Guido and I have two card shark playing gay friends called Gary and Ted. They visit us at The Spanish Onion once a month. The four of us sit in one of the booths after closing time and eat nuts and olives, drink wine, play cards, and chat. Then Gary and Ted leave three hours later with all of our money.
Guido met Ted at a bread making course at Peggie Porchen’s in London. Apparently they immediately bonded over a walnut and spelt loaf. Ted works at the London Stock Exchange. His job makes him very rich. He probably spends all day shouting things like “Buy! Buy! Buy!” or “Sell! Sell! Sell!” When his stock drops unexpectedly he says he thinks of sultana bun batter to relieve the pressure.
Ted’s husband Gary is a flight attendant. He has lots of teeth which he gets whitened every couple of months in one of those little stands you see in a shopping mall. The gleam on them is utterly astonishing. I reckon if they stood him at the end of a runway he could guide in aircraft all by himself just from the glare reflecting from his molars. Unfortunately Gary only ever flies domestic routes, which means that rather than flying down to Rio, he touches down fleetingly in places as exotic as Liverpool.
Gary and Ted always dress wonderfully, even when they dress down they are more up than me. I often buy a new shirt before we meet just to try to keep up. Yesterday I went to Marks and Spencer and bought a top from the David Gandy range. David Gandy is a very famous male model in the UK. He got famous being in a Dolce and Gabbana commercial wearing only white swimming briefs. It wasn’t the briefs, it was what was in them, everyone was looking at.
I topped up the nuts and the olives whilst Guido shuffled the cards.
“This cashmere top is David Gandy,” I said waving my arms above my head. “I like to think it makes me look like him, ha, ha, ha. I’m joking of course.” Nobody said anything. It felt like the joke was on me.
“I’ll raise you two,” said Ted. I could tell he had a good hand of cards. Ted always says he’ll raise us two when he has a good hand. It’s a tactic of his which I have gotten familiar with. Of course what he really wants to say is, I’ll raise you twenty. I think it’s the stock market trader in him.
“I mean, just because I wear a David Gandy top,” I said, “who’s going to think I would actually look like him?” Nobody said anything.
“I dealt with a whole plane load of vomit this morning,” said Gary crunching on a macadamia. “It’s really weird. Every single damn time I come into land at the Isle of Man all I need to say is, fold back your tray table, and everybody vomits. I’ll raise you another two.”
“That’s thermals for you,” said Guido.
“I mean,” I said laughing, “who’d ever think I would look like David Gandy?” Nobody said anything.
“The thing I hate about the UK economy right now is the stagnation,” said Ted. “These olives are terrific by the way.” I love the way Ted says things like that to Guido and me, as if he is expecting us to know what stagnation means. Doesn’t he know all we ever talk about at home is wallpaper and how quickly mozarella melts.
“Oh, yeah,” said Guido shaking his head, “the stagnating economy, it’s a real killer. I’ll raise you another two.”
“What I am saying is…,” I said laughing louder, “Why it would be just plain hysterical if anyone actually mistook me for David Gandy just because I was wearing one of his tops.”
Eventually Guido looked at me. “Jean-Paul if you looked like David Gandy I would be the one getting hysterical,” he waved at my cards. “So are you in or are you out?”
“David Gandy was once on a flight of mine,” said Gary, “and let me tell you it was a big disappointment. He wasn’t wearing white swimming briefs. He didn’t look very happy. I don’t know why, maybe it was because he was flying to Glasgow.”
“Really? I said. It shattered my illusion of what David wore when he travelled in public. No briefs. Damn. “Who was your most happy passenger?” I said fiddling my collar.
“Archbishop Desmond Tutu,” said Gary. “He wasn’t wearing white swimming briefs either. He was wearing a big bellowing fuchsia cassock. He seemed pretty happy though. Except just before we took off and he started praying hard and passengers in the front two rows got really nervous.”
I looked at the cards I had been dealt with. As usual they were completely useless. It felt like a metaphor.
“I’ll raise you five,” I said using my – I have a crap hand but I’ll pretend I have a full flush tactic. I had nothing to lose. Except of course the David Gandy top off my back.