Apocalypse In A Tutu

"The world ended the day before yesterday," said Sam. "As the poet wrote, 'Not with a bang but a whimper'. It died, coughing, choking and there was no one but me to see it go."

I looked at him with affection for he is really my absolutely number one favorite lunatic. As always, when he was relating his most dramatic and unlikely announcements, he looked perfectly serious. His pair of brown eyes were fixed unwaveringly on mine, a slight frown creasing his forehead, a lock of mahogany colored (that's reddish brown for those of you who don't know) hair hanging down and always seeming to get in the way when he was at his most solemn for he would brush it aside with an impatient flick of his hand.

Some writers seem to be able to gauge other people's weight, height, build etc (like they can come out with statements saying the guy was 160 lbs, 6 foot 2 inches tall etc) but I have no ability in that direction. Sam was chunky, I think I'd say, about as tall as me (which doesn't help anyone who doesn't know me, of course) and, when he smiled, which wasn't often as he took life very seriously indeed - he was almost beautiful.

"You mean 'your' world ended the day before yesterday," I said, assuming that this was his hyperbolic way of saying something disastrous had happened to him, like he'd been dumped by his latest lover, or forgotten to buy a lottery ticket which, if he had, he would have chosen the winning combination of numbers for, to enable him to become a multi-millionaire. Seem to be rather too many prepositions in that last sentence, but who the hell cares.

He shook his head - and that uncontrollable lock of hair swung down so that it obscured one brown eye. "My world, your world, everyone's world." He peered past it enigmatically.

I looked round the pub we were sitting in - just to make sure he wasn't telling the truth. The counter in front of me was wood-grained melamine. The beer handles were black plastic with small gold colored finials on the top. There were signs pinned to the shelf behind the barman saying. 'There's too much blood in your alcohol system.' 'Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.' 'Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.' You know, the usual things. He (the barman) was doing the old polishing-the-glass routine which meant he was listening to our conversation. I caught his eye and smiled. His name is Nick and I'd had him about three months earlier. Just for one night, you understand. It had been fun but, after an exchange of body fluids - caught safely, I might add - there was no commitment - on either side - and we'd remained - well perhaps 'friends' is too strong a word - but certainly 'friendly'. For the purist, I expect there are too many dashes here as well!

"Are you sure?" I asked, The beer was weak and warm. In fact in this pub (The Flying Calendar - Don't ask!) the beer was always weak and warm. That being the case, I guess you might ask why it was that I ever came in here though the answer is obvious. It was a gay pub. Not to put too fine a point on it, it was 'the' gay pub - the only one in the area. To reach the next nearest one involved a bus journey, or a tube ride - or for piss-elegant queens - the hiring of a taxi. Which ignores the question, of course, as to why us gays had chosen a pub which provided - and sold - such execrable beer. One answer could be that perhaps because the straights had better taste in beer and generally speaking shunned it. That's probably a sexist remark but I don't care - not if the world had already ended anyway.

Sam nodded. "Oh yes," he said. " Quite sure! Just like the poet said - 'not with a bang but a whimper'."

"Which poet was that?" I asked, more to test him out than out of any real interest. Anyway I was pretty sure I knew.

"You see, we finally reached that crucial point, crossed the line as it were, between unloading so much shit that it couldn't actually take any more. Gave up, you see. No recovery. All is kaputt!" He didn't sound desperate, just a bit saddened by the thought.

"Oh you mean, it's going downhill, getting clogged.," I said and continued, waxing poetic. "The air will get thicker, the seas more toxic, the land less productive. Larks will cease singing, bluebells will no longer carpet the woods in Springtime, the whales will stop keening. The sperm count of male hets (if there actually are such things) will drop below the viability level." I sounded quite calm. I had heard it all before and, while I quite liked larks and bluebells, whales had lost their charm for me when I had seen a wild-life TV program and noticed what bad complexion they had - all covered with barnacles and other acne-like excrescences. I couldn't work up much enthusiasm for the sperm of male hets either.

Actually, to be truthful, I had once had an intimate (though short) relationship with a male het, claimed to be anyway - name of Peter Stone. He certainly didn't object to my going down on him one night after the pubs had shut and we found ourselves in a single room, single bed situation. I had had too much beer to care what he thought and so, apparently, had he. Remembering that incident, I suddenly realised that many of my so-called relationships were little more than one-night stands. I believe there's a word to describe people like me - but I'm too much of a 'lady' to use it. Anyway mother told me never to!

Sam said, "No. It's already defeated, devastated, doomed, gone, liquidated, lost, ruined, through, undone, wound up, wrecked."

It sounded like a sentence he'd memorized from Roget's but I didn't criticize, merely added, "Done, drained, empty, exhausted, spent, used up, fucked?"

"Elliot," he said.

"Yes?"

"Yes."

There was a pause. Two youngish men came into the pub both wearing Jeans and white T-shirts and walked to the bar. I stared at them. One was attractive with lovely eyebrows, the sort you have to pluck and pluck in order to get really right, but his looked natural. I hate guys like that. They bought drinks from Nick. One had a pina colada and the other a Hawaiian Sunrise. I lost interest immediately.

"What did you want?" I asked Sam.

He was looking introspective. Actually I'm not sure what that means or how he could look like it - but it sounded OK in my mind at the time. At my question, his right eyebrow went up and I realised suddenly I rather fancied his eyebrows. "I'll have another beer," he said.

