Quite where he came from, no body knew. He was mysterious like that. All that we knew was he rode in one day on a Harley Davidson, wearing a full-body leather motorcycle suit and was smack bang in the middle of a mid-life crisis. His hair was thinning on top, and dyed that coppery ginger colour which pensioners like and makes you look even balder than you are. In his early fifties, standing down in the forecourt like that, all 6 foot 3 of him, waiting for Mum,shades and a cigarette: that was Steve, RPM, soon to be known as The Rubber Prick Man.

He's fucking loaded! Mum said. He's always got cash-on-the-hip and aside from the shop he's got a house in Windsor, and a flat in Kensington! Fucking Kensington!!! But I gotta play this careful, let the arsehole give me things... not ask.

The shop Mum referred to was a Motorbike shop on the prestigious Fulham Road. Steve had secured an initial date with that boast, but to mum, who'd lived every kind of bullshit con there was, everything was talk until she'd seen it with her own eyes. Well, now she had seen it, had been escorted around and met the salesmen and mechanics before being sped of to Windsor where she was shown around the house and introduced to Steve's sister who lived with him. When she returned home she was a fluster of excitement. For the first time she seemed like she'd been on a proper date, unable to keep the marvel of it all to herself.

Yeah, he'll be coming round again tomorrow, she said. He's taking me to a posh restaurant, or so he reckons. She looked at me with a smug underface and a touch of hatred, like she'd finally made it, as if I'd never believed she would.

Steve visited almost everyday after that. He never came up to the flat but stood down in the forecourt, surveying the hordes of Irish gypsy kids who'd come out from nowhere and gather around his bike while he was taking his safety helmet off. Over off the balconies the older traveller men were watching the bike too, figuring out the fastest way to strip it down if it was ever left alone for five minutes. I'd seen it before, the gyspies going at a car or bike like piranhas, stripping it back to the bare chassis in minutes, the owner returning and staggering around shell-shocked not quite believing what was left in place of his beloved vehicle. So Steve waited down with the bike until Mum came and scared the kids away with her drunken hissing and language they could understand. And it was grace to Steve's daily stints waiting in the yard that he picked up the initial nickname of RPM, the neighbours not knowing his name and referring to him by the last three letters of his bike's number plate.

Steve wasn't guarded or wary about flashing his money around. He wasn't one of those types who plead poverty as a front to ward of prospecting gold diggers. Steve flashed his success around and seemed proud of it. He hadn't been born into money and his motorbike dealership was not a hand-me-down. He had built up his business over a lifetime and now wasn't going to dress down and pretend he'd failed. So Mum didn't have to play Steve careful; he began showering her in gifts and money without needing to be prompted. But 'giving' is not the right word. It was not charity, and Steve was not a charitable man. He was an entrepreneur: he invested money and gifts in Mum in order to get more back in return. I guess he priced Mum up and worked on a specific profit margin which he thought the sex and company was worth. And though Mum never had the need, she still in a roundabout way let it be known that she'd never feel like giving-out if that electricity bill she had sobbed about earlier wasn't settled first. To Steve it was probably nothing, though maybe somewhere, beneath the padding of his wallet, it saddened him. I hope. I hope so for his sake. Even the most scrupulous capitalists know that some things should not be paid for; that some things must transcend money to be really worth any thing. It's true, if you procure company in the wrong way, you may very well end up feeling more alone than the lonely.

Steve's major problem was that his life had become one long, ongoing transaction. He had gotten used to buying his way thru life. He understood that his money was the last attractive thing left about him and used it to get what his looks no longer could. He signed cheques and handed over notes for everything; put things in peoples top pocket to have them in his. The first time he met me and my friends he slid a small lump of hash into Paul's hand before walking off all hush-hush about it, the sound of rattling chains on his boots and jacket, the smell of leather left in his place. That's how he survived. But, in fact, he wasn't a bad looking man. He had a good head: a rugged, muscular face with slight side jowls. He was tall, had been well built (but was starting to overflow his waistband a little now), and he had that kind of warm, grandness in the skin which fame, money or moderate whisky consumption often affords. Physically the years were beginning to tell, but he was free of that hard ageing which comes through stress and unheated apartments.

In many ways Steve's Harley and leathers represented everything he wanted to be but wasn't. It was an acquired image that didn't quite seem to fit. The biker thing was his mid-life crisis. It was one final jab at trying to be the real deal, without the restriction of the desire for success taming his speed around corners. Now that he was successful – had other people running his shop, his days free, financially set – it was his time to really get down and live a bit of the real life he'd skitted around the edges of for so long. Of course it would be impossible. His safety nets were internal and nothing he could do to unhinge them. But he was trying. He was trying to connect with his real self, the animal, the being beyond material things, where it's just you and the gallows and death, where existence is magnified and life finally means a great deal.

So the image of Steve in those first days was of a cool, if slightly pathetic 53 year old man, someone with money, who smoked dope, dressed in leather and wasn't modest about talking about his Hell's Angels connections and how he could have fifty of them down at a click of the fingers. For a while we all lived off his legend, allowing ourselves to be fooled as much for us as for him. As mum sped off on the back off his Harley, her blond hair blowing up behind her helmet, short black skirt and no knickers, I'd spread the tales around, Steve's legend growing as he weaved out the estate onto more scenic routes.

My mother's idea of playing the long con was giving it away free for a fortnight before getting moody because a blank cheque wasn't forthcoming. Steve never grasped the idea that an expensive gift or fancy meal didn't translate itself into ready cash, and while mum was eating or putting the flowers in a vase she was just as poor as ever. Money was the real and only gift mum wanted, and without money she could never enjoy the finer things in life anyway, constantly thinking of the cost of such things and how she'd rather have the money in her purse. It wasn't money hunger, it was about independence. And that was her downfall: she could be bought (and everyone knew it). It's probably why she hooked but never reeled in the big fish. When your most intimate fantasies, stuff which often takes months or years to earn, can be acquired for twenty quid on the second date, it cheapens the thrill and kills dead the intensity of desperately wanting something from someone but not sure if you're loved enough to get it. So Mum didn't ask for money outright, but Steve learnt that if by chance he didn't pay mum for the loan of her body that suddenly that body would become unresponsive and unwilling to do anything more than sit crossed legged and drink his store of alcohol. And if my mother's downfall was selling off her love, Steve's was willingly paying for it – and always taking what he'd paid for.

As is common with all jobs, from salesman to doctor to lawyer to whore, employees begin to despise the customer. When you are at the whim of someone, constantly put out and yet forced to wear a customer-service grin, it's only natural to revile them, despise the prison they are to your freedom. Mum, as had happened with so many of her previous lovers, now suffered a vicious and cancerous hatred for Steve, despising the very mention of his name. And she didn't keep it quiet. After a glass of vodka her face would wash over with an evil manifestation of herself and life and everything in it would be viewed through a veil of hate and disgust. The most fantastic and lurid obscenities would fly out her mouth. Steve was accused of every vile crime and misdemeanour one could imagine and was ridiculed on just about every level of his existence. From the top down:

his thinning-diarrhoea-coloured-hair;
his big-pock-marked-nose;
his turkey-neck;
his medallion-man-gold-chain;
his man-tits;
his vile-chest-fluff;
his loose-overhanging-gut;
his tiny-circumsized-jewish-cock;
his stiff-shit-legged-walk;
his tight-squeaking-leather-trousers;
his skimpy-Kawasaki-briefs;
the hideous-pink-arse-pimples;
his overgrown-kneecaps;
his heavy-footed-plod;
his chain-rattling-presence...

