Life Of A Gay Man Pt 4

Tears ran down Tommy’s face. Piggy’s visit had brought back the pain of losing Billy, the loneliness of his life. As he stood weeping, he heard Piggy go down the steps and out the front door.

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CHAPTER NINE: Hopkins & Mrs. Hopkins

Tommy awoke. He was in a strange place. His body ached. His eyes burned. And yet, his head was on a pillow, a blanket covered him. As his senses cleared, he realized he was lying on the floor of a room he recognized. It was the flat he had visited with Bunny. His heart sank with the realization that the nightmare that had haunted his sleep was true. He had lost Billy. He was alone. As his despair rose up again and was about to overtake him, there was a discreet knock on the door.

“I beg your pardon, sir. We didn’t realize you would be requiring the flat so soon or we should have made arrangements for you. Mrs. Hopkins thought she heard someone in need of assistance. We were very much surprised to find you here. I’m sorry we could do so little to make you comfortable. Would you prefer coffee or tea?”

Tommy sat bolt upright. Standing before him was an elegantly dressed man, looking for all the world like a stand-in for Jeeves. Tommy struggled to his feet, his expression confused.

“Oh, you are Mr. Thomas? We received a call from a Mr. ‘Bunny’ who said you would be taking the house and would move in directly. We didn’t realize so directly. But no matter. We must ask you to excuse the state of things. The flat has been sealed, pending execution of the estate. Mrs. Hopkins and I have made things more presentable in the dining room. If you would care to freshen up, breakfast can be served at your convenience.”

Tommy stood blinking. Maybe this was a dream. The man had opened the pocket doors. Sunlight streamed into the dining room. The room had been cleaned and the table set for one. The sideboard was occupied by several dome covered dishes. The man stood to one side of the sideboard, ready to serve.

“Um, forgive me, but I’m very confused. Who are you?” Tommy managed.

“Forgive me, sir. I thought you had been informed. We are Hopkins. Mrs. Hopkins, my wife and I, do for the gentleman who occupies the house.”

“Excuse me,” Tommy walked through the door to the bedroom and into the bathroom. This room, too, had been cleaned and fresh towels and soap had been arranged. Tommy washed up, throwing water into his face to try to wake up. On returning to the dining room, Hopkins still stood ready.

“You’re still here. I thought I must be dreaming.”

“You’ve had a difficult night, sir. Some breakfast might bring you around.”

Tommy sat at the table. Hopkins poured coffee, asking how Tommy preferred it. He then offered plates of poached eggs, bacon, toast, and pastries. “We weren’t sure what you take in the morning. Here after, anything you wish will be prepared.” Hopkins retired from the room.

Tommy ate in wonder. And in fact, having eaten, he did feel better.

Just as he finished his cup of coffee, Hopkins appeared with a pot to fill it. “If it’s convenient, we’d like to introduce Mrs. Hopkins.” A plump, tiny woman in an apron entered the room. To Tommy’s amazement, she curtsied.

“A pleasure to meet you, sir. I tend to the marketing, cooking, and laundry. If you have any special requirements, please let us know. Hopkins takes care of the house and property.”

Tommy shook his head to try to clear his mind.

“Please tell me, what is going on. I very much appreciate this breakfast. But I don’t understand why you are here.”

Hopkins stepped forward. “Sir, I thought I had explained. Part of the agreement regarding ownership of this house is that Mrs. Hopkins and I are to retain occupancy of the ground floor apartment. In exchange for the rental and a monthly stipend, we are to do for the owner.”

Tommy sat trying to collect his thoughts. He felt as if he had stepped onto the set of an old movie, complete with stock characters for butler and cook. Just as he was about to speak, the doorbell rang, immediately followed by loud knocking. Hopkins went into the sitting room to open a window overlooking the front of the house. Several trucks could be heard idling below.

“I’ll be down presently,” Hopkins called and went off down the stairs.

All the noise of the street burst into the house. Many men shouted at once, thuds and bangs, and oaths tumbled up the stairs, followed by many heavily shod feet. Leading the procession, like Napoleon his army, was Cupcake. He nodded to Tommy, who stood in the sitting room doorway, and began directing men and their burdens about the flat.

“This in the bedroom, in back – and take the mattress out with you – this to the sitting room – and the sofa may go – these into the dining room, we’ll use it for temporary storage while we move other things.”

Working among the movers were more men with cleaning supplies. As carpets were rolled up, they cleaned and waxed floors. Others took down curtains and cleaned windows, replacing curtains with new. They toiled through the flat while moving men took out and returned with furniture.

Tommy tried to keep up with Cupcake, trying to ask what was going on. The tiny man ducked and weaved through the crowd of workmen, giving orders, directing, correcting, clearly the center of the maelstrom.