"No. I meant, why did you say my name?" But I held up two fingers (palm outwards) to Nick who understood and whipped the tops off two bottles to bring over to us.

Sam was looking puzzled and I suddenly wondered if I was speaking English or if, the end of the world being nigh (or nigher than nigh, I suppose), we were all 'speaking in tongues' in preparation for the Last Trump.

"You said, 'Elliot'. That's my name." I explained this carefully. "It comes from a French diminutive of Elias or Elijah meaning 'Jehovah is my Lord'. I'm not Jewish," I added, though I wasn't apologizing. One of my best friends is Jewish, though I haven't seen him for years. He has lovely ears and is dreadfully ticklish which makes careless hand movements in bed something of an imponderable. We once had a stupendous sex experience whilst listening to 'Brunnhilde's Immolation'. Wagner's music - you understand.

"I didn't know your name was Elliot," Sam said.

"So how come you called me Elliot?"

For a moment he looked completely bewildered - as I certainly was myself - then his frown disappeared. He smiled - and I was in love. "I meant Eliot," he said. "T.S. Eliot, the poet. You asked me which poet it was. 'This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.' From 'The Hollow Men'."

I thought it was Ezra Pound, but I wasn't sure enough to argue.

Nick put two beers in front of us. There were still weak and warm even in their pristine state. I didn't complain, merely asked him if he wanted one as well. "Oh God," he said," You wouldn't catch me drinking that horse piss." He blew me a kiss to take the sting out of the remark.

"So what makes you think the world's ended?" I asked.

"Has it?" said Nick, thinking I was talking to him.

"So Sam says," I sounded sibilant and hoped I wasn't spraying everyone with beer.

Nick nodded. Presumably he heard rumors like that all the time, being behind the bar, and chaps getting drunk, and that.

I turned to Sam. He was looking at me. There was something in his expression that I'd never noticed before. I hoped it was lust - though, knowing my luck, it would probably turn out to be indigestion.

"The stars were going out," he said, and it was such a sad comment that I wanted to put my arms around him and hug all the despair away. Perhaps even 'close his wild, wild eyes, with kisses four'.

"'La Belle Dame Sans Merci'," I said. "John Keats. I always wondered about the 'kisses four' though. Made it sound as if she had four eyes." Having said that I realized that I'd never even used the quote out loud and he wouldn't know what on earth I was talking about. Probably think I was a lunatic too. I tried to correct the impression. "Could it have been cloud drifting over?" I asked. "The stars, I mean."

He shook his head. "A clear night. It was just the faint, far-away ones at first, winking out like little candle flames in a breeze. Poof! Poof! Poof!"

"Like those three over there," I said smiling, trying to lighten the tone. I nodded to an alcove where three bleached-blond beauties pulled the reputations of the rest of us to pieces punctuated by screams of high-pitched laughter.

"Probably they're next," he said without turning round to look.

"How long do you think we've got?" I had a sudden urge to pull my bar-stool closer to his so that I could feel the warmth of his thigh pressed against mine - almost more for my own consolation rather than his. I noticed, though, that Nick was watching and would probably misunderstand my motives. Perhaps I was too!

"This is the last night, I guess."

"Apocalypse Now," I said.

"Apocalypse the Day before Yesterday!" It would have been a dramatic statement, had it been said in a loud tone. As it was it just sounded melancholy. But calamitous in its own understated way.

Right on cue the lights in the pub went out. A faded queen in a corner let out a shrill scream, more in hope than expectation, I suspect. There were sounds of people moving, colliding, chairs falling over, a glass breaking. I took the opportunity to move my stool so that I was close to Sam. I found his hand, warm and dry, and held it tightly.

"Don't panic, girls!" Nick's voice came from out of the darkness. "I've got some candles."

"Trust Nick," said someone. "Always prepared."

"I could do with one, if you've got a spare," said another voice and laughter dispersed the alarm.

"How would you like to spend your last night?" I asked Sam softly but my mouth was very near to his ear and I had no need to do more than whisper.

He didn't answer and for a moment I wondered whether I'd been too bold. Then he took my hand and laid it in his lap. I could feel an encouraging hardness forming. It was a lifeline to grab hold of. I grasped the opportunity. It felt nice. Would have been even nicer too, inside the trousers.

A match flared and Nick was lighting candles. Several pairs had taken advantage of the darkness to make moves on their partners - or intended partners - and the soft yellow light threw them into flickering discovery. The boldest of them were not dismayed. Some laughed. Others grew more serious. I was reminded of a poem by one of the 'Liverpool' poets, Roger McGough, I think about the scene on the upper deck of a bus when it was announced that the world was going to end that evening. It finished, if I remember something like -

'And then everyone made love, one with another and even the conductor, being over, climbed in to the driver's cab and formed some sort of relationship with the driver..'

"Do you want another drink?" I asked Sam. He shook his head. "Shall we go back to your place?" He nodded. All around us little flares of candle-light threw soft pools of light onto faces, smiling, laughing, joking. It was much the happiest time I had seen them having - ever.

"You going?" asked Nick as we got up. "See you tomorrow?"

Sam said, "The world ended the day before yesterday."

"Oh yes," said Nick. "Sorry, I forgot."

For one moment I was afraid that Sam was going to confess that it was his favorite pick-up line. Then we were out in the open - a black, starless, moonless night, with no streetlights on, no lights at all - and I wished that he had.

written by mgouda3464

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