Is Sam boyfriend material, or simply a boy fiend who’s best avoided?
Some people, for whatever reason, are difficult to cope with, but does that mean they're undeserving of love and care?
Destiny lures Colin Leyton to a HMV music store one fine Saturday morning in March where he stumbles across the young and flamboyant Sam Taylor.
Sam has a knack for attracting trouble and a gift for rubbing people up the wrong way.
Against his better judgement Colin finds himself playing white knight when Sam’s antics get out of hand and he lands in bother with two store security guards. He gives him a lift home. Sam tries to charm him into a date, but common sense tells Colin not to get involved, in fact to run for the hills and not look back.
However, destiny hasn’t finished with Colin. Sam comes back into his life in an unexpected way, turning it upside down.
Colin's closest friend Jon turns mentor in a bid to help him sort out his feelings for a man most people love to hate.
Chapter one - Shakespeare on a Litterbin
The first time I saw Sam he was entertaining an audience in a HMV store. Not in any official capacity, he hadn’t been hired. It was strictly voluntary. He was dancing and singing along to a track from the album on sales promotion that week - The Sixties Turn Fifty. The track in question, an upbeat number called 'Boom-Boom' was by The Animals. I think it's fair to say that lead singer Eric Burdon, being a tough Tyneside lad, would never have dreamed of strutting his stuff in quite the way Sam was doing.
The audience was enjoying the impromptu show. Sam had a pleasant voice and a sexy way of moving. From my point of view it made a mundane Saturday a whole lot brighter. He presented an attractive figure: slim, fair-haired, five foot eight or thereabouts. He was dressed in faded black jeans, a white t-shirt and a short-sleeved red-checked shirt. Dark sunglasses completed the look.
I wasn't the only one attracted. A couple of girls in the audience were just as appreciative, discussing Sam's attributes (nice arse) with one of them adding a sorrowful footnote about it being a shame he was gay. Her friend chimed back with, "wish I was a gay bloke. I'd have some of that."
Personally I thought they were being presumptuous with regard to the entertainer's sexuality. It's all too easy to make assumptions based on the way someone acts and looks. That said my gaydar was bleeping some pretty strong signals indicating he was one of my lot.
My amusement at his antics was tempered with concern, and a little conjecture on my own part. Having had a sister who performed similar acts in public when the mood befell her, I was aware such highlights, if they could be so called, were often followed by lows of suicidal magnitude.
My sister Suzie ended her life in a quiet beauty spot after the break up of a fledgling romance; at least we guessed it's why she did it. She left no note. She drove there one fine spring day, locked all the doors of her car, doused herself in petrol and struck a match. The coroner decreed her dental records were sufficient to identify her. We buried what amounted to her cremated remains beneath a headstone bearing her name and the dates of her birth and death.
My parents and older sister were devastated, as was I, but curiously we all experienced a kind of peace as she was laid in the grave. My father grasped my hand, saying quietly, ‘she’s at rest now, son.’ And then he wept, not because she was dead, but because he’d never been able to give her rest in her lifetime. It hurt to his soul that only death could offer peace to his youngest daughter. Why her, he’d say, why did God make her like that, why was God so cruel to her?
I'm not sure about God. Suze was certainly a victim of something, nature perhaps, genetics. She had not wilfully chosen to be afflicted by what amounted to periodic bouts of insanity, which wiped away all trace of the girl we loved leaving a tormented stranger in her place. She was a confused mix of elements that none of us, least of all her, understood. In her lucid best moments she was sweet, funny, clever and loving. She had been an enigma, and in his unique way so was Sam.
The enigma in question was about to be moved on by two thickset security guards who obviously didn’t appreciate him being enigmatic on the shop floor they patrolled. It probably contravened some code of shoppers conduct. ‘Thou shalt not be enigmatic on the premises of a public limited company during opening hours.’
“All right, enough carry on. You’ve had your fun, clear off.” One of them reached out a paw to grasp Sam’s arm.
Sam, being higher than a dry leaf in a cyclone, chose, I use the word deliberately, Sam was in an excited mood, but he was in conscious control of his actions. He chose, much to the delight of the onlookers, to interpret the move as a desire on the part of the guard to dance with him.
Enthusiastically flinging both arms around the man's neck he planted a smacking kiss on his cheek and declared, “of course I’ll dance with you, darling.”
The guard flushed a shade of puce I have yet to see reproduced on any paint colour chart and tried desperately to disentangle himself from the arms of his amorous dance partner. Sam clung like a limpet to a rock.
