By Amrou Al-Kadhi
Originally performed by Amrou Al-Kadhi
DEV is a 22-year-old gay man. He is a bartender in Soho. He lives in a flat in Vaxhaull with three other gay men, and is trying to make it as an actor in London (so far he has only secured a couple of corporate videos, etc…). He is very handsome. He is fairly uneducated, and moved to London (from Surrey) at 19 after falling out with his Dad, in a dispute that revolved both around his sexuality and his career decision. He was diagnosed with HIV 1 month ago (February, 2014), and the news took him completely by surprise – he took the HIV test by the off chance at this gay sauna he sometimes frequents in Vaxhaull, not remotely realising that he was at any risk at all. He had never even considered the possibility. He has made a name for himself as a regular party-boy at the various gay clubs around London (East Bloc, Room Service, etc…), and is a mini “celebrity” on the scene.
It is 9:30pm on a Thursday Night. Dev is in his bedroom. Clothes scattered all over the floor. Some medicine bottles on the night stand, some drug residue evident too, as well as an open bottle of red wine and a dirty glass next to it. Empty cigarette packets.
Dev is slowly getting ready to go out as the audience come in, while smoking, drinking, listening to a little bit of music too. He is topless.
When the audience fully enter, he turns the music down to talk to them.
Hello! You all Ok? I’m Dev. But you can call me Diva. (Like a drag queen) Welcome to Paradise…(gesturing to the fairly bleak room).
(Lights a cigarette/pours a glass of wine)
Now, without meaning to sound INCREDIBLY cliché…. BUT…is it just me, or are gay men just IMPOSSIBLY FIT? I’m becoming increasingly inclined to think that it’s a statistical fact or something. For all the biological shortcomings we have to face – our inability to reproduce, for instance, or the unfortunate fact that our entry point is also the place where we take a dump – gay men are kind of like a special sector of the human race, more sexy and intensely more refined and turned out than that species of bum-scratching oger couch potatoes I like to call heterosexuals. (He pauses for a moment, realising the slight absurdity of this line). Look, I don’t hate heterosexuals per se, but my dad’s one and he’s a fucking twat, and an icon of heterosexual gracelessness, I might add. (Pause).
Quite a few of you are looking at me like I hate straight people or something, which is simply not true, but I DO think its OK to point out, that, on the whole, gay men are better turned out than straight ones. We get beat up at school, and kicked out of our homes, so just give us that. Give us ownership of that, please. Beauty, sex, a-political sexual encounters that do exactly what they say on the tin…and then some…can’t we just have that? (Dev takes a moment…a flashback of a drugged up sexual orgy, maybe. He remembers it both fondly and with regret).
I was 19 when I first “showed up on the scene.” By “showed up on the scene,” I mean awkwardly walking around Soho with a boner in my pants. I was nervous, I admit, but I loved not knowing who anyone around me was – it felt like going to school all over again, only this time everything around me seemed like a beacon of possibility, hope, and sex, not a horizon of impossible hurdles. (Dev laughs, almost embarrassed). Fuck I was horny that night! And you know what, I got picked up by someone quite hot too…this bearded Brazilian targeted me outside Bar Soho – I think he could smell my first timer desperation – and drove me back to his. I’m not sure what all your first times were like, but I spurted out my “goods” before anything substantial was actually happening. Needles to say, Raoul wasn’t best pleased. Anyway, I’ve learnt, after a fair few outings now that I have a really cute “bubble-but,” – see (turns round to give the audience a little peek) - and have the ideal winking face and physical dimensions to constitute a “power-bottom twink.” Oh yes. (Dev is almost “pretending” to be proud here).
Some of you look confused? TO CLARIFY: Power-bottom twinks are that rare and prized specimen of gay youth, whose toned bodies, pert bums and dazzling smiles seem to act as magnets to the more gruff “daddy-types” that roam around. And we stick together too. Like hungry hyenas. (Dev bites and growls like a wolf, really quickly). Pretty quickly I met loads of other guys my age – cute, hopeful, fun, vying to make it as a model, actor, singer, fashion designer….you know the score. In many ways, it’s the closest thing I’ve had to family. Like a family without any rules. Like a really fucking fun family. (He feels happy, momentarily. Maybe thinking back to an in-joke he shares with his chosen “family.”)
