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                                                                             IDENTITY

The red sheets came down. So did the burgundies and the scarlets and the crimsons and pinks; the black ones were going up.

Sunday, 1st September 2002.

Seamus was a dutiful lad, but it was me, Belfast, Jack, Marco and regrettably Liam who tore down the summer curtains.

"Black," Liam sniffed, "On a Sunday. Wee bit unorthodox, ain't it, Seamus?"

Seamus didn't answer, being too busy burying his face into some woman's neck. We'd become increasingly popular with birds recently. Birds had become increasingly popular with me.

"Why black?" I asked, despising the shade, the only one to fold up the sheets before they were put in the pile.

"Symbolic," Braden shrugged. He was seated by the window, smoking his fifth bifter of the day, almost forgetting about his knees. He put his head down, breathed in, and brought it back up again while sucking the delicate life out of the joint. The smoke rolled out the darkest grey. "It's coming up to the time when everything dies."

Liam sniffed. Marco laughed. Belfast was quiet and carried on tacking the black drape to the beams.

"Not symbolism," Liam groaned, and he opened up a stepladder with a little too much force. He sniffed again.

"What's wrong with linking the real to the ethereal?" Braden asked, frowning slightly and waving his fag hand around. There were patterns of smoke interlacing with the dust.

Liam turned to him. Sniffed. "You're stoned."

"You've got a cold," Braden smiled.

Liam cleaned his upper lip with his hand and carried on cutting up his sheet – sniffing.

From behind me there was movement. There was a moan. Seamus came up gasping out of the woman's neck, and her hand came creamy out of his crotch. I was the only one who noticed it – I was stood behind the booth, taking down the last of the summer sheets towards the top end of the room. I watched them get up, walk away, and disappear up the stairs to Seamus' apartment.

And then I felt alone.

"This bird has flown," Braden observed, seeing it too. "You lot should probably piss off now, too."

"Seamus'll be the one who's pissed off if we don't get this done," I said, bringing my two armfuls of cloth to the rest of the pile.

"Aiden," Marco laughed, "He's got a mot. That's maybe a week's worth of pussy to keep him away from 'pissed off'."

The other three started to pack up, tying up loose ends and cutting oddments short. I walked up to Braden. Even his smoke was enough.

"Alright, Aiden?" he muttered.

I sat down next to him, taking a green out of the pack I kept in my pocket.

"They're not good for ya," he smiled.

"Who was that article?"

"Jasus, Aiden," Liam intruded from afar; "She's just some bird." I half-listened to him. "Can't anyone be just some person anymore? Mot my bleedin' arse, Marco. We're fockin' rent boys!"

"Don't listen to 'im," Braden said.

"I usually don't these days," I said happily, "Who is she?"

"Aine."

Aine. Aine with tits and a gee box. Damn, that was sounding more appealing every week. "How much did she pay him?"

"One hand job. One blow job..." he trailed off, and restarted: "Precisely."

I frowned. "In exchange for?"

"A nice eat out."

"I don't get it."

Braden whipped the green right out of my mouth. "She's a doxie, eejit." And he laughed at my expression. "Ya want a mot, ye get a doxie. Best way to go, no give an' take. Not in money terms, anyway, and that's a surprise up here."

"Funny system."

"Aye, very fockin' funny." He laughed smoke and returned the Marlboro to my lips.

I finished it off with him as we watched the others eventually vanish into the night: Belfast silently, Marco loudly, Jack jollily enough and Liam with a huff and a sniff. Ten sniffs.

We were alone with smoke.

"Why don't you get a mot, Bray?"

"Why don't you?"

"I'm queer."

"So am I, but a good pussy-fucking isn't something to be missed."

"What does Seamus mean when he says stuff like 'you're the house, not the john'?"

"Nothing."

We were quiet.

"Bray, if you like pussy, you're not queer, are you?"

"No, not really."

"What if you like tits as well?"

"Definitely not."

I decided: "I'm not queer, then."

"Really?"

I shrugged. "Are you?"

"I guess I'm not."

"...I've never fucked a pussy." 

"Plenty of time."

"Seamus is straight. Maybe he'll show me one day."

"No chance of that."

"Why not?"

"He's queer."

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