I first met Jimmy at his place just off the Liverpool Road near the Angel. I was dating Charlie at the time and he took me to Jimmy’s as a birthday present to himself.
I had always wanted to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge; if you like, but as soon as I set eyes on Jimmy I knew it was serious and my heart sank. We had fun but at the end of the evening he put Charlie and me in a black cab; winked in my direction and said “She’s a sweetheart Charlie, and any time you want to watch me fuck her again shout me.”
Charlie was so bowled over by the whole thing he could only grin, but I was devastated at the thought I wouldn’t see Jimmy again and I considered getting out of that cab and getting down on my knees there and then on the tarmac; the feeling was that strong.
Don’t get me wrong I was very fond of Charlie; we’d had a ball together. He was much younger than me; earned a fortune somewhere near Wapping and had a great flat that looked out over the city and I was more than happy to wake up there some Sunday mornings and admire that skyline in the sunshine or on duller days try to make it out through the clouds.
I was born in Marylebone and I’d tottered my way through those big city streets as a kid of sixteen in my first office job and my first high heels.
At Charlie’s place I’d stand there gazing at the acres of it through the filthy glass of his fourth floor window; like a new mother tracing every skin crease; stroking every silky hair.
London fills me to the brim; leaves me sighing with a satisfaction I can’t seem to know the why of.
I feel that way after a night spent naked too. Tied up; there’s nothing you can do but let yourself go. I’ve never lost my enthusiasm. I wake up quiet with the joy of it. I only have to think about nuns and I want to cry at all that ‘pleasure of the flesh’ they’ve never had – and I’ve had so much pleasure from my own; never mind the company I’ve kept.
All the way home I sat cuddled up with Charlie, while the taxi driver - on high alert after Jimmy’s Parthian shot - tried to make a bit of conversation. With the booze wearing off and Charlie making it plain he wouldn’t go anywhere but home, the driver resorted to occasional glances in the mirror, hoping to catch my eye.
If I know anything about men it’s about their desperation and this guy was trying far too hard. It made me think again of Jimmy and how easy we had been together but the thought just made me all the sadder. Of course Charlie didn’t know that and I wouldn’t have hurt his feelings for the world, or wanted to spoil his birthday either; but I had a desperation of my own in the back of that cab; at the thought me and Jimmy would never be.
When we got to Muswell Hill I saw the driver looking in the mirror again and he raised his eyebrows at me and gave me what I call a ‘dog eared grin’ - like when a fella knows he won’t get it but he thinks he ought to try again anyway. But I felt better by then and decided to throw him a crumb and I said far too loudly “Charlie I think the cabbie loves me.”
Charlie being Charlie; took my skirt, and slid it up over my thighs and then gently parted my knees to let the driver see what he, Charlie, called my ‘Puss’ and Jimmy had lovingly referred to as my ‘cunny’ - grinning and licking his lips.
'Ain’t she a doll driver?' Charlie said in that painfully posh voice of his and the pair of us ended up in stitches. I really cheered up then, and I didn’t think so much about Jimmy after that.
The next morning Charlie and I sat drinking coffee on his roof terrace; eating the fresh baked croissants he had run down and then back up several floors to get for me because I said I fancied one. In that little bit of quiet I let Jimmy drift back into my head and there he was sitting with the Sunday Times Magazine and concentrated orange and I knew then I had fallen in love.
Some months later (and sometime after Charlie had left to work in the New York office) I was sitting with friends in “Amici” all celebrating our fiftieth birthdays. We’d had the main course and I was giggly but on the ball.
The waiter brought over this huge pudding; all cream puff and chocolate swirls and even sparklers for Christ’s sake! He put it down in front of me, and I looked up at him shaking my head.
“I didn’t order this; it’s not mine.”
Now among my friends I am known for my love of a good pudding and when I’m out to dinner I might say “Am I going to get my afters then, Sir’” to let him know I’m happy to be had. With the right man that can earn me a proper spanking for my coyness; if he’s so inclined and then we’re both happy.
The waiter looked at me and as my friends looked on he said something I didn’t catch and then pointed toward the bar. I followed the line of his arm from pit to fingertips until I caught sight of a big framed guy perched awkwardly on one of those tall bar stools. He was talking with one of the staff but just by the back of his beautiful neck I knew it was Jimmy.
Angie Farrell (who I met working one Christmas in M&S when I was sixteen) probably knows me best in the world. She was sitting across from me; the pudding between us. She followed my eyes then turned back to me; saw the look on my face and said “Jeez woman, try to contain yourself; you’re fifty.” So it was unavoidable; Jimmy and me were definitely going to be.
