I never use Poppers. Alkyl Nitrite gives me hiccups. Poppers are Delroy’s thing. He loves to sniff that stuff when he’s getting pounded. He says it heightens the pleasure and helps him to relax through the pain. So, we always keep a bottle of poppers in a draw beside our bed.
While he’s away in London, I’m smoking a spliff in the apartment we’ve rented in Amsterdam. We’re trying to open a business there. The joint goes out, and my lighter won’t spark, so I reach for a draw on either side of our bed, where the matches, condoms, and other bits and pieces live.
I try my drawer first, but no matches or lighter are there. Then, I pull his drawer open but silence. That’s odd. I’d typically expect to hear his bottle of poppers rattling around in the bottom of the draw. Where the hell was it now? In his little toiletry bag with him in England, I bet. Hmm.
Saturday, 8th May
“We’re going to London in May,” Delroy told me two months earlier while we were staying at the Hotel Damrak Inn having just moved to Holland. “Fred’s getting married on Saturday the eighth, and we’re going to the wedding.” Great, I thought. We’ve both got business to take care of at home. I was excited. I had never been to a wedding before, and Fred was about the coolest white guy you’re ever likely to meet. I was even planning on buying a new suit for the occasion.
Then, as May approached, it suddenly became apparent that Delroy was planning to stay in the pampered comfort of his old bedroom at his mother’s house. While I was supposed to book into a cheap hotel for the four days he was planning to stay in town. I didn’t need four days in London. One weekday would be just fine for me.
We had travelled from London to Ghana and back. Then from London to Atlanta and back home again to London, and here we were several months later in Amsterdam. But we had always managed to stay together in either a rented apartment or a hotel room. I couldn’t see why that shouldn’t be the case again now. Delroy could always go and see his mother whenever he wanted as I had to see mine whenever I could. But no amount of persuasion would make him listen. So, I went along with his plan at first until the day his sister called.
“Is Del there?” she croaked without even as much as a hello. God knows what he must have been saying to her about me of late. Norma and I used to get on famously. If she called looking for Delroy at my place in London, we would stay on the phone for hours until she forgot that she had called to speak to her brother. Now, after just a few months out of sight, she was ringing and being so rude and abrupt that I wondered what harm I had done her.
I know she must be worried that she’s losing her precious brother. But it’s not my fault if Delroy hates England and wants to live in some other part of the world. And I suppose that neither she nor their mother can now escape the fact that he’s a big black homosexual, but somehow, I’m the one to blame.
It was he who chased after me. It was he who stole my number from a mutual friend to call with the lie that I had answered his personal ad in a popular newspaper. I didn’t know who he was from Adam. It was a whole year into our affair before he coughed up the truth, laughing at how I “fell for it.” I should have known back then that he was nothing but a lying, cheating bullshitter. When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.
“Once a cheat, always a cheat” was his motto in the old tales he told about his cheating ex. Yet from the pieces of gossip I’ve picked up since, it seems Delroy was no angel either. “I don’t know why you’re following that boy all over the damn place like a damn lapdog,” I heard his mother saying over the speaker-phone the other day. “I suppose you’ll be growing dreadlocks next,” she ended, scornfully.
She too was all over me when he introduced us nearly three years ago. I guess those were the days before she realised what exactly was going on between her son and me. Today is the day of Fred’s wedding in London, of course, and I’m not there.
It’s time to start protecting myself. Looking out for my own interest, you might say. Delroy will always look out for number one. And his family will always be there to back him up. I have no family to speak of, no friends, either, it seems since I could not even find a floor to doss on in London for four days.
I need to start acting-wise, putting aside at least five hundred pounds a month for the next thing, which I know will surely come. Whether it’s moving back to my flat in London or moving onto Jamaica to write the boyhood autobiography I’ve dreamed of completing for too long, I have to stop spending my money on “us” and start concentrating on me.
Sunday, 9th May
He’s been gone since Thursday but only manages to phone home three days later, saying, “Why didn’t you call me? What have you been up to?”
