I was worried about Jim.
We’ve lived together in our nice little suburban house for just over four years. It’s nothing special, but it’s home, and it’s ours. We’re about as close to the average middle-class gay couple as it’s possible to get without actually owning garden gnomes.
Jim’s always been a great believer in vitamins and supplements; he’ll try anything that’s new our bathroom shelves are bending under the weight of bottles and he’s also embarrassingly suggestible, so before the ad for ‘Icelandic Sagewort’ had even finished he’d got Amazon up on his phone and was ordering some. It was not only a superfood with no calories, it also lowered cholesterol, strengthened the immune system and could prevent more ailments than you could shake a stick at. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it also got stubborn stains out of the woodwork. He added two tablets a day to his already excessive intake of pills.
I’m quite aware that providing you eat sensibly, the only thing most of these supplements do is give you expensive pee, but Jim has selective deafness when it suits him.
Looking back now, I think the first sign of anything amiss was when I came home one day to find that he’d repaired the lawn mower. It’s a petrol-driven thing, and it had been making suspicious noises for a while, as well as taking random chunks out of the grass; but I arrived back from work one afternoon to find it purring away smoothly and the lawn looking pristine.
Now this may not sound important, but you don’t know Jim. He’s got zero interest in mechanics and he doesn’t know a carburettor from a split pin. At least he didn’t. He said he’d Googled it and just followed instructions. Seemed to work. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, though I made some joke about it being a bit of a butch thing for him to do (Jim could be accused of many things, but being butch has never been one of them).
And it didn’t stop there. The dishwasher developed a small leak nothing much, but occasionally I’d come down in the morning to find a little puddle on the kitchen floor. Jim set about it with gusto. He took a valve or something apart, saw the problem, went and got a new washer and put it all back together. No more leak. Wonderful.
This was all very well, but it wasn’t like Jim. Two weeks earlier if you’d asked him how to replace a washer in a whatever-it-was he’d look at you blankly and then suggest getting a man in to do it.
Other minor but disturbing things occurred over the following weeks: shelves were put up, hinges were oiled nothing much, but looking back now I see that was the start of the rot.
The next big thing was the arrival of the 65” plasma TV with wall mount and surround sound. “What the hell is that for?” I asked as I watched him drilling enthusiastically and wielding an electric screwdriver to put it up. It was enormous. He smiled conspiratorially. “For next Saturday,” he said.
I frowned, then realisation dawned. It was Eurovision week and the final was on Saturday. My face broke into a grin. “Eurovision!” I said delightedly. Perhaps all was not lost. We always made an occasion of Eurovision, got extra gin in, wore silly hats, ate small quantities of unsuitable snacks. It would be great to watch it on that thing.
“No, the FA Cup Final.”
Apparently there was a football match on the same night. I hadn’t known this. I have to confess that there followed a bit of a row. I have never had the slightest interest in football, and I knew that he didn’t either. In fact we would go to great lengths to avoid it. And he’d bought a gigantic screen to watch it on? This was worrying.
It got worse. Jim has always been hygienic to a fault; he has an impeccable dress sense, and although he has, on occasion, been described as ‘slightly camp’, he has always comported himself with the utmost finesse. So when I noticed that he was scratching his balls and then smelling his fingers without making the slightest attempt to cover it up, I didn’t know what to think. When I mentioned these things to him he accused me of being totally unreasonable. And he began to swear a lot. That was very unlike Jim. Behavioural change is often worrying, and I began to wonder if he’d had a stroke. But he seemed happy.
Saturday came, with me still convinced that it was all some complicated joke and we would be watching Eurovision, not football. But when he came home wearing loose grey shorts, a greasy tee shirt I’d never seen before and with several six-packs of lager, a mountain of crisps and a stack of microwave pizzas, and spread himself out on the sofa demanding a blowjob, I knew something was very, very wrong.
Jim and I have been together for four years. He’s never been perfect who is? - but we love each other deeply. Until then, we’d always had regular sex, and although it’s not very power-play oriented, if there is a top then I’m it. It has been known for me to tie Jim up now and then, and occasionally we have a week of master / slave fun. It usually falls apart in hysterics fairly quickly, but it can be good while it lasts. So for Jim to sit on the settee and demand a blowjob is not normal. Even less normal is for him to lift a leg and fart, and follow that with a loud belch both of which he did just then.
I decided right there that this had to stop. I moved in front of the TV, blocking his view. “A blowjob in front of the telly is not going to happen. I don’t know what’s going on with you you’re like a different guy. If you want sex, Jim, get yourself into the bedroom and I’ll happily fuck you senseless like I usually do.”