Noon struck on a newly placed mantle clock in the sitting room. Hopkins appeared with platters of sandwiches, soon followed by tubs of drinks. “A tradesmen’s luncheon is served in the dining room.”

The noise changed from moving and cleaning to eating and talking. Tommy stood in the doorway of the sitting room, gawking at the crowd eating. From behind him came the quiet sound of someone clearing his throat, trying to get his attention.

“Tommy, Bunny and I don’t mean to intrude, but there were so many obvious things that needed doing, we just went ahead and made arrangements. If there is anything you don’t like it can certainly go back. Charles suggested that it would be best to get you settled right away, after your ordeal and all.”

“I haven’t bought this place yet.”

“Well, Charles said for us to go ahead. He should be here shortly with the attorneys.”

The bell rang again. Before anyone could move, they could hear Charles calling up the stairs.

“The door was open. This must be the right place, I recognized Bunny’s car. And just behind me are some men with your personal possessions. I called Haskin’s office and told him to have them delivered here.” Charles’ head came into sight over the banister. He was followed by two severe men, clearly the attorneys and then by a troupe of men carrying trunks and boxes.

Cupcake leaped to attention and began directing the placement of the luggage. The Tradesmen’s Luncheon had just concluded and the dining room table was cleared for the attorneys’ business.

“Tommy, sit here. This is Mr. Wilkes, representing the estate and this is Mr. Finneman, with the Bank. Since the purchase is being made in cash and clear of encumbrances, he is here to represent you, a service to significant depositors the bank is pleased to offer.

There followed an hour of papers to be signed and notarized, checks written, and explanations glazed over. At the end, the attorney’s shook hands all around and handed Tommy a thick stack of papers.

“The house is yours. A pleasure.” Charles escorted them to the stairs.

Tommy sat at the dining table, further in shock. The workmen had resumed their labors around him, transforming the long abandoned space into the home it had once been. Cupcake ruled all, submitting only to Hopkins and he only to Mrs. Hopkins.

Slowly the number of workmen declined until quiet returned to the house. Mrs. Hopkins appeared with a tea tray that she set upon the sideboard. She drew a chair next to Tommy and sat down, patting his arm. “There, there dear. The fuss is all over. Mr. Charles has told us some of your sad story. Losing the one you love, well it’s about the worst thing I can imagine. You’ll be safe here, at home. You just ask for anything, anything at all, and if it’s in our power, know it will be done. You just take a little while to get used to things. There’s a bell in each room that will call Hopkins, and an intercom, too. We’ll leave you alone now.”

The kind woman left the room. When Tommy looked up, Charles stood across the table from him. He smiled, a little sadly. “Tommy, I know you can’t see it now, but you’ll be all right. You’re an intelligent man, you’ve got work at the university ahead in the fall, you’re even better looking than that day we met on the train. I know you need time to make sense of it all. Just don’t stay inside yourself too long. You know you can call me anytime. The Hopkins will care for you. I’ll look in a week or so. Maybe we could go to dinner.”

“Charles, I don’t know what to say,” Tommy replied. “You’ve been more than kind, I can’t thank you enough.”

Charles cut him off. “Tommy, no one deserves what’s happened to you and Billy. He’s beyond my reach, but at least I can help care for the man he loved, who loved him. Remember, call.” Charles slipped out the door.

Tommy got up from the table. He walked from room to room, smelling the clean scents of bee’s wax polish and new and old furniture. The rooms were brighter, but still dressed in the character of the flat. The bed had a new mattress, spread with new linen. The bathroom was clean, but many of the fixtures had red ‘x’s in wax pencil on them. Tommy guessed it was marked for later renovation.

He went to the study, the door was closed. When he opened it he saw it had not been touched. His own footprints from the previous day were still in the dust of the floor. This room had been left as it was, for him to take on. He felt an unexpected gratitude for the task, an opportunity to come to know the previous owner through his most intimate expression, his library.

Tommy returned to the bedroom. He walked up to the bed, seeing how large and empty it was. Emotion surrounded his heart as tears came to his eyes. “Billy,” he shouted. “Billy,” he whispered as he collapsed onto the bed in sobs. And so he passed his second night in his new home.

CHAPTER TEN: A New Life Begins

Tommy awoke to the smell of coffee. On a small table by the window of his bedroom, breakfast had been laid. On the bench at the foot of the bed, clothes had been laid out for him. He got up to use the bathroom. In the mirror, his face shocked him. He was unshaven, unkempt, and worn from grief. He splashed his face and resolved to face the day. First, that good smelling breakfast. He had always been the one to prepare breakfast for Billy when they were together – Billy just called out for delivery. As much as he appreciated the efforts of the Hopkins, he could manage for himself. But here it was, perfect.

He ate then returned to the bathroom. All his personal care products had been unpacked and placed in the most logical of orders. He set about washing and shaving then took a shower. It was several minutes before he was able to adjust all the many nozzles to inoffensive angles. A few tickled enough to get him to laugh.

