There isn’t an easy way to tell you this, dear reader, but I have to be honest and admit up front right here and now that I have wobbled recently. I was tempted by a slithering serpent and momentarily strayed from the straight and narrow path I have been so diligently treading for the past eleven years. Oh, the shame! Of course, as Dan said to me, (after much scolding and reprimanding) “we all wobble sometimes.” And he’s right, but that’s no excuse for me wibbling and wobbling all over the shop like a jelly on a washing machine! (Although, having said that, Dan never wobbles. When I asked him about this he shrugged and said he’d always had this “mysterious inner strength.” If only I had it too!)
Let me explain. It was over a month ago now, the first week of July, and I had embarked into Soho on one of my nightly rescue missions to a certain infamous club. This club is one of our regular battlegrounds but I hadn’t been in almost a year after a very disturbing experience when the doorman refused me entry. “We know who you are!” he’d barked at me like some sinister Stasi agent in Soviet Germany, “We’ve had lots of complaints about you and your friends! You’re barred!” (So much for living in a free, ‘liberal’ country, eh?) Fortunately there was a new bouncer on the door this night who unhooked the rope with a charming smile. And as there’s always a high turnover of staff at these places, the faces behind the bar were all thankfully unfamiliar.
The scene which greeted me was the usual grim tableau of debauchery. The dance-floor was filled with young men in tight fitting t-shirts and skimpy trousers all bouncing mindlessly up and down to pounding druggy music. I circled the perimeter of the area, looking for stragglers and nervous novices and I had almost completed an unsuccessful tour of duty when I finally spotted one! He was standing by the fire escape, shoulders tensed, a beer bottle in hand, nervously scraping the label off with his fingernails as his big brown eyes darted around, surveying the scene with evident displeasure. He had dark hair and a rather sulky little mouth. Think Jake Gyllenhaal circa Donnie Darko, adolescent moodiness shielding a tortured vulnerability. His clothes were scruffy compared to everyone else; battered black jeans and a T-shirt. It was only as I came up close to him that I saw clearly what was on his T-shirt. It had a black background with a picture of a large sword. Above the sword was written THESE NEW PURITANS and below it WE WANT WAR. Golly! No wonder he was observing the rampant hedonism with such obvious contempt! Who were these ‘Puritans’ and who did they want a war with? I wondered if perhaps they were a rival organisation to ours? Maybe there was an opportunity for our two pure-of-heart groups to unite together and fight our common enemy? I was determined to find out!
“Hello scrumptious,” I said. (Despite my suspicions, I thought it best to play the script as per usual. Who knew, perhaps he would even try his own ‘magic question’ on me!) I asked him his name.
“Zac!” he replied curtly.
“That’s an exotic name,” I said, “What’s it short for?”
He barked at me impatiently, “What do you reckon, pal?” Oh dear! These New Puritans clearly weren’t as well trained as Dawn Rescue. He wasn’t fooling anyone! I persevered. “Is it short for Zac Efron?”
At this he stared at me with utter disgust. “It’s short for Zachary!” he practically spat at me, “Who the hell is Zac Efron? I don’t even know who he is! Unlike you, you’ve probably got all the High School Musical DVDs so you can jerk off all over his shiny stupid face every day!”
Well, I mean to say, there was no call for all this, was there? I felt sure he would feel jolly foolish once he discovered who I really worked for. I offered to buy him another beer. He seemed to soften up at this, and once I’d returned from the bar and handed him his second bud he was being positively civil. I asked him how old he was, he said he was 19. “And how old are you really?” I asked.
“Nineteen!” he repeated through gritted teeth.
“First time on the scene?” I asked.
“No, not really,” he lied, taking a swig of beer with affected nonchalance.
“Are you sure?” I said with a cheeky wink.
“Look, mate!” hissed Zac, jabbing his beer bottle at me menacingly, “do you mind not doubting everything I say, it’s really f****** rude!”
“Ooh, you’re a spiky little number, aren’t you?” I said.
“Yeah,” he returned, “so watch out or you might get pricked!” I burst into giggles at this but Zac turned deathly pale, appalled at what he’d just said, “Christ,” he muttered, “I can’t believe I said that. That sounded so camp, didn’t it?” Well yes, but that’s the idea. A bit more of that, young man, and you might start to sound convincing!
“You’re not dancing?” I asked him. Very laconically, he looked down at his feet and quipped, “no, it appears I’m not am I?” I asked why and he launched into a tirade about the assembled clubbers. They were all “disco bunnies” straight off the “faggot factory line” and he despised them all.
Well what do you know, he sounded exactly like Dan! No doubt the two of them would get along like a house on fire, I thought, when I had the chance to introduce them. Nevertheless Dan has always been able to expertly disguise his true feelings and fit seamlessly in with all the other “disco bunnies” and “screaming queens” (just as I have learnt to) but this Zac was hopeless! I’d have to suggest to the higher-ups of These New Puritans that Zac should perhaps be given back-office duties in future. (At least until the war. I imagined he’d be very handy in a scrap when the time comes!) He then started banging on about how much he hated the pounding music. “Oh, what music do you like then?” I asked him, hoping to steer the conversation into more neutral territory. (And who knew, perhaps he would even share my love of the Jonas Brothers?) “I like good music,” he replied, “Y’know, indie, punk.” Then he pointed at his T-shirt and said, “I really like this band, actually. Saw them live last week. They’re ace!”
