It was the night before Mardi Gras and Mr Pointy Head was still saying no.
“I don’t give a fuck,”” he said. “I simply refuse to go in a wheel chair. And don’t feed me some bullshit line about confronting people’s prejudice towards the handicapped. I’m not interested. I’ll go to the party at Williams, then watch the parade and afterwards I’ll come with you to the dance party. All on my own two HIV positive feet. If I’m not up to it, you can scalp the ticket you so kindly bought me and I’ll sleep on William’s couch and get myself home on Sunday morning. Full stop. End of discussion.”
Diamond Lil quietly said, to no-one in particular, “leave it with me, I’ve got a plan.”
I said nothing, assuming that when the time came, he’d agree to use the chair rather than miss out on the party.
At 9.15 the following evening, up the road, like Visigoths set to storm Rome, came the Dykes on Bikes, this year’s contingent larger and more exuberant than ever. One huge Ducati at the back of the pack slowed down and crawled along our side of the road. When it reached us it stopped.
“Found youzz,” said the biker, a big leather-clad lass with cropped hair.
“Looking good Mel,” replied Lil.
“OK. Which one’s the poof with the pointed head”
“Mr Pointy Head, Melissa,” introduced Lil.
“How do you do,” said Pointy
“Just fine. Now get on Cinderella. You’re off to the ball.”
Pointy looked somewhat stunned but, aware of the large audience, had no choice but to try and look nonchalant as he threw his leg over the huge bike.
“There’s a strap there to hang on to. Grip tight with your knees and hang on. We’ve an impression to make,” she told him, adding loudly, “And behave yourself back there. I haven’t had a man ride behind me for years.”
“Join the club,” said an older gay spectator.
Mel gunned the motor and threw a reasonable wheel stand before powering off down the road weaving her way through the floats in an attempt to catch up with the other dykes. We waved but it was useless. Neither of them looked back.
We caught up with him nearly an hour later sitting next to the information stand just inside the showground. He was chatting furiously at Lil’s ex-girlfriend, Princess Entertainment.
“About time you all got here. I’ve been explaining to the Princess about me being the first and probably the last associate member of Dykes on Bikes. She didn’t see me. She was on that mermaid float at the back. I hope someone was videoing. I was fabulous. I told Mel I used to be a lesbian in a past life. I don’t think she believes in all that stuff. Anyway, she’s gone off with her friends, said they’d all agreed to meet here on the hour, so we can do the same thing, if we get lost or anything. And I saw Tim, and Adrian, and everyone’s here. More importantly, I’m here, so let’s get going…”
We danced a bit, went exploring, chatted to people we knew, misplaced Princess Entertainment who seemed to be lost in space anyway, had a drink, danced a bit more, found Princess Entertainment who didn’t know she’d been lost and, when pointy was looking tired, headed outside to get some fresh air and sit for a while.
Pointy’s balance seemed to be failing so we helped him onto the lawn.
“Same as before?” asked the Princess, unaware she’d missed the first round of drinks.
“G&T’s for four,” replied Pointy and flopped onto the grass. “Mine’s a double.”
“You OK?” I asked.
“Just wobbly. Nothing new”
The lesbian couple next to us watched as Lil and I sat either side of him and lit cigarettes.
“Excuse me,” said the larger of the two. “Don’t you think your friend has had enough?”
“Had enough Pointy Head?” asked Lil.
“No,” replied Mr Pointy Head.
“He says no,” said Lil flatly.
“Sometimes you have to make decisions for your friends when they are incapable of making them for themselves.”
“He knows just what he’s doing,” said Lil.
“I doubt it.”
“I don’t. I’ve never doubted his judgment,” said Lil, blowing as much smoke as possible in their direction. “Perhaps you should mind your own business.”
“It’s everyone’s concern when we see members of our community encouraging people to be so self-destructive.”
“Would you like a broken nose?” Lil asked coldly.
“Aggression solves nothing.”
“It might shut you up,” said Lil, getting to her feet.
“Don’t push your luck ladies,” said Mr Pointy Head. “She’s my third best friend and she’s got a mean left.”
