Ponyboy was crawling around in the rain and the muck in the alley behind the pub. I helped him to his feet, put his left arm around my shoulders, and with some effort got him to tell me where he lived. Fortunately it wasn’t very far.
All the way I revelled in the warmth of his body as he leaned, shivering, on me, and the feeling of his rain-slick, greasy, clammy skin against my palms, in brushing against the barbells piercing his nipples and only too visible under his wet My Little Pony tank top, andi n the smell of puke, and sweat, and cigarettes, and pot, and some medicinal stink that I assumed was from his smack addiction.
I realized suddenly that it had been over a year that I ad quit my own H addiction, and that I’d gone completely without since. Being a thief had completely replaced my libido. Sure, I had wanked, quite obsessively at times, but the last time I’d gotten any of the real stuff had been that time Hendrik had made wear his girlfriend’s clothes and the screwed me, calling me by her name all through, and demanding of me to answer in a ridiculous falsetto and pretending to be this horrible caricature of her.
Amına kodum, was I ever in need of a good fuck.
But nothing of the sort happened that night: I finally got Ponyboy into his flat, a dank, one-room affair that smelled as if it hadn’t been aired out, like, ever, while for the last two years every weekend two unwashed teams of rugby players had had wild orgies in there, and on weekdays the place had been used alternately as a meth kitchen and a field hospital. The grey sheets of his bed felt greasy to the touch. I dumped the near comatose boy onto it an lay down next to him.
Ponyboy said something that sounded like “A’ll be back in a moment” and started snoring. I lay next to him for a while. We were both still fully clothed (well, I was, he was wearing his stage outfit), and soaking wet from the heavy rain. When I started to shiver, I took his bed covers that were lying – I swear, I am not exaggerating here one bit – in a heap on the floor, on top of loads of unwashed clothes, an overflowing ashtray, and several half eaten, already partially mouldering and mostly tipped over cups of instant noodles. Hence it too was wet in places and extremely nasty all around. The only way to ever get it clean again would have been to burn it. I think I have slept cleaner under bridges and supermarket loading docks.
That night, though, it was the perfect cover for me. I put it over myself and Ponyboy, higged him tight, and just lay there in all that grime, and wetness, and soaked in his presence. After a while I got too horny to bear it, unbuttoned my jeans, and wanked until I blew a load into my boxers. For a brief while I fell asleep.
Very early that morning I stole out of Ponyboy’s cellar flat, and rang a very annoyed Charley out of his bed. I pestered him until he connected me with an ethically challenged locksmith who made me a copy of Ponyboy’s front door key without asking any questions. (He did take a heft fee, but what was I really going to do with all the money Charley and I were making?)
That done, I sneaked back into Ponyboy’s place, crept under the cover with him, and woke him with a blow job.
What can I tell you about Ponyboy? We didn’t rally talk about much. He was somewhere in his early 20s and enrolled in something artsy and futureless at Edinburgh University. He was from Gretna, in the very South-East of Scotland, near the English border, and claimed he had been conceived in the shadow of the Lochmaben Stone. My favourite tattoo on his boy was the phoenix rising from his crotch, and the three symbols on his back, one on each shoulder blade and one on the nape of his neck. I suppose they were the letters “G” (or perhaps “C”), “Z”, and “J” (or maybe “I”). Each was about the size of my palm and heavily ornamented in skills, bones, blades, screaming faces, hangman’s nooses, hourglasses, and other symbols of death. At the time I sort of assumed they were his initials, though I never asked him for his name.
He asked me, once. I was lying on his bed, on my side, hogtied, and trousers around my ankles. He had lit a fag and put it between my lips. I watched crumbs of still glowing ash fall and burn tiny holes into his rumpled, grey sheets. He was sitting next to me, naked, glowing in fresh, post-orgasm sweat, and folding little fighter jets from his huge stacks of sheet music – his rents had once made him learn the piano, but he had since sold his instrument for H. He tried to knock the fag from my mouth with his paper planes, but all he could hit was my belly and shoulders and the top of my head.
“What’s yer name, ma wee sluagh?”
“What does it matter to you?” I tried to growl around the cigarette, but if fell from my mouth. Fascinated we both watched it burn a big, smouldering hole into the sheets and mattress, but eventually it winked out and nothing really caught fire.
“No’in,” he admitted, and rolled me onto my belly.
For the most part my routine that second week in Edinburgh was to be woken by nightmares and sneak out hours before Morpheus relinquished his hold on Ponyboy. If it was early enough that the city was still mostly asleep I’d walk to Holyrood Park, go for a run, and practice Aikido in the valley between Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags. Then I’d return to Curtis’s, Matt’s, and Marci’s flat for a shower and maybe a change of clothes, and go to a Laundromat neaby to wash what I’d worn the day before. In the Laundromat I’d read books I picked up either at the flat or at Ponyboy’s: a Hinton, a Welsh, and my first Dennis Cooper. Around noon I’d meet with Charley, who’ usually make me eat something, and we’d decide what games to play that day.
Eventually we’d end up in some pub, get pissed, and I’d bid him good night. Then I’d walk over to Ponyboy’s and peek through the window. When he wasn’t home, I’d just let myself in and nap on his bed or read till he arrived. When he was there, I’d watch him through his window until there was a good moment to sneak in and sort of just materialise out of thin air next to him. He must have figured out that I a copy of his key, but I think I managed to startle him at least a bit every day.
I really liked my time there, and in a way Charley and Ponyboy become very close friends, probably the closest I ever had aside from Leo. But after two week – two weeks of increasingly unbearable nightmares at that, I started to suffocate.
So I invested some money in new equipment like waterproof clothes and lovely 10 eye oxblood Doc Marten’s boots to replace the Chucks I had worn to tatters. And sometime in the afternoon of Thursday, 21 August 2008, without ever saying good-bye to either Charley or Ponyboy I walked to where Telford Road becomes the A90 and truck out my thumb.
And that was my Edinburgh episode. I’ve never been back, and I left nothing but a long line of hurt marks and two blokes who didn’t know anything about me. I thought that with leaving Charley I had finally turned my back on Leeds for good, too. Never in a million years had I thought that Edinburgh could ever come to haunt me. It would be half a year before I would figure out how wrong I was.