FEASTING WITH PANTHERS

III: Henry’s Story

It seemed like a good idea at the time—but I should never have married Fran. Actually I should never have married anybody. When I was at university Father Paul, the chaplain, used to say I was “one of nature’s bachelors” which was his kindly way of saying I was as queer as a three-pound note. But when you’re teaching in a Church of England high school, and think people may have noticed you have an eye for the boys—well, you hope a wedding will keep the gossips quiet. Quieter, anyway.

Let me make one thing clear: I am no kind of paedophile. If I were teaching in a junior school I’d be perfectly safe—and I’d also be bored out of my tiny mind, unless there was another good-looking guy on the staff, and if he wore glasses… But just as it’s the paedophiles who have a gift for teaching little kids, so I communicate best with the boys who attract me, that is those who are well on the way to being men. Give me a class of sixth-formers, and they’ll like me and learn what I have to teach them. And at the same time the boys will drive me crazy (especially, once again, if they wear glasses!)

I’m long-sighted myself, and I’ve had glasses since I was at school—bifocals now, though I’m only 36 (29 after dark!)—but I don’t need them all the time…reading and working at the computer of course…driving, watching TV…mealtimes, to see what I’m eating…and in the classroom, to see the students’ faces properly. But that’s all: the rest of the time I’m fine without them. I’m a bit hard of hearing too, but not bad enough to need a hearing aid.

If I was going to marry anybody, Fran was the obvious choice. Flattish chest, narrow hips, short straight hair. Always jeans or a trouser suit, never a skirt. Glasses too—with unisex frames. I thought hopefully that she might be a lesbian; and if she wasn’t, well then, she was so boyish-looking I thought I could cope. I was ignoring the fundamental problem: she had the wrong kind of equipment between her legs. And it turned she was desperate to get my equipment in it. And she’s a bitch. I was the biggest disappointment she’d ever had—and she doesn’t like disappointments.

The wedding night was a disaster. There had never been any thought of sex before that—I didn’t want it anyway—and I’d drunk a lot more than I was used to to give me dutch courage. I knew what I was expected to do, but at the sight I was overcome by nausea and spent the night vomiting uncontrollably into the bidet. The rest of the honeymoon was little better. Fran worked hard on me with hands and mouth, and on the fourth night the marriage was actually consummated. I sometimes wish it hadn’t been; it might have made things easier. She was ready with excuses for me at first; but when she realized she wasn’t going to have the kind of sex life a wife expects—well, it wasn’t what she said; it was the silence—the silence of hostility, not to say contempt.

So we don’t share a bedroom, let alone a bed. We live in the same house and eat meals together, we go to church together and go out together when it would look odd not to; but the rest of the time—well, we lead our own lives. There’s a reasonable gay pub in town, and I go there for an hour some nights, not for sex—I don’t need a lot of that and can usually satisfy my own needs—but for a congenial atmosphere. I’d heard whispers that there was another pub, the Juniper Berry, that was more ‘interesting’ than the Lord Roberts, so I decided one Friday to go along there.

Well, I went in and checked out the bar. The bitter was creamflow—all piss and wind as they say, and even when they sell real ale in a gay pub it’s usually crap—so I had a gin and bitter lemon. Then I squinted round the room and decided somebody had been having me on. The room was full of men, yes; but everybody’s attention seemed to be on a tall girl with ginger curls who was sitting at the side of a little stage at one end of the room. Presently she got up on the stage and began to dance to music that came from loudspeakers. She wriggled sexily, and I felt slightly sick. Then the tempo changed, the dance became more intense, and she drew off first one and then the other evening glove, and threw them into the audience. Next came her stole, then she wriggled out of her dress and went on dancing in a sort of petticoat. Then suddenly she started to do something to her hair; it was a wig, and she threw it down, revealing, curiously, close-cropped dark hair. Her bra was the next item to go, and a great cheer went up when her breasts vanished with it, revealing a muscular male figure. No full monty—she, no sorry HE, of course, went as far as a little pair of boxer shorts, which got a few tweaks but never came right off. So that was the ‘interesting’ thing about the Juniper Berry; I had to admit I found it more than interesting, and I decided I’d go again.

