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       Me, Myself and Someone Else, p.1

           Graeme Aitken
 
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Me, Myself and Someone Else


  Me, Myself and Someone Else

  The Indignities Book Three

  Graeme Aitken

  20Ten Books

  Sydney

  Time to Upsize: The Indignities Book Three

  Graeme Aitken

  This book was first published by Clouds of Magellan in 2010.

  This edition published by 20Ten Books in 2012.

  Copyright © Graeme Aitken 2010

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  This is a work of fiction. The novel’s characters, incidents and dialogue are the product of the author’s imagination and are entirely fictional.

  Aitken, Graeme, 1963–.

  Time to Upsize The Indignities Book 3

  ISBN 9780987329332

  Cover photograph by Shots by Gun

  To Rosanna Arciuli

  Contents

  1. Chapter One

  2. Chapter Two

  3. Chapter Three

  4. Chapter Four

  5. Chapter Five

  About the Author

  Acknowledgements

  I’d like to thank Gordon Thompson of Clouds of Magellan for first publishing this novel and for his enthusiasm and insights. The manuscript was improved immensely by the editorial work he and Helen Bell contributed. I’d like to thank my agents—Mitchell Waters, Geraldine Cooke, and Fiona Inglis—for their work and feedback at various stages. A very big thank you to my friends Olivier Colette, Graeme Head, Craig Stevens and Peter Whitfeld for their reading of the manuscript and comments. Thank you to my day job employer Les McDonald for his flexibility in allowing me time off to write when I needed it.

  There are a great number of friends who gave me encouragement, support and inspiration when I was working on this book and I’d like to thank them all heartily. They are José Rincon Castro, Megan Heyward, Sarah Breen, Klime Zilevski, Enriqué Torres, Rosanna Arciuli, Dean Baxter, Steven Thurlow, Keith Buss, Felipe Mejia, James George, Helen Ferry, Hebert Perdomo, Jorge Baron, Marcus Mabry, Eduardo Batres, Richard McIntyre, Claudio Back, and Edwin Beltran Jimenez.

  Graeme Aitken, November 2012

  Image and Design Credits

  Cover Design – Tane Cavu

  Original Photography – Shots by Gun

  The Indignities logo design – Gordon Thompson

  The Indignities image – Colin Milligan

  Author photograph – José Rincon Castro

  1

  Chapter One

  He stopped me in the Surry Hills Shopping Centre as I was heading to the Post Office to collect a parcel. He stood directly in front of me, a look of delight on his face, bleating something nonsensical. At first, I took him for another demented Tommy fan. I’d been bailed up in Coles the previous week by some housewife who was outraged that her concoction ‘Tommy’s Tropical Mince’ had failed to win their recent recipe competition. Her Tropical Mess involved minced beef, crushed pineapple, a can of Tommy’s and her secret ingredient, several dashes of coconut liqueur.

  I tried to ignore him and continued walking, but the boy was persistent. He grabbed me by the arm. ‘Don’t you remember me Jason?’ he asked reproachfully.

  The fact that he wasn’t calling me Tommy, made me stop and take a second look at him. Was he someone I’d encountered when I’d been with Blake and felt compelled to give a false name? As I stared at him, a memory stirred. There was something familiar about him, though I was sure we hadn’t had sex—I would not have forgotten someone this cute. He was young, probably early twenties, slim, big brown eyes, with a slightly uncertain air about him. He was wearing a singlet, and his skin was tanned, hairless, utterly flawless. I wondered if he was so smooth all over. ‘It’s Patrick,’ he beamed at me. ‘Remember?’

  Unfortunately, I didn’t but I was quite willing to pretend to. After what Damon had done to me on Gaydar, I had vowed that I was going to meet guys the old-fashioned way for a while, face-to-face. I still felt incredibly angry and aggrieved every time I thought about how he had manipulated me. Though curiously—and this was weird to admit— part of me kind of missed Mischief. Our online friendship had developed over a couple of months and we’d been in touch every day. I had to remind myself that Mischief didn’t exist; that he was Damon’s creation and what I missed was utterly illusory.

