Shit, I thought. I really should have got one of those cheap set of earphones from the Euro shop instead of trying to save the two Euros. Well now I’ll just have to stand and stare awkwardly at people while I stand at the bus stop.
Two old women shuffle into the enclosure. They look like they are in their eighties and one lady has a trolley which her friend is helping her pull.
“Oh her grandson said he was some poly-something or other. Honestly these new things the young come up with. Ridiculous, isn’t it Maeve?”
“Oh indeed Maureen. You wouldn’t get any of that nonsense in our day.”
Double shit, two bigots at the bus shelter. Now I really wish I’d purchased those earphones. I have a screaming desire to say the word you are looking for is polysexual but I don’t.
“I mean what would God say? It’s in the Bible Maeve. Someone needs to teach the young the right way.”
“Adam didn’t go with Steve after all.”
Animated chuckles follow.
True Adam didn’t go with Steve but maybe he’d have enjoyed it, I think.
The bus looms in the distance and I feel a gentle sigh of relief exit from my mouth. I decide to go upstairs as the two old women take a seat downstairs. Next they’ll be onto pansexuality and as a pansexual man I ain’t interested in their negativity.
When my stop came I made my way downstairs. I could hear the two women had continued their sexuality-based chat.
“Really Maeve all these new ridiculous terms are just a posh, fashionable way of sleeping around. I mean they couldn’t get married. They wouldn’t be committed to anyone. You couldn’t trust them.”
“Oh god no Maureen. How could you? They’d be picking up all sorts anywhere. They’d sleep with anyone!”
I roll my eyes and step off the bus thinking I’m a pansexual man going to meet his bisexual best friend and we sure as hell are not planning on sleeping with each other!
When I arrive at Matt’s flat I am ready to have a rant about M & M but I soon realise that’s not to happen. He is super excited about something and doesn’t even offer me a beer.
“Sit down Jay. I’ll be back soon.”
Confused I slump myself down on the sofa. I hear him shuffling around in his bedroom.
“Man, are you … ok?”
What I really mean is: is he feeling alright? Has something strange come over him?
“Matt, you haven’t started believing in aliens again, have you?”
“Dude, that was two weeks in secondary school! I was going through a phase! In any case Dylan was into that shit …”
Dylan’s his ex boyfriend. Emo teenager turned banker adult. The world is full of surprises.
“Oh yeah Dylan, how is he these days?”
“Who cares?! Boring! Strait-laced! Up his fucking arse!”
Dylan dumped Matt.
“Yeah, here it is. Got to be careful with this or someone will snatch it. If they knew I had this they’d beat me up for it.”
My alien theory is coming back into my head.
He comes out holding a pen and wearing a cheesy grin on his face.
“Who’s they?”, I ask, trying to hold in the concern for him in my voice.
“Oh everyone mate. This here is gold. It’s the bridging of worlds.”
“Matt, it’s a pen!”
“Oh this ain’t no ordinary pen.”
“It looks pretty ordinary to me.”
“Well it isn’t. This pen can transport someone back in time. To the 1920s.”
“Seriously man you’re pulling my leg …”
“No, I was there last night.”
“What?! You don’t seriously believe that.”
“I know it! I experienced it with my own two eyes! I was just innocently sitting having my coffee while watching Game of Thrones and I was clicking the pen and suddenly I was there!”
Now I’m worried what was in his coffee.
“Man, it was fantastic. The consumerism, the fashion, the jazz. I meant this fantastic-looking chick Dorothy in one of the jazz clubs. She was there with her friend Joseph. You’d like him. He’s proper your type. You know the quiet, gentle, deep type. Dorothy on the other hand she is wild, proper party girl. Does the Charlston into the early hours.”
“Matt, you’ve been lonely lately I get that. Since you and Dylan broke up …”
“Oh I’m long over him! Look I know this sounds mad but it’s true. Come on, let’s go for a trip buddy.”
I decide that I better humour him. Maybe when it doesn’t work we can talk sensibly. So we end up both holding the pen and clicking down on it together.
Soon I find myself in the middle of a street. Two girls are flying by me in flapper dresses and there’s an advertisement at a cinema for The Thief of Bagdad. As a film buff who constantly watches old movies on YouTube I’m now freaking out. I turn around to find a wide-eyed Matt. He smiles at the surprise on my face.
“Told you.”, he simply says.
Either we are both off our rockers or this is actually 1924.
“Come on, let’s go find Dor. She said she’d meet us at The Velvet Cat.”
