The Quotable

The Urge Purged

There was a time when Geoff Chalkley – a senior buyer at Homebase in Chiswick – would have been the last person I would have imagined accused of a sexually aggravated breach of the peace, but, sadly, not now. My minor – certainly not actionable – involvement in Geoff’s story began with a phone call from him at the weekend just as I was about to throw myself off a ninety metre crane. Geoff wanted to meet and, when I landed, I breathlessly agreed.

On Monday evening after work I met Geoff – a man who, up until then, hadn’t shown the slightest interest in BASE-jumping, bodysurfing or zorbing – at the Sherlock Holmes pub on Baker Street. He was sitting ramrod-straight in the bay window, sipping orange juice and reading a copy of The Tablet. I got myself a pint of nutty brown Ayingerbräu, slung my rucksack over the back of a chair and dazzled Geoff with a grin. “So what’s up?” I asked brightly. Geoff looked like I’d just farted in church so I composed my features and listened to what he had to say.

“Now, look here, Spencer. I want to talk to you about something rather personal. Fact is, I’m about to celebrate my twentieth wedding anniversary and despite that my wife and I still get on very well. However, it’s become clear over the long years that my interest in the more physical side of our marriage is not reciprocated by my wife. You’ve got some foam on your nose. ”

“Ta.”

“Now, I’m not going to go into the details but I am having a certain medical procedure done next week to make sure I don’t jeopardise my marriage by acting the goat every time I have a Tia Maria. You know Gemma, in the office? I am so fed up with coming in every morning, casting an eye over the latest little nothing she’s not wearing and pratfalling over the Yucca. It’s not dignified for a man of my age. So, something must be done; and that, my sun-stroked friend, is where you come in.”

Geoff explained that the procedure he was going to have – libido dampening – was a half-hour walk-in job at a private clinic in Mayfair and all I had to do was accompany him there and back in case he had a fit of the screaming ab-dabs. For that, he’d sponsor me to jump off Beachy Head, which was very generous of him. We shook hands and Geoff brooded darkly over his orange juice. “If this works, little Gemma could be packed into her slacks like two scoops of vanilla ice-cream for all I care, I’ll be about as up for it as Peter Tatchell. Drink up, I'm seeing suppliers at two.”

Fast forward to one week later and I’m standing outside the Wimpole Hair Loss Clinic in Mayfair with Geoff and wondering out loud whether we’d got the right place. Geoff spluttered derision. “You don’t really think these clinics treat hair loss, do you? Do me a lemon. There are bald guys everywhere. If there was a cure, why would there be bald guys? Why? Cure: no bald guys. Bald guys: no cure. Stands to reason! Come on, it’s starting to rain.”

We crossed the street to the sort of building you expect Harley Street Doctors to practice from and Geoff buzzed us in. After signing in at reception, we chilled to whale song in a tranquil waiting room while Geoff gave his credit card details to a smoothly professional nurse. Before long, a Dr. Macci and his nursing assistant, Regina, swept through the door, shook our hands and led us from the waiting room down a long, empty corridor that would have been great to skateboard down and then into a rickety lift which ascended four or five floors. Once there, Geoff disappeared into a side room while I was taken to the operating theatre itself.

I’d never been in such a place. The room was mostly empty space, but in the centre was a raised dais and a floodlit operating table, straight out of the movies. Straddling the table were three long metal legs, each almost eighteen feet long, joined at the apex so they formed a tripod, splayed around the table. The legs supported a shining metal globe about a foot and a half in diameter and numerous insulated cables looped from connectors on the legs to points on the walls. Above us, a glass awning revealed the night sky wracked with lightning and pelting rain.

Geoff soon appeared through a door just behind me, this time wearing nothing but a white hospital gown tied loosely behind him, his bum cheeks peering out of a gap in the back and a bizarre metal helmet on his head. He nudged me and managed a nervous laugh. “Bit rum, eh? Hope they know what they’re doing.”

Too right, I thought, thinking of my first calamitous BASE jump and the six months I spent in a halo brace. I leant over to the Doctor. “This is safe, isn’t it? Haha!”

Dr. Macci was indignant. “Of course it is,” he snapped, slapping my hands away from the computer.

“So what sort of people do you get in here, for – what’s it called – libido dampening?”

The doctor flicked virtual windows across a screen. “Oh, Archbishops, film censors…Cliff, obviously. Most are private clients. Others are sent here under court order. All sorts, really.”

Geoff, by this stage, was being helped onto the operating table by the bewitching Nurse Regina and cables were screwed into the top of the helmet he was wearing. The whole thing seemed extremely dodgy to me, but if Geoff wanted to take an extended cold shower by plugging himself into the mains that was his business; he’d always struck me as the sort of person who thought excitement was a Hornby limited edition “Flying Scotsman.” I sat on a stool behind the lead-lined screen with Dr. Macci and Regina and watched as the procedure began.

