Stories from a troubled time, an examination of the present, the past and what is lost.
amorals 3: Little Friendsview galleries
I sat with my beer and surveyed the scene: the bar, the tables, the games shelf with the sign games are for display only - feel free to bring your own game, the bookshelf with no sign - I guess no one has thought a customer might want to read, the publican memorabilia - nondescript brewing implements of wood and metal and the like that often decorated pub walls when trying to create an authentic feel. Though in this case I believe Aesop, the landlord, has been in the trade long enough for these to be his personal memorabilia.
The bar counter travels round into a modern room with a blank giant screen and silent gambling machines. I wouldn't have gone into a room like that on match day before the virus, now it is nothing more than a dusty memento of when crowds could form. Well, I assume so. The football is still on the television. Aesop may have football gatherings of his friends by secret invitation. The news regularly has stories of lockdown police raiding illegal football watching gatherings anywhere from front rooms to warehouses. Football fans are no good at being discreet. The news article is always followed by someone claiming the loss of spectators is killing the spectacle. Or how football will die if they don't do something about the latest dozen lower league clubs that have closed. And how sad is the latest premiere league club that is playing in a luxury apartment stadium. I think it is a fine idea - having a house that backs onto a world class pitch must be a good thing even if we one day beat this virus, in whatever form it morphs into. And lockdown entrepreneurs have somewhere to spend their millions. I read a half line apartment for United or City is a few million a month.
The pub was exactly as busy as it had been last week and the week before. The lone man occupying the bar stool again, the trio in the dark corner, the large group in the booth and the two central tables of various youth. It is a bit disconcerting having the same drinkers here week after week, but maybe that is just what pubs are like in the afternoon. I will ask Martha when she comes, last week she greeted quite a number of the other drinkers. It is her local.
Last week. The previous week. Both very enjoyable afternoons, which is why I am back at the same table again with the hope of another exciting little story. Many times in the last week I thought about sending a message to Martha but never found the right words. Each time I failed to find words more tantalising than the insinuation that Martha would tell an erotic story in the form of an Aesop's fable. My hope is the tale would necessarily be erotic. When I reread each message it seemed desperate or crude. The thing I failed to be was nonchalant. I wanted to add to the anticipation but do it effortlessly. I thought about asking James for a suggestion. He was always good at classy innuendos. But chose not to as I didn't want to sound feeble.
I was jerked out of my reverie by a woman the same height and hair colour as Martha entering the pub behind a beautiful man.
For a moment I was unsure if they knew each other as the woman joined the table nearest the door while the beautiful man carried on to the bar without a word, or a glance to the table. There had been a similar looking beautiful man at their table last week, it might have been the same man. Anyway, the beautiful man nodded to Aesop, then sat silently on a stool near the bar, socially distanced from the dowdy man already there. His beauty is what has of late become conventionally accepted as the norm for beauty: the hipster complete with beard, the kind of beard that was clearly pre-lockdown, not like the scraggly beards the rest of us are wearing. A man confident in his sexuality, careless with it in the way he forgot some of the buttons on his shirt. His tight shirt that pulled against his muscles, a lean physique from sporting activities not the bulging muscles of weights training. Such a long torso, undoubtedly with tasteful, perhaps celtic tattoos. A build that says he has sporting prowess, this man is coordinated, his touch will be sensitive and assured. And relaxed, sitting on the stool leaning against the column surveying the patrons perhaps like a panther ready to spring, or a lion knowing he is king.
I think he could lose the hat.
“Would you like me to introduce you to Thornton?”
“No, sorry, excuse me. there is something just so familiar about him, like I have known him in the past, or I have known several young men like him at different times in my life. Sorry. I am rambling.”
Martha was standing in front of me, I had not noticed her enter. She laughed at my stuttered response and left to get in a couple beers. And to chat to Thornton. I was filled with a rising panic that she was going to introduce him while I was all flustered at having been caught ogling him but she didn’t.
We dispensed with the formalities and chatted again about Martha’s work. Or I should say Martha chatted about her colleagues and I wondered if the names were the same as the ones I had heard the week before. I felt a gently rising panic until I heard the name Walter. The first thing that popped into my mind was that if Walter had been able to give Martha orgasms she would not have broken up with him and we would not have become friends. I spoke with only a hint at part of the meaning behind my thought.
“You could have faked it with Walter.”
