I rang my old friend Gerald in London. We go back a long way – it’s sixty years since we met at school and had our brief dalliance, which turned into a great friendship. Gerry’s a real friend, not the pretend sort. We’ve been through the thick and the thin, the lean and the fat, the good days and the ghastly hours.
He came down here to my place by the river near Bath after his friend did himself in, and poor Gerry just went to pieces. He rested up, ate and drank and gradually put himself together again. So I thought I’d better tell him the bad news about me.
‘Gerry, it’s me. Well, I saw the specialist this morning and when I pressed him a bit he said I’ve probably got six months to a year before this blasted cancer finishes me off.’ Gerry as shocked, of course.
‘Yes, it’s a bastard, but there we are. He wants me to start on the chemo soon, but I want a couple of weeks to enjoy myself first.’
‘Is there anything I can do?’ said Gerry.
‘Well yes, actually. Could you come at the weekend and could you find a nice young man and bring him with you? You know what I like – dark and slim, chatty and friendly. I’ll give him £200, and he’ll be well fed and watered. All he has to do is wander about with not much on, preferably naked, swim in the river and sit about and enjoy himself. I don’t want much, just to hold him a little, maybe bring him off. Nothing energetic. We’ll have some good meals, I’ll crack open some good wine. Could be my last summer.’
‘I get the picture’ said Gerry. ‘Leave it with me.’ It was a Monday evening, so he had four days to find someone.
It was Friday evening, and Gerry’s car rolled up the drive at six-thirty. Out stepped the most delightful young man I had seen in years. Tall, dark and slim, with a fresh, rather oval face framed by lots of dark curly hair. Smiling, he shook my hand. I’m sure Gerry enjoyed the look on my face.
We had cocktails on the garden terrace. Turns out the young man’s is Dan, and he is studying law but is mad about music, painting, opera and ballet. When he went for a pee I asked Gerry where on earth did he find him?
‘Oh the Quebec, of course. He was sat by himself, so I joined him, took him out to dinner. I explained your proposition and after some persuasion he said yes. Twenty years old; has a soft spot for much older men. So here we are.’
‘Well done’ I said. ‘Knew you’d come up trumps.’ We had the most marvellous weekend. The sun shone, it was hot and Dan appeared in shorts, sandals and a tee shirt. Lovely brown skin, a fresh complexion and a lively, friendly manner. He loved to talk and we had breakfast and later coffee on the terrace. We talked about operas he had seen in London, artists and exhibitions; gossip and chit-chat about the so-called great and good. I told him my stories about Britten, Tippett , Keith Vaughan and Bacon and he lapped them up. After coffee Gerry tactfully drifted off.
‘Feel like a swim?’ I said. ‘That would be nice.’ We strolled down to the summer house and he calmly took his clothes off and waded in. What a pleasure to watch him swimming and splashing around, and what a lovely sight he made as he came out dripping wet. I threw a big towel around him and helped him to dry off. There was a faded pink deck chair in the summer house, with an old stool behind it. I sat on the stool and he took the deck chair, wrapped in the towel.
‘Are you warm enough?’ I asked. ‘Oh yes, too warm he said’, throwing the towel slightly apart. There was his splendid body, with the large cock slightly erect. I needed no more encouragement. I got up and slid my right hand onto his chest, then slowly down the taught belly and down to his groin. Oh , the feel of that warm smooth skin over the fresh muscles. I took his cock in my hand and slowly, slowly I brought him to climax. White jism spurted over his stomach.
After that, Dan spent most of the weekend naked. He was totally lacking in inhibitions – in fact I’m sure he enjoyed showing off his body. It was the very image of completeness, everything in it’s place, nothing too much. No fat anywhere, the skin with that wonderful bloom of youth. All the parts in perfect balance. Supple, graceful, magnificent.
I longed to draw him as I was once able, but was content with some photographs, which I promised him would be for my eyes only. I took him standing by the summer house. In the dappled shade of the old elm tree. Lying on the grass, one knee up, with the river glinting behind.
At tea on the Saturday I declared that we must all dress up for dinner. Dan hadn’t brought anything – I told him not to worry, I was sure there was something in my wardrobe. So up we all went and Gerry and I kitted him out in an old striped blazer which had belonged to my younger brother, a pair of cricket whites, some spats, a purple shirt with large collars and an old straw boater with a red ribbon. ‘There, doesn’t he look splendid!’ We turned him towards the long mirror and he laughed.
‘I look like some one out of P.G Wodehouse.’
‘And why not, you look wonderful’ said Gerry. I put on my favourite cream linen jacket, with a white shirt and a silk cravat, plus mid-blue trousers and white shoes. Gerry turned out in a dark pink jacket and emerald green trousers.
We all met on the terrace, and I got Mary, my housekeeper, to take a photograph. The three of us, with Dan in the middle – the lawn behind and the big trees and the river in the distance. Quite a picture we made. How I relished the pleasures of that evening – the gin and tonics, the chatter, the laughter, the sun dappling the trees.
Dan told us about his glamorous mother, his high-earning father, his sister and his artistic friends. Little stories and anecdotes that have been told before went the rounds on that balmy evening. I think we all knew it was a special occasion. Certainly it was precious and special to me – every moment of it.
Mary pulled out all the stops with her dinner. Moules Mariniere to start, with a crisp Chardonnay. Duck a l’orange, with a fine old Burgundy. Chocolate tart with a dessert wine. Some cheese to finish, with an old port. No coffee for me; I need my sleep.
Quite sloshed, we all strolled down to the river in the glow of that fading July evening. A pair of swans sailed past. It was nearly too perfect. I put an arm round Dan’s shoulder, Gerry put an arm round his waist and suddenly there we were, two old men embracing a young man. We went back and I put Delius ‘Walk to the Paradise Garden’ on the stereo. Corny I know, but apt.
I’m sure Gerry shed a tear, but he covered it well. As old Nietzsche said: all joy longs for eternity.
I took those photographs with me when I went into hospital about seven months later. Lucky me, I could afford to go private. I have my own room, there are flowers by the window, and the doctors tell me it won’t be too bad; they’ll give me morphine and the pain shouldn’t be too much.
I drift in and out of sleep, and thoughts and memories come and go. I can’t get to the photographs now, but I remember them, as I remember Dan in the summer house. I think of that meal, I think of that embrace, the feel of his body clasped between me and my old friend.
I can’t be sure, since I am sure of very little now; but I think Gerry and Dan came to visit me earlier this evening. I felt Gerry’s familiar hand on mine and he said kind words into my ear. I forget what they were. Then I felt someone kiss the centre of my forehead and I am sure it was Dan. Their kindness is the best memory of all.
Drifting now floating no fearwhy struggle?