In the park toilets Taylor stood by the urinals dwelling on the fact that a full twenty minutes had passed and he hadn’t moved. A few men had come and gone, blokes simply needing the facilities, a quick in and out, hardly sparing him a glance. But why would they? Perhaps nothing untoward was at play here at all. Perhaps he was simply killing time, having a think, some time out. In fact, maybe he’d even forget all about it and walk out of here right now. It was possible you know. He could do it. Simply climb back into his car and head home. It wasn’t as if he was lonely, short of company – he was a married man. A normal man.
But things didn’t work like that, not at times like this, so why fucking kid himself. It was one of those days again. One of those tense fucking days when there was only one remedy, one way out – for a while at least. Any minute now somebody would stroll in and things would get going – and that’s what he wanted, that’s why he was here.
Are you okay? his wife had asked him earlier, noticing him staring from the window, something on his mind. It was his workload perhaps. His boss pushing him, getting to him again. Or maybe it was his old depression coming back. God forbid, because those times were hard, things so bad at one point that he’d had to go away – only for a few weeks mind, but still. But he told her he was fine.
Just daydreaming, that’s all. You know me.
He got his keys and told her he was going for a drive. He needed to collect some papers from work. Stuff he wanted to look over before Monday.
Work, she thought. Of course.
Taylor stared straight ahead as a man entered the toilets, standing three paces away. This was it. He knew it before he even turned his head – Taylor an old hand at this sort of thing. But he hadn’t always been. He thought back to the days when it was all new to him. An adult world full of codes and glances. Dark streets and bright lights. Getting the bus from the children’s home down to the West End. The pull of Soho – the arcades, the cafes. Fourteen years old and a whole world out there. He hadn’t a normal home life and school was just as bad and it was only natural, to want to get away, see stuff, meet people – how could he be blamed?
Before long he was turning tricks in the Dilly. Taking pills and going home with people and telling himself it was harmless, a way of making money, when in reality he’d been young and vulnerable, with no mother, no father, out looking for attention, affection, the love he’d never had.
The man was masturbating now, staring at him. Taylor nodded to the cubicles and over they went. The man sat, Taylor stood, the stranger taking him in his mouth. The memories of those early days had never left him. Eventually he’d managed to pull himself up, get a career, a respectable life, but still they preyed on him, bubbling to the surface, threatening havoc.
One night a stranger took him back to an East London flat where there were other men waiting for him. He was stripped and drugged and what happened over the next few days didn’t bear thinking about. By the end of it they wanted him dead. They tried to strangle him, and if they’d succeeded he would have simply been one of many. But he got away, running through the night, never to tell a soul.
The gang were later caught and jailed, and the case created quite a furore. Rumours of victims reaching twenty, thirty, but only a few bodies ever found. You might have heard about it. Hackney, the eighties. One of the gang was kicked to death in prison. Another died of Aids. One, years later, was blasted with a shotgun after opening his front door. But to Taylor it was little consolation. Those men changed him.
He was pushing the man’s head back and forth and soon it was all over. Taylor tucked himself away, the man saying something, expecting him to return the favour perhaps. But Taylor was quiet now, the usual self-disgust rising through him, as familiar as an old friend. He opened the cubicle door, stepped out for a moment, the room empty, not a soul. As a youth he’d made mistakes, taken some wrong paths, but the punishment meted out to him was undeserved. He hadn’t been dug naked out of the earth, a cold body covered in soil, but in a way he may as well have been, a part of him dead forever, year in, year out.
He ripped the man out by the hair and punched him to the floor. The man curled tight as Taylor worked on him with a ferocity unheard-of since last time. And when was that? Two, three months ago? So long in fact he’d wondered if the urge would ever return. But here he was again, kicking a man half to death on a toilet floor, shifting the blame, righting the wrong, doing what had to be done.
He stopped to catch his breath. The man was motionless, out for the count. Then he shifted slightly and groaned. Taylor once more flew at him, three more kicks and the man was unconscious. Taylor stared at the scene as the tension drained. Life was cruel and unfair, an endless struggle, an endless search for a happiness that perhaps didn’t even exist. But you took the risks and did what you had to do. To keep afloat. To keep you sane.
Walking across the empty park, it felt like a load had lifted. It would soon be dark. He upped his pace as he headed to the car. His wife would be wondering.
Michael Keenaghan lives in London. His stories have appeared online and in print. Visit his website here : https://www.michaelkeenaghan.wordpress.com