Dylan was rasping through ‘Don’t Think Twice’ and meaning it. Toni paused in his story and looked at Adrian wonderingly. “Do you want to hear more?”
Adrian was stunned, amazed, captivated. Finally, blinkingly, he found words: “Is it possible?”
“Everything is possible,” Toni repeated.
“But some of what you describe …” Adrian hesitated. “It sounds a little like … well, some sort of power game …”
“But that’s just the point,” Toni insisted, “in Queertown there is no hierarchy, no power, no abuse. Scenarios are developed – submission, dominance … that can be a part of the game, but it’s mutually willed, mutually understood, by everyone who is involved.”
“It sounds too easy. Can it really be?”
Toni tried to explain again, but Adrian was not certain that he could allow himself to believe in such a miracle.
“If I were there,” Adrian began, “might I finally come to understand myself?”
“You will understand everything.”
“So I will be able to see who I really am, strip back the layers of self-deceit and confusion and release the real me?”
Toni smiled. “It’s not like that, Adrian. In Queertown there is no therapy, no search for selfhood, no exploration of past experiences. Because in Queertown, you abandon notions of essential selfhood; you forget such talk. You give up on the idea that there is an inviolate, inner, core you that is waiting to be uncovered. You accept that the blurrings and mess and damage of your life is who you are, and you live as that person. If you were to peel back the layers of accumulated self, you would be peeling away who you are … eventually, you would be left with nothing, nothing at all.”
“But in Queertown, I could get along with people, make friends, be wanted, be accepted.”
“Yes, because you would cease to think about such matters and just be.”
“What’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?” sang Dylan, carefully.
“So the pain, the uncertainty, the paralysis would be gone?” Adrian wondered.
“Subsumed into your life and made creative, appreciated.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“It means,” said Toni, “that in Queertown, you would not be anxious or troubled. You would be aware of everything and bothered by nothing.”
“But my life has been a disaster lately,” Adrian complained. “And nothing about what has happened to me in general gives me any reason to expect that a life like the one you describe is possible for me. I’m not sure that I could ever really reach out of myself. And I feel very uncertain about the possibility of being desired or loved in the way you seem to have been when you were there.”
Toni was patient. “I recall something that Steph’s friend, the Captain, said to me: ‘If you are in tune with others, you will satisfy their desires.’ That’s how it is in Queertown. People tune in to you, beautifully.”
“And who is this Captain, anyhow?”
“I was never quite sure, but I feel strongly that he was someone of importance there, someone who mattered. He was an elegant, elongated, luxuriating beauty, a beautiful, desirable man. And he was there so often, so lovingly. I think he was Steph’s guide, her protector, and he loved me because I was Steph’s partner.”
“Stick with me baby,” Dylan was chanting, “stick with me anyhow; things are about to get interesting right about now.”
“Don’t look inward for the meaning of your life, look outward. That’s what Queertown taught me,” Toni said.
There in the grimy little bed-sit above the rundown bar, Adrian sat and stared at Toni, whose wearied, middle-aged countenance seemed to visibly alter as he recollected his time in Queertown. With every tale, Toni’s face seemed to clear, sharpen, neaten, gain definition, become younger, more beautiful, more lovely.
Suddenly, again, Adrian was overcome with desire for Toni. “What is it about you?” he said. “You really turn me on.”
Toni grinned and rose from the sofa, leaned over and kissed Adrian gently, meaningfully on the lips. Like rose petals, Adrian thought.
“You want to hear more stories?” Toni suggested.
“I want to hear them all,” Adrian replied, looking up into Toni’s sad, tender eyes.
“And so you shall,” Toni said. “You are learning to ask for what you want. You are starting to see how it is when your desires fit with those of someone else: you are free to do what you want. Don’t nurse a desire and fail to act upon it. Make the beautiful thing happen, when you know that the other wants exactly that too.”
“You want to tell me more?”
“Can’t you tell what it does to me to talk to someone who might understand about Queertown?”
“I can see,” Adrian said, “that you seem to get younger the more you speak of the place.”