Martha looked at me for a moment.
“Oh you mean with the other Walter, and the story I told two weeks ago about him not giving me orgasms.”
I realised suddenly, and completely clearly, that Martha and I had utterly different memories of the shared events of last couple weeks. Fortunately at this moment James walked through the door connecting the different bars, beer in hand. I didn't realise the other side was still open. He waved as he came over. I stood to shake his hand, but didn’t. He leaned to kiss Martha’s cheek, but didn’t. The same lockdown awkwardness, never quite sure what level of touch other people are happy with. Martha spoke first.
“Bizarrely, the conversation is at about the same point as when you joined us last week.”
“First porn experience?”
"Oh, no, two weeks ago actually."
“To be or not to be?”
“Oh, I am always straight talking, darling.”
“Never a faker be?”
“Oh Lord! I would not deny my little friend.”
“Not even before the cock crows, thrice?”
I didn’t understand James’s reference until later when I realised there was a comma between crows and thrice, that it was three denials not three cocks. At the time I ignored it and responded to her using the word little friend.
“So how are you going to prove this little friend is your big friend?”
A serene expression smiled back at me, Martha had an idea, she had a story forming in her mind. Perhaps she had indeed been working on fitting an erotic story into a fable format. To be nonchalant I needed to think of an idea of trying to distract her from the tale but I could not think of a comment quickly enough.
“Funny you should mention little friend and big friend, or we could say little friend and great friend. I mentioned we are still doing Aesop’s fables at school, and here we are sitting at Aesop’s pub, and I did say I would work on my own little versions…"
Neither James nor I said anything.
"Anyway, one of Aesop’s fables is about a mouse and a lion. First there is a little tickle, a little scratch as the mouse foolishly runs down the lion’s back. The lion traps him, releasing him only after a promise of future help, to the amusement of the lion, how could a little mouse help a big lion. Later hunters trap the lion, caught up in a strong rope. The great tension is only released when the mouse gnaws through the rope.”
Martha smiles at us but still neither James nor I say anything, for myself I was hoping Martha would have an interesting interpretation of the story for us. She did.
“OK, truth be told, I was only introduced to my little friend late, after Uni when I found I suddenly had more time on my hands. You know how it is, at the end of a day in the office Netflix offers only a certain amount of chilling when all your friends are busy. So I experimented and discovered what I had thought was an orgasm wasn’t. It isn’t like porn with its screaming oh my god. Acting, that is just acting. It is way more intense than acting.
“My little friend always sneaks up on me like an itch. It is remarkably separate from my mind. I can look at, oh, Thornton over there and think what a fine physical specimen he is, we could discuss how beautiful he is, imagine what he looks like without his shirt on, though that shirt leaves little to the imagination, so to speak. Other times that itch is constantly letting me know a big O is on the cards if only I care to scratch the itch. This is not arousal, this is a hankering towards arousal.
“Arousal starts when I reach out for the itch. When I say: OK, what adventure are you going to take me on this time. Perhaps it could be submitting to the flirt, or submitting to the desire to flirt. Sometimes it has been the confident touch in the security of a relationship, other times, to be fair, it has been boredom. Or feeling a little glum. And the classic unable to fall asleep.
“The adventure from arousal to orgasm is as varied as the input, frankly, it is a more direct route if there are no hunters involved, let's not forget Aesop's fable. When I am with someone so much more depends on foreplay, I am an adult, I have learned my body, I know the positions that work better, the actions that are more successful. But I have also learned my limitations. When I am alone, edging makes up for the lack of foreplay. Build and release, build and release. An ache in the pit of my stomach, if I didn’t know what was coming I would say it felt closest to a cramp.
“Then is the release, I sometimes make a sound but not usually. My legs go numb for a hot second and my lower body shakes. It is like my legs have turned into clouds and my core has turned into honey and I am sinking into the bath. No, I am the bath and everyone is welcome to bathe. And I do mean everyone which is why I never orgasm with too many people.
“Then it is nicer if I have a hunter with me to gently stroke me back to myself.”
James and I sat looking at our beers, what does one say after a story like that, other than little friends may prove great friends.
I finished the last sip of my beer and spoke.
"On that wonderful note I notice it is my time. I will see you here next week again?"
It is wonderful to have something to look forward to again in these bleak days. I think Martha may have been trying to tell me something with her tale.