As he said he would, Jason was waiting at the road side when my father dropped me off at the gate to the airfield. The 250 was out of sight; “up on the runway.”
I stared at him. I couldn’t help it. He stood strong and heavy like some monumental bronze, his leathers gleaming in the cold sharp light like washed coal. It was like the guys on his bedroom wall had sprung from the wall, only infinitely better. There was something gritty and hard, even ugly about him that bitter afternoon. Perhaps it was the sharp glittering beard. And there was the leather: I was stiff limbed and awkward, but Jason moved with athletic ease, the leather obediently creasing and folding at his joints and drawing tight about his muscles. Jason was the master of his leather.
And that is what I really remember about that afternoon: Jason in his leathers. Little else, except the fear. The leather-bound remembrance of him stands like some great black basaltic intrusion in the landscape of my memory distorting, even crushing, everything else. Later visits to the airfield in the summer, when we went up there in the evenings for sex, came to supply the incidental details: the new steel gate, the rusting oil drums, the curving gravel track leading up through a short wooded valley, the rusting farm machinery in the undergrowth, the white flowers - cow parsley, briar, wild garlic. So that, soon after Jason’s death, when I first thought of that afternoon, it seemed to me as though it had happened in late spring or early summer.
But as I write, odd fragments of the conversation, are recovered: “It’s not like being in a car with your mum and dad; all cocooned up against the weather with the stereo on – Radio 3 or 4 is it, mate?....This is different….This, mate, is real. It’s just you – or you and your mate holding you tight – inches from the tarmac. You see it tearing past below you. You feel every bump and pot-hole in your spine, and when you accelerate the pull of the wind as it tries to hold you back, but you go for it. You lean with all the curves; smell everything you pass. And then there’s the weather mate – you experience it all: rain or sun, hot or cold. It don’t bother me, mate as long I’m in the right gear….the whole thing’s fantastic, mate, bloody fantastic.”
Up on the airfield a grey film of frost clung to the grass and the shattered concrete. It was a place of scrub and dereliction. The 250 was there, waiting patiently for us, at the edge of the runway.
We were quite alone up there.
“You look nervous mate,” he said, before he kissed me. “Bricking it, are you?”
“Yes, something like that,” I said. Did Jason feel as nervous as a ten year old when he came up here for the first time, I wondered.
Beside the bike Jason gave his instructions: “It’s relatively simple mate. The most important thing is not to put your feet down until I park up the bike. Not before, mate. Not at junctions or at traffic lights. Ok? Just keep your feet off the road at all times.
“I thought you could do with one of these.” He reached into his upturned lid and pulled out what looked like a single slip of black material, like a scarf or something, but I had a neck tube already. “I got them during the week. I bought us one each. Here.” He parted the fabric and handed me half. “I guess we should have bought them last weekend. It would have made more sense.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a hood mate, a balaclava helmet. It’ll help keep you warm.” I watched Jason pull his ‘hood’ over his head, and tuck the ‘neck’ into his collar.
“Come here, mate.” I let Jason take the hood from me and slip it awkwardly over my head. Fear had cost me the use of my fingers and in any case it seemed right that he should finish what he had started. “One day, mate, nobody will able to tell us apart.” Later he told me I had looked like Peter Lawford in ‘Danger Diabolik’, and I took that to be a compliment.
I’m embarrassed now by the intense gut-aching fear I felt as, finally kitted up, I sat on the bike behind Jason and waited for him to turn the key, when it seems so natural now to get on a bike and ride. I ride in London traffic for fuck’s sake. I pass for a ‘right hard fucker’ among my friends, albeit they are a group of middle class queens. I obviously have a reputation of sorts to maintain, so it’s the sort of thing I only confess to when drunk but I was, I admit, shit scared.
We rode up and down the runway a number of times with increasing speed; he was right, it was bloody fantastic, I found an exhilaration on the back of his bike that I never felt I had lacked before, the fear gave way to exhilaration, gave way to…. by the fifth run we were both thinking of something else.
There was a derelict hut, something left over from the war, standing there amongst the young trees and the brambles as the far end of the runway. It had a flat concrete roof, grey concrete walls and metal framed windows. The rotting door was ajar- the paint peeling. I followed him inside. There was shattered glass on the floor among the dead leaves and moss and litter of cans and paper. It was almost warm there, out of the breeze. Steam rose from his mouth as the frail sun caught his face.
We hardly spoke – there was a curious, fragile anonymity between us like a game – and then, after sperm had been spent over black leather and concrete, we rode back to his place, my hands clenching his sides.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Leather Chapter Part IV
The final section of the 'Leather Chapter'