Look, I mean obviously I’m not that way myself, I don’t think any of the girlies would complain that Karl Smith had failed to satisfy, but I don’t have any problems with ‘em. Poofs, I mean. Well, come on, this is the 21st century, after all. Anyway, the way I see it, it’s less competition, and all the more girls for me.
So when Suze threw me out over that little – er – misunderstanding over Tansy Chance and what happened with me and her in the bathroom at Shal’s birthday party, and when the room in Chilham Crescent came up in the Rooms to Rent section of the local paper, it didn’t bother me a bit when the guy showing me round said:
“Look, I ought to tell you in case it bothers you, I’m gay.”
Now, I know you can’t tell ‘em to look at, right, but I admit I was a bit surprised – he looked so normal. Quite good looking, I suppose, not that I’d know of course, but no pretty boy. And he didn’t sound like a raving queen either, none of that Julian Clary stuff, which was good because, like I say, I don’t have a problem with people being that way, but all that camp stuff is a bit. . . well, I suppose it’s funny on the telly but you wouldn’t want to live with it, would you? But this Martin sounded like a regular guy, and looked like one – harder than most, even. You wouldn’t be surprised to see him beside you in the stands at the footie. Just goes to show.
Anyway, I told him what I told you, not a problem to me, and he seemed pleased enough, even said I could move my stuff in that weekend if I wanted, though the rent didn’t start till the first of the month, which was the following Wednesday.
Needless to say all the lads gave me stick about it down the pub. ‘Just because Suze chucked you, mate, there’s no need to become a bender’ was one comment, and there was a lot of stuff about locking my bedroom door and not dropping anything when this guy was behind me and all that sort of shit, and Micky Pargeter was like, ‘well if you get really desperate, poofs are always good for a blow job’ to which I said ‘I’ve never been desperate in my life, mate, and anyway, how do you know?’, which got a big laugh all round, even from Micky, though he went a bit red.
On the other hand, Baz and Kieran volunteered to help me move my stuff in, and I knew they were both dying to see what a poof looked like. Think they were disappointed, as it goes: Baz said, wonderingly ‘You wouldn’t know’, like they all had horns or something, or he expected the bloke to be wearing a pink feather boa and a sparkly dress.
Anyway, I settled in all right, didn’t see that much of Martin the first couple of weeks, sat and watched telly with him once or twice. Oh, and don’t let anyone tell you that gay men are all good housekeepers, keeping the place just so. I mean, he was a bit tidier than me (OK, OK, yeah, not difficult I know) but he showed no more inclination than I did to tackle the pile of dishes in the sink until it got to skyscraper proportions, and he ate just as many ready meals and pizzas – no gourmet cookery here.
The only thing he had a bit of a bee in his bonnet about that a normal bloke maybe wouldn’t was the bathroom cleaning rota. He did insist on us taking turns to clean the bath and sink once a week, and the toilet. I mean, I’d never cleaned a toilet in my life, but I can tell you that having to wipe one down, and wash the floor, makes you a bit more careful about where you’re pointing the old trouser snake when you have to get up for a pee in the middle of the night.
Apart from that, we got on fine; mainly we kept to ourselves, and neither of us were big on entertaining. A couple of times – well, yeah, maybe more than a couple – I pulled down at the ‘Archers Arms’ or the disco at the ‘Sin-Agog’ of a Friday or Saturday night, and brought her back, but Martin never complained about the bedsprings creaking. I never heard him bring anyone back, though, so either he was very discreet or else he was living the life of a monk. So much for gays being at it like knives the whole time.
Only then I had a half-day off one day and came home at lunchtime. Martin was out of course – he worked as a junior manager over at Gifford Glass – but his room was unlocked, the door slightly ajar. Now, I’d never seen inside his room. Like I say, we kept to ourselves, and normally we both locked our rooms when we went out, though sometimes I forgot if I was late getting up and dashing off in a tearing hurry to catch the bus. Now it looked like he’d forgotten in his turn, and of course I was curious. I didn’t mean any harm, I just wondered what his room was like.
Of course I knew I shouldn’t, do me a favour.
This is an old house, and the rooms are a good size, with high ceilings and big windows. His was slightly bigger than mine, though not much. The sunlight was streaming in, pale and bright, with little tiny flecks of dust dancing gold in it. He had a double bed with a blue and white duvet, a desk with a PC and printer on it, a large wardrobe, a couple of bookcases. I squinted at the titles – some gay stuff that wasn’t exactly from WH Smith's, but mostly thrillers, science fiction, the sort of thing I’d read myself when I could be bothered.
