14 February 2007

P (1)

Gentle reader, like most stories worth telling, mine is a long one that requires considerable editing… especially since it involves other people, who in turn must be told about. And how to tell such a strange tale?

But to start somewhere, let us go back… beyond the date of one’s first posting, beyond the date when one assembled a cast for my bloguette and determined this story would have to be told… to exactly one year ago today. For it is important to remember and acknowledge significant dates, don’t you think?

Before going further, allow me to state categorically that this had nothing to do with Valentines Day: if that has crossed your mind, please go to jail at once (if you should pass go, do not collect 200$) because one most certainty does not partake of a festival promoted by greeting card companies in the seasonal lull after Christmas, involving the exchange of giant hearts and cuddly toys... although one does partake of the traditional Sant Jordi celebrations (one expects a book AND a rose)

But I digress!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that some readers spend a great deal too much time reading my bloguette, wondering how it is possible someone quite so fabulous as moi happens to be single. Well, that in itself is a story, and not for the faint hearted. (Needless to say, since it involves X, all of the goriest details will be disclosed in due course) But for the time being, suffice to say that at the beginning of last year, whenever one glanced at the nearest mirror, one reflected an individual who, rather like the namesake of my favourite flower, was divinely content to be in the company of his own fabulous reflection; an individual who had become complacent with a consummate socialite's hermetic lifestyle, with no significant relationships beyond those that were physically fulfilling, and so it remained… until inconvenienced by an art-house film concerning the perils of livestock-management on a mountain… more on this topic, at a later date.

In consequence, one re-attempted to find oneself a gay gentleman with integrity, discernment and taste for the purpose of… ‘connecting’

But how does one go about doing that, gentle reader? For since the Industrial Revolution, not only have moral standards been in decline, established practices for finding and establishing oneself with a life partner have disintegrated… a change for the better, we must all agree; but with what have the moral standards and established practices been replaced? While technological development has brought about changes to make communication with other people easier (it is also easier to meet them, if you should choose to) and this is helpful for the purposes of casual sex and commerce, to what extent does it benefit individuals who are looking for something else… who want –as Ms V Woolf used to say, only- to connect?

To further complicate a situation already over-complicated by verbose prose, hand in hand with these societal developments, technology has contributed to the spread of a dangerous epidemic: the brainwashing of both educated and uneducated masses with nonsensical notions… about love, in particular. Apparently, it is commonly believed nowadays two people who are compatible identify one another at first sight, going on to find complete self fulfilment and emotional satisfaction in one unique and irreplaceable relationship, which matters more than anything else in life (than life itself, some would argue) And somehow, this mystical bond is expected to transcend all boundaries, including education, life experience, social background… one could go on, gentle reader: suffice to say, such ideas – described by those infected as ‘romantic’- are anything but!

They are idiotic. They make one nauseous. They are a load of old bollocks.

Gentle reader, if you are feeling lost, do not be unduly concerned… for in due course, one proposes to discuss romance and the demeaning truths about love.

But I digress, again! All of that is for another posting!

To begin again… for that, after all, is what we are concerned with. Early last year, one placed a carefully-worded advertisement upon a suitable webpage used by gay gentlemen for the purposes of dating: this is how one became acquainted with the fabulous T… and the quite unforgettable P.

For the purposes of dating, it might surprise you that one considers there is nothing much to be gained from the exchange of detailed information by email or telephone, or the exchange of photographs: after all, many are literate, most are capable of coherent speech, all are capable of being photographed. Such measures help to separate wheat from chaff, no more: in the end, everything depends upon that unquantifiable, indefinable element of mutual interest, and so my own approach is as follows: take a chance and meet, in the knowledge that it is highly unlikely anything will come of it.

