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Ram



"Friend. Tim" I babbled. They glittered in sequinned tops, luminous skirts, gold lame shoes and stilettoes. After a lot of exclamations stares and pouts, one of them shut the door on me.

"That must have been a shock. Should have warned you. It's the transvestite night" Tim explained with a smile. He showed me around Friend, the coffee bar which was open on Thursdays and Saturday afternoons, the switchboard and then the lounge where we sat on sagging settees talking about me. He later showed me around the scene in Liverpool. He took me to Paco's where I met two Johns. One I called Spanish John as he had curly hair and an olive complexion, and the other was John B. Tim took me to Jodies and then to Sadie's in Wood Street. Sadie's was the place to be, he told me.

It took me another six months to find my way to Sadie's. It was agony standing at the edge of the dance floor on my own trying not to look at anyone in particular. People cavorted to loud music and I stood holding tight onto my drink looking at my watch as I was worried about getting home. Then I bumped into John B. It was such a relief. "Come and stand with us" he offered, and I did. That was when I met David a friend of John's. Shortly after I met Carl through Merseyside Aids Support Group. Somewhere over the following year we became friends, the Johns, Carl, David and me. We asked and looked out for one another and in no time we were arranging to meet up at venues and events.

We went to Friend coffee evenings, and to Friend night at Scarlett's on Wednesdays. We sat on red settees eyeing the men, careful not to poach others' love interests. We gossiped. We fell out, we made up, and at times we did not. We bought Gay Times at News From Nowhere encased in brown paper bags, and picked up the free Pink Paper reading our weekly forecasts which were always terrible. I went to Safe Sex workshops organised by Friend, attended Pride marches in London and then marched with John B in Manchester protesting against Clause 28. We debated what we could do in case we were arrested by the police. We were not. We went home on a high. We even ran a monthly men's group for a while.

We put adverts, we answered ads, we dated and rang each other anxious to hear about how each had fared. We went to Sadie's on Saturday nights. It was tacky like a ten year old Christmas decoration, and the urinals stank. A young lad played music from a glass walled cubicle lost in a world of his own. We pestered him for our choices and danced to Erasure and Communards. Sadie was always there looking out of the window with his beaked nose. The night at Sadies always ended with the Dancing Queen. Then the lights came on, every one put their jackets and spilled out onto beer stained streets. We despaired. We hated Sadies, the scene and the gay culture that made relationships so difficult. "Will we ever meet a man?" we wondered. One day David did. Soon after that I did too. I took Martin to Friend feeling embarrassed at my new status. He became a regular at Friend along with me. We also went to Sadie's now and then, but stopped as I did not care for the smoke and the late nights. Then we heard that Sadie had cancer. Sadie's closed after his death and a bikers club stood in its place last time I walked along Wood Street.

In the nineties Friend moved into better premises near Lime Street station. It carried on with the coffee bar and the help line. Then the Armistead project moved into the same building and as the nineties wore on Friend faded away as did the group of my gay adolescence. Looking back I can see that we all needed to go different ways. We hung in there anxious to let go, and then we did. I now live in Manchester with Martin. Liverpool and Merseyside is like my home territory in England. At times I confuse it with towns in India where I lived. All those friends who were involved with Friend. I am nostalgic for them and those times. We are all well I hope.







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