As he went to put on the clothes that had been left for him, he recognized them as his original school jeans and shirt. As he picked them up he heard the now familiar discreet knock at the door.


“I beg your pardon, sir, I thought you might be tackling the study and would prefer some rough clothes for the task. I’ve taken the liberty of providing dusting cloths and furniture oil, and a feather duster that would work well on the books. There is oil for the bindings as well.”

Hopkins retired from the room and Tommy dressed. He went into the study, first opening each of the three windows. He took the vacuum cleaner provided and made a first pass over the room, collecting the worst of the accumulated dust and debris. Though he decided to work through the room methodically, each new shelf cascaded dust back onto all the clean surfaces as soon as touched.

The task took on the aspect of an archeological dig, removing layer after layer of dust and dirt. Slowly the titles of the books emerged from the grime. Classical literature, a complete Shakespeare, Milton, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and other philosophers, Whitman, Millay, Poe and other poets. Art books and scientific texts. First editions, fine bindings, rare old books. He carefully cleaned each one, often pausing to glance through them. A surprising number had dedications from the authors. This was the library of an educated man, one dedicated to arts and ideas. A man Tommy knew he would admire. A man Tommy hoped would like him.

Again, the knock at the door. Hopkins appeared suggesting that luncheon was in order, being well past one. A whiskbroom appeared in his hand and he attempted to tidy Tommy. Tommy took another look at the room where he had been working. While far from finished, it too had been transformed, returned to its purpose. Fully cleaning and preparing the books would probably take all summer. He was happy for the task, a task to fill the time left void by Billy.

Tommy spent his days restoring the library to order. His nights he spent alone, recalling each day with Billy, from the moment they met until the horrid scene in the apartment, the passion and loving, the fun and good times, the quiet hours spent in each other’s company. At times he laughed at funny moments. Sleep came each night in a tide of tears.

Charles stopped by every other week or so. Mrs. Hopkins always had a special meal prepared, proudly served by Hopkins in the dining room. Charles kept the conversation alive with stories of the outrages of the gay society Tommy had been introduced to by Billy. Charles hoped that the gossip would entice Tommy to accept an invitation to participate. Tommy promised to think about it.

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Visit from Piggy

One afternoon, Hopkins appeared with an envelope addressed in a familiar hand, Piggy’s.

Dearest Tommy,

It can’t be true – but I fear it is. I ran into our Charles last week and he told all. Actually he said little, but I wormed it out of him. I am so sorry for you, I really am, and sad for Billy, too.

Be warned: I’m descending on you for luncheon, today. We can cry over lost loves together – what my loves lack in depth they make up in sheer number.

At one, then?


Hopkins had stood silently by as Tommy read the note. “It seems I have a friend stopping by for lunch,” Tommy informed him.

In reply to Hopkins’ question as to what to serve, Tommy responded, “It doesn’t matter so much as to what as to enough – Piggy is quite an eater. I leave it to you and Mrs. Hopkins. And thank you, I would have been too embarrassed to see people, but you make it all so pleasant. I’ve come to depend upon you both.”

“So many stairs.” Tommy could hear Piggy complaining loudly long before the pink head came into view. “Well, it’s very nice once you get here – but all those stairs.” Tommy showed Piggy into the sitting room. He sat on a chair on the opposite side of the room.

“I’m not going to bite,” Piggy exclaimed. “And I’m not going to chase you. That was all in fun, and baby, what’s happened to you is no fun. I’m thankful my own parents have left me alone – but I’ve never been so tied up with someone, like Billy was with you. I am truly sorry for what happened. And I want you to know that you can trust me as a friend. If you ever just want to go out, I’m there for you.”

Tommy nervously accepted Piggy’s kind words. Tommy explained that he feared going out with Piggy’s crowd, he was only in it because of being with Billy, and the memory of those times was painful.

Tommy offered lunch. Piggy entertained as best he could during the meal, but Tommy was distracted. They finished quickly and Piggy stood to go.

“Tommy, I know I teased you when you were with Billy. And I still find you incredibly attractive. But I want you to know that even if most of the time I’m a flirty, lascivious queen, I also consider myself a friend. I’ll back off – for now – but if you need anything, do call, I’ll do what I can for you, if only to go out for some dinner. You take care of yourself, but call, remember call me.” Piggy walked toward the door, but before going out, retraced his steps and gave Tommy a hug, a chaste, brotherly hug.

Tears ran down Tommy’s face. Piggy’s visit had brought back the pain of losing Billy, the loneliness of his life. As he stood weeping, he heard Piggy go down the steps and out the front door. He sat in his chair, dropped his head on his arms and let the emotions pour from his heart.

Life Of A Gay Man Pt 5

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