I swear I didn’t mean to go any further. Only the wardrobe door was half open, and I just opened it a bit more to take a shufti, and the bag tilted out, spilling its contents onto the floor.
I didn’t understand at first. A leather thing, with one end split and the other with a hole, presumably for hanging up. A sort of wooden butter pat arrangement. Another leather thing with studs – well, that looked sort of kinky all right. And then it hit me. The thing that had been propped behind the bag in the wardrobe, that is. It fell out in its turn, and bounced off my shoulder and onto the floor quivering, and I knew at once what that was for, what it must all be for. It was a cane, you see.
Martin was into spanking. S&M. My roommate was a full-fledged perve.
And of course, I’m like - whoah! Laughing to myself and a bit horrified at the same time. And a bit – well, curious. Intrigued. What exactly did he do with these things? Who was it done to? Well, there was more stuff in the bag. Photos.
Martin, over what looked like one of the vaulting horses we used to have at school, his wrists and ankles fastened to it by leather straps. And another bloke, an older bloke, standing there behind him with a cane. He looked like someone’s dad – a quiet, ordinary, middle-aged bloke, going a bit bald – only he was standing there with this bloody cane, and Martin strapped down, and obviously going to. . . there were other photos too. Martin’s bum – well, I assumed it was his – turned red and welted. In some of the photos it had purplish lines, or sort of whitish double lines, that I assumed were the work of that cane. I’d never seen a caned arse before. It looked vicious. How could anyone enjoy that? Only then I saw the other picture.
He was across a bloke’s lap, a much younger bloke this time, more like our age, in the sort of position you see in cartoons of kids getting spanked. He was grinning at the camera, a sort of rueful grin like ‘ok, you got me, I’ll take my medicine’ and the other bloke was smiling too, with his right hand raised, and it just looked like the sort of mucking about you do when you get one over on your mates, you know? And something treacherous inside me said: I’d make him squirm if I smacked his bum for him, show him what a real bloke can do.
Well, where the fuck did that come from? I was so – disturbed – by that thought that I hastily shoved all the photos and the – I didn’t know what to call them. Tools? Whackers? – back into the bag, and the bag back into the wardrobe. Lastly I picked up that cane, hesitantly, as if it was a snake, and swished it experimentally through the air. It made a low ‘whuff’. I tapped my arse with it, then a little harder. It didn’t seem that bad, but those photos. . . Shit, what was I doing? I stuffed the evil thing back into the wardrobe and got the hell out, carefully pulling the door closed. I hoped those things in the bag weren’t in any particular order, otherwise he was going to know, and I really didn’t want to be chucked out of another place so soon.
And of course I was on tenterhooks after he came in, dreading that he’d come straight out of his room and start a big barney, and when that didn’t happen, wondering if he was thinking about what to do. There was a footie match on the TV that night, European Cup stuff, and we’d got into the habit of watching them together. I think I was talking a bit much out of nerves when we were sitting watching the telly because he gave me a funny look once, but apart from that he was just like normal. I figured I’d gotten away with it. Only then I had to open my big mouth. Because when the final whistle blew on a score of 4-nil I heard myself say:
“Well they really got their arses thrashed there.” And then I went hot and cold at the same time, realising what I’d said and wishing there was some way to turn back time and unsay it. Only – it’s funny, isn’t it? So many of the words we use to talk about losing at sport had those double meanings that I’d never really thought about before. Beaten. Thrashed. Given a good hiding. “I mean, er. . .” the words trailed off uselessly.
He hesitated. “Karl – can I ask you something?” he said quietly. I could hardly hear him over the sound of the TV presenters dissecting the match like vultures over a dead cow. Oh fuck.
“Umm, yeah, sure. . .”
“Did you go into my room today?”
“I – ah – look – um. . .” twisting in the wind, I was, and he knew it as well as I did.
“A simple yes or no will do.”
“Yes. Look, I’m sorry, the door was open. I just stuck my head in, for a moment, just to see, you know? I didn’t mean anything.” My face was scarlet, and I was babbling. There was no excuse for what I’d done, not really, and we both knew it. You just don’t do that when you’re sharing, not without an invite. I’d have gone mental if he had started poking round my room when I was there, going through my things. People need their space, their privacy, and I’d invaded his as surely as if I’d marched into the bathroom when he was on the pot.