There was nothing which didn't finally disgust Mum and come under her scorn. But more than anything else, her most severe rancour, that which came between her first and second bottle of vodka, was reserved for Steve's super-glued-wallet and his apparent tightness of pocket.

It was a weekend and Mum was supposed to be spending it with Steve in the house in Windsor. Mum had been cursing the thought of it all week, saying to herself that he better make it worth her while. She'd already, previously, had words with Steve's live-in sister, and ever since had been silently brooding and building up a jealous hatred of her. Mum was convinced she was trying to force her out, turn Steve against her. Mum also despised the fact that Steve's sister was also his accountant and showed a mighty interest in his financial affairs. On that Saturday Mum flew into an initial rage when the sister asked Steve for the weeks dining receipts with mum so as she could declare them as business expenses. It was a bad time to have said such a thing: 3pm into Mum's drinking day. Wild drunk, Mum screamed:

Oh, I'm a fucking business expense now am I!! Well, I suppose ya better put down the finger fuck and the blowjob he paid twenty quid for too! Nah, din't think so. If ya'v got summin to say Barbara fucking spit it out.... Like, I'm a whore, is that it? Jealous coz I aint turned into a fat sexless ball like you. And don't think I won't fucking slap ya one coz ya his sister. Don't matter a fuck to me who y'are. He'll choose me over y'r fat fanny any day!

The mistake Steve made was taking his sister's side. Not in any real pro-way, but in trying to calm Mum down and saying she was drunk and didn't know what she was saying. Mum left it, but from that point on she sat stewing in an internal world of bitterness, nauseated by brother and sister and pulling ghastly drunken faces of repulsion if one of them so much as smiled at the other.

So it was no great surprise that Steve's car (Mum being too drunk for the back of the bike) crunched its way back across the forecourt that same evening. I was sitting out downstairs when it arrived. Mum fumbled the lock and stumbled out the back, having for some reason refused to sit in the passenger seat alongside Steve.

You fucking pervert!! She screamed in through the driver's window, Steve sat staring blankly ahead through his shades, motionless, as the breeze of Mum's hate swept over him. As Mum stormed off she did that thing that drunk women do, whipped her shoes off, nearly tripping over in the process, staggering on flat-footed and veering wildly. Somehow through her drunkenness Mum saw me and beckoned for me to follow.

That cunt's sick!!! She hissed. Then turning back, screaming: FUCKING SICK CUNT!!!

At home Mum sat down. She looked at me with a face like she had information that could blow my life wide apart, wondering if I could be trusted or not. Apparently not. She turned away, looking out the window, her tongue in the side of her mouth, as the last hour of light passed by.

It took a full day for Mum to break her silence and spit the story out. She told me how she'd gone for a lay down in Steve's room and while there had rifled through his cupboards. She then made a point of telling me that Steve and his sister shared the same wardrobe and sock and underwear drawers. She paused, staring at me, not even breathing. And that's when she reached down into her handbag besides her and pulled out a huge black rubber dildo, holding it by the base and eyeing its length like it was her nemesis. She said she'd found it in the shared drawers, concealed in a pair of Steve's sports socks and under his sister's folded knickers. .

It's Steve's? I asked
Uh Huh, she said. It's fucking HIS alright!

Though there was no evidence to suggest who the dildo really belonged, or what hole it was used in, Mum supposed a sordid, incestuous affair where Steve and his sister were going at it behind her back, finishing in a climatic double pronged fucking, Steve pounding away at his sister's front while the dildo buzzed away in her arse. To Mum it all made perfect sense:

the shared house;
both celibate;
the sister against her;
the sister being the firm's accountant;
Steve wandering around the house in just his pants;
the KY jelly in the bathroom;
the shared closet space;
the shared sock and underwear drawers;
the secret, perverted smiles.

Though, up until the weekend, it was all circumstantial evidence. But now Mum had some hard, concrete proof: THE DILDO.

That evening when Steve came around Mum was especially smashed for the occasion. Without wasting a second, unable to keep it in any longer, she produced the dildo, waving it about in Steve's face as she accused him of having an affair with his own sister and fucking her with the dildo in the arse. Steve was so shocked he kinda just froze, his body unsure how to react against such fantastic accusations. He made a few preparatory vocal sounds, but finally could do nothing but let out an incredulous laugh and put a hand to his head in disbelief. In the wrong drunken gaze, he could even have looked guilty as charged.

You've been rumbled, Mum said, dashing the dildo at his feet. RPM – The Rubber prick Man!!! Steve calmly stepped out the way of the dildo, then turned to leave. As he made his way out he stopped and laid a fifty pound note on the arm of the sofa. That's for the gas bill, he said without turning around. Mum stared at the note. The bridge of her nose ruffled. She was about to scream she didn't want it, but thought better of it. Instead she stood there steely silent, her eyes of hatred following Steve's back out the door.

That wasn't the end of Steve, but it was the beginning of the end. Now Mum had confronted him once and broken through the pride barrier of asking outright for cash (and getting it) she now had no qualms about doing so again and again. Steve always gave her what she demanded but it was obvious it was having a wearing effect on him and that outgoing expenses with no return was where he pulled the line on love or lust. In a way Mum got what she wanted: no fancy restaurants, no expensive flowers, no Harrod's chocolates, no shopping sprees – just the money instead. With Steve's worth stripped back to his wallet he became ever more of a prison to Mum. It may even have been that she'd gotten use to all the extra cash and could maybe not do without it if Steve were just to leave. As a consequence Mum felt totally submissive to him and so reviled him with an even greater vigour.

Steve, now down to mundane living, moody receptions, indifference, drunk-sex-only, a human cash machine, suddenly seemed out of place in and around such hopeless dreams. No longer dashing back and forth between restaurants, leaving with mum on the bike, enjoying every last second of life, he suddenly looked as unfulfilled and downtrodden as anyone else. In a series of steps his legend began to wane.

The first brick crumbled properly on the day Paul joined Steve out in the forecourt and paid him back in kind by handing him a joint to light up. Steve took the joint, looking quite unsure as to which end he should light. He finally guessed right, sparked the thing up, and took a series of quick long puffs which made him cough choke on inhaling. Paul watched him curiously, realizing that he'd maybe never smoked a joint in his life. Five minutes later, as Paul was in mid conversation, Steve flushed over white and spun around and projectile vomited. He became unsteady on his feet and said he was having heart palpitations. Paul helped him into the stairwell, where he sat in the dark, alone, for forty five minutes.

Steve's legend was further diminished by Mum refusing to ride on the back of his bike. She said it was uncomfortable, and with the winter on its way, too cold as well. So Steve had to visit in his battered red Volvo. Without the bike to sound his arrival or impress the neighbours he visits went mostly unnoticed now. That was just before his hip problem. He blamed Mum for that, saying that using the car had forced him to sit in unfamiliar positions for hours and had brought on tendonitis in the hip joint. The result was until the inflammation went down Steve could no longer wear his tight leather motorbike gear and had to limp around in a pair of ultra baggy, cotton tracksuit bottoms from the market.

