I was feeling shoogly. At Clapham Junction a girl took the emptied seat. I wasn’t going to make her feel bad about it. What did I have to do to get a seat, faint? A burly young bespectacled man offered me his. My thank-yous reddened his face.
A beggar woman in Liverpool St asked if I’d…. “No. I’m busy,” working out which train to take to Clapton.
Dominika was sighted through the door of unit 11. I paid £4 and had my right wrist stamped red. I was herded away from Dominika to take part in a curtained-off corner where we were a group of patients the therapist wanted help from with a dummy. I took longer than any of the other men to suspend my disbelief. The girl next me was the readiest. The controller affected to take down what the dummy was saying and asked among other things if we’d had any problem with change. I never counted mine. The young man other side the girl on my right had difficulty changing Scotch pounds. “They’re legal currency,” I said. We had to name the dummy. “Dummy,” I suggested. Then Ego since I think it was being called Id. “Igor,” the comptroller said but it was of indeterminate gender. “Leslie,” I suggested, since it could either be spelt with an ie or ey. We had to hold hands. “I’m not tactile,” I said. We held hands. The controller stood up by the dummy and made it touch her br--st. She railed at the dummy. I said, “That’s not very therapeutic. That’s what the simple do – and why are you asking your other patients to help?” Somebody had to hug the dummy. The man on my right held it up and the dummy’s shoe fell off and his pants down. “Cinderella,” I said. It’ll be masturbating next.
Quentin and Dan came and were roped in for a session. I wasn’t sure how valid it was as art. “You’re critical,” Sian said. I had to agree with that. I had a glass of wine for £3. The table-tending girl asked if anybody had a lighter and opened a beer with it.
The roper-inner staged her own performance. People had to write out questions with the answer rain. Three people including the young man who’d trouble with change had to choose adjectives and call them out where the performer indicated as she read out her spiel. His was extrovert he had to repeat because he’d pronounced it introvertedly, and large. Another was intense. That over and the three were back in the audience they had to repeat their adjectives in response to a more complicated set of directions during the next bit where a volunteer had to answer the questions.
“Not one of his answers was rain,” I said to Quentin, who smiled condescendingly. He’s less socially awkward than I am. “Oh! It was a set-up!” He also smilingly asked would I be blogging this occasion. “Nah!” I couldn’t remember my own words that made people laugh, never mind theirs. Dan said the answer to his question was reign. I approved since it’s the answer I’d’ve framed a question for. Outside I told him I’d dumped my publisher. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked. “No.” He said he’d only four submissions that were any good for the book he was editing this year and wanted about ten. “Have you written anything for it?” I asked Quentin, who had. “Did it meet the criteria?” of neo-decadence. Quentin nodded, after consideration. “It could be crap and Dan’d publish it,” I said. Justin’s didn’t and he’d set the conditions, “But he is co-editor…,” Dan said. Somebody referred to me as a writer. “Quentin is more a writer than I am,” having published lots.
Beehive arrived. Mwha, mwah.
Zoe and another girl did their thing with typewriters and boards with words projected on them that became inarticulate, to articulate emotion, for them to dance and writhe to. A more attractive Jackson was behind Dominika. “We’re going out for a smoke,” I told Quentin but it wasn’t a smoke. Jackson had given it up because Dominika asked him to. He didn’t know if it made any difference. “You looked different to me. I had a friend Paula who wished she hadn’t smoked so much because it affected her memory.” It might alleviate dementia. I was trying to keeping my mind active. “How old are you?” he asked. “Seventy-eight.” He didn’t think I need worry yet. “Did you ask Dominika to give up drinking?” No because he drank too, though not as much as she did.
“Jackson’s given up smoking,” I told Quentin. “He’s behind you,” said Quentin. So he was. “I was telling them you’ve given up smoking.” “Weed,” Jackson underlined; he still smoked.
Sian gave me her phone to hold for the duration of the performance.
I was out again with Jackson, smoking, when that climactic performance was starting. The young man of the change and ‘large’ I’d laughed at was pressing against me and giving me a sexual charge that inactivated me as I monitored the effect of his covert performance. Judging it diminishing, I belatedly pressed back reciprocally. He moved off. I concentrated on the overt performance of Sian, Zoe on drum and Dominika on guitar, the last with least to do in the first bit but in the second reading pensively from Genesis culminating in man’s replenishing the earth to much shrieking and collapsing, Zoe on all fours. “The twist was a long time coming,” I remarked to Jackson, who moved away.
