“Desperation is a necessary ingredient to learning anything or creating anything. Period. If you ain’t desperate at some point, you ain’t interesting.”
There had been few tender moments before, now there were less than seldom, there were none at all. Like an ice storm had blown over us. He could barely look at me and he did all he could to make sure that when we were alone, on that one work-free day that we shared together, his friend and partner in crime Emma, would come over to outstay her welcome.
She was a character, don’t get me wrong and we got along very well but she didn’t just stay for a few hours. Upon his request, she would stay all day and all night. Even if I had planned something and specifically asked for us to be alone, she would appear, with her tall tales of times spent working at Buckingham Place. Of the time she once spent four hours, hiding behind a curtain, from the Queen Mother.
ABOVE: Emma and the Gypsy – She doted on him and his story
The contempt, discourtesy and boldness that he had treated me with since the fire, (along with the fact that he came at me that night and hit me first) were left in the shade by my violent reaction to the pressures that he put me under. The atmosphere was strained and tense now.
We ate together in distended silences. I watched as he dropped food onto his shirt, I was looking for a smile or a laugh that could puncture the silence but he simply rubbed it into his shirt, spelt out his initial and remained voiceless. There was no going back.
Poignantly, both photographs below capture that dinner and the predicament that we each faced with effortless and sorrowful ease. He, indifferent, jaded and nauseated by the sight of me. Myself, yearning and agonising for any measure of love from my canonised Gypsy Boy.
Over in my prison of brass and glass, I had become close to one of the dwarves, Albert. He had been in the original ‘Star Wars’ films as an Ewok. A seasoned pantomime dwarf, loved grandfather, husband and close friend to the comedian Peter Kay, who would later include him in many of the sketches in his popular shows. Rumour had it that his wife, of unrestricted height, had undertaken a dubious alliance with one of the Chuckle Brothers.
His nature was kind and supportive. He was caring and conversational. He reminded me of my late grandfather. The hellish, 72 hour long weeks spent at work in the arcade, enabled us to bond quickly. He was aware of my home life and the troubles I had been facing with the gypsy and he was the only person that I could talk to. His wonderful ability to listen and to give advice was matched equally by his welcomed capability to raise a laugh from me, even in my most saddened of days.
ABOVE: Albert and inset, images we captured of ourselves at ‘work’
It was to Albert I turned to when the Gypsy pulled one of his stunts. He had organised to meet with the man that had helped him run away, Calum. The man that he was still in love with. I had asked him if I could come with him, so that Calum could see that he was with somebody that loved him.
Rather than tell me that he would rather go alone, or perhaps explain why he needed to go alone, he gave me a fake time. Getting time off in this hell hole was so hard, a palaver would always ensue, rotas checked numerous times, before a final ‘NO’. I had never been granted time off before. Finishing my shift at 4pm, six hours before I ordinarily did, was such a novelty that I practically skipped home.
At home I found a note left for me to read, scrawled in pidgin English, ‘He came sooner, we gone’. He didn’t come home and I didn’t hear from him for over twenty-four hours. I did some housework in a kind of trance and then I went back to the arcade to see Albert and cried. He gave me cheap tea from a machine and made space for me in his little den behind a bank of fruit machines, we both used upside down bins as seats and ate chocolate brazil nuts. I didn’t even like chocolate brazil nuts.
There was no arguing about it, there was no apology and there was no explanation other than a flippant, ‘he came sooner and we couldn’t wait for you’. Any issue I had would automatically get turned round into the fact that I lost my mind that night. Then he would bark out orders regarding the plans to move to Manchester, as though offering me salvation if I worked harder in bringing that closer to fruition.
He acted as though he just couldn’t wait to be rid of me. That much was palpable. Yet he let me forge on ahead with our plans to move. I put the legwork into finding a flat. It was via a housing association in Salford. Unfurnished high rise flat with no carpets. We didn’t care about this and we knew it would be temporary. It was exciting but it was also ominous and looming, as I could feel that this was more his move than mine, just like it was his story and not mine.
Now that this was sorted, all he needed to do was to find a job along Canal Street. The cities gay district. They all wanted him, no questions asked and so that was job done. He settled on Bar 38, which until recently was called AXM and now another name that escapes me. Back then it was not a dive bar like it is today and, like the show we used to watch together – Ally McBeal, it had one of the first unisex loos we had ever seen. It was fashionable. The Gypsy was always fashionable. This he had decided, was the right bar for him and the next move in the advancement of his story was here.
It came as no surprise when he finally jettisoned me. All the pieces of his chess game were in place. He wanted to move to Manchester on his own. He told me that it was because of my outburst and that he couldn’t forgive me. There was nothing I could do, say and nothing that would change his mind. He went to stay with a friend that night and I was asked to pack up and leave by the morning. Checkmate.
