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Jimmy the Love-Virus.
By John T. S. Teller.
I'm almost crying as I leave Rob. The lift is broken, so I walk wearily up the dozens of stairs to our flat, and open the door with my key. Mum's lying on the sofa watching TV. "Hiya, mum."
"Hiya, sweetheart. You ok? Did it go well? Come and sit with me."
I go and sit with her, and she puts her arm around me. I give her a kiss on the cheek. "You ok?"
She nods. She points to the photo Rob gave me, and asks, "What's that?"
I give her the photo, and she studies it. She squeezes me. "He's certainly a looker. Is he fond of you? (I nod.) Very fond of you? (I nod again.) Do you think it'll work out?"
"Yes. It's better than I thought it would be. I think I'll go to bed now. I'm tired."
"You smell nice."
I smile, and give her a hug. "He gave me a massage, and then buggered off."
I make a grumpy face, and nod. (She laughs, and digs me in the ribs.) I ask, "What are you laughing at?"
"Because I'm happy that he didn't. The fact that he didn't, tells me more about him than anything else."
Now, she's not laughing. "Here, snuggle up real close and I'll explain something to you. (I do.) When you were a little boy, long before you were a sexy little sod, I used to bathe you, and then lie you on the sofa and massage you with baby oil. I was in heaven when I was doing it. Running my hands over your beautiful soft body was the nearest thing to complete happiness I ever had. There wasn't anything sexy in it, because it was absolute, pure love. (She's in tears now, and I hug her.) I did the same with Jade when she was little, too. So I know why Rob did it, and I also know why he wouldn't do anything afterwards. It would have ruined what he was feeling for you. You've got yourself quite a man there, Jimmy. He truly loves you for who you are more than anything else. I'm going to lose you to him very shortly, but now I know how he feels about you, I'll manage, because all that matters to me is that you're happy. Now sod off to bed."
I kiss her, get up, and go to my bedroom. I feel hopelessly alone, and sit on my bed looking at the photo of my beautiful Robert. It's obvious it's a posed photo... his wavy hair is perfect, and not as I know it, with the little bit that falls across his forehead. He's not smiling, which is what he does most of the time, and neither are his beautiful hazel eyes sparkling like they usually do. I look around the room at the pictures of my wrestler lovers on the walls, and I make a decision, and take them all down; not angrily, because these men have been my sexual saviours over the years. Now, they've served their purpose, and I have the real thing. Thanks, guys. I kiss each one as I place them in the bottom drawer of my dresser. Time to grow up. If all goes well, the future should be better than the past; and that thought makes me take down the photo of Chris from off the wall where I've been able to blow kisses to him every night before I go to sleep. I hug him to my chest, and then kiss him.
What will I do now Chris? I've found a new love. I know you'd like him. He's beautiful and caring, just like you. He makes me laugh, and he makes me cry, just like you used to do. I have to grow up now, so I'm going to put you in the top drawer. I'm sorry Chris, but I have to. Goodbye, my beautiful lover.
Tears are streaming down my face as I place Chris in the top drawer, but it has to be done. I can't keep running back to the past: to Chris. I've grown up now. And I put Rob's photo in his place.
The CD. Track four, Rob said. I draw the curtains, switch on my bedside lamp, and lie on the bed. I can reach the player from here, and I insert the CD, select track four, and listen to the song Rob says is for me: Adele - You make me feel my love.
When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love
I'm lying face down on the bed; my heart is breaking, and the sobs that are coming from me are hurting real bad. I've been here before, when Chris died, and I begin to wail like a wounded dog. Mum comes into the room, gets onto the bed, and lies with me. I collapse into her embrace, and allow all the hurt and pain I feel to flow out into her; into my Mum, my rock, the only person in the world who really understands me. After a while, she leans over and stops the CD from playing. Mum knows best. She gets up and takes off my jeans and t-shirt, and pulls the duvet over me. I look up at her, and tell her that I have to text Rob.
"I'll sort it for you, Jimmy. I'm going to get you a sleeping tablet. You'll be unwell again if we don't do things right." She leaves the room, and comes back with a tablet and a glass of water. I take the tablet, and drink the water. She caresses my face with her hand, and plants oodles of motherly kisses on me as our tears fall onto the pillow. And...
I'm in the kitchen, drinking a beer when my mobile goes. It isn't a text, it's a call... from VIRUS. Why is he ringing me? "Hello?"
"Hello, Rob. This is Jimmy's mum. Don't worry, he's ok. He's asleep. He said he had to text you, so I'm ringing you to stop you worrying about him."