Each of us interpreted this differently, so outside I asked Dominika what it was about: man’s dominating the earth and the earth’s not relishing the submission. “Wouldn’t you have to believe in the premiss,” of god’s giving man dominion, “for the end to be effective?” Dominika thought tradition enough. The young man of change, large and charge joined our group with a girl, his face contused or swollen with some emotion regarding me. An obtrusive photographer came good in taking a photo of me, doffing my hood, Quentin in his broad-brim, and Dan. I saw my white head was in the photo, thanking the photographer. Dominika hugged me. “I’d forgotten the farewell ritual,” I said to Dan. “You can’t just go off.” In that case…, he said, giving me a hug too.
“This’ll do,” I may have said of an aisle seat on the train back. A young man diagonally opposite was crunching through a snack packet. When the train filled up I moved in and he moved his pack from the seat beside him. In the window reflection he stared into my eyes. I believe I blushed.
Yesterday I thought I might use my continued sluggishness to renege on my agreement to go to Camden with John but I was soon moving fast. I don’t like going to places for their own sake. I require an ulterior motive, a party, an exhibition, and John’s suspected motive of acquiring weed and have me subsidise the acquisition wasn’t mine. I don’t like smoking.
I did the library, where I internet, and shopping. It was after eleven. Maybe he wasn’t coming.
He came. “I don’t want to go to Camden. We could visit Diana,” his idea I’d resisted. “Visit Diana first and then go to Camden.”
I went to a ticket booth, choosing the second one manned by a woman, to ask about a train to Tolworth. She said I could get a bus there from Clapham Junction. I inferred Tolworth didn‘t have a station. John had put money on his oyster. “As well you didn’t buy a ticket,” I said, as I’d assumed he was doing from an automatic dispenser. I knew there’d be a 281 from Twickenham and a train going there in three minutes. The bus was at the stop outside the station.
We went upstairs. The front inside seat was vacated. “I’m an adult,” I said. “I don’t need to sit at the front.” “I’m still a child,” John said and we moved seats. The bus went roond the hooses. John harped on about my poor navigational skills, citing the time we’d gone to Dulwich Art Gallery, arriving fifteen minutes before it closed. “Twenty,” I thought. “It saved me money.” He only realised on the way back, passing Bermondsey, we could’ve got there in plenty time via Clapham Junction instead of the way I’d taken. “I’m never going to hear the end of this.” He took a snooze, with his feet up until his legs strained, my gloved hand on his thigh. He exaggerated the length of time we’d been on the bus to two hours which, by citing the time we’d caught the train at 12:41, the few minutes the train took to reach the next stop and the time it was by his watch now, twenty to two, I substantially reduced the time spent to thirty-five minutes, actually about an hour. “Look out for a hospital. There’s a sign. Let’s get off here. I think we must go up that road.” I walked back from the bench to the sign which had directions on this side too. “No, it’s that road.” John insisted on continuing to sit while he rolled a cigarette which, he said, he could do handcuffed. There was quite a walk.
I read a board and we went through Cedars, Lilacs before finding her in Jasmines – without an apostrophe – ward behind swing doors before other swing doors opening on to a high fenced garden into which she’d thrown her butts from a wheelchair. She’d broken her hip. She was overjoyed to see us, putting on tears and drying them up with equal facility. A man pushed in and was told to get out. John attended to his mumbling while Diana recounted her latest misfortunes, having little regard for the insertion of a communal tv socket in her flatlet that’d facilitate her having a set she could buy with the accumulated benefit money. She did ask about her plants I’d put farther out to catch the rain. She returned to the expulsion of the obtrusive man, pushing him out with the door but concerned he shouldn’t thereby hurt his arm. He was replaced by a fat woman with a stick accompanying a taller, thinner patient. The fat one objected to the butts, hinting if she could bend down she’d pick them up, a suggestion I curbed my response to on account of its manipulative intent. The more agreeable John went off and came back saying he was told it was a job for domestic staff. He nonetheless put all the many butts into an improvised ashtray I was tempted to tip with my foot and Diana ignored, flinging her doups carelessly out as before. I lit her cigarettes by inserting them in a hole outside the door and pressing a red button. The female pair returned from their garden walk and the fat one returned to the attack on the grounds smoking was disgusting to those who didn’t, namely her. “You said that already,” the thin one commented drily. They were replaced by another little old woman who wanted the way out though she must’ve known this wasn’t it. She called Diana a ‘wom’ twice before making all comprehensible by inserting the r. She asserted I was a wrong 'un or dodgy and that she had a stick to use on me, at which dodgy John smiled that I was targeted and he not, whereupon he was, “and you’re no better.” Time to go! though, with Diana clasping my hand through the doors out to the door out, and Pat – the name picked up from her restrainers – seeking to seize the opportunity to escape, our going was not without difficulty. We had to sign out as well as in.