Well, that knocked me for six! So These New Puritans were merely a rock group, were they? I felt momentarily crushed, but then I wondered hopefully if they might be devoutly religious metal-heads in the vein of Payable On Death. “Are they Christians?” I asked. Zac stared at me in complete bewilderment, as if this was the most bizarre thing he’d ever heard. “I bloody hope they’re not!” he replied, knocking back his beer. Well, I was jolly confused now! If he wasn’t “gay” and he wasn’t here on behalf of Our Lord, why on earth was he here? To bash a few heads in? He certainly seemed frightfully angry but despite the hostility he didn’t quite seem the ‘queerbashing’ type somehow. I thought I’d get straight to it and just ask him the ruddy question and let the chips fall where they may!
And after I’d whispered the golden words in his ear, what do you know, he laughed in my face! I repeated the question, fearing he hadn’t quite heard me and he doubled up in hysterics clutching the wall. When finally he recovered he subjected me to a fair degree of bigotry and hostility.
“So you’re a f****** Christian, are you? Just my f****** luck!”
“There’s no need to be prejudiced,” I protested but he continued calling me lots of rude names and spewing out a volley of highly blasphemous statements. I attempted a devastatingly cutting put-down of my own. “Ooh, an atheist?” I said sarcastically, “How original! I bet you think you’re a right smartypants!” But this merely provoked more cackling.
“You sound really f****** poofy for someone who’s supposedly been straightened out, you do realise that?” he taunted me nastily.
Well, I must admit my eyes started to well up a little under this onslaught. He seemed to register this, and an ember of compassion sparked within his cold, dark soul. “Hey, mate, I’m sorry,” he said, squeezing my shoulder, “hey, shush, come here!” But it was too late, a Niagara of tears was already gushing down my cheeks. Next thing I knew he had thrown his arms around me and was hugging me tightly. “There, there,” he murmured in my ear, “it’s ok. Come on, mate, let’s get you out of here!”
And with that he led me out of the club and we walked through London that mild summer night, making our way down to Waterloo Bridge en route to Zac’s university halls of residence over on the South Bank. We paused on the moonlit bridge and looked across at all the beautiful lights of the city.
“You’re, what, 35?” said Zac.
“I’m 29!” I protested, rather put-out. (People usually think I’m a few years younger than I am!)
“Ok, whatever,” said Zac, “But your Dorian Gray years are almost behind you, and what have you done with ‘em, huh? Bugger all! You’re still quite cute, you know, but it aint gonna last. Soon you’ll be old and wrinkled and you’ll just look back at this moment with aching regret and think “I could’ve had that hot young guy but I f****** blew it!” and all because you think God will be mad at you. But look!” And he pointed up at the star flecked sky and said, “He’s not up there, is he?” Before I could counter this ridiculous and quite groundless assertion he had planted a big wet kiss smack bang on my lips, right there on Waterloo Bridge!
“But I thought you were straight,” I said in his room later, as we lay in his narrow bed. “What made you think that?” he asked, as he nestled his head on my shoulder. “But in the club you said you hated them all!” “Yeah, but those twats are no more homosexual than I am. Yes, they may be more immersed in an artificial “gay” culture but that’s a different thing entirely. I like blokes and I suppose I always will, but that doesn’t mean I have to subscribe to a whole set of cultural norms and signifiers, you know what I mean? ” Well to be honest I hadn’t the faintest clue what he was going on about but I very much liked the sound of his voice, and I nodded and murmured as I
drifted off into a blissful sleep!
I awoke with horror the next morning to realise that like Titania in Shakespeare’s pagan blasphemy I had been placed under a spell by a devilish little Puck but mercifully the effects had now worn off and I faced the despicable aftermath of the previous night’s wantonness with steely-eyed sobriety. Appalled, I hastily dressed and then quietly tiptoed out, leaving Zac snoring loudly behind me.
I returned home to find Dan sitting up waiting for me, arms folded. “Well?” he said. “Where have you been?” On the bus I had hastily invented some story about spiked drinks and being forcibly held against my will but it was to no avail, no sooner had I started to spin this tissue of lies than my face turned bright puce, the effect rather like in Pinocchio when the wooden boy’s tumescent nose exposes his fibs to the Blue Fairy. I can never convincingly lie to Dan, he sees straight into my soul!
So I ‘fessed up whilst Dan listened in icy silence. At the end we held hands and he asked me the magic question and I replied dutifully with “for my sins.” As Dan pointed out to me, Zac was probably Jewish, seeing as he’s got a name like Zachary. As Dan says, “Never waste your time with Jewish boys, they’re a lost cause!”
I do hope I never bump into Zac again!!! Keep your eyes peeled, folks, and be on your guard! University will be starting again soon so now doubt he’ll be back in town causing trouble, I for one am dreading his return! If any of you think you may have come across him on your travels and might have any stories or ‘dirt’ on him, then please do tell me. These are dark days indeed!