I must confess to the sin of being amused at the expression on the security officer’s face. His co-worker, much relieved that Sam had nabbed his mate and not him, quipped, “you’ll be all right there, Harry. I think pansy boy fancies you.”
The smile was soon wiped from his face as the person in charge of the music, obviously someone with a misguided sense of humour, changed the disc and Queen’s 'Don't Stop Me Now' rang out.
Sam gave an affected high-pitched squeal. It set my teeth on edge, a premonition of things to come had I but known it. “I love Queen, fabbest band ever. We must dance to this...you too, fat boy. Let’s tone that flab.” Reaching out he grabbed the second guard and pulled him into the arena, so to speak.
Provocatively thrusting his hips forward into the groin of one guard and his bottom back into the groin of the other, Sam attempted to out-sing and out-innuendo the late Freddie Mercury himself. He played to the audience for all he was worth, camping it up outrageously.
The red-faced guards were beginning to lose their cool and when Sam suddenly brandished one of their wallets, which he’d expertly lifted from a pocket, things got decidedly ugly.
Face down on the floor with his arm bent high up behind his back, Sam started to panic, cursing and struggling in vain to free his arm. There was a tone in his voice I recognised from experiences with my sister when nurses (who had missed their vocation as concentration camp officers) restrained her. Fear was beginning to replace excitement.
Before I knew it I’d invited myself to the party. “There’s no need to treat him so roughly. Let him up please.”
“This is nothing to do with you, mate, so piss off!” The guard holding Sam’s arm up behind his back tightened his grip causing him to let rip with another torrent of obscenities.
The other guard began talking about calling the police. I nodded agreement. “I think the police are a good idea. You’re aware of course you’ve committed an assault against this young man. I’m sure all these good people will be willing to testify to it.”
Three quarters of the good people immediately melted away, but the few who remained seemed in agreement. I of course had absolutely no idea of what legal ground, if any, I stood on. After all Sam was making a public nuisance of himself and he had lifted someone’s wallet, even if he had meant it as a joke.
“He was only having a laugh and larking about,” said a girl with phlegm coloured hair and a studded tongue, which clacked against her upper teeth as she spoke. “He didn’t mean no harm, leave him alone.” There was a murmur of agreement.
“Besides,” I said, lowering my voice and jumping in with my unconfirmed theory. “I think he might have a mental health problem, so calling the police would be pointless.” At those words a certain look crossed the men’s faces. I’d seen it all before, fear mixed with contempt.
The guard holding Sam’s arm dropped it as if it were infectious. “Get him out of here. Bloody loonies and queers ought to be locked up away from decent folk.”
I hunkered down, quietly asking Sam if he was hurt. He shook his head and I helped him to his feet. Bouncing back like a rubber ball he gave me a heart-stopping smile, brushed himself down, adjusted his sunglasses and with an extravagant and very lewd thrusting of his pelvis, echoed Freddie's words about being a sex-machine.
“Come on, show queen.” I cut short the chorus, took his arm and towed him towards the exit.
He sang all the way, ceasing only as we reached the doors to blow kisses to the small knot of spectators still watching and to yell at the security men. “See you later, butch boys.”
There was a ripple of laughter and a burst of applause, which spurred him into behaving even more outrageously. “I’m game if you are," he shouted, hands on hips femme fatale style. “Show me your two-way radio and I’ll show you mine. We can fiddle with each other's knobs.”
“Move it, rude boy.” Resisting a strong compulsion to slap his naughty backside I propelled him through the automatic doors and out onto the street as the furious guards strode towards us. He pulled away from me leaping agilely on top of the large black litterbin standing outside the shop.
I groaned as he began reciting the Friends, Romans, and Countrymen speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It seemed he was a drama queen in more ways than one. I tugged at the leg of his jeans. “What’s your name?”
“Antony of course,” he said breaking off to stare down at me, “haven’t you read Julius Caesar? Tell you what, darling, I’ll cast you a role. You can be the third plebeian or the fourth if you prefer. Have you learned your lines, not that it matters, improvise, dear, improvise.”
“Okay Antony, catching sight of the security people from the corner of my eye I lost patience with his antics. They were just waiting for a chance to pounce again. “It’s time for you to start behaving yourself.” Reaching up I grasped his wrist, yanked him down from the bin and began dragging him protesting across the road to where I'd parked my car.
“We were just starting to get an audience, now you’ve spoiled it. I was bringing culture to the ignorant masses.”
“Be quiet!” I gave him a fierce look, “or I’ll hand you over to those two ignorant Alsatians to tear apart.”