I asked an ignorant man where the station was and we went looking, deciding it couldn’t be beyond a big roundabout, so took a bus to Kingston where John betted he could get back before me by bus. The train was delayed twice. “I’m buffeting you,” John declared, from behind on the steps up at Richmond station, making me think he’d won and had been waiting in ambush but in fact he’d seen me from a 371 bus and jumped off to take the train too.
“Have I told you the story of the wart?”
Some time ago I had an itch in my bum. On looking at its reflection in a mirror I could see no red rash about the anus, so ignored it.
I could feel a fleck of skin, which might add to the pleasure of any lover, to Simon’s if I’d had it then. I couldn’t decide if I had had or acquired it since. When this itchy thing became bigger I took another look, a white egg nestling, and took it to a doctor. He said it was either a haemorrhoid or a wart. “It’s white.” Warts can be any colour. He asked if I’d had anal intercourse. Yes but it was a one-off. Warts can take months to appear, “up to a year,” he made a sweeping gesture which did gather Simon in. He wanted me to have a second opinion from a sex clinic and take an HIV test while I was at it. The clinic would have the treatment for the wart.
Since the West Mid was closed for Xmas, its busiest time I’d’ve thought, I went to Kingston Hospital, which never closes. Rachel diagnosed a wart and dowsed it with liquid nitrogen. “Does it count as an STD?” “Yes.” My first. You practise safe sex once.... There was a moral there somewhere, not one Rachel’d want to hear. She didn’t think it’d be from Simon, “though possible,” but from my regular partner without having been told his name even or that his predilections made him the less likely source. She said STDs were all on the up and up; people were going to meths parties to catch HIV, and the treatment was expensive. “People make distinction of their diseases,” I said. She warned a first treatment mightn’t work. I should give it till New Year week. I said I’d never liked anal intercourse but felt obliged to give it the occasional shot and last time it’d been a pleasure, worth a wart. She was encouraging. “With a bigger cock,” I concluded.
The wart was bigger, what had been hard below the skin surfacing with the treatment I reckoned. I didn’t look. As expected, I was cleared by a text on Boxing Day of all other STDs.
Olivia gave it a scoosh but wasn’t sure it was a wart that she’d expect to be flattened and wanted a doctor’s opinion. Simon, a senior nurse, also wanted the doctor’s opinion. “It’s too big to be a skin tag,” Dr Nathan said but while almost sure it was a wart wasn’t finally, asking had there been bleeding. She might as well take a look up the arse for other warts while she was at it. She prescribed another wart treatment to be applied three days a week for a month. She was about to give instructions but, “He won’t have any difficulty finding it,” it was that big. “But it is a benign tumour,” I said. “Let’s hope so,” said Simon.
I took a look. It was no longer white and round but a pink flap. The liquid nitrogen had omeletted the egg. It was flattened but stood up on its edge.
My listener was chortling the while. It’s the way I tell them, “Schadenfreude! The wart’s taken over my arse, the arse of a baboon baboons find attractive,” present company excepted.
No confirming text from the hospital about my appointment to see the doctor after a month’s treatment which was causing bleeding like piles’ blood. I went anyway. No appointment computed so I had to go through the rigmarole, as I told Olivia, of seeing a nurse. She arranged for me to wait on a doctor upstairs, Dr Nathan, her hair tied back. I’d taken a printout of The Wart with the bloody update on the back. Dr Nathan laughed at its beginning. “Brilliant!” Could she keep it? She’d read it later. One takes one’s readers where one finds them. I said the wart was inhibiting me but I had used it to ward off a friend, the one not named in the story I emphasised by a rapidly repeated pointing to the page, by saying if he hadn’t give me it, as he was denying he had, he could be infected by it. As I clambered on to the examination couch, she asked if I wrote. I’d poems published in a magazine and a story, my best, published in Dadaoism, An Anthology. There was a book too but that was taking so long to be published, years, I wasn’t counting on it. She asked if I’d warts in front. I had but the one, behind. The wart wasn’t any worse. “It’s just as big,” I said. Might she squirt it with a little liquid nitrogen? She might. It was inflamed and too broad-based, the unsaid implication being to have been reduced as I inferred, but could easily be lopped off. Meanwhile I was to continue the medication and near the end of the two months attend a night clinic. I asked what she thought of Brexit. “It should not have been put to the people.” Or what’s a parliament for? “In Richmond we gave the Brexiteers a bloody nose.” “You did!” “Wiped out a 23,000 majority,” I swept it away with my arm.
