Adrian arranged to meet up town, after the party which had been brought forward to start at six thirty. I was early and hung about Jerusalem Bar and Kitchen before making yet another sortie in, at which point I met Sharan at the top of the stairs down. He pointed out as Qingyang who I thought it’d be and I handed over my wrapped crystal glass and thirtieth birthday card along with the bag. Nick arrived shortly. Sharan said Quentin and Dan were coming. Did I know Dan? They’d met in Tokyo. I was thinking I couldn’t know Dan until I remembered I did; he was the publisher of my poems. Do you think I could remember his surname! Sharan and Nick were no help; they didn’t know it. ‘Dan!’ I’d say, throwing my arms about his neck, mwah, mwah, ‘Lovely to see you,’ as it would be. “He’ll never know I’ve forgotten his surname.”
People kept asking how I knew Sharan and Nick. From Chômu, a Japanese word I forgot the meaning of. “The idea behind it is fashion as a means to happiness. I was made a member of London Chômu, would you believe?” I was wearing a red Chinese style tunic I’d thought appropriate to the occasion, which was obviously not a Chômu party. “I’m the only old person among all the young people.” “Quentin’s old,” Sharan said. “Quentin’s really old,” I had to agree. “Nick had a problem.” Apprehension was rising in Nick at what I might say next and, taking direction from that, I went on, “I thought he was joking but when I realised he was serious I dealt with it.” Nick was okay with that, the audience was satisfied by it and it was true.
Nick was given instructions what to order at the bar. I remarked Sharan’s bossiness of him, “You’re his gofer.” That was this night. Usually it was: what’ll we do? Nick explained. His hair was cropped. He thanked me for noticing. Why wouldn’t I? “Do you want to marry?” He did but not yet awhile. I said I’d tried the Soundcloud he put on Facebook, that he didn’t remember he had, but it was noisy and took fifty-three minutes. He was enthusiastic about his own dj mixing. I liked the slurring effect; and had wifi now, meaning I could listen to his mixes whenever. He’d had seven interviews for the same job. That sounded unusual, but what did I know? probably misunderstanding what he was saying. “That’s optimistic,” I said, “at least they’re giving careful consideration.”
At the bar Sharan gave Nick his card and a wad for himself. Sharan pointed out Charlotte, also from Richmond, who waved back. Nick bought me a red wine, on the card. He later bought me another drink of what he was drinking as I asked, “but not beer!” though I said I should be buying since he was a student. I’m conflating; we went to the bar twice, when I felt Sharan’s beefy flanks, and it’s impossible for me to keep to an exact chronological thread. Nick kept needing to be approved of, I told him; he should simply assume I did, because I did. “You’re giving me permission,” he said, a bit ironically. Nick’s unlikely to do anything bad. It’s difficult to explain my total acceptance, normally an attribute of love. From his not wanting me to blog this occasion of our meeting I’d realised I’d upset him by writing out the earlier ones and so harked back to the frisson of the first where, from its sublimation in the writing out, there had been an unfelt erotic spur, but “it’s aesthetic, artistic,” to the use I’d made of him for blogs and poems, haikus Nick called them, because I’d forgotten their name and, though I agreed, doubted that was what they were. The right name didn’t come to me. “Quentin first said they were good. Then that they were wrong and that he’d tell me how, but he never did.” Nick was telling me what he hadn’t liked in the prior blogs but I didn’t pick that up because inattentive if I wasn’t going to be blogging this one; and since I assumed it was to do with “your young man’s fear of homosexuality,” that he’d expressed on the second meeting and I couldn’t have omitted that, central as it was, if I was writing at all of the occasion. “Who reads other people’s blogs? I’m not secretive. If you tell me what not to say, I won’t.” “It’s ancient history,” he said. “Who reads blogs?” Nick thought this was our fourth meeting but agreed it was our third.