I said, “I didn’t want to bother you.” And told him I went to the “Exit” last night and had a good time; when in reality I had an early night, lying in bed wondering why on earth my lover took Poppers with him on a trip to London without me.
“Well, I hope you haven’t been dancing with any men!” he scolds.
“Not too many!” I say, deadpan. “What about you?”
“Excuse me? Excuse me? I don’t do that,” he shouts, just as I get the giggles at the thought of him carrying on while the bottle of poppers is in his bag. “And you’re even laughing about it,” he bellows. “I ain’t stupid. I’ll see you tomorrow!” He slams down the phone.
Blimey. What was all that about? Milord doth protest too much, methinks.
Monday, 10th May
He bounces in on Monday afternoon planting a brief kiss on my lips but otherwise silent as I read my book If This World Were Mine. “So, Fred got married?” I ask after many minutes.
“Yes, happily married,” is his reply, and we say nothing further for the next half-an-hour. “Can I have some money?” he says as if I’m some kind of bank. He’s been home with his ever-loving family and friends since Thursday – couldn’t they give him money? This has got to stop.
I give him the Dutch equivalent of twenty-pounds sterling. He’s supposed to be selling his flat in London to fund the next phase of our business plan, but I’m having serious doubts about where we’re going and whether he has any intentions of selling that property. My place is rented out to afford the bulk of these activities.
He leaves the apartment a little while later, and I can bet he’s gone to buy weed. When we stayed up the road at the Damrak Hotel Inn, he’d go off to get us takeaway, but come back two hours after, all blurry-eyed, and thinking I couldn’t tell from his erratic behaviour that he’d gone out and got high on crack-cocaine.
I can barely light a spliff without hiding behind shades in public. He’ll smoke rocks of crack and look you straight in the eyes and swear that he has touched nothing. But it’s easy to pipe all your money away in the back streets of Amsterdam. He gets back to the apartment in ten minutes today. He has bought weed and brings me a ready rolled joint, which I beckon for him to leave on the table — the guilt spliff.
He wants us to get high, have sex, and makeup, but I’m not playing that game today. While he’s been out, I see that the Poppers have miraculously returned to the top drawer of the chest on his side of the bed. I suppose he’ll be telling me that it never left the draw or that he accidentally took it with him because, well, it was in his toiletry bag. But I know for a fact that we used it the night before he left, and it was put back in the drawer where it belongs.
Tuesday, 11th May
I finish reading E Lynn Harris’ so-so book and write a few thoughts in the diary to remind me of this and my own ongoing saga.
Delroy and I have not been getting on for some time. It started in Atlanta where he met one of his old flames from London. Some tall yellow-skin bloke of Jamaican parentage who lives out in that US sex city now. He introduces us, so I couldn’t very well object to him spending time with “an old friend.” But I got the weirdest vibe that something else was going on between them.
I didn’t take to Atlanta in the slightest like he didn’t take to Ghana at all. Too much temptation for my liking and I’m the loyal type. Neither one of us had to try too hard to pick up whatever we might have wanted out in “Hotlanta.” The English charm seemed to always leave the yanks in raptures.
While Delroy’s head was swivelling everywhere we went, it wasn’t long before I was ready to pack bags and head back to the drawing board. We were quickly running out of cash in America and needed to find an alternative location for this restaurant we were planning if it was ever going to happen. Ghana wasn’t the place for him. Atlanta sure wasn’t the place for me. We decided to try somewhere closer to home.
Wednesday, 12th May
I took a brief trip to Marks & Spencer for two linen shirts (one in grey and the other in blue) to match the white one I bought recently. They’ll go down well in the Jamaican heat if I get there.
Hardly a word said between Delroy and me again today. This is becoming a habit. I tell him that Joseph phoned to invite us to Linda’s birthday bash at 10 o’clock in the “Casa Maria,” and later, when he finds me still in bed, he wants to know why I’m not going:
“Because I don’t want to go on my own.”