He breathed out, heavily. “I knew it. I knew that stuff had been moved.” He stood up, abruptly. I stood too – I thought he might be going to punch me one, and to be honest I wouldn’t have blamed him. But he turned away from me, strode to the window in three swift, furious steps and stood looking out of it. I didn’t suppose he was admiring the view, judging by the way his knuckles whitened on the sill.
“I’m really sorry.”
He spun towards me.
“You bastard!” he spat. “What gives you the right to go poking around in my stuff, in my private life?”
I wasn’t sure if he really expected an answer. I tried anyway.
“Nothing. I was well out of order, I admit it. It was just – honestly, I just wondered what your room was like. That was all. I’d never seen it?”
“If you wanted a fucking tour you could have asked!”
I raised my hands placatingly. “I know, I know. The door was open, and I just thought – I wonder how he has his place set up? I didn’t mean anything bad by it.”
“Yeah? And I suppose poking around in my cupboards, my wardrobes, was just about checking out the décor too, was it?”
“No.” No, there wasn’t really anything I could say to that. “That was pure nosiness. Open door again.”
“For fuck’s sake! I didn’t expect to have to have every fucking door in the place under lock and key, you nosy cunt!” He thumped the window sill for emphasis. The wood creaked and I was glad it was the window sill and not me he was hitting, though I was under no illusions what the abused sill was standing in for.
“So now you know my secret, I suppose you’re going to go down the pub and have a good giggle with all your mates,” he said bitterly.
“No!” That had never even entered my mind, to be honest. “No. It’s something I shouldn’t know, something I had no right to know. I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”
“Yeah, like I can trust you.”
I bit my lip. “You don’t have any reason to think you can, I admit it. I’m not proud of what I did. But I swear I won’t. That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.” I looked at his face, angry and ashamed, and thought how unfair it was. If anyone should be ashamed it should be me. I stretched out a hand towards him. “Martin. . .”
“Fuck off and die,” he snapped.
Well, I supposed I deserved that. “I’ll move my stuff out as soon as I can find somewhere,” I said. “I’m sorry. Really. I don’t suppose you’ll believe me but I am.” I paused. “I don’t – I don’t judge you or anything. It even looked like fun.” Shit, what was I saying?
“When I saw that picture of you over the other guy’s knee I imagined doing it to you,” I admitted miserably.
He came towards me so fast that I didn’t have time to do more than stumble backwards before he was on me, pushing me against the wall, the front of my shirt gathered in his hand and his furious face thrust into mine, his other fist raised.
“Don’t you dare patronise me you. . .”
I don’t know why I didn’t fight back. I would have done if anyone else had grabbed me like that. I suppose it was guilt, knowing that I damned well deserved it. He was no bigger or stronger than I was. I could have kneed him in the crotch or something. But I just lay there, limp. Closed my eyes. If he was going to hit me I didn’t want to see it coming, because I didn’t think I’d be able to stop myself from hitting back then.
And then abruptly he let go of me, as if in disgust. As I opened my eyes again, relieved, he stumbled to the settee, put his head in his hands and started to sob. Oh fuck.
I stood there, indecisive for a moment. I mean, what do you do when a bloke loses it like that? If it had been one of my mates I suppose we’d all have ignored it until he got himself under control, and then pretended it hadn’t happened. But maybe it was different for gay guys. I picked up the box of hankies from the coffee table and went over, very tentatively rested a hand on his shoulder.
“Here,” I said, offering the hankies.
He swallowed a couple of times, wiped his eyes and looked up at me.
“You don’t have the faintest idea, do you?”
“It – doesn’t matter.”
I sat down beside him. “It does matter,” I said. “I wasn’t trying to patronise you or anything. And I wasn’t disgusted. I meant what I said about the way that photo made me feel. So what is it I don’t understand? I mean apart from everything,” I added wryly.
“How I feel about you?”
“I fancied you rotten from the moment I saw you,” he muttered, not looking up.
Eep! I managed not to jump up and put as much space between me and him as I could but he must have felt the twitch because then he did look up with a sour smile.
“It’s all right, your virtue is safe. I’m just about capable of preventing myself from tearing all your clothes off and having my way with you.”
“Sorry. Umm, I mean – no, I didn’t realise. At all.”
“No. I knew that falling for a straight guy never goes anywhere, I told myself it was mad, and I went and did it anyway.”
“I’m. . . sorry,” I repeated. I seemed to be saying that an awful lot today.
