Ivanic and I were getting on great guns. He was a bit loud and excited but he wasn’t doing my head in. He commiserated me on each missed pool shot and I told him he was lucky with his, but it was funny. Between shots Ivanic would ask me if I know this punk band and that punk band and then launch into a rendition of one of their hits. I was sorry I said I liked punk rock. I know nothing about music but I didn’t want to let down Britain by admitting it.
There was nobody else in the bar apart from the lesbian who seemed to run the show and Ivanic’s shoe box of frogs which would occasionally rumble to life. I don’t think he would have behaved differently were the bar packed.
So while I lost at pool and drank a beer I learnt that Ivanic was a baker in Dol de Bretagne, the next town over. Fucking bingo! Exactly the sort of colourful character I’d hoped to meet. We’d sort of established I was going to go back with him but of course I had one massive fear that was difficult to broach.
“You are not a…” Jesus, how to say it tactfully? I did a limp wave and looked coy. He looked puzzled but intrigued. “You know a…” Fuck, this was hard. He took his next shot. I couldn’t think of any famous gays he might’ve heard of. Elton John? Would he know him? I didn’t want to act out any gay stuff in case he got the wrong idea, so I didn’t mince around blowing kisses. Ivanic cleared the table. “You like girls, right? Not men?” I nodded as I said it. I tried to keep it light but I was in no mood to get bummed.
“You are queer?” Asked Ivanic.
“Fuck no!” I said actually crossing my waving hands in front of me like you might if you worked on an aircraft carrier and you wanted a plane to stop.
“Who is queer?” Asked Ivanic. He was enjoying this English lesson.
“Well, you are not?” I asked in my English foreign.
“Me?” He looked amazed. He looked down, gesturing at his denim outfit and back to me as if I was stupid.
“I didn’t think so,” I told him.
“No way, man! I told you. I like… Winona Ryder! Tu connais (do you know) Winona Ryder?” It didn’t seem like he did. “Beetleguese?” I asked and then I remembered, with some relief, that I was married with children. I showed Ivanic pictures from my wallet that my wife had put in there. It had bothered me at the time, soldiers carry around pictures of their family not people who worked in a Spar.
“Phew!” Said Ivanic comically wiping his forehead fringe combination with his denim sleeve. He didn’t say my family looked good though. I would have said that, it’s common courtesy.
“Yeah, Jesus!” I too exhaled trying to convey relief.
“If you queer,” said Ivanic pointing to me. He adopted a boxing stance and started pretending to box me, his fist stopping quite close to my face. I laughed and nodded.
“Oh no, don’t hurt me!” I squealed like Mickey Mouse. Three fake punches would have been enough but he didn’t stop there. He continued dancing around on his toes, throwing punches towards me. I laughed more but it was losing its funny really quickly. He should have stopped at three. I was frightened when he started directing kicks too.
“Okay!” I said smiling. Ivanic stood still for a second, I’d hoped he’d finished but it was clear he hadn’t, after a pause he pretended to grab my ears and pull my ears down towards his rising knee.
“Bof!” He shouted as this imaginary connection occurred. He’d killed me, thank God! It was over. “More queers!” He shouted and ran around to the other side of the pool table, muttering in French, and started fighting with what was – at a guess – three invisible homosexuals. He rabbit punched each one’s face in turn before starting to work on their bodies. It was horrible. They didn’t stand a chance. I’d been glad that the bar was empty but now I wasn’t. I looked around but there was no escape so I stood smiling. I remembered something about not disturbing sleepwalkers. Ivanic was sweating, his ridiculous fringe which only a few minutes ago had been bouncy was plastered to his forehead.
Ivanic stood over the bodies of the vanquished and again I hoped in vain that that was the end of it. Ivanic produced an invisible knife from his back pocket. “They’ve had enough,” I said weakly. He showed the nothing in his hand to the nothing on the floor, turning the invisible blade so that the people who weren’t there couldn’t see it in all its glory and then with a “Ya!” He leapt on the space where the poor invisible homos were no doubt asking “Why are you doing this?”
He finished stabbing each one a few times and then started performing some sort butchery. I had to turn away then but I’m pretty sure I know what he was cutting off. I should never have come to France. When I looked back Ivanic was laughing. I tried to join him but I felt shaky. I needed something to eat.
“Hey ho, let’s go!” He said finishing his beer and gathering up his shoe box. He patted the box like it was a puppy.