“Why not? It’s you they like and want to see.”
“We’re supposed to be a team, Delroy. And I’m not good at pretending, despite what you might think.”
“Just tell them that I’m sick.”
“But it’s not just about that, is it?”
“You’d be pretending if we both went.”
“At this moment in time, I don’t think I could go there with you, anyway.”
“Forget the whole thing, then.”
“That’s not a problem.”
Thursday, 13th May
Sat on the steps of Dam Square for an hour just watching the people and the police pass by and puffing on countless roll-ups. Seems strange to watch tourist taking photographs of themselves standing in front of the police van with large joints in their mouths. If only that were possible in England. Maybe one day.
I wander up to “The Internet Cafe” to check on my emails and send a few messages. I get a note from Patric thanking us for the hospitality, and the “Jerry Springer-type entertainment,” which I didn’t find funny.
He turned up here at my invitation and tried to entice Delroy into cheating on me. “Do you want me to give any messages to anyone?” he said heading out to the clubs on his last night. He and Delroy had been going out without me these past few days, and now that Del was feeling under the weather, Patric was encouraging him to send messages to whomever they’d met while I wasn’t there.
I’m trying to think in which parallel universe I’d do that to him. You’d think that after all these years my friend would want to protect me from a cheating lover. Maybe that is what he was doing, saying it loud and clear, so I could hear. All I could think at the time is that Patric must still be pissed-off about me sleeping with Victor, the man he had been interested in when I visited Chicago years ago. At least, Victor told me that he was neither sexually or romantically involved with anyone. He and Patric were simply friends. It wasn’t as if I was trying to break up any happy home. I admit; I should have kept “hands-off” since Patric did tell me that he was interested in the man, and I was only a visitor in town. Anyway, perhaps it was karma coming back to haunt me.
Replying to a message from Polish Kris, I told him we couldn’t come to Poland, but it would be great to see him for a week beginning on 20th May if he wanted to visit Amsterdam. It would be nice to talk to someone.
I bought some chocolates at Central Station for Linda’s birthday present and headed for the “Casa Maria” to apologise for not being at the celebrations last night. Of course, everybody wanted to know where Delroy was. “He’s sick,” I lie.
Friday, 14th May
We’re still not talking when we wake up. I go downstairs to find Delroy in front of ‘The Vanessa Show’ puffing on a joint. The program is quite funny, and I sit to watch, but he says nothing about the business meeting planned for this afternoon.
By some strange fluke, we have managed to cobble together enough words to make it to our appointment. The meeting goes quite well with Gerry, and the owners of Tapas International, and Soul Kitchen, Paul, and Urune. We’re meeting Urune for the first time since he was on holiday before, and now has a slightly different tale to that of his business partner.
After eighteen months of closure, it seems that someone has just offered 150,000 guilders for Tapas Int. (Hfl. 20,000 more than Paul mentioned at our first meeting because Urune forgot to tell him the good news before going on holiday, apparently. Pigs might fly—even after this second visit, we still can’t see where all this “goodwill” in the business might be.
We have a chat with Gerry over coffee and wine afterwards. He suggests that we offer them 50,000 guilders payable over 12 – 24 months, and see what happens. Gerry doesn’t seem at all confident in the place and even attempts to show us somewhere else. But the new property is too near the market and only has a daytime working-class crowd. He tells us to go away and think about it. We should get back to him on Saturday with our discussion.
Delroy and I are still not talking to each other but faking it for show. We take a walk to the Casa Maria for a stiff drink and a chat with Joseph for some advice. With our visit to Joseph done, we decide to have a quick meal elsewhere by which time it’s now gone 8 o’clock. The few drinks we’ve had seems to have loosened our tongues. Delroy is throwing his usual hardman one-liners and acting as if he’s so fine; one foot pointing east while the other points west, Penguin-style. With hands in his pockets, jeans hoisted up around his nipples, he’s showing off his fat arse with me desperately trying to combat his fast chat:
“So, when are you going to Jamaica, then?”
