only coke I wanted was the liquid kind.

The issue surrounding the use of ‘recreational drugs’ has always been a disappointment to me. During another little outing and I had to show my displeasure to one of ‘my’ crowd after finding him hovering up some snowy ‘Charlie’ through a rolled up £20 note from the top of a toilet cistern; both he and ‘Charlie’ had to their own way home. Everyone could do what they want but I had my limits.

The dancing on the main floor was ramping up matching the frightening weight of sound reverberating back off the elegant Victorian brickwork all around us. Raised platforms were dotted across the dance floor and each now had a gilded almost naked dancer on it. They were professionals by the style, look and state of undress although there seemed to be no telling amongst the current elegant clientèle. The perfectly toned and tanned oiled bodies dressed mainly in body paint, left nothing much to the imagination even given the narrow view from the corner I had settled into, it was a pleasant outlook somehow tinged with unease.

The evening’s formal entertainment was unsurprisingly exotic, and they didn’t disappoint the crowds. Discrete bouncers kept the more enthusiastic amateurs from joining the gyrating beauties and I could appreciate the enthusiasm which spread wildly across the crowds. This undoubtedly visual splendour was having a frustratingly disturbing effect on me; I didn’t understand it but I was lost for a resolution.

Having felt it before but never as physically powerful as this, I tried my hardest to suppress what I knew was going to happen. Oddly surprised that no one else seemed to notice the glass tube which had appeared around me it didn’t help the process. This thing was all in my head as you will have realised but, in my head it was no less impenetrable as it would have been if it had been real. Time showed no signs of improving my situation. Even with the cream of the capital’s gay population within my pitiful but unattainable grasp, there was no one I could look at, touch, speak to, be close to, to help make my terror and confusion go away. It was three thousand to one against; they were all against me; I was the one and I ran.

It was impossible to run, but my direction was a very straight line in comparison to the wildly meandering path I had trod for the last hour and two bottles of Coke. The time of night only became apparent after I had left the building and was looking wildly around to try to remember where I had left the car. It was too early for an all-night party to finish obviously and there were very few people about other than the bouncers. Even they seemed to be relaxing as the end of night’s chaos was hours away; for the majority that is.

“Good night sir, I hope that you had a pleasant evening?”

All I could manage was a smile to thank him for his comment and I moved rather shakily away.

Finding the car more easily than I had panicked, its solitude replaced one invisible prison with a more welcoming one. Slowly my breathing returned to near normal and my heart rate slowed although it jumped again at the sharp knocking on the car’s window next to me.

“You do know you can’t park here sir?”

The smartly uniformed person removed his peaked cap to stop it falling off as he bent over to speak more directly to me through the glass.

“No, yes, sorry, I’m just waiting for some others to come out of the club,” there was no sense in being anything but honest.

“You still can’t stop here sir.”

While the window was whirring down my brain was calculating the time the car had already been parked there but even with that logic, thankfully it didn’t intervene with any unnecessary or inflammatory comment. During the rather awkward pause, he was joined by a companion who caused me to do a double take notionally at what he was wearing. The uniform top and cap were like his companions, but he was wearing rather tight and very short shorts, long black socks and Doc Martin boots.

“Have you been to Heaven?”

The new arrival asked the question this time.

“Yes, it’s all too mad in there for me,” I tried to smile but I don’t think I did it very well.

“OK, as long as you aren’t here in let’s say an hour, and haven’t got up to any hanky-panky,” quite who I was going to do that with I didn’t know, “you need to be good and gone before sunrise.”

They both made to move away seemingly satisfied with the potential of my compliance.

“Thank you, er, officers.”

I tried to stick my head out of the window to get the message across more clearly, but it hit the window frame rather sharply and made me wince.

In reply to my mistake, the one in shorts lifted a hand, smiled, but didn’t break his measured pace as he and his fellow officer disappeared round the next corner. Settling back into the seat, my head was only slightly damaged, and a good rub took away the immediate pain. Checking the clock for where an hour might take it, there was still probably still more than two hours to go before the club was set to close. What to do? As ever, I did nothing.

The events of the night were difficult to evaluate, the driving, the club’s perfect people the sights, the sounds, madness, pure madness, what was I doing in all of this? Closing my eyes to try to hide away from it, I jumped when I was quickly wakened again although I had not factored in any of the time I had been asleep.

“Still not back?”

