I’m going first, so without further ado, here goes *opens first page of book*
I stumbled back through the unfamiliar roads of Canal Street in Manchester. I leant against a lamp post while a drag queen handed me a light for the pink pastel gold tipped cigarette I’d just begged off her.
I raised my eyebrows as I cupped my hand around the cigarette.
She replied, wobbling slightly on her six inch red stilettos, ‘I smoke like I dress. Can you imagine me using rolling tobacco and papers darling?’
‘Fair enough,’ I replied then kissed her cheeks, thanked her for seeing me safely from the bar where my friend had deserted me, to the road where allegedly my hotel lay only a short walk away. ‘Five minutes you say?’ I turned to face the drag queen – bright red PVC dress with white hearts, a cleavage anyone would kill for topped with a pile of blonde hair so high she’d had to duck when leaving the bar.
‘Straight along there, sweetheart. Stick to the main road and you can’t miss it.’ And she was gone.
I arrived at the hotel. Surprised I’d made it, and surprised how posh it looked inside. My best friend had booked it for a ‘I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair’ weekend for me. My best friend Nigel – or Anton to everyone else. I knew he was Nigel, cos I’d known him before he had laser surgery on his eyes, and a few little nips and tucks and the odd little prick on his forehead. Since then plain old Nigel was well gone, replaced by shiny browed twenty twenty vision Anton.
When I’d told Anton, over a few too many vodka and cokes, that my boyfriend still didn’t want to move in with me, and still wanted to keep seeing some other guy ‘For a bit of fun, now and again,’ Nigel slapped my face, handed me a drink and said, ‘For the love of God, Darren. Grow a backbone. All you do is whinge about him. He doesn’t do this with me, he won’t commit to me, he’s seeing someone else behind my back. Why are you still with him?’
And at that moment, wiping sticky coke from my eyes, tasting the vodka, and staring at Anton’s shiny face, I couldn’t think of one real reason. I shrugged, downed Anton’s drink, before he bought me another, and another, and another. Then I went home chucked all my boyfriend’s stuff he’d left at mine, into bin bags then out the window of my little first floor flat. I left a message on his phone, words to the effect of: go away, I don’t want to see you again. Your stuff is outside my flat. Only it was a bit more colourful than that, as you can probably imagine, after a good seven or eight double vodkas with Anton egging me on.
Now, I took in the hotel’s foyer: a min water fall feature flanked the main reception which resembled the bough of a boat; walls in shiny black and white marble; lifts with art deco doors and a floor indicator which went to fifteen.
A bell boy in red uniform appeared. ‘Can I help you sir?’
Sir? I looked to either side before realising he was talking to me. I caught my reflection in one of the mirrored lift doors. I felt like I’d stepped into a Baz Lurhman musical. I half expected Ewan McGregor to start singing about how love lifts you up. I wish.
I was miles away.
The bell boy tapped my shoulder. ‘Which floor do you require sir? Have you got your room key, sir?’
Again with the sir? I slapped my face and reassembled my thoughts. I pulled a plastic card from my pocket and tried to focus. ‘Eleven two two. What floor’s that?’ It was all I could do to read the room number.
‘That’s the eleventh floor, sir. The lift’s here.’ He tidied me away from my shambolic display in the entrance into the lift and pressed the button.
I sat on the seat in the corner of the lift. A seat, in a lift. Anton really had splashed out when I’d told him to book the hotel to forget all about my ex. ‘We’ll go to Manchester, I hear Canal Street’s pretty wild on a Saturday night. Those northern lads, they know how to party!’ Anton had said. Then he realised the weekend we booked coincided with the award for the best cross dresser in Manchester. ‘As long as they don’t out dress me, I’m not fussed,’ Anton said, smoothing his perfect arched eyebrows in turn.
I wobbled as the lift stopped and a man in his thirties, wearing a pair of snugly fitting black trousers and a short sleeved white shirt, got in. He smiled at me and put his hands in his pockets. I enjoyed the view of his perfect abs, then lingered on his groin area for a bit too long. I stared intensely at the floor.
‘Alright, mate?’ he said, his accent strong with a Manchester twang.
I looked up at him.
‘Had a good night, have you?’
‘Yeah.’ I nodded, making more eye contact than I’d anticipated at this early stage.
‘Me too. Been in the bar downstairs for hours. I’m well pissed.’ He wobbled side to side in an exaggerated gesture to illustrate his point.
I smiled. ‘Me too.’ I gestured to the seat.
‘What you had?’
‘Vodka. Lots of vodka.’ I smiled. ‘And coke. You?’ Get me, being all forthright and talkative.
‘I’ve left me girlfriend and mates in the bar. Going back to my room if you wanna come.’ He folded his arms across his chest and I stared at them in front of my eyes, his abs and chest all on full beam. ‘I’ve got some vodka and that in my room.’ He sniffed then smiled at me.
END OF PART 1
Next week it’s Charlie Cochrane’s turn...