|The 40 In 40 Days Project.|
9. The Rent Boy (1988)
The Au Pairs
|K had been down
to London for a couple of nights, staying as usual with his old friend
Nick I, in his smart shared flat in Maida Vale. This time round, there
was a new flatmate to meet. His name was D. He was young, bright, fair,
full of life, with an open smile and a ready, quick wit. And also a
wicked, rebellious, slightly dangerous, devil-may-care streak. K was
beguiled, charmed, intrigued. At the end of his stay, K issued an open
invitation to D: any time you’re in Nottingham, give us a call.
Fast forward a few weeks. It’s Monday
morning. We’re getting ready for work. The phone rings – K picks up.
It’s D on the line.
“Hi K – I’m in Nottingham.
Thought I’d come and see you.”
“Sure, that would be great. Where are
“I’m not staying anywhere yet.
I’ve just driven up. I’m at a phone box on Derby Road. Can I come
“But D – you don’t drive.”
“I know, I know – look, I’ll
explain everything when I get to yours. Could you give me directions?”
A few minutes later, D turns up on our
doorstep. He is dressed to go out for the night, and is drenched in
sweat. There’s quite a nice looking car parked outside. He doesn’t
have any luggage.
K makes him a cup of tea and he starts
to explain. Last night, he was at Benjys club in the East End. A couple
of guys picked him up and he went back to their place. They were both
members of an up and coming boy band (who later went on to have a few
hits, as it happens). In the middle of the night, D woke up. He looked
around. He felt cheap – disgusted with himself – disgusted with his
wasteful, excessive lifestyle. He had to get out – now. He had to make
a clean break.
So, he quietly got out of bed, picked
up a set of car keys from the bedside table, crept out of the flat, got
into the car, and drove it up the M1 to Nottingham. Pissed. Having had
two driving lessons in his entire life.
And now, here he is. He is desperate.
He cannot go back to his old life. In fact, he should be at work right
now, but he doesn’t care. He has come to Nottingham to start a new
life, away from all the shit. Can we put him up for a few days while he
gets himself sorted out? He’s going to start looking for a job
immediately, then he can get himself a flat. We’re his only hope –
his last hope. Can we help, please?
He’ll need to borrow a bit of cash
for a couple of days – oh, and some clothes, if that’s OK – he’s
only got what he’s standing up in. We already know he comes from a
very wealthy family, so we can’t see any problems with this. In fact,
we’re delighted to be of assistance. K goes off to make up the spare
room. He also gets D to park the car a few streets away, unlocked, with
the keys inside – then to ring the police, telling them where the car
can be found. We don’t condone his actions, but we understand.
D is so relieved that we understand –
most people would have condemned him outright by now. His whole recent
history has been one of constant condemnation, in fact.
Why is that, you might ask? Well,
there’s something else we already know about D. Just over a year ago,
D was front page news. K has seen the clippings, in fact. His claim to
fame? Well – he was the former rent boy whose scandalous allegations
in a Sunday tabloid ended the political career of a Conservative MP.
These allegations were mostly to do
with spanking, I seemed to recall. Now, this wasn’t the way D had
expected the story to go: he had wanted to expose the MP’s connections
with the far right, feeling that on these grounds alone, he wasn’t fit
to hold office. But, well, he’d been naïve. The story that was
printed centred exclusively on the sexual stuff. Tabloids, eh? In fact,
you could say that D was as much a victim as the MP (though he did
pocket 20 grand for telling the story – but then, he does come from a
wealthy family, so that was neither here nor there, and certainly
wasn’t his motivation – oh no).
So how wonderful it was that – unlike
all those nasty, judgemental, knee-jerk reactionaries – we alone had
taken the trouble to truly understand him. He could trust us. We alone
could help him.
We were rather pleased with ourselves,
and our exemplary non-judgemental liberalism. Plus, D could charm the
hind legs off a donkey – and boy, were we charmed. He could light up a
room just by entering it. He could have us roaring with laughter, as he
presented the various tragedies of his life – the prostitution, the
drug addiction, the suicide attempts – as black comedy. He told us
about the autobiography he was planning to write: working title, “God
I’m Coming”. The sexual addiction and the death wish, encapsulated
in three words – brilliant. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
True to his word, D started ringing
round, and fixing himself up with interviews for temporary work –
mainly hotels and catering. We were impressed. On the Wednesday night,
we went out for a drink, to show D the local gay scene. At closing time,
D cajoled K into taking him to L’Amour, our one ropey, tatty club (I
went home instead). After one drink there, K wanted to leave – D most
certainly did not. Well, he had the spare keys – best let him get on
Thursday breakfast – still no sign of
D. Well, jolly good – he must have met someone for the night. Hey, he
needed cheering up anyway. We went to work and thought no more of it. On
his way to work, K noticed that the stolen car had finally been removed.
That afternoon, K took a call from a
rather embarrassed doctor at the hospital where he was working, with the
same surname as his own.
“Sorry to bother you – but I’ve
got Arnold police on the line. They’ve got a friend of yours in
custody, and they’d like a word.”
That evening, once he’d been released
from the cells, D told us the whole story. He’d met a couple of people
at L’Amour. They weren’t sure what to do after the club. D was
pissed (poor lamb, he just couldn’t break these patterns of
self-destructive behaviour, could he?). D had a brainwave. He had a car
– why didn’t they all go for a drive?
