“We are ending in six months,” Ian said “and you have picked a partner who is moving to the other side of the world, leaving you, the month before we end. I wonder what you think about that?”
“Nothing, it’s a deal we have, just for 6 months. It ties us over.”
“And the deal involves one where you are left.”
“Yes, but it would work the other way round, if I was going to Australia.” Shane was one of my more successful ‘Time Out’ dates I’d allowed Ian in on.
“And what about your feelings?”
“It’s just sex” There was silence. Who was I kidding?
“You’ve talked a little more recently about the hole in your heart and I’ve been thinking.”
“Well, treatment is different today, but when you were born, it wasn’t unusual that when a child was diagnosed with having a hole in the heart, they might die. I was wondering if your parents, particularly your mother, struggled to bond with you because they thought you might die.”
“I guess that’s possible.”
“I wonder also, if this has come up in relation to our ending, and your continued struggle in relationships. You already know that you and Shane will end, before the relationship has really started, you perhaps tell yourself, like you did in our earlier work, that you can avoid the feelings around this and around our ending and your feelings towards me.”
“I wonder then that your body becomes the location for these feelings.”
Stop fucking wondering Ian. Sometimes I hated him so much because he was so often spot on. I’d had another relapse (soon after the Lake District trip with Darren) and was back using a walking stick.
I was so angry with Ian’s interpretation that it made me more determined to make the very most out of my ‘Time Out’ relationship with Shane – as much as I made the very most out of each session with Ian as I counted down the weeks we had left.
Shane was Irish, a social worker and another biker. Every Wednesday evening (the only day of the week I didn’t see Ian) he would ride over on his motorbike with a bottle of wine. He’d knock on the door and say:
“Pardon me, but I seem to have run out of coffee. Would you like to have sex?” and we’d have sex, with much bottom spanking.
Shane didn’t give a shit about me having MS, he wouldn’t have had fantasies of having to look after a girlfriend in a wheelchair, he would be gone in a few months, and anyway, he liked my walking stick, he said it was kinky and we played with it, I’d bought one of those fold up ones from the walking stick shop (James Smith & Sons, New Oxford Street, my MS friends had told me about) the new stick flipped out like a magic wand. Being a social worker Shane said he liked to be around people in need – just like Ian, just like me, all wounded healers no doubt. And Ian was right, yet again, I was becoming attached to Shane and just before Christmas when he told me he’d bought his one way ticket to Australia I cried and he hugged me tight, I think he felt the same.
“Let’s go out tonight, for a change,” he said. “Have you got anything that looks vaguely S&M?”
“Umm.” This time Niall’s Barbour jacket would not do the trick. Here I was again, regretting getting rid of my old leather and suede kinky clothes with their tassels and mesh, fortunately I had kept a tan leather mini skirt which still fitted and I found a black tight large knit top and put it on, undid my bra and slid it out from under the top. “This do?” I flipped my stick out, clipping Shane’s thigh with the rubber ferrule.
“You look great” he said, always looking like he was about to go to an S&M club with his leather waistcoat and tight leather trousers, but tonight, he took off the waist coat, whipped his t shirt off, and put it back on, leaving us both with semi-bare chests, of a sort. We snogged, ordered a cab and snorted cocaine.
We arrived at the Rubber Nipple Club somewhere in or around Vauxhall just after midnight (I’ve googled but I can’t find a trace of where it was, only the Royal Naval Club comes up in Portsmouth, which reminds me …..). The taxi had been delayed so we’d done another line of coke, or two. Shane paid for us to get in and the bouncer smiled at him, I knew he’d been here many times before, but on other S&M nights when it was called other things (maybe the RNC was a one off ?), and not of course on Wednesday nights, that was our night.
We walked into a large space that was sectioned off into different areas. There was a cage in the middle with a woman in it, swinging on a swing and sticking long thick needles into her nipples. There was a large table where people stood, queuing to get on for a whipping session, the whip held by a tall woman wearing a red bask, stockings and high black leather boots. There was another man/woman sat in similar attire but wearing the highest and thinnest of heels I’d ever seen, a man wearing only a nappy knelt on the floor beside her, licking the heels of her boots. There were many more matriarchs strolling around the club holding leads followed by their masked gimps. There were chains, belts and something that looked like a leather stretching rack which had a sign ‘out of use’ on it. I was glad I’d bought my walking stick, I didn’t really need it, the cocaine had taken symptoms away, temporarily.
