A Line Drawn Under

“John!” the buzzer went. “Who is it?” “John!” It was obviously somebody who knew me; I let him in. “Do you remember my name?” “‘Yvann’.” He said he’d come to see me twice before. “I must’ve been out. Did you think I wouldn’t let you in if I knew your name? You owe me £32.20.”

He wanted to know who was still there from when he lived in the flat below. Was Roger? “I hate Roger.” Roger’d gone, exchanging with Sheila, who’d also gone, into a home. But the other two complainants, Tina, over the stairwell from me, and Bob, above, were still there. Leslie’d gone to Chelsea from next door in another exchange but who he’d exchanged with hadn’t stayed long, throwing a pot of paint all over the bin area on his first day. Yvann asked about the other young man of his time who lived on the top floor, above Tina. Connor? He’s gone. “I didn’t know him very well but convict John used to smoke with him in the stairwell. He was evicted. He took it to court but, presumably, lost. Diana’s still here, though sectioned.” He liked Diana and used to bring her home. “The police were always being called in except on me and John and I was the worst, harbouring a fugitive.” “I thought that. Has there been much police action since?” “Nothing. A policeman asked after Roger. I told him if he knew the address of who he’d exchanged with, he’d find him. He could get that from the landlord.” “Did you see me being taken away, from your window?” “I saw it from the balcony. You weren’t resisting I was glad to see and were soon released.”

He plied me with drink, Jim Beam and coke, and spliffs. He said it was his birthday that day; he was twenty-seven. He shortly admitted it wasn’t; he was twenty-six. “What do you want?” He didn’t say. “You can’t stay for long,” if it was a place to stay he’d come for. He agreed. “Are you still living with your mother?” Where else would he be? He’d been housed separately six times. He admitted to being an alcoholic, to Asperger’s (asking if I were autistic) and to ADD, thus the lack of any qualifications and the drug-dealing, like John, if indeed that last were true. “You’re too problematical for me. I have difficulty sleeping with somebody else in the bed till I get used to it,” as I had, with the absconding convict. He’d been in prison for four years, for armed robbery, he claimed. “That’s not ten, for murder. You haven’t murdered anybody.” “You don’t know,” he said. “Four’s not ten.” “You have a freedom pass?” “You can’t use my pass!” He said he could; “You don’t need it.” “I need it!” He didn’t; like John he jumped barriers. I was putting change out of temptation’s way. I didn’t want opportunistic theft to be cause of having to be shot of him.

He was going to phone somebody. “You’re not using up my credit. Use your own phone.” “I don’t have a phone.” “Then get one!” I struggled to retrieve my phone. His arm was longer, stronger, and I couldn’t reach to the end of it but he gave in. He pulled down his bottoms. His cock was like a brown worm or little snake. “Suck it, you slag.” “No. Be seductive. You’re the only man to come out of my bathroom with his cock out,” I recalled, when he’d lived downstairs, “You want sex. I won’t love you. It’ll just be sex.” I had no idea what I was about. He also pulled down his bottoms to show a nice, hairy brown arse. Since he didn’t seem likely to be leaving that night, after not much show of resistance, I took his cock in my hand out of curiosity, enlarging it. He’d had himself checked out after the hackit-faced one, who he agreed had been just using him to have a place to stay and was now depriving him of his child. “Are you sure it’s yours?” He was. He affected to wank off on the bed. I put a towel down, “Go ahead; that’s what I do. Do you like my body?” “’Salright.” “John liked my body.” He was readily accommodating when I joined him in bed. He must’ve gone off to the bathroom to come back with a condom on. “I’ll need lubrication.” I sat on him. I tried moving the folding table I use as headboard along to reduce the thumping. When he slipped out, I tried another way. When it slipped out again, there was a whiff of shit. “Brown hatter!” The condom was coming off. I wanked him as I lay on top till feeling his come I transferred it to my other hand, using it as lubricant like I used to with John. Yvann said it was painful, twice, and I desisted, not thinking me likely to come anyway.

