Leave me alone!
If I want to beat my head against the bus shelter window. Don’t mess me about. Don’t put your hand between my forehead and the glass. Don’t be all strong and gentle and caring.
No: I have to handle this alone…
Hail rattles on the metal roof, freezing wind whips clothing…
I’m suffocated in a hug from someone I don’t know. She’s fat and perfumed … and strong.
She says, “Tell me.”
“Fuck off.” I struggle. She won’t let me go. I’m shaking and swearing. What’s happening? I don’t swear!
“Tell me.” Her harsh whisper in my ear. The hug gets tighter.
I sag. Tears everywhere.
She repeats, “Tell me.”
I gasp, take a deep breath. “Two men.”
“Two men? Have you been assaulted?”
“No, much worse. Much worse. Two fucking men…” I relax a bit.
Her grip on me becomes less painful. She lets go of my left arm, strokes my cheek and grasps the arm again. “You’re talking … good … go on.”
I settle my breathing. “Two men … but which? This is so hard … so … so hard.”
The woman still holds me in a strong grip but I get a chance to pull back a bit … and see her more clearly. She says, “Talk! Tell me about these men.”
I dive into the deep end of speaking to a complete stranger.
“Ben … he’s nice … always laughing … smart … good looking. Has a house in Morningside. He’s so easy to get on with. Buys me stuff. Sweet man.”
She says, “And the other?” It’s like a command. Oh … it is a command. Can you have warm, soft commands?
“Mike … trouble. Artist who lives in a bedsit in Leith. Pushes me away. Scruffy … sometimes a bit smelly, but does take showers if I tell him to. It’s the finding of clean clothes afterwards than can be…”
I take a deep breath … I don’t like Mike’s room … linseed oil … old socks … paint … stand oils. “OK, he says he didn’t choose to be an artist any more than he chose to be a man … and didn’t choose to be a burned-out person either. Always short of cash…”
I’m pulled back into another of her hot suffocating embraces. A bus stops but we both miss it. I need this hug.
Doors slam and hiss. Rain and hail patters over glass and into gutters. Boots and shoes splash in puddles. Umbrellas are hoisted. People get off the bus and head in different directions.
The woman pushes me to arms’ length and stares into my eyes. She nods. “You’ve made your choice: I can feel it. You’re taking the next bus to Leith.”
Gary Bonn: 2016