The Gay Decameron (1998)

A June evening dinner party in a “double upper” flat in Edinburgh’s New Town turns into an in-depth exploration of the lives and loves of the ten men attending.
Though they do tell stories across the dinner table, Whyte supplies the background in a series of cumulative narratives which offer a panorama of gay experience in and beyond Scotland in the 1990s.
Intercut are episodes from an Oriental tale which Brian, who chooses not to join the others, is reading on his own till one of the party-givers, Kieran, arrives to piece together the truth about Brian’s twin brother.
One Night Stand with a Railwayman
‘I was squatting down so as to see it at eye level. He ruffled my hair, then lifted me gently under the shoulders, from behind, unbuttoned my shirt and started stroking my chest and my stomach. I turned my head around. He was just tall enough for us to kiss in that position. It was romantic but rather awkward. Next he took my hand and led me into the bedroom. He hadn’t switched the train set off. What followed happened against a background of trains, rattling past the beach, whizzing in and out of tunnels and veering round the corners of the board. I didn’t know what to expect and was past caring anyway. He knelt down, unzipped my flies and started giving me a blow job. I had the hard-on to end all hard-ons. Partly it was the trains, partly feeling we were little boys again, in a world where there was no danger grown-ups might find out what we had got up to.
‘”Don’t move,” he said, and opened the doors of his wardrobe. I looked around the room. One wall was completely hidden by posters of steam trains. Detailed plans of track layout covered another. When he turned back to face me, he was holding a British Rail signalman’s hat and a whistle. He popped the hat on to my head and stuffed the whistle into my mouth. It was all such a hoot I couldn’t stop laughing.
‘”You blow, I blow,” he said, with a bewitching grin.
‘Maybe you’ve never asked yourselves whether it’s possible to have an orgasm and blow a whistle at the same time. Let me assure you it is, from personal experience. Though what was happening at crotch level rather cramped my style as far as directing trains was concerned. Sounds such as I produced have not been heard on a station platform in Scotland for many years.’
The Toast
‘We could have a toast,’ said Alan.
‘Who to?’
‘To Robert, obviously.’
Glasses were filled and they drank a toast seated, in silence, without clinking glasses. The atmosphere became subdued.
‘What now?’ asked Mark.
‘Another toast?’
‘Who to this time? We’ll never agree.’
‘We’ve probably got different things in our heads,’ Gavin observed. Or different people.’
‘Don’t let’s make it too formal. Or too artificial,’ Kieran said.
‘I know,’ said Rory. ‘We can have a communal toast.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘We stand up, raise our glasses, and everyone says what he wants to drink to. Then we clink glasses and down them all at once.’
There was general agreement. They stood up.
‘Who begins?’ asked Gavin.
‘Let Ramon begin,’ said Mark, ‘as our European representative.
‘I drink,’ said Ramon, ‘to the demon on the Night of Sant Antoni.’
‘I drink,’ said Mark, ‘to the first time I saw the Pet Shop Boys play live.’
‘I drink,’ said Barry, ‘to a Saturday afternoon in late July, 1991. No matter what the consequences.’
‘I am grateful,’ said Dougal. ‘I don’t know who to, but I certainly know what for. I am grateful, and I drink to that.’
‘I drink,’ said Rory, ‘to all the ones who never made it to this table. The ones who killed themselves, the ones who got married, the ones who were so cowed and frightened they never had any kind of sex life at all. To the ones who are still in the closet,’ he went on, for he had drunk a lot already, and drink always made him eloquent and sentimental, ‘gathering enough courage to come out, and to each of us, for having made it this far, with all our trials and all our joys…’
‘To the Dutchman,’ said Alan, whom drink made indiscreet, ‘I was having sex with in the toilet on my last transatlantic flight, when we hit a patch of air turbulence and I was sure we wouldn’t come out alive. It was some of the best sex I ever had. And to my fellow steward Jamie, who sussed where I was and covered for me.’
‘I drink,’ said Gavin, ‘to my children. Not the children of my body, for I have none of those. The children I have cared for, every one of them that passed through my hands in the hospital. Most of all to those who died. The little ones that didn’t make it. They are more truly mine than any of the healthy children could ever be.’
‘Children,’ Nicol said, musingly. ‘I drink to Isobel Anna Cunningham, my god-daughter.’
‘Ellen McLaverty, Balcarres Road, Drumchapel,’ Kieran said.
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‘I made love with your twin.’ ‘So did I,’ said Brian. It could have been the most normal conversation in the world.

© 2021 Christopher Whyte. All Rights Reserved | Designed by Jarka Jones

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