Memoirs of a Gaysian: A Preface
11 November 2002
It was a balmy summer evening when I was first lucky enough to make the acquaintance of A-. I was seated by the pool tables in one of London's many beer houses, when an exotic-looking creature entered the room. I could discern by his immaculate attire and close-fitting chemise that he was not one of the typical patrons of this establishment: too well-preened, his confidence in himself almost lent him an air of unease in his surroundings. Intrigued, I struck up a conversation, desiring to know what would drive such a character to frequent our establishment.
From that night on, our lives became intertwined: we would pass days in conversation, talking about his upbringing, his thwarted desires, his varied victories and defeats. He confided in me his deepest secrets and regrets, swearing me to utmost secrecy lest the reputations he had sought to protect be damaged by scurrilous rumour and hearsay; but as he grew older and weaker, and even the memories of those he was shielding faded from existence, he loosened his grip and consented to my disclosing some of his tales after his passing.
I can still see his old room now: the rows of carefully-pressed shirts, the numerous suit jackets and trousers, all on wooden hangers and arranged in order of shade; the shelf of beauty products above a mirror, each one's label facing perfectly forward to form a cosmetic guard of honour; the rack of CDs in alphabetic order of artist, individually dusted (and, for the more inquisitive inspector, each disc rotated to optimum position). In the corner of his room there stands an ageing weights bench, bought with the best of intentions but ultimately defeated by the allure of less energetic activities, save for the occasions when frustration would lead to a fit of exercise over a three-week period. And always seated at his desk, the distinctively full head of hair three different shades of silver, would be my friend.
I would repeatedly ask him what lay at that bureau, as the drawers were invariably slammed shut upon my entrance into the room; a flippant remark was my only reward, and one of the stipulations of his last testament was that the desk be burnt entire, contents unexamined and intact, within an hour of his passing. The same happened with a small box to one side, the only clue to its contents a reported smell of burnt plastic and the occasional unexplained explosive burst. These were, however, the only mysteries that ever laid unanswered to me: all else was divulged with an air of amused reluctance.
'My dear Jamie-san,' he would whisper, 'how do you succeed in extracting from me the things I have kept hidden for so long? Confidences which could forever ruin the reputations of some of the country's leading figures (mine, sadly, is beyond redemption!) emerge from my lips as easily as the cherry blossom falls from the trees; scurrilous details that it pains me to disclose, and that bring a blush to my cheeks to hear emerge from my throat, you unlock with a flourish of your tongue! What sort of creature are you, that you cast your spell on me with so little care!'
At this, we would both laugh: his chuckles would fill the room, his chest shaking heavily with the effort, and he would start to wheeze his appreciation. Occasionally, concerned at his difficulties, I would rush over to him, prepared to revive him should the worst occur; this seemed to amuse him further, his breath shortening and his face reddening more still as I readied myself to administer to him.
We always agreed that I would tell his story once he and those it concerned had moved on to the better life. I was never sure what motivation he had for revealing his secrets: whether it was to amuse, to expose, or even solely for my benefit (though I never deluded myself with the latter theory for long). All I know is that our conversations developed into interviews; my nods and giggles became jottings, shorthand notes, pages of details, then yards of dictaphone tapes on my wall, distinct only by a date on the label. Sometimes, in a nostalgic mood, I will still take down a cassette at random, and play back our conversations while sitting at home, reading a book or going about my toilet, and be taken back in an instant to his drawing room as his voice fills my flat; on such occasions, I am filled with an inexplicable feeling of loss and completion.
So, he is gone, and it is time to tell his story. Some details are outlandish, some beyond conventional decency; but all go to forming a picture of a friend, an historical figure, an unforgettable man.
New York, December 1999