I have to say. I have to hold my hands up and say that I did not deal with this, with any level of maturity, or emotional intelligence at all. I was very much in love with this person, this beautiful gypsy. I lived and breathed him. To be told by him that the plans I had created for us, that the move that I had orchestrated for us, he was taking alone, was cruelty. That I was to pack up and leave the flat that I had moved us into, the home that I had kept so well (Well? Apart from burning it down once). It was such a crushing blow.
ABOVE: The Gypsy and I – It was over – He was moving on
I had sacrificed so much for nothing in return. Perhaps he continued on through life, taking hearts and breaking them to get what he wanted and where he needed to be. Taking from those people more than they were even aware they could give, feeding his metamorphoses until it was time, to take flight once again.
I was only 20 when we parted. Of course, I considered myself, at the time, to be worldly-wise and something of a grown man but now that I am indeed a grown man, I look back at that and I don’t blame myself entirely. He was never mine, to begin with – he never loved me at all, this much he admits.
I regret the way that I handled this but likewise, he ought to regret and feel ashamed for treating me like an appliance, a contraption to be used and discarded.
He used me with every fibre of his being. No two ways about it. He let me alter my entire life to a position that benefited himself, knowing that it was always a temporary partnership. He was a traveller, a gypsy on the run from his own kind and I had been a means to an end. A pawn in a one-man mission.
The album ‘The Space Between Us’ by Craig Armstrong became the soundtrack to my pain and emotion. 07 Balcony Scene (Romeo And Juliet) Winter was on its way, the change of season was a bittersweet backdrop to a heartache that cut right to my core and would shape a new, lonelier self. These were all new emotions, raw and unprecedented. Whilst it is easy to look back and cringe at the triteness and sentimentality of this, back then it affected me on a deep and fathomless level.
I listened to this album, whilst sorting out boxes and belongings and wiping away tears in-between moments of hugging my aching stomach on the floor of our home, that once displayed so much optimism. As I realised what had happened and how he felt about me, waves of anger would come over me as if to soothe the pain and offer respite with a new layer of emotion. I looked at the shelving where he kept his memorabilia.
He would buy one of those Batman figures rather than pay rent. We spent hours looking through comic books and specialist magazines, in the hopes of contacting a seller that stocked an original He-Man, Skeletor and such other villains. To me, now. They represented his immaturity, obsession and selfishness and I took his batman figures and I snapped them all into bits. Limb by limb. Not how I would handle things today.
I went to stay with a friend in North Yorkshire. I thought that It would give him space to think, to realise that he missed me and then it would all be OK again. Just another blip to overcome. The fact is that when we are so young and have nothing else to compare, we fight for what we think we want and need, even when it is not what is good for us and certainly not what we need.
Whilst away, I found in an old collectable shop, a life-size cardboard cut-out of Poison Ivy. It was a vision within that shop and it bolted me to the ground. I took it as a sign of course. It was the Gypsy’s favourite female character from the Batman movies and I knew he would melt when he saw it. Perhaps he would love me for finding it for him and perhaps he would cuddle me like he felt something for me.
I was totally devastated to arrive back and find that he had immediately moved Harry the writer into our home. They were both set to move to Manchester a week later. Harry was, of course, the reason we met at all. He had introduced me to the Gypsy but Sean had not spoken to Harry since he left the house to live with me. Harry told the Gypsy that he would never speak to him again if he left to move in with me. Yet there he was, in my warm grave, as thick as thieves, sharing our bed and moving on with the plans I had created.
The Gypsy was really cold towards me now, he took Poison Ivy from me with appreciation and glee but it was soon time for me to leave when its novelty had worn off. It was an uncomfortable feeling to be treated like that in our home, my home, whilst this person from the beginning of our relationship watched on. It was not a development I had expected and I didn’t know what to do.
It was unpleasant, grubby and it was mischievous but I hatched a plan to sabotage their move. An unsophisticated and childish coping mechanism meant that I could mask my pain with cheap melodramatic revenge. When something terrible happened to me – when I felt threatened, hurt and devastated. The answer was always a camp and melodramatic action that saved face – soothed my pride and caused all hell.
A remnant from my earlier days of bullying and other kinds of serious abuse. It somehow disassociated my actual pain, to form part of a ‘storyline’ that wasn’t actually happening to me and I tricked myself into thinking that I was in control of situations and therefore, it didn’t quite hurt as much.
Harry had taken personal displeasure in the fact that the Gypsy and I were an item. He had met me that night and he had introduced us both. There was no chemistry between Harry and I, as fun as he was, we would never have been an item. Harry resented the Gypsy because, in his mind, he had taken me away from him.
I knew what time the Gypsy would finish work that night. I arranged with him that I would collect the last of my belongings and be gone before he arrived home. Knowing that Harry was home alone, armed with cider and intent, I orchestrated it so that having seduced Harry, the Gypsy would catch us in bed together. Drastic, outrageous and totally desperate but my childish coping mechanism thought this was genius.