He was going to the gym. I didn’t notice any difference but then I hadn’t noticed his physique, I said. His nose was broken, he said. I already knew that. “I like your nose.” I told him I now had periarticular osteopenia, tenosynovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. He was duly sympathetic. “The doctor wants to know what’s remediable.” I speculated oriental girls would like his big prick. They did wonder at it, he said. He admitted to liking being taken for younger than twenty-four, for eighteen. I don’t have the words to depict how his face looked, small, soft, unlined, rounding on its long neck to me, as I assayed it for eighteen. I didn’t think eighteen, though the short hair did make him look younger. I liked his lashes. “I’m the only white-haired person here.” “You look twenty years younger,” he said and I doubted. Charlotte would be nearer the mark with her honest sixty-five. “Quentin said I was hip and cynical. I don’t know if I’ve still got the power but if I do you’ll get what you want. My friend Belle got what she wanted and it entailed twenty-two years of hell.” Nick thought I lived outside London. Somebody said a royal borough but that’s Kingston, not Richmond; “it’s a London borough.” I wanted Nick to get off with Charlotte who had large dark lustrous eyes because if he did I’d see him more often, I said. She’s been Sharan’s personal assistant. “How personal was the assistance?” Very but she didn’t know what he did now. I did ask and he did answer but what he does hasn’t stuck.
I’d told Sharan I’d brought a bottle. He said to keep it for later. Because of the red wine I’d missed out on the champagne but had Nick open my bottle of red bubbly and we and the Eastern European girl he was talking to had some of that as did others, surprised at the redness – to accessorise the Mao-Tse Tung tunic – when I put it into the mix as I told Sharan I had. I liked that Nick was drinking my wine. The girl objected to my refilling Nick’s glass before her but he came before her so far as I was concerned though I made sure they both got a full glass in steps from one glass to the other. Nick went off to the toilets I could direct him to, having found them on one of my waiting sorties. The symbol for man on the toilet door was easily missed. She said Nick hadn’t talked to her. I’d stood by to let them get on with it and objected they had been talking but not, according to her, really, in other words not to the sexual point. “Small talk,” I concluded and offered he liked oriental girls. She excused herself to talk elsewhere but came back to say goodbye, before pointedly ignoring a Nick who was trying for her recognition to say his as she was leaving. He said it didn’t matter but it did to the extent he’d wanted to, I said. She’d a sore on her lip, a cold sore I suggested I hadn’t myself noticed, that’d put him off. He’d then had his decision confirmed by an agreeable other that he shouldn’t take the risk. I told him I’d saved her face by saying he preferred Orientals.
Nick took a selfie of us. I’ve never liked photos of myself but my face was like an old moon of very low albedo beside a bright young sun. I don’t feel old inside and talk as I feel. When Nick was off again, I conversed with TJ, who I directed to the toilets, and Mike who bobbed in and out as he talked and smiled self-deprecatingly a lot, gauging whether he could touch or not, like a pecking bird. I liked him but he wasn’t attractive as Nick was. He wore glasses, was dark-haired and with fashionable bristle. He forgot names. “That’s because the faces are on this side of your head and the names on the other, this.” We’re supposed to remember two thousand acquaintances. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” he confessed jealousy of TJ when she flirted. I said women can flirt because they’re not going to fuck. I told him my own sexual expression had become limited; I could no longer rise to any occasion. “You assume you can but everything goes.” When T came back I went into it with her. She flirts to get what she wants, trivial things, which I told Mike he must do too as I did, with the plumber, to be agreeable. He went off; and Tj, at twenty-eight, I said might be broody. That, she said, was an understatement. They’ve both been checked and should conceive but if not, I told Nick later, women being pragmatic, she’d divorce and find a man who can give her what she wants. She told me she didn’t smoke but did weed. Her Jamaican father didn’t approve the former but practised the latter. “That’s why Mike forgets,” I said.
Nick and I went outside, stamped by the bouncer, having to leave drinks the bar side of the border. In again, I noticed how long the polite leave-taking of the Japanese could be as a man took leave of Qingyang while his occidental girlfriend had to wait almost entirely excluded.
