Jay looks down and wonders, not for the first time, if it is his hands that are the problem, the root of his stubborn and unwanted single status.
He considers them carefully, short, stubby fingers, palms that are freakishly fat, the whole, oddly small, out of scale with the rest of him, they are a throw back to an earlier, provincial time, a tell for all those that can read, can see behind the gym buffed, waxed and tanned present to the past, the overweight teen from Walsall, taking 20 minutes to pick up a copy of Gay Times from the WH Smiths in the precinct, in the days when the only gay in the village was a statement of fact and not a TV catch phrase.
He looks at his reflection in the window, hair, carefully, artfully tousled, eye brows threaded, not too much, not too queeny, just enough to give definition, frame the face and the new experiment, tinted eye lashes and he smiles, pleased, but the pleasure lasts only seconds and then his home alone or more accurately, soon to be home alone state kicks in and stares down, accusingly, at his hands, traitorous hands and sighs.
Jay knows that he looks OK, he spends secret hours looking at images of men, not for the obvious reason, although there is of course that too, but to compare himself, to see where he comes on the continuum of male attractiveness. He is a 7, maybe in the right light, an 8. So, by all the laws of gaydom, he should not be single, but he is and this when he is prepared, reconciled to consider a 6, perhaps even a 5.
He looks around the bus, two little baby queens, foundation slipping now, wrapped around each other, 2 squeaky care bears, he is careful to avoid the eyes of the skin head man, tattooed knuckles, union t-shirt, body held together with rage. He knows where eye contact will end, a angry exchange of body fluids in the far corner of the park at the end of his own street.
The bus halts at lights and suddenly, there is banging and gesticulating and someone smiling and waving and mouthing at him, it must be him, from another night bus, also halted pointing South.
A guy is waving and smiling, pointing at him, Jay looks carefully, the man/boy/man looks familiar. It takes Jay a second or two to place him, a bar tonight, Soho probably and the man dressed in Gap chinos and baseball shirt, either so hip that he is off the page or simply off the page. It’s the kind of look that makes Jay anxious, edgy, makes if difficult to do the maths, could be a 9, could be a 4.
And then, both buses pass each other, the man is still mouthing something as his bus vanishes down the road.
Jay goes back to considering his hands.
I can’t believe it, there he is, the most beautiful man I have ever seen and he’s inches away from me, two layers of glass and some cold night air between us and I don’t think, don’t weigh up the action, I just bang on the glass, try to get his attention and it works, he looks up and I know I’ve got the goofy smile on and on the cool-o-meter I am scoring a very low 2, but how often do you see someone that beautiful on a night bus.
Of course I saw him earlier, he was standing, back against a pillar,watching the room, while all around men looked at him and knew he was out of their league.
I’m with Agnes and tonight Mathew we’re channeling Breakfast club, brat pack, Pretty in Pink and we’re working irony and penny loafers and I want someone to come and quote any line from Heathers, but no-body does.
Agnes isn’t a fag – hag, not as such, just says she meets a nicer class of boy in gay bars and she’s my partner in costume and she knows every line in My Private Idaho and makes a knock out Mohito and she understands the thing about beauty and the thing about beautiful boys, so we spend a lot of time together, mostly just looking.
I’ve thought about it a lot, what makes a man beautiful, it’s more complicated than you’d think, so many men are almost beautiful, nearly beautiful, beautiful light, but when you see the real thing, it takes your breath away, makes you want to sit down and just drink it in.
And he was it,almost perfect and of course he didn’t ‘t know it and I looked more carefully, trying to see what he sees, trying to catch the glitch, the imperfection that keeps him awake at night and it takes a while, but then I got it. His hands were tucked behind his back, he wasn’t not holding a glass, not making a performance of lips, tongue, teeth, mouth. There’s something about his hands he doesn’t like and it’s that flaw, that probably imagined flaw that makes him even more precious.
He moved towards the bar and I tucked myself in next to him, not too close so that I could enjoy his profile, but close enough so that I could see his hands, watch him as he ordered a drink, proffered a twenty pound note.
His hands were small, neat, slightly fleshy, I closed my eyes for a second and imagined them tracing shapes on the small of my back, imagined his ring finger in my mouth and my teeth nipping the skin and when I opened my eyes, he was gone and from across the dance floor, Agnes was waving at me and pointing at the bemused, gawky twenty something hipster she was carefully reeling into her circle of seduction
So, I headed home, off the the south bound night bus, thinking about the man at the bar, wondering if could track him down, get into some conversation, but it wasn’t a plan, just late night day dreaming and then, there he was and then he wasn’t.
Ships, well night buses that pass in the night.
I text Agnes, remind her to stay safe.