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London a month later and I meet Martin on his turf. Summoned, I wonder why I really went. Perhaps it’s the tickets to see Arsenal. But beyond dovetailing the trip with a game of football what life-changing outcome am I after?
Martin has a plush upstairs office off Oxford Street. Open-plan. There he is, working the office floor sneaking up behind one of his half-dozen minions who are tapping away at a computer. I wait in a corner of the room set aside for that purpose, waiting. He’s humming a tune – an Indian incantation? – in-between stopping to sign something or have a word here and there. Though we see one another he doesn’t greet me. My time will come.
Martin’s PA – whose name I instantly forget – leads me along the office floor to a glass-fronted master office at the back. I’m left there on my own to stew. Centrepiece on the back wall is a photograph of Him – the Rock-Star – with an arm thrown around Martin. Posing. In the background is a bar. It looks like they’re on a yacht – they seem to be lopsided although it could be that the photographer was. A fat scrawl is on the photo; His signature.
‘There you are!’ Martin says.
He greets me as though I was lost. He shakes my hand with both of his, giving me his full attention, taking me in, studying my face for a few unnatural seconds. In this time he inhales and then sighs. The busy life, huh! Then he repeats my name. Louis La Roc. His attention will be intense and short-lived. I’m only a time-slot in his everyday. The fame game is fickle. A father’s warning!
Today, like when last we met, he’s impeccably dressed. There’s something about him. Debonair? If I had to write him up I’d add muscle.
‘Sofa. It’s more informal. No law here!’
He motions me to a large settee at the far side of the office. As he sits, he pinches his trouser-legs above the knees. He doesn’t do creases. I relax. Back in the hotel room, and bollock-naked, I carefully ironed my clothes in front of MTV. I always maximise the hotel facilities to get value for money. I even conditioned my hair.
‘Now then’ Martin says.
He pats me on the knee and continues.
‘I am so sorry you two haven’t met. O.M.G. You see, He’s in Japan.’
‘Yes, on tour.’
He ignores my internet research. I don’t ignore his patting me on the knee. It drops out of the sky, a dawning: Martin is a fag. My subconscious acts up, makes a stand; gives me a warning shot. I give a manly cough. I swallow male phlegm. He smiles knowingly. You’re not my type and anyway you’re too old his look suggests. I feel silly. Old even. I change tack, act receptive, metro-sexual. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the option to refuse? I run a hand through my hair. Christ, I just did. I surprise myself. It’s extra soft, my hair. Maybe conditioner is worth it after all.
I need a time out.
I wonder how he set himself up. Who used he be? Was he as arbitrarily plucked from obscurity as me? Perhaps Martin was a friendly barman in Puerto Banus – aboard the yacht framed on the wall? Perhaps he ran into His master of an evening and, hey presto, was established overnight.
‘He asked me to convey that He likes what you stand for’ Martin says.
Another message – invented? Christ, not even I know what I stand for. For so long defending my penmanship now a wave of doubt washes over me. If Martin asked me to perform a test this very second – to demonstrate creativity, to write something plush – I’d flounder like the proverbial fish. I irritate myself, piss myself off, sometimes, when doubt creeps in. I wonder if I’m really up to the task. After all, why me an unknown Irishman?
‘He says you write fluidly and get to the heart of the matter. Oh and – how does it go – that you configure words like stars in a peculiar constellation. It’s what he told me to tell you. So there!’
It’s like Blind Date; the empty come-ons, the cheap lines. Still, it’s what Martin said He said. I’m just quoting him, verbatim. Ok, you’re getting it third-hand. Still, I’ll never forget it: I write fluidly! Intelligent Life, mmm. I might offer to pen them an article. I’ll forewarn them: hey, apparently my sentences are fresh! Feeling buoyed up I try to be gracious and reciprocate.
‘That’s very kind. You will pass on how much I enjoy His new album. It’s more …. Umm …’
‘More assured. Than His earlier work. He seems more in His skin.’
More in His skin! I’m a plonker. Martin nods. I get back to my plan, my agenda.
‘Surely there are professional ghosts who do this sort of thing for a living?’
‘Oh, of course. The publisher was at pains to foist them on us…’
‘Why didn’t you accept?’
‘Haven’t you being listening?’ he asks. ‘He made His mind up.’
He spots my incredulity and cuts me off at the pass.
‘He thinks you two will get along just fine and that you’ll understand His need.’
‘Yes, His drive. His direction in life. His ambition.’
He’s having a laugh. I can just picture them chatting: ‘Have a laugh with the Paddy’. Then they laugh. It’s their joke. I’m only a toy. Although it’s utter codswallop I let it slide. I’m on an all expenses trip. And maybe in the deep recess of my mind I do in fact understand ‘the need’ of a global pop-star. After all, isn’t everyone awaiting an audience?
‘Speaking of publishers, as I mentioned on the phone, the editor insists on meeting.’
Martin looks at his watch.
‘Best head over there.’
‘Will it be a problem?’
‘I shouldn’t think so. It’s agreed in principle. Admittedly, at first, they were reluctant but what could they do!’
He claps his hands as though he performed a trick. Definitely gay. A shrinks take on it: he’s applauding his handiwork. How I’d envy cutting a deal with the scales weighed in my favour.
We get up to leave.
‘So yes, Terry, the editor’ Martin says. ‘I guess he wants to meet to plan things. Pep-talk. You know – to secure the outcome; that kind of thing. Should be straight-forward.’
Is there a need to tell you what follows next?
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