Here is what one knew about P upon first meeting: he was one year younger than oneself, he lived in Paris (hence initial) and he spoke excellent English. That is all. For a quick drink, we agreed to rendezvous at a mutually convenient place, a telephone booth outside a café named ‘La Bastille’ at the end of Rue de la Roquette, and before setting off from his office, P called to describe what he wore. His general attire was described accuracy and with an attention to detail of which one approved: what he failed to adequately describe, however- perhaps he was modest, perhaps he was incapable- was his physical appearance.

In truth, even a year later, while an array of nouns and adjectives present themselves, one struggles for words… for all fail to do him justice. Suffice to say that despite an overwhelming sense of one’s own desirability, upon meeting P, one felt oneself quite out of one’s league. Here is a careless attempt at vague and clichéd description, gentle reader: make of it what you will.

Short raven-black hair he had, and although his mouth suggested a harsh character, a welcome smile was offered. Good health glowed in his clean-shaven visage; in his eyes, the colour of bluish slate, there was no harshness, looking out at the world with the impression of a man ever alert to greet a redeeming feature in others, but often disappointed.

There you have P… or a version of him.

Are your imaginations running wild, gentle reader? Good.

Suffice to say, one’s own imagination was running wild, at the time… for all the wrong reasons.

Something did happen on the night we met (obviously- otherwise, we would not be discussing this, would we?) Suffice to say, it was not a quick drink. There was an intimate exchange… and not of the kind you might imagine.

After a quick introduction, to our mutual surprise, P and I engaged in a raw conversation, a free and open exchange of ideas… talking, gentle reader, at first. For we discovered that despite different cultural backgrounds and despite fundamental differences in our respective characters (which surfaced early in the conversation) we had something in common. For in truth, to use borrow another perfectly appropriate cliché, it turned out P and I had grown up in the same dysfunctional house, with one important difference: at the earliest opportunity, one had clambered out of a rear window, sliding down a handy drainpipe and breaking into a run on the moment my glass-slippered feet hit the ground, while P, sadly, had remained locked inside that house, to that day.

Difficult though it is to convey the full impact of this discovery, one must attempt; it was strangely distressing and unsettling, and yet it was also shatteringly beautiful, for this enabled us to –only- connect.

Having established a certain intimacy, conversation quickly moved to a discussion of what had prompted both of us to meet, and it emerged that P had been in the closet until a short while before. When disclosing his reasons for tiptoeing out, P told me something, a motive so strange that one fully expects you to label it as fiction, and so one is absolved of breaking confidence.

P had not realised he was a gay gentleman; he had been informed he was a gay gentleman, by a helpful psychic. No, not a psychiatrist… a psychic medium, a fortune teller, a clairvoyant. And no, one does not mean to imply that he became aware of something he already suspected with the help of a psychic… he had been informed he was gay, in the same fashion that people are conscripted to join armed forces during a war. Because of his implicit trust in the psychic medium, P had accepted that he was a gay gentleman, on that basis alone.

One was not surprised to find that P was reticent to share this information with most people, in particular other gay gentlemen he met. While one considers oneself, drawing upon a broad range of incredible life experiences, to be somewhat open-minded and liberal, and quite beyond shock, one was taken aback by this revelation.

Gentle reader, do not jump to the conclusion that one is altogether dismissive of the services offered to society by psychic mediums. While the majority are peddlers and frauds (another time, please remind me to share a particularly memorable story involving a psychic medium and a girl called Lisa, who my best friend brought back to sleep at our apartment in Boston MA, back in 1994) there are others who do possess a genuine gift. One is certain of this: on one memorable occasion in 1998, one visited a psychic medium in Katoomba up in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia: it was a strangely pleasurable experience; and not only that, the psychic medium shared insights and set out specific facts about my past and future that were all astonishingly accurate.

So, returning to P’s revelation, it was not the encounter with a psychic medium which left me taken aback. It was the fact that everyone has a certain understanding of one's own character (whatever about insight, whatever about understanding of the character of others) Therefore, how was it possible to believe P’s claim that he hadn't even suspected he was a gay gentleman before that revelation?