Shane led me into a room that from the outside looked like a vagina with red flowing material covering the outside walls. Inside was like being in a vagina, the walls dressed with pink and red creased different fabrics and feathered crepe paper blowing in front of a fan that hung from a corner of the ceiling. There were benches around the room, also covered with pink/red materials, and a space in the middle with dark cushions spread over the floor where four or five people licked and romped. It was dark in the womb, so difficult to see detail, but you could feel, smell and hear hot wet sex. The throbbing base of the house music from outside of the womb merged with the gurgling underwater dolphin-like music playing inside. It didn’t turn me on, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that it was possible, at any moment I may bump into a client.
I was relieved to discover Shane’s role in the club was one of a voyeur. I followed suit and as curious as I was, I was looking forward to when we would be back in my flat. After the womb we walked into a much larger space with a stage where a drag queen was belting out Abba and Sylvester “You make me feel, Mighty real” my all-time favourite disco song. Shane went to the bar which was in another space somewhere and I stood, dancing against the back wall, playing with my stick like it were my dance partner. Men came to talk with me, I felt like I fitted in and was having such a great time that I hadn’t noticed Shane had been gone for probably an hour. He eventually returned with drinks which we drank quickly then headed home in one of the many taxis that were parked outside the club. Shane rang in sick the next morning and we cuddled in bed. He left around midday, wishing me a merry Christmas and arranging his next visit for the Wednesday after New Year.
After he’d left, and the drugs and drink had worn off, my physical symptoms returned, this time with a depression. With no boyfriend, Marni now moved away and other friends busy, I decided to go to my parents for Xmas. I hadn’t stayed at the family home since I’d left. It was strange being in my old bedroom. My parents had since decorated it with yellow flowery wallpaper. They’d taken out the twin beds and replaced it with one single. The room seemed so small and I wondered how they’d got the two beds in in the first place. On Xmas eve I had a dream I was looking in a book about insects and the spiders in the picture came alive, got out of the book, grew and waved their tentacles at me. I was trying to scream in the dream but couldn’t. I woke with my jaw aching.
Rayleigh at Xmas was tolerable, I was beginning to see a more vulnerable side to my parents as they were getting older. I got taxis to the Rayleigh pubs and met with old friends, lovers and Boyfriend No. 21, still glued on his stool until last orders when he’d fall off. I ate my dry Xmas turkey with stewed veg and for the first time at my parents since age 15 I didn’t make myself sick. Ian had cured me of that, at least.
Dad had agreed to drive me back to London the day after boxing day. As soon as I got in the car I felt more depressed.
“Can I put a cassette on?” I asked, sick of listening to radio 2.
“Yes, let’s listen to The Seekers.” I put on The Seekers tape, the one we’d listened to when Dad rescued me from Fraser’s Gunnersbury block, that block that they use now in the location of ‘People do Nothing’, that block that you can see clearly from the A4, the one I’d been avoiding for years, and avoiding Fraser.
Dad still didn’t understand how to use the car cassette and only played them when I was with him, there were only two, The Seekers and the Carpenters ‘best of’ and we’d only done two journeys together since he’d got a car with a cassette. The songs made me feel worse “…. and I know I’ll never find another you…” then halfway to London I swapped tapes “I’m on the top of the world …” the songs reminded me of Fraser. It was strange that of all my boyfriends it was Fraser who had affected me the most, the one I related to the most, the one where we felt on top of the world after an injection of heroin, the one who drove me into therapy. I was worried that when Ian and I ended our work together I might relapse, find Fraser again or worse still seek out another co dependant relationship. Shane was a blip, a way of making the ending with Ian more tolerable. I wondered whether I was finally, after all these years, internalising the work we were doing, I had become dependent on Ian, that was why things were changing, he’d re-parented me, emotionally, but it would soon be time to say goodbye and fly the nest. Maybe after I stopped seeing Ian I would find my prince charming, maybe that’s how it worked?