In see-through red shirt I’ve had for over fifty years and Japan windcheater, off to Quentin’s party with champagne, cake, box of chenin blanc, card and Latin dictionary. He’d said he’s doing Latin. Wrong address directed me to right one, Mornington Terrace, where, looking about, I saw an upturned bucket with the number on it, indicating the basement flat. Dan let me in. Quentin was having his face painted by Dominika. In the kitchen Dan opened the champagne which spumed onto the floor. “You should’ve had a glass handy. It must’ve been shoogled on the way here.” He made an attempt on the spill. I had the smallest glass, Dominika the largest. Quentin looked at the absence of words in his card I put in later. I said I’d seen a card, crisis in the middle ages, but thought better of it since Beehive might call me a bitch. He’s forty-five. They laughed. Quentin had a go at the spill. Dominika wiped it up.

Mei-Ling and Yasmeen came next. Yasmeen had a pillow – I eschewed making any pregnant remark - for her back she’d had an operation on, a vertebra replaced. “You’re partly robot.” (I later asked why the vertebra was removed: malignant.) There wasn’t enough champagne left for two so they had their own pink sparkling rosé. We reminisced how long we’d known each other – “I’m bad with names” - and still hadn’t got Mei-Ling’s right, “A hyphen!” subsequently addressing her as ‘Mei-hyphenated-Ling’ but may already have spelt ‘Yasmeen’ right. I’d check. (I’ve checked; I had.) Mark Samuels in pork pie hat and Honey, who has Crohn’s disease and can’t eat wheat must’ve arrived meantime because they were other side the table when I said ei is usually pronounced ay, as in May. This was disputed, by Quentin, but who then came up with ‘feint’ - “From French,” I said - and Mark with ‘reign’, probably, though I heard ‘rein’ unless he did say ‘reins’ and I’m misremembering. I thought it was so pronounced in Latin and possibly Greek. Mark remarked Quentin’s punctiliousness as editor, down to a comma. Having gone over my publishing from my diary, the line of Quentin, Dan and Yarrow Paisley was easy compared to the work I put in on the other which foundered on the bad faith of the publisher. “It makes for a better story.” I was asked if the writers’ group liked my writing. I considered. They liked my blogs, so “Yes.” I didn’t write for it. “You know The Fling?” Quentin agreed he did.

That might have led on to John who wasn’t there and I tend not to mention people who aren’t, as I haven’t Steph who, I told Dominika, wanted to meet her again, but in my trawl through my diary his was a better story than the publishing one. I may have got on to him through telling Quentin I was a bit dispirited and the last time was connected with when John wasn’t about, John claiming that as the cause “I’m becoming you,” I told Quentin. “In that case, am I becoming you?” “You are cheerier.”