Some discerning questions established to one’s own satisfaction that P was indeed a gay gentleman. It did not require tarot cards or a crystal ball, with all of the usual signs demonstrated by someone who has just come out of a closet: a complete lack of sexual attraction to women, replaced by an intense longing for intimacy with men, inevitably accompanied a worrying discomfort with the notion of sexual activity.

In the course of our bizarre conversation over our not-so-quick drink, it became apparent P had recently engaged in sexual activity with men, and quite a lot of it (this was unsurprising, given his obvious charms and that he had to make up for lost time) Because we had just met, it did seem inappropriate for one to pry too much, so one wasn’t given any specifics: one is holding nothing back, gentle reader… not yet.

All the while bonding, it was getting rather late. Despite the fact that one was a short walk from one’s own apartment and perfectly comfortable in one of my favourite places (Café l’Industrie), at length it was my suggestion that he depart for the last metro (although P wore a wrist-watch, and hadn’t glanced at it himself)

What happened next, you might ask?

Gentle reader, believe what you will: one would never have made a move in the circumstances; his vulnerability, his beauty, not to mention my own intimidation by all that was vulnerable and beautiful about him, were obstacles… albeit not quite insurmountable. For one must confess that even as one sits typing about that night, one is sexually aroused… and so it was on that night, sitting opposite P at that table, wondering what he was going to do.

When P asked to come back to my apartment to spend a night with me, he actually said ‘please’

Needless to say, one acquiesced.

Together we walked briskly through the streets, still without having touched, up the bare stairs to my small but fabulous apartment… and it is here the story gets so strange that one expects to lose you completely.

Alone in a small, dimly-lit room, there was an awkward pause before, observing that my companion was more than a little unnerved by physical intimacy, one placed arms around him in a hug… and this embrace was welcomed and returned.

One attempted to be reassuring; one extended no pressure upon him; and one was successful, to the point that P was more honest than he had been with any of his previous lovers.

In a few softly-uttered words, one tried to compliment P, expressing how physically attractive he was. In response, P whispered that this was something he had been repeatedly told and yet… his voice dropped lower still, to reveal that whenever he looked into a mirror, he saw reflected was the image and likeness of another man, who was also considered handsome; his father, his torturer.

Still holding one another, there was nothing uncomfortable in our pause.

One waited for him, with him.

At length, P asked if one proposed to kiss... and there was a certain something about the way he pronounced the word kiss that made one realise this was not a good thing.

Men had kissed him before, apparently: P confessed that on all of his previous sexual encounters, men had insisted upon it. But in truth, he didn’t enjoy this experience; he went so far as to say that he hated to be kissed. And yet he accepted that others wanted to kiss- in particular, that they wanted to kiss him- and that it was considered a pleasurable activity, to be expected in such an exchange… and so if I insisted, kissing was to be tolerated.

Does one need to set out how one responded, gentle reader?

One quietly assured P that one had no interest in kissing anyone who didn’t want to be kissed. One quietly assured P that one had no interest in doing anything to anyone that wasn’t mutually pleasurable. And one told him that he should never feel pressured by anyone- or by any notion or sense of expectation- to do anything he didn’t want to do… in the bedroom, in the ballroom, in life.

And then?

Well, one asked P what he wanted to do, right then and there… and when he answered, that is what we did.

We undressed ourselves, talking all the while- about such inconsequential things as the music one played, and the general fabulousness of my apartment - and then we clambered into a particularly uncomfortable futon (it was not my own apartment, so one couldn’t get rid of the damnable thing: for six months, it almost broke my back) Yet it was not so uncomfortable on that occasion, oddly enough.

Remembering that night, one’s overwhelming impression is the intoxicating smell, of the man lying under the sheets in my arms: natural, fresh, unique.

Neither of us had intended to end up in that place; neither of us intended to talk- nothing more, gentle reader- until 6am the following morning… at which point P had to depart for work, and one – after a little hurried, overdue, hand-relief- blissfully drifted off into a contented asleep.

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