2: Graffiti Palace
It was horrible. I gazed at the dilapidated building in dismay, “this is where you live?”
He nodded, “home sweet home, my very own Graffiti Palace,” he un-popped his seat belt. “Come and have a coffee with me, Colin, don’t worry,” he caught the expression on my face, “the place was recently fumigated.”
There was a sudden anxious note in his voice and I found myself agreeing to his offer, although the only thing I really wanted to do was drive away. At least if I had a coffee with him I’d know he was actually home. Hopefully he’d stay there until he was feeling less inclined to be the centre of attention in a way that was guaranteed to land him in bother. I followed him into the building and up the stairs to his fifth floor flat; typically the lifts were not working.
The building was even worse inside than it was outside, run down and scruffy. It became apparent why he’d referred to it as Graffiti Palace. The lobby walls were adorned with drawings and scribblings, most of it obscene. He inserted his key into the lock of a battered door where someone had spray painted the words: ‘queers out! Queer nutters especially out!’ Underneath it someone else had sprayed, ‘darlings we ARE out, and it takes a nutter to know a nutter, so FUCK off!’ It didn’t need a genius to work out the ID of the second graffiti artist.
“Shit!” The key refused to open the door and Sam kicked at it, yelling furiously. “Let me in you evil fucker!”
There was no reply and Sam kicked the door again, which did nothing to improve its appearance. “Bastard, he’s bolted it. I’ll be stuck out here all day while he shags his scabby boyfriend gormless,” he raised his voice, shouting, “not that it’ll take long cos he’s fucking gormless to start with!”
“The sour faced stoat that I share the flat with.”
“Look, Sam, I’m sorry,” I glanced at my watch, “but I’ve got to be going. Will you be okay?”
He nodded. Taking his dark glasses off for the first time he hooked them in the open collar of his shirt and gazed at me. I repressed, or at least I hope I did, a start of surprise. His eyes were totally different colours. Lowering his heavy lashes, he leaned his back against the wall and slid down it to sit on the dirty floor, drawing his knees up under his chin. “I’ll be okay, he’s always doing this, he’ll let me in later.” He plucked at the beginnings of a hole in the knee of his jeans and said softly. “You’re going to stand me up tonight aren’t you?”
He looked suddenly tired and young and painfully vulnerable. I swallowed hard and squatted down beside him, “Sam, I’m so sorry, but you’re just not my type. You’re too young for me. I just wanted to get you off the street and safely home before you landed yourself in trouble.”
“I’m older than I look,” he gazed at me eagerly from his strange eyes, “I’m twenty-four, that’s not too young.”
“It is for me. I like men more my own age, I’m thirty five.”
He scowled, “it’s my eyes isn’t it, they repel you?”
I shook my head, “it isn’t your eyes, your eyes are...well it isn’t them.” I was going to say, oddly attractive, but stopped myself, because it didn’t sound right and he might take exception to the word ‘odd.’
“If my eye offend thee pluck it out,” he misquoted dramatically. “Go on,” he thrust his face towards me, “pick a colour, any colour and pluck out the one you don’t like, then I can wear a patch and you can date me. I’d look quite dashing with a patch. I could pretend to be a pirate. I’ll show you my cutlass.”
“Stop it Sam, you’re being silly, it’s nothing to do with your eyes. I just don’t want to date you.” I took a deep breath, “are you on medication of some kind and if so are you using it properly?”
He decided to be offended. “Who the fuck are you to think I need medication, what a bloody nerve.”
“Don’t adopt that tone with me, Sam,” I spoke sharply, “I meant no offence and you know it. You remind me of someone that’s all. Do you, or do you not take medication?”
“Sometimes,” he looked away from me.
“What do you mean sometimes?”
“When I remember and when I feel like taking it. Preferring not to blend in with the crowd doesn’t make me mental you know, it makes me unique. I want to be an actor, I have to stand out.”
“There are more appropriate and safe ways of standing out. You need to take your meds regularly, they don’t work otherwise, take them for your own sake.” As well as everybody else’s, I thought privately.
Keeping his head turned away from me, he executed a Scottish accent, “and just who are you to be handing out medical advice, doctor Findlay or what?”
“It doesn’t need a doctor to state the obvious, Sam.” I stood up, “take care of yourself. I really have to go.” I walked away down the dingy hall.
When I reached the stairs, something compelled me to look back. He was watching me, arms folded on top of his knees, head resting lightly against them. He fluttered his fingers in a little gesture of farewell. It was probably just the light, but for a moment I thought I detected a gleam of tears in his eyes. A part of me wanted to walk back down the hall and give him a cuddle. I told it not to be silly and it joined the rest of me in walking down the stairs.
I returned home and got on with the business of living my life. I strived to put Sam out of my mind, though a glimpse of faded jeans and a checked shirt always set my heart rate ticking over a little faster, until I saw that it wasn’t him.
For quite a few weeks after my encounter with him I always seemed to need another CD to add to my collection, and would spend some considerable time going through what was on offer in Woolworths. I saw the ill-fated security guards, who thankfully didn’t spare me a second glance, but no Sam. On some peculiar and irrational whim I bought the Animals CD and Queen, slipping then amongst the Mozart’s and Beethoven’s without ever actually playing them.
As the weeks passed I eventually stopped thinking about him altogether, or at least on a daily basis. He strayed into my thoughts from time to time. Soon he’d just be another memory stored deep within my brain, something that would surface at odd moments, perhaps in a dream, or years down the line when something, some flash of colour or the snatch of a song would trigger remembrance of a beautiful smile and a fresh faced young man with unusual eyes. Maybe then I’d experience a stab of regret at that missed date. I put down the stabbings I already had to indigestion and pressure of work. All my instincts told me that I’d done the right thing in not getting involved with Sam, but a flicker of regret still lingered.
Copyright Cat/Fabian Black 2010