The Cumberland Hotel is in Marble Arch. I sold it to Nile that it lies in the heart of the glamorous Mayfair district of London, home to many superstars (couldn’t think of one) and it cost £250 per night (in reality it cost 35 quid). I used to work for the same chain some time ago, so we got a discount to 35 smackers per night on a staff rate. My mother and father have also graced this hotel. Well, actually my mother wanted to leave because there was only a bath at the time, but then she fell in love with the place. When they were returning home I whispered to my dad that a bath—more than one a day—might spice thing up little.
Returning to us in the cab—the cab driver dropped us off in front of the hotel, Nile paid. He liked the place immediately with its modernist, different look and massive reception area with low level lighting in pink and green. When I looked it did not appeal as much. The many places I have been and seen whizzed through my mind as I walked into the centre of the hotel lobby. Nile was mesmerised by an Arab guy, dressed in his national clothes, surrounded by about six women, all dressed the same, black. Nile looked at me. Fuck, I can’t even handle one, was my only thought. Nile then proceeded to walk to over to where they were now sitting, onto benches that lie throughout the very large minimalist reception of the hotel. He dragged me ungratefully over, down he sat and plonked me next door.
We sat there for a while, Nile had lost all interest in the Arabian and his many wives, noting that if he cut me up into pieces then he also would have just as many. I laughed so loud, leading to Nile doing the same. I remember so clearly Nile farting with as much volume as our laughter, and it stank to high heaven. Apologising to all and none concerned, that he had nothing to do with the distressful smell as we ran round in a circle, looking as mad David Hasslehoff in a pop video. Destination—reception, which was achieved and reached.
The receptionist was a pleasant, French man, mid 20s, nice appearance and he gave us his full attention almost immediately.
Without warning Nile and I burst into song;
There’s a fire burning, burning, burning
Feel the love that’s calling, calling
I can see it coming, coming
Can you feel it in the air tonight?
We added a big “yeaaaah!”
Axwell had just come on at the reception’s music player and with no though of where we were the words just shot out, a bit like a page 3 girl’s barrows. I then proceeded to do the dance routine that I had come up with nights ago, which Nile refused to be part of, wholeheartedly. Back in jump, the receptionist looked at us, whispering to Nile;
“Poor chap. I really now believe there is life on another planet.” And we were it. “Can I help you?” No, was my silent thought and Nile burst into laughter straight away due to his strong French accent. The poor man then repeated the question, again Nile was hysterical.
“Can I help you?” Thus leading the giggles back to me, taking charge of the satiation. For fuck’s sake, all we had to do was check in the bloody place. Come on, I’m capable of doing that.
As I was about to say something in help of speeding this process along:
“Can I help you Sir?" That was it. My mission was not going to be accomplished as Nile was crying with laughter on the floor. At this point the Arab and his many wives were watching. (I counted six I recall; Nile swears there were definitely seven) So we waited a bit before either of us could say another word. Nile’s Can I help you? was heard again, the laughter from him was so loud again, that a quick exit was needed. The bar of course was the nearest the place.
Now better composed and to ready act like the adults we were not, we stood at the bar and grabbed the attention of the bar man. Again, a very pleasant chap came straight over.
“What can I get you please?” Nile creased below the bar in laugher. The barman was also fucking French. This one however was having none of our happiness and did say, that if we continued he would get us thrown out.
“What for? Laughing?” Nile’s correct response. I made a truce with him, that we were not to laugh any further, while we were still laughing but trying so hard not to.
The laughter quickly stopped after receiving a call from Claire’s boyfriend, JC. Strange, he never calls me, Claire had had a miscarriage (I didn’t even know that she was pregnant) and she was over in the London Bridge private hospital. She would have loved to see us, as we were not far from there.
When situations like this are thrust upon us, I don’t think you’re ever ready to deal with it. Especially when it presents itself to one’s close friends or family, some you deeply care for. Again, the second time that day I had no words, (apart from the sudden thought that it could have been mine), so Nile took the phone and knew exactly what to say. He asked how JC was, nice to hear from him, our thoughts are with Claire and we would visit the following afternoon. He returned the mobile to me to conclude.
I was silent. This sounds shit I know, I was busy thinking—fuck, if she was pregnant I was hoping it was mine, and now any chance of that had gone. In the past I’ve have a big involvement in children’s upbringing, but out of all things in life, that was one thing high on my agenda. I have now gone down the long term fostering route, give the kids a chance to get to meet "US" and where the local shop is to buy my fags.
