I wrote this short story for the ‘Exhibitionists: Photosoirée No.2.…
I wrote this short story for the ‘Exhibitionists: Photosoirée No.3. fanzine. The theme was ‘Glimmer’.
Martin sipped on his vodka and Tesco Value orange juice and continued to blend the Celebré Pro HD Foundation. He was halfway between himself and Maude A La Pier, his drag stage-persona. They were both due to take the stage in under an hour. He stared at his wigless, pseudo-kabuki face, sighed and reached for the palette of eye shadows.
‘For FUCK’S sake,’ spluttered Martin, as the lights in the dressing room flickered, then cut out completely. He sat in the dark, sponge in hand and wondered if it was possible to apply maquillage with blind instinct.
If it proved a mess, Martin pondered, he could always claim it was a new, avant-garde look. From the bar, Mariah Carey’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ seeped past the toilets, down a corridor and under the dressing room door.
The lights flickered back on, strobe-like and stuttering. In that split second, prior to the bulbs’ glaring resurrection, Martin glimpsed something else, someone else, in the mirror. It was a face, older, grander, framed by long, tangled blonde hair.
‘I’m going fucking mad,’ Martin muttered to himself, reaching for his drink. The glass was empty. This was wrong. He recalled only minutes previously, the reassuring sound of ice and lots of sweet, throat scorching liquid.
‘I did NOT finish that!’ he snapped at his indignant reflection. With a blink, Martin noticed lipstick on the rim of the hollow glass. It was red, thick, fresh.
It wasn’t his. Martin hadn’t applied his Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge. He stared at his pale face in the mirror. No, he wasn’t wearing lipstick. Yet.
‘And I never fucking finished that drink!’ Martin snapped at his reflection, doubt yanking at his tonsils, tightening the throat.
Martin’s quiet concern escalated into a shriek, when Alfie, landlord of The Ram, stuck his head through the dressing room door and shouted, ‘Half hour ‘til curtain up, dear!’
Martin gasped. Alfie grinned, ‘Bit jumpy tonight, dear? Been on the crack pipe?’
‘Piss off,’ hissed Martin. ‘You can’t creep up on a woman of my age like that. Near killed me! And I can’t work in these conditions.’
He swept the room with his hands, eyes raised to the skies, as if the entire world was hindering artistic progress
‘What’s with the power cuts? Pay your bills, you cheap witch. And get me a drink!’
Martin shoved the empty glass in Alfie’s direction. The old queen, who’d been running The Ram since 1967 took the glass with a patient smile. To Martin’s dismay, he studied it, specifically the lipstick stain.
‘I see Glimmer’s dropped by,’ said Alfie, grimly.
‘Who?!’ asked Martin, irritated, but concerned.
‘Glimmer O’Connor! God rest her soul,’ declared Alfie, who then sank into a pile of black bin bags as if they were a bounteous armchair. Like a magician, Alfie then pulled a half full bottle of Smirnoff from one of the bags and poured them both a drink. Neat vodka. No ice.
‘She died. Right here in this room. Suicide. Christmas Eve. 1977.’
Martin’s mouth fell open.
Alfie sniffed and added wistfully, ‘Mull of Kintyre was number one at the time.’
It was an awful winter’s tale. Glimmer O’ Connor had been a trans performer; troubled, brilliant and quite mercurial. She was harangued by her neighbours, mocked on public transport and struggled with an addiction to barbiturates and alcohol.
‘She was very tall for her height,’ mused Alfie. ‘She had impact when she walked in a room. Gorgeous really. Lovely voice. Over seven foot in heels. She never wore flats’
The lights flickered. Martin caught a whisper of perfume. It reminded him of childhood. An aunt, maybe?
‘Charlie, by Revlon,’ declared Alfie, as if he’d read Martin’s mind. ‘She existed in a cloud of it. Well, that and Rothmans cigarettes.’
Martin listened to the sad details of Glimmer’s life; her tough existence on a north London council estate, the violence she’d endured and the overdose she’d eventually taken, in the room they were sat in.
‘Right then,’ Martin snapped, after draining the last of the vodka. He stood up, half-naked but for tan tights and said, ‘Best get this show on the road.’
The punters at the Ram had never seen a show quite like the one that Maude A La Pier delivered that cold, December evening. Martin walked on stage to a cheery, beery crowd and silenced them with his incomplete ‘look’. Topless, in tights and sans wig, lipstick or lashes, Martin confronted them with nothing but pasty foundation and fury.
‘THIS,’ he roared, indicating his face, body and general air of hysteria. ‘THIS, is for Glimmer. A woman who mustn’t be forgotten.’
The crowd shifted, uncomfortably. They wanted jokes. Drag. Fun. He told them her story. His passion, mania and anger gripped the audience, who’d initially come for a much easier show.
‘She’s here! Tonight! In this room,’ he whispered, pointing at the crowd, the dusty lights and for no reason, the toilets.
‘I want you all to raise your glasses to her, Glimmer O’ Connor! A woman who paved the way. A woman who made it easier for YOU to be who you are, by staying true to herself. By LIVING. Do you HEAR me? Can I get a toast, Children of the Revolution?’
The crowd raised their drinks. Some cheered. Martin allowed the atmosphere to swell, then closed his show with shout out to a resurrected ghost.
‘This Christmas, think about my co-host, Glimmer O’ Connor. Think of the outcasts we’ve lost and the ones who live with us now. The fighters! The freaks! The radicals! Fuck the beige. Burn conformity and remember, we may not look the same, but we all bleed, bitches’.
Martin surveyed the swaying room, the twitching crowd and his small, uneven stage.
‘And please don’t fucking forget,’ he added, eyes bulging, pointing a finger into the distance.
‘We all need love. Merry Christmas!’
Martin swept from the stage, like a possessed nymph, to rousing, if confused applause. He slumped in front of the mirror, lost in the cluttered, cramped dressing room and studied his reflection.
On the mirror, looking back at him was a certain message. Red lipstick, in the shape of a kiss had been planted on the mirror. A pair of huge lips, slightly smeared, but fresh and defiant had appeared while he’d been performing. Glimmer had kissed the mirror.
Martin smiled, inhaled the fading whiff of Charlie. He knew, in his heart, that Ms ‘O Connor had perhaps found a happier place to rest her long legs.
‘Happy Christmas, Glimmer O’ Conner,’ he slurred, winking at his reflection and the lipstick smudge. Not for the first time that evening, he reached for the vodka and sighed into the night.