Young Jimmy has a circle around him at one end of the bar, and I have one around me, where I am at the other end. We’re not a bad team, him and I.
Our circles have formed around us for different reasons. His, because they are all very old and probably want him (or have had him before), and mine, also old, (even older than me), because several of them recognized me from my poetry performance outside the train station, my words were liked by most of them, and here and now I’ve become a minor celebrity.
And one shouldn’t ever look a gift horse in the mouth; and the gift horse in the mouth right now in this bar is free double vodka tonics coming fast and strong.
I start another story about performing in a theatre in Brisbane (true), that gradually drifts into a yarn about a kangaroo getting into the theatre that no one could catch (not true), and they all lean in fascinated; and me, after my ten or more vodkas can tell a damn good tale.
I break for a minute and wave and call to Jimmy, and he does the same back to me; and everyone here laughs at us and cheers us on, re: our odd friendship and what a couple of lads we are; the edgy poet and his friend, the young, thin, sickly, and sexy in a street boyish way, Jimmy, who is a well-known whore; (birds of a feather, me and him).
We gravitated here to this lower end (twenty four hour) gay bar after hanging around by the river, so iced up, that sleep would never happen in a hundred hours. And after attracting a reasonable amount of attention from the police (to whom we are both well-known), and after we managed to get rid of them, I mentioned this seedy joint to Jimmy, and him being an old hand here and knowing the front bar game as well as me, and half of the old fellas in here too, jumped on for the ride.
There are two bars here; bar one, the front bar (where Jimmy and I now hold court with growing audiences) is full of much older men and the hustlers that sniff them out; and bars like this have a certain appeal if you are well past your physical prime and looking for some company or paid for action (the customers), on the game (Jimmy and me), a young man who gets a certain kick out of being gloated over by old men (Jimmy), or a rapidly aging hooker, nearly out of time and looking for a regular who is into older dudes (me).
Bar two (upstairs) is standard gay bar stuff; men twenty to thirty five; singlet tops and muscles, macho looks with a few camp traits, tans (for real if it’s summer and spray on if winter), and drag shows by aging (old school – feather and sequin) blonde drag queens.
I’m getting restless in bar one, and as bar two has now opened (as it does at midnight), I leave the circle around me with a slight sigh from them, wander down to Jimmy and his clan, and ask Jimmy if he wants to stay here with them, or smoke some more ice and come upstairs and dance with me. He wants to smoke and dance, but he has some paying trade, so he nips out into the back lane with an excited old boy on a walking stick, I get bought a couple more shots, and then blow a guy in the disabled toilet for fifty bucks, and when Jimmy’s back we go upstairs. And here in a bar in Melbourne, we dance.
At about six a.m. we stop dancing and wander out to the balcony for a cigarette and a pint or two. We lie back on the couch and look at the sun coming up, with the first morning traffic, and early going to work (normal type) people beginning their day. Jimmy puts his arm around me and kisses me on the cheek, and I pull his stick-thin, speeding frame into me.
I don’t know how much longer we can keep these nights up, for sometimes they go all week without a break. I don’t know how much longer I can keep the tricking going either, as I’m nearly as old as some of the customers, and johns are getting harder to find. And I don’t know if Jimmy and I can continue being the way we are with each other, for we just collided in our chaotic world of ice skating madness and tricking and pacing around town; and we’ve stayed hanging out together since we did a double job one night in a five star hotel, with a wealthy (but aggressive) john from Egypt.
But I do know that regardless of our bizarre reality that keeps us rolling along together, and all of the crazy, dangerous and sometimes sad ways that go with it, we genuinely do like and care about each other. Regardless of our ridiculous lives and raging ice addictions, we are still human, and we do feel… and love.
What we have is special, no matter how we survive, and what anyone thinks of us; for I’m sure in many people’s eyes we would be absolute scum. But we know we’re not.
I’d do anything for Jimmy, and I’d be there for him if he needed me; and while I can’t be certain of much on my current rollercoaster ride, I reckon he would be there for me too.
I need him right now. I’m feeling fragile, and he’s here with his arm around me. And that’s good enough for me.
Who knows; we might stay hanging around together. I hope so.
I haven’t felt this way about another human being for as long as I can remember.