It was the shorts wearing officer on his own this time.

“Sorry, no,” the window motor whirred, and I repeated the comment to make sure he had heard me, “sorry.”

“You’re not from round here are you,” he was at least less confrontational than his partner, “the accent, the Midlands?” I confirmed his easily made observation, “you really can’t stay much longer, I’m going off shift soon and you’ll certainly get a ticket from one of the others.”

His rather camp persona made me smile but as much with relief as his mismatched uniformed authority.

“I’m sure they’ll be back any minute, they’ll be walking home if not.”

Hoping a little jollity might help my plight, as if by magic the noisy clamour which rounded the corner was more than familiar; even to my rather dulled senses. Seeing me talking to the officer raised several unnecessary loud and rather lewd comments but we both took them in good spirit, there seemed little option under the circumstances.

“Aren’t you the lucky boy then,” the officer was obviously unaware of my unfortunate and desultory arrangements.

Thinking it best to just take his appreciation of what was essentially just a gaggle of gorgeous gay boys, it didn’t seem worth letting my overall disappointment of the night spoil the moment.

With the car soon full and farewells exchanged I drove off, somewhat relieved. The group settled down eventually and someone noticed I was there and was perhaps rather more than an unpaid taxi driver. Although I would have normally enjoyed such attention, my attempts to read road signs for the way back to the motorway were not helped by having to fend off some of the more over ambitious fawning. This, plus all the excited exchange of stories of what for them, had been a very productive night was already grating on my nerves and we were not yet out of the city.

“We need food.”

The statement fell on my self-made, deaf ears.

“Please, we’re all hungry, you must be as well?”

Now it had been mentioned I realised I was too, but I didn’t really want to give the fact away.

“I know where we can go.” Paul was still playing his part as ring leader, “go there,” he pointed to a sign which had several places listed on it, “Hampstead, follow the signs, we can all get our faces stuffed there.”

Several muffled giggles accompanied the comment, but it was all lost on me as I tried to navigate through the road markings and other vehicles.

The place we eventually stopped at was a litter strewn earthen car park. Next to it was what I had been aware of but never been to before. Hampstead Heath. The heath at dawn was a place of legend; in sexually adventurous circles that is. Although I knew of its reputation, mainly for illegal and illicit activity, ‘cruising’ to use the vernacular, it was not a place I would have considered visiting myself. In recent years of course, cruising had been my main activity for finding mutual relief, this just never seemed quite so appealing in such an open-air environment. Somehow, I got the feeling, quite rightly as it happens, that my participation was not expected in this morning’s venture.

From the number of cars in the car park, I assumed there might be more than just early morning dog walkers out on the vast expanse of rolling grass and mixed wooded areas. Most of my party were soon off, but with no obvious arrangements for returning, I had already decided I would seriously consider leaving them there. Realistically, I doubted I would go through with it. Steve was the last one to leave the car and the only one to ask if I was OK. Giving my shoulder a welcome, but all to brief massage, he suggested they wouldn’t be too long as it wasn’t warm enough for any prolonged action. Thanking him for his concern, I said I would be fine; I didn’t want him to go at all but I couldn’t be that honest. He topped the grassy bank in front of the car and turned to look back. Had he changed his mind? The sun was near its dawn and the light behind him highlighted his slim elegant shape, the ‘Tin Tin’ quiff still sweetly prominent despite the long night’s excesses. He waved to me once and was gone.

Pushing the back of the seat a little lower, I lay back to try to get some much-needed sleep. The short time which I had managed earlier was not enough to keep this relatively old body going for the long drive back. Although my eyes were closed, the depth of my sleep was not much at all. The level of activity was increasing as the local dogs did start to get their walks, other cars with both revellers and furtively acting single men, made their way to and from the expanses of the heath; I couldn’t help but watch. The penetrating light of the sun had now risen well beyond the majestic trees on the horizon would be shining its cleaning light on all sorts of activity out there now I was sure.

Torn between watching all these coming and goings in the car park and not looking for any trouble I stayed down out of sight. A car door next right to mine opened and slammed shut again; I jumped up at the noise. While watching the couple, obviously ‘queens’, rounding off a night out rather than starting a new day, I smiled at their confidence and obvious comfort in their own company as they took each other’s hand and almost skipped away into the sunrise. Although now sitting up, I jumped again as another door opened, it was one of mine this time.