Nick was going off to eat ramen and invited me. I asked leave to pick up my bag and couldn’t see him and Ryoko outside at first, but they waited along with another girl and two men, both probably of a Japanese mix if differently because they looked quite distinct from each other. I didn’t mind not eating since everything at Bone Daddies, because of the soya sauce, had a touch of gluten in it but was provided with crab without the soya that I ate with my fingers – quite delicious. I loved watching them eat with chopsticks. It looks such an awkward activity, for which Nick and Ryoko wore plastic bibs, essentially shoving something into your mouth from a ladle and cutting the noodles off with the sticks, which Ryoko did with such delicacy it aestheticised the slurp. Adam joined us. He’s Malaysian, here because they’re becoming more rigidly Muslim there. He explained Adam meant from the earth. “Adam means man in Turkish;” I said, though brought up by Christians, I was pagan, which didn’t mean witches or the Wiccan sect he was thinking of but only me and my man. He asked was I homosexual. “If I could, I would,” going into my limited sexual expression probably with more specifics than I wanted but have forgotten what. I said my story was published as fantasy but every word was true. Sharan joined us and we paid up. I didn’t have enough money for the £8.50 crab so asked if I could pay for it separately by card and Nick did the same for his ramen he didn’t finish because he was full.
We went on to a club. I thought of looking for a night bus home at this point but was dissuaded and, “There’d be another bus along later,” dissuaded myself from going. We weren’t let in the first club but were into another with a balcony overlooking Leicester Square. I asked to pay for the drinks with my card but Sharan said “No.” “Sharan said no,” I told Nick who’d heard. I said Quentin thought Sharan and the others successful while he wasn’t. Sharan envied Quentin his Japanese but not Nick’s. Nick was a little downcast at that. Something more was bothering him. Sharan speaks staccato. He said Quentin was a publisher but Chômu wasn’t commercially successful. “It’s a cult publisher,” I told Adam who seemed impressed I was a writer. “It’s something to do,” I said. Ryoko was going to buy the book my story’s in. Sharan phoned Quentin, taking the number from my phone and on my okaying he should – it was coming up two – but the call went to voicemail which Adam explained meant the phone was switched off.
I was diverted from Adam by Sharan’s telling Nick he should’ve married some oriental bint or at least given up his bed for her. “I wouldn’t give up my bed,” I said, turning again to Adam to say I had once but took it back when it was needed. “She slept on the couch.” Nick pleaded he’d spent £20 on a guest bed for her. I was astonished. I’d’ve punished her manipulation with the floor. “Did she want you?” I asked him. “Yes,” but he didn’t want her and was right to resist. “It’s difficult to say no when you’re wanted. You think there might be something in it, especially if it entails sex,” I told Adam, referring to the convict who’d lengthened his stay in prison by absconding again. Adam thought you should just say no as eventually I had, but, “Maybe I should keep him. He accepted the limitation of my sexual expression but he let me off the hook of the relationship I’m not putting myself back on.”
Standing at the bottom of the table, Nick lifted his t-shirt to his armpits, to show me his physique. It looked odd: a heavily indented waist and mound on his belly. It was over in a flash.
Sharan with his phone checked when the next N22 would be at Piccadilly. Nick was staying in a hostel at Bayswater, and not with Sharan as I’d been assuming, for some reason Nick didn’t vouchsafe or I didn’t pick up because inattentive and from having drunk a lot. That no London friend was putting him up prompted me to say he could stay with me. The six foot six bed was big enough for his six foot three, although, I smiled, he might think it unhealthy for young and old to sleep in the same bed. He could have a security blanket like the assailant who said he was heterosexual. Nick loves London but I was disappointed when he said he preferred Tokyo. Ryoko was catching the 14 from the same stop and Sharan was going to see Nick off. Ryoko hadn’t met any writers before! “Are you cold?” I was chittering, “It’s the alcohol.” Once she’d caught her bus, I noticed the N22, according to the stop information, ended at Putney Heath so went off to find a bus did go to Richmond. Failing, I went back in time to catch the bus, to Fulwell it said on the front. A big brown bald man got on and asked me if the bus went to Putney. I thought so and when he left he smiled thanks for my help. It wasn’t speedy but only took three quarters of an hour to get to Richmond. Both insomniac Mark’s and Simon’s lights were on. I was in bed by ten past three.