But the blow which finally put pay to Steve's legend was the Hell's Angels fiasco. I think he could see that he no longer interested anyone, that in a few months he had gone from a leather clad biker with a sexy blond on his arm to an old man in comfy dress, driving around in a rusty shit heap with a filthy alcoholic slumped in the back who only wanted his cash and wouldn't give out even for that. In order to recoup some lost respect, he finally delivered on his boast of knowing the Hell's Angels and said he'd have them out to settle a violent dispute Mum was having with a second floor neighbour. Steve said that on Mum's nod he'd have thirty Hell's Angels at the neighbour's door. Without the slightest delay Mum gave the nod and then immediately staggered off to taunt the neighbour, warning:

The Angels are coming for You! Watch out!

It wasn't a bluff. Steve knew the Hell's Angels all right, and though there were nowhere near thirty who thundered into the estate, there was still a good dozen. They looked mean too. Until they removed their helmets and revealed themselves as a group of old men, not one pre-pension age. A bunch of scruffy old duffers filing up the stairs, smelling of piss and beer (mostly piss) and crowding outside the door of number 27. Mum was too drunk to see that this was some old crony version of the most vicious outlaws in the Western World. She stood at our balcony screaming some drunken obscenities out to the world about never fucking with me again! Steve, RPM, The Rubber Prick Man now made his way through the crowd of bikers on the landing two floors down. Once outside the door he looked at the ragtag, greasy army and gave the eyes, meaning You ready, Boys? There was lots of nodding and a couple of coughing fits, and Steve frapped hard on the door.

Come on, don't be a coward an open up, he shouted, with 15 men behind him. It's time to sort this fucking mess out.

Before Steve had the time to knock again the door opened and a fat middle aged woman came out in velvet bed clothes, and besides her, her scrawny pint sized husband, and behind him two dozy, half-dead, skeletal Alsations. The husband in vest, jeans and no socks or shoes leant over the balcony and lit a cigarette. Steve moved back and the Angels moved in. The fat woman, known to all as Podge, started screaming and shouting and pointing up at Mum. The Angels quickly took her in hand and calmed her down. As two held her an old man in heeled boots, a confederate bandana, and bow legs, said: Ok, we're here to listen. You tell us your side of the story and then we'll go and speak to your neighbour and see what she's got to say.

Podge began telling the story of a fridge her husband had sold Mum, how it packed in after two weeks and Mum wanted her money back. Now and again the husband would nod in agreement. The old Hell's Angel finished by patting Podge sympathetically on the shoulder, here here now, and sending a small group of men up to see Mum and get her side of the story. Mum ignored their questions, preferring instead to storm downstairs, arrowing in for Podge with a pointed finger, calling her a thief and a cunt and a liar. An hour later Mum and Podge were sitting together smoking and drinking and creasing up in laughter over the sorry state of the OAP Angels as they milled around, talking about bikes and asking Steve the price of certain repairs and modifications and odds and ends in his shop. Steve came over, as tall as he was when he'd first arrived on the estate.

Happy now ladies? Friends again? He asked. It's amazing what can be achieved by just sitting down and talking things out!

Soon after that Steve gave the official notice that Mum and Podge's dispute had been settled and that Podge's husband was going to exchange the broken fridge he'd sold us for one that worked. There had been no door smashed in, no flat ransacked, no husband and wife tied up and tortured, and no thirty man arse-fucking of Podge's 22 year old, crack addicted son, as Mum and I had promised him. What was worse, because of the commotion of the bikes, and the activity up the stairs and along the landing, the entire block had come out to watch the Angels go about their business. People here wanted to see blood flowing not some vigilante mediator group encouraging a dialogue between the feuding neighbours. Still, thrilled with the outcome, the Angels poured back down the stairs, walking around the forecourt giving high-fives and hugging each other. Then, in perfect synchronisation, they jockeyed onto their bikes, kick started their machines and roared off out the estate, weaving in single file towards their afternoon naps.

And with the Angels gone so they roared away with the last piece of Steve's legend. His number was up here. Now, even if he paid the local kids to watch his bike they'd rob it too, knowing that the stories of Hell's Angels and biker gangs was all a myth and that Steve was as alone and as powerless as the rest of us.

Steve hung around and continued seeing Mum for some months longer but now sneaked in and out the estate wearing a long black coat and sepia tinted glasses. Never knowing what the real deal really was anyway, Steve cut a lonely shadow as himself in those days. He had come seeking life and thrills and his real self, but it turned out that he had been his real self all those years and was rather looking for escape. With his tendionitis better Steve made one last visit on his Harley, turning up down in the forecourt on Christmas day and calling Mum out. Mum was surprisingly sober. At first she refused go down but finally warmed to the idea, slipping into a tight black dress and descended the stairs out into the Christmas chill. And for the last time Steve kick-started his own bike and sped off with Mum on the back, not knowing it then, but on the road to rejoining his old life, the shop, the success, the parts orders, carburetors and cylinder heads.

And as the unhappy couple sped away the Christmas jingle was in the air, drifting out and mixing with the mist. And then they sang a song, the rare old mountain dew, I turned my face away, and dreamed about you...

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I´ve got a feeling
This year´s for me and you
So happy christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
Where all our dreams come true.…

Maida Vale, North London, is a dark, anonymous place. The streets there are wider, and longer; the houses taller and with flat roofs. The Avenue we lived on was so long you couldn't see to the end. It just ran down, five floored neo-Georgian houses on either side, gradually converging and disappearing into the vanishing point. The trees were different too. The small, residential pear and crab apple trees of West London were done away with in preference of towering London Planes – huge gothic monoliths which dwarfed and shadowed the lives and told of the unmistakable and fantastic isolation that existed there. The buildings themselves had become a landlord's dream, each floor divided into two adjacent one-bedroomed flats and rented or sold to the newly emerged Single-buyers' market during the property boom of that time. It was an area where people lived alone, beneath high ceilings,with their closets and their thoughts and their ghosts. And because the area was built up, residents living on top of one another and not side by side, it made for a detached , indifferent community, people coming and going and no one quite sure which house they disappeared into or what floor they went up to. People in Maida vale didn't know their neighbours. Even the most frequent and familiar faces remained a mystery. They could live in your building or the one down the road – who knew? And who cared?. If you cared who your neighbours might be you would never have moved there in the first place.

In the late evenings the surrounding district turned into a light show of the lonely. In the illuminated windows of the apartment buildings people and shadows mooched about, eating, drinking and dying alone. There was a bizarre mix of young careerists and entrepreneurs alongside actors and writers and artists. People would dress up in the costume of their own show – some cigar smoking city gents, others as 1960's screen goddesses – projecting their fantasy lives and real depressions out into the world. Now and again an exhibitionist would wander naked past a window, or could be spied somewhere in the background getting undressed or making out as if they've just come from the shower. Though varied, all the lives had one thing in common: the obscene bareness which lingered in the rooms around them. It was a bareness not much different from that which existed in the black windows of the unoccupied flats around.

