Geezer Hardnut said he’d spank me if and when I ever sobered up, long and hard, good and proper. I remember him speaking very quietly when he said my bottom would be red raw, I remember getting wet, then frightened because he meant it. He was cold-eyed yet a little sad, as if it really was that old cliche, he didn’t want to do it but I needed to be taught a lesson. He told me it wasn’t going to be sexy, not at all. He didn’t answer me as we waited for a taxi. Then he poured me into the cab and paid the driver.
It started at the wedding when Geezer said, “Arranged marriages?They’re all arranged marriages. Arranged by women.”
He smoothed down his very short hair. Which was already flat. Then he squares his shoulders to adjust the hang of his raw silk jacket, setting his wrist jewelry agleam. We have been discussing the holy state of matrimony. He’s right, as it happens, but I’m certainly not telling him so. So I’ll just call him a ‘misogynist’, which is now mandatory, whenever any man criticizes any woman, whether justified or not. Now we can ‘move on’, the instant panacea for all known ills.
“Have you ever heard of a man arranging a marriage?” says Geezer, who will ‘move on’ when he’s good and ready.
We are in a hotel bar awaiting the arrival of two clueless optimists, otherwise known as the bride and groom. They have decided to invest a small fortune on a bogus high society wedding. Mary Kenny, that tireless spokesperson for mediaeval bigotry, recently opined “Every woman should be queen for a day,” Female columnists generally condemn men as childish but it’s apparently all right for women to torch an insane amount of money so they can pretend to be a fairy tale princess for one day.
“Men used to propose,” I reply, remembering men on bended knees. Men in restaurants hiding rings in souffles. It happens in the movies. Some men must have proposed once upon a time, surely? In my childhood. In a fairy story perhaps. I had to ask my ex to marry me.
He said yes straight away but it’s not the same, is it? Some handsome prince he was.
“I don’t know anyone who has proposed,” says Geezer. “Anyone except women, of course.”
“Why did you keep getting married?” I ask. He’s done two stretches already. And the way he’s going he’s going to be an old lag. Stir crazy. Institutionalised.
“Love. What else is there to live for? You have to be in love,” he says.
Christ, he’s going to burst into song in a minute. Just as long as he doesn’t tap dance on the tables.
“How can you live without love?” he says, spreading his arms. “Love is the answer. And we have to bring up children. Somehow.”
H’mm. Who is this ‘we’? If we are talking about child care it usually isn’t Geezer. Well, I’m familiar with the problem. You can’t do much parenting when you don’t actually live there any more. And then the twit who caused this situation says, “You don’t care about the children.”
More grinning and actual, genuine happiness from the wedded ones and I switch to vodka. It doesn’t help. I just get more sentimental about the happy couple. And all the other people who were still in couples. The drinks come round again and again. We dance. We laugh. Then I had a few lines with Geezer. And some more with someone else. The champagne started to flow. Then some bad things happened. I don’t process cocaine well. I don’t like my behaviour on it. That’s why I never buy it.
GAY MARRIAGE. DO ME A FAVOUR.
I’m alone, sniffly from drug withdrawal and self-pity and have no recall how the flat got this foul. After cleaning up blood and various other bodily fluids from all over my flat I hate myself for a while. Then I hate some other people. I throw up yet again then pour my last bottle of champagne down the sink. I take to my bed to drug myself with television, the only thing my bruised battered body can take.
My brain can’t quite take this though: the Gays are still clamouring for marriage. Civil Partnership isn’t enough. This from the one sector of society who can do whatever the fuck they want, whenever they want. Are you quite sure, guys? Oh well, more lambs to the slaughter. And more money for the sex workers who will be required to keep the show on the road. When monogamy palls. Which it will.
Just had to take a break to have a little weep. I miss My Man Max. Postcards aren’t enough. I want all of him. Next to me. Inside me. Not just the occasional e-mail.
Here’s his latest postcard. Milan. “Wish you were here. You’d look so good in this season’s clothes. It’s all Gypsy chic.” I thought that was last year but maybe the Italians are doing it again. Who cares? A heterosexual man who is interested in what his lover wears? And not just in the sense of ‘shining up the trophy wife’. What fresh heaven is this?
“I yearn to be with you. Not long now, my darling.”
Bring it on, buster. The sooner, the better. I’m happy for at least…two minutes. Is that as good as it gets? Fleeting happiness about something that hasn’t actually happened.
It really is better to travel hopefully. Arrival is for suckers.
PHILIP LARKIN: BALD GIT SURROUNDED BY WEDLOCK JUNKIES
Time they made heterosexuality legal, grumbled Philip Larkin, complaining about some namby-pamby liberal outrage, probably the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy. “But they have made it legal,” said one of the wedlock junkies he was embroiled with. “It’s called marriage.” A bit too legal, he grumbled.
He was afraid to die so spent about fifty years avoiding life. He was afraid of marriage so got trapped in several love affairs simultaneously, all of them stickier than marriages, where at least the boredom factor is such that you can get your head down for a good snooze. Marriage used to mean thirty years kip where you didn’t have to worry about courtship or looking good. You had to remember anniversaries and endure family visits and you could be somewhere else most of the time anyway. Listen to me. Rewriting history so that marriage, which drove me mad, or madder, seems like a workable solution.
I would marry My Man Max of course. But he won’t do it till I clean up. Even then he might baulk at the responsibility of having children. Which he might in any case want to have with someone else. Someone who isn’t a drug addict. Or a sex worker.
Which is why I find myself, after a very shaky, weepy day in bed, entering one of the city branches of Narcotics Anonymous. It’s a room at the back of a church. The ceiling does not cave in as I walk in. The Great Whore of Babylon has been welcomed back into the fold – if I want it, which I’m not quite sure just yet. This time might be different though. I’m going to get a sponsor, do it properly. I’m not supposed to tell you what happens in here but I don’t see why I shouldn’t. I’m still serious about cleaning up. Which is going to get me my son back. And My Man Max. We’ll get married. Which will certainly teach him a lesson.
Any day now.