Keep breathing, keep my eyes on her unclothed body, and keep the hand moving. No thought. Just breathe her in and stay with the movement. No real concern for what begins to emerge on the paper.

It’s like a swaying back and forth, and a circling. The brush lifts and washes itself in the muddying water, and dips in colours, spontaneous as a hummingbird, then lands again on some unexplored, shimmering skin.

How is it for her? Does she feel the fluttering wings, a downdraught of attention adding to the draughts of this spartan yet sunlit space? There’s a moment when our eyes meet – I’m just breathing, allowing the process, and her almost impassive, holding the pose. And yet, in that moment we could both drop it, I the brush and her the pose, and move together… Her hair on my neck, my hands moving, grasping, snaking down her back, onto her bum…

She can see it in me. Her eyes flicker downwards briefly to my crotch, a spark of knowing. I’m pulsing there.

On the paper, a surprise. So many strokes, and such colours, and yet a dance of breath that’s animated, that captures some of her loveliness and a measure of my lust. It is a work of art, albeit a work in progress.

I breathe again more steadily, deeply.

“Is it enough for today, maybe? I’ll get your gown.”

Fever fit

Sleeping fitfully on the youth hostel floor with baby Melissa at my side. She’s burning up – and coughing woefully. Like a pitiful kitten. I rest a paternal hand on her back as Amy and I try nonetheless to get some sleep.

Suddenly, a scream, a jolt. She’s shaking, jerking. I jump up and turn on the light.

“What…?” asks Amy, blurrily.

Melissa’s eyes are rolling back inside her head, and her back arches with involuntary spasms. She’s almost on fire. I grab her from the floor and stumble to the basin in the corner. Splash on water with cupped hand, grasping her writhing form under my other arm.

“That guy’s a doctor! The goose fat guy – the cassoulet guy!” Amy is pulling on her shoes. “I’m going to call 999.” She rushes out.

Where’s the doctor guy? At 3am, anyone’s guess. My only reference point is my mother’s room, so I go, just go. A naked man running down the corridors with a naked, fitting, baby girl.

The youth hostel is pretty much in uproar now – doors banging, the doctor summoned, lights on, on every floor. Amy, having failed with the public phone, is flagging down a lorry in her pyjamas in the snow. The young female warden appears from her room, sees me, and screams.

As doctor friend administers Calpol and confirms cooling with water had been right (although “a bit extreme”) I figure it may be time to go and find some clothes.

Bondage magazine

Probably, I should already be at school by now, but in fact I am waking up with Lenora. We hear a rustle and thud as something heavy drops through the letter box. Sleepy, lithe, and naked, Lenora emerges hot from the duvet and pads off to retrieve this new prey.

Addressed in a spidery black hand, the brown paper parcel is intriguing. Over a mug of tea, she undresses it, pauses, then begins to swear.

“That bastard! Fucking bastard!”

She passes me the contents – an explicit pornographic magazine featuring black leather and much flesh – and a note.

Thought you might like this. When we came round the other night, you sat opposite me with your legs spread wide so I couldn’t help seeing your cunt all through the meal. Next time, why not leave your knickers off entirely? Get in touch – you know I could blow you away.

And now, our gauche young selves co-write a stinging rebuke and rejection to this friend and mentor of mine.


Pete emailed me a photo today from 30 years ago – the three of us, all clad in orange and maroon, arms around one another, posing at the height of the pass to Reno. My 18-year-old self looks bright-eyed and happy.

I can hear the devotional songs (which then, as now, seemed bizarre, and yet still touching):

Sweet, sweet Bhagwan
I love your love
I love you so
Happy birthday to you

I used to go out on the Lake Tahoe balcony in the dark with headphones in, and sing along to the night – until Jivan got me to stop, concerned how the neighbours might react.

Down to Lake Tahoe’s nude beach in the old open-top jeep, lying out in the warm sun on the shingle. Anam’s blonde girlfriend such a turn-on, I had to manoeuvre awkwardly to hide my physical response from the world. His stolen motorbike maintenance in the garage brought him no favours as the discarded motor oil slicked its way through the local waterway. Naivety. And, according to Russell, also “a conspiracy of mediocrity” as some members of the household began the recriminations.

The taste of grilled nori, and those strange chewy whole food pop tarts – what were they made of? Also seaweed, or some other stuff?