However it started, I would have to say something to get to what I was wanting to tell Quentin that resulted from it. “I thought John was a fling, a heterosexual having a bit homo on the side that demeaned me. When he disappeared I thought he’d found cottaging suited him better. You met him,” I told Mei-Ling, at Quentin’s last year’s party when I had John read out a poem of his I thought good she was less sure was. Phase two, starting with the declaration of love on a Xmas card, ending with his being taken out by the police in shackles, handcuffs, would make the better story. I could see they, electrified, agreed with that. I went into his missing me because I’d gone up town in a blizzard to a book-selling by Quentin. “You were there,” I told Mei-Ling. There was a debate whether Mark also was. Afterwards I was back home for five minutes before going on to dinner at a friend’s so wouldn’t be in for John. Instead he sent the Xmas card, mentioning he’d got into a little bit of trouble with the police, thus didn’t have to explain himself when he did visit. He didn’t want his name mentioned and would sue if I published what I’d call ‘The Convict’. “It’s already written, in my diary.” Though a publisher, Quentin didn’t know what the legal position was on that. “I was shaking after he left, with anger. He threatened me! His name wasn’t in it. When police from Scotland Yard asked if I knew him, I shook my head. I knew him as ‘Reilly’ or ‘O’Reilly’. When they showed me a photograph, it was John. I thought they were calling him ‘Mersh.’ It all becomes fiction in the end.” Mei-Ling thought a surname given pretty defining. “Makes for verisimilitude.” Quentin nodded. I went on to say we can’t say black any more but if we say ‘Fred’ and later he turns out to be ...Japanese, that’s a little shock for the reader who’d be assuming something else. Quentin nodded, saying something. “Is there really a ‘Fred’ in Japanese!” No. He gave a near enough equivalent. There was something on assumptions made from appearances because Mei-Ling, half Scotch, thought from my cultured Scots accent I’m unaware of I was Scottish when ‘I’m British, born in Shoreham.” What was his crime, Mei-Ling wanted to know. “Conspiracy to murder.” I explained the circumstances. “I don’t know if it’s true. I got it from John,” in dribs and disconnected drabs, though he wasn’t keen to give the last bit I wanted to know. “He phoned the police afterwards in case the man was still alive.” But that wasn’t the main point I was distracting myself from and wanted to tell while I remembered it. John had my story in ‘Dadaoism, An Anthology’ read at the Wandsworth prison reading group and it was appreciated by Sadiq Khan. “What was he doing there?” Mei-Ling asked. “He was a murderer or rapist. No,” he was visiting, showing he cared. “I was disappointed but John assured me the murderers and rapists, with a yen for writing, did also appreciate my story. They got the telepathy he said. The book’s mine now,” I said to Quentin who wasn’t bothered about that and, missing the ostensible point, picked up on the mayor of London’s having appreciated his book and how that might be used. “I could write to him,” I offered. Mei-Ling said I must care for John I talked about him a lot. “I like his company. He was the most beautiful boy in Liverpool. Quentin thought he was good-looking.” Quentin nodded. “I didn’t notice. He was the best shoplifter in London, he was told in a pub to his embarrassment and pride.” She asked if he was a kleptomaniac. I assured her he wasn’t. I sounded off about something else as well, I can’t remember what. I’ve composed a letter to Sadiq Khan.

I completely forgot this, until a reference by John, who didn’t want one, to bananas on my bookcase reminded me: Honey had thought to bring Quentin a present of bananas. “Quentin,” a vegetarian, “doesn’t eat fruit.” I’d once forgetfully offered him a banana and he revulsed. He attributed the especial loathing to something in childhood he might reveal another time but not this. Quentin doesn’t offer but, when asked, does usually tell. Probably force-fed. I had a vision of a Quentin in left profile with a banana protruding from his arse shortly followed by one of a small, grey-haired man. But would a father do that to his child? The word, ‘banana’ recurred during the evening. John said it was a wonder Quentin wasn’t gay. “We don’t know that’s what happened.” John went on to his being buggered by a parsnip. “Wasn’t that sore?” He couldn’t remember. “It was a little parsnip.” “I haven’t heard that from you before.”

Oh, yes! Brexit. How did I get on to that? The French and Germans didn’t let the Romanians and Bulgarians move freely for seven years. We could’ve been accommodated. The Lisbon treaty actually waives freedom of movement in certain circumstances. It’s not an absolute. We could’ve invoked that. We have more of their citizens than they ours. We have to have concessions elsewhere. Same with security. We supply 40% of the information with 8% of the total population. “And the Danes aren’t getting to fish in our waters, on the Dogger Bank, on historic rights, even if we don’t ourselves. If we’re going to cut off our nose, we should take a slice of theirs.” They laughed. “I should’ve been prime minister except politics is boring.” Mark agreed. “You have to be agreeable to everybody. I wouldn’t get far.” Dominika later said the British part of her thought Brexit might be better; we’d be poorer but more... “Equal?” I suggested. I didn’t understand the animosity against the Poles, I apologised.

