Me and Bitterman were having a night of big cock fun, but then he got something stuck in his beard and he announced he was away to shave it off. I was out of my head. I tried to tell him not to be daft, but all that came out of my mouth was grunts and slavers. He stood up, pulling his housecoat tight over his belly. Where's my cord? he said, looking round, clutching the edges of the gown out in front of him in his tattooed fist. Fuck it, he said after a second, and reached over behind me to lift the video out from its alcove. It was still plugged into the wall, he yanked it and yanked it. The cable came out of the back of the machine with a crunching sound. He dropped the machine down beside me, then yanked at the cable again till it came out of the socket. What time is it? I asked. You're raving, he replied. He was threading the cable through the hoops round his housecoat. It wasn't long enough: the plug caught in the first loop and the other end was barely over his belly. He strained to connect the two ends; the sight fairly got me going. What time is it? I asked. He didn't reply, but bent to press the eject button on the video. Nothing happened. There was no power. The tape wasn't in there anyway, I'd taken it out earlier and tried to shove it up his arse: something to do with smuggling and getting strip-searched at Gretna customs. After a few seconds Bitterman found the cassette wrapped up in a travelling-rug that had been the border-guard's kilt. Ah-ha! He held back the fliptop with his thumb and started spooling out screels of tape with the other hand. He pulled and pulled, piling up coils of tape on my legs and all over the rug. I didn't mind: it hid the stains. What time is it? I asked. He stopped pulling the tape out. He looked down at me. He bared his teeth. He lifted the video to his mouth and bit twice. Now there was a mound of thick brown tape on the floor; he scooped it up in both arms and clutched it in front of his genitals. A great rustling noise filled the room. He scampered out the door.
Sometime later I opened my eyes and someone was kneeling over me. It was Bitterman, without a beard. He had an expression on his face, but I didn't know what it was, the look of him was too different to make anything out. I've gone soft, he said, Feel... I can see from here, I said, You know I don't like to touch your head. But it's different now, he said. It was different: his face looked like a boy's, a round boy's face. Also it was now revealed that his chin was receding, it sloped away towards his neck so it was hard to get a fix on it; instead all attention was drawn to his eyes. For the first time I noticed soft wrinkles, creases, papery folds of skin round about them. And the blue looked watery now: mild blue soup. You don't look bitter any more, I said. I know, he said, And look... He took his hands out from under his knees and held them out to me, hanging limp. There was a patch of raw flesh and crusted blood on each finger between the knuckle and first joint. I shaved my tattoos off, he said, and smiled strangely. You're fucking mental, I said, What time is it? It's time for everyone to shave all their tattoos off, he said, It's the only way forward. And look, he went on, I've got them here for you, as a souvenir. He reached behind his back and brought round a jam jar with a few scraps of red matter in the bottom. I looked at it. After a second he laid it down on the rug at my cheek. Eh, what did your tattoos say anyway? I asked, I couldn't see in the dark. The one on my left hand said HATE, he replied, and the one on my right hand said HATE as well. Oh, I said. Aye, he said, Now get out of my house.