This is where Leonard makes his first appearance. Leonard was my partner in crime in 2005. I’d encountered him in autumn 2004 through a mutual friend: he said hi to her when I was with her in Planet Out one night, talked to her for a few minutes then headed off to look for cute boys. I’m not sure he even noticed I was there. But something made me bookmark him; I had a feeling we would become good friends.
We’d see each other at parties after that, and we agreed we’d hang out soon, but it was Valentine’s Day before we finally got our act together. Not the best night to go out for dinner if you don’t want a gimmicky surcharge, but I managed to find us a free table at Red Marakesh, and after the meal we went to Planet for drinks, and I was telling Leonard about how I found it hard to meet women.
The bar was quiet and there was this woman having a beer by herself at a nearby table. I scrounged a couple of cigarettes from her, introduced myself. She had an athletic build, a voice I wanted to hear more of, a sort of quiet grace. She seemed to choose her words carefully. I invited her to join us but she politely declined, so I didn’t push it. But later I think we all shared a moment of glee when Sweet Child O’ Mine came on, and that level of bonding was sufficient to reissue the invitation, and she came over.
“Oh, yeah, Nine,” said Leonard in his best sarcastic voice when #148 went to get another drink. “‘I can never meet any women. It’s so hard.’” He sounded kind of like Wallace Shawn. In my head I could hear him going “Inconceivable!”
“Shut up,” I advised. “It’s not like anything’s actually going to happen.” And I figured I was right, because after a while she said her goodbyes and left us to it. But when I returned from the loo, I found she was back as well. I only found out later that she’d just asked Leonard whether he thought I might go home with her. All I was aware of was that she offered to drive him home, and I jumped in the car as well, and after we’d dropped him off over in Tollcross she drove back, past Planet, to the bottom of Leith Walk, which is when I finally understood that I was spending the night. Sometimes I guess I need it spelled out to me.
But first we smoked a joint or two, maybe drank wine from her vineyard in her home country. When we got into her bed I asked if I could kiss her. “If you like,” she said, and I’d have preferred a more enthusiastic response, but maybe it’s just choice of words, and anyway the ensuing hot lesbionic sex was pretty fucking hot. We got up at 7am and took the bus together so that she could go to work and I could go back home and sleep some more, and for the rest of the day, rest of the week, whatever, my mind would drift back to that night and I’d marvel at how hot it was. I’d been with #128 semi-recently, but I hadn’t had sex with a female stranger for a long time.
We saw each other a few times, although it was kind of sporadic. She was not my girlfriend. We did not talk about feelings. One time, we met up in Spoon café. “I kind of have a … boyfriend,” she blurted, and she sounded more surprised about it than anyone else. “He’s eighteen.”
“I’m seeing a 21-year-old!” I blurted back. #116 was still living as male, and I had worried about whether #148 might have a problem with the whole bi thing. I had also been worried in case I was expected to be monogamous. Both of us relieved, we stopped by a second-hand book stall before returning to my place for more sex.
The last time we were together was the night Leonard and I wound up in CC Bloom’s playing drinking games with some boys we’d encountered along the way. #148 was there to meet her sort-of-boyfriend, but didn’t see him. She came home with me instead, while #131 ditched the boy he was on a date with to go home with Leonard.
And then I don’t remember what happened. I don’t think I intended for that to be the last time, but I was hard to get in contact with back then, and maybe I was too sidetracked with all the other adventures I was having. I remember that that last time, she asked me to be hers completely, just for the night. I think I said yes but I didn’t mean it; no matter how good the sex was, part of my mind was somewhere else, in some kind of sad messy place, and I couldn’t let her in to that. I remember one night she phoned me twice in quick succession, wanting to be with me, and I don’t remember if that was before or after.
She was the first person I saw when I arrived back in Edinburgh after my mother’s death. She was walking down the Royal Mile with her new girlfriend. I had just come from the airport bus and I had my rucksack on my back. “I saw Leonard in CC’s recently,” she told me. She always pronounced his name “lee-o-nard”. “He told me you were visiting your mother. How is she?”
“She died,” I said. I didn’t have any emotion left in me at that point. And she said, “I’m sorry”, but she took on this smile that I hated. I guess it’s just that inappropriate smile that you get sometimes when you know it’s wrong but you just can’t get rid of it. I said goodbye and walked on home.