Friday, 2 October 2015

The Love That Isn't Quite Sure How to Spell Its Name

Even if you regard yourself as absolutely 100% decided in your sexuality, never to be swayed from your chosen path whether that be heterosexual or otherwise, is there not just one person who might be able to turn you, to change your mind? Is there a person you've been drawn to for reasons which feel weirdly inconsistent with what you have thus far understood about yourself, and what makes you tick, sexually speaking?

I'm paraphrasing, but this was the thrust of a question posed by Danny Baker on his phone-in radio show as it used to be on BBC London. Calls came in, and one bloke admitted that he often found himself watching videotaped footage of David Beckham's performance on the pitch over and above any real interest in football, whilst Baker himself confessed to a fascination with Bob Hoskins which even he found puzzling. As for myself, I was at work whilst the show was broadcast and was therefore unable to phone in, but were it otherwise I suppose I would have named Perry.

It wasn't even anything I'd thought about at the time, back in 1991 or whenever it was. All I knew was that there was something strangely appealing about the guy, and that I couldn't quite work out what it could be. He was my friend, a fellow postman and a couple of years younger. He was sort of funny, but not side-splittingly so, and he was bright, but some way short of anything required by either rocket science or brain surgery, and he was nice by some definition I still can't quite put my finger on. Also, he was incredibly good looking - at least so far as I could tell, not that I would really know what with my never once having been confused in that respect etc. etc. Brown hair, square jaw but not harshly so, blue eyes and a boyish smile, sort of like Leonardo DiCaprio as a charming English farmhand of the early sixties. Except I didn't notice any of this because he was just Perry, my mate from work, obviously.

Maria on the other hand certainly noticed, which was doubly annoying because within two weeks of her having started at our office - by which point I had made the formal decision that I would fancy her - she and Perry were an item; and because I was Perry's friend, I was soon also a friend to Maria and as such had ceased to fancy her, which was probably for the best. Perry put in a good word for me, and so Maria would give us both a lift in her car, out to our respective walks in Catford. I was delivering to the road which, by coincidence, was where Perry lived with his parents and sister.

Sometimes Maria and I would sit in her car, waiting because Perry had told us at last minute that he needed to take a shit. Eventually he emerged from around the corner of the office, red faced and with the three or four bundles of second post stuffed in his delivery bag.

'What happened?' Maria asked. 'Did it come out sideways?'

As Perry jovially told her to fuck off whilst taking up residence of the passenger seat, I noticed an unsettling feeling of pleasure at the extremely attractive Maria and I no longer being alone together. It was confusing. It felt like some horrible sixties film by someone French. We both loved him, or something.

I had a heavy comics habit, so Perry would lend me James Hudnall's The Psycho - to which I never quite warmed - or VHS tapes of the Manga series 3X3 Eyes, or the film Tetsuo; the Iron Man. He once lent me a tape recording of what appeared to be himself playing some animé based game. I watched ten minutes before I realised I would never understand what I was supposed to get from the viewing. In return I think I may have lent him Watchmen and maybe Frank Miller's version of Batman, works which had already come to be regarded as old school classics by 1991. We exchanged media, but never quite connected across whatever divide existed, either cultural, age or whatever. The shutters had come down behind me as I left school, meaning that neither video games nor Transformers nor anything bearing too close a resemblance to an episode of Marine Boy would ever make any real sense to me.

One evening I somehow ended up at Perry's house, having gone back after the pub. It was kind of awkward and we'd been drinking since about three. I'd watched the animés and he had presumably read Watchmen, but still we could find no common ground beyond the usual grousing about work. I say work meaning Royal Mail, although Perry now apparently had some sort of job on the side, a male model of all things, presumably standing around in his underpants and pointing at distant objects with a beatific smile. He'd told me about it, but I didn't really want to discuss the subject. I was glad he had found something besides the back-breaking shite at Royal Mail, but felt otherwise a little uncomfortable, as though just talking about it might take me somewhere I wasn't sure I wanted to go. He showed me the cartoon strip he'd been working on. It was terrible. It looked like the work of a ten-year old, and I suddenly realised he wanted, even needed my approval; and then he was crying.

'Are you okay?' He obviously wasn't but it seemed right to ask.

'You just don't know, Lol,' he sobbed, affording me a briefly terrifying glimpse into his world. He was just bright enough to realise that he probably wasn't that bright, and delivering pizza leaflets alternating with standing around in a pair of y-fronts was probably as good as it would ever get for him. I think he believed I might know something that he didn't, that I might be able to see a way out of our bullshit lives of carrying heavy weights in the pissing rain six days a week. This was all the more terrifying because I knew I had elevated him to a similar position, envying his casual veneer of confidence, his clear vision uncluttered by all that art college bollocks which was yet to pay off, and the way in which women all turned to check him out when he entered the room and he didn't even seem to realise it. I wanted to be him, but it seems even Perry didn't want to be Perry.

I stepped quietly out of Perry's room in the house of Perry's mum and dad, and caught the bus home. The next day we were hungover as we stood together at the sorting frames, which was not in itself an unusual occurrence. Our voices were just a little more self-consciously deeper, more gruff than they had been the previous morning; because we were men, and we had drunk such lakes of lager as to have forgotten last night, whatever it was that had happened after the sixth round. We were men and we laughed because that's how we were.

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