27 December 2006

A Gay Christmas Carol (Part 4 - More unpleasant memories from the past)

Scrooge's former self grew larger at the Spirit’s words- meaning that the boy got older and grew in height- and they were immediately transported to a cramped untidy bedroom, a little darker and a lot dirtier than the school room. Fragments of plaster fell out of the ceiling and the naked laths were shown instead; the panels shrunk, the windows cracked. There sat young Scrooge, still alone, while outside was the sound of other boys playing football. He was not reading now, but walking up and down despairingly.

Scrooge glanced at the Spirit with a mournful shaking of his head, before turning anxiously towards the opening door.

“You’ll never guess what’s happening, brother!” exclaimed the younger boy who came darting in.

“I’ve guessed already,” responded the younger Scrooge. “Here’s what I want to know: is Mother miserably lonely, is Mother miserably drunk, or is Mother a dangerous combination of both?”

The younger boy looked confused.

"It’s not that at all, dear, dear brother! Why, Father has come back!”

“That’s what I was afraid of!” younger Scrooge muttered, stopping in his tracks.

“He is so much kinder than he used to be,” said the little brother. “He promises that from now on home will be like heaven! He spoke so gently that I was not afraid to ask him if you might be welcome to come downstairs, and he sent me to bring you. Just imagine, in future the whole family can spend all of our Christmas together, and have the merriest time in all the world!"

"Come here, brother," said the younger Scrooge.

The little boy approached. When he stood within reach, younger Scrooge whacked him on the head.

“What was that for?” wailed the young brother.

“When was the last time someone hit you that hard, idiot?”

“I don’t know… you, last week, when I scratched your Prince album?”

“No, go further back!”

“Er… oh, Father hit me that time for… for doing nothing?”


“Oh! Is that why you hit me just now? For doing nothing?”

“No, you imbecile, it was to bring you to your senses!” the younger Scrooge snapped. “If you believe a word that our father says, you’re more stupid than you look!”

The little boy tried to drag his brother towards the door, but younger Scrooge resisted forcefully.

“Go downstairs if you must,” he said. “If you’ve any sense, you’ll keep out of their way… even if it means going outside to play football.”

He remained in his bedroom, pacing up and down… for after all, there was nothing else to do in the little village; the television was in the living room where his parents sat, waiting for their next argument to begin. Up and down he walked, pacing up and down, and up and down again, until at length he got tired of pacing and decided to have a…

“Er, I think we should leave now, Madonna,” said Scrooge. “Neither of us wants to watch this, do we?”

“I can perform Erotica?” suggested the Spirit. “Perhaps Human Nature is more appropriate? Or… oh, yuck: Deeper and Deeper?”

“Let’s not,” said Scrooge. “As I said, no one wants to watch this… a bit like Swept Away.”

“In that case, let’s go directly to the next Christmas, shall we?” said the Spirit curtly.

“I guarantee that you’re going to find exactly the same thing happening for the next few years,” said Scrooge. “I suggest that we both fast forward to the year I didn’t return for Christmas, when I was fucking my Scottish boyfriend for the first time in a small apartment overlooking Plaza Mayor in Madrid… or perhaps the following Christmas, when we went-”

“Listen, asshole, you’re not making this easy,” said the Spirit. “This isn’t about what you want, for once; there’s a fucking long list of unpleasant moments in the past that I’m supposed to bring you through, but if we re-live every miserable fucking one, there won’t be any more fucking time for me to perform again. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?”

“Of course not, Spirit. Perform anything, provided that it’s not from a soundtrack, or American Life, okay?”

“There is one more thing from your past that we must visit,” the Spirit grimaced. “Here’s what I want to know: are you ready to jump?”

“You bet!” said Scrooge.

At once, they stood in busy thoroughfares where shadowy passengers passed and all the strife and tumult of a real city were.

“Thank fuck!” said Scrooge, bending over to kiss the pavement. “A real city… we’re obviously no longer in Ireland. Hang on… I recognise this… but it’s not Christmas here! Why are we stopping?”

The Spirit signalled him to be quiet, pointing at two men sitting together on a deserted beach, which is not easy to find in Sydney… even at night.

Scrooge saw himself; older now, a man in the prime of life, or so he liked to think. His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later years, although some might say that it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice, and others might remark that there was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which showed the passion that had taken root, and where the shadow of the growing tree would fall.