Mei-Ling opened the box of wine for me. I got hungry and had Quentin cut the cake to ‘happy birthday to you’, him, and I distributed it. Honey could eat it. There was a slice left I think Nigel had when he came. Sitting by Quentin, I texted John I was at Quentin’s party. He hadn’t come over as said on Good Friday and hadn’t replied to two texts then and that was a fortnight ago. Dominika wanted to bake. Dan had a gluten-free pizza for me and Honey I suggested be baked first. Dan cut it into slices and in taking a slice from the plate I took exactly half the pizza, the slices connecting at the crust, leaving Honey the other half on the plate. Dominika baked three lots of pizzas and is coming to my party to do a gluten-free one. “She’s giving me a back rub with her bre-sts,” I said. “I dreamt we were lovers.” She surmised I might not be as completely homosexual as, presumably, she thought. The assumption surprised me, “The unconscious doesn’t care about things like that.” It didn’t occur to me, for me to say, I’ve two children older than Quentin.

Quentin had a video he showed in the other room of him as a Neanderthal at a pool. “Vaughan Williams,” I said, Sinfonia antarctica. Quentin nodded. He was being threatened by a spear-wielding Amazon he offered a dead animal to – I knew how this was going to end – when on the ridge appeared a white alien in a cap slowly flapping his wings and Quentin abandoned the woman and scurried up the ridge to the alien but without the offering. He said the video was from some years ago. He hadn’t cut his long hair for it. I said to Domenica Quentin was braver than I was. “He’s not brave. He enjoys it.” She offered to make me up too. “I don’t like the feel on my face. Three girls made me up at university to see if I’d pass as a girl. I was pretty. I couldn’t wait to wash the make-up off. A lover wanted me to put make-up on and I did but femininely. He was disappointed. He’d wanted it dramatic.” Dominika told me Joe and Quentin aren’t related as I believed but Joe’s the son of an ex-lover of Quentin’s father. Dominika asked me to go out with her while she smoked a rollup. The poems weren’t haiku but she couldn‘t remember what they were called. I asked Quentin, “What were the poems of yours Dominika had on her wall?” “Tanka.” We considered whether drinking too much was related to childhood abuse. “John drinks a bottle of spirits and then whatever I have. I remark but don’t censure. He said it’s because he’s not having sex. That doesn’t affect me one way or the other.” I was chittering with alcohol and cold. Inside I looked on, smiling at losing Mei-Ling in animated catch-up to Nigel.

There were photos, taken by Dan. “I should’ve pulled that in.” “No,” Yasmeen indulged. The first phase ended with Yasmeen’s leaving and Nigel’s coming.
Nigel’s married with two children and has to do with televised sport. It brings in the money when finding alternative work nowadays is chancier. I said my skills would be wasted on a good man, with no badness to mitigate. We’d met before at the Cheshire Cheese I inevitably called Cat years ago at a Quentin party. “You are my party people.” Mei-Ling was pleased by that. She, Nigel and Quentin knew each other from Durham. “Who’s going to fill the hiatus? The party’s flat.” There was no unconscious drive or direction.

Beehive with bright blue hair, Naiem, who went out again for sparkling wine, and Joe came. “I wanted to see your and Oscar’s shorts but there were no trains to Waterloo. It would’ve taken hours.” I asked if he’d seen the video we’d seen. Joe nodded, smiling. “You made it.” Joe asked would I be blogging. “No, I’ve lost interest.” He thought that a shame. “It started with you,” I addressed Quentin, “when I thought you important.” Before she left I asked Mei-Ling to my party, looking for a piece of paper while she rapidly entered the information on her phone. Mark remarked this but said nothing.
I said Beehive should win the prize for putting most effort into her costume, painting black stripes on a white jacket and enlarging its lapels “and you for least effort.” “The booby prize,” Nigel said. “Oh no!” I left at ten to ten after a dance with Dominika, thinking it was later. I embraced everybody goodbye except Nigel who held out his hand. I asked a woman which way to the tube. John texted he’d had flu. On the way I replied I hadn’t thought there was anything really wrong. I caught the Windsor train and was back in judicious time for a repeat of Versailles I was about to watch when John texted that I’d known because he told me, telepathically. ‘Like fuck.’ On the day I’d bought his birthday card, I thought I might as well post it; he wasn’t coming. There were no words and, if he could unconsciously transmit from afar, they wouldn’t be the conscious words he was assuming. The communication bypasses consciousness. I’d felt there was nothing really wrong.

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.

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