  So it was most welcome indeed to have this very eligible young man insisting on waylaying me. ‘Patrick,’ I exclaimed. ‘Of course, I remember, though it’s been a while. When was it that we met?’

  ‘Hmm, July I think. You know, I called all your numbers, several times,’ he told me, a note of accusation creeping into his voice. ‘None of them were correct.’

  ‘Oh really? ’ I said, my surprise quite genuine. ‘That seems very peculiar.’

  I could not imagine giving such a cutie a false number, even if I had been technically attached to Blake at the time.

  ‘Yeah and when I went to your home, the house number didn’t even exist,’ Patrick added heatedly.

  He seemed to be getting increasingly worked up as he recalled his fruitless efforts to hook up with this villain I’d been mistaken for. I reached out and gave his upper arm a consoling stroke. I’d been about to admit I had no idea who he was, but his skin was so soft, so astonishing to touch, all I could think of was running my hands all over him. Patrick seemed so smitten with this heartbreaker—of course we all yearn for what is unattainable—it seemed better to allow him to continue under his misapprehension. So I made no confessions. Instead, I offered an excuse. ‘Oh Patrick, I think I know what happened, though it’s something I don’t like talking about.’

  ‘You were bullshitting me?’ he accused me. ‘I bet you have a boyfriend.’

  ‘No, no, I’m single and I wouldn’t bullshit you,’ I insisted and my words were quite heartfelt. He was so sweet, so adorable. Who could wantonly deceive such an angel? ‘The truth is … I’m kind of dyslexic with numbers. I get them mixed up all the time. Even something as simple as a phone number or an address, and if I’m trying to impress someone, I feel pressured and it makes it worse.’

  I gave a helpless shrug and Patrick’s aggression melted away. ‘Oh, I’ve heard of that. It’s called dyscalculia, right?’

  I had no idea. I just smiled. But it was odd. After telling him my dyslexia story, I was struck by the strongest sense of déjà vu: standing in front of Coles, Patrick’s eager young face looking up at me, while I told him some terrible untruths.

  I remembered. He’d been one of these people who bail you up in the mall and try to sign you up for a credit card or some charity. I’d had that phase, when I was between acting jobs and terribly bored, of filling in their silly forms and inventing characters for my own amusement. One afternoon, I’d spent a very entertaining fifteen minutes with an earnest young lad from some credit card company. When I declared that my profession was ‘a pole dancer’, he became very uncertain about my prospects for a successful application. I assured him I was at ‘the top of my game’ and even offered him a private demonstration. ‘Come out the back of the mall. There’s a secluded alley I know and all I need is a power pole. Once you see me in action, you’ll understand how I can make fifteen hundred dollars a week.’

  The poor boy was so completely out of his depth, he dropped his clipboard and fled into Coles to get away from me.

  Of course I had no recollection of what I’d told Patrick more than six months ago and could only hope his memory was equally hazy. Though given that he’d gone to some lengths to get in touch with me, it was possible he’d committed my perso
nal details to heart, or even slyly photocopied my form. I noticed that he didn’t appear to be working today. ‘So, no longer accosting strangers in the mall?’

  Patrick laughed. ‘No, no, I only did that for a month or so. I’ve made a lot of changes recently. I took an office job with Greenpeace, moved to Moore Park, broke up with my girlfriend …’ he trailed off, the final word hovering between us.

  ‘Ah yes, you were kind of straight when we met. Straight but persuadable, right?’

  Patrick blushed. ‘Yeah, something like that,’ he said and then quickly changed the subject. ‘And you? You’ve got a day off from the clinic?’

  That left me floundering. What on earth had I told him? When he said clinic, my first thought was STD clinic. Though surely I had not been so outrageous as to write that down on his form as my place of employment? I had absolutely no idea what I’d claimed to be, so I swiftly steered the conversation elsewhere. ‘I’m so glad we ran into each other,’ I exclaimed. ‘Do you want to go for coffee or something?’