Mr Fawcett in the surgical unit of Queen Mary’s Roehampton didn’t think it a wart because depressed though he rooted around inside me to check there weren’t contradictory others. “Dr Nathan did that too.” That I felt it as raised was because of debris filling the depression. It wasn’t a haemorrhoid either, nor, he thought, malignant since the cream was now reducing it. “I never thought it was.” He drew a diagram of a raised wart, a horizontal line that went perpendicularly up, along and down in the middle, a dais, and another of a depression, a perpendicular line that went perpendicularly down, along and up in the middle, a trough, which he filled in with scribbled shading, rubble or brock. I was reminded of Sir John Fraser’s drawing a cat and asking was it me before an operation for a TB gland when I was three and my inarticulable anger at the insult but I’m a mature seventy-eight year old and was completely complaisant. In any case Dr Nathan could refer me again for a biopsy if she saw fit when next I saw her, at a Wednesday night clinic. He shook my hand. It was a lovely spring day. I ran for a bus, tossing away my too tired companion like a used tissue from the hand of a litter lout.
The same letter came in two envelopes differently dated from Mr Fawcett. I took both with me and the updated story to the clinic. Richard, the nurse, covered my naked bum with paper towel while he called in Dr Nathan. I had to clamber down, bits dangling, to silence my chirruping phone before resuming foetal position on the couch, arse decently posed. Dr Nathan said it was definitely a wart, though… and she conveyed its quondam enormity that she’d never seen the like of before largely without words, since the Aldara cream had worked. “Or basal cancer,” I said. I gave her the update and a copy of Mr Fawcett’s letter she hadn’t received. I asked Richard was it possible for somebody who’d had sex with somebody else, Debbie, with genital warts to pass it on after twenty years, suggesting the answer no. “Yes,” said Richard, “if he had a wart.” “Don’t let him off so easily! He never takes responsibility for anything.” “You could have got it from your very first partner,” Richard went on. Sheila Raeburn! when I was six.
27/9/ I’ve a red lump on my right temple I can’t tell is by an insect or not. It’s not itchy unlike the red patch at my knuckle below the index finger of my left hand I can’t find a bite mark for though there’s a little lump.
13/10/ So annoyed at John’s marking my sheet with the biro he insists on playing with and had difficulty sleeping.
15/10/ Finishing Sebeos when John calls in with cannabis oil in putty form which he rolls and crushes with the vegetable vi-gra to give me an erection. He had no idea he was marking the sheet with indelible ink. After a really long session I consider lubricating John’s arse and turning him over. I can’t be arsed. Instead I get on top and push my cock between his legs and it feels like it’s in him and with a bit more thrusting faster I might even come there. I ask if I was. Nearly he says. Eventually he comes. The thin skin of my cock is raw from his tugging but unbroken. My lower arms have a rash of spots I wash and put hydrocortisone on. John was spotless and said there were none on my back. I wank afterwards to porn. My extremities have taken to itch during the night for no apparent cause.
By Monday the spots have died back and I’m thinking of giving it a week.
18/10/ Again itching and red weals in the night, going with the day. I’m killing drosophila. A debilitating cold, the first in years, puts me off moving far less going to the doctor’s to make an appointment and keeping it. The cold would confuse the issue.
31/10/ A weal makes me make an appointment for next Thursday at doc’s. If I’d phoned in, one was available at one. Penny emerged to give me a hug and step back at the sound of my cold, suggesting all manner of horrible reasons for the spots.
3/11/ Have learnt not to scratch, as Janie, my Goodreads friend advised, and to put cream on extremities before bed. Tired. Dr Simpkins was running late so I came home, listened to the end of Tchaikovsky’s 1st and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise before going back to wait. She thinks the Daktacort for red spots and patches from right shoulder to chest may have suppressed my immune system since a fungicide and I’ve to have a blood test because she can’t explain the itchy extremities. The receptionist had logged off so I’m to go back tomorrow morning to order the test.
