“Matthew’s going to have to go.”
The statement left me slightly bewildered.
“Matthew?” I queried.
We’d known each other since we had been bare knee’d boys at little school and only now was the truth coming out. I’d often wondered; I mean, single good-looking man, not many girlfriends. Well I should have worked it out sooner. Bit obvious really. And now, here in this little village coffee shop, amongst the paper doyly’s, with the rattle of finest porcelain and with every little old lady and wizened gentleman listening to every word the truth was tumbling.
“Yes Matthew, and it’s going to hurt, he’s terribly special.”
“I see” My genuflection revealed my discomfort, I looked away “and how old is Matthew?”
“Thirty-five I think.”
The little old lady on the table next to us adjusted her glasses awkwardly and looked down at her plate.
“Gosh that’s young.”
“Do you think so, I was toying with getting a younger one but the moment I saw him I knew he was the one for me.” A cough from our neighbour.
“I see.” My eyes still averted -so many odd feelings running through me; ‘perhaps I’m homophobic, I’m probably racist as well’. I couldn’t work it out but knew I had to leave that till later, now I needed to support my friend, in his hour of need. After all it was me he had chosen to tell, to come out.
“Was it, well…” I cringed inside “love?” I asked.
“At first sight.” He bounded, his enthusiasm blossoming “I was just head over heels, he’s so handsome, noble and strong, solid and reliable and he’s white, I can’t stand other colours”
‘Oh no, he’s racist’ I thought.
“and, well it’s a comfort thing.” He went on “You see in all this time he’s never once let me down.”
“That’s great.” I countered trying to quieten the volume. The lady next door putting her teacup to her lips.
“But it’s the nights, ah the nights.” He sighed. The lady paused but, assuming that was all we were going to get, resumed her drinking. “ I just feel at peace, well not at peace exactly, more sort of well, I just feel at home inside him…’
Tea left the lady’s mouth with such a force of spit that the brown yukky liquid dripped down her husband’s tie.
“and those long, hot summer nights were just the best.”
“Great.” I said without much enthusiasm. Next door there was much dabbing of napkins and tutting through ill-fitting dentures.
“But the best bit of all” Simon continued “is how cheap he is to run; just regular servicing which I do in the garage at home.” It was the man’s turn to gasp as he bit into a biscuit. “Do it all from underneath.” Simon added grinning.
With a biscuit crumb now firmly wedged in the windpipe the coughing fit next door was barely contained but a morbid desire to hear the rest of it seemed to have it slightly under control.
“Lots of lubrication and then everything’s fine.” Simon grinned.
The coughing fit from next door became overwhelming as tears streamed down the old man’s face.
“Goodness” said Simon, “poor chap, I can cure that.” and got up and moved around the table and stood behind the man. “Up you get.” He said. The man rose unsteadily half looking over his shoulder, as though about to don a hood to face a firing squad. “Now just lean forward slightly. The man’s jaw dropped and the wife swooned. She wiped her brow.
“What are you…” She was interrupted by the sight of Simon nestling up behind her husband: thighs behind thighs, groin behind bum, chest behind back putting his arms about the other’s waist and linking them in front. By this point the man was gasping although whether from lack of oxygen or fear it’s difficult to tell. Simon linked his hands in front of the man’s chest and started to pull himself up behind the coughing retiree, in close. His wife lowered her shivering head and placed it ever so carefully in her hands and began to weep.
Simon pulled his arms back and gave the old chap a terrific thump in the chest.
“Heimlich manouvre” he said triumphantly as the old man’s dentures gave up there gum gripping properties altogether and flew across the room to land with a PLOP in the fish tank.
“Whoops” Simon said, “still better safe than sorry. Here I’ll get them for you.” He started to cross the room but looked back at me saying in a loud voice
“I’ll really miss him, he’s the best ride ever,” he was rolling up his sleeve “you’ve probably never felt that, being married and so on, but as a single man” he dipped his arm in the water and pulled out the teeth “I just can’t find better than the nights I’ve spent with Matthew” he crossed to the old man’s table and returned the teeth. The old man’s jaw was still hanging lamely, dribble exiting one corner of his mouth. He vaguely acknowledged Simon then beckoned to his wife, put his teeth straight back in and left. She followed him in a halting walk across the room, stopping every now and then and looking back at Simon as though to be sure he wasn’t following them.
“Some people are very strange” Simon said “that chap didn’t even say thank you. Now where was I?”
“You were about to tell me why Matthew has to go.” I lied.
“Oh, it’s simply that I’m going to buy a trailer tent instead…”
“Trailer tent?” I interrupted. “what do you mean?”
“You know one of those little trailer thingies. You press a button and they assemble themselves. I’ve lost my storage and a trailer tent will fit in the drive.” He paused. “Why have you gone deathly white.”
“You mean, Matthew’s not…” I paused running through the whole conversation in my head “is not a… but is a…”
“A camper van” Simon finished.
“A camper van?” My voice must have sounded thin as he lowered his own voice and hissed back across the table.
“Yes a Volkswagen Type 3 camper van, why? What did you…?” A note of panic in his voice he looked around after the old couple who were paying their bill at the door “think I meant” he added lamely. His face paling as the conversation raced through his own head and he mimed the Heimlich manouvre, then caught the old lady’s eye and waved, a very limp wristed sort of wave a sick look crossing his face as he looked around the crowded room at all the eyes focussed upon him.
“Time to go I think.”