“I got you a bacon roll,” the person had not got in yet, but I recognised the quiet gentle voice.

It was the back door which had opened where Peter slid inside holding out the paper bag with a fine boned, pale skinned hand as he did so. Once in, he closed the door quietly and respectfully and sat looking rather uncomfortable.

“Thanks, that’s really good of you.”

My feelings were still rather mixed about him and I knew I had to be careful while we were alone, so I went for a tone of voice which might dispel any fears he might have had; I was careful not to touch his fingers as I took the bag and sandwich. Resisting the urge to turn and face him in a more sociable manner, I remained where I was and satisfied myself with glancing in the mirror; I did adjust it slightly down to improve the view.

“I lost the others ages ago and nearly got lost myself,” he nervously flicked the still unfamiliar hair style off his face, “do you know how long they’ll be?”

“No idea at all,” I resisted the urge to add an unnecessary cold slant to my reply.

He shrugged his small shoulders and looked around at everything and everyone but me.

“Have you had something to eat,” I thought I was just being friendly, “do you want some of this?”

“Yes, no, thanks I had something before, that’s for you, a thank you,” he smiled shyly as he met my reversed gaze in the mirror.

“Do you want to sit in the front?”

There, I had slipped in my resolve.

“No, you’re OK, I’m fine here,” he sounded nervous and again I really didn’t mean for that to happen.

“No, please it’s OK I don’t mean that I …” he cut in over my waffling.

“Sorry, I’m not like the others you know, I…”

“No, I didn’t think you were…” it was my turn to jump in.

There was a rather awkward and extended pause during which we both avoided eye contact. I couldn’t judge what to do next. Peter broke the difficult impasse.

“I would if you wanted to, I’m not very good at it, I’m very tired, I don’t normally…”

My heart was racked with guilt, and I put him out of his misery.

“No, you’re just fine as you are,” he was, very much so, “I wouldn’t take advantage,” although I was thinking, I would, “you get some sleep, I’ll keep watch for the others.”

My watch was on him as much as it was for the still missing links, his closed eyes only helped to improve my selfish indulgence; the previous, if heavily veiled innuendo was thankfully lost on such an innocent. Or had I just missed an opportunity of a lifetime? He turned and wriggled to make himself as comfortable as was possible, but he didn’t really look it at all. With him checking only just the once to see if I was watching him or the heath, he was soon sound asleep. What I wouldn’t have given to be a very different person. My disappointment evaporated as the others returned noisily to the car park sharing the overly graphic details of both what they had seen, and I suspect what they had taken part in. My looks of disapproval went unheeded and the sweet, still tiny curled form in the back was roughly squeezed up in-between the others. Paul eventually bounced into the front as the last to spill down the grassy slope.

Sitting unmoved for a few moments, I was waiting for some sort of apology, gratitude, or inclusion and yet again, anything would have been nice. The instruction that they were ready to go didn’t move me. Realising I wasn’t quite ‘on side’, the attitudes started to change, and more appreciative noises and thanks eventually persuaded me to start the long drive home. Within minutes everyone but me was fast asleep.

My resolve at not being amused only lasted until the signs for Milton Keynes had past. The proximity and sight of so many sweet angelic faces, although they belied the harsh reality of their owners, left me to indulge myself with the nearest of them and my personal privations. Unusually my attentions failed to rouse him from the depths of his sleep, even at the climax of the courtesy he unknowingly afforded me. As I was finding it difficult to drive, I left most of the resultant sticky residue as a surprise for the issuer when they eventually got undressed later.

No one woke until I pulled up at a set of traffic lights nearly back within our own city limits. It was late morning by that time and there was the normal Saturday shopping mayhem filling the roads. The two less well-known of the companions slipped out of the car near the main shops, the rest of us returned to the flat. On the way up in the lift, Peter had to put up with the others playfully, if painfully, returning to the game of ‘pass the parcel’ concerning his availability for other comforts. In the end, I rescued him and hoped my protective hug would not scare him too much; he didn’t pull away which only confused my expectations.