Of all the private night shows in the area, the most haunting spectacle was projected each night from a flat in the building directly opposite ours. The building was eerie enough in itself. It fell between two street lights, taking no light from either, and so sat back in a dark recess all of its own. Up on the top floor, in one of the converted attic rooms, was a square window blocked out by a red curtain. The curtain was never opened, and at night, when the room was lit up from inside, the window glowed bright red and on it was cast the silhouette of a man, alone, standing there face on and holding a large kitchen knife. From our flat on the ground floor it seemed like he was staring straight down at us, and if you looked up at him for long enough the street would disappear from your peripheral vision until all that existed was You, the square of red ,and the black knife wielding silhouette upon it.

During the first months of our stay in Maida Vale I became obsessed with that window and the thought of who was behind it. I spent my nights staring over, imagining any number of grisly, bloody scenarios of what was going on inside the apartment. Even Mum took an interest. Looking up at the knife wielding silhouette she'd say stuff like: Someone should phone the police to that cunt! What kind of a monster would stand up there like that! Sometimes she'd wander in the room and just stand there eyeing the shape up in the attic flat with hatred, as if the man reminded her of something else which had happened in the life.

I couldn't be certain it was him, but in the daytime a man would leave the building and march off with his head to ground like the day was his enemy. He was a shabby, ill looking thing, maybe thirty, with greasy black hair and always a good few days of stubble about him. He dressed in dark, faded clothes and, regardless of the weather, a plain burgundy scarf with the tails thrown back over his left shoulder. He always had a cigarette in his mouth and walked so fast, slightly stooped, that he was forever striding through a cloud of his own smoke. Like that he'd head off down the road, returning a little while later carrying a white plastic NICOLAS wine bag.

It was a wet, late spring morning. Mum and I were returning from her weekly cigarette and booze shop. As we turned the corner Mum clattered into someone, the vodka bottles clashing together in her bag. The man, momentarily knocked out his stride, swerved around Mum and rejoined his line, marching on without so much as raising his head. Mum kissed her lips and was about to shout something when I said: That's him! Mum, that's the man up at the window!

Through his drifting cigarette smoke Mum shouted:

Oi, is that you standing up there every evening with that fucking knife?

I may have imagined it but the man's stride seemed to shorten for a step as Mum's words reached him. But that was all. Otherwise he continued on his way, without replying, a musty, oaky scent left trailing n his wake.

After Mum clattering into his existence it seemed to wake him up a little. Now, during the daytime, he'd occasionally open up his window and lean out smoking. He also bought a couple of dark green exotic plants and put them out on the ledge. Whenever Mum saw him out the window she'd wave up or shout HELLO! He still continued casting shadows most nights but it was no longer as obsessive as it had been and barely lasted half an hour. His isolation had been interfered with, touched, and I guess he felt a little stupid and self-conscious lingering up there with a knife and knowing Mum and I were watching him and knew who he was. For us, having had seen him, seen he could be knocked off his stride like anyone else, he was no longer the terrifying presence he once was. On the contrary, he then seemed to take Mum's interest in a totally different way. She stared up at the window now with something secretive and excited in her regard, her breasts pushed out, as though she thought he could see her too.

It was not so long after that, that I first heard the name Nigel. Mum said it in a deliberately affected manner, gloating, letting the word linger, like someone does who's newly on first name terms with the boss.

Nigel... ... ... ... Him over the road! She'd say.

Mum and Nigel began a strange correspondence, Mum shouting things up to him and Nigel responding by a series of hand signals, or dropping a cigarette or ten pound note down. If it was ever necessary for him to physically speak he'd pull himself in, close the window, descend the stairs and cross the road – sometimes just to say he didn't have any cigarettes.

So it began there. Like that. An odd cigarette, first thrown down, then brought across, then Nigel smoking one himself and making an attempt at talking from his uncomfortable stooped demeanour. From cigarettes it turned to wine, Nigel inviting Mum over to share a bottle. But that kind of social drinking wasn't for Mum. She was of the old order of drunks, drinking to forget people and the world – not to celebrate it. So Mum refused the wine invitations, secretly confiding in me that she was still wary of going over to Nigel's, of being alone with him, in his domain, where his stoop may straighten and his upper body widen out. And it wasn't an irrational fear. Even while making efforts to be sociable Nigel remained quite a peculiar man: a little troubled and a lot lonely, in a kind of dark, embittered way.

By the beginning of summer Nigel was a regular visitor to my mothers bedroom. He mooched in, did his business, smoked a cigarette, then mooched back out, keeping his head down and rarely uttering a word. Mum said he was like that even when they were alone, often sitting on her bed and staring at the floor until given an overwhelming hint that he could touch her. Behind his back Mum mocked his sexual performances, saying that he would have these weird trembling orgasms and his eyes would momentarily roll round to the top of his head. She told me that once she even had to hold him down to the mattress and grab a firm hold of his cock as it was involuntarily spasming away and spitting sperm all around the room. It was apparently due to these intense orgasms that Nigel would flee so quickly after sex, his head back down as if re-joining a secret world of shame. It also came out that Nigel was on some kind of long-term medication. He said that alcohol mixed with his tablets were the cause of his strange climaxes Mum never pushed to know what exact medication he was on , but we generally supposed it to be either tranquillizers or anti-depressants.

Unfortunately for Nigel his brief sojourn between my mother's legs coincided with her latest bout of chronic alcoholism. From the woman he'd first bumped into in late spring, by early summer she was nothing more than a squidgy lump of fuck on a bed. Something a little better than a wet hole in the mattress, but not much. Though perhaps that suited Nigel. Perhaps it was the only sexual relationship he could be at ease in, doing it to someone who couldn't judge or mock him, revelling in that kind of passive sexual violence that is afforded someone from having an unresponsive body at their disposal. Sometimes, listening in outside the door, Nigel would ram it into mum with such force that it sounded more like a knife attack. As he was leaving he'd look t me before looking down, and for the first time I noticed he had a somewhat swollen face and a slight, yet unmistakable, bulge to his eyes.

It was a week or so later when it all blew up. Nigel had been visiting every day, bringing Mum drink and cigarettes for her services. As the week wore on Nigel took on an increasingly ill demeanour and at times seemed unsure of where he was. On the afternoon of his very last visit I found him wandering around in the hallway with his trousers undone and wearing only one sock. He seemed drunk and was talking jibberish. I tried to usher him back to Mum's room but he fought of any touch, swinging his arms wildly, his face shot through with terror. He finally disappeared down into the kitchen and sat on a chair with his hands out flat on his thighs. After a few minutes he rose and returned back to the bedroom, once again stooping and avoiding any eye contact. He closed the door gently behind him.

