I first met #113 at the Mission in 1997 and was surprised when he called me the next day. Usually when you meet someone at a club, you don’t actually stay in touch despite all the drunken bonding, but we became close friends. He was a couple of years older than me, but looked about twelve. He was from Glasgow and drank like a fish and tried to teach me to say “fuck this for a game of soldiers” in a weegie accent. He had a long-term girlfriend, but sometimes he got off with boys at CC Bloom’s, or there was the confusing interlude with #66, or for a while he got freaked out because he was having sexy dreams about his girlfriend’s best friend. One time, we were in the middle of a drunken squabble at the Egg, and then he got sidetracked when I said hi to my friend Douglas, who was passing by. “Douglas,” said #113, reaching out to him, transfixed, his eyes shining with sincerity. “Douglas, you’re gorgeous. I want to shag you up the arse.” Suave. Douglas shot me a panicked look and asked if it would be un-PC to say that he felt uncomfortable.
#113 played in a band. I took #110 to see them once, back when she was still straight. She’d never been to a gig before and she put on her leather trousers in an attempt to blend in. “What do you think?” I asked her when we got there.
“Oh, it’s very good!” she exclaimed. She paused and looked to me for guidance. “Is it very good?”
“Aye, it’s all right.”
“Yes! Yes, it’s all right,” she agreed, relieved. She pointed to the front of the crowd. “Is that a mosh pit?”
#113 did disappearing acts sometimes. The first time he went AWOL, I was sad. I thought he didn’t care about being friends with me any more. When he showed up again months later, after I’d given up hope, I realised that, much like #98, his disappearing acts were entirely about his own uselessness. With both of them, I was able to pick up where we left off; you couldn’t rely on these people, but you could still appreciate their friendship.
One time, he showed up again and said to me, “I was in love with you, you know.”
“I know,” I said, and I suddenly did. I hadn’t really consciously thought about it before, but suddenly it made sense, and saying it out loud didn’t make it remarkable.
Another time, he showed up not long after I got the letter from #78. It was #81’s birthday. #113 and I got pleasantly drunk together. I was getting drunk a lot at that point – I know, this doesn’t sound like it stands out at all – and finding that it was a good distraction from my woes. We went back to #113’s place and ate crumpets and drank wine. “Nine,” he said. “What exactly is going on with you and #78?”
I gave him my version of things. At this point I was still holding out a tiny shred of hope, waiting for a response from #78 that might salvage the relationship. #113 held out his arms. “Come here,” he said. I looked at him. “You have a good cry,” he instructed.
So I did. He held me and I sobbed for a long time. I mean, how many people have ever given you an invitation like that?
In 2001, we were at a free gig at the Backpackers Hostel. I realised that it was exactly a year to the day since the night he’d held me while I cried.
“I’m really sorry,” said #113. “I don’t remember any of this. I was pretty drunk last year.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “It doesn’t matter. The point is that you weren’t in my life for a while, but when you came back, you came back at just the right time and did just the right thing, and I’ll always be grateful to you for that and I’ll never forget it.”
And then I cried again, just for a minute, because I still hadn’t gotten over #78 and life felt kind of confusing. (If that stuff’s starting to sound like a broken record, not to worry! Soon enough I get involved with #117 and then years pass while everything goes horribly wrong.)
#98 had my keys that night, and the answering machine kicked in when I phoned home. Canadian Emily and I were stranded. Canadian Emily lived in our cupboard at the time, and she was the only flatmate I hadn’t kissed, which is how come she actually gets to keep her name in this blog. (Earlier in the evening, we’d bonded over some shared experience, some shared requirements in a relationship maybe, and she’d said “You and me should just date, Nine!” I looked at her, and suavely pulled her closer to me, but she wriggled away at the last moment, explaining that it would be weird. It was already weird that she’d first written me a letter from Vancouver in 1997 when I’d started writing a column in a queer Canadian magazine, and now she was living in my cupboard, but okay.)
Canadian Emily and I went back to crash at #113’s place. His girlfriend was away. They lived on the Royal Mile in an amazing flat that had ensuite bathrooms and everything. Presumably #113’s girlfriend earned a lot of money, because #113 tended to get fired from places for being a drunken wretch. Canadian Emily went to sleep in the spare room, and #113 and I stayed up talking and then we said goodnight.
And then we kissed, just for a moment, and then I was about to leave his room, and then I didn’t. It was like in the films when people kiss who really shouldn’t, when they drop things that fall to the floor with a crash and it’s really frantic and urgent. I mean, okay, I am not in the business of providing explicit details here: sorry. But as completely unplanned experiences go, it was pretty hot. I enjoyed it even though I was like, what the fuck, here I am with one of my best friends and I totally never expected this to happen.
“You took a while,” Canadian Emily said sleepily when I eventually got into the double bed beside her.
The next day there was still no answer at our flat so she and I went to the City Café and I lay down in a booth until I got told off for it. We were in yesterday’s clothes and I felt kind of trashy and I was trying to pretend I was in a road movie. I switched on my phone and found a 6am text message from #113. “i promisd mesel i’d never sleep with YOU, cos ye were my 9. SO sorry. i’m better with guys.”
I texted back. “oi bint, you better not go weird on me. i mean it.”
“don’t give me no shit bitch i saw you first,” he replied. We were sorted.
#113’s girlfriend had been paranoid about me for years and I’d never had any intention of getting off with him, but life is full of surprises. By now she had calmed down and decided I was okay, and he was in the middle of a breakdown and she was relieved I was around for him because I was a good friend. Fuck the guilt: he kept sleeping with inappropriate people anyway, and this was really quite a minor transgression by his standards.
So things continued in their usual vein, drunken escapades and disappearing acts and no getting off with each other, and that was fine, and now I haven’t seen him since autumn 2006. I’m no longer confident that this disappearing act isn’t a permanent one.