  Patrick’s brow furrowed. ‘Um, I’d love to, but I’m cooking dinner for friends tonight and I’m not that organised. I’m heading to the supermarket now, but another time for sure.’

  ‘Okay, then let me get your number this time,’ I said, whipping out my phone, but Patrick snatched it off me.

  ‘I’ll type it in,’ he insisted. ‘So there’s no mistake.’

  While he was busy with that, I ran my eyes over him again. ‘I’ll definitely be in touch,’ I assured him. ‘I promise.’

  Patrick gave me such a winning smile as he passed my phone back. ‘Okay, well later then dude.’

  I watched him walk off, admiring the rear view, until he disappeared into the fruit and vegetable department. I then recalled my original errand and went to the Post Office to collect my parcel. As I walked home, I sent Patrick a flirtatious text to demonstrate my enthusiasm, but afterwards I began to wonder if I was being foolish to persist. Patrick seemed to know more about ‘Jason’ than I did. If we went on a date, it was inevitable that I would come unstuck. I hesitated. But then, if I confessed the truth, in all likelihood, he’d want nothing further to do with me.

  When I got home, I found Strauss online on MSN so confided the situation I’d found myself in.

  Strauss: Oh Stephen, playing with fire again. Why does everything with you have to be such a performance, and in this case quite literally? Why can’t you just go to a bar or use Gaydar to meet someone like everyone else?

  I did not want to get into a conversation about Gaydar. I had not divulged my recent antics to Strauss and he had no idea that his minimally furnished apartment had proven to be the perfect venue for sex parties.

  Stephen: The problem is that he’s very young and some sort of bisexual or fledgling fag or something. It would be kind of crushing for him to find out I told him all those lies merely because I was bored one afternoon.

  Strauss: Oh dear, you should steer clear altogether. You don’t want to end up being the Henry Higgins of Homosexuality!

  Stephen: But he seems so keen and we both know how rare that is. I know I should own up but I don’t think he’ll be at all forgiving. I mean, he works for Greenpeace. Obviously he’s someone with principles and high ethical standards who undoubtedly looks down on things such as …

  I faltered, at a loss as to how to describe what I had done, though Strauss suffered no such uncertainty.

  Strauss: Being a conniving, unrepentant fraud. Completely misrepresenting yourself and telling outrageous lies purely for entertainment value to some poor sweet thing scarcely out of the closet. Tut tut Stephen.

  Stephen: Come on, it’s not that bad. Queens are always embroidering the truth about themselves when they first meet someone. Lowering their age, talking up their career. I’ve just taken things a little bit further.

  Strauss: A little?

  Stephen: Besides, if he did know me as Stephen, I’d still be bullshitting him. Trying to act positive about my boyfriend running off with the neighbour, my TV career ending, and becoming known Australia-wide as Tommy the versatile sensation. I’m so tired of pretending to be optimistic about things that are basically heartbreaking.

  That outburst stunned Strauss into silence.

  Stephen: It feels very appealing to just forget about all that crap and be someone else entirely for an evening.

  Strauss: Okay, I see your point, however, what you’re doing is still extremely duplicitous and manipulative.

  Stephen: Oh please, this is mild compared to what’s on our TV screens every night of the week. The latest reality show has gay guys pretending to be hot for a straight girl to win $200 000 and that’s billed as entertainment.

  Strauss: Okay, you have a point, and I have to admit that I’ve always found the idea of having an alter ego immensely appealing. It’s very good twin, bad twin. Remember Bette Davis in ‘A Stolen Life’?

  We chatted for a little longer, then Strauss announced that he had to go to work so we said our goodbyes. Despite some misgivings, he left me feeling inclined to proceed with Patrick. I knew it would be an enormous challenge with numerous pitfalls, but improvisation had always been one of my strengths. I reached for my phone and sent Patrick a text.

  Jason: Wanna get together one nite on the w/end? How about dinner? Jason xx

  He replied within a couple of minutes.

  Patrick: Dinner on Fri would b gr8. Hey aren’t u Jayson spelt with a y?