He pouted, but made no attempt to free his hand from mine. “Where are we going?”
“My, but you do move fast, cheeky, inviting yourself to look at my etchings and us virtual strangers. How do you know where I live anyway? Have you been stalking me you bad man?”
Stifling a desire to gag him I said, “I don’t know where you live, but when we get to my car, you’re going to tell me and I’m going to drive you there.”
“What if I refuse?” He puckered his lips coquettishly. “Will you put me under torture, pluck my eyebrows, paint my nails, perm my hair, pierce my naval?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his daft banter, “no, of course not.”
“Oh shame, I could do with a makeover.”
The smile he turned on me was truly enchanting and my stomach performed a small somersault. Something lower down also stirred. “What’s your real name?” We reached the car and I unlocked it. He slid easily into the front passenger seat.
“Sam, but my friends call me Sam.” He opened and rummaged in the glove compartment withdrawing my work diary, nonchalantly flicking through it.
“Give me that. It's private.” Plucking it out of his hands I flung it on the back seat.
He began rifling through my CD collection. “So what’s your name then?”
“Are you married?”
“Living with someone?”
“You poor thing.” He grabbed my right hand and stroked it. “I hope you’re not overworking this little fellow, don’t want repetitive strain injury do we, darling.”
I blushed. I actually blushed. Snatching my hand away, I slammed the car door and walked round to the driver’s side and climbed in.
“Well, Colin,” he flicked a derisory finger towards my discs. “If you and I are going to start dating you’ll have to woo me with some better music than this. I’m not into classical.”
“Sam,” I said, feeling suddenly weary. “Tell me your address, so I can get you home, and incidentally we are not going to start dating.”
He folded his arms. “I suppose I’ll have to get used to it.”
“Get used to what?” I looked at him in puzzlement.
“The classical crap. I suppose I could get used to it, when we start dating.”
“You won’t have to get used to it, because we are not going to start dating. Apart from anything else I’m straight.”
“Don’t be silly, darling, of course you’re not. I can tell by the way you part your hair that you fancy me.”
“You can tell no such thing.” I said waspishly. He was an exasperating creature.
“I can so and anyway you came to my rescue, my knight.” He clapped his hands over his heart and said breathily, “my hero. I pledge my life to thee, body and soul. Do what you like with the soul, darling, but be gentle with the body, it’s fragile. Have you filed your nails lately?”
“Stop arsing about and give me your address. You need to get home and calm down before you get yourself into real bother.”
“Not until you agree to take me out.”
I leaned across him and opened the car door, “right, that’s it, get out, just go, go on.”
“Okay.” He swung his legs out of the car, “but I’m going to go right back and goad those gorillas into having me arrested. I’ve already been arrested for public affray this month. I expect I’ll go down this time. I’ll get horribly brutalised in prison by bull queers who use soap for anything but washing, and it’ll be all your fault.”
I had the strongest conviction he meant what he said. I doubted he’d get sent to prison, but all the same I didn’t like the idea of him being arrested. Against my better judgement I told him to shut the car door.
“With me on the inside or the outside?”
“INSIDE!” I wasn’t normally given to bouts of explosive shouting, but really he’d try the patience of a Buddhist Monk.
“No need to shout, dear, I’m not deaf.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Stop playing the professional gay archetype and give me your address or I’ll throttle you.”
“I’m beginning to regret agreeing to go out with you, Colin. You’ve got a pithy tongue and a bit of a temper. Still, none of us are perfect, not even me. I’m willing to give you a chance. I like tall, dark-haired men and you’ve got nice eyes, both of them brown. I'm impressed.”
“Address?” My teeth were gritted so hard I feared for the enamel.
“When are you taking me out?”
“Where are we going, casual or formal? Do I need to polish my tiara and get my tux out of moth balls?”
“Cinema and a drink afterwards.”
He smiled, “casual, thank God. I haven’t got any mothballs, let alone a tux. I do have a faux diamond tiara though. I look absolutely adorable in it. I’ll model it for you sometime if you’re very good.”
“Sam?” I jumped in as he paused for breath. I was beginning to feel hysterical.
“Shut up or I’ll lock you in the boot of the car. I’ve struck my end of the bargain; now give me your address.”
“Bargain! You make me sound like something you picked up cheap in the sales. Good job I’m not easily offended. I don’t let just anyone drag me out of a shop you know, especially when I’m on the verge of scoring a hot double date. Starsky and Hutch were beginning to waver I’m sure of it, another few minutes and I'd have turned them, they'd have become gay just…”
Catching the dangerous gleam in my eye, he cut himself short and gave me his address. I heaved a sigh of relief. Killer smile or not, I had absolutely no intention of turning up for the ‘date.’ This voluble young man was big trouble and I liked an uncomplicated life. I glanced at him, “seatbelt.”
