One of the things I like about getting older is that I have more confidence when it comes to tackling bad behaviour and injustice (or what I perceive as injustice). This definitely wasn’t the case in my teenage years. I was a quiet boy then.
My partner at the time had a habit of collecting waifs and strays. That’s what happens when you spend all your time in pubs. Getting drunk makes the most inappropriate and bizarre people seem likeable and suitable to invite round to your abode. He had a coterie of day time drunk friends who would poll up at our tiny flat at all hours for coffee, much to my displeasure.
Barry was working and I wasn’t which was a first and didn’t happen again as long as we were together. I had been doing a temporary job which ended and it took a further four weeks for me to find a new job. I was 18, we were living in a really run down flat and any money Barry earned went on cigarettes and booze so we weren’t at all well off. I was hunting for work but for a school dropout with little experience there wasn’t much about. Consequently I was in the flat a lot, which for me was fine. There was library nearby, we had a black and white portable TV with a coat hanger for an aerial and I enjoyed being alone. Sadly, my peace was intruded upon by Marcus.
Marcus was in his late twenties, quite plain and more than a little bit creepy. He’d been a drag act briefly. I’m not sure what your experience of female impersonators is, but there are grades. Marcus was quite low grade. His act had consisted of him lip-syncing to lots of Shirley Bassey songs, pulling a large dildo from under his dress whilst miming to bawdy songs or wearing a wedding dress he’d bought at Oxfam whilst playing a scratchy record of “It Could Have Been Me”. He wasn’t especially talented and sadly he wasn’t especially enthusiastic either. He had sporadic bookings. I don’t think he often performed in the same place twice.
Marcus had disappeared for six months and turned up stating he’d come back from London where he’d worked as a male prostitute. He bumped into Barry in a bar full of low-lifes and on discovering I was home alone a lot, set about plaguing me constantly.
He’d turn up around 11am, eat all my biscuits, smoke my cigarettes and drink my coffee. I’d sit politely, an eye on my neglected novel, wishing he’d leave. He rarely did, but would stay all day, chatting away inanely. I was far too meek to tell him to leave. I couldn’t even rustle up any good excuses as to why I had to leave either.
He’d often plonk himself beside me on our hideous plastic settee which was a nauseating green imitation leather and left you stuck to it in warm weather. His podgy fingers would creep towards my thigh and I’d have to jump up and make yet more coffee to avoid him. Barry laughed about it and said he was harmless and that I was being too delicate by far.
The only positive things about Marcus were his tales about London. He’d regale me with anecdotes about the punters he’d serviced which absolutely fascinated me.
“So, let me get this straight...he paid you just to watch him masturbate whilst he was wearing a glove puppet?”
“So, he dressed as Barbra Streisand and licked jam off your buttocks but then what...?”
I expect the reality was far less appealing and much more degrading. He was an inveterate liar. One day, after three weeks of him sponging off me and scoffing all my Fruit Shortcakes, he appeared carrying a bag full of goodies. He had cakes, pies and cigarettes and had even bought me a bottle of wine. I was dubious when he said he’d been paid but assumed he was renting again and accepted the gifts of his labours.
A few days later he turned up again and this time had no goodies. I was pretty broke and low on cigarettes and finally plucked up the courage to object as he took his tenth cigarette from my packet. He apologised, told me to grab my coat and he’d get us some money. I was a little nervous. I had no plans to enter a life of vice and wondered where he was taking me. I went along anyway. We walked a little way and came to a nearby garage, quite a rundown place, and Marcus rang the bell. A nervous middle aged man came out of an office and looked less than pleased to see Marcus. He had a patina of sweat on his face and was trembling slightly. Marcus spoke to him. I couldn’t hear what he said but could see that the man passed him a wad of notes.
We walked on and I took a deep breath and asked him what had occurred.
“Oh, he sucked me off once and I’m blackmailing him.”
I like to think that if this situation occurred now I’d have marched him back to the garage, made him apologise and give back the money. I’d at least give him a massive lecture. Shamefully, I was too meek to do anything but gawp. We went for a lovely lunch but I felt a little sick.
Luckily Marcus disappeared again soon afterwards. He also fell out of favour when he offered to find me a job. He wanted to be my pimp. Oddly Barry wasn’t impressed with that one. I got a job at Woolworths soon afterwards. The pay wasn’t so good but there was free pic ‘n’ mix and no body fluids.
I saw him years later in a nightclub in another city. He was living with the club owner and seemed to have landed on his feet again, through foul means I don’t doubt. I recall he was wearing no shirt, jeans and a fur coat with a massive pair of dark glasses on and a Day-Glo whistle round his neck (it was the early 1990s; people did that kind of thing). I remember feeling gratified that however much money he got, by whatever means: he would never have taste.