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Nuwe skryfwerk | New writing > Fiksie | Fiction > English > Published authors

One Night at the Roxy (part two)


Richard Jurgens - 2009-11-17

Click here to read “One Night at the Roxy (part one)”.

 

He was out all night. Hilton ate breakfast alone. Darkness was gathering windily outside when Jamie returned the following day. Hilton was sitting in his armchair in the corner, talking on the phone.
 
“Doing some work?” Jamie asked when Hilton put down the receiver.

The boy’s face was flushed and his gaze was unfocused. Probably he’d meant his remark to be good-natured, but Hilton wasn’t feeling tolerant. Seeing the boy’s distraction, he decided to satisfy a curiosity.

“Where do you go on these outings of yours?”
 
“Do you really want to know?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” The boy flung himself on the couch and lay with an arm over his eyes. “I go hunting.”

“Hunting. As in: hunting prey.”

“Yes.”

“What’s your prey, then?”

“Depends. Sex, someone to talk to. Whatever happens, you go with that.”

“And when you do?”

“You find adventure,” Jamie said. “You’d be surprised at how many stories there are out there.”

Hilton was surprised. Jamie’s remark had revealed an unsuspected awareness of the existence of other people. “I don’t believe you,” he said.

“Come along, then, and see,” Jamie said.

“When?”

“Tonight. Later.”

Hilton was going to offer him a cup of tea, but, like a soldier, the boy had quickly and efficiently fallen asleep.

*

Jamie woke up at last, and they set off for the Roxy. Jamie only had to strip off his shirt to get in. He was like a figure from one of those Cavafy poems, Hilton thought, a god out slumming. Hilton wasn’t the only one to appreciate this. Men and women in the queue in their latex and leather party outfits turned respectfully at the sight of Jamie’s hard torso.
 
Hilton had gone to the trouble of putting on a special outfit for the occasion. The outfit consisted of a black leather thong, straps that wound around his large person in various complicated ways, long black boots, a heavy red plastic cape with magical designs on it, and a leather First World War flying cap complete with goggles, which he was wearing against the lights.

The Roxy was a chaos of the new techno music. The place was strobed by hard blue light, and everywhere there were hard bodies on display. Hilton was intimidated by the confident physicality: the rock-like pectorals, moulded triceps and washboard abs, the navel piercings, nipple rings and tattoos, the iron jaws, tanned faces and smooth gym skin of these hardcore denizens of the night. He was conscious of their eyes trailing slowly over the expanses of his slow, flabby body.

Jamie ordered drinks. Hilton couldn’t hear what he was saying against the hypnotic din. Jamie drank fast and got excited, bopping to the music and surveying the crowd with a predatory eye. Hilton kept nodding. He was chucking back the booze too – glass after glass of some cloying melon vodka. Jamie asked him to dance, but he wouldn’t. Unfazed, Jamie wove his way into the crowd by himself. Soon he was dancing with a girl in a little black dress. Within another few minutes they were threading their way through the crowd, hand in hand toward the toilets.

When they emerged ten minutes later, Hilton was leaning on the bar as casually as he could. He studied the girl as they wove through the crowd. She wore a bobbed Anaïs Nin haircut and lines of kohl accentuating dark brown almond-shaped eyes. Jamie looked mildly pleased with himself, like a man who had played to par. The girl held his hand tightly, as if they been together for months. When they drew closer Hilton saw that she was high in some stratosphere.

Suddenly Hilton had had enough. He felt ridiculous in his outfit. He drew his cape about him and pushed his way through the crowd. Outside, the tourists, vagrants and pickpockets stared at him as if he was a refugee from a film set or a freak from another planet. He badly wanted to get home. He was already beneath the trees around the statue of Thorbecke when he heard Jamie’s voice. The boy followed, half-running as he buttoned up his shirt.

“Hey, wait!”

“What about what’s-her-name?” Hilton said. He heard himself whining like a jealous old queen. “You know, wham bam thank you ma’am.”

“Anke,” Jamie replied. “That’s her name.”

“So did you – ?”

“What?”

“Okay, did you pork her.”

“No. She was shy. But I liked her.”

“So you’re bi?”

Jamie was surprised. “What?”

“You swing both ways, play both sides of the net.”

Jamie said nothing.

“What, then?”

“Why is this important?”

“Because it is. I like to know who’s sleeping in my house.”

