(A Flash Fiction Story)
He lay in bed, almost in the foetal position, with the duvet wrapped tightly around him. Donal didn’t feel sleepy anymore but his body ached with tiredness. Any little thing left him drained and tired. Simply getting out of bed and going to the toilet left him exhausted and week. Yet, lying in bed was so boring, he wasn’t the type to read books endlessly and, though he had it on in the background, he’d lost interest in the radio station he had on.
Tim, his flatmate, had diagnosed flu and told Donal he needed to stay in bed, rest and drink plenty of fluids. That had been the night before and, because Tim was a nurse, Donal had listened to him. Now, the next morning, Tim was off at work and Donal was trapped at home. He’d never felt this ill before, he’d never had the flu or even a cold before.
Yesterday he’d been sent home from work. He’d felt rough on the tube train to work but dismissed it as only being tired. By mid-morning he had been drained of energy and could barely focus. Debbie, his manager, had sent him home sick, saying:
“For God’s sake don’t come back to until you’re well.”
Donal had been shocked to be ill. He’d never been ill, yet within six months of moving to London he was struck down with the flu.
He’d spent the first nineteen years of his life on his family’s farm, in rural Northumberland, with his parents and his older brother Angus. It was always expected that Angus would eventually take over the farm and that Donal would take second place. His parents made no attempt to hide their favouritism of Angus, but it had always been like that and Donal simply accepted it.
Things had changed as Donal had grown into his teens because he had come to realisation that he was gay. In rural Northumberland there weren’t any resources for someone gay. Eventually he found a gay group in Tynemouth. He had to wait until he was seventeen before he could to go to it, wait until he got his driving licence.
When he finally got to the gay group he was so disappointed. The group was small and insular; most of the men there were in couples and had very domestic lives. Though disappointed he carried on attending, every time he could borrow Angus’ car, it was his only contact with gay life. Through them he discovered the two gay bars in his area, the one bar who had a gay night and the other who unofficially let gay men met in the back bar. He also learnt all the local cruising grounds. All this wasn’t enough; it only felt as if he was playing at being gay.
A month before his nineteenth birthday he decided he had to move to a city, otherwise he’d never do anything about his sexuality. He decided on London because it had a large gay life, including the gay area around Soho. He approached an employment agency and to his surprise they quickly found him a job. It was working in the document archive of a big insurance company. The gay flat share agency found him several places to live, but after meeting Tim he choose that flat.
Shortly after his nineteenth birthday he moved to London. It was the perfect move for him to finally fully explore being gay; but it was also a vast disappointment. He didn’t realise how much he missed the wide open spaces of Northumberland until he moved to the city. London wasn’t s concrete jungle but it didn’t have the green hills and dramatic rock faces of his old home. People were more reserved in London, not unfriendly but not as ready to speak with strangers as he was used to. But most of all he missed the green countryside.
As winter overtook the city Donal had found the sight of it so depressing. In the countryside there would still be greens and life to be seen. In the city it seemed as if all the green and plant life just died away, leaving behind dull browns and greys. All the trees on the street he lived just died away. Part of him longed for the green of the countryside, but the rest of him knew he could never return to that half-life of only being able to be gay once or twice a week.
Though he hadn’t met a boyfriend he’d experience more of gay life then he’d ever imagined. Since moving to London he’d had real gay sex and he loved it. Not the quick and awkward tumbling’s he’d experienced in the back seats of cars or night time cruising grounds back home. All the people he knew in London knew he was gay, he didn’t have to pick carefully those he told. If he wanted he could go out to a different gay bar or venue each night of the week. He didn’t have to closet himself away in London, he couldn’t go back to his old life.
He’d never had a cold or flu before, all through his childhood and adolescent living on the farm, now living in London he’d been laid low with one. Tim had said that it was probably due to the air conditionings at work and being in such close proximity with all the people around him. He reassured Donal that he would develop a better residence the longer he stayed in the city. Eventually he’d look at that as a reassurance but at the moment, as his body ached with flu, all he felt was how miserable he was. He’d never been this ill before, but it would only be for a handful of days and then he could get back to exploring being a gay man.