Nothing happened for a few seconds. Then, subtly, a deep rumble grew around us, a bit like when the THX kicks in at the Odeon, growing in strength until my fillings started to hurt. After a minute of that, the metal globe at the top of the tripod started spitting and crackling and then, as Morticia and Gomez conferred, a series of terrifying bangs rang out from the top of the structure and several long, snaking, tendrils of electricity probed outwards leaping from point to point. Above us, the night sky was again momentarily lit up and the glass rattled precipitously. The rumbling grew evermore insistent, but Geoff remained still as the probing tendrils of electricity played around him.

The sense of power building up around us was incredible, but just as Macci indicated to Regina to initiate phase two there was an almighty crash above us and a bolt of white lightning lanced out of the night sky and connected with the metal globe above Geoff. The result was, literally, electrifying. A shower of glowing sparks exploded in an arc above the table and every one of the power points around the room burst into flames. I reared backwards off my stool and banged my head on the desk behind me, but managed to haul myself up in time to catch sight of all hell breaking loose before me.

Geoff’s prone form lay strobe-lit on the table. He was convulsing from his feet all the way up through his body to the tips of his fingers, his arms raised involuntarily in front of him and shaking terribly. His hair stood on end, his head thrown back, face locked in a terrible rictus, and he was screaming pitifully; it was horrible to witness. Another lightning bolt lashed out of the sky. Somewhere Macci yelled “…cut the power!” and there was another ear-splitting crash and everything went dark.

I can’t remember who started shouting first; it was like when I tried freestyle motocross for the first time and drove straight into a crowd of spectators. Despite all of us being in a state of shock we lunged out from behind the screen and raced to help Geoff. The operating table had collapsed beneath the smoking legs of the tripod; the metal globe was in bits all across the floor and sparking power cables were draped everywhere, but Regina wriggled her slight frame between the criss-crossed legs of the tripod and carefully slid Geoff out to a clear space on the floor.

“Oh my…” moaned Geoff.

“Mr Chalkley! Don’t move. You may have broken something.”

“Sweet Jesus….”

We crowded around, eager to help. “It’s alright, mate. Everything’s going to be just fine.”

Geoff clasped the girl’s arm and sat up, smiling oddly. He stared round at us all and took a long, shuddering breath. Then he looked up into Regina’s eyes, placed a hand on her left breast and pulled the startled girl into a lingering kiss.

“Is it hot in here,” said Geoff, “or is it just you?”

Funny how things work out. That was just the start of it and I wish to God Geoff and I had never gone near the frigging Wimpole Hair Loss Clinic or I’d at least tried harder to talk Geoff out of his crazy plan. The following weeks brought repeated evidence of Geoff’s brand new T-Rex libido. Geoff on-stage at the Spearmint Rhino, Geoff arrested in carparks at the dead of night, Geoff bursting into Homebase Head Office and leaping on poor Gemma. After one three-day bender he returned home, was made about as welcome as a skunk at a garden party by his disapproving wife, and eventually lurched off into the night, maybe not pursued by nuns with flaming torches but certainly the suburban equivalent.

I spent the rest of that summer inside Second Life. I felt terrible for what happened and three weeks after the event I was still having dreams in which I jumped off the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and saw Geoff falling past me without a parachute, crying, “Help me, Spencer! Help me!” I would wake up yelling and thinking that as anxiety dreams go I preferred the one in the trash compactor with Princess Leia, and then I would go back to sleep and hope that a new day would see life return to normal.

It never did. Geoff’s wife, Margaret, demanded he sue the Wimpole Hair Loss Clinic, attend Sex Addicts Anonymous and make a mint from a tell-all biog and for a time it looked like negotiations might prove successful, but Geoff’s libido had him in a half-nelson and eventually Margaret fled to Tunbridge Wells. So finally, there was just Geoff, who was no looker, and the accident hadn’t done anything to change his Eeyorish manner or transform him overnight into a media personality. With a dash more extroversion he might have made it as a presenter, then chat show host, then actor and cause célèbre, but no. He was a middle-aged man at the mercy of a terrible compulsion and, ultimately, the zipper proved his undoing.

Why should a man suffer for trying to treat his wife with respect? Love is more than proportionate drives. I hope this testimony will go some way towards explaining what Geoff was doing at the Plaza Hotel intoxicated, naked and enraged and why his freedom should not be curtailed. I believe that if he took up a variety of extreme sports he would be so exhausted by the end of the day he’d be barely capable of a high-five let alone the missionary position. As for myself, I come away from these troubling events with new insight into the hopeless plight facing bald men, a determination to accrue the necessary number of dives for my International Skydiving Licence and, above all, compassion for a man who tried so hard to escape the tyranny of his passions but just proved beyond doubt that sex puts men in ridiculous positions.

 

 

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Anthony Malone's fiction has been published in, among others, Murky Depths, The Delinquent, Lowestoft Chronicle and Litro Online and his short stories are included in the anthologies "Villainy" (Halls Brothers Entertainment) and Cup Of Joe (Wicked East Press). He has read at Short Fuse as part of the 2009 Coastal Currents Arts Festival, the London events writLOUD, Tales of the Decongested, Liars’ League, Storytails and One Eye Grey's "Spectres At The Feast" event and recorded for London Link Radio. He lives in London.

 

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