He made a dismissive gesture. “Not your fault. Mine. Only when you said – what you said – that was just rubbing it in too much, you know?”
And I don’t know what made me say it. Maybe it was just – both of us being all stirred up, or whatever, you know? Not ourselves.
“I meant what I said before. I’ll do it, if you want me to. I’ll spank you. I’d – I’d enjoy it.”
The silence stretched unbearably between us. I was suddenly very conscious of the warmth of his body beside me, of his breathing, still ragged, the faint smell of aftershave and shower gel.
He looked at me as if the words were in some foreign language that he had never heard before. I saw a decision forming on his face, knew, even as he licked dry lips and opened his mouth that he was going to say no. Thank God, he was going to save me from myself.
“No, Karl,” he said carefully. “I don’t think so. I don’t take charity. And I’m not the one who messed up here.”
My surprise must have shown on my face because he laughed, a short curt laugh more like a cough.
“You can’t mean?”
“You should never dish it out until you know how to take it,” he said.
“But I. . .” I suddenly have a fucking stiffy. No, this can’t be right. I’m all muddled up. “I can’t. I’m not into that.”
He just looked at me. “That’s my price. We need to sort this out, Karl. You can walk away from this place, and forget all about it. Or you can knock on my door tomorrow evening and ask me to punish you. If you do that maybe I’ll teach you how to top.”
I looked confused. Top what? He laughed. “How to be the one doing the spanking, not taking it.”
“Will it be – will you cane me?”
“Yes. Yes, I think it has to be. For this.”
“I saw those pictures. It’s vicious, man. I can’t take that.”
“You’ll live. Like millions of schoolboys before you. You’ve probably had worse bruises playing footie. The cane is about as bad as it gets, but you need to know. And frankly, you deserve it.”
Well part of me agreed with that, even while the rest of me was saying ‘no waaaaaaaaaaaaaay’. And one part of me continued to register its interest in no uncertain terms. I thought – I hoped – he couldn’t see that. My jeans were quite baggy.
“I – why tomorrow? Why not get it over with now?” Fuck, who had taken over my body? I couldn’t be saying this.
He bit his lip as if considering it, then shook his head firmly. “No. No, we’re both a bit. . . I want you to think about it carefully. I want you to be certain you’re ready to get into this.” He got up, put his hand on my shoulder for a moment, then walked off to his room and shut the door very firmly. I heard the key turn in the lock.
And I thought about it. Oh God, I lay in bed and thought about it all night. I probably deserved to be punished, I knew that. And it would hurt, and I didn’t suppose it would be a pleasant experience. My stomach was full of butterflies at the idea. So why did keep getting a raging hard-on? And why did I fancy the idea of walloping him in turn? Could I be queer? I tried to imagine shagging Martin. My stiffy didn’t go away, but there was no – no whatever it is that happens inside you when you think about doing a bird. It didn’t move me. It didn’t repel me exactly, but I think if I hadn’t already been rock hard I wouldn’t have got it up at the idea.
So OK, so maybe I wasn’t quite as straight as I thought, but I wasn’t a complete bender either. So what was I? The thoughts chased themselves round and round my head until I felt ill. I wanked until I was sore, in the hope that it would help me sleep. It didn’t.
Morning came suddenly and shone bright lights into my bleary eyes. I must have fallen asleep after all, eventually. It was nearly 8:30. Martin had already gone out, judging by the silence – thank God. I couldn’t have faced him just then. I called in sick, I couldn’t face work, either. Just sat around all day, going over it in my head. What I was going to do.
There was no way. I couldn’t go through with it. And supposing he, well, took advantage of me when I was there, bent over. I knew he was a decent bloke, but he was a bloke, and when he had me there he might not be able to help himself. . . oh who did I think I was kidding. I’m not bad looking, but I’m not irresistible either. He’d more or less said so. And once it was done it would be done, and over with. Round and round. I’d do it. I wouldn’t do it. I had to do it. I mustn’t do it. It was inevitable. It was unthinkable.
It was tearing me apart.
I made up my mind. I couldn’t do this. When he came in, I’d apologise again and tell him that I was moving out. That was best. It wouldn’t work, anyway, living here knowing that he was looking at me like that, that he was fancying me. It made me feel funny.
About half-four, well before I knew he was due in, I went and showered and shaved and cleaned myself up. I still wasn’t going to do it, but I wanted to look smart when I told him I was going. I didn’t want him to think it was getting to me.
I heard him come in about 5:30, heard the shower going and him whistling. Bastard! What call had he to be whistling when I’d been going through hell here?