  That gave me a moment’s pause. If I didn’t even know how to spell my own name, how on earth was I going to get through an entire evening with Patrick?

  Jayson with a y: U have a good memory. [unfortunately for me, I thought to myself] Yes with a y, but not christened that way. I changed it. Sometimes in a rush, I forget! I know, stupid! LOL.

  Patrick: Ok Jayson. Have a good day at wk tomorrow. Don’t get bitten or scratched!

  This casual reference to Jayson’s career only added to the mystery. A clinic where I was at risk of being bitten and scratched! Did I work at some psychiatric hospital with seriously deranged patients? I could imagine trying to impress this cute young Greenpeace worker that I too had a caring side and was out there in the world helping people less fortunate than myself.

  I proposed Hugo’s Pizza for dinner which Patrick agreed to. It was only a block from Altair and would be convenient when I suggested going ‘somewhere quieter, where we could talk’. Though as I gazed around the apartment, I realised how perfectly it would serve as Jayson’s home. It was a beautiful designer white box for a young man who was a blank slate.

  Patrick sent another text the morning of our dinner.

  Patrick: Looking fwd 2 2nite. Hope you don’t have to perform any euthanasia 2day.

  Jayson: I hope so too!

  My sentiments were quite genuine. Euthansia! Just what sort of outfit did Jayson work for? Of course, I knew shock treatment was a dirty word these days, but surely euthanasia was getting a little extreme?

  All day I felt excited about seeing Patrick. It had been so long since I’d been on a proper date, not since my days of being courted by Blake. I spent all afternoon preparing the apartment: not only did I have to clean it, but I also had to get rid of any Stephen identifiers. By the time I’d finished, I was left with very little time to spruce myself up for the evening.

  I arrived early at the restaurant and waited for him in the bar. I wanted to appear keen and counter any lingering negative impressions he might still have after his frustrations in trying to contact me. He turned up ten minutes later, looking hesitant and slightly overawed, but as soon as he spotted me, he gave a big grin. I stood up to greet him, kissed him, and offered to get him a drink. He asked for a coke, which made me a little thoughtful. I had already knocked back a vodka and tonic while I was waiting. Given everything I didn’t know about Jayson, I realised that I needed to be sharp and alert, not half-sloshed. I got his drink and a mineral water for myself, then sat down beside him, closer than was necessary, so that my leg brushe
d his. When he asked how my day at work had been, I made some vague reply that ‘they’d been working me like a dog.’

  ‘Like a dog with the dogs,’ he grinned at me.

  I gave a little laugh, though in fact I was rather shocked. It seemed an extremely insensitive remark to make about my patients and rather out of character from a guy who was presumably very PC. I began to think that I must have my wires crossed about Jayson’s occupation. ‘Let’s not talk about my work,’ I insisted. ‘It’s been a long draining week. I want to hear about you.’

  We spent the next fifteen minutes talking about his break-up with his girlfriend. When the waiter interrupted us to let us know our table was ready, I was horrified. It was someone that I vaguely knew from the gym. ‘Hey, hi there,’ he said. ‘How’s it going?’

  ‘Great,’ I replied unenthusiastically.

  I cursed myself for choosing such a popular spot for dinner. Of course I would run into people I knew. I should have thought of that and gone somewhere unfashionable and obscure. ‘I’m sorry,’ the waiter continued, ‘I’ve forgotten your name. But you’re Alejandro’s friend, right? I’m Rico.’

  I nodded and gave him a terse smile. ‘Hi,’ I said.

  It was a great relief that the airhead had forgotten my name, but he hovered alongside us, waiting for me to elaborate. I ignored him and turned to Patrick. ‘Shall we?’

  Rico ushered us through to our table. ‘I’ll take a look at the wine list,’ I informed him, dismissing him, before he could try to strike up another conversation.

  Though Patrick hadn’t commented, I could tell that he thought I’d been overly curt with the waiter. ‘That guy is the biggest gossip at my gym,’ I explained. ‘I don’t want to give him any encouragement, or any details about my handsome date.’

 
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