I said I hadn’t had an orgasm but the feeling was good. He lay naked on the swivel chair, his pubes a darker patch in the gloaming. “You can’t sleep on the chair.” He could. I was witty and he laughed till, conversation over, I put in earplugs and went to sleep. When I woke up he was back in his bottoms on the floor. “You’ll get cold. Get into bed.” He did. I lay with my arm across his shoulder but with both of us under the duvet I was getting too hot and we separated, he facing the wall. I did feel roused twice but didn’t want to pull his bottoms down or close the distance. He was very still and noiseless, not sleeping I thought. My head was pounding. Whenever I fell asleep I woke up immediately out of dreams. I moved the untouched phone from under the chair nearer me to the stool by the bed.

I told him I’d been roused but restrained myself. He said he had slept but complained about the hammering from upstairs and my next door neighbour’s I hadn’t heard. He didn’t want porridge. He doesn’t eat his crusts. He drinks glasses of water with his wine. “The relationship with John is finished anyway but that sex with you draws a line under it. You’re my boyfriend now. Have you been homosexual before?” “Once.” “Was that when you were abused as a child?” That had been purely physical, “What’s that word you used? Not ‘necrophilia’.” “Gerontophile.” “You could be my father.” “More like grandfather. I’d be your mother’s father. She’s passive-aggressive. She dresses to provoke and pose as a victim. She wanted me to spy on you and phone her. I refused. It was immoral.” “She’s passive-aggressive,” he repeated. He hates that his semi-Somalian mother turned Muslim; and so far as he’s concerned he’s English and white. “You’re going bald,” he observed. At my age, seventy-six, I couldn’t care less. He likes bacon, his favourite dish bubble and squeak. “Why didn’t we do that then?” John and the hackit-faced one had supervened. She hadn’t liked the chocolate penis we’d given him as a Xmas present. “It wasn’t malicious. John had got it for me but it was glutenous and I can’t eat gluten.” “I didn’t like it either.” “ ‘Brown hatter’’s clever. John’s too clean. He should’ve left something to hit against. I got him off heroin, crack and shoplifting but when he couldn’t get a job I thought the police might as well catch him.” “He could’ve got a job.” “At least I got the sex out of it. He didn’t like the idea I was paying for the sex. The sex was for free.” I kept coming back from the kitchen to kiss his bristly head. He asked if I’d a shaver. “It’s short enough. You’re good. You are desirable. Look.” We were talking a lot about John I scarcely ever gave a thought to.

Yvann wanted me to go down on his immediate need of it to get a twist of tobacco from Gary, below Tina. “Get it yourself.” “I don’t know him.” “He’s an obliging boy. I’ll do it later. I want to rest. Shall we have a shower together?” He’d washed. “You’ve not to do anything while we’re out.” He promised. He asked could he shave. “Watch you don’t cut yourself.” He cut himself. “Use the corner of tissue.” “I have.” “Show me.” It wasn’t discernible. I reckoned I was just about up to going to Clapham Junction to buy the last bottles of Xmas wine recommended by The Observer from Asda and Lidl, and get that over with. He wanted a bottle of beer to keep him going. “I don’t have enough change. Can’t it wait?” It could. I bought him a travel pass for the day. We debated whether to wait for the semi-fast but decided to take the first train that came and we read the time fast away. After Asda, Lidl, where a manager couldn’t find the smoked Wild Alaskan Salmon in the system at all, where a customer told us the scanner for the line was broken, where it’s difficult to see which line is the shortest to move to and where the service was so slow at the next line along, because some cheap customer had bought a dear St Julien by indignant mistake and refused to have the cheap bottle as well, so slow Yvann said it’d be better running off with the bottles. The woman behind said it wasn’t worth their price. Yvann agreed. I wasn’t paying over the odds for a heavy duty bag whereupon Yvann produced one from goodness knows where.

As we came out of Waitrose, Richmond, “Don’t look. You looked. It’s Ian. He’ll tell Bob he’s seen you.” Ian had succeeded Roger as Bob’s sidekick. “You have the travel card; you can go when you want.” He could anyway. He wanted weed from Hounslow, “We could’ve got it in Clapham.” “Forget it. We’re not in Clapham. How much?” “£20.” I gave him £20. He wanted whisky for us to drink with the hash, and two packets of tobacco. He didn’t want me with him. “I can go to Tesco, buy the whisky and tobacco and have a catnap.” He wanted me with him. He wanted to wear my new coat. How much did it cost? I didn’t know, about £60, reduced from 90. “I’m wearing it!” He tried on several others. “They’re all too small. You have a long back,” and he was four inches taller. It was too warm for him to wear his coat.

