To Thine Own Self
When Femi Henderson goes on a camping trip with his boyfriend, Shay, he's ready to party and escape his demons. They aren't letting him go. Something's lurking in Windsor Great Park and it won't stop hunting Femi until he faces the ghouls of his past.
"This is amazing!" Shay said.
No one would ever accuse me, Femi Henderson, of being at one with nature. To me, a London boy through and through, it was just another tree. A big, reaching for the sky kind of tree. But still a tree. Shay thought otherwise. He had the same look as a little kid on Christmas Day, eyes wide with a magic only he could understand. It was sort of cute.
"It'sâ€¦big." I added helpfully, reaching into my pocket and flicking the cap of my Zippo. "And it looks exactly like the other thirty you've photographed. Time we get back to camp. It's freezing."
"Just a couple of minutes. I can tell this one is different." Shay pointed to some leaves on the lower branches. "See how the leaf lobes are rounded. This is the first white oak I've seen and it'll round off the portfolio nicely."
"Uh-huh. Real interesting," I could always count on my boyfriend to have a random fact up his sleeve. I looked at the tree again, trying to see it through his eyes.
Gnarled branches looked like they'd be great for a horror film. Still just a tree.
"One more picture. Then we're getting blitzed." I wasn't usually an impatient guy, but we'd been tramping around for ages and all I felt like doing was kicking back with a spliff.
Shay peered through the viewfinder, moved a few paces across the grass and snapped a photo. He snapped a second and checked the results. "Beautiful."
We cut across the Long Walk road where a statue of a man sitting atop a horse pointed at the sky. In the near distance sat Windsor Castle and a lake. Massive was the best word for Windsor Great Park, and as nice as all that woodland might be it had nothing on London. Bright lights, soft beds, a place to lose oneself, endless possibilities.
We passed a small stream and the trees opened up, leading into a clearing. As soon as we reached the campsite, I groaned. The tent had collapsed and the poles were thrown about. One of them had been flipped over with the bottom end sticking up like a middle finger. A gust of wind hit me in the face and I folded my arms.
"Stop pouting. It could be worse," Shay said. "If we don't get it right first time then we try again." He picked up two poles.
He was so matter of fact about it, so logical that I couldn't be bothered making a smart arse comment. I'd save that for after we'd settled down. I grabbed the other poles and put them together.
By the time the tent was set up, the wind had stopped. I opened up Shay's rucksack and fished out the papers and weed. I dabbed half a gram into the middle and added a bit of tobacco for some extra kick. I folded the filter tip around the bud and started to roll the paper a couple of times, back and forth. Making the spliff was almost as therapeutic as smoking. I licked the seal and lit the end with my Zippo.
Smoke gathered in my throat, a warm, dull buzz drifting through my head. I exhaled and lay on the grass with my elbows propped up.
Shay sat next time to me with his legs crossed. "Pass it over, Femi."
"You gonna ask me nicely?" I grinned and tilted my head.
"I'll take my chances." He lunged and I dropped onto my back, holding my arm just above my head to keep his precious blunt of reach. It got Shay where I wanted him to be, silver-framed glasses slipping down his nose. He adjusted them quickly and made a poor effort to grab for my arm. When he couldn't reach he put his hand on my chest.