Once behind closed doors I went to use the bathroom and left the others to decide who was sleeping with whom and where. There was still only the one bed, well the mattress on the floor but it was that or the sofa to choose from. From the adjoining room, I heard Steve said goodnight, someone else said thank you for a blanket they had been given. When I returned, Paul pulled back the one corner of the duvet he had already slid under to indicate I should join him there. Peter had curled up on the sofa hidden completely under the afore-mentioned blanket. He might have been out of sight, but he was certainly not out of mind; not my mind anyway. It was difficult to concentrate on the sleep inducing stroking procedure which I was expected to perform but eventually Paul slid off to the silent world of gently sighing serenity. He wouldn’t have noticed, but I didn’t bother with the more indulgent version of the delicate process as I had already used him for that earlier although he hadn’t seemed to notice the residual emissions he had left. I just lay down next to him and dreamed. My body might have enjoyed the warmth of the immediate company, but my mind was uncharacteristically but drifting elsewhere in the room and the perfection I would never have knowledge of.

Chapter Twenty Seven ~ men, madness and extreme clubbing

Having now surfaced back into humanity, I also went back into work. We had the same understanding as we had before my ‘gardening leave’, in that I could be stupid in my own time but do the job I was paid for, in theirs. Other personal differences with staff were managed by avoidance, which suited me. It was a comfort to at least know I had places of relative safety to go to in-between the long drives and my insipid work ethic. The inevitability of losing the job was there all the time but, having regained or even enhanced my ability to bluff my way through most things now, I would manage to hang on grimly for some months yet.

The only down side to putting myself back into circulation were the endless questions. Everyone had questions, but no-one would be getting many answers. As the pressure built, it became clearer that I needed to stop all the indirect inaction and postulating to get on and put thing straight. Straight, it was an ironic concept as I was obviously far from it I was in my eyes anyway, the most unlikely gay man around. As I slowly got around to contacting my already small circle of contacts, the variation in people’s reactions were, to put it kindly, stark. Most were horrified, and I was summarily dismissed from their polite world. With these adverse reactions happening more often than I had bargained for, it became somewhat of a morbid fascination for me, being ‘the only gay in the village’ to quote a well-known phrase.

In brief, the results of my outpouring were that my wife didn’t believe me at all, she thought it was just an excuse to get out and not a very good one at that. My parents, well again my mother, was shell-shocked but was as ever accepting on the face of it with the caveat of ‘as long as you’re happy and having to ‘stay in touch’; which has lasted to this day. Underneath I knew she was falling to pieces for her precious baby; I was and am still always the baby. My father was told of the situation by my mother but had no desire to ever talk about it; that was made very clear before I went over to see them face to face. My boys were too young to understand the detail, if confused they just seemed happy to see me again when I eventually could.

The one lesson I learnt from that very difficult time was, although I had happily let the dam burst on my being a gay man and boy, not everyone was as comfortable with the revelation as I now was; you might have thought it would have been obvious. It was such a relief now it was all out there, I found I had lost some of my normal sensitivity for other people’s feelings. The height of this crass behaviour came one day when my still confused and often angry wife wanted to know the real reason for my leaving having taken no notice of anything I had been telling her. She had been going over and over all the things it could be, no doubt encouraged by her friends and family, the result being that my stated reasons were just something which could not be true. Despite my being obviously too good an actor, or liar, not everything had been so bad between us in the past which made it even more difficult to explain now. In truth, for many reasons, my life had just grown into a complicated, ever accommodating, ultra-imaginative fiction which had tried to please all the people all the time. Perhaps it was a testament to my attempt to please everyone but myself; it didn’t seem to matter now. What did matter was to convince her it wasn’t anything that she had done.

Whatever the outcome of this transitional period, she needed to at least to start thinking about rebuilding a life without me. Having spent more than ten years lying about our life together, what was so different now? The point had to be made for the last time and I hatched a plan to make that happen.

With the children safely at school, I somehow managed to convince someone to go for a drive with me and help me out in the endeavour; they didn’t think it was a good idea, but a free lunch was enough to induce them. We arrived at the house.

“This is the reason I left you.”

It was an extremely embarrassed Paul who was with me, I had hoped for Steve but in the end, the effect the same and catastrophic.

“He’s the reason I couldn’t live with you any more, I am attracted to men, I sleep with men, I am a gay man,” the explanation proved to be a bit of a conversation stopper.

There was still no real acceptance and if anything, it made things ever worse; but again, what was I expecting. The silence after the statement was as deafening as people often say it can be. There was nothing else I could say but perhaps everyone just needed some time to think. Pretending to want some fresh air I went out into the garden leaving Paul and she together; another odd thing to do I know. Paul had some idea of what I was going to do but even his openness and bravado was strained at the inconsiderate reality of it all; I had overlooked his youth and narrow life experience which was inconsiderate I know.

