3: Beware The Ides Of March
One dew kissed morning in late May I opened my front door to pick up the milk from the doorstep and found myself staring at a half empty bottle...and Sam.
He was curled up fast asleep. He was a little thinner than I remembered and a little more unkempt, the tiny hole in the knee of his jeans had grown up into a full sized rip. He was wearing his sunglasses and tucked under his arm was a shabby old teddy bear, a bear with one green eye and one bright blue, just like him. The glasses hid Sam’s own eyes, but did nothing to conceal the bruising on the rest of his face, or the partially healed cut on his lower lip.
Bending I gently shook the sleeping figure to wakefulness. Sam, obviously thinking he was in bed mumbled and tried to turn over, rolling off the doorstep in the process. He uttered an expletive and sat up, gazing at me through his sunglasses. “Colin darling, you look like hell, those pyjamas are shatteringly awful, did your mother buy you them for Christmas? Still, at least they’re remedial.”
Something, some streak of insanity, prevented me from slamming the door in his face there and then. I pointed towards the hall, and through teeth that were already beginning to grit, said. “Get inside, now.”
“Well, darling I must say I’ve had more gracious invitations; we really must work on your social niceties.” He stood up rather stiffly, handed me my half drunk bottle of milk and added, “now we’re living together, you’ll have to start ordering orange juice, the sweetened kind. I don’t care for milk.” Stepping over the threshold, he trotted down the hall.
As I stared after him the oddest feeling crept over me. It was the culmination of a feeling that had been born on that March morning, March the fifteenth to be precise, in Woolworth’s when I’d first set eyes on him. “Beware the ides of March,” the soothsayer’s famous warning from Julius Caesar, the play that Sam had quoted from, suddenly came to mind. ‘FATE’ an ice chill ran down my spine. God help me! I had been fated to meet Sam. Cruel lady providence had obviously decided to weave him into the cloth of my destiny.
I glanced up and down the street to see if anyone had noticed that I had destiny, as well as milk on my doorstep that morning. They were a very conservative bunch, my neighbours, jealous too and the gossip could get ugly. For example my hydrangea for reasons known only to God and nature was blue as opposed to the customary pink in these parts and I was still shunned by her at number seventeen on account of it. I was sure she suspected me of dabbling in the black arts.
Closing the front door I headed quickly for the kitchen where, from the sounds of it, Sam was making himself right at home. He’d changed the radio station from Three to One and turned the volume to deafening. Her at number seventeen would surely be poking a note expressing disapproval through my letterbox if he turned it up much louder. He was all but physically inside my fridge like a human Garfield, poking around its contents and muttering.
Suddenly I very much doubted that I was ready for destiny. I firmly resolved to fight it all the way. After all the Gods of Olympus were powerless now...weren’t they? I was not subject to their quirky and cruel whims...was I? Switching off the radio, I steered him out of the fridge towards the kitchen table, plonking him onto a chair. “Are you always so forward when you get invited into someone’s home for the first time?”
“Yes,” he nodded, “no point in being shy is there, darling? I mean you and I are going to be living together. I have to tell you that I’m going to take over the shopping. Colin dearest your fridge is full of achingly dreary crap.”
“Sam,” I leaned over to remove his sunglasses, which I though were something of an unnecessary accessory for wearing in a kitchen that didn’t get the sun first thing on a morning, “we are not living together.” I paused, arrested by the full extent of the damage to his face. His left eye was swollen closed, his right only half open. There was a general spread of bruising around his face, and encrusted blood around his nostrils. What really appalled and frightened me was that the bruising wasn’t fresh. It was yellowing, tinged sickly green here and there. If his face looked this bad after several days, God knows what it had looked like before. I stared, feeling slightly nauseous.
He struck a simpering pose with chin resting on the back of his hands and said, “do you like my new image, darling. It’s so me, don’t you think, sort of Rocky meets Mike Tyson?”
Suddenly the abused little face crumpled, tears began to trickle out of the swollen mess of his eyes. He grasped at my hands. “I didn’t know who else to turn to. I memorised your address when I flicked through your diary that day you took me home. Please, let me stay, just for a while. I’ll be good I promise. I won’t bother you and I’ll let you have sex with me, anyway you want, I’m very flexible.”
I was suddenly very angry, angry at whoever had done this to him, angry with him for getting himself into a position where it could happen and angry at his self mockery and the offering of himself as an inducement. It must have shown in my face because he let go of my hands and slumped back in his chair.
“Sorry,” he tried to wipe his eyes and nose with the sleeve of his shirt. “I must look a disgusting mess. No wonder you don’t want to sleep with me.”
“For God sake, Sam, I barely know you. Do you offer yourself so freely to every man you meet?” Locating a box of tissues I gave them to him.
“Not every man. I’m not a complete slut you know, and I do know how to take precautions, look!” He reached into his pocket and brought forth a handful of condoms, slapping them onto the table. “Every colour of the rainbow there, surely one will take your fancy, a little hint, I look magnificent in blue?”
“Put them away and behave yourself.” I took the answer and the gesture for what it was, an attempt to recover his cheeky panache.
“Sorry,” plucking a couple of hankies from the box, he dabbed at his nose and eyes. It obviously hurt and the tears gushed faster.
I soaked a face flannel in cool water and wrung it out, gently patting it over his battered face. He gave me a ghost of his stunning smile and trivial and shallow though it sounds I was pleased to note that none of his teeth appeared to be damaged.
“Tell me what happened.” I said quietly, setting a mug of tea before him.
Copyright Cat/Fabian Black 2010