Scrooge was not alone, for at his side was an excessively handsome man in whose eyes there were tears, which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Spirit’s mirror ball. She has placed it on the ground, transforming into a particularly ridiculous outfit, dancing around on the sand and lisping in a fake-sounding Spanish accent that could only mean one thing… La Isla Bonita.

"Another has displaced me!” said the handsome man, who spoke with a charmingly authentic Spanish accent. “But if anonymous casual sex comforts and cheers you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no cause to grieve. All your other hopes in life have merged into the hope of being forever in demand, Ebenezer: you have gone beyond the sordid in its approach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master passion engrosses you. Have I not?"

"Look, let’s keep this simple,” said this younger Scrooge. “Our friendship is an old one, made when we were both starting off on lifes journey and content to be together until we could improve our worldly fortune. It’s now time. You are changed too: when our relationship was first made, you were another man.”

"But even if I have grown so much wiser with the passage of time, what then? I am not changed towards you,” the handsome man returned.

“Well, I have not grown any wiser. Besides, I was a boy, and I didn’t know what I wanted then, any more than I do now. So while I still have my good looks, I intend to make full use of them… know what I mean?”

"I am confused, Ebenezer. Are you trying to tell me that your feelings are not what they were?"

“That about sums it up!”

“Alas! That which promised happiness when we were one in heart is fraught with misery now,” said the handsome Spanish man. “How often and how keenly I have thought of this, I will not say: it is enough that I have thought of it and can release you. The memory of what is past half makes me hope you will have pain in this for but a very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it gladly, from which it happened well that you awoke.”

“Let’s not turn this into a melodrama,” said Scrooge.

“You’re right,” said the handsome man. “Goodbye, Ebenezer: may you be happy in the life you have chosen."

At this, they parted… and the Spirit finished her performance. She stood waiting for rapturous applause that never came.

"You still have family, I believe?" said the Spirit.

Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind- he didn’t know what else that wicked Spirit might decide to do, never mind perform- and so he answered briefly.

"Probably. Look, Spirit, can’t we please go back to my apartment? It must be getting a little chilly for you in those skimpy costumes, and you must be quite tired after all those wonderful performances. Besides, I think we’ve endured enough embarrassing moments from my past for my readers to get the general idea…or do you delight in torturing me?" said Scrooge.

"One shadow more!" exclaimed the Spirit.

"No more!" cried Scrooge in despair. "No more, please... I don't wish to see!"

"Act your age, asshole!"

"Why should I? You don't! I won't do this anymore... Show me no more! No, I won't... I won’t look! Look, I’ve shut my eyes!"

The relentless Spirit pinioned him in both arms, trying to force him to observe what happened next.

"Spirit, remove me from this place!" Scrooge exclaimed. “I’m revisiting the worst moments from my past with a Madonna soundtrack… I cannot bear it!"

"These are shadows of the things that have been in your past: that they are what they are, do not blame me!" said the Spirit.

"Take me back, Spirit! Haunt me no longer!"

“Very well, then!” said the Spirit, who made no attempt to disguise her anger at such childish behaviour, but found herself with a team of nannies to take care of the situation. She clicked her fingers, and they were ....

Back in the apartment! Scrooge sank onto his bed with a sigh of relief. He felt the Spirit staring at him, noticing that her angry mood had changed even more quickly even than her image.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"Nothing in particular," said the Spirit evasively.

Given how the wicked Spirit delighted in torturing him throughout the evening, Scrooge immediately suspected that whatever she concealed might be worth knowing.

"Something, I think?" he insisted.

"No," said the Spirit. “I don’t think there’s any point doing this next part… It’s obviously not going to make any difference.”

What next part?”

“Well, I was supposed to have all of the men you’ve had sex with visit,” she sighed. “Of course, since the whole point of this exercise has been to make you realise that you’ve not formed friendships or any stable relationships over the years, that you used men to fulfil your own sexual needs without any regard for what they had to offer as human beings…”

“All of them… visiting at once?” said Scrooge. “Presumably you’d arrange this in a suitable venue… is Blenheim Palace available?”

“It would have to be done here,” said the Spirit.

“But there’s hardly any room!” Scrooge objected.

“They weren’t all going to spend the night!” said the Spirit. “Just passing through… oh, what the hell… I’ll do a little number.”