When I walked back in, the two of them were laughing and chatting away as if they had been old friends; it was my turn to be confused. Paul immediately suggested we went away to ‘let things settle down’ I complied but was none the wiser. Having planned the event in my head long before we had arrived, this was not what I had seen happening. At least she knew now, even it was obviously the cruellest way possible to make my point. In subsequent days and weeks, I would have much ear bashing from all sides; Paul for putting him in such a ridiculous position; she for putting him through the meeting; everyone else knowing I was more of a freak than they had thought me before; not my finest hour.

The jungle drums worked with lightning speed and the next day at work was as difficult as I hoped it would never be. The venomous Ray had known what I had done straight away of course; he always knew so he said. The thought had crossed my mind again that ‘the lady must protest too much’ but thankfully, I didn’t go down that road and compound any of the already complicated issues. My boss was ambivalent about it, ‘if I did my job and left everything else in its rightful place’ he wasn’t bothered; he was not very good a hiding his real feeling but his evasion of them did make it slightly easier. No one else needed to see me very often although it was all very standoffish, work life was manageable in the short-term; except for Ray that is. He couldn’t resist a dig or a slur whenever I didn’t manage to avoid him.

With both the word and me now out of the closet, it should have been a time to feel better about myself and the world left in its own turmoil for a change. From my narrow perspective, in the bizarre reversal of fortune, for the first time in my life everything seemed to be so much better. The rest of the world was popped back into its box until I had to deal with it. Even when I had to, it was only a quick in and out before returning to my new world which had bloomed in ways even my extensive imagination should ever have considered.

The electricity had been switched on at the flat as planned and Steve’s great leaving home exercise started. The flat was already clean mostly from my efforts and in a few mad days had me, some of Steve’s family and the odd friend move him into his palace. All sorts of bits and pieces were moved in a range of vehicles, up the awkward still smelly lift and into the fast filling rooms. My status in this even meant that for once I had to be ultra-sensitive to his needs of anyone knowing exactly who I was. In many ways it was fun, pretending to be a delivery man or a next-door neighbour or just occasionally a friend; it all depended on who I had met up with at the time. In a relatively short time the panic was over and other than having to admit to his perceptive elder sister exactly who and what I was, Steve was happy we had survived the experience with his private life and persona still more or less intact.

Although he wasn’t there much of the time, I felt rather more awkward and out-of-place amongst his eclectic possessions. We had already settled the matter of us not ‘living together’ and I was no more than a temporary lodger although I always hoped he might see things differently; given time and enough attention. He had a life before me and would have long after me I had no right to think I was going to be any part of it more than I did. It was Paul who seemed to take on the role of being ‘more than a friend’. It was something I could hardly complain about, but the more unrequited hankering surfaced whenever Steve was around.

Despite this we would still have time together on our own, but it was always safely very much on our own and it never really felt more than an indulgence of my rather pathetic needs; it was hard but sadly always worth the wait. Once we both knew my place, for me at least, something was always better than nothing.

The rest of life was a pure madness which no one would ever believe and it’s up to you if you do; or do not. With the defiant confidence of my bright young things rubbing off, I grew to enjoy them and their bizarre world more. It was the greatest pleasure to be seen in the company of one, two or even three beautiful, effervescent young men; boys if you need to be accurate. For them life was not a mystery and I followed in their limelight enjoying all the excesses a young gay life had to offer.

Despite popular opinion at the time, I didn’t see myself playing the part of a doe eyed cash cow. The boys had to make a living of their own one way or another, but putting that whole moral question aside, they generally paid their own way. Sometimes I wished they didn’t do what they did, and I would have liked to have been more of a sugar daddy but that was never going to happen, not with my other responsibilities to deal with. The glaringly obvious reasons for me not to be around, were masked by my already fragile ego. Not until long after these strange events ended would I see it all more clearly for what it was. At the time, it didn’t matter one tiny bit. Putting on my best, long closeted overtly camp and only slightly fake persona, I could live the life I thought I deserved for once.