It was Mum's drunken voice I heard first, an instinctive, semi-conscious, growled insult as she must have come around. Then I heard her shouting for Nigel to STOP IT! Finally she was screaming hysterically, shrieking my name amongst other things with no let up. I flew in to Mum's room and saw her terrified face beneath Nigel. Though screaming she was frozen to the bed in terror. Nigel was on top of her, in the missionary position, naked, his entire body thrashing away. My first thought was that he was in some kind of deranged, murderous rage, attacking her, but it became quickly apparent that he wasn't attacking Mum at all, but having a full blown fitting seizure. Mum was bawling through the ordeal, her distressed drunken face looking more hideous than ever it had done. I neared the bed to try and help Mum. She was now rigid as a board beneath Nigel, her eyes shock open in fear and fixed on the fitting body on top of her. Nigel's face had drained grey-blue and froth and spittle were foaming out his mouth. He was still having severe body jerks, like a jack-hammer left fallen to the ground. I Tried to pull him aside, off Mum, but it was impossible. Not only because of his trembling limbs but he also seemed to have taken on a mysterious weight which ground him in his seizure. Mum began panicking again, screaming that he wasn't breathing, that he was suffocating. Nigel's face was certainly void of oxygen and his eyes bulging forward of their sockets. Not being able to pull Nigel off I lent over and held both his arms into his sides, subduing the violence of his seizure. But barely did I have him in my grip than his body quit trembling, slowed to a stop and slumped down heavy across Mum. Now I could move him. As I did Mum scrambled free and out the bed, her legs giving way as she hit the floor. Mum fell and collapsed into a drunken, naked sprawl against the dresser.

He's dead!!! She screamed, her face almost parallel to the ground. Is he dead?

Nigel was face down on the bed, quite motionless. Bizarrely his penis was still erect and a thick globule of yellowish cum had oozed out its mouth. But he looked dead, his face drained even of the bluish tint. Mum tried to pick herself up but collapsed back down before barely getting her arse off the carpet. She crawled over to the bed, pulled her top half up, and kind of swayed backwards as if getting Nigel into focus. She began shrieking again, but this time a shriek which expressed horror at what had passed not that which was passing. It was a different sound, not so piercing and carrying subtle undertones of grief and tragedy.

Shut up, I shouted, he's alive! He's fucking alive!

It was only a slight movement I had seen, but he had definitely moved. I suddenly felt elated,. Overcome with the need to cry. He's alive, I said again, he's OK. Nigel now stirred a little more. His eyes opened slowly like emerging from a sad dream. He was lightly groaning. I pulled a cover over his embarrassment. Nigel put a hand across his forehead and shifted himself into the recovery position. In the recovery position he met Mum's evil face, staring at him with a vicious hatred, his welcome back to the land of the living. He asked for a glass of water. Considering Mum's state it was maybe the most preposterous request he could have made. A tremor of vile hate rippled across Mum's face.

Er, yeah, ya'v got water in ya own fucking flat! Dont ya think its about time you fucked off back there! Bringing this shit into my house.

Then she reached forward and whipped the covers off Nigel, leaving him laying there naked. You disgust me, she hissed. You fucking animal!

Nigel never did get a glass of water. He struggled to a sitting position on the other side of the bed, his back to Mum, and painfully pulled his clothes on. Shoes with no socks, shirt not tucked in, he rose and left.

So Nigel suffered from epilepsy. That's what the medication was for, why he had such strange, climaxes, why he sometimes seemed confused, why his face and eyes were a little bloated. It was also probably why he'd become a young recluse, living in fear that something like this would happen. Whatever the truth, Nigel was never welcomed back again and Mum kept a special dislike for him which never waned.

After that episode Nigel reverted back to his old night time antics with added vengeance. Only now, rather than just standing motionless at his window holding the kitchen knife he'd wave and stab it about, finishing his show of hate by turning face on and opening his arms like a deranged, self-adulating vision of Christ. He also stopped hanging out his window in the daytime, and the two plants which had adorned his ledge for the past few weeks mysteriously ended up smashed to smithereens across our front yard. These things were all signs, signs it was time to be moving, that our tenure in North London was just about up. 

Long before first ever meeting Fat Alan I knew all about him, right down to his most intimate details. For example, I knew that he was from Manchester; that he owned the Pig & Whistle pub in Latimer Road; that he weighed 504lbs; that he had a penis no bigger than a seven year old; that mum had to ward his belly away with one hand while she wanked him off with the other; that he broke wind as he came; that he'd sometimes shit himself just to procure a strip down wash; that he was so fat his arms weren't long enough to wash his own hair; that he had his underpants specially made; that he wore a towel nappy to bed; that his toilet had been reinforced, that the u-bend was twice non-standard size to accommodate his colossal spill; that he drove a car that had had the passenger seat removed, the dashboard modified and the driver's seat doubled in size; that he was 43 but had already had two heart attacks; that he'd started binge eating while nursing his beloved mother through the last stages of terminal cancer; that he'd been charged but not convicted of molesting young girls; that he kept promising to write Mum into his will but never did. Each time mum returned, two or three evenings a week, she'd tell me all about him, screwing her face up in disgust as if trying to wring the memory right out of her skin.

God, and he's got these disgusting sores on his arse where he sits all day, she said. And the same things are now beginning to appear under his arms and chin. It's the moisture and friction or something. The fucking pig. I'd love to just empty his fucking till and make off... but he watches that thing like one of them hawks.

Far from despise Alan, Mum's stories made me pity him. Not his obesity or handicap, but imagining that he must have harboured genuine hopes that mum liked him, or at least cared about him as a person who was probably living out the last days of his life. Sometimes I'd almost bring myself to tears pretending I was him, overhearing Mum gross herself out on the vile details of her visit and making fun of everything from his laboured breathing to the hairs which sprouted out his toes. After all, he was not only supplying Mum in free booze but was also paying for her services as nurse, cleaner, and part-time barmaid. On top of that he had to suffer her alcoholism and bizarre personality shifts, hold his tongue as she raged, screaming through his bar that he was a pedophile, and put up with her various indiscretions with the punters, listening as she got flash-fucked in his own bedroom, on his own bed. My heart kinda went out to him. And then I met him.

I only knew it was human and not a stalagmite of waste from a liposuction clinic as it had ears and arms. It sat spilled over a tiny wooden barstool in the kitchen, a hideous blancmange of fat and skin, preparing the pub-grub for the orders below. Arranged in a semi-circle around him was everything he needed: fridge, microwave, knife draw, crockery, sink, chopping board, cooker, bin, etc. From this layered blob a pair of arms were shooting out this way and that, furiously multitasking: cutting, peeling, chopping, dicing, rattling pans into flames, dumping things into pots, checking the grill, slamming it back, adding milk, boiling water, prodding steaks, cracking eggs, opening cupboards, grating cheese, emptying tins, binning rubbish, turning sausages, turning dials, pressing buttons, taking plates, dollop of mash, spoon of peas, ladle of gravy, pushed along, shouting: NO: 21 SHEPHERDS PIE AND CHIPS! All of that while still having the time to acknowledge me and toss me a can of Coke from nowhere, his mouth breaking into a delicious grin when I missed the catch, his way of showing he could still catch people off guard and beat them to the draw. I watched this thing curiously, the head sank into the mound of neck, the neck furrowed out onto the shoulders, a huge filthy, grimy wifebeater vest containing his main bulk, curtains of fat and skin draping down off his arms, his elbow pads somewhere along his forearm, his groin lost beneath a huge flab of gut, the legs in black cotton pants, and finishing him of, a pair of bare, swollen feet that kept lifting off the floor and struggling about as he wobbled and reached from side to side. Just them Mum appeared at the door. Knowing I was watching her she looked over towards Alan, pulled a look of repulsion and shook her head in disgust. Then she waggled a curled finger and mouthed for me to follow – she had something to show me.