We began to get recognised on the scene quite a bit, getting invited to the sexiest parties with the sexiest men. I made “orange” my colour. Everyone used to say “you’re on fire” Dev. (He laughs, remembering a few faces fondly) Little alcoves of East London and Soho belong to us now – we have our own hierarchies, our own rules, and most of YOU would never even make it (Dev is obviously supressing a pang of anger when he says this, quite emphatically and unexpectedly). Everyone wants to sleep with ME. I’m power bottom twink numero UNO folks. I’m great in the sack, and every drug fuelled marathon extends the invite. Can you say that?
(Dev pauses for a while. He is getting upset, all of a sudden – begins to light a cigarette).
Who the fuck’s gonna shag me now I have HIV.
(Pause – he is genuinely thinking about his situation, and his strategies.)
To be honest, maybe it’s a good thing. At least now that I have it, I’ll never have to worry about getting it, you know what I mean? Yeah, I’m relieved. It’s done now. I mean, it’s not like you can see it on me. I don’t have HIV plastered on my forehead like some sort of dunce now, do I? I mean how can something so pretty be so diseased, right. I can still see all of you guys drooling. (Dev is trying to be funny, but it’s not really helping or working).
(Dev is becoming increasingly more neurotic)
I mean what does it even mean. – you didn’t think I had HIV until I told you. With the meds and everything today you can live for as long as everyone else - though I don’t get why you would altogether want to to be honest…everything falls apart when your older and uglier anyway. There’s NOTHING wrong with me, ACTUALLY. HIV’s just another name, like Dev…or Diva (trying to laugh off how upset he really feels). It doesn’t actually MEAN anything.
(Dev knows that he doesn’t believe what he is saying at all).
You know what the problem with the gay scene is? So many men are just IMPOSSIBLY FIT. In every sense of the word. So many are just mouth-wateringly attractive, and are physically just FIT. Everyone just looks so bloody healthy. I mean the number of perfectly chiselled bodies I’ve seen is a piss take. Yes, that’s what gay men have. People who are deceptively, and impossibly, FIT. Kindly give us ownership of that.
How was I supposed to know that people who looked so healthy, so beautiful, were also “infected.” Whose supposed to make that fucking link? Maybe its obvious and I’m just stupid. Yes, admittedly, my bad for not using a condom here and there, but the men this involved just looked so goddamn HEALTHY. In my few years going out, HIV has just never really been talked about. Why would it be, in a club of fit, healthy men, celebrating their virility through sex with one another? How was a 19 year-old boy like me to know that something like 1 in 7 gay men in London have HIV? I think that’s what my doctor said anyway.
I’ve been reading a bit about HIV recently, and I honestly think it’d be better if it were like the 80’s…at least THEN you could tell when someone was infected. All skinny and pale and shit, you’d never want to fuck them anyway. Not like now.
(Again, Dev really isn’t sure if he means the last sentence. He feels a bit hopeless.)
I wish I didn’t have my test. I only had one since they were offering those quick 5-minute rapid ones for free at this sauna I barely go to – it was a totally random decision, almost a joke. I wish I didn’t know.
(Dev finds a tight tank top, plays some house music on his laptop, puts some moisturizer on his face, lip balm on his lips etc... He racks up a line of mephodrone, snorts it, and looks at himself in the mirror, and stares, emptily. After shaking off the feeling, he takes out his phone, dials a number. He puts on a performatively up beat and characterful voice.)
Alexis baby – let’s go out. Jodie’s throwing one of her parties in Soho…I’m going for 90’s faded glamour tonight baby…...be with ya in 30.
(Dev puts his phone down, and looks at the audience, almost defensively, as if being judged).
Obviously I’m not going to tell anyone. No one fucking told me.