4/11/ Before washing done, went for paper and blood test appointment though no itching extremities during night, finally coffee. John came about nine with hash and for sex both of which were had. I didn’t come.
11/11/ Jasmine took blood for iron and B 12 as well as for kidneys. John called in for some hash for his friend. He says it’s ‘defaced’, not ‘unfriending’ on Facebook. He’s had two lots of group therapy this week, one for OCD, the other for PTSD and has gone to an AA party, a contradiction in terms.
12/11/16 Involuntarily scratch sole or hand before realising not to but then cream it. Slept in.
13/11/ Itching of the extremities is back, starting with hands, ending with feet and a weal on the right thigh that had two further puckered circles on the redder raised oval and which disappeared in little over an hour. John came early. He’d found out today was not one on his list for use of the St John the Divine hall for rehearsals so had to phone people up, lying he’d just been told over the phone. Six did turn up and were shown round but no drama students who’d been warned off by their tutor from mixing with criminals. If the play doesn’t come off, John’s going to give a poetry reading instead. When he did come back he had cold duck bre-st with microwave reheated mashed cauliflower and some broccoli, carrots and green beans with three glasses of wine all told and two spliffs. He accompanied me to Waitrose for milk and a coffee where Kawa and a girl explained the likelihood in future of having to buy something for the coffee. He watched a girl putting her hand over a dog’s eyes and poking its teeth until her foreign mother saw him watching and stopped the indulged child.
14/11/ Creamed likely bits, having to redo two small areas in the night. Weal on inside arm took longer than an hour to dissipate. Slept in, another symptom or effect. Updated Janie on itching issue.
15/11/ Up early, feet itching. John visits and we have lunch, he three glasses wine and we two spliffs. He was going to Poundland in Kingston for shower gel and I accompany him on the bus to check up on the chair I bought which is in Heal’s warehouse under a different category that has to be altered to bring it to Kingston Heal’s, which is going to email me on its arrival. We go to HMV, shifted to below ground floor in Bentall’s and onto a different Poundland. We alight from the bus back to see if Nocturnal Animals is on, at Studio Screen 7 at 6:20. I pay for both tickets on John’s insistence, £22. Buy tomatoes and chorizo slices from Tesco and have a spliff before going back to the cinema. Great film. John doesn’t wait for a pizza but goes home to his hostel.
16/11/ An animal dropped off me and I picked it from the floor and put it in an empty spice jar along with, as I thought, another much smaller insect I caught but probably a fruit fly that got away in fact. Another weal on my upper right inside arm above where I’d applied cream. I’ve flea powdered the bed in case.
17/11/ I woke up at 3:30 to pick about a dozen bedbugs from the sheet, pillows and duvet and half-a-dozen more at five, joining the first lot in the spice jar. Online bedbuggery suggested the council would get rid of them but I had difficulty knowing which department to contact so I made a general contact and went over to the civic centre to ask. The receptionist helped me phone Dialapest and I’ve arranged a disinfestation for next Thursday. I bought bed bug killer powder meantime. Left a letter for Dr Simpkins. Read the conditions for the disinfestation online. Remarked on my unspeakable day on trivial Facebook. Told Janie about it. Stripped the bedding and put it in sealed bags. More nesting bedbugs in the underblanket along its top hem. I’m going to sleep in the bath.
18/11/ Bath too cramping, I slept in on the bathroom floor. Hoovered thoroughly and doused the bed and mattress with bedbug killer powder. Told Diana, a neighbour, of bedbug infestation as I hung out the washing which remains out in the cold. The hot wash didn’t get rid of the bugs’ shit of course. A dead bug fell from the undersheet. Put the duvet, pillows and blanket in to drycleaners next block down.
