Darren picked me up Friday morning at 9am on the dot. I hoped he wasn’t disappointed I lived in a council flat. My neighbour’s stairwell and our front doors had recently been used as a location for the drug dealer’s house in Gary OIdman’s film ‘Nil by Mouth’.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” Darren asked. I stood in the hallway wearing pvc trousers and a thin black leather jacket I’d bought off a friend in an attempt to get the ‘old’ Liz look back after Niall. “I’ve got a spare pair of waterproofs and gloves you can borrow, have you got another jacket?”
“Only a Barbour coat thing” I yanked Niall’s airport gift off the coat hook. “That do?”
“The weather’s looking shit, best thing to keep dry. If you came off, that thin leather jacket wouldn’t save you anyway.” We togged up, helmets and gloves on, and set off.
Being on the back of the bike with numb legs was fine but being on the back of the bike with only short petrol breaks, in the rain, all the way to the Lake District was challenging. The fantasy of a fun rocking horse ride in GOSH was turning into the nightmare x-ray machine of the 1960’s.
At the beginning of the journey I’d put my arms around Darren’s waist but he pushed me away so I had to hold onto the back handle, for dear life. After an hour or so my arms ached so much that at times I didn’t think I could keep holding on. I missed my other biker boyfriends who loved me holding onto their torsos and stroking their leather trousers at traffic lights, looking into the cars beside, and stroking the trousers more. I wished I was with someone else and was already concerned about Darren’s lack of intimacy but there was no going back now.
We arrived at the family run hotel on the shores of Lake Windermere. I was dying for a cigarette but I’d told Darren I didn’t smoke as he hated it. We had food then went to bed. In my small rucksack I’d packed one of the silk underwear sets Niall had bought our last Valentines days, not quite the crutch less knickers and peep-hole bra I wore when we watched his porn, but something on the more subtle sexy side. I’d hoped Darren would like it. But he didn’t seem to notice and just rolled on and off then went straight to sleep. I lay awake all night, pining for past lovers.
Our room was enormous, more like a suite. In the morning Darren leapt out of bed naked and got out an ironing board and iron from the large dresser. He ironed everything he was about to put on. Army life I guessed, I had 48 hours to accept him, he would have to accept me, I needed a fag.
“It’s pissing it down, too wet for the bike. I’m gonna get breakfast and have a walk into town.”
“Ok. I’m gonna lie in. Would you get me some Silk Cut? I like a cigarette on my hols. I buy a packet and it lasts me all year, just the odd one.” It wouldn’t bother him. He wasn’t going to be kissing me anyway.
“Sure” he said and left me lying in bed. I made myself a cuppa with the tiny carton of sterilised milk and went back to sleep. A few hours later:
“Wake up. Fancy the cinema? Nothing else to do, it’s still pissing it down.”
Without the Kawasaki underneath him and Darren’s seemingly lack of interest in me, he was becoming more and more unattractive. My body was aching like fuck from the ride and my Dr Martins were wet inside. I tried to make myself comfortable in the small intimate cinema. The film was Twister, it was shit, I worried that the tornadoes in the film were happening outside the tiny picture house. I worried that if the weather got any worse, we’d not be able to go home the next morning. I worried that I might die on a motorway, sliding off the bike at 110mph, my fingers not able to hold on any longer.
“Shall we get some food?” he asked, when the film credits came up.
“I’m not hungry, you get something and I’ll hang out in the bar or the room.” I then did what I was used to doing, rather than believing that Darren had intimacy issues, I turned it back on myself, like my bulimia symptoms and I decided that perhaps Darren didn’t fancy me and that I was fat, ugly, worthless. Whatever the case, I didn’t want to eat a meal. I needed time alone to push down my disappointment and increasing awareness of my stupidity for going away with a complete stranger. What a fucking idiot I was.
Back at the hotel I went to the bar, smoked the pack of Silk Cut, drunk a bottle of wine and enjoyed a hearty meal of peanuts sandwiched in crisps. I was good at filling ashtrays and getting pissed and felt better immediately.
I chatted with the barman and played ‘Riders on the Storm’ and ‘The Entertainer’ on the hotel piano, my right hand still numb but I seemed to be able to play ok on booze, maybe the journey had strengthened my hands. The barman sang along. “If you give this man a ride, sweet family will die. Killer on the road.” The fantasy of dying on the motorway was becoming greater. “Gotta love your man, take him by the hand, make him understand.” Maybe I should talk with Darren, see how he felt? No, I did that with Fraser and Niall, didn’t get me anywhere.
When the barman eventually closed up I went up to our room to find Darren fast asleep. I crept under the covers, making sure our bodies didn’t touch. I went straight to sleep.
“Are you coming down for breakfast?” He said in the morning.
“I’m not hungry, you go”
I couldn’t face any happy couples or families enjoying their full English. I looked out of the window. Thank fuck it was sunny. I got up, used the last of the sterilised milk sachets for a cuppa and ate the complimentary ginger nuts. I packed away my underwear and put on my boots which were still damp inside. Darren came back from breakfast, showered, ironed clean clothes, put his leathers over them, we togged up again and left the hotel.
The journey home was tough, but not quite the ‘Twister’ hurricane I had fantasized. After each mile I was relieved to be closer to home, but unlike the journey there, Darren didn’t seem to want to get home, he wanted to enjoy weather and kept turning off the motorway for breaks in ‘pretty’ places. He’d get his out camera and take photos of me in front of the Kawasaki, or I’d have to take one of him in front of the Kawasaki. The excruciating journey became twice as long as I’d anticipated.
We arrived back at my flat at 9pm, Sunday evening, on the dot. I was surprised that he parked his bike, took his helmet off and walked with me to my flat door.
“I bought you this” he said standing outside the door, handing me a multi coloured paper bag, inside was a small china teddy with ‘Windermere’ painted on it.
“Ah, thanks. It’s cute,” Oh no, another fucking teddy.
“I’ll ring you.” He said. Not even a peck on the cheek.
I put the china teddy on my kitchen windowsill and waved Darren off, I heard the bike rev up and then the beautiful sound coming from the cylinder engines that soon faded away. I breathed a sigh of relief, I had made it home, I had survived another risk taking adventure. I put the china teddy on the windowsill, knowing it would be in the charity before long.
I was surprised when Darren rang a week later.
“I’m sorry I haven’t called before. I had an accident, I came out of hospital yesterday.”
“Are you ok?”
“Not really, I came off the bike.”
“I was driving back from yours last Sunday and as I was pulling into my road I took the corner too sharply, ridiculous.”
“After all those hundreds of miles…”
“I broke my leg and slipped a disc.”
I felt guilty and visited Darren the following evening in his yuppie flat in Wapping, not far from where I’d met Niall in his first flat. I took him food and heated up a ready meal. He had a cleaner who’d been looking after him since he’d come out of hospital. His leg was in plaster and he could hardly move. I didn’t stay long – we had nothing to talk about.
“Take this!” He said as I was about to leave. He held out a Counting Crows CD, I hated the band.
“No, it’s ok, they’re your favourites” And if I borrowed the CD I’d have to come back to return it.
“No, go on.” I felt sorry for him, he seemed as lonely as I was. I took the CD home and put it on the windowsill by the teddy. I lit a fag and listened to my latest ‘Time Out’ message on the answerphone.
The following day there was a ‘Time Out’ message from Stuart.