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December, Northeast England
I concluded, towards midnight in the Powerhouse, it isn't breaking up that kills you. It's the aftermath. This revelation, coming hard on the heels of six or seven shots of JD, seemed momentous. I wanted to communicate it to someone. But that's the problem with the Powerhouseand the Barking Dog and the rest of the handful of gay dives struggling to hold on through the regeneration of Newcastle upon Tyne's west endyou don't communicate, at least not verbally. A track whose sole lyrics were riverside, motherfucker repeated at intervals across its trippy, bone-shaking bass had been circling round the club for the past ten minutes. If I wanted to talk, I'd have to get up close and personal. Right up against someone's ear.
Maybe I could try it with him. The stereotype there at the bar. While I was at it, I could tell him the rulesbecause there are rules down here, even for the heaving sea of flesh and muscle fighting it out on the dance floor, assuming their positions and their partners for the night. You don't come here alone four weekend nights in a row, sit there looking the way he did and not expect to be picked up. Not that he seemed offended by the regular attempts. Whatever his method for repelling boarders, it was quiet. Good-natured, even: most of the rejects had come away smiling.
All right. My turn. If he was the archetype of lonely dignitydark, impassive, bloody beautiful in the industrial style, all lean muscle under his tight black vest, leather jacket slung across the bar beside himI was my own kind of caricature, perhaps a match for his. Friends, mirrors and an undamaged ego had once told me I was lovely too. Postgrad-student, promising-young-doctor lovely. Wheat-sheaf fair to his dark. I always got my man. The song said, riverside, motherfucker, and it felt like the word of God.
I got to my feet. He was watching me, as expressionlessly as he watched everything and everyone else around here, but I did have his attention. The wheat sheaf got displayed to best advantage if I gave it a casual push back with one hand. I went for the manoeuvre, caught the tinsel banner some festive-minded fuckwit had thought apt to string around the walls of the city's most hard-core pickup joint and brought the whole lot down.
I slumped back into my seat. I didn't have left inside me whatever it took to be mortified, or even amused. I just didn't fucking care. The trip-hammer rhythm went on. Riverside, motherfucker. At the bar, the stereotype had turned so his fine-sculpted profile was all I could see. It was perfectly still. If he was laughing his arse off inside, it was down very deep. Wow. Kind as well as gorgeous. He was definitely breaking every damn rule around here.