Saturday morning John buzzed. At the door he made some joke about how long does it take old people to get up. I was in my dressing gown. He walked into the room, saw the bare bed. “It’s an infestation,” I said; “I’ve never had an infestation before.” He asked how I’d found out. “An animal fell off me in the morning and I sprayed the bed with insecticide,” getting up at three-thirty, picking up a dozen, and half a dozen at five, putting them in a jar, he picked up, “Is this them?” he held up the clear glassed spice jar to look. “I told you it was bedbugs,” he went on. I doubted that, “You thought it was drosophila.” “I don’t know what drosophila is.” “Fruit fly. The doctor said it wasn’t an insect. You probably brought it from the hostel.” “The hostel rooms are done every week. They have to be.” I doubted that. “I’ve a shower every day. I’ve never been bitten, in all my years in prison.” I’d noted he hadn’t been bitten. “They don’t bite everybody. It’s nothing to do with body cleanliness. They’re carried in clothing.” “I wash my clothes.” “It has to be a hot wash,” at least 60˚. “It is a hot wash.” I doubted that. “So I haven’t been bitten but carry it in clothes?” he scorned. Typhoid Mary. “You brought it in yourself,” he went on, “from the library, and that’s a fact.” “That’s not a fact.” He conceded it wasn’t. “There are lots of homeless people use the library, smelly. One sat beside you.” “You’re homeless yourself. I’ve been going to the library for years. You lay on that bed fully clothed. The marks weren’t from a biro but bedbug faeces.” “I never took the top of the biro.” I was watching and had thought he hadn’t. “You just want somebody to blame,” he said. “All you’re interested in is exculpating yourself. I’ll go through my diary.” “Your diary!” he scoffed, picking up his bag to leave. As the door out was closing I shouted after, “It’s not your fault. You’re not to blame but it may be your responsibility.” I didn’t quite show myself looking out as I usually do to wave. He looked up and made with his hand what I took to be a ‘fuck you’ gesture. I was perturbed by the denouement but it was done now, and had to be done.
The train was packed until Clapham Junction. I found The Old Crown though that its advertising itself as OC fooled me for a minute. Seeing no one in the bar I proceeded through to stairs going up and climbed to the first room. No one I knew there either, so onwards and upwards to the next room, temporarily named Catherine, which was empty. I waited outside. A pretty young woman in a close-fitting cap I wasn’t sure was Dominika was. She offered to find out by phone where Beehive, who’d neglected to give me the details, would be eating but, not needing it, I hadn’t brought my A-Z and without it would get lost in Soho, so decided to stay put, with her. She’d had bedbugs herself at Cable Street. We were shortly joined by Maria. I bought us drinks on my card that always works and we went upstairs where Zoe presented herself to me as If I already knew her but didn’t. “You’re pretty, Zoe.” Sian and her crooked finger she can straighten at will and isn’t asking doctors about, and Veronika, in a hat with protective ear flaps I forget the name of that boys in Scotland wore when I was a child and that lengthened her thin face further, also joined us. Dominika thought Sian should keep her finger crooked. The girls went over what they’d do during their performance about the association of dogs with man. Dominika bought me a large wine.
Quentin came with Beehive and I was able to hand over present and card. “Is it silk?” she asked of the scarf, “To go with my hair,” a greenish blue. She put aside what she could see through the transparent packaging I hadn’t opened, to keep it pristine, in order to open a wrapped box from somebody else. She’d been told of the bedbugs, “which are curtailing my sex life. I asked Quentin to stay over but he declined.”
Carsend addressed me, stating I’d put him in a blog. “Was it all right?” It was. He’d say so anyway. “You look different? Is your hair shorter?” He thought it must be his hair. “What’s his name?” I asked Quentin. I’d regressed to thinking ‘Carson’ which I knew to be wrong. Quentin taught me how to remember it, “Think of ‘cars’, ‘end’, ‘Carsend’.”
People wanted to know how I knew Beehive. “Through Quentin.” And how did I know him. “We went to the same writing group he founded.” Quentin demurred. “You were the key man,” to what bookshop he was now uncertain. “Langton’s.” George wanted to know if I wrote. “Quentin’s my publisher.” George was impressed I wrote though Quentin’s much more impressive. George wanted to know if he’d read anything of mine. “Have you read ‘Dadaoism’?” No. Then not. “What was the other thing? Sacrum…?” “Sacrum Regnum,” Quentin said. I dismissed as irrelevant a book with another wouldn’t-be publisher.
Quentin was doing the rounds collecting to pay for the room hire. “I wasn’t told about this.” That was down to Beehive. “I won’t have change for my paper tomorrow,” Sunday. Quentin waited in the way of a nonetheless expectant dog. “Oh all right. I’ll get more money.” I took a £2 from my palm and handed it over, followed by £1, but paused, looking for another. “There’s one,” he said. “Oh you would see it, wouldn’t you!”