He took them back to the stolen car –
door unlocked, keys still inside of course. The three of them got in,
and off they sped into the night.
Somewhere on the outskirts of town,
D’s beginner’s luck finally deserted him. He crashed the car into a
brick wall. It was a write-off. They were all unharmed. His companions
jumped out and fled into the night. D was left stumbling around the
streets in the dark, completely lost.
A car pulled up. A window was wound
down. “Where are you going at this time of night?” asked the driver.
Mmm, not bad looking. Maybe D’s luck was in after all. He leant over
and started to flirt.
Unfortunately, the driver was a plain
clothes police officer, who quickly pieced the whole story together.
Let’s see now: driving without a license, driving without insurance,
driving without due care and attention, taking a vehicle without
consent. Miraculously, there was no breathalyser test.
At the police station, D was asked
whether he had a solicitor. “Yes,” he replied, grandly. “Sir David
Napley.” Pause. “I don’t know why you’re all laughing – he’s
awfully good, you know.”
On leaving the cells, D sweeps past the
reception desk: “Marvellous party darlings – but next time, change
your outside caterers.”
Or at least, so he tells us. And,
roaring with laughter, we gladly believe him. Even now, after all that
passed between us, I think what he told us was, give or take the odd
embellishment, basically true. D wasn’t much given to downright lies.
No – nothing so crass. He had other, more subtle weapons at his
A date is set for D’s trial, in about
six weeks’ time. One of his bail conditions is that he stays at our
address for the duration.
Time passes. D is attending the
occasional interview, and taking the occasional job. He never seems to
stay at a job for more than two or three days, though. Most of the time,
he sits around at home while we’re out at work. He’s having to
borrow a bit more money off us, as well. He’s over £100 in debt to K.
Still, no matter, his mother will pay up soon, no doubt. He’s still
wearing our “second division” clothes – we went through the
wardrobe and allocated him a pile. Only the other day, he did come
downstairs wearing my best trousers. I had a little word with him about
that. He went a little cold on me. All of a sudden, the warm glow of his
personality turned distinctly icy. I felt the chill. There was something
menacing about it – some snide sounding comments were made, but
nothing you could actually put your finger on.
D is living life at full throttle –
long sessions in the pub, late nights, general mayhem. K is starting to
do the same. He’s in the middle of writing up his doctorate, but
he’s holding down a full time medical research job as well. He’s
finding working life immensely stressful, and the reckless boozing feels
like a safety valve for him. Only I’m not so sure. Not only is this is
all beginning to alienate me, but I don’t feel it’s in K’s best
I try and voice my concerns, but it
doesn’t come out very well. K is beginning to see me as a nag – a
prissy, controlling prude who can’t let go and have fun. Part of his
problem, not part of his solution. K and D are spending more time
together, and the rift is growing between myself and D. What’s more,
it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that D is creating,
manipulating and exploiting the whole situation, with brilliant
Divide and rule, you see. Basic
Things deteriorate. K and I are getting
increasingly short tempered with each other. A couple of our friends
have joined K’s and D’s drinking gang, and their behaviour towards
me is also getting chilly. Some of our other friends, appalled that we
still have D under our roof, are having nothing to do with us. There is
a memorable party where D more or less clears every room he walks into.
As the date of the trial approaches, D
is spending more and more time away from the house. He has made a couple
of other, newer friends, each of whom will go into tight huddles with
him, throwing us suspicious looks. The sort of looks that say: I am the
only person who really, truly understands poor, tragic, vulnerable D.
Off my patch.
Paranoia, uncertainty, tension,
suspicion, enmity all rule the roost. K and I are at a low ebb. We’re
not communicating properly at all. There is a lost “binge” weekend.
It’s a catalyst, bringing us both to our senses. We take the following
Monday afternoon off work, and talk, and hug, and apologise, and begin
to repair the damage done.
D is becoming more of a background
figure now. Just before the trial, he absconds during the night, leaving
a brief note of apology on the dining table, and emptying all the cash
from our pockets. He is found by the police lying unconscious in a
municipal park on the East coast, with an empty bottle of spirits by his
side. He returns to his mother’s house in London. To cheer him up, she
buys him a small painting for his room. It’s a Mark Chagall.
On the rescheduled trial date, D comes
back to Nottingham. K attends the hearing; I stay away. Some of his
other, newer Nottingham friends show up, glaring at each other outside
the courtroom with that same suspicious, protective look. Meanwhile, D
is in his best suit, smoking a crafty spliff in the corridor.
D’s family may not have hired Sir
David Napley, but they’ve still hired a bloody good lawyer. A deeply
contrite D looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. He gets a
fine and a suspended sentence, and returns to London. There’s one
brief return visit to Nottingham, where he tries (and fails) to convince
K that he’s a reformed character. After that, we never see him again.
There’s a thank you letter – addressed to K only. He never repays
the money he has borrowed and stolen.
The last we ever hear of him, he is reportedly seeing a well known gay pop singer. A few years later, Stephen Fry publishes his first novel, “The Liar”. There are some extraordinary biographical parallels between its central character and D’s own life (expelled from boarding school for similar reasons, turning to prostitution, various odd details). I wonder – I just wonder…