I am not too proud to admit that when the American mega-soap, Dallas, returned to television, for its sadly truncated run, it became my guilty pleasure. I loved the fightin’ an’ a feudin’, where ‘Blood is thinker than water, but oil is thinker than both’.
I enjoyed it soooo much, that I bought the boxset of the original series, spending the next year watching fourteen seasons, a prequel miniseries and two TV movies (I fell short of continuing with the spinoff series Knotts Landing, but never say never).
At the time of watching, I never imagined that this series would become a tutorial in conflict resolution.
My partner and I have different approaches to our open relationship. While I favour the immediacy of anonymous hook-ups in bars, saunas and gay beats, my other half prefers the familiarity of a regular buddy, someone with whom he develops a comfortable intimacy.
Several men have become regular visitors to our house over the years.
One fella became a good friend and welcome house guest for a while. He was a sturdy bull terrier of guy with an ever-growing collection of tattoos and a personality to love. He liked to maintain the air of streetwise geeza, but this tough man image was shattered the time I introduced him to some French cheese. You would have thought I was trying to feed him dog shit! He went into a panic, running around the garden trying to evade me, while I took delight in pursuing him with the offending chunk of stinky fromage. He ended up trapped in a corner, whimpering like Fay Wray at the approach of Kong’s giant paw.
From that day on, if he tried to act tough, I would threaten, “Don’t make me get the cheese.”
Unfortunately, this friendship turned soar. He and my partner fell out and haven’t seen each other in years, but he is still fondly spoken of in our household.
The latest heir to my partner’s affections is a quietly spoken thirtysomething Pakistani with a gentle nature and a winning grin.
Their friendship had been blossoming for many months before I finally met him… but in circumstances that neither of us would have wished for.
I had heard so many good things about this guy, but he avoided me, as I think he was nervous about meeting the ‘husband’.
Apparently, he would sit for hours at our kitchen table in his cap and hoodie, engrossed in playing games on his phone. It seemed, as well as the Islamic relief on offer, he also enjoyed the peace our laidback home gave him compared to his own bustling household. Our house offered a refuge where he could be comfortable in his own skin, away from judgement and cultural expectations.
I found it endearing the time he opened our fridge and asked, “Where your snacks?”
“We’ve got olives, pickles and pate,” said my partner, an offer which was met with a look of disgust. “Or I could make you a cheese sandwich.”
“I don’t trust strange cheese,” he said dismissively (What is it with the cheese?). “Don’t you have samosa or bhaji?”
“I could toast you some crumpets.”
“What are trumpets?”
From that day on, I always knew my partner’s new friend had been over, because the fridge was stocked with south Asian snacks.
One evening, I was greeted at the front door by my partner in a state of high anxiety, “He stole my phone,” he blurred out.
My partner’s buddy had spun some yarn about a fault on his own phone and needing to borrow one to insert his chip into. It didn’t really make much sense, but after months of intimacy, my partner had trusted him. He then made up some ruse to leave the house with the phone, promising to return within the hour.
“That was three hours ago and he’s not replying to messages.”
Recalling my epic watch-thru of Dallas, and the Machiavellian machinations of the show’s infamous star, I asked myself, What would JR Ewing do?
The answer was simple: Find their weak spot and exploit it, while wearing the, oh so charming, grin of a hungry crocodile… darlin’.
We sat down at the laptop and engaged in spot of research.
With minimum effort, we discovered a glut of personal information. I had his address, work history, names and occupations of his immediate family, the professional contact details of one well connected sibling, plus a selection of very saucy photographs. The internet is a wonderful research tool.
I sent the errant phone thief a polite message, ‘Hello, I gather that you have an item that doesn’t belong to you. I would like it returned by the end of tomorrow, otherwise I will be getting the authorities involved. They may ask awkward questions regarding the exact nature of your relationship with my partner. As a proud gay couple in an honest open relationship, we have nothing to hide. Can you say the same?’
I sat back and awaited his response.
The afternoon of the following day, I received, ‘Don’t call the police. I’ll come around tonight, but no drama.’
I promised ‘no drama’ and said I looked forward to meeting him… and not to be late.
I received him at the front door with, “I’ve been saying for ages that I wanted to meet you.”
“But not like this,” he mumbled sheepishly, snatching the cap from his head as he crossed the threshold.
Once in the living room, I motioned for him to sit.
I only recall snippets of the lecture I subjected him to, but the gist was: “You were a welcome guest in our home”; “More than just friends”; “Betrayal, disappointment and disgust”.
I should be able to transcribe the entire conversation, as I had my phone recording the exchange as potential leverage, but I deleted that file long ago.
“It is lucky you got back to me when you did,” I told him. “Your sister’s office is on my route home. If I hadn’t heard from you, I planned to call in and explain the whole situation to her in person.”
He went grey, welled up and looked like he was on the verge of throwing up.
As furious as we were, we would never have outed him to his family for the sake of a phone… but he didn’t know that.
It turned out that he had pawned the phone to pay off a debt.
I had to cough up the cash to get the phone back. We agreed he would repay what he could each week, even repaying ‘in kind’ by helping paint our lounge and kitchen (I made him do all the jobs I hated). At £5 an hour he was the cheapest decorator in town, always dressed in his customary cap and hoodie, but covered in a makeshift poncho, fashioned from a binbag.
Despite the undesirable circumstances of our first meeting, he has become a trusted part of our logical family and home for wayward gays. I suppose friendships have started in worst ways, (although I struggle to think of any off hand).
One evening, I returned home to, “Now, don’t be mad, but he’s in our bed. He finished work early, wanted to hang out…. then fell asleep.”
I popped my head around the bedroom door and could just see the peak of his cap peeking (as it would) over the covers.
We needed to go out to pick up a few things and had no hesitation in leaving him home alone.
Finally, at 9pm, I woke him with, “Hey Goldilocks, it’s time to go home.”
Shortly after, he emerged, bleary-eyed and wearing that Cheshire Cat grin.
These days, he tends to chillout at ours, eating his way through the fruit bowl, demanding cheese sandwiches (We have converted him to ‘strange cheese’) and once, to my mock indignation scoffed a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates that my partner had bought for me!
We mainly cross paths when I return from work (handing over the dayshift to night duty) and we bond over the latest movie blockbusters.
On one encounter, I casually mentioned some modern remake of a silent classic… He looked at me blankly.
“Surely, you’ve seen a silent movie?”
“Oh, yeah man,” he responded, “I watched all the Silent Hill movies.”
After I had finished laughing (and thinking, They made more than one?!), I explained how films originally had music and sound effects performed live in the movie theatres.
He just looked at me with an expression that said, You makin’ dis shit up!
I implored, “You must have at least seen Charlie Chaplin?!”
“Oh, yeah man,” he nodded, “that’s the guy dancin’ ‘round the lamppost in the rain.”
I give up.
The stolen phone incident and my Dallas-style retribution is long forgiven and feels like a dream… Maybe one morning, if I am very lucky, I will awake to find Patrick Duffy in my shower.
Blood is thicker than water, but friendship is thicker than both.