The following Friday I made sure I was there in time to get a good view. I found a seat near the stage and sat sipping my gin. Presently the night’s ‘turn’ appeared from somewhere at the back of the premises—much more striking, much more attractive than before. Tall—tall enough to give away that ‘she’ was really a boy, with blonde hair piled up and great big lustrous sapphire-blue eyes. The dress was blue too, with a skirt that looked narrow for dancing. Presently the music struck up and someone introduced ‘Julie’. The dance began, and it was obvious that this was a first-class act. ‘She’ knew how to move, and it became clear that the dress was well made so that there was more fullness in the skirt than appeared at first glance. Once or twice ‘she’ glanced in my direction and gave a little squint. Good heavens, I thought, was this vision of loveliness short-sighted as well as beautiful? The stripping began—but there were differences. The biggest difference was that before the bra and the breasts came off, ‘she’ let her hair down, first into a pony tail and then loose: it wasn’t a wig , it was real hair, silky and blonde and very long: not to the waist but well past the shoulders. I really need to see this properly, I thought, so I took out my glasses and slipped them on. The movement caught the dancer’s attention and I got a beaming smile! What was going on? The end of the act revealed a slim, smooth torso, muscular legs, and this amazing head of hair. I was reminded of Orlando Bloom as Legolas in ‘The Lord of the Rings’. After a few minutes the stripper reappeared, wearing a bathrobe over his jockey shorts, and to my amazement made a beeline for me. “Well, fancy seeing you here!” he said as he sat down at my table. “I’m sorry, do I know you?” “Well, you used to teach me English—don’t you remember?” He said his name too, but in the buzz of sound my hearing let me down, and I didn’t like to ask him to repeat it. “No, you’ll have to remind me.” “OK, I need to get changed; would you buy me a gin and come and talk to me in the dressing-room?”

I followed him ‘backstage’ to a chorus of catcalls from other punters who obviously thought I was his sugar daddy, and found myself in a cosy little parlour with a couple of chairs and a table. “Now,” he said, “before I do anything else I’ve got to get these contact lenses out, they’re driving me mad.” He fished in his bag for the case, popped the lenses out and put them away. Then he started to grope blindly in his bag and eventually found his glasses case—and when he turned my way and I saw that his great big eyes were brown and not blue, and they shrank to pinheads behind thick coke bottle lenses everything fell into place. “Of course!” I exclaimed; “Jamie Brooks!” “That’s me, all six foot two! Let me just get this make up off and, well, do what another cannot do for me, and I’ll be with you.”

Relishing the reference to Swift, I sat back and thought back a few years—first to a case conference about a statement of special educational needs on a grotty little kid with fair hair and vacant brown eyes. His junior school reported he was unresponsive in class and ill-behaved outside; our experience was bearing this out, and the debate was whether he had learning difficulties, behaviour problems or merely what we were starting to call ‘attention deficit syndrome’. I was young and idealistic, and had a theory of my own. “Has anyone ever sent him for an eye test?” I wanted to know. “I think the poor little blighter is half-blind.” The rest of the staff scoffed, but the Head agreed to test my hypothesis. We took the kid into an empty classroom. “Jamie,” said the Head, “can you read me that line of writing?” A blank, sullen look was all he got in reply. “Right then,” said I, holding up four fingers. “How many fingers am I holding up?” “Uh, two, sir.” The Head sent a letter home advising an immediate eye test. Three days later the kid appeared in a pair of round glasses with minus lenses—strong for a first prescription, very strong; my guess was at least -6, with quite a lot of cylinder. There was nothing sexy about the specs—but the eyes behind them had begun to sparkle and dance and look everywhere, and to smile engagingly. By the middle of the next term Jamie had caught up with the rest of the class; by the summer holidays he was in the lead—but I could see that he was starting to have trouble with the board again. No surprise when he came back in September with new glasses, and throughout his school career this was the pattern. Every six months or so a change of specs, more cut-in, more power rings. By the time he reached the sixth form he was in trifocals after a couple of years of bifocals. I understood the local optometrist had referred him to a low vision specialist, and this was an attempt to slow down the progress of his myopia—but it just kept on galloping. Meanwhile his school work went from strength to strength, and he left for university with a string of A-levels and a handful of medals—and the most wonderful looks. He’d passed through the spotty stage of puberty and developed a clear, fair complexion and silky ash blonde hair. And each dioptre of myopia had accompanied another inch in height. What had gone wrong? What was he doing stripping in a gay pub?

Jamie came back from the bathroom freshened up but still wearing only the bathrobe over his jockey shorts, took a swig of his gin and sat down beside me. “It’s lovely to see you again, sir,” he said. “I ought to be surprised but I’m not really. I always had a feeling it was boys you liked; you know I’m like Old Gobbo: more than sand-blind, high gravel blind; but with my glasses my vision’s pretty good, and I used to catch you looking at me, well, as if you’d like to see me without my clothes.”

