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Hershey Bars & Nylons.  The Art of Baron Donald von Wiedenmen

Close Personal Friends
Donald von Wiedenman

Phillip

My life drifted along.  I hung out with Babyfingers most of the time, and I hardly saw anyone else.  She told me that Mother was giving a party on Valentine’s Day and I really should go.  It would do me good to get out and meet new people.  Besides, Mother always had the best drugs in London.

Mother’s real name was Francois de Plantage.  He was a titled Frenchman from Paris who had a large inheritance and a small antique business.  He had settled into London some years before and now at an indeterminate age in his middle years, he had come to be known as Mother because of his flamboyant penchant for looking after lost young men.

When Babyfingers introduced me to Francois at the Valentine Day’s party, he greeted me cordially but warily, like a protective female cat.  He kissed Babyfinger’s baby fingers eagerly, marveled at the new rings she had picked up on the Portobello Road, and asked a young man in a white Nehru jacket to bring us a drink.  Babyfingers and I were hardly in the need for substances to alter our consciousnesses, but who were we to refuse?  We were already tripping from the acid we took in the taxi over, and Babyfingers had a stash of Tuinol and heroin in her lace bodice.  We were always ready to party.

It was an odd mix of people, mostly men and boys, a few fag hags, as Babyfingers referred to the single women there, and assorted social lionesses like Sarah Churchill and Pamela Mason, who were off in one corner, surrounded by an attentive audience of men.  The flat itself was tastefully furnished in Overdone French, and every surface of every inlaid table-top was cluttered with silver-framed photographs of pretty boys and handsome men.

I suppose the party could be described as a slice of swinging, trendy London.  The setting was perfect, the cast beautifully dressed, the flowers fresh, the drugs plentiful.  Babyfingers introduced me to Pleasure, who spent the next hour telling us horror stories about working for Judy Garland, and although I was enjoying looking at all the pretty people, I was getting fidgety.  So was Babyfingers, who was always fidgety when she wasn’t unconscious.  The three of us found a dark corner.  Pleasure filled our noses with cocaine, we filled his mouth with downers.  It was, for a brief moment there, a match made in heaven.

Mother flounced over to us and said in a whisper, but one that was meant for all to hear, “Philip is cheating on me.  I just know it”

He tiptoed away from us, crept up to a closed door and put his ear to it, listening.  His actions were so obvious and so contrived that the conversation in that part of the room stopped.  We were all focused on the tableau before us, Mother standing poised and angry at the door, his hand reaching for the knob as he listened intently.  The door was apparently locked.  He rattled the knob, then tiptoed back to us.  His friends gathered around him, smelling a drama about to unfold.

“Philip is in there!  With someone!  Isn’t that just like him?  He’s so charming he thinks he can get away with anything!  He thinks he can slip away into the bedroom with an Aryan of dubious breeding and I won’t mind!  I thought he learned the last time he tried this!”

He tiptoed back to the door, exaggerating every step, and listened again.  We all crowded around the door with him.  Mother raised his long, thin fingers to his lips for silence, but it was unnecessary.  There was absolutely no sound in the room except the music.  The hysterical strains of Madam Butterfly seemed dramatically perfect.

Mother knocked softly on the door.  There was no answer.  He looked around, miming his suspicions with wide, dark eyes, then he knocked again, this time a little louder.  Receiving no answer, he again tiptoed away from the door.  Again the party followed him, all of us now on our toes.  Suddenly Mother threw up his hands and screamed, “What’s a mother to do?” and with that he raced back to the door and pounded on it furiously.  Pleasure joined him, and soon at least ten people were all banging on the door.  On acid, the intensity was immeasurable.  I had reached a new plateau of anxiety.

The door opened abruptly.  Mother nearly tumbled to the floor.  I strained to see inside.  A blonde, square-jawed young man stood in the doorway, looking sleepily at the crowd.  I figured he must be the Aryan.  No one else would have eyes that blue or look that angelic.

“Where’s Philip?”  Mother demanded, pushing past the nameless Aryan.  We followed Mother into the room.  The bed was made.  There was the faint print of a body on it.  The pillow was rumpled.

“I fell asleep,” the Aryan said.  “I didn’t think you’d mind.”

Mother, confronted with the empty, innocent room, was calming down.  “Why did you lock the door?”

“It wasn’t locked.”

“Yes, it was,” said Mother and several other guests in unison.

“I must have locked it accidentally when I closed it.”  He looked directly at Mother.  “Sorry.”

The Aryan’s sincerity was staggering.  Even Mother believed him.  “I’m sorry, too,” said Mother, putting his arms around the blonde young man.  “But I have such a love for Philip that the thought of the two of you together makes me crazy.  I saw how you looked at him earlier, and I thought…”

“Philip?”

“You haven’t seen him?  I’ve looked all over.  I thought he was in here.”

The Aryan shrugged.  The drama over, the crowd started to chat again.  The name  Philip was whispered from one end of the room to the other.

Babyfingers and I, seeking a little peace, sat on the bed and smoked a joint with the Aryan, whose name was Todd.

“Phillip told me Francois was a crazy person,” Todd said with a look of amazement shaping his face.  “But I never…”

 “This is great shit,” said Babyfingers, shaking her head in agreement with Todd.

Suddenly she caught sight of something on the other side of the room and choked on the smoke from the joint, coughing noisily.

Todd got up quickly and closed the bedroom door.  I looked behind me.  A young man, his face flushed from the cold, his hair tousled from the wind, was climbing in through the window.

“It’s freezing out there,” he said to Todd.  “I hope I can trust your new two friends not to give me away.”