Out in the garden mum put a hand over her mouth and doubled up and staggered about in hysterical laughter as a pair of Alan's pants hung on the line and billowed in the breeze. They were pegged up from either side of the waist. Me, Mum and both the barmen could have comfortably fitted in them. Mum pulled at them and showed me the undercarriage of the crutch, the horrible brown stains that not even an intensive 90 degree wash could remove. Now we both staggered around laughing, grunts and squeals escaping from us as Alan screamed out a finished order from upstairs. Mum looked up to the kitchen window and said something about the fat cunt taking the order down himself. She snatched my can of Cola from me and going back over to the washing line poured a good spill of coke in the seat of the pants, turning to me laughing as it leaked out the underside like watery shit. She was a good few drinks down, right on the cusp of wild humour turning into meanness.

He'll notice, I said.
He won't fucking notice! Who d'ya think hung 'em there, coz it weren't fucking 'im. Anyway, when I put them on him he has to lay on his back with his legs off the bed. He can't even see me over his chins and guts!

After being shown the handicap toilet, the modified car, the special banister rail and the small two floor platform lift that got Alan from bar to kitchen to bed, we rejoined Alan in the kitchen. Mum went over and stood near him. His fat hand squeezed her bottom and he made a comical beeping sound. Mum tensed and straightened and jumped back just out of reach. She asked if she could do anything to help but Alan said, Nah, yer alright luv, just yer presence is help enough... ain't nothing like a beautiful woman to make the rigours of work worthwhile, int that right lad? his words floating over to me. Int that right, ya Ma's a beautiful woman?
I didn't answer.
He's shy that one, Mum said.
Aye, yer did say so. I do remember yer saying t'same.

From declining any help it wasn't long before it had quickly turned into Alan relentlessly asking for things, and saying stuff like would ya be a doll and would ya help a sick man out and pass us that there Luvvy, etc. Soon Mum was in constant demand. Not in the way of the cooking of the food but fetching stuff, taking it away, clearing the work space, sent downstairs to deliver messages to the barmen, loading the dishwasher, tying off binbags – all the while having to dodge Alan's hands from groping or slapping her backside. As Alan gave out orders and talked as he cooked it became apparent that he had a bitter contempt towards the mobile, forever calling them lazy cunts and suspecting them of doing nothing, cursing the bar staff and threatening to sack the incompetent and skiving cleaning lady. A few times his bitterness even carried over my way, joking that I'd been put on pause and asking if it was nice to watch yer mam run off her feet? There was something very selfish in Alan, him even getting worked up over the quality of ingredients he had been shopped. At one point he ordered the head barman up and showing him a butcher's bag of mincemeat screamed how was he expected to serve that tripe to his customers? He hurled the bag of raw mince into the landing where it burst and spewed out into a meaty mess over the carpet. The barman silently turned his back, cleared up the mess, soaped the carpet and left. I saw him pacing around out in the garden, smoking furiously while shaking down his right arm and gripping and ungripping his fist.

I hadn't been in Alan's presence for more than two hours and already I despised him. He had that slippery, fat fingered, bureaucratic way about him – something sadistic and hating of the life sat at his mercy before him. Then another thing came up. Every time Mum was reluctant to carry out a certain chore Alan would turn to his wallet, offering to pay Mum an extra few quid for this and that. He went so far as to lay a ten pound note on the top of a tray of chicken innards and told mum it was hers if she'd clear them away and go and dump them in the park around the back for the dogs. Mum took the money, flung the innards out into the garden and stood down in the bar drinking for ten minutes instead. Other times, on occasion, Alan would raise an arm and look at mum and she had to run a towel over, dry the pit and apply some cream. In the afternoon he began harking on constantly about his feet and ankles hurting and how they could do with a rub and a soak. He seemed to be joking at first, but after an hour of this he then had mum crouched down on the floor fondling and squeezing his feet, cracking the bones in his toes. Mum looked at me while she did it, now drunk through and putting on an exaggerated face of hate.

At just gone five, when the last of the grub had been done and all the plates and cutlery returned, Mum helped Alan tidy the kitchen and load the dishwasher. Once finished, like he did every evening, Alan  put an hour in behind the bar. He never really did anything,  just stood up at the end, held up on crutches, scrutinizing everyone with suspicion, watching every order taken and making sure there wasn't a pack of peanuts or a double measure given away or pinched. Sometimes, for no reason, he'd waddle over to a table and demand a pint of beer back from someone, saying that they'd paid for beer and not froth. He'd empty the pint away and pull a new one, reprimanding one of the barmen and making him watch how to pull a pint before waddling back over and giving the client an exact replica of what he'd just taken away. If a child was in the bar, even if it was 14, he'd pull beastly faces at it as you would do a baby. With a huge fake smile and loud voice he'd repeat how he loved 'people' and 'family'. Whenever the young hawkers came in the bar selling their stolen goods he'd call them over and give them the Five Minute Green Light but made it clear he'd not tolerate drugs being pushed on his premises. He was too stupid to realize these were junkies and not the dealers – the only 'pusher' of misery around was him and his beer pumps, it eventually being pissed away into some of the sorriest homes in the area.

The takings of the bar caused more bad will and suspicion than anything else. With Alan not physically able to be downstairs all day he was permanently paranoid at what was going on with the tills and if there were scams being pulled. To deal with this he'd send down for the till receipts and all the paper money three times a day. Not that that would stop any small time scams, but it would stop scams in the hundreds (or find out about them immediately). It was over the till takings that real sadistic side of Alan came out. He had this habit of after having received the receipts to have Mum go down and bring the money up. He seemed to take a perverse delight in putting her in that position, knowing that she'd probably never handled that much cash in her life, that it was her instinct to run or pocket a note or two but she couldn't as he had the receipts and the tally. At the same place where earlier he'd chopped up food Mum now placed the money down in front of him, his beady eyes on her all the while, almost as if it made him hungry watching. Mum would lay the money down, another little dream gone with each pile. When it was all down Alan would kind of cup his fat hand and push a fifty Mum's way. As she took it he'd tap her hand as if that was love and they were to say nothing more about it. But that wasn't love; it was paying for love; it was business. It was what allowed for the pretence of love, the pretence of having someone in this world who actually cared a damn.

With love paid for upfront and the till takings locked away in a strongbox under the sink it was time for Mum to turn her real tricks. Before the evenings entertainment got underway she'd disappear down the corridor for a few dulling slogs of vodka that'd hopefully get her through the ordeal, may even give her some sadistic pleasure in carrying it out.

Ok chuck, me an yer mam ah gonna go make ourselves scarce now fer a bit... get the ol' blood flowing in me fer t'morrow. Y'help yerself to Cokes an theres them crisps and peanuts up there. There's TV in main room, videos an' all... and, er, do mind them naughtier ones at back o' cab'nit, hey, like a good lad. Alan looked at Mum as if to get some assurance that what he'd said would suffice.
Come on, she said, drunk and cold, lets get this over with! Mum eased Alan down the landing, up two steps and then stood with him as he caught his breath before ushering him into the bedroom.

