Tuesday, January 12

The Gasman For Klimt

THERE WAS A MISSED call from my landlord when I awoke, which triggered a fit of nerves, so I had a cigarette, made myself a pot of coffee and stared at the sun, which was bright and most welcome on my windowsill. Returning his call would have to wait. I lazed around for a couple of hours and then decided to take a walk south of the river, but by then the sun had gone behind the clouds and winter was back to normal. I stopped in at a café for another coffee and to check on the football scores. Outside, cars, buses and taxis were going parallel to the river, each reflecting the buildings off their bulbous metal while inside the café small conversations took place. I felt quite alone, not lonely, you understand, but alone. I stole glances at a girl across the room, who was indeed pleasing to the eye as she chatted laughter on the phone; who received the laughter, though? I drank hurriedly because there was much to do. Why had my landlord called me? I was still nervous when I thought about it; nervous, perhaps, that he would visit and despair at the smell of smoke and the photographs and paintings I have hung from the wall, his walls; I am just borrowing them. There were tourists out and about, although it was not too busy and I could walk quite uninterrupted. Dusk was settling; the sun was at an angle now where it only highlighted one distinct side of the rooftops in the most religious gold, while the sky above it brooded in deep greys and blue, satisfied that it was soon to die into darkness.
Another missed call from the landlord. I called him back—‘I’ve got a gas engineer there, in the building, to do some regulation gas check. Is it okay if we pop in? Are you around this afternoon?’
‘Nah, ‘fraid not. I’m out. Is it possible to do it during the week?’
‘Yeah.’
I would have to take care to hide the ashtray and clean the flat so that it smelled nicer, perhaps burn some incense and light some scented candles; one can never be too careful. Satisfied that things would be under control, I entered the art gallery. I went to a Calder exhibition and all of his characteristic mobiles. As always I found as much wonder in the women who attended art galleries as I did the art within; perhaps that is shallow of me, but I could not help it. I lingered below the mobiles, circling them to achieve a good viewpoint, until a beauty caressed my periphery and I was distracted once more. Perhaps it would be better if they banned beautiful women from entering the galleries – and children, while we are writing ridiculous rules; I scowled at a great many of them who brushed my hip.
It was dark out and, along some stretches, very difficult to see in front of you. Everywhere was dead; or at least it was dead for London. Early January is dead everywhere. I rode the District line back to Aldgate and alighted, looking forward to an evening of drawing, a couple of beers and some Beatles records.
Down my road a very large man was walking toward me. It was not until we were face to face that I saw it was my landlord. He surprised me and I was taken aback. He asked if it was okay to pop in. I said yes and then hurried upstairs. I hid the ashtray in an airtight bag under a pile of handkerchiefs in my drawer, tidied the empty bottles of wine, hid a pack of condoms and put all smoking paraphernalia in my pockets. I opened the window as wide as it would go so that a cold wind drove through the flat. The gasman knocked and I let him while I was I emptying the dishwasher, acting as though emptying dishwashers was how I filled my time. The landlord arrived. We had not seen each other in six months. He is a monster of a man, a tall Indian gentleman who could moonlight as a doorman. He has a big gut and dark rings around his eyes. He was very friendly and asked me how I was doing as we stood in my hallway. The tea towel hung by my waist. He made small-talk until he spotted a Klimt nude I have framed in the bathroom—‘What’s that?’ Hmm, I shrugged it off—‘A painting. I just quite like it in there, I dunno why.’ He clicked his fingers—‘It reminds me of the Kama Sutra. You ever read that?’ ‘Nah.’ ‘Listen, my mate, right, he went to India and met this bird there,’ his eyes flicked between me and behind me, at the flat—‘And she’s a Kama Sutra expert, right? She fucks him—’ he looked behind me—‘There’s no-one else in, is there?’ I smiled—‘No.’ ‘She fucks him in thirty different positions, right? Thirty! And she blows his mind. Blows his mind! I never told you this, did I?’ He’s addressing the gasman—‘I never told you this, did I? He has to go on the old Viagra, right, cos he can’t keep it up this long. She’s doing all these different positions. She has him on all fours, she spreads his arsecheeks and sticks her tongue up his arse.’ I don’t recall seeing that in the Kama Sutra. ‘Then she does this other position, bends him over like this, right, and gets on top of him like this, and he tells me “I could feel everything inside her!” Everything, he says. Unbelievable.’ The gasman is working away. I am chuckling, blushing for myself and for Klimt.
‘He should’ve married her.’
‘He wanted to… but she weren’t having any of it.’
‘No shit.’
‘She learned—get this, right—she learned all this Kama Sutra shit off this old fella, he’s sixty and this guy is getting laid all the time!’
‘I bet.’
‘Hey, you gotta girlfriend?’
‘Not really, it’s not serious.’
‘Good lad, hey, you like Star Wars?’ He’s seen something in my flat.
‘Who doesn’t?’ says the gasman without looking up.
We walk into my flat—‘I like what you’ve done with the place. Very homely. You’ve made it your own. I like that bookshelf there.’ He starts talking to me about absurd property prices. ‘Hey, lemme give you this guy’s number. Any problems with your gas or your boiler or anything, he’ll come and sort it out. He’s great. You can trust him, too! I could leave a million quid there, and he wouldn’t touch it. Don’t let him in when your girlfriend’s knocking about, though.’ We laugh. ‘Nah, I’m just kidding. He’ll look but won’t touch.’ ‘Look but won’t touch,’ echoed the gasman. And then, like that, they were gone. I opened a beer and found something to draw on. Recovering my ashtray from the drawer, I unwrapped it apologetically and looked out at the dark London night. A lone white dot hung in the sky, brightly. The space station? A satellite? Perfectly alone. It held my attention. I sharpened all of my pencils and started to draw.

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