“This is Philip,” Todd said to us.  “He’s being a very bad boy.”

I was incredulous.  I went over to the window and looked down.  We were four stories up.  There was a narrow ledge that ran along the building under the window.

Philip, the phantom from the darkness outside, was staring at me.  The intensity from his eyes was demanding, overwhelming, and I saw such vulnerability in his heart that I was almost embarrassed to look at him.  It was as if I were looking at a mirror-image of myself, so clearly could I understand how he felt.  I had never known anything like it.  He radiated a child-like goodness that was undeniably pure and sweet, yet at the same time, his strong, boyish masculinity had an almost sinister quality to it.

I was completely caught off guard.  I couldn’t look at him, afraid he would see into me as clearly as I had seen into him, yet his pull was too powerful to ignore.  I couldn’t catch my breath.  I staggered out of the room.  Babyfingers followed me.

“You’ll have to excuse him,” I heard her say to Todd.  “He’s on industrial strength drugs.”

I sat down on an oversized sofa by the bay window overlooking the street.  Marcia flopped down beside me.  Instinctively she knew that my soul had been touched, and like anyone whose soul has been touched, I was thrown off balance.  She didn’t say a word, but she gave me her last Tuinol.  It was the ultimate expression of friendship from one doper to another.

My heart was racing.  And it wasn’t from the cocaine.  I couldn’t get the image of Philip’s eyes from my mind.  What was happening to me?  I didn’t even know what he looked like.  All I had was a vague impression of sandy hair and pale green eyes that revealed too much, that demanded more.  Is that why I was feeling so out of control, so anxious?  Had I already realized that what those eyes demanded I would ultimately give?

There are certain events in the life that change a man’s destiny suddenly and forever. This was one of those moments.  I had already sensed the difference in how I felt.  The emptiness inside me was replaced with a hunger.

Pleasure, seeing me slumped on the sofa, came to the rescue with more cocaine and the latest gossip about Philip who he said had magically appeared at the party out of nowhere, much to Mother’s delight and frustration.

“Oh, that boy”, said Babyfingers, rolling her eyes.

Pleasure told me that Mother had “adopted” Phillip two months before, and although Phillip often flew the coop, he always came back to Mother in the end.

“He’s an American,” Pleasure continued.  “A student, I think, studying drama at the Royal Academy.  He is a strange young man.  He wears a silver swastika around his neck, and when he finishes reading a book, he destroys it.  Or at least that’s what Mother told me.

“Mother also said Phillip was as a child of the gods, put here on earth so that his strength could constantly be tested.”

Despite the anesthesia of the drugs, I felt a chill travel down my body and come to rest in my crotch.

“So who knows what he’s really like anyway.”  Pleasure finished, then wandered off.

Philip was standing next to Mother.  The two of them were the center of attention.  For the first time I saw how he looked.  He was handsome in a fresh, wholesome way, his body sturdy and strong.  His hair was light brown, almost blond, and it was parted on one side and fell loosely across his forehead.  His face was square and full, and it would have been an ordinary face if it hadn’t been for the drama of those pale green eyes.  His manner was easy and casual, yet it was well rehearsed.

If Pleasure had not told me he was an actor, I would have guessed it.  Every movement, no matter how spontaneous it appeared, was perfectly planned and had been practiced, I imagined, a hundred times before.  I watched as he lit a cigarette, a simple task that he turned into an entire scene from an unknown play.  Like many actors, he looked as if he were always being watched, always on stage.  He wasted no movement.  Every gesture was filled with a secret meaning.

I tried to discover what it was about him that had unsettled me so.  From where I sat on the sofa, there was nothing that extraordinary about him, but yet there was something.  The way he laughed was almost like a child, clean and wholehearted, a genuine expression of joyousness.  He had the habit of holding his cigarette between his index finger and the next, and then touching the shoulder of the one he was talking to with that same hand.  It was just a brief touch, yet like all his movements it was meant to provoke, and because it was so brief a touch, it held out the expectation of more.  I watched the faces of people he spoke to.  They were captivated by him.  It was not by anything he said or did, but by what he was not saying, what he was not doing.  It was apparent I was not the only one fascinated with Philip.

Mother hovered over him diligently, although never for very long.  Philip became annoyed, in his charming, boyish way, when Mother languished at his side, and as soon as that annoyance was communicated, ever so subtly, Mother slid away, only to slide back a few minutes later.  The pattern repeated itself all evening.

I still had not said a word to him although our eyes had met several times.  After a few moments, he would smile, then turn away.  Now, as the party was breaking up and only a few people remained in the room, he was standing alone in one corner, smoking a cigarette and distantly surveying the scene.  Mother was nowhere in sight.  This would be my chance to talk to him, but as I got closer and he saw me approach, his eyes transfixed me again, and just as before, I saw myself reflected back.  Not myself as I physically existed, but myself as I existed in the netherworld of my most secret dreams.  Good and evil, light and dark, joy and sorrow.  It was all reflected in his eyes, those pale green eyes.  He smiled at me.  His eyes expressed only good, only light.  There was no sign of evil, his or mine.

“I didn’t think you were ever going to speak to me,” he said touching me briefly on the shoulder with his hand holding the cigarette.  Again I felt the shiver.

“I need to talk to you alone,” I heard myself saying.  I was looking directly into his eyes, lost inside them.  “Will you come to my flat?”

“When?”

“Now.”

He laughed.  “I have to stay here with Francoise.”  He laughed again.  “I don’t even know your name.”

“Then come over later, after he’s asleep.  I’ll wait up.”

He touched me on the shoulder again.  The smoke from the cigarette burned my eyes.