As we walked towards the bus station, “That man’s mimicking your walk,” I said, by exaggerating his own lurch as he was walking to, smiling to beyond us. Yvann crossed to the other side of Paradise Road, where was no pavement, regardless of cars coming from behind, I still hoping to veer off. He wanted me with him, “You’ll be all right.” Since no H37 was being indicated, I suggested the train but as we were leaving, Yvann said he’d seen a bus was coming in three minutes. On the bus, he sat down by somebody else, so I went to the back where he eventually joined me before, the girl he’d sat beside getting off, he moved back, where I joined him. He got up, so I pressed the bell, but it wasn’t our stop and he enjoined the disregarding driver not to stop but go on. “Why did you get up?” He’d wanted to stand he said.

Off, he went into a restaurant for a shit. He pulled a YOLO beanie from the railings and put it on. He swore and spat a lot, looking at me in case I should object. I was conserving energy. He crossed the High Street in front of traffic coming toward. I hadn’t the judgment for that and waited for the lights to change. Going one way he reversed and went another, gesturing I should stay put, maybe. I didn’t. He went into Hackshack. Was he going to spend some of the £20 on a haircut? I could see his reflection in a mirror but he wasn’t looking back. Everybody was various shades of black. A capped man came out to smoke and walked a little way up. Yvann came out, looking at me, gesturing as I thought because he didn’t know where the man was though quickly finding him. A transaction took place. Yvann said he’d told me he didn’t want me seeing the drug-buying and had shown where I should wait. That would’ve made my going with him completely pointless, from my point of view. He furtively made up a spliff and had a doup from another boy in the bus queue to light it. All I got was ash in my eye. On my saying, he immediately rubbed my eye.

On the bus I sat watching two boys, one capped and spotty, the other not bad though the eyes were a bit dim. He was long-backed to short legs, and continuously manipulating a packet between thumb and forefinger till a rectangle of chewing gum or something such popped into view, making sense of the operation, and offering it to his mate. Almost any man was better than Yvann, I reflected. The mate nodded he should press the button, though he could have himself, and the boy did.

In Tesco I didn’t have the energy to buy food. “I’ll just buy the whisky and tobacco.” He thought there’d be a better whisky in Waitrose, “I’m a connoisewer.” Tesco’s own was good enough for an alkie. I bought one packet of tobacco, “Autumn Leaf.” “Amber Leaf,” he corrected. As I paid by card he took the bag. In Lower George Street, he said he’d seen the ex, the hackit-faced one, and we should go back to talk to her. I wasn’t going back – I didn’t know the woman and didn’t want to – and considered it inadvisable he should. He agreed. Farther on, he paused. I said, “You want to, don’t you? Go on then. Give me the whisky.” He wouldn’t give up the whisky. He needed it to hit her over the head with. “That’d be a waste of whisky.” “You don’t understand,” he said, “You don’t have children.” “I do, and I don’t care.” We were still arguing over the whisky through Waitrose. “I’m going to have a smoke. I’ll wait for you outside.” He didn’t. I went to Lower George Street. He was standing there on his own looking towards the street at nothing in particular. “Go after her if you want. I’ll take the whisky home.” He wouldn’t. “It’s my whisky; I paid for it.” He ran off, glowering back at me, like the cat I’ve thrown a treat to thinks I’ll snatch it back. I stomped off home, put the buzzer on silent red and bagged his coat I found under the table to throw down from the window and put away the discarded jackets. It might be clearer what I was up to if I wrote it down but I’d never be able to get the chronological sequence right.

Next day from John in prison came a Xmas card and letter in which he blamed everybody but himself. I sent a Xmas card back in which I wrote prison was his choice, he’d let me off the hook and I wasn’t about to put myself back on it, I’d drawn a line under the relationship and, PS, Yvann had stayed overnight.

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About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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