In the front room I sat not watching TV but waiting for the time to pass and mum to return so we could go home. There was a weird smell in this place, something like a public changing room at the swimming baths. Music and drunken laughs and celebration floated up from the bar downstairs and carried something of a wartime depression with them. From the bedroom I could hear Alan had gotten all angry about something, telling mum that she had to remove them gradually. Mum came out, went into the bathroom, filled a basin with water and returned. Now imagining Alan, laid out naked on the bed with a pathetic little hard on, his arms not even long enough to touch himself until his mistress arrived, his bulk didn't seem comical enough and in no way pitiful or sad. In a way it felt like the right punishment for the right man, and that for all his meanness and bitterness and contempt a fitting turn of events that he was the real invalid at the whim of another who had everything he wanted.

There was no noise that came from the sex, after all it was a pinch wank and maybe a finger up the arse. It was all one way traffic with no stop lights, Alan's pressurized little balls choking up their contents within minutes. It was doubtful as to whether he could physically penetrate someone anyway, and even if he did he'd not have the energy or acrobatics to do much more than that. After twenty minutes Mum would come out in a dressing holding the basin of water. She'd empty it and shower and then we'd be getting ready to catch the last bus home. It was always the same when I went there, the same routine that eased Alan into the last days of his life.

In the same year of the affair, one morning while being helped down to the bar by the cleaner, Alan had a third and fatal heart attack. He died holding onto the special handrail he'd had fitted. As we didn't have a telephone Mum arrived at the bar that evening, alone, to the news of his passing. The barman had kept the pub open thinking Mum may know what to do and what would happen with jobs, salaries and the like. But Mum was as much in the dark about these things as anyone. Between the three of them they sold out the last evenings drinks and divided the takings evenly. Mum left with a crate of vodka, some stray bottles of whisky, a gold watch, a carton of cigarettes and a box of Monster Munch crisps. She arrived home that night in a taxi, drunk and sad.
Alan's dead, she said strangely, the fat cunt just keeled over and died this morning. She wasn't being mean or heartless, those were just her words and how she used them. Somewhere inside her something still had gone, even if it was only an easy ride. I helped her in with the booze and crisps and in the dark she sat and smoked, the clinking of the bottle against the glass, like a rattling ghost, through another lonely night. 

Coming Soon...

Hey All... just a little note to let you know that there'll be a few more days before the next post arrives. At the moment I'm working on a long awaited text for my other site and that has taken priority over everything else. I'm three pages in and will hopefully post on Thursday.If Friday doesn't find me dead or something worse, a post will follow here shortly after. From then on in it should be uniterrupted sailing for the rest of the series which I'll write to a conclusion leading up to the NewYear.  The little break also gives me the opportunity to reflect and  think over the second half of these writings and make sure the texts don't become lost in themselves, that they finally add up to something more worthwhile than any individual post. If not all becomes lost and a waste of time, because these lives I relate were not lived and died for entertainment value... there was something much more bleak and tragic behind them, soething much more lost than taking a bad turn or drinking a glass too much.

Thanks for staying with me...
              My Mother's Sex Life  #11: Fat Alan....

to follow soon...

The Hobbs Hotel was a mid-priced tourist joint in the heart of central London. It was also a hotel with a 'DHSS Welcome' sign in its window, which meant it accepted government housing cheques, and by virtue of doing so turned a profit all year round regardless of the class of clientele it took in. It was a classic honey trap. Past the luxurious foyer, past the Indian porters with their burgundy backed waistcoats, past the reception desk with the leather  signing in book and antique wooden key racks up behind, you entered a back world of blood, puke and filth, mothers rushing around with armfuls of shit splattered sheets, naked, dirty children following, bawling; drunk men thumping down doors for entry; schizophrenics wandering the halls  arguing bizarre equations with themselves; perverts peeping from spyholes; half naked prostitutes skipping from one room to the next; wrinkled old women, the colour of smoked mackeral, dressed up like dead movie stars; fat guys with their doors ajar,  laying atop their beds with acorn sized erections. All this and more, perfumed over with the stench of dirty nappies and boiled cabbage which floated up from the residents laundry and kitchen below. Though,unfortunately, by the time you was being led through this commotion you had  either already given over your pounds sterling or had nowhere else to go. 

In an attempt to keep the disparate mix of clientele separated as best as possible, the hotel had a system for rooming its guests. Generally the real bad problem families (mostly Irish gypsies) were kept out of sight in the basement rooms. Single women, stable couples, and the insane were mixed throughout the first floor. And poor, but relatively clean families, were put up on the top floor. That left the second and third floors free for tourists and business guests. If you'd have stripped away the main front wall the floors would have resembled something like the different coloured strata in rock face. We were on the top floor, with two adjoining rooms between us. Mum had a room to herself and the other I shared with my brother and sister.

The manager of the hotel was Mr Patel. He was a small, slight, well groomed Indian man of around forty five who had given his lot in with the British. The first time I saw Mr Patel he greeted us from the taxi as we arrived. The second time he was standing outside the door of my room with his hands behind his back and a long, thin, light brown, bulbous headed cock poking out his pants. On seeing me he spun around panicked, hunching up and dropping his keys.

What? Where is your mother? he stammered, his back to me, stuffing his penis away and zipping himself to attention.
She's in the other room, I replied, we've swapped.
Swapped? You've swapped!That is strictly forbidden. Whatt'if there should be a fire? How da bluddy hell am I suppos'd to know where you are, where is at your mother? You cannot just swap willy nilly like this! You cannot!

Mr Patel still hadn't faced me. He'd said all this while fluffing his crutch flat and walking briskly away, hoping I'd not seen what he knew I had.

Tell that mother of yours that I'll be back, he called out. This will just not do!

I watched Mr Patel hurriedly take the fire escape. The light flicked on and through the round, wire glass panel of the door I followed the back of his head, his shiny, brilliant black hair as it went down the stairs. With myself the wrong side I pulled the room door shut. I stood and waited in the corridor. Barely a minute later the lift rang open and Mr Patel's polished shoes and silver suit stepped out. He looked at me and made a move like he was going to give chase.

Get in your room! He screamed. Get in your bluddy room!

* * *

Mum despised Mr Patel. She smiled and flirted for him and let his hands find places they shouldn't, but in private she hated him like I'd not seen her hate anyone barring my stepfather. The problem was that mum had made the terrible mistake of giving sex for the promise of favours, transferring power from seller to buyer. And once she had started down that road there was no turning back – at least not until she received the ultimate pay-off: a move into permanent accommodation. Of course, Mr Patel had no official say in such matters, he was no more than a small private landlord, but he assured Mum that his word carried heavy influence and he could procure speedy rehousing with the right letter of recommendation. Though,by way of reason, our rehousing wasn't at all in his interest. That would take Mum away from him, and he had no desire for that happen. To get around this problem he'd create difficulties and instances to save us from. It would finally turn around to be mum in debt to him and not the other way around. The pussy she had already banked was then used to pay off the new debts, leaving the one she thought she was fucking for still outstanding.

For example, one day Mr Patel called up and told Mum we had to come down to the reception. When we arrived he handed Mum a computer printout and stood there with his hands clasped in front of him, staring at her. Mum asked what it was and Mr Patel said it was a phone bill for 97 pounds which I had rung up, and which had to be settled immediately. Mum scrutinized the bill and pointed out that there were calls to foreign numbers dating back from before we were even in the hotel.