The girl-friend put her arm around the woman and whispered something soothing. Nothing happened for a number of long seconds so Lil sat down again.
“Thanks,” said Mr Pointy Head.
It was 2 am and we saw Mel heading for the information stand. She and her woman joined us on the grass. We sat quietly sipping drinks and staring at the stars. When she noticed he was shivering, Mel made Pointy wear her leather jacket.
“Thanks,” he said. “I don’t feel well.”
Suddenly he turned his head away from us and vomited. The vomit ran down the slope towards the pios lesbian couple who quickly decided it was time to move.
“Wet this and get some water Lil,” said Mel, handing her a plastic cup and her bandanna.
When Lil returned we had Pointy sitting up with his head between his knees.
“I want to stay,” said Pointy dejectedly, wiping his face.
“OK,” said Mel and opened her small leather bag. “Stemotil?”
“Yes,” said Pointy.
Mel took a small ampoule from her bag, showed it to him and said, “You can trust me. I’m not a doctor. Just drop your dacks and roll over honey.”
“Perhaps you were a butch boy in a past life,” said Pointy as he complied.
She broke off the ampoule’s top, handed it to Lil, pulled out a barrel and needle from her bag, opened and connected them, took the ampoule and drew up the contents, pointed the needle at the moon, tapped the barrel twice, squeezed the plunger up and turned to Pointy whose bum was facing her.
“Upper outer quadrant of a very bony arse,” she said and, as if it was a dart, threw the needle into him, drew back then injected.
“Painless,” said Pointy.
“I haven’t got an alcohol swab, you’ll have to rub it yourself.” She dropped the syringe into a small biro case, clicked it shut and put it into her bag. “Give it five minutes before you try another G&T. You’ll be OK.”
Five minutes later we were all back on the dance floor. We stayed near the bleachers with Pointy taking breaks whenever he needed them. Suddenly Tim was in our midst. He was wearing nothing but golden bike shorts, rolled down to show off a lot of firm, fit flesh.
“I love you,” I shouted above the music then noticed how dirty he was, all streaked in grit and sweat.
“It’s the chemicals,” he shouted back. “I told you they were good.”
“What happened to you?” asked Lil. “I thought they locked the stables these days.”
“We were just dancing. And John comes up with this container and says, ‘Guess what I’ve got in here?’ And we think it’s glitter. And Clay grabs it and I pull the top off and hurl it all up into the lasers. And it isn’t glitter, it’s ashes. And we’re real sweaty and they stick to us. And John says Serge won’t mind. He wanted his ashes scattered on the dance floor. But all over us is near enough. And, he concluded breathlessly, “I think I need a shower.”
Lil suggested adjourning to the nearby Men’s toliet where the water was free and on tap. Pointy said he was thirsty so Lil helped him down the stairs and over to a basin. There were a lot of guys just standing around, waiting.
Pointy began to sway so I casually slipped an arm around his waist. He put his head on my shoulder, gestured towards the crowded urinal and loudly stated, “Don’t say we never take you anywhere, Diamond Lil.”
“I love you, Mr Pointy Head,” she replied.
“It’s just the chemicals,” he told her.
At 3 am we met Mel at the Info stand.
“I’ve done Mardi,” said Pointy, taking off her jacket. “thank you.”
“Keep it on,” she said. “I’ll collect it tomorrow off Lil.”
“Thanks for everything,” I said. “See you tomorrow.”
“I’ll bring lunch,” Lil replied. “His place or yours?”
“I love you all,” said Pointy. “It’s them chemicals again.”
I helped Pointy out the gate and into a taxi. He instantly crumpled and I had to carry him into his flat.
Once inside, he wasn’t any better. He was totally exhausted and his balance had completely gone. I stripped and carried him to the shower seat in the bathroom, turned on the shower, stripped off and joined him. It was easier and probably safer. Then I dried us both and carried him to the bedroom, dumping him gently on the bed. Naked he was so thin, so light. Just skin over bones.
I brought us a orange juice. He took a handfull of pills from the dosette box and swallowed them with ease. I turned out the lights and fumbled my way back to the bed.
He rolled over and put his head on my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around him. Within seconds he was asleep.