By Mike Llewin
They say the river runs deep, an impenetrable and unstoppable flow of dark mysterious water. The mosquito, which was taking a quiet nap on a tree, is now frozen in amber, and that large, always admired stone at the bottom of that pond is and always will be immovable. Well, never would I have thought that such useless tidbits of information would have proven so worthy of my attention.
Where am I? Well, it's about 9:00pm and I'm thoughtfully strolling down Eastern Street casting an occasional casual glance to either side to find those brothels someone once told me about. Not that I'd ever go in one, but I'm always curiousÉ
What am I doing here? Long story, long story, I suppose I should start at the beginning, or perhapsÉ no, the end. It's difficult to know where the beginning is and where the end is. Well, I'll keep you in suspense. Warning, this may ramble.
You could say the only reason I went into town this busy Saturday night was to see this one Person. It was 7:00 and as I contentedly chewed on my rare steak, sitting opposite my eating-machine mother and my try-to-make-mundane-conversation father, I secretly pondered on the words I had heard just a few hours ago. I was the only one who had remembered the Birthday, the Sunday, and I knew celebration would ensue, celebration which could only happen in one place, the Turf, the eternal shrine of youth and beauty at which They always over-indulge in cigarettes and alcohol. Not Oasis, that is, not Their band really. Well I arrived in good time, and as I waltzed to my humming down the little side alley, narrowly missing a wide couple coming in the other direction, I plotted how I would wangle a situation where I could stay with Them and not have to be going off with my usual gang of friends, a mistake I had made many a time before. As I neared the corner a vague apple-shaped but skunk-tasting lump appeared in my throat, as the knowledge that a whole new world awaited me around the corner came, and passed.
They Weren't There. Asking around I ascertained where they might be, some party or other, not a Birthday Party but a party nonetheless. So I was wrong, and I decided that rather than spending the usual boring four hours choking under the smoke, barely able to hear the conversation of my same-age same-sex same-brand-of-beer peers that wouldn't interest me anyway... I'd go for a walk. And a long one at that. And of course I knew exactly where I was going. The House.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't normally wallow in self-pity or self-analysis, but this walk is turning out to be one of those walks that becomes a deeply engrossing intellectual and emotional challenge. Another pub's on the horizon, They could be in there, so I check, and they're not.
I should explain at this point that I'm not your average run-of-the-mill let's-pull-a-girl type, because a) I'm gay and b) I hate the randomness of the pull. Sorry if I've shocked or offended you, I guess if I have that's your problem, not mine.
It all started back when I was eleven, young and naïve. I found myself falling for a teenager on television, perhaps the most unattainable and straight person you could ever imagine, but it's a hard life. After that I fell for a younger Paul, then a same-age David, then a younger Alex, then a Matt, then a Brian, then a TomÉ as you can see none of these names are girls names! Now it's happening to me again, I can feel the same vague, indescribable and unstoppable magnetic field building up between me and Tom, the one that he can't feel. Of course he must know since I was the only one who remembered it was his birthday. You could say I was the only one to whom it really mattered.
Bill had pointed out Tom's house to me several years ago, before the flame had ignited. I remember marching down West Hollywood Road with Bill when a series of loud shouts from my right invaded our conversation, and there was Tom, with Burke and some girls, bouncing up and down behind a rather scared piece of glass to the tune of 'Hey Matt!', a very famous song, or so I'm told. Not that I thought much of it then, but as I turn into West Hollywood Road once more, the memory, dusty and black and white with the passage of time, which treats the most significant details with the worst of respect, this memory flickers in front of my eyes.
Scary thoughts are in my head now. I could hide opposite his house like a peeping Tom and await his return from the party, just to see his parents or his face or the inside of his house. The temptation has gone, in fact it has gone as quickly as it came, just like that rather nice Citroen that groans past me, glaring headlights into my dark-adjusted eyes.
As I approach the house now, time seems to slow down. The pace of my footsteps to which I am so accustomed through the two miles of walking I've already accomplished, now slows down so that my mind begins to pick it up once more. The street lamps illuminate the trees from the wrong side, nature didn't plan to absorb light on the lower leaf surface, and telepathically the tree tinkles like wind chimes with the gentle, warm breeze. My head is now turned completely to the left, fixated on the house that is coming up next.
My gaze is strangely split into a thousand tiny feelers examining the texture and colour of the walls inside the house, my mind dwells on the roominess of the hallway, the spaciousness of the front room, and part of me wonders what it would be like to be in love with someone, inside that house. I say with because all too often I am in love to. In fact I have never been in love with. Not something that is likely to happen soon, either, although pure statistics shows that at least one of the boys I have fancied in my lifetime could feel the same wayÉ
The deed is done, and I feel strangely acute and acutely strange. The moon, who has always been there when I needed him most all through my life, is there now, but I can't quite make out whether he is smiling, grimacing, or vomiting into the Milky Way. Of course there is nothing wrong with checking out a potential lover's house, rather like an aspiring but poor Victorian lad might investigate the value of a potential bride's estate, or plan whether the stables are comfortable enough to sleep in, discover whether the gate quiet enough to sneak out through. Yet here am I, a growing 16-year old lad, checking out the suitability of the bedroom of another, probably straight, boy?
At a distance of 40 metres I begin to feel hungry in the heart, a hunger to which I am very well acquainted, like a yearning for chocolate that only gets worse when fulfilled. My wandering body inspires my wandering mind into the realms of the imagination once more, and I experiment with how I would feel if I was walking away from Tom's house after spending three hours in his room, not making love to him (before you get the impression I'm a sex-maniac), but just being near his mind, being near him, being him. Some part of me knows that a 15-year old would not satisfy my insatiable desire for deep, intelligent, free-form expressiveness, but the dominant part, the famous adolescent sex drive, knows that the 15-year old's cute body would satisfy. Oops, what have I just said? That's illegal, that is.
Ah well, as I wonder along I begin to ask myself whether this unstoppable, uncontrollable love of boys could be changeable. So I think of the most attractive girl I know and I try to imagine what it would be like to be in love with her. I can't work out whether I've eaten something bad or it's the thought of her that makes me feel so sick. No matter how hard I try to remove the stone at the bottom of that pond, the big heavy cold stone that weighs me down all the time, it will not budge. Of course I've tried to budge it before. It is and always has been immovable.
I'm almost at home now. Before I enter the house and punctuate this little snippet of my life I ought to explain the reference to the mosquito trapped in amber. My mum, who now knows I am gay (an anecdote for another time methinks), regards herself as a bit of a scientific researcher, and she has been trying to find out whether there's a genetic hand in this sexuality of mine. Just as the mosquito has its dinosaur DNA lunch sucked out of his poor little insides so am I having my DNA sucked out of me for analysis. Not that it'll make any difference.
The river runs deep. My sexuality will probably never change, however dark, however unstoppable, however mysterious. That's something we've all got to get used to.
As I carefully and silently insert the door key through the small metal cover which hides the intern of the lock, an image of a fantasy I once had re-emerges in my mindÉ funnily enough, and terribly ironically, an hour passes before I realise that in my dreaminess I've left the key in the lock!
n.b. a true story but names and places changed for obvious reasons.