“She knows I’m coming?”
“Oh yeah, just one thing. I never said how I got here. Just pretend you are from this time. Saves a lot of explanations.”
“Matt, how the hell are you taking this in your stride? We’ve just time-travelled!”
“It’s a little unusual I admit …”
“A little unusual. Who gave you that pen?!”
“The old man with glasses in the bookies …”
“What old man with glasses in the bookies?!”
“Dicer … well Phillip Dice but we call him Dicer. Picks a good few winners …”
“I don’t care about his gambling expertise!”
“I was doing a bet, the pen wouldn’t write. He gave me a lend but when I turned around he wasn’t there. Hasn’t been since. Anyway who cares? This is amazing. We are living. Loosen up. You are never going to get Joseph’s trousers off if you are going to be this uptight.”
“I’m not trying to get his trousers off! We need to get back to 2016 and find this Dicer fella …”
“You’re forgetting one thing.”, Matt says, starting to move away from me a bit.
“Oh and what’s that?”
“I have the pen.”, he stays and starts to run off.
“Dude, this is childish! Get back here!”, I shout, rushing after him with visions of been stuck in the 1920s in my head.
I follow him into The Velvet Cat. He joins a woman and a man who I presume are the wild Dorothy and the quiet Joseph whose trousers I’m supposed to be trying to get off. Matt is kissing Dorothy and Joseph is sitting across from them with his back to me. I reluctantly approach the table with one focus in mind: getting that pen.
“Jayden mate, pull up a chair.”, Matt calls out and I involuntarily roll my eyes.
Joseph gets up to let me get past to the free chair and that’s when I almost choke.
Oh my god, he’s beautiful. Maybe I would like to sleep with him.
And then he smiles. You know that incredibly endearing warm smile that introverts do when even hello is hard to get out of their mouth. I’m swept away with dizziness and before I know it I’m sitting down. Joseph offers me a cigarette and I forget and ask him where the smoking area is. He looks puzzled.
“The smoking area?”
“Jay’s got this mad idea that there should be smoking areas in bars and clubs. Health of non-smokers and all that.”
“You don’t believe that surely darling? That’d take away all the fun!”, Dorothy purrs.
“Well …”, I begin.
“He believes what he believes.”, Joseph smiles.
“Surely Joseph sweetie you don’t think that we should be forced out to another area with our fags like some sort of bar outcasts?”
“I didn’t say I did Dor. But it’s an interesting take on it.”, he says beginning to light up his cigarette.
He stops and turns to me.
“This doesn’t offend you, does it? Because I don’t want to.”
“No, no, of course not.”
He lights his cigarette.
“It’s just I have this friend Sue and she’s a vegetarian. It upsets her when someone eats meat in front of her.”
“Sue’s a drama queen! She saves insects from been stood on!”, Dorothy whined, wrapping herself around Matt.
“She likes animals Dor.”
“Well I’ll agree on that Joesph. After all she was with Wilson and he was a beast. I should know! But that was before I met my little Matty boy!”
They begin a full on kissing session while I think this is the 1920s! I’m not the most traditional or a prude but weren’t things took a little slower back then? Back now? Oh I’m confused.
“So Joseph, what do you do?”
“I’m a railroad worker. Oh and I write poetry on the side.”
“Not as of yet. What about you?”
“I’m a barman.”
“A long way from here.”
“Must be. I haven’t seen you around before. And I’d remember if I did.”
Our eyes meet. It’s a few seconds. It feels like an eternity. A wonderful eternity. His hand is holding his drink. I reach across to place my hand on top of his and he pulls it away instantly. There is terror on his face and he gets up.
“I have to go Dor. Splendid night.”
He rushes out and I rush after him. When I catch up with him I begin talking very fast.
“I was told you were into guys. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“Will you keep your voice down?! What are you trying to do?! Get us killed?!”
“I’m sorry. I forgot.”
“Yeah, well you wouldn’t want to forget too often, would you?!”
“No, I guess not.”
His voice softens.
“I’m sorry. It’s just … it isn’t right, is it? But it’s the way it is. And it’s never gong to change. So I suppose you just got to get on with things. I’m gay and I’m completely happy been but other people will never come around to just seeing people as human beings and not putting people in boxes in a quest for power.”
“Things will change. There’ll come a time when people will say they are gay and people will say so what? Well the majority will anyway.”
“You’re very positive for a gay man in the 1920s.”
“Well technically I’m not gay but I know what you mean.”