"Thanks. I'm glad you have. He's told you about us then."
"Jimmy keeps nothing from me. I won't let him do that. He's been hurt enough in his short life, and I'm not going to have him hurt again. We need to have a chat."
"On the phone, or would you like us to meet?"
"I'm thinking that you come over here now, if you would."
"Is it that important?"
"Ok, I'll come now."
"Get a taxi. Don't come in that posh car. There'll be nothing left of it if you park it round here. Number 10, Briary Road. Flat 18. Ring me on this mobile when you're near to, and I'll be waiting for you."
"OK. I'll order one now. I should be with you in thirty minutes. Will that be ok?"
"That's fine. I'll see you soon."
"Ok." I ring off and order a taxi. I'm wondering what's going on. Something must have happened for Jimmy's Mum to want to see me right away. I'm pleased Akhtar's still working, and he picks me up. When we get to Briary Road, although he doesn't say anything directly, his, "Will you be ok here?" isn't just a question as to whether I'm in the right place. This is `downtown' . . . not the usual place he takes me. I nod, and give him a twenty, and tell him I don't want any change. I've texted Jimmy's Mum on the way, and there's a woman waiting for me by the communal door. I get out, and Akhtar speeds off in his Honda. He wants to be off this estate as soon as he can. This is BNP territory – racists and bigots and bastards – and that's why I paid him well. I walk up to the door and follow her into the block of flats and up the staircase. The walls are covered in obscenities and graffiti. We reach the 3rd floor, turn right, and walk along the causeway that leads to her flat. Each door we pass bears the same filth, and each has steel bars and multiple locks. I've never been in a place like this before, and I'm apprehensive; even more so when a kid of about six runs past me with a woman running after it, screaming, "Get back here you little twat, before I break your fucking neck!" I'm sickened that my Jimmy (or any human being) has to live in a place like this. The contrast between the outside and the inside of Jimmy's home is amazing. I expected a pig hole, but the flat is clean and tidy, and it smells like a home. At that moment, I have nothing but admiration for Jimmy's mum.
"Sit down, Rob."
"Is Jimmy asleep?"
She nods, and smiles (she has the same smile as my Jimmy), and beckons me to follow her, and she takes me to his bedroom. He's fast asleep. I can't help what I do next. I sit on the edge of the bed, and gently stroke his face and his soft hair. I look up at Jimmy's Mum, and she's smiling. I lean over, kiss his forehead, and then get up. We leave the room and go back to the living room. I sit in an armchair.
"I'm Paula. Would you like a drink?"
"I'll have a coffee, please." Paula goes into the kitchen, and I look around the room. There are photographs all over the place. I get up and wander around looking at them. Jimmy's life unfolds before my eyes. There's also a lot of a little girl, who is, unmistakably, Jimmy's sister, Jade, the one who died of meningitis. There isn't one photo of Jimmy's dad in the room. That says a lot. Paula comes out of the kitchen with two mugs of coffee.
She sits on the sofa. I return to the armchair. "I hope you don't mind coming over to see me. I suppose you've worked out that it's important?"
I nod. "I suppose you're worried about me."
"No, I'm worried about my Jimmy. You're old enough to take care of yourself. (That was blunt, and I'm even more impressed.) Has Jimmy spoken to you about anything in his past?"
"His dad and Chris you mean?"
She pulls a surprised face. "I knew he loved you, but now I know how much he does. Outside a very close circle, you're the first person he's ever talked to about Chris. How much do you love Jimmy?"
"More than I've ever loved anyone. It hurts. (I'm finding it easy to talk to Paula, because it's obvious we share something.) I've never really been in love before, and I'm not sure I like it all that much. I have to hurt Jimmy, and I certainly don't like doing that."
"In what way?"
I think long and hard before answering. "It's because I have to keep sending him back to this place. That's not a criticism of your home; it's about the whole environment. I'm not being selfish, but because he's so important to me, I just don't want Jimmy living around here. If it was absolutely necessary and I could do it without hurting him, I'd even give up what he and I have to get him away... and I mean that. And I'm going to do it! I'm glad you rang me, because nothing can be sorted unless you're involved. I'm just so pleased that Jimmy has a Mum like you. I can't think how he would have survived without you. You're special, you know that? I know Jimmy thinks you are."
Paula smiles. And then she shocks me. "Would you like to go to bed with me?"
