Okay, this is my Victorian Rentboy Ghost, he’s rather fun, but i must admit i can’t get his voice quite right in performance. He was originally supposed to be cockney, but my attempt at the accent sort-of came out as a bit bristol, a bit westcountry, sometimes cockney and posh in bits where he’s not putting on his ‘posh-voice’. Nevertheless, he’s a great character, and i really enjoyed writing this! There are recordings of new poetry on my soundcloud, and though i haven’t attempted to do the cockney voice on that version of Gentlemen, there is a recording that will hopefully be going up after our spoken word night of me and a few friends performing some poetry with proper recording equipment, and it’s wonderful.
I stood for ages, on street corners, learning from the gents that used to come and pick me up for the evening. They thought they were just having their fun with me, but I always was too clever for my own good. It was a fun way to make a few bob, and I listened, learnt things. They always thought they were so naughty. I was happy to oblige, indulge them, and I learnt a thing or three in my time with them as well.
Mostly, it was nice to be able to afford my own room and board, live pretty comfortably if I say so myself. It’s better than my poor family ever did, I grew up in poverty, and realised i had to make my own way in the world pretty early in life . I sent my old mum a bit, now and then, when I remembered, until the pox got her. I never much cared for my brothers and sisters, and my Da was a mean old brute, so after ma died I didn’t really see the need to keep in touch.
I mean, I even got to natter with the rich and famous, these days. I loved a good life, and they’d never been that nice to me anyway. I liked it, too, the fancy clothes and the presents helped, but I suppose I’d always thought myself a bit better than them, I’d been blessed with all the looks, charm and brains, and they’d all known it well enough. They’d made my life hell until I was old enough to look after myself.
As for the tricks, I’d always been more inclined to boys anyway, another thing that had gotten me in trouble growing up. The night-time antics and desperate scuffles in the dark weren’t exactly new to me, I just got paid for it now. It wasn’t all bad, most of the time. Well, let’s be fair, half the time the poor dears were so desperate that they’d be done pretty quickly, leaving a bit of a sticky mess and me a bit richer. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for a bit of velvet and some proper grub anyway.
I mean, the parties they took me to, and the way they paraded me around like some sort of prize peacock, you’d think it wasn’t frowned on by the high and mighty types.
Not that I was ever one for that sort of thing either. That holier-than-thou shite was all a load of horse piss anyway. At least our gents had class, most of them. I heard from some of the other boys that the perfumed bloody priests were just as bad, at least we were old enough to look after ourselves. Most of the gents were pretty sweet, really.
I said I learnt from them, which I guess is what got me into this mess, in the end. I sort-of-copied them, I learnt fast, I always had done. I let them buy me clothes , treat me like a prize, and I kept my ears peeled. I listened, as you do. They’d talk to me alone , about their fancy lives and their families, and I wanted it. Wanted to be one of them , with all their airs and graces.
It wasn’t just the money, really, though I enjoyed that too, of course I did. I’d learnt my letters from school, always had a knack for that sort of thing. My lot were poor, but we weren’t workhouse poor. My old Da, a nasty piece of work though he was, had made sure I tried to ‘better myself’. He’d let me have it worse than any schoolmaster ever could, if he thought I was slacking. I was the hope for his future, or something. I was lucky I was clever, but my siblings resented me for it. I knew I had to leave as soon as I could, my mother tried her best, but she was no match for him.
When I was old enough, I got out, got started with this business. I had a little help from a friend who already knew the streets, and he’s figured we could make more money than our families had ever dreamed of. I mean, the stuff that had gotten us almost killed in school could make our fortunes.
So, I’m having a whale of a time, with a different fancy man every night, getting good grub and the most beautiful clothes and as I said, I listen to everything, I’ve got a good memory as well.
You hear some bloomin’ stories I tell you, they don’t think you’re paying attention anyway. That, or they don’t think you really matter anyway. I prefer to think they don’t listen, you’ve got to keep telling yourself these things, don’t you? You can’t let it get to you, not in hard times like these.
See, I learnt to talk like them after a while. I learnt to talk in that haughty taughty way, practised in my little room. Sometimes with my friend, sometimes by myself. I kept a little mirror, underneath my bed, a pearl rimmed crystal masterpiece given to me by some trick who thought I was a bleedin’ princess or something. He was a weird one, had to cut him off when he started sending me flowers, somehow found out where I lived and scared the daylights out of my landlady. I mean, she was fine most of the time, didn’t mind as long as I was careful and didn’t bring the john’s home. I tried not to let them know where I lived anyway, bad for business, and I needed my own space.
I practised their little mannerisms, especially the younger ones, and I thought I could pass myself off quite well as one of them, when the mood took me.
It was a bit eerie, really, and I could never let them know.
I started going out on my off nights, going to different parties, their parties. I wanted to go where the real posh nobs were, so I did. I had a new persona, new voice, new way of moving. In a frock coat i’d stolen from a young trick about my size in an opium den, bits and bobs of gifts and debris I’d acquired from here or there that I’d stuck together. I fancied I looked like one of the newer lads, fresh faced from the country, down to the city for the first time. They only bloody bought it, didn’t they.
I’d even found myself an older John who would claim to be my uncle if anyone asked, and a lawyer who only really left his offices to see me who had stuck together some fake documents for me. So, it all looked right and proper, if anyone was to ask. They never really did, or really seemed to care. I even saw some of my tricks, from time to time, but they didn’t seem to even recognise me. I guess without my street-boy swagger and peacock velvets they couldn’t see me. I became the belle of the fucking ball, one night a week, though I still worked the rest of my evenings.
I even had a ‘sweetheart’ for a bit, a lady friend I knew was up to exactly the same game as I was. I knew her from the docks, her potty mouth was legendary. We’d been on a few wild nights together, and I knew she was a mad one for the ladies, and a gin fiend. Here though, like me, a fucking fox in peacock feathers.
It was such a good game though. Well, whilst it lasted. They caught my fucking ‘uncle’ with some new boy. They were being fucking stupid, so open, and I figured it was time to scarper. I kept my room, kept it on the downers for a bit. Things had gotten.. dangerous.. I lost a lot of friends, so many of them just vanished without a word. I figured I’d step down from the posh boy game for a bit, went back to the streets and tried to keep to my regular tricks. I still had to make rent, didn’t I? Sold most of my toys and hid my frock coat and my velvets. Kept the mirror, of course, but I hid it pretty well.
They had even busted some of the rich and famous, spouting morality and decadence, or some shit. Things were getting bloody risky, and I knew I had to be careful.
All things considered, I probably shouldn’t have gotten in that coach. The thing is, I’ve got magpie eyes, and I am a sucker for a gaudy undercarriage. This thing was so gaudy, raven black and plastered in obsidian roses. It was like a fucking royal nightmare, and all I knew was I wanted it. I wanted it more than anything I’d ever wanted. He was fucking glorious as well, like my ideal gentleman. The gent is always wanted to be, or at least to have. Of course I fucking got in, it was all I ever wanted.
He’s waiting over there, I’ll take you over if you like, hold your hand if you want. He’s nice, really. It’s not like it’s my fault the carriage crashed. We’ve been waiting for someone like you for ages. After all, it’s the only way to see the city.