“Well, I’ve seen that now, Jamie,” I interrupted, rather pompously; “and a very nice sight it was; but look here, I’m delighted to see you too, but, well, is the best use you can make of your talents?” “Oh, don’t worry about that; this is a sideline. I’ve got my first degree and I’m doing research. The grant is pretty meagre, and some of my friends suggested that as God’s given me a body worth looking at I could use it to earn a bit of pin money. It means I can afford a few extras—like the occasional bottle of gin; like an extra pair of glasses instead of just new lenses in my old frames. I do a bit at hen parties and so on, but—well, I’d rather have men looking at me than women, and besides—” a delicious blush spread over his face and neck ”—I just love doing drag.

“But that’s enough about that. I’ve been wishing for years that I’d thanked you for all you did for me at school. Everybody thought I was as thick as pigshit and a waste of space; I thought so myself. You got them to send me for my first glasses and brought me to life and gave me everything I value most—so thank you, ten thousand times thank you!” And this exquisitely beautiful young man turned towards me and took my face in his hands and kissed me on the lips. What a kiss! it went on, and on, and on. His tongue, with a faint flavour of gin, eased its way between my lips, between my teeth. His left hand found its way to my thigh, tentatively explored my groin and discovered the massive erection I’d developed, took my right hand and placed it on his jockeys; he was hard too, and throbbing. For the first time I did what I’d longed all my life to do to a man: I dropped to my knees, and took his cock in my mouth, and sucked, and licked, and took him deeper into my throat, until the explosion came. He moaned faintly, and when I finally released him he had taken his glasses off and was wiping away a few tears. But he was eager to service me: he opened my flies and got to work, with his glasses back on of course. Standing up, running my fingers through that amazing head of hair, I felt the top of my head fly off and disappear into the night—or so it seemed. Gradually, relaxing in each other’s arms, we came down to earth. “WELL!” said Jamie at last. “That’s something else to thank you for! Like the Tories, I’ve never had it so good!” (Not so bad for a beginner, I thought!) Wistfully, a little sadly, we said our goodbyes and I escaped through a side door.

That was—what? ten weeks ago. Since then I’ve gone regularly to the Juniper Berry in the hope of seeing him again. I’ve seen some other cute guys showing off their bodies, but never the one I’m longing for. Night after night I’ve gone to bed thinking of him, settled for a J.Arthur rather than a wet dream, and cried myself to sleep. No question; I’m in love—and I want to make love again.

Then yesterday afternoon, as I was getting ready to leave school, the ’phone in my room rang and the secretary’s voice said, “There’s a young man here asking to see you. Says it’s urgent.” I headed down to Reception, and was dumbfounded to see Jamie waiting. He was wearing a baseball cap and his hair was tucked inside his anorak, so he didn’t look too unconventional, but he was wearing different glasses—myodisks in clear plastic frames. I said, “What on earth are you doing here, Jamie?” “Visiting my old school to see my favourite English teacher,” was the reply, but there was no animation in his voice. “Look, I need to talk to you. In private.” We have two or three interview rooms—reasonably soundproof but with clear glass windows—so I took him into one of those and we both sat down. Looking properly at him, I realized his face was not even white but grey. He took his glasses off, stared at me, or past me, or through me for a moment, as blankly and unseeingly as when he first came into my classroom ten years ago, and began to cry. For nearly ten minutes he wept, not like a woman or a child but as only a man weeps, great dry heaving sobs racking his whole body. At last he was quiet. I said, “Look, there’s obviously something far wrong; but it has to be better to share it.” He looked blindly round and said, “Do you know where I put my glasses? I can’t even see you.” I found them and put them into his hand and he put them on.

“It’s like this,” he said. “I have quite a lot of sexual partners; it’s one of the fringe benefits of showing my body off in public and it’s been very profitable. But I’ve always taken care to go for tests four times a year, just to make sure I’m clear of infections. I went last week, and this morning they sent for me and told me I’m HIV positive. Of course this means I could get full-blown AIDS and die. Even if I don’t it means no more sex and no more income from that. Worse, I don’t know when I caught it or who I may have passed it on to, and most of the men I’ve been with were strangers. Worst of all, I may have infected you. I was so happy with you that evening; I don’t know about you but I felt I was really making love—and if I was giving you that instead I’ll never forgive myself, because I love you, I do, I really love you.” He buried his face in his hands again, but mercifully there were no more of those terrible sobs…

So that’s why I’m sitting here at the clap clinic.