Don't worry about that, said Mr Patel, I assure you it was this one here who did it! Look, phoning them dirty sex chatting lines!

That was true. Out of curiosity I had phoned up a few chat lines but had promptly hung up as soon as someone answered. But the calls home to India at 3am in the morning, made while we were living the other side of London, were not mine.

Mr Patel told mum that if she didn't pay he'd have no option but to report us to the Housing Authority which had placed us there. He said he couldn't have that, that if all the tenants rang up such bills he'd be bankrupt within a month.

And don't forget, he said, when you are thrown out of here YOU have made YOURSELF homeless and will not be rehoused again.

Mum looked away, knowing she was being done. Visibly she steeled herself against something.

> Well, I can't pay it in cash... You know that, she said.

Mr Patel took the telephone printout. – Cash! Cash is not your problem! He cried. No, don't worry. We can wangle the cash from Social Security. But to do that, I would be doing a favour for you, not for myself. Understand?

Mum pulled a sour face. She understood alright. She understood Mr Patel's wicked smile just fine.

As we went back upstairs I asked Mum what would happen.

> Well, I'll have to fuck him again now won't I, she said, and shivered like he was already inside her.

From then on Mr Patel made himself a regular visitor to my mother's room. After a while he even stopped knocking, letting himself in with his master key at his choosing. He also tried to worm his way in with me. Seeing I occasionally swung a cricket bat through the hallway he began talking of cricket, of Sachin Tendulkar and how Kapil Dev was the greatest all-rounder the world had ever seen. He told me that his uncles were down in reception watching England vs Australia and that I should go and join them. As he said that he lit his eyes up with excitement, but I saw past that, to the slyness underneath, and the words 'little bastard' that held up his smile. I replied that cricket was boring on TV and didn't interest me. Over a period of weeks Mr Patel adopted various strategies to get rid of me so as he could fuck Mum in peace. To each suggestion I turned my nose up and shook my head, until he deplored me for the distraction I was, sitting the other side of his cheap partitioned walls as he drove it into Mum full of rage and anger, demanding that she call him a 'paki' all the while.

> I'm am not a paki! I am not a fucking paki! He'd scream, finally letting out an deep animalistic roar as he pumped my mother full of climax and hate .

As the months went by in The Hobbs Hotel, and it dawned on us that we'd be there for some time, my mother became more and more miserable, finally sinking into an acute depression. This depression was the catalyst which sent her spiralling into her most dire period of alcoholism, leaving her bed-ridden for months and almost sucking the life right out of her. During the onset of this oblivion Mr Patel would be in and out her room in no more than five minutes, sometimes up to four times a day. Now it was sex for nothing. Mum was incapable of bargaining, and wasn't conscious enough to know she had anything to bargain with.

> She's OK, Mr Patel would say to me as he left her room, just sleeping it off.

As the days and weeks drifted by My Mother became a recluse – haggard and loose and dead in the bed. She befriended a young prostitute from the first floor and used her to run her booze and cigarette errands, and only left the room herself once every second week to shuffle down to the post office to cash her Social Security book. She was in such a wretched state the even Mr Patel stopped entering for sex.

Mum was now down to pure existence. Alcohol had mollified her so much that it was as if her bones had been removed. She was now just a huge, loose, dirty sprawl of fuck on a filthy bed that men would walk in on, empty into and then leave. In the dark of the room, barely eating, surviving mostly on alcohol, her skin had bleached a deathly white palour, like she'd been submerged in water for weeks. It got so desperate that every few hours I would creep into her room to make sure she was still breathing, and to turn her around so as when she vomited it would be over the side of the bed and she'd not choke to death.

Sometimes, as I crept around the room, Mum would sense my presence. She'd cry and moan that we had to get out of this place. At times she'd try to rise, her pathetic drunken face full of the strain of trying to right herself, crying through the frustration of incapability before collapsing back down into the pit of passive life she had become. The only thing she could do was reach out for her glass and drink some more. And when, as often happened, she dropped the glass or put it down straight off the edge of the bedside cabinet, I'd hear her ghostly whinge through the walls and go and replace the glass and refill it too.

The room itself was then permanently in semi-smoky darkness. It smelled like a vomit factory, her sick bucket and floor full of thick, slimy, yellow bile cut through with slithers of congealed blood. The bed was a soiled, decomposing mess – almost something organic. As Mum rarely got out of bed there was never the occasion to change the sheets or flip the mattress over, and so over the piss and vomit and tears were laid blankets and towels and clothes so as Mum had a dry warm patch to lay on. The floor was a litter of bottles, plastic bags, bits of half eaten food, clothes, crisp and cigarette packets. It had become a chamber of infinite misery, my mother's struggle now drifting through her unconsciousness, a low drone of pain coming out of her and reverberating around the room as tears leaked out her eyes and soaked her pillow. She was dying, and somewhere beneath the drunk of alcohol she knew it too.

Mr Patel no longer even passed. Instead he'd either phone up to my room, or collar me as I passed through the foyer, making sure I had checked on Mum and that she was still alive. He said that another death would ruin him.

> I cannot put up with this much more longer, he'd say. That top floor is beginning to pong... my other guests are complaining!

At least three times a week he threatened he was going to report mum to the DHSS and have us removed, but I guess having two rooms let out for two thousand pounds a month stopped him doing anything quite that drastic.

Mum never did really pull herself out of that period of drinking, at least not while we were in the hotel. The place had become insufferable to her and, no matter how much she may have wanted to get sober, her overriding need was to black out the hell that life had become. She did however calm down enough to begin eating properly again, and once she had gotten some strength back she cleared the room out and cleaned herself up. She was still drinking in excess of a bottle of vodka a day, but now was at least out of bed as much as she was in it, and washed and applied a little make-up.

After being seen a few times, and at least semi-conscious, it wasn't long before Mr Patel was sniffing around again and pulling her against his groin and whispering sordid innuendos into her ear. The major difference now though was that he had experienced the downside of My Mother's wildness, had realiszed she wasn't for keeps (even under hostage) and had decided that it was maybe time to fuck her for the ultimate payment he had always promised. So, in my mother's clearer moments, life was just as obscured as before, only then by Mr Patel, his angry, clenched face all she could see as he drove it into her and released his pent up anger against the British, or his own secret shame of having put his lot in with them. Whatever the reason for the rage that channeled through his sexual endeavors, within a week, a smiling Mr Patel, overjoyed that he did indeed hold some petty sway in local government, handed mum a letter which said that on recommendation of the hotel's management we were the family most likely to benefit from immediate rehousing. The DHSS had found us a final, temporary property to move into until such time that permanent housing became available.

Mum lit up with relief. Sure, it was still only a temporary fix and we hadn't seen it yet, but it was a two bed-roomed flat all to ourselves and we would be the only ones with the key. As Mum looked over the letter again, and I strained to read it too, Mr Patel somehow worked his way between us, linking his arms around our waists and smiling as if there was a photographer to catch the moment. But there was no photographer, just a grotty, ill lit corridor with worn red carpet stretching out in front of us, and the smell of dirty nappies and boiled cabbage drifting up the stairs.

Mum pulled away from Mr Patel, letting his hand fall to his side. For a second he looked like he was going to reach for her once more, but then stalled and resisted. Mum was free, and as they say: that was the end of that.