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Jack slept in their bed on his back, arms and legs stretched out like a big cross. Like da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’, that perfect anatomical man as decided by nature and noticed by the genius artist. He took up the whole king-size so Sonny never had any room.

Some days he wore tight T-shirts that touched him all over – queer little T-shirts, though he didn’t know it. Ribbed. Sonny liked those days, they made him look like a nineties boyband man. Worn with Adidas sweatpants positioned below his hipbones, it was trashy. He begged to be allowed to show him off at the Sweatbox, an elusive Soho gym with moisture-frosted windows where steam piped through the walls and out onto the streets, attaching itself to the lingerers outside, making them hot. He would be the star attraction. He would be stripped in seconds, the tight T-shirts undoubtedly seen as a preview, and after a preview there’s gotta be a show, the regulars would say, peeling him. But Jack said he wasn’t ‘about’ all that. He dressed for work, not attraction.

But he must attract himself, Sonny felt. To wear tops like that which marked out his ribs and muscles, he must love to see the shape of his own body. And it was understandable – if he liked looking at men, why wouldn’t he like looking at himself? Maybe he hadn’t acted on his sexuality before him simply because he was content fancying himself.

While Jack was da Vinci’s man, Sonny was Hogarth’s. A dirty caricature with no hope whose life so far could be drawn in dingy vignettes with crosshatching. Looking at Jack on the bed, he knew that people would always do whatever they could to save a da Vinci’s man, the nice angles, the bumps and the smooth, everything was right, all balance and prospects. Looking at himself in the mirror he knew there was nothing people could do for Hogarth’s guy. A stumbling, black-eyed loser whose place was the curb, not the king-size.

Every morning he felt futility, that he might as well leave, put his shoes on and run away. How could Hogarth’s guy ever satisfy da Vinci’s?

Mich Sanderson

Extract from Queer As Coke

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