I asked the barman, who would impress me by leaping over the bar in one bound I couldn’t’ve done even when young, if we might take our drinks outside and I went out with Dominika, she for a fag. “I might as well finish my story about my Issy,” I called Belle who came to tell me she wanted to be married, believing I could effect it. She’d already been married but I agreed, also believing I could give what she wanted. What did I want in return? That she should write the process down, by implication for me to read. To cut an extraneous story short, she had a twenty-two year long marriage that was hell. When she died of br--st cancer she treated with alternative medicine, her jealous husband brought her memoirs to me to prove she was unfaithful, as I knew she wouldn’t be. He died shortly after. It had been a symbiotic relationship. In archiving, I’d pencilled out what’d make a commercially successful book, turning on Belle’s realisation she’d made a mistake, but her daughter didn’t want her mother looking stupid. “Am I talking too much?” I asked Dominika on the stairs up. “No! Anyway I like hearing you talk.” Whenever I was hugged from behind, I’d know it was Dominika.
Sian asked if I smoked. “Hash?” She only smoked tobacco.
Joe arrived. He’s making money filming an advert for a posh hotel whose bubble of poshness he can’t, otherwise, relate to his life. Oscar wasn’t there, having a cold in Oxford. I ascertained I’d got the right Iz Zi, in a prior blog. “She misspelled ‘glamorous’” “You corrected her.” “No! It’s Facebook. I told her she was.”
Dominika went down on the floor on four legs, bum wiggling to the fawning life, walking up to the other girls, portraying the association of b--st with man. “Where’s the humping?” Sian later said that would be an improvement. Maybe not since they were all bitches, not a dog among them.
I spoke to Patrick who said he was seeing a psychotherapist for depression because he isolated himself by relating to women with mental health problems, without, he added, thinking he could solve them. “How old are you?” Thirty. “I’d’ve thought it’d wear off. You’ve always a way out of the relationships. Why do you think you do it?” He wanted to be needed. He had a system of quick expressive hand and arm movements accompanying his words. I was finding him attractive, in fact rousing and that never happens when I’m talking with people but did, before dying away, and which I put down to his vulnerability’s inciting predation. I gave him my address to remember.
I told I think Maria of the rousing. “Surely not,” she said. She, or possibly Dominika, referred to my boyfriend, “who’s dumped me.” I explained the circumstances: he didn’t want responsibility for the bed bugging. Maria admitted to being Joe’s girlfriend and finds sex makes for intimacy. I had doubts about that, citing two recent novel sexual experiences with two people, the emotional satisfaction from being fucked by a neighbour upstairs of me, a one-off, and the pleasure of fucking the quondam boyfriend without the convention of raising legs for easier access but like fucking a woman.
Most of the karaoke songs were like a slow rap. “Your songs are better,” I told Quentin. “Oh!” I pointed to a ‘to’ that should’ve been a ‘too’ and Quentin gleefully nodded. I also noticed the American solecism of using the stressed preposition ‘of’ for the unstressed verbal abbreviation, ‘ve. The best singer was – I asked Quentin, “What’s his name?” – Nick who gave some idea of the music and also danced exuberantly, usually with Naiem, George and a taller bearded man in pink who keep saying things to me I didn’t get, before he was off. I couldn’t dance like that. Too boisterous. I’d start making it… what was the word? slower, softer: seductive. Nick did sometimes pause but the look in his eyes was never the self-doubt of what-am-I-doing! He might occasionally look at me with an interest he didn’t know how to follow up on. He wasn’t that interested! Meanwhile I was appraising his looks, his attractive extroversion and how thick his waist might be and did I mind? I asked Quentin if another young man whose belly I thought I recognised was Richard. He didn’t know. I also considered whether Nick’d look better shaved, to lighten his face, since his hair, eyes were dark and sometimes his face retreated behind a darkening, blurring veil.
Quentin, much more sociable than me, threw himself into the singing especially one song so dolorous, “You could’ve have written it yourself.” “Why did you say that!” Beehive charged. “You bitch!” She buffeted me a lot. In Dan’s absence I was Quentin’s other man though we weren’t talking. I was just standing near and stood my ground. I wasn’t doing anything. She kept giving me looks that slid away. “Are you enjoying the party?” she asked. “Yes. Thank you for asking me. I like different experiences.” ‘Lola’ was coming up. “You do ‘Lola’,” I said to Nick. “You do it with me.” Oh, no. I was sitting and watching a lot. I didn’t know whether I was enjoying myself. I didn’t want to leave though. I looked at Patrick who after talking with one man was talking with another. I was more isolated than he was. They were all lovely but something was lacking, perhaps the specificity of the erstwhile boyfriend’s attachment. I’d make do and mend. Quentin and Joe mouthed, was I all right? I walked over, “What did you say? That’s what I thought you said. I’m fine.” Joe said ironically I’d be alleviated if I sang. “Yeah, right.” Quentin asked what I would sing. “Ca the yowes tae the knowes.” I did sing to Killing Me Softly, and to Lola but only briefly with a microphone a girl slyly put to my mouth.