“I was thinking… Saturday.”
“So, have you booked your ticket yet?” he laughs.
“Look, Delroy, I don’t know what you’re laughing at. I don’t know who you think I am, but you’re just a fat, lying, ignorant cunt!”
“And you’re buck-teeth,” he laughs as if revealing some hidden truth.
We continue walking in silence and seem to end up outside the bar called ‘Reality’ where we pop in for a few more drinks. Delroy enters the tiny drinking club first to be greeted with a smile by the barman, Chris, who positively frowns on seeing me.
“Hi! What are you drinking?” he turns to Delroy.
“Hi! How are you? A Bacardi and coke, please.”
He pours the order. We nod our hellos to the owner and the few other people in the place, then I turn to the barman, “If you’re asking what I’d like, make mine a double Brandy.”
“I thought you were gonna say a big black one!” the fat coolly owner jokes.
“I’ve already got a big black one!” comes my response as he breaks into laughter, holding on to the barman’s arm.
Delroy smiles then, as if I am referring to him, and looking over at the barman with renewed interest. He continues our conversation in a clear and over-loud voice.
“What you got to understand about me is I do what I want, when I want, in my own time, and nothing you say is gonna ever change that. It doesn’t matter what you want to say about me, it just goes in one ear and comes out the next – ‘cos I love myself!”
“Well, good for you! I say to him, holding back anger. “Thanks for the Brandy!” and as I knock back the drink in one go, I didn’t know then that these would be the last words I would ever say to him. On the short walk back to the rented apartment, it became more and more clear to me that “I had to go. I have to go!” He can fuck right off! I had had enough.
Saturday, 15nd May
The day seems unusually long. I don’t rise from the bed until late morning, but time is dragging. Of course, he’s stretched out on the sofa in front of the television when I go downstairs, and the whole third floor stinks of Ganja. No words are exchanged. He’s perched on the settee in his usual arrogant style, feet up towards the window, eyes directed at the cricket on TV (with a sad ashen look on his ‘don’t-care’ face), and a cigarette flirting between fingers and mouth.
There’s nothing in the fridge except white wine leftover from my last night’s drinking, and I’m reminded to go to the supermarket for bread, juice, and other things. Stupid to be leaving your lover and still searching the supermarket shelves for all the things you know he enjoys eating. Get a grip, boy, from now on; it’s just YOU! So, I buy myself another pair of Dockers trousers, in blue this time, and take back to 315 Singel, just the food that I want to eat for this last supper.
I’m packing the Hifi to mail home via my tenant when Delroy finally speaks. He knows I’m leaving him then:
Then under his breath comes something like, “Oh, fuck-off, then, you stupid cunt/wanker/bastard!” but I’m not listening as I tape up the boxed-Hifi and dance downstairs towards the post-office.
I collect my camera from the repair shop, pick up the new trousers after alterations, and when I get back, he’s showering. That done, he stomps downstairs, collects his keys, cigarettes, address book, and turns in the doorway with: “Paul, good-bye.” Choked with emotions, and nothing more to say to him, all I can manage is a quick nod as I carry on. He thunders down the stairs, and I think I’ve seen the last of him.
Less than an hour later, he returns out-of-breath, as if he ran back before I could remove all his belongings from the apartment. But I’ve already taken the Raybans I bought him in Atlanta, and there is nothing else I want from him. We sit in silence downstairs for the-more-than two hours it takes the taxi to arrive.
In fact, the cab doesn’t ring. I eventually leave the door-keys on the table and take the bags downstairs only to meet the driver at the front door. He packs the luggage in the boot. I slam the front door behind me, and we’re gone.
I don’t think Delroy expected that movement. He probably thought I’d come back upstairs to say our final good-byes. Then one or both of us could break into tears and call the whole thing off. But we’ve been saying good-bye from the start. There was nothing left to say, or do. My parents didn’t raise me to be taken for granted and disrespected. Enough is enough.
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