I sat on the bed, rehearsing how I was going to tell him. ‘Look Martin, I know I behaved badly, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry it didn’t work out, and I’d like to keep you as a friend if that’s possible. Maybe we could go for a drink sometime, in a few months, when we’ve both put this behind us. Obviously, I’ll pay my rent up to the end of the month. . .’ Yeah, something like that.
I heard him go into his room. Nearly six. Half six, that would be the time. Give him time to settle down. 6:05. 6:07. 6:15. Oh fuck it. I would just go and tell him.
His door was shut. I hesitated outside. Raised my hand to knock, let it fall again. Raised it, let it fall. Walked down the corridor to let my heart stop pounding, only it didn’t. My stomach was doing a slow, complicated figure-of eight orbit between my throat and my balls. Shitshitshitshitshit.
I almost ran up to his door, knocked before I could let my brain talk me out of it again.
I opened the door. For a moment I thought I was going to pass out. It felt as if the room was a thousand feet long. Martin was sitting at his desk. The hairbrush and the leather thing were lying on the desk in front of him. And the cane. The bloody bloody cane. He couldn’t have really thought I’d let him use it.
“Martin, I. . .” my throat dried and I had to pause, start again.
“Martin, I know I behaved badly and I’m sorry. I want things to be right between us. I’d like to keep you as a friend. If that’s possible.”
He shut his eyes for a moment. “I see.” He looked up at me, incredibly sadly. It made me want to hug him. No, not like that. Just as a mate. “I see,” he said again. “The thing is, Karl, I’m not sure if we can,” he said softly. “Not after yesterday.”
“I know. What I did stands between us. That’s why – that’s why I’ve come to ask you to punish me.” Oh. I said it. I didn’t mean to say it. And then again, I did.
He shook his head. “No. I had no right to ask that of you. It was wrong of me.”
I was dumbfounded. I’d gone through all this agony and now the fucker was refusing?
“But. . .”
“I was angry and hurt, Karl. Look, we’ll get over it. We might not be mates, but we can be civil. You can stay, if you really want to. If you really don’t mind that I’m into this. That I said what I said.”
I fancy you rotten. The words hung unspoken between us for a moment.
“But. . .”
“Forcing it on you. For fuck’s sake, what was I thinking of?”
I walked up to him. “Get up,” I hissed between gritted teeth.
He looked up, surprised at my tone, and slowly got up. “Karl, what. . .?”
I picked up the cane, handed it to him, yanked my jeans and pants down and bent over the desk.
“For fuck’s sake, Martin, just get it over with, will you? We both know I deserve it, and I’m asking you to do it, right? No forcing. Just do it!”
There was a long pause. Then: “Well, I’m not doing it like that. Stand up.”
“Pull those jeans back up. I don’t intend to start on the bare, you idiot.” Oh thank you God. Although now I came to think of it I wasn’t sure if I liked that ‘start’. “And I want you here, standing behind the chair. That’s it. Now bend over the back of it and hold onto the front of the seat. Yes, like that. Good. Now, I’m going to give you an old-fashioned six of the best. And then your jeans are coming down, and I promise you by the time I’ve finished with you not even your thoughts will dare to enter this room without permission.”
Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck, what had I got myself into?
“And then. . .” He paused menacingly. “And then, you and I are going to go out and have a drink.”
Well that didn’t sound such a bad idea. And it wasn’t. Only I was right about that cane. It is vicious. It was only pride that kept me there for the last two strokes. And the hairbrush isn’t much better, and God is it humiliating to be bare-arsed over another bloke’s lap getting it. I found that I preferred to have my drink standing at the bar, afterwards, and he teased me gently about it with double entendres the whole evening. By the time we got home, giggly and flushed, I was ready for my revenge.
And gradually I got a bit less worried about definitions. Straight. Queer. Obviously I’m not that way myself. Obviously. But you see, when we got back from the bar things went a bit beyond just a whacking. I went out to the bathroom the next morning and scrubbed myself for about an hour, swearing never to do anything like that again. But we’ve kept on playing, and things keep getting out of hand. The last few times I haven’t even bothered to pretend I was drunk. So here we are, three months sort of living together. I know it won’t last. Sooner or later he’ll meet a nice guy, or I’ll meet a bird I want to be with for more than just a one-night-stand. I really don’t fancy blokes. Honest.
But in a funny sort of way, maybe I can love one.
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© , 2006