“Well, I’m not gay, if that’s what you mean. I don’t really like sex with men.”

Hilton couldn’t breathe, he was so astounded. Exile had freed him from many things – conscription, the burden of keeping servants, a bleak culture, and so on. It had also got him out of his closet. He wasn’t gay in the ordinary sense. As he saw it, men were convenient. There wasn’t all that emotional bullshit after sex. But he could have sworn that the boy enjoyed himself wholeheartedly, really gave himself, when they were in bed.

That was the thing. He had been convinced that what had happened between them had been genuine. Jamie was, after all, nothing but a con man. Hilton got his lungs pumping again and stomped off.

“What’s the matter?” Jamie called after him. “Come on! We’ve been having such a good time.”

He caught up and put a hand on Hilton’s arm. But the breeze was blowing over Hilton’s bare legs and over his bare stomach, supported as it was by the chafing straps. He wanted his dressing gown.

“You’ve been having fun, anyway,” he said.

“Right, so you’ve been having a bad time,” said Jamie.

“Well, yes, if you want to know.”  

“How exactly?” said Jamie.

“Everything’s easy for you, isn’t it? The world, my Happy Valley. Well, from what I’ve seen, you need to get your priorities right. You’re wasting yourself, your background, your abilities. You’ll have to settle down some time.”

Jamie looked him up and down. Hilton was suddenly achingly aware of how absurd he must look in his Captain Sopwith outfit. He thundered, or waddled, off into the darkness.

“Settle – what? Down?” Jamie yelled. “Well fuck you too.”

*

A chilly blue dawn was lighting the street when the boy returned. Hilton, lying in bed, heard him come in and quietly make coffee, drink it, clean the kitchen, and take a shower.

Hilton pulled on his dressing gown and went through to the kitchen. Pale sunlight lit the table by the window like an empty stage. Jamie was dozing on the couch in the sitting room. His dressing gown had fallen open to reveal his flat stomach. He stirred, woke, stretched, looked around the room vaguely. He saw Hilton and smiled. Hilton thought, everything’s okay.

The girl had been delighted to see him return, Hilton learned as the boy brought him coffee. They had done some crazy drinking and dancing. She had produced some bitter little white pills and after that they had become very emotional. They were lovers before they had sex.  

How could this happen? Hilton wondered. Some people found love as easily as others bought magazines, or rings for their wives.

“By the way, I thought I’d invite some people round tonight,” he said. “To show off my new acquisition,” he might have added, but he wasn’t a fool.

“Great! A party.”

“You could do some shopping.”

“I could do with a walk and a coffee,” Jamie said. Putting on his shirt, he found a diary page with a number on it, which he looked at for a moment. “What a girl.”

“Why don’t you phone her?”

Jamie looked at him sharply. “When should I be back?”

Hilton calculated. “Two hours. Is that enough time?”

“Fine. Good.” Jamie ran his hands through his hair. “I’ll see you later.”

Hilton gave him a shopping list he’d written out and the money.

“We’ll have fun tonight. Now go. Bring home the bacon,” he said, shooing him out of the door.

The gesture made him feel calm and generous. This was how it would be between them: the wisdom of age would give, the energy of youth would take, and somehow they would find a balance. The boy went blinking into a fresh blue autumn day.

*

That had been months ago. And just now, when the phone had rung, Hilton had thought it was a director whom he’d be working with. He’d been offered the part of the Fire Chief in a small production of The Bald Prima Donna. It was nothing exciting financially, but it was work. “The dog and the ox – an experimental fable.”

But it wasn’t the director. It was Jamie. That well-articulated voice, that mouth in which butter wouldn’t melt. Hilton’s body flooded with sharp memories. Jamie hadn’t returned that night. Hilton had cancelled the guests and gone to bed hungry. The next morning, when the boy still wasn’t back, Hilton had imagined muggings, kidnappings, falls into canals, bouts of booze-fuelled amnesia. He had wondered if he should contact the police, or phone the hospitals. At the end of the day, going to the bathroom, he had found that the boy’s toiletry case was gone.

Hearing that voice now, he felt the same savage outrage as he had then. Sitting down, he took several cautious breaths. He’d just pulled himself together. The boy was surely one of the Beautiful Ones, but he was trouble.

“Where are you?” he said. “Are you in town? When are you coming over?”