He ran a finger along my seatbelt, saying, “there it is, sweetheart, you’re already wearing it. I saw you clunk-click with my very own eyes.”
Overcoming an urge to rip his head off, I snarled, “I meant your seatbelt, fasten it.”
“I never wear a seatbelt, darling, creases my shirt.”
“Your shirt is already creased, now fasten the seatbelt.”
“Nope, don’t like. I’m a bohemian. I refuse to conform to society’s petty rule.” He folded his arms.
I could feel my blood pressure approaching levels requiring medication. Unbuckling my seatbelt and getting out of the car, I marched round to the passenger side. Flinging open the door I leaned in, grabbed the seatbelt and buckled it around him. The moment I closed the door he un-clicked it. With a hiss of fury I flung the door back open. “Fasten your seatbelt or our date is off. I mean it, Sam.” I quelled a pang of guilt at using the fictitious date as a blackmail tool, reminding myself accidents happened and I didn’t want to see him flying through the windscreen for lack of a seatbelt. All else aside it was a requirement of law. I almost said so, but after his bohemian statement it seemed a waste of breath.
He hesitated for a moment and then fastened the seatbelt. I got back in the car. Giving me his beautiful smile, he pointed both index fingers forwards. “Home, Jeeves, and don’t spare the horses.”
Quenching a grin of amusement I said, "I think you mean home, James.”
“I thought your name was Colin, not James?”
“It is, I was talking about the saying you used, it’s home James, not Jeeves.”
“I prefer Jeeves to James. I knew a James once, horrible boy, he used to pick his nose and wipe it under the seat of his chair. I hope you don’t have such disgusting habits, otherwise I’ll have to reconsider your request to take me out.”
I shook my head. “You seriously need taking in hand."
"Maybe you're the man to do it, darling, what say you?"
I said nothing. Thrusting the car into gear I set off.
Preview of Chapter two - Graffiti Palace
It was horrible. I gazed at the ugly dilapidated building in dismay. It was a crumbling concrete monstrosity, a hideous monument to the dark days of sixties architecture at the low end of the social scale. “This is where you live?”
He nodded, un-popping his seatbelt. “Home sweet home. My own Graffiti Palace. Come and have a drink with me, Colin, hot or cold, I've got both. Don’t worry.” He must have caught the expression on my face. “The place was recently fumigated.”
I found myself agreeing to his offer, although the only thing I really wanted to do was drive away. At least if I had a coffee with him I’d know he was safe at home. Hopefully he’d stay there until he was feeling less inclined to be the centre of attention in a way guaranteed to land him in trouble. I followed him into the high-rise block and up the stairs to his fifth floor flat; as is usually the case in such places the lifts weren't working.
The building was even worse inside than it was outside, run down and smelling of damp neglect. It became apparent why he’d referred to it as Graffiti Palace. The lobby walls were adorned with drawings and scribblings, most of them obscene. He inserted his key into the lock of a battered door where someone had spray painted the words ‘Queers Out!’ Underneath it someone else had sprayed, ‘we ARE out, so fuck off!’ It didn’t need a genius to work out the identity of the second graffiti artist.
“Shit!” The key refused to open the door and Sam kicked at it, yelling furiously. “Let me in you evil fucker!”
There was no reply and Sam kicked the door again, which did nothing to improve its appearance. “Bastard, he’s bolted it. I’ll be stuck out here all day while he shags his scabby boyfriend gormless.” He raised his voice, shouting, “not that it’ll take long cos he’s fucking gormless to start with!”
“The sour-faced stoat I share the flat with.”
“Look, Sam, I’m sorry,” I glanced at my watch, “but I’ve got to be going. I'm meeting a couple of friends. Will you be okay?”
He nodded. Removing his sunglasses for the first time he hooked them in the neck of his t-shirt and gazed at me for a moment before lowering his heavy lashes. I repressed, or at least I hope I did, a start of surprise. His eyes were two different colours.
Leaning his back against the wall he slid down it to sit on the dirty floor, drawing his knees up under his chin. “I’ll be okay. He’s always doing this. I'll get in later when he goes out to the pub.” He plucked at the beginnings of a hole in the knee of his jeans. “You’re going to stand me up tonight aren’t you?”
copyright material - Fabian Black 2012/2015