The places we went and the things we did were all new to me and there was nowhere I didn’t want to go and nothing I didn’t want to experience. The Birmingham ‘scene’ had never been much to write about. Even though I had never been in any of the venues, I knew there were very few to choose from. Manchester however had a huge vibrant gay ‘village’ and it was only just over an hour’s drive from the flat on a good evening. It would become a route I knew very well over the months that ‘we’ regularly went there. These outings were mostly rather jolly affairs and somehow, I managed to fit them around the rest of my now complicated life.

Most Friday and or Saturday nights the three and sometimes four or even more of us would set off in time to get to the club for opening at 10pm. This late start left plenty of time for the beautification process which could take hours. Occasionally there was also the need for a fund-raising trip if the day had been quiet; for them obviously. Once at the venue, I also understood and accepted we might all enter and leave together but, the time in-between would be more of a free for all; that didn’t actually bother me although I knew it should have done. Being neither a dancer nor a pick-up artist, it was enough to be seen in the presence of beauty, however fleetingly. To be honest the music was so loud, although in a good way, it was too difficult to hold any sort of conversation if any had been on offer in the first place. The fact that I was not good at it anyway saved me the embarrassment of trying but left me with the easier opportunity of just wandering about and ‘window shopping’. This included many opportunities of having to push past the tightly packed fellow customers and so get to touch many relaxed, exuberant, openly out gay men. This was obviously a bonus, just looking at them and, it was enough to cope with.

In the early days, this sometimes become overwhelming, but with practice the panic became less and the pleasure greater. What the others in our party did I was never too concerned about. We would meet up by chance or sometimes pass on the stairs but by having no illusion of being ‘with’ any one of them but it was enough to know they would be following me back to the car for all the world to see; with luck, anyway.

The most popular club of the moment had two floors and three distinct areas. Each had its own bar staffed by the very bold and the extraordinarily beautiful; something for every taste and titillation. The whole experience was one big sweet shop as far as I was concerned although I often seemed to be the one with the equivalent of sugar intolerance. Most of the time was spent just watching from a distance trying to see how everybody did whatever they did and try to learn something from it for myself. It never seemed to happen, and I concluded there must have been a chemical mismatch of which I was unaware. It was very rare for anyone to try anything on with me and of course I had no idea of how or what to do if ever they had. It did cross my mind occasionally that I had made a big mistake in my assumptions that I was gay at all. Perhaps it was something else? Perhaps I was just a disassociated chimera who had no place in any reasonable society? Would I ever be able to recognise the signals? Was I unaware of what they were? Without any true understanding, I ploughed on through the waves of mixed feelings, doubts, and beautiful people, blindly oblivious to the trouble I was getting myself into; I was not to know I was putting up an invisible barrier to the rest of the like-minded world.

The main club room had the largest dance floor. Once the music had ramped up sufficient volume and the bar had dispensed enough spirit enlivening drink, the night’s company slowly gathered on the large open laser lit space. It was full of hot sweet sweaty bodies cavorting and pulsating to the bass line of whatever current dance craze tune was pounding deep inside your chest cavity.

Strippers at the weekends were always a questionable but thrilling experience. From the very first one I watched delinquent, open-mouthed, I worked out it was prudent not to be too close to the front. A lot of people pressed against the railing around the floor to get the best and often very close view but, if you were either lucky, or unlucky, you could easily become part of the show itself. Some people found it an invigorating bonus to the evening, but I stayed well out-of-the-way while still managing to get a full-frontal view each time.

In a room next to the dance floor still managed to reverberate from its music, a slightly more relaxed area had comfy seating and much dimmer lighting. It was possible to hold a conversation if you were prepared to get close enough to another person although I didn’t create a chance or have the courage to test the theory. To satisfy my inner voyeur, it was easy enough to watch the intimacies alcohol induces without too much effort of difficulty. Although not a place to hang around for too long on your own, it was a good place to drift through now and again and at least consider how I was going to get over my inability to talk to people. That didn’t happen.

The last, scariest, but most fascinating area was down a set of stairs far below the other rooms. Down there the club catered for the diverse collection of leather clad ‘clones’ and motorcycle ‘boyz’. Just to elaborate, to be a true ‘clone’ meant you had an almost identical dress sense, leather trousers or shorts, waistcoat, cap, big boots, body straps with multiple buckles as well as conforming facial hair, moustache and or beard. Although there was no imposed dress code to get in there, I felt very out-of-place the first time I explored its dark hidden depths.