He was grinning when he came over and he said with that beautiful curl of his lip “I thought you looked like you might want afters” and I got up and kissed him. Later when the dancing got going he spun an old woman around the dance floor in a fashion so crazy it made my heart sing soprano.
I knew I would never love any man the way I did Jimmy when a charmless guy in his twenties sat down at our table after dancing with my fifteen-year-old. She was Cinderella that night. I’d said she could stay until midnight and with her ‘updo’ and her dress from Debenhams and my best blusher; she could have a spritzer and then it was off to a sleepover at her friend Ellie’s house.
As he sat down the charmless guy said out loud, “Little blonde wants a good seeing to” unaware I was her mother. For some people that would just be bad mannered but Jimmy was furious and ready to throw a punch unless the guy withdrew the comment. He hated any blurring of that particular line and anyone could see she was a kid and her idea of racy was a boy with his hand on her breast and how precious is that these days?
When Jimmy asked what we were doing later and then invited me to the casino, my friend Di tried to push in and get his attention; she never could go home alone. Being Jimmy he chose that moment to visit the gents. That gave me time to explain to Di that he was a ‘Georgie Porgie’ you know? ‘Kiss the girls but make them cry?’ She knows I’m curious, and that her own taste for life would never go beyond a giggly ‘toys party’ so she pulled a face; huffing and puffing at her ‘lucky escape’ and telling me to be careful.
Angie Farrell thought that was very funny.
Almost a year to the day Jimmy and I got married and I left the little house by the sea and came home to London. We spent week-nights eating pasta at the wobbly little table on his balcony and weekends back in the little house; walking the coastal paths and searching for the bones of dinosaurs among the shingle, which was Jimmy’s big thing.
We both got fatter, but we fucked harder and laughed at our breathlessness and the cracking of our bones as we parted; sweating and spent.
On dark evenings (and quite a few afternoons) we’d pack up our kinks like others do their lunches and find ourselves a crowd to witness our perversions. Then we’d come home and lie there in the dark; warm and grateful for our second and third chances.
On the anniversary of the day we met, I wore a top hat and a dark red velvet corset to a party and we paraded ‘like a Gentleman and his Whore’ watching others writhing in the opalescent glow of a roving spotlight; finishing each other off; slow and silent in the back of the cab all the way home.
Not five months later he had a backache and blood in his stools and when the doctor gave him the worst news he said “Well I’ve always liked my bacon crispy.”
We cried together and apart, but nothing could be done and it fell to me to clean him like a baby and read him the stories he had loved as a boy.
We watched the ‘Jungle Book’ together one rainy afternoon and as we lay there on the bed we’d had such a grand time in, we sang along to the songs; the two of us wriggling and giggling; trying to scratch a few itches, but we knew those glorious, frantic sweats of ours had passed into history.
He had a million and one friends and they all came to see ‘Big Bear’ before his end. He had shrunk by then to a hungry looking cub. He could no longer bellow when you made him laugh, although there were days when we lay together choking and gasping; finding humour in the soberest of things.
All those people passed through the London flat; paying their respects and leaving him things they thought he might need on his journey in the underworld.
On one grey afternoon an equally grey-looking, thin man; wearing false eyelashes and too much lip-gloss, came and sobbed at his bedside. His name was Eddie something or other and he was ever so posh and he gripped Jimmy’s hand so tightly I could see his knuckles bleach white.
They sat like that together all afternoon and before he left Jimmy promised to leave him his favourite silver-topped cane; but only if Eddie vowed to picture Jimmy barking strict instructions to all the girls in his office as his Mistress beat him with it. Eddie looked like he might keel over at the thought of it and he went away smiling; though he was among the last; for Jimmy had reached his own contentment and was ready then.
His end held a terror for us both and we were not disappointed. When he begged me to cut his throat, I began to want him dead and unashamed I let him see it in my eyes. I wished it, willed it and in the end I begged them on my knees to stop his clock. Four hours later he took his last gasping breath; like he would have gone gently.
After the funeral his solicitor handed me a letter. I stood on the edge of the platform at King Cross station in a jostling, ever swelling crowd to read it. It said:
‘Take my ashes to the edge of a mighty ocean
scatter them on the sand.
Wait awhile; until the waves have carried me to other, distant shores
and as you do
remember that my love for you was bigger than this ocean
my desire to stay with you; strong as any tide.’
Jimmy Different xx
P.S. What the fuck are you doing in Bournemouth?