I need to be careful here. This has taken a strange twist, and I'm not sure how to answer. I look at Paula for a while. She's a pretty lass, and under normal circumstances, I reckon I would. But why has she asked me the question? Does she really want me, or is she sorting out in her mind just what sort of character I am? I decide to answer honestly, and sort out the consequences later. "No. If I met you out on the town, and circumstances were different, I'd say `yes', but, because of the circumstances, I don't find you the least bit sexy. It would be like shagging my own mum."
Paula laughs, and I see the same `Jimmy' mischievous grin on her face that I love so much now. "Just testing, Rob." And she laughs again.
"Did I pass?"
"Oh yes... with flying colours. If you'd said `yes', I'd have set the dogs on you big style, and there are some real Pit Bulls around here. Nobody is ever going to hurt my Jimmy again. Nobody! Do I make myself clear?"
I take the threat easily. "Absolutely. But you're threatening the wrong person. If anyone hurts Jimmy, I'd want to kill them myself." The words seem to have hit home. I know they have when next she speaks.
"It's late, Rob. Now, I'm going to ask you to do something for me, and when I say it's important, I mean that it's really important. I need your help. When Jimmy went to bed tonight, he was distraught. I've not heard anything like it since Chris was killed. I went to his room, and I was shocked. All the pictures of his wrestler lovers, and even the photo of Chris have gone. Your photo is in Chris's place, and I never thought I'd see the day that would happen; that anyone could replace Chris; but you have. This is a good moment for me, because Jimmy needs to move on, and you're the key to him doing that. What we need to do now is show him that you and me are ok with each other. That's better than any therapy or pills. I've had to give him a sleeping tablet tonight, because he was so ill. (The look of worry that crosses my face prompts her to put me at my ease.) Don't worry, Rob, I'm pretty sure, barring a disaster, if you do what I ask, this will be the last time Jimmy ever experiences his terrible sadness again. I want you to sleep with him tonight, because I want him to wake up with you by his side in the morning. I reckon you're the cure I've been looking for, for so many years. It might be difficult for you to understand why a mother would be asking a man to sleep with her son, but I don't give a fuck for principles where my boy's happiness is concerned. Because I learned from the Chris experience, I'd set the Pit Bulls on you if he was still a nipper, but he's a man now who knows without doubt what he wants to do with his life. So, will you do that for me... for Jimmy?"
I think of all the consequences of this move, and can't find a single one that outweighs my love for Jimmy. I nod, and see the relief in Paula's face. "What time does he have to be up for his papers?"
"I'll give you both a shout at six. We can sod him off to do his papers, and you can sod off home. Will that be ok? (I nod.) Right, off to bed with you then."
"I think I'd better. I need a pee first."
"The door next to Jimmy's bedroom. I'll see you two in the morning. (She giggles) Oh, by the way, you can do what you like to Jimmy now. That pill has knocked him out."
I grin, and turn to go to the bathroom, but before I do, I have to say something that's been puzzling me since I met Jimmy . . . and even more so since I've chatted to Paula. I turn back. "Can I ask you something? It might sound condescending, but it's not meant to be. (She waits for the question.) My experience of you and Jimmy, up to yet, is that you're out of place here. You're both intelligent. This place isn't for folk like you. Why are you here?"
Paula gives me a wry smile. "Circumstances, Rob. We have to deal with whatever cards are dealt to us. I'm being selfish here, but I'm hoping you're the full house, and Jimmy is the one holding them. If you were purely straight, and Jimmy didn't love you, I'd be camping on your doorstep. (She sees the questioning look on my face.) Don't worry, I've got no particular affection for you that way, but I'd prostitute myself if I thought it would help Jimmy."
"You're honest, I'll give you that. I hope you'll remember what you've just said. I don't need no humble pie shit when I'm getting you both out of here, and I know Jimmy won't buy it if you're left behind." I don't wait for a reply. Paula can think that one over at her leisure... but I meant every word I said.
I switch on Jimmy's bedside lamp, and then close the door. His single bed is by the wall; not going to be much room. I undress to my boxers, and lift the duvet. Jimmy is stripped to his Tesco underpants. To get in the bed, I have to shove him over. He's like a dead man. It's not easy, but I manage it, lean back, and switch off the bedside lamp. He's facing away from me, so I put my arm around him and snuggle up behind him. In the darkness, I kiss the back of his head repeatedly, and snuffle his hair with my nose. He smells lovely, like my shampoo. I know that if Jimmy were awake now, he'd say we were in the perfect position.
I'm with my lovely VIRUS; I'm in his bed; he's dead to the world; and I couldn't be happier. He needs me; I'm here; and that's all that matters... for now. This Social Housing estate; Paula's warning not to come over in my own car; and what I've seen here is really getting under my skin, though.
To be continued...
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