Ugly Puggly 17
We balanced plates of linguine dappled with parmesan on our laps in the living room. Ugly Puggly sat in his armchair across from us and sipped green tea. He said he wasn’t hungry. Dave balanced his phone on the arm of the settee, pasta sauce drippled onto his chin. He licked his lips, and stared at the phone every time it beeped to show he’d another message. I knew he was dying to pick it up and check it out, but he made a point of not doing so because I’d been watching. He was bluffing me. He stood up and patted his belly and put his plate down on the floor.
‘I’ll need to get a glass of water,’ he brushed past, took a deep breath, glanced at his phone and then back at me.
If he was trying to prove a point, it didn’t work. As soon as his phone beeped again I picked it up. I held it up in the air as he came back into the room. He rushed across and made a grab for it, knocking the remains of pasta onto my lap and staining the cushions and the pocket of my denims.
‘Look whit you done, ya stupid cunt,’ I shouted.
He ignored me, scrolling and shutting down his phone.
‘Bit too late for that,’ I jumped up and wiping pasta from my stained trousers and brushed the remains of spring onion and garlic from the chair. ‘We’ve already seen it. I showed him.’ I nodded towards Ugly Puggly. ‘Pictures of guys’ cocks and arses and holes—and I’m no just talkin about you. Aw yer wee pals, playin the same game. And the messages are even worse. Yer no just exactly been haudin hands. In our day, it took you six months to pluck up the courage tae speak tae a lassie yeh liked. And it would be somethin innocuous like “Agnes, can I borrow yer rubber?”’
I realised what I’d said when Ugly Puggly chuckled through his nose. Using my toe, I nudged pasta and asparagus shoots under the chair, where we wouldn’t stand on it. ‘I don’t mean in that way.’ Dave avoided looked at me or Ugly Puggly. He loosely held his phone between his thumb and forefinger as if he was going to drop it on the floor.
‘Aye, in our day, we eventually plucked up the courage tae ask them oot for a date. We didnae jist send them a picture of our cock and ask them to send us a picture of their fanny by return email or whitever it’s called.’
‘In our day,’ Ugly Puggly said, ‘some of us ne er went on dates. And there was nothin mair frightenin than a gang of adolescent girls. Sober was bad enough, but drunk—’
‘Aye,’ I eased myself back into the chair. ‘But you were different. We didnae know yeh were a poof then, did we?’
‘No,’ he said. ‘I’m ambidextrous. But would it have mattered?’
I licked my fingers—tinge of tomato and garlic puree—before running them through what remained of my hair. ‘Nah,’ I admitted. ‘It wouldnae of.’
‘See,’ said Dave. He’d sidled over and sat on the edge of Ugly Puggly’s chair.
‘See whit?’ I replied. ‘He never sent me a picture of his cock when he was a boy?’
‘You’d be flattered.’
‘No, I wouldnae.’ I waved a finger at Dave. ‘And anyway, yer changing the subject. Yer shaggin other guys. And takin the cunt oot of us.’
His knees banged together, and his body shook. ‘I’m sorry,’ he started greeting. ‘But it’s an addiction, like any other addiction.’
‘Don’t gee us that pish!’
He took his phone out of his pocket and smashed it down on the carpet. The thud made me flinch and it bounced under a table.
‘Satisfied?’ He stood sobbing. Picking up his phone, he held it like a lit candle in his hands.
‘Let’s see that,’ Ugly Puggly held his hand out and Dave passed him his phone. He turned it on, the glow lighting his long chin. Despite the theatrics, his phone remained largely intact. A little crack visible at the corner of the screen. He turned it off and handed it back. ‘It’s fine.’ He shrugged, ‘I guess we’re all the same, getting together in gangs and waiting to chase the alpha male up the tree.’ ‘You lettin him aff with this then?’ I lipped my lips. ‘Don’t suppose there’ll be any pudding, then?’
‘Cream anglaise and carmel, wae ice cream?’
‘Fuck, that sounds great.’ But he made no move to go and get it.
Dave stood penitent, but brightend up. ‘I’ll get it for yeh,’ he said.
‘It’s no his fault,’ Ugly Puggly whispered. ‘Any mair than it was your fault. Men and women’s brains are wired much the same. We all slaver like Pavlov’s dogs to different stimuli.’
Dave came through the door with a swing of his hips. Three plates stacked in his hand, like a waiter. He handed me mind first, and I noticed it had the most in it. Drizzle over the meringues, and I liked my lips. ‘You better sit doon,’ I said to the playboy. ‘He was jist explaining how it wisnae yer fault, yer a cheatin bastard.’
Ugly Puggly lifted the spoon and put it to his lips and rocked back and forth, pleasure on his face. He licked his lips and chewed away the sugar overload. ‘We’re aw the same, but different. We all know about the serotonin hits and how that’s associated with pleasure.’ He took a mouthful of ice cream and it ran down his chin. He wiped it away with the underside of his hand. ‘How our body adapts. We need mair and mair of the same thing to get the same hit, whether it’s cocaine or porn or sex. The interesting part is how we code it in the prefrontal cortex.’ He twisted his wrist and cupped his hand as if taking out a light bulb. ‘And that gives us variation. And this has much to do with areas associate with emotion. An overlaps between the amygdala and regions of the brain associated wae abstract thinkin. Some guys see a pair of twelve-inch heels on a woman and get turned on. Other guys want tae stab you in the eye wae them.’
‘That’s true,’ said Dave.
Ugly Puggly tapped a finger against his forehead. ‘We aw write our own story in our heid. But when we’ve an addiction, our own story writes us. We become our addiction.’
I didn’t like the smug look Dave gave me.
‘So yer sayin that cunt’s innocent.’
Ugly Puggly put his plate down, unfinished.
‘You gonnae finish that?’
He passed it across to me and I got stuck in.
‘Whit I’m sayin,’ Ugly Puggly said, ‘is he is young and impetuous, driven by desires as we all ur. Some of us are jist better at hiding it than others. And the thing is, gay men, as a rule, don’t hurt anybody else but themselves. Whereas, heterosexual men, get girls pregnant, and can destroy others’ lives far more effectively than any sexually transmitted disease and that included AIDs.’
I pointed the spoon, but only after I’d licked it. ‘You mean me.’
‘If the cock fits,’ he replied with a dry laugh. ‘But I’m talkin mair about mankind. Around 1970, when NASA scientists on their downtime worked out that this thing called global warming was a real phenomena. Wae massive implications for the planet. Our planet was also sending us love letters, reminding us there were too many human on it and it was no longer sustainable. That Malthus was, in fact, correct, but his calculations were just oot by a couple of hundred years.’
‘Any mair puddin’?’ I asked.
‘No, you’ve finished it,’ said Dave. ‘Cause all you heterosexuals are selfish cunts. Self, self, self,’ he chanted.