The second time I tried it out I had acquired a black leather baseball cap to slip on when I got to the last turn in the stairs. This stopped me from looking, but never feeling awkward. Although most of the men were closer to my own age more than anyone else in the club at least, I still didn’t feel part of their persuasion. Many of the rather corpulent bodies shamelessly decked out in leather waistcoats, straps, chaps, caps, shorts, vests, and boots made my personal concerns of weight and looks seem trivial but I still found myself wondering how they lived as they were; was I wrong? The cloths had some attraction, the straps, studs, belts, and buckles were reminiscent of many things in my past life but, their wearers were not for me. Even the liberal abundance of naked buttocks failed to attract more than a passing attraction; too rough, too hairy, too much. The stark difference between the two kinds of clientèle down here and up there was the real fascination which kept me going back repeatedly.

Down in the dungeon as it and many other similar venues were aptly named, is where you could find the gay scene’s standard if controversial facility, the ‘dark room’. Having listened carefully to the banter between the boys, I had noticed its existence but could create no specific picture of what was going on in there. The draw of the unknown was proving ever difficult to resist.

During one of my braver nights, after hanging around the unmarked entrance to the unofficial resource just that little too long, I was gently pushed from behind by someone wanting to get through into its dark delights. In the cold reality of daylight, it had originally been the ladies’ toilet but in an all-male environment it was now fully occupied by persons frighteningly unknown.

Following my feet instead of my head, I was finally in.

With all the light fittings disabled it truly was a dark room. The door closed on its hydraulic spring and whatever dim illumination had filtered in from the bar was gone. So as not to get knocked into again, I stepped away from where I thought the door had been. Although there was a regular flow of shadowy bodies both in and out, the outside light only penetrated a short distance before evaporating with the heat and stench. Bombarded by too many different sensations all at the same time, I was well and truly in the thick of it.

There were plenty of people in there, you could tell by the body energy and the incoherent sounds of movement. There was absolutely nothing to see but it was impossible not to touch or be touched even standing stock still. As soon as you bumped into or brushed against anything warm, it triggered a hand to explorer all the who, what and where, it was like a tank of Venus fly traps on steroids. Most hands were going straight for the obvious around hip level, but others sought out how tall you were, how smooth your skin head was, how muscular or hairy your chest might be, what you were or where not wearing. Although I was no prude just inexperienced, if I had thought about any of it before I went in, I might have been better prepared or at least more focused and possibly more compliant.

Satisfaction, if you wanted it, seemed to be guaranteed and you only had to listen to the passions being pumped in and out with much semi-vocal enticement and encouragement from what seemed to be every direction you turned. The shock and the reality of that first time was more than my brain could deal with despite my body being fully accepting, reacting, and even enjoying the friendly abuse. My body wanted to stay and experience more, experience everything, but my head took control of my legs and I was taken out to the relative dullness of the bar. As soon as I was out, I wanted to go back in but the experience was over; for now, anyway.

The crushed, only semi erect penis, although tucked away but still visible in my trousers, was just one of many images of what might have been if I had let it. The sheer numbers and proximity of like-minded men crammed into such a small area with no limits to what people seemed to want to do to each other, anonymous, active, alluring, hideous, dangerous, devoid of thought, my feet took me in the one disappointing direction which I really didn’t want to go back upstairs.

The contrast between the two floors was even more marked now I was out of there. Despite there being a room full of sweet carefully crafted beauty who were as permissive and primal as it was downstairs, this would never be heaven. The beautiful people all around me used the flashing lights and buffeting music to grow and flourish while I felt more like a weed in this garden of delights. Thoughts of being able to bloom in the heat and human compost of the darkroom sent my mood spiralling down again. I desperately wanted both. I knew I would have neither. Not for the first time I headed for the main exit.

With the clubs closing at 2.00am, there were many bodies who had gone in alone with the intention of eventually leaving at the end of the evening with someone or at worst, anyone. This quest left some people with a job of work when any unfulfilled plans were running out of time. Those who had not managed to pick up a trinket during the preceding three and a half hours joined a group of what were often desperate and generally panic-stricken older ‘queens’. These were the ones who found themselves compelled to grab anyone and anything to round off the night with whatever they could coax out of the often equally desperate victim. It was quaintly known as ‘Grab a Granny’. Any single people became legitimate targets, looks, personality, status didn’t appear to matter and obviously, I was one of those few; a subject not a seeker. If nothing else, I had some standards, but had I ever been truly on my own in this tragic congress, I hoped I might never feel the same degree of desperation. Perhaps it was my invisible wall which I could throw up at will. Although rather counterproductive, I always seemed to have the need to repel the possibility of finding something happy, fulfilling and even normal, whatever that was; could I ever run the risk of something good ever happening?