“You’re not? I’m confused.”
“I’m pansexual. I can fall for men, women or non-binary people.”
“Someone who is both genders or neither.”
“I have a friend Charlie who feels like that. But I’ve never heard the word.”
“Well you know, as time moves on people, if they feel they want to, do find words to describe what they feel.”
“It’s like you know all this stuff I don’t.”
“Likewise. Like don’t put your hand on a guy’s hand when homosexuality isn’t legal. I forget sometimes.”
Joseph took Jayden’s hand and brought him behind the wall. He cupped Jayden’s face in his hand and began to kiss him.
“Isn’t this dangerous?”
“Sometimes it’s good to have a bit of danger. Besides we’re hidden. I don’t usually kiss someone this quick.”
“Neither do I.”
They began kissing again.
After the night, Jayden and Matt returned to their time.
“He’s a great kisser.”
“Now, you’re happy you made the trip.”, Matt smiled.
“It’s such a pity it can’t last.”
“Why not? We can go back as much as we like.”
“There’s a reason why that guy gave you that pen though.”
“I know but who cares?”
“Joseph’s life was back then. Mine’s now.”
“Would you stay in the 1920s for him?”
“Ah would you? How fucking soppy! It’s like the real life gay version of Romeo & Juliet.”
“You’ve never even read Romeo & Juliet … look think, when this guy gave you the pen did he say anything?”
“He just gave me a docket with the words The Velvet Cat on it. And tomorrow’s date only in the 1920s. 8pm.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that before?”
“Because you’d get all serious and then it would have been no fun. Besides it’s tomorrow or tonight now but it wasn’t last night’s date.”
“Ok, tonight we go back.”
The Velvet Cat was quiet when Jayden and Matt entered. Two men and a woman sat at the bar. The barman was an older man with glasses. A violent dispute broke out between the two men for the woman’s affections. One man suddenly took out a knife and stabbed the other man. The woman rushed out. A newspaper cutting fell in front of Jayden and Matt. It read:
Man Killed In Bar. No Reliable Witnesses
Robert Mitchell (28) was killed in a stabbing incident in a bar. However his death has been deemed unsolved at an inquest today. Mr. Mitchell was having a drink in The Velvet Cat Bar at 8pm last Saturday with the only witness present been the barman Jimmy Dice (72). Mr. Dice identified a young man in his 30s as been the person who stabbed Mr. Mitchell. The man can not be named for legal reasons. At the inquest it was deemed that Mr. Dice could not be certain of his identification due to poor eyesight. According to police the case is now closed.
“This is ridiculous. They’ll think it’s us Jay!”
“What have we got to lose? We just click the pen if things go wrong.”
When the police arrived, Jayden and Matt backed up Jimmy’s story. And Jimmy said they had been sitting over the other side of the bar. They agreed to make it to the inquest.
After the inquest, a trial followed where William Nolan was found guilty of murder. Matt went to say his goodbyes to Dorothy and Jayden went over to Joseph.
“Now we can live happily ever after.”, Joseph beamed.
“I really wish you didn’t say that. Look this is going to sound nuts but I should have told you this from the start. I’m from the year 2016 …”
“Just hear me out. Matt and me came to right a wrong. Well at first we weren’t sure why we were here. But it became apparent. The pen time travels.”
“Look if you want to break up with me you don’t have to make up some stupid elaborate story. Just be a man about it.”
“I love you. But you have your life. I have mine. This is coincidence. This isn’t what’s meant to be.”
Jayden kissed Joseph passionately.
“The world’s really in 2016 …”
“Yeah and I hope I meet someone as wonderful as you in the present day.”
“So I’ve already died?”
“I don’t want to think of that but I’d imagine so.”
“Well I hope I met someone as wonderful as you before I popped off.”
Jayden kissed Joseph again before walking over to Matt. They clicked the pen one last time and returned to the present day.
Back in 2016, Jayden felt something in his pocket. He took it out. It was a rolled-up piece of paper.
“What’s that?”, Matt asked.
“From Joseph?”, Matt smiled,
“I’ll go get us two beers in the kitchen. Give you some privacy to read it.”
Jayden began to read the poem:
There is something about you,
I can’t put my finger on it.
You are caring,
Before I met you love was fiction,
It was in books,
It was what I wrote
But never felt.
You are filled with strength Jay,
Filled with love,
Bursting with it.
That’s what makes you everything,
Everything to me.
Don’t ever lose that,
Don’t lose that beauty inside.