‘From Essex to London in 101 Boyfriends’ was a blog I wrote in 2018, mainly for Facebook and my performing friends and fans. I posted two boyfriends a week, ending in January 2019 with ‘No. 101 The Husband’.
I went on an Arvon course and jigged the blog about. I applied and was shortlisted for the Arvon/Jerwood mentoring prize 2019. I went on to win a free read of the now 60,000 word autoficiton novel with ‘The Literary Consultancy’ via Shape Arts. With feedback from ‘TLC’ I edited the book and I am seeking publication of my book ‘JIGSAW’.
Here are the first two pages:
JIGSAW by Liz Bentley
- Nowhere Man
I sat opposite Nowhere Man on the tube, having just visited Sam at Bart’s hospital. Sam had AIDS and was dying. I felt alone with my impending grief, Sam’s other friends were men from the gay community I felt excluded from.
I’d used the top of my cigarette packet for a roach, the packet was nearly empty. I put the remaining fags behind my ears and made the rest of the packet into an origami robot, with a massive dick that stuck out like ‘Jake the Peg’. Nowhere Man laughed, he looked a bit younger than me, dark skin, lean and fit. I wrote my number with eyeliner down the side of the dick of my robot, gave it to Nowhere Man, and got off at my stop.
He rang me at work from a call box the next day. He understood numbers and places and we agreed to meet at Eros, Piccadilly Circus at 8pm the following Friday. I stood by the God of sensual love and desire, not aware of the meaning of Eros, Psyche or anything else I was continually acting out, but l felt like a circus, a clown one minute and a dancing horse the next. Climbing over and around sexually transmitted diseases and the human condition of death and dying.
Nowhere Man was only a few minutes late. We got onto a bus, me distracting the driver trying to find my Travelcard, while he got on behind me. We found seats upstairs at the back of the bus and smoked my fags.
We ended up in a flat, on the 10th floor of a block overlooking a pretty North London area I hadn’t been to before, near Swiss Cottage, I think. In the flat there were Nowhere Men everywhere, sleeping bags in corridors and on the kitchen floor.
“You going in there fucking?” Another man said.
He leant against a wall, smoking a roll-up. He gave my Nowhere Man a condom and we fiercely snogged our way into the bathroom.
I leaned over the bath. There were seventeen broken tiles on the wall in front of me. I was shocked, but this time not by my own behaviour, but by this group of men. Hundreds of Bosnian refugees were beginning to descend on and around London, victims of torture from Serb-run detention camps. The men had an air of trauma I recognized from my Samaritan callers who had been abused. I left the flat and found my way via three night buses back to the squat. As the final bus pulled into Eltham station, I got to the last page of ‘The Road Less Travelled’.
“Everything that happens in life is there to aid our spiritual growth” – M Scott Peck.
I was coming to the end of this particular road, dark nights of the soul and the bad egg smell from the corrosion in the water and heating system of the squat, keeping me awake.
I walked towards Mottingham with Nowhere Man on my mind. I wanted to understand the world more, I wanted to go deeper into the human psyche beyond my work as a Samaritan volunteer. To do this I had to look deeper within myself.
There was a note on the kitchen table.
“Liz, Eviction tomorrow!”
I didn’t want to see my fellow squatters before I left. I packed my rucksack and ventured back out into the night air, and onto another three night buses. At 7am I arrived at Marni’s door step. I knocked on her door and sat on the cold landing. Marni slept well, she wouldn’t wake until her alarm at 7.30am.
At school I’d been shit at maths, but I loved numbers. I counted paving slabs and I loved lists, which included a list of boyfriends. It began as a joke with Marni at primary school, but now it had become the nightmare. Number 89 Nowhere Man. The next man I would be seeing was Ian, I wasn’t sure whether to put him on my list or not.
- The Therapist