Most times I would give the rather sad event a miss by leaving the club early. Sitting outside was just as interesting if sexually unrewarding and there was always the knowledge that I wouldn’t be going home alone; even if there was no satisfying carnal fun on the menu when I did.

Next door to the club which was exclusively for men, was a sister club for like-minded women. Here the after-show street party was a guaranteed event supplied by resentful liquor lubricated lesbians. Considering the diverse make-up of the men folk slowing tumbling out into the pavement, leather, chains, high heels, glitter, ages 18 to 80, I don’t think I ever witnessed a single fight, disagreement, or anything mildly unsavoury. With women, they were vicious to levels which were truly embarrassing. Many of them must have been taking testosterone supplements to beef themselves up or were just so insecure to feel they had to prove themselves in some way by throwing a few punches. The bouncers and eventually the police were hard pressed to keep order while we men just looked on and generally laughed the night away.

By the time the side-show was over my crew would have gathered themselves together. Some of them were perhaps finishing off an evening’s triumph in a darker side street or doorway but they all came back for their lift home; eventually anyway. At least once a week it was the same roller-coaster routine and quite often twice but in between, there were more local trips. From an outsider’s point of view, which part of me still was, exactly what I was getting out of all this was still not very clear. It was a question I would ask myself often but rarely listened to any answers which might come back. One of these would be that I was not getting very much at all; another decided it was more than I could have ever dreamed of under the circumstances. At times I felt somewhat less appreciated; others would suggest I was just being taken for a ride. It was probably a combination of all these and many more constituted the truth. Why did I like it? That was much easier to answer.

The open association with gorgeous, head turning boys was obviously one of the stronger reasons. It was something I had savoured from the very early days of my adolescent adventures and escapism from the rest of my life. The wild, exciting, and occasionally dangerous situations which I found myself in was also a big if disturbing draw. Access to watch and be part of the many different physical interactions I had only seen in extreme magazines and videos was another compelling explanation. Less often, the nights of gentle beauty allowed me a degree of direct physical contact was an exquisite pleasure. The reality of such times being just as payment in kind, thanks to my separation technique, wasn’t allowed to feature in my thoughts and spoil the delicate moments of pleasure. Was I being, or could I ever be properly gratified? Emotionally, it was probably more often than I like to admit to. Physically, it was never as much as I would only silently admit I needed. Overall it was more than I imagined I might have experienced. Despite all this, I couldn’t allow myself to admit this whole wild destructive adventure might be one big mistake which would have brought yet another world down around me ears with nowhere else to go but a deeper desperation.

Clinging onto whatever positives I could find, it was the little things that kept everything tentatively together; for example, driving to and from the clubs. The journey out was all lively excitement between the friends, with me concentrating on getting through the traffic. The course of the evening was guaranteed to be diverse, as I have described but, it was the journey back I looked forward to more than most things. With the energy of the others often fully expended, the last communal act of the evening would be to stop to pick up supplies at a late-night garage before hitting the motorway. Chocolate and fizzy drinks always seemed to be their favourite, replenishing both sugar and liquid levels. With most of the passengers asleep before the car had moved into the fast lane, this was the time for my own immediate if small pleasures.

Having already admitted to needing only the little things of life, in the stillness of the easy drive at that time in the morning, I would nearly always be allowed free access to the trouser front of whoever was in the front seat; normally it was the delicious, extrovert and soon sleeping Paul. Knowing it was small recompense, his not so small endowment, seemingly independent of the sleeping body, enjoyed surrendering its heat and vitality to my non-driving hand. Just occasionally, if he had not fallen asleep, or had not been fully satiated either in or after the club, I would relish being the receiver rather than giver of pleasure. It should be said that, receiving oral attention to your exposed lap while driving at the motorway speed limit, created an additional spurt of pleasure in the final explosive act which had to be experienced to be believed. Over analysis of the inherent dangers would have been my downfall and I managed to avoid them. I was grateful for what were essentially just crumbs from the table of my indulgent companions.

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.

 

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.