This is how I like my flat most: in the living room, I can hear the leather of my thrift shop sofa squeaking as Gary shifts his weight. The smoke of his rollie starts to make its way into the kitchen where I'm making us Yasmin tea. The smoke finds its way through my open bedroom door as well, so that when I go to sleep tonight, the fragrance will remind me of my best friend's presence. What the smoke doesn't reach are my statues and paintings, because the door to the second bedroom is locked. As far as Gary knows, it's a storage room.
When I carry the tea tray into the living room, I see that Santa has made himself comfortable right next to Gary, almost forcing him to finger the soft fur of his flank.
I smile and sit down on a cushion on the floor; Gary flicks ash from his ciggie on a saucer next to the sofa; Santa makes the tremendous effort of lifting one big ear.
“Been up to much lately?” I ask.
Still stroking the rabbit, Gary gives me a serious nod. “Believe it or not, mate, I've been thinking about your little predicament.”
“You know, your problem with the ladies. But not to worry, I've got just the girl for you. The name is Angel.”
“Gee, thanks, but you don't have to set me up with a date.”
“Don't tell me you want to save yourself for Mrs. Right,” he says. “There is no such thing as the right woman. Only women who are good enough. Plural.”
“That's lovely, but I think I'll pass on this one.”
“Seriously, Angel's perfect: blonde, big tits, tiny waist, firm grip, more flexible than a snake charmer's snake...”
“I assume you've been there? Why do you need to set her up with someone else? Is she getting too clingy?”
“Not Angie, man. This girl is a professional.”
Gary leans forward to kill his cigarette butt, making Santa sit upright. “A professional whatever you want her to be. You ask her on a date, she gives you a quote.” Smoke escapes from his lips as he speaks. You pay upfront, tell her your problem over dinner, she gives you another quote and does the job for you there and then if that's what you want.”
I'm awestruck. Is my best friend really telling me to lose my virginity to a prostitute? But all I can ask is: “Is this legal?”
“I doubt she pays income tax, but to be honest, I would find it a huge turn-off if I knew the tax man would get 40% of what I gave her, don't you think?”
“A rather harsh pimp-charge indeed.”
It's too much for Santa when Gary tries to retrieve something from his pocket. Dissatisfied, he stamps his foot and jumps off the sofa.
When Gary has found the scrap of paper he was digging for, he puts it face down on my table. “Best get it over with as soon as possible,” he says, “no man should have to wait twenty-three years. Especially not a good-looking lad like yourself.”