But in retrospect, it is easy to see that the darkness was encroaching, gradually and inexorably. There were strangers lurking in the corners of the scenes; Steph would leave suddenly or become sorrowful and reflective, without apparent cause, or she would be sidetracked into arguments with unknown antagonists; when the Captain was there, his presence was becoming increasingly threatening; where scenarios had once led unstoppably towards ecstatic consummation, as time wore on, they began to head towards darker, less certain outcomes.
The dreams were veering towards nightmares.
One night, I was on a rack: it all began playfully enough – a little, daft S and M. Steph was being the leather-clad mistress and I was the shy shop girl. But the atmosphere became progressively brutal: I felt more tortured than titilated, and I’m sure I saw that Steph was weeping as she mechanically played her bitter role.
Another night, we were smugglers, pirates, two fine girls disguised as lads so we could go to sea, but the scenario was land-locked from the start, and as we carried barrels into underground caves, we found ourselves driven by the tide into narrower and narrower tunnels, until we were like wretched creatures scabbling through the soil, despairingly searching for some sort of haven.
Then I was on an outpost, far from my homeland, guarding a frontier, building a fort. I received graphic, loving, beautifully Sapphic letters from Steph, and to begin with, these letters were transformed – as only Queertown can transform things – such that Steph’s hand could reach out of the letter and touch and caress me, then her face would emerge and she would smother me with lustful kisses, then, finally, she would be there, naked, bold, passionate: my lover would come to me in the letters and make love to me, exactly as she had written that she would and exactly as I had dreamed that she could. But this scenario, delightful as it was, decayed, such that the transmigration failed; the letters remained as ordinary letters; then even they began to become less regular, less interested: only the loneliness remained.
Another night, we were in Bloomsbury in the 1920s. I was the housemaid – so pert, so pretty. Steph and the Captian were two lesbian writers. Elegantly, yawningly, they stood over my bed, where I lay, gently, firmly, warmly pleasing myself to the sound of their voices. They started sexily enough: “Isn’t she cute? Such a pretty little thing … so delicate, so fine, like porcelein, like glass … Such a show of innocence, such knowing eyes … She’s a minx, a temptress … She needs ravishing, finishing, devouring …” There they were, in mannish dress, faces all angles and pride. There I was, going deeper and deeper into my own delights.
But then the talk shifted: “Such a little slut, isn’t she?”
“Filthly whore, I’d say.”
“Imagine being so lowly, so worthless.”
“I can’t. She might as well be an animal, for all I could ever understand her. How could anyone live in such a pit of ignorance?”
“It would be jolly to debase oneself with such a creature, once or twice, but terribly polluting to spend too much time with her.”
“Class is undeniable.”
“She is not one of us.”
“She’s scarcely human, as I say, can’t be said to have a soul, not really.”
“She should be whipped then dismissed.”
“Not good to linger too long with the low life.”
Suddenly furious, I rose, and struck the Captain hard across the face. “You understand nothing!” I screamed, then fled to another part of the house.
The illusion shattered, and I was alone in my apartment in Queertown, feeling uncertain about what I should do next.
It is clear that place itself was rejecting me.
When I saw Steph next, she tried to reassure me. But she knew that my time was short.
We sat, awkwardly on a sofa together, not close, not separate, not sure what to say.
Finally, she offered, “Let’s leave together; let’s go back to the real world. We could be there …”
But everything about the way she spoke these words told me that it would kill her to leave. She had to stay in Queertown: it was all that she was. She was hinting at something but could not find the words to explain. Queertown was not working for us; I knew that. And I could not stay. I don’t know how I knew it, but I did: I was certain that it was time to leave. Someone, something, had found me out, and I was not permitted, not wanted, not welcome, any more.
“I love you entirely,” I told Steph. “But I cannot stay here; it is too bewildering for me.”
She didn’t really believe me, but she knew that my leaving was going to be the only option. She let me plan for my exit.
The next night, I woke to find a stranger in my room, inspecting my bookshelf suspiciously.
“Ah, you’re awake,” he said. He was handsome, sweet, sorrowful. “You should get dressed,” he added.
“Who? … What is happening?”
“You’re under arrest of course,” said the smart fellow, thrusting his hands in his trouser pockets, such that his suit jacket was lifted to reveal his perfectly tight little behind as he strolled towards the door. As he was about to leave the room, he glanced over his shoulder, fixing me with his eyes of aged-oak. I was transfixed. He smiled, a wry, knowing smile, that crinkled his smooth, secret face, precisely.
I was only covered by a thin sheet – it was always hot in Queertown. Confidently, he let his warm, melting gaze rest on my prominent erection. “Oh,” he syruped, “so it’s like that, is it?”
He was on me, in me, at once. I wanted it, but it felt fiercer, rougher, more angry than anything else that had happened to me in Queertown. “This is part of your punishment, you faggot,” the cop was spitting. “I’m not gay like you, but I’ll have you, do you like this, just to hurt you, to make you need me, always. You like this, don’t you? You like being done by a dark stranger; you’re so queer, so queer.”
It was exhilarating, and I felt that I could go with this, enjoy it, but then it was over, and the devastating hunk was towering over me – athletic, big, stunning, all tenderness erased. “You are going to suffer for what you have done,” he warned.
Instantly, I was in a crowded courthouse, and on trial for something, some unknown, unknowable misdemeanour. The gallery were baying for my convivction; the jury were all sharp-faced and hard-eyed; the judge was supercilious and dismissive.
“Speak up,” the judge was saying. “Are you a trespasser here? Did you sneak into Queertown without anyone’s permission?”
“I …” I couldn’t find the words to answer.
The sneering prosecution lawyer turned triumphantly to the rabid jury: “You see, he does not belong here, anyway. It is obvious that he is just the type to do what he is accused of …”
“What is it that you think I’ve done?” I cried.
But at this, a section of the audience began to take up a chant, which was soon being shouted by virtually everyone in the court: “Punish! Punish! Punish!”
Then I was in a damp cell of cold stone. I was shivering, fearful, possessed by paranoid expectations.
A priest entered and positioned himself at the end of my shabby bed. “Are you sure that this is what you want?” he was saying.
“Why does it have to be?” I moaned, tearfully.
“We have been betrayed,” the priest said, then he embraced me, for one last time.
I understood it all then, in the instant. It wanted no explanation. I was choosing to sacrifice myself, to quit the place to avoid Steph being expelled also.
“I will always be with you … somehow …”
“I know, and if there was any other way …”
Then I was out, gone, abandoned, lost, in rags, in the snow, half way up some Alpine pass, being rescued by shocked climbers who could not understand how such a wretched middle-aged man could have come to be alone in the mountains, so ill-equipped, so out of place. I had been ejected from Queertown.