“Are you ok Zach?” JC asked, while I held the phone. “Are you okay?” He explained he was very upset as he too was looking forward to being a dad and worried about how deal with this.
“I’m so sorry,” and truly was, I said. Nile was signing with his lips ‘CLARE’. “How’s Clare doing?” was a later added response.
No clairvoyant in world could have been acute and as accurate as Nile was about to be.
"You were hoping the little fella was yours weren’t you Zach?” Nile delivered the sentence like a sentence, and added humour to my pain, much to his amusing and morbid curiosity.
“Why would someone as nice as Claire want to mate with me in first place?”
“Desperate women in desperate times,” Nile giggled, and so the laughter returned.
We went outside to have a fag and BBC’s Matt Lucas, from ‘Little Britain’ and ‘Come Fly With Me’, walked by alone.
“Hey Zach. How are you?”
“Fine Matt,” Nile looked shocked.
“I’m fine,” as he walked by and into the shadows of many people crowding along London’s, Oxford Street. I was feeling chuffed with myself in front of Nile. What’s Mouthwood got to say about that? Getting ready to do the victory figure.
“You haven't, have you? Tell me you haven't,” Nile pleaded.
“Haven't what?” I shouted. Then it hit me, a bit like a Chinese girl offering a blowjob, totally unexpected. “Shagged him? No I have not.”
"Fhew. Even he can’t be that desperate. Can he Zach?”
“Why do I bother getting out of bed Nile?”
“I don’t know,” and Nile return back to the subject at hand. “How do you know him then Zach?”
“Nile, you now how it works. Tit for tat—you tell me something and then I tell you.” Our hands came out. Our hands shook. I gave Nile a kiss as an added bonus, only for Nile to look at me smile widely.
“Come on Nile. Lets see if we can manage to check in like the adults we really are.” Nile mood was nothing but laughter. With this is mind—fuck it, of course we can check in. Back to the reception we went.
No one was at the reception apart from a long stream of many well-groomed staff, male and female. I asked Nile to pick one. The cutest was picked and over we went to check in.
“Good evening. Sir may I help you?”
Nile cracked up trying badly to hide behind me as the giggles had over taken for good.
After the 4th attempt they had now confirmed that, no, we were not scammers on dodgy credit cards. Mr and Mr Smith was not our name and our address was not the moon. Finally to the room we went. They’re quite cute in this hotel, ultra modern, good size, good sound, soon to discover along with the rest of 14 floor. Nile's first words as he worked into the room and threw himself on the bed;
“Zach, the one in Chelsea was better than this.”
“Fuck off to Chelsea then.” Nile looked at me. I looked at Nile, he smiled and so did I. Into bed we sunk. Really have no reason or conclusion on why, but all people behave badly in hotels. No DSO in our room, so Nile ordered room services to the extreme, more so while I gave the mini bar a good seeing too. Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door. Nile was nearest, thinking it was food he answered only to be presented with a rather pretty, but hard looking Eastern European girl.
“You’re young. Have you done this before? Have you money first?” The first words from this woman. Nile, without thought let the woman into our room. Aviation security would be proud. On noticing me:
“Arrr, I didn't know there was two of you.” She announced. “The price doubles, you know that? Did they tell you that?” Nile Looked at me, I looked at Nile.
“Nile, you’re the one who ordered room service.” Then it clicked with Nile.
“What room are you looking for?” Nile inquired. She duly showed Nile the info in her phone. Nile cleaned the corner of her mobile. She laughed;
“I see. I’m completely fucked, wrong room. Shame. Bye.”
Out she went. She soon will be, was our silent closing thought, laughing as she departed.
We had now decided that we’d make use of the hotel room and stay in. In other words, Nile was disgustingly stuffed. Loads of films needed to be watched.
“X-Box … truth Mr," I demanded.
“The deal was, you tell me something first Zach.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was Sunday and it was my shift to work at Home House members club in London. I arrived at work expecting a normal day, instead Matt Lucas was getting married to his partner, TV producer Keven McGee. Fuck, I thought. I had a late night the night before with Steven Gately from Boyzone and his motley crew. Ill prepared was an understatement. To make matters worse, I was the only manager on duty. Fuck’s sake, this is all I needed. I have luck on my side—one of them would not turn up... Men aren’t worth it, I know. Please go and then I’ll go to sleep in one of the wonderful guest rooms Home House has to offer. One could dream.
