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Extracts from
A Sense of Loss and other stories

by Martin Foreman


"There were too many people, far too many people; I wanted to be alone or I wanted to be
in darkness or I wanted to be outside. I did not know what I wanted, only that within me there was an unsatisfied and unrecognised need, an itch that tormented just out of reach."



Fifteen short stories displaying a counterpoint of different voices, each with a ring of authenticity. Written in the 1990s, some reflect the shifting kaleidoscope of gay reality in Britain at the time: the sexual compulsion of "Room With No View", the high-energy rhythm of "Discotheque" or the cynical manipulation of "Simon's Dinner Party". Others take the reader to wider horizons - to Brazil and into landscapes of allegory and myth. The title story, excerpted above, relates the voice of the beautiful youth in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and
A Sense of by Martin Foreman


ISBN 978-085449-185-8
soft cover, 186pp
order here
became the basis of Foreman's one-man play, Tadzio Speaks . . .
from An Odd Fellow


We were not so lost that we could not have retraced our steps, but we had little idea of where we were going. Behind us was the Avenide Rio Branco, the commercial heart of Rio, which at night was merely a ribbon of light along which growled impatient buses and taxis; ahead lay dark and silent streets that we had no real wish to explore. Tired, untidy figures walked by, staring at us with an expression I hoped was no more than curiosity. More than once I was startled to see the hunched bodies of drunks, children, a whole family, sleeping in shop doorways.


At any other time we would have had the sense to be nervous, to turn back and find a taxi that would take us to our hotel and the lights and crowds of Copacabana. But the argument which had finally broken out over our evening meal still kept us apart, leaving Brian set between sulking and anger and myself more resigned than repentant. By morning the temper would subside to the occasional sardonic remark as we packed, and the long flight home would lever us back into reality, but at that moment our separate prides were leading us further into an unknown, perhaps dangerous, part of the city.


The direction we had taken brought us to a square where men, buses and a row of yellow taxis loitered as if waiting for some sergeant-major to come and shout and bully them into order. It was as dark as the streets we had just walked through - I could make out trees and benches and wondered if I saw the silhouette of a dried-up fountain - but snack-bars on its perimeter threw a light towards us that was less inviting than reassuring.


"I want a drink," Brian announced, suddenly leaving the pavement and crossing over to the nearest bar. I followed and let him order two beers, aware that once again the heat and humidity had drained from my body the sweat that now hung heavy in my trousers and shirt. Refreshed, I leant back against the counter and looked around me. On the other side of the street a taxi had stopped to pick up a fare, two youths passed, their effeminacy exaggerated by the animation of their Portuguese, out of the darkness I heard a shout of anger or exasperation. There were other customers beside us - an unshaven middle-aged man in shorts and a faded # t-shirt drinking alone and staring at the scribbled menu on the wall, two older men talking quietly and intently and a woman in her thirties slumped, eyes closed, against the wall, an old and empty handbag hanging from her wrist like a defiant claim to respectability.


"I feel somewhat out of place," I said to Brian, who responded with a shrug that indicated he was not yet in the mood for conversation. Indeed, everything about us, from our sunburnt fair skin to our too-formal clothes, from our ignorance of the language to the fact we had recently shaved, marked us as intruders, sightseers, visitors to the zoo who had somehow entered the monkeys' cage and discovered they were both intelligent and hostile. It was not a comfortable feeling and I suddenly longed to be at home, where I was not a stranger but part of the crowd, where I understood and was myself understood.
from The Benefactor


You've been here before, haven't you? We're south of the Thames on a Friday evening, in a pub where the music is loud and the clientele gay. You probably know these three standing with their backs to the bar. They're in their twenties, single and solvent. There's Steve, all five foot six of him, sells  jewellery in Bond Street and dreams of the day when a young and handsome millionaire will walk in and sweep him off his feet. The tall one's Adrian, tired after ten  hours  hunting down a computer virus that insisted on giving each of a bank's  customers several thousand  pounds; a little older than Steve, he's successful at work but haunted by the suspicion that life is passing him by. Lastly, there's Derek, whose resemblance to the boy in the latest Levi's ad is more than coincidence; he's just been made manager of a pizza restaurant and he's  been calculating, with the help of a few drinks, how long it will take him to start his  own chain.


This gathering is a weekly ritual, an opportunity for each to unwind. They arrive here about eight and after a couple of hours drift apart to pursue their separate fantasies. In the meantime they talk, as tonight, about men. Partly because it's all they have in common, but mostly because the topic is endless and never dull. This evening they have rated all of those around them, with some humour, little generosity and even less discretion. Yet somehow  they have missed the most imposing figure, the one who stands, without a glass, a few  feet  away. He's middle-aged, dressed in a black that is more anonymous than a uniform, and for  the  last few minutes has been staring at them intently.


Most young men would allow him one glance before dismissing him as yet another individual who offers money rather than looks, connections rather than  charisma. But those who looked closer would see in his dark eyes, strong cheeks and the firm set of his  mouth an expression they did not recognise, one that both attracted and made them afraid. Steve, however, does not notice such details, is aware only that he is being watched and, with  the belligerence that has become his second nature, wants to know why. "Which one of us do  you fancy then?" he leans across to ask.
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Edinburgh Fringe 2018



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