Without further ado, the Spirit performed ‘Beautiful Stranger’, while Scrooge settled back comfortably on his bed. Imagine his great delight as he watched his bedroom door open and a procession of excessively handsome men enter, one after another… as they had all done before. At first, Scrooge felt a little perturbed to discover that they all looked exactly as they had done on the night of their encounter, which of course meant that he was aged by comparison. But he quickly realised that the seemingly endless line of men passing through his room paid no attention to him at all.

“Of course, they don’t see me!” he said, recalling how on his recent visit to Ireland that he was unable to engage with characters from his past.

However, Scrooge realised that several of the men were waving at the Spirit of Christmas Past and asking her for autographs (at this stage she was performing ‘Bedtime Stories’, and groaning so enthusiastically that he was surprised that the neighbours didn’t think he was entertaining) and slowly Scrooge began to realise that those men were perfectly aware of his presence, but that they were ignoring him.

“Well, I know how to get their attention,” he said indignantly.

Truth be told, the sight of all those attractive men had fanned the flames of his desire: he had been aroused throughout the night, and now…

“Don’t you dare!” said the Spirit, who had paused for an image makeover and seemed to be capable of reading a gay man’s fantasies.

But Scrooge couldn’t help himself: after all, why shouldn’t he do whatever he wanted? He was in his own bedroom, convinced that all of this wasn’t really happening…

“Poor is the man whose pleasure depends on the permission of another,” he said.

“You’re pushing me over the borderline, asshole!” screeched the Spirit. “I wasn’t going to do this number, but you’re asking for it… you so are! You’re Causing a Commotion… and you know what that means, don’t you?”

“You wouldn’t dare,” said Scrooge. “That would only remind the gay league about the video: that ridiculous corset, not to mention cacking on a live stage back in the days when you hadn’t discovered lip-synch!”

“You’re right, I wouldn’t dare,” said the Spirit. “But if you keep doing that, you’ll be needing a hanky, and that means you’ll soon be needing a spanky…”

“You soooo wouldn’t dare!” said Scrooge. “Because they’ll remember another live video, and Dick Tracy!”

“But I have other songs, no less horrible!” screeched the Spirit.

Scrooge ignored her, which of course was the most dangerous thing he could do to the Spirit in this particular form: nothing was more certain to provoke the Spirit into retaliation, by releasing an album of recycled disco for instance...

As expected, the Spirit snapped… then snapped her fingers, and suddenly the lights went down.

“What?” said Scrooge. “I can’t see anything! Where are all those men gone?”

“Did I heard you say that you’d like to have the lights on?” said the Spirit, with a barely perceptible snicker.

“Yes,” said Scrooge, little guessing what was in store.

Horror of all horrors!

Gone were all of the men Scrooge had entertained over the years, those he had hand-picked from select gay venues while still relatively sober. In their place, a much, much longer line of men approached him: those that Scrooge preferred to forget!

Instead, he was surrounded by men who he had entertained on the nights when he was intoxicated beyond reason, incapable of remembering his own name. One by one they approached, and if this were not distressing enough, they were followed by men who Scrooge had entertained- willingly or unwillingly- in dark alleyways and dark rooms over the years… and those men had never been stand-offish. Sweaty hands groped, with other sweaty limbs extending towards him… all kinds of everything grasping and gasping for his attention… and throughout, as if it wasn’t hellish enough, the Spirit performed Die another day… an extended dance remix.

Unable to stand it any longer, Scrooge broke free from the orgy of hideousness to wrestle the Spirit to the ground, but she fought back with remarkable alacrity and strength, as if refusing to accept that her career was finished.

In the struggle, Scrooge seized the mirror ball, and brought it down on her head. The Spirit dropped beneath, but although Scrooge pressed down with all his force he could not hide the rays of light which streamed in an unbroken flood upon the ground.

“Asshole!” shrieked the Spirit. “But it’s not over… not until I say it’s over… asshole, you haven’t heard the last of me!”

She was gone, at last… or was she?

Scrooge looked around his bedroom. Aside from stains on the carpet– which he knew from experience that his asylum-seeker cleaning lady (her lack of legal status made her easy to exploit) was capable of removing- there was no trace of what had just occurred: all the men had departed. He was conscious of being exhausted, overcome by an irresistible drowsiness, and yet...

“All those attractive men!” he groaned. “I can’t believe that of the best shags I’ve ever had in my life just passed through my bedroom, and I never got my hands on a single one… damn, I’m horny.”

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