On Seeing Matt, ‘lets make these thoughts real’ as I followed him into his guest room.
“Matt, I'm really, really fucked. Any chance you getting cold feet? On second thoughts, no. Don't want to go through with it? By any chance have the wedding next week? No? I'm having an affair with your husband.” No avail. Matt burst out laughing;
“NO. No,” not excepting what I had just said. He kept me talking for good while. I remember his shoes being dirty.
“Fuck, there’s loads of press outside.” I began cleaning his shoes and taking complete crap about the wedding. “I’d love to have one day with Victoria and David Beckham as mermaids,” which lead to “42% of marriages don’t last, and partners cheating is on the increase. Domestic violence. Look at way Richard talks to Judy on TV,” was my firm example.
No, the wedding went ahead. Hundreds of journalists and news crews had descended outside the front door. I was busy – being busy. Barbara Windsor, Dale Winton, David Walliams, Paul O’Grady, Elton John and Charlotte Church (who was updating me hourly on gossip) and then Steven Gately, the walking bottle of vodka arrived from the night.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Nile squeezed me.
“Okay, Okay. Shut the fuck up. It’s boring. I’ll tell you my story then. I had a party at my flat back in July. My mum was away and I invited you. Anyway, you didn't want to come. Lots of people came, but some knob drew a massive knob on my wall and I had an accident [our code for something sexual] as well. I had to sell my X-Box to pay for it all, Okay? I did not want to ask you for the money and I had to pay for other things too.” The story Nile had just told me mirrored a party exactingly the same as my party back in March.
Matt Lucas’s boyfriend committed suicide three years later. At the time I sent Matt an email. I was shocked when the news was breaking, thinking how awful it was. What must it be like to be left behind? To try and answer the questions that in fact you cannot answer. I thought that thankfully it was one thing I would never have to deal with.
Playing with Nile at the time I told him this;
“I’ll kill you if you ever did this to me.”
“I’d be dead already you knob,” was his quick-witted reply. Never once was I thinking that Nile would ever do such a thing. “Steven Gately also died,” Nile added, and we went to discuss his death instead. Nile and I spent the whole night/morning in bed. We mirrored each other in many ways.
We arrived at the reception of the London Hospital in London Bridge. Beautiful, we were escorted to a lounge by a graceful, middle age women who offered tea, coffee, spirits, anything we wanted. Nile in jest did ask for a bacon sandwich only to be asked;
“On which bread.” So I had the same. We could only be visiting Claire. I remember looking around the reception with nothing to mark indicate that this place was in fact a hospital. Spinning back, Nile was now snacking away on his sandwich, with his little feet on the chairs. He had the ability, on the condition he was happy or comfortable, to make himself at home anywhere or with any people, always belonging.
“Miss M is ready for you both now.” Nile pinched my side. That was his way of saying, you OK? I would always respond by kissing him on the top of his forehead no matter where we were.
Looking tired and cried out, Claire greeted us both and we both sat on the bed. She spoke for a long while about everything. Nile gave her a day-to-day account of life in student town, the film students that surrounded him, and the basic lack of talent on his horse documentary, which entertained us very much. I explained what was going on with my life (lack of it, tragic aspects being alive) and Claire and Nile completely agreed. After all the insults Nile would always end with ‘l love him really,’ with the biggest grin known to man, knowing Nile maybe the devil too. I asked if he could give Claire and me ten minutes together. He looked at us both, nodded and went outside.
Claire and I remained silent. She was looking at me as I was looking out the window. Time moved slowly, Claire burst into tears.
“Please, Zach. Don’t ask.” I didn’t. Nothing needed to be said. I went over to the bed and held her. The answer had already been delivered.
“JC?” I whispered.
“Yep, he knew. He was happy Zach,” it had some how filled a void for solving their problems.
“Now I’ve lost it.”
Like a bath overflowing and without looking for the plug, we both cried. Saying my goodbyes to Claire, I went to find Nile only to be sat in reception eating another bacon sarnie.
I never spoke a word until we walked over London Bridge. I gazed at the Thames thinking how fucking dirty the water was.
“The baby was yours, wasn't it Zach?” Nile said. I looked at Nile and smiled. He held me. No further words were needed.
NEXT WEEK: Spitalfields Life
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: The Manic Media Group (UK) Ltd