He gave me a look I’d never seen on his face before. It was as if the very thought of anal sex was anathema to him. “Fuck that, mate.” Mate? He’d never ever called me ‘mate’ before. “I ain’t having it up the bum. But my dick’s in need.” He scratched his balls then flopped his cock around in those horrendous shorts. I could see he was semi-hard.
This was seriously wrong. I crouched down in front of him, took his hand in mine and looked searchingly into his eyes. “Jim,” I said quietly. “What is wrong with you? I love you. You love me. We always have.”
He looked embarrassed. “We’re good mates. The best.”
“No, we’re not mates. We’re a gay couple who’ve loved each other and lived together for four years.”
Now he looked uncomfortable. He didn’t say anything for a while, then he got his cock out of the leg of his shorts. “Suck it, mate. Please. I’m so fucking horny.”
I sighed. He may be different, but he was still Jim, the man I loved. I was just about to start thinking of giving in and going down on him when he jerked upright. “Shit, the match is starting. Put the fucking pizzas on. And bring the beer over here.”
Things got steadily worse. We no longer had sex of any kind. He stopped showering every day and consequently began to smell; his almost obsessive tidiness disappeared and the house became a tip; but the worst thing was when I caught him wanking to a porn mag featuring big-boobed naked women. I had to go and have a lie down.
For four years we’d lived very happily together; we both had good jobs that paid for a comfortable enough lifestyle. But this was the end of my world. I began to wonder what I was going to do. I couldn’t carry on like this the man I loved had turned into somebody very different indeed. I lay on the bed and cried into the pillow.
Many things about Jim had changed, including his eating habits. On the one hand this was not a good thing: he was consuming ill-advisedly large quantities of junk food and beer instead of the good home-cooked meals I’d always made for us but on the other hand he threw out every last bottle of supplements and vitamins. “Don’t need that pansy fucking shit,” he said as he consigned them to the bin.
Ironically, the first tiny patch of blue sky showed one evening when I was at my most depressed. I’d been sat beside Jim staring unseeingly at some cable channel that had been waxing lyrical about the design of the Beretta PM12 sub machine gun. The picture was blurred because of the tears in my eyes, and it was difficult to hear the sound through the crunching of Doritos from the other end of the settee, so I didn’t notice that the programme had changed and it was now a couple of women with too much make-up sitting on a bright red settee and talking about something totally inconsequential.
“Fuck me,” he said. “Look at that cow.”
Huh? I wiped my eyes and looked. “Which one?” I asked despondently.
“Left-hand one. Look at her fucking lips!”
I was expecting him to say that he wouldn’t mind getting his dick between them, or something equally erudite.
But no. “Bright red lipstick with a dress that fucking shade of green? You’ve gotta be fucking joking.”
I blinked, and spent a moment processing this. Take out the swear words and that could have been a comment the old Jim might have made. But nah, I shook my head. Just an aberration.
A few days later I saw him lift his arm and sniff his armpit. This was not unusual; it was just one of the more disgusting habits he’d acquired lately. But this time he pulled a face. “Hmm.” He disappeared into the bathroom and I heard the shower running. When he came out he’d ditched the dreadful shorts and was wearing a respectable pair of Levis.
Things continued to improve. Over time the house became tidier and cleaner; the cushions as in days of old - were positioned with spirit-level accuracy; the lager was replaced with some very pleasant red wine; and our television viewing gradually returned to more acceptable programmes. Best of all, our sex resumed more or less as it had been before this whole sorry thing had begun.
Could I dare to hope that life had returned to normality?
“I reckon it was that Icelandic Sagewort stuff. Everything was fine until you started taking that, and then things went pear-shaped.”
Jim thought about it. “Hmm. You may be right. Perhaps I should be a bit more circumspect about taking so many supplements.”
“You don’t need them. I don’t take them and I’m perfectly healthy.”
He nodded. Then he smiled at me. We went into the bedroom and made love.
The next day, halfway down the stairs, the Hoover died. I checked the filters, they were Ok, and knocking the pipe against the newel post revealed no foreign objects obstructing the free flow of air. The motor was working, but there was a distinct lack of suckage. I called Jim.
He looked at the machine, rolled his sleeves up purposefully and opened the cover. He stared at the innards for a while, then he looked at me. “Let’s get a man in.”
I smiled. Then I laughed. I hugged him. My Jim was back.