“That’s how it is,” Toni agreed. “Reliving memories of the place, revitalises me somewhat, though I know I can never again become what I was when I was there.”
“So will you tell me why you left?”
“In good time,” Toni replied.
And Dylan was singing about how he would go crawling along the avenue. He would.
“If I went there,” Adrian said suddenly, rising from his beat-up chair and distractedly examining the kitchen area of Toni’s flat, “ … got any tea?”
Toni smirked, “Make yourself at home, why don’t you? Top left, yep, there.”
“If I went there,” Adrian continued, having filled the kettle and found a couple of cleanish mugs, “wouldn’t I just become selfish, a glutton?”
“No, that’s not how it is.”
“But just following your instincts … how is that different from total selfishness – just doing whatever pleases you?”
“It’s different,” Toni explained, “because of the sensitivity …” He could see that Adrian did not understand. “In Queertown, you feel alert to other people’s needs and pleasures, and you feel able, willing, urgent even to do for others as much as for yourself. Mutuality is the culture, the mode, the manner, the means. It’s entirely social, entirely communal, entirely open.”
“But how can you know if you never think about anything there? How can you understand what is happening? Isn’t all this talk just … well, hindsight …”
“It’s true that conversations like this never seem necessary in Queertown. But there is thought there, just not analytical thought. If you take analysis to be the breaking down of things to discover some hidden essence, then analysis is non-existent there, because there is no breaking down. Thought is multiplying, exponentially, building, accumulating, involving, there … not a matter of paring away and simplifying but … a kind of plenitude, a kind of encompassing, a kind of outreaching. You know the quincunx, the five dots on dice for the number five, yeah? You know that shape? Well it has one dot as the middle, but each of the outer dots could be seen as middle dots in a different quincunx, right? So that quincunxes could go on spreading out in all directions for ever like that. Always interlinked, always involved in many different arrangements, many different intersections, all at once – that’s how thought is in Queertown.”
“Alive?” Adrian suggested.
“In conversation,” Toni replied. “You take in the perspectives of others and thereby enrich your own. That’s how it is. Though no-one instructs you about this. It just happens, all the time.”
“ … said the joker to the thief …” wailed Dylan from the crackling stereo.
“But will I fit in there?” Adrian wondered. “Will I be welcome? And, anyway, who decides who gets to go and who gets to stay? I mean, is it some kind of elite thing, some sort of Masonic lodge?”
“I can’t say,” Toni replied, accepting the cup of tea that Adrian proffered.
“I mean who could decide? How could it be anything other than a kind of exclusive, excluding, sinister business? I’m not comfortable about that.”
“Well, it’s certainly not a matter of money or social class or anything revolting like that,” Toni replied. “There’s intelligence and sensitivity there, but I don’t feel that anyone is screening for it.”
“But you were not invited, not welcome, really, had to leave in the end … Why?”
“I’m still trying to understand it,” Toni replied. “If you want me to tell you more, then I can maybe get there, get towards some kind of truth.”
“There must be some kind of way out of here,” sang Dylan again.
And that was the beginning of their real time together. Over the next few weeks, Toni and Adrian met nearly every day. And Toni told Adrian stories from Queertown. In between they made love, and Adrian felt himself more and more attracted to Toni, whose beauty and brilliance increased with every tale he told. What’s more, everything else seemed to improve too. Enlivened as he was, Toni started to do more with his bar and his flat, such that the former began to attract a steady stream of customers and was even rather packed at the weekends, and the latter benefited from some money and attention, such that it became a rather cosy little bolt-hole, very different to the run-down pit it had seemed to be when Adrian first visited.
Queertown was medicine to the ailments that Toni and his environment were prone to. And Adrian himself felt that he was becoming a finer, happier, easier person, just by listening to Toni’s tales and engaging with Toni in general. Adrian was uplifted. And, as he heard more about the place, he became convinced that he had to go to there; he had to visit the place for himself; he had to partake of Queertown.
Please comment, friendly reader. :)
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