Jackson came late, after work. I waved. The girls did another performance about giving birth, not to a child but a half water melon I thought Maria said, that Nick and the boys entered into, encircling the birth, and which was extended into happy birthday wishes to Beehive. Joe was making a video film of the performance on a device with a screen not much bigger than a phone, if not a phone, that he delegated to Quentin who spread his hand in front, interfering with the picture, and I thought Joe, who was back, should take over again, as he did. “Was it about giving birth?” I asked Sian who said, “Yes”.
I was introduced to Julia, ADHD but who medication normalised if not the rushed abruptness of her speech. “So long as it doesn’t stop you doing what’s you,” or something such I said. She deplored Trump’s talking ill of the dead Castro. She was going off, but, “You stay here,” she said. She didn’t come back. She looked at me and her eyes slid off. She did make a foray down to the karaoke group nearby.
I told Dominika Sian had said she loved me, and I’d reciprocated, “She doesn’t know me,” not that knowing is a prerequisite of love. Dominika let Jackson and Quentin talk without her intrusion because they liked talking to each other. Me too, Jackson, when he was talking to George. Jackson was perturbed George was a Bolshevik and wanted him to be too. I didn’t understand how either, but maybe to do with the Corbynista hard left taking over the Labour party. Jackson thought them too principled to succeed politically. I’d only just understood what had happened and couldn’t anticipate where it was going. He had a beard so I couldn’t see whether he had the scar I remembered that Dominika, and now he, denied he had.
Joe was leaving without knowing how to get home and his girlfriend had already gone. “Didn’t she say she was?” She had. I asked Quentin, who was well-wellied, if he knew how Joe could get home. He didn’t. “He’s a big boy; he’ll manage,” I concluded.
“Have you lost your bag?” I asked a rifling Carsend. He had.
I also was leaving, on seeing Quentin was preparing to. I commended a passing Nick on his Lola, his energy. He said I hadn’t sung. I had. He said I was shy. I was a Cancerian but I did do things. He assumed from the accent I was Scottish. Born in England, even brought up in Scotland, where I acquired my east coast cultured accent, I was British and had no secondary nationality to fall back on, neither Scotch nor English, should the worse befall. He said he was from Indonesia and had done better guessing about me than I him. “Djakarta?” A little place, or island, to the… but I interrupted him so he didn’t finish. He admitted to having been from Oxford, where he knew Beehive. He’s here for a few months. Leaving was delayed. Quentin had taken off his big black hat.
“I’m the token oldie,” I told Nick over my shoulder as we cantered down the stairs. “You’re only as old as you feel,” he said. “I don’t look in mirrors,” I said. “You should,” complimenting his young looks though maybe a residue from thinking about his face being improved shaven.
Outside I was going with Dominika and Jackson along New Oxford Street while the others the other way but the ritual of their leave-taking takes time and Dominika and Jackson went back to add length to it with hugs. Under the close cap, his beard melted into the overall handsomeness of Nick’s face. I tried discerning which girl he’d leave with but failed. He blew me a kiss and I blew him one back. The inordinate leave-taking went on. Left to me, I’d go. I edged back, not to be too conspicuous. Nick’s eyes, on seeing I hadn’t gone, slid off. The ritual over, we three left. Jackson had a cold coming. Dominika wanted food. I ran for a Piccadilly bus. “Where did the bus go?” Round a preceding corner. I left them. Tottenham Court Rd tube station was open, at three in the morning. I decided to walk on. The streets were as busy as during the day. Among so many people at night I felt my life was pointless. Unlike last time, there was a crowd waiting for the N22. An Irishman asked for change. “I haven’t any.” I wasn’t about to call him back to insult him with the little I recollected I did have. Last time I’d the top deck to myself. Behind me was a hubbub that progressively thinned till items of phatic conversation became distinguishable. On alighting, I thanked the driver, going home to feed the bugs. It had taken ages for Dominika to get rid of hers.
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