Characters from the television series Highlander are owned by RPD Productions.
Used without permission.
Open the box.
It's thin, in your hands. A collection of A4 sheets printed and folded in half, staple at the centre, held in a clear plastic envelope that even in the box file has gathered a veneer of dust. At first glance it looks like a Jackie photo strip, but it's not. The paper's got that coarse yellowed fragility that means cheap and the photographs are black and white and grained, but it's precious all the same, the confirmation of a very private theory. That first page, that shot of the man against the door, the broad lines of his back and shoulders, that's enough to confirm your attention. Pause. Breathe in. Pull it out; hold it in your hands. Flick though. Be careful with the pages, this is old.
What you're looking at is naked flesh, lots of it: naked flesh and motorcycles and the stark delineated shapes of workshop machinery under harsh arc lighting. The shadows are as dark and thick as oil.
Photograph after photograph. The linear blocking of them is an inevitable and unimaginative progression - but the expression on the faces - there. That moment - a shot over the broad skin scape of shoulders and chest to a man's face looking up - that's something different. Almost astonished, that expression. Almost intimate. And there's another one, caught in a flicker of pages - this same man, on his knees, looking up. Face frontal for him: for the camera, looking down, the rise of another man's chest, the slight curve of his belly and the jutting cock under it. Curl of dark hair on the shoulder. The expression on this man's face though - a singular intensity, like he doesn't know there's a camera, like there's no money involved, like it's not acting. As if these two are lovers.
Turn to the back. There are no names. No director claims this shoot; no graphic artist or compositor puts their name to this montage. This isn't arthouse porn, it's a three-quid cum shot, eight ages of wank reportage for the guy with his hands in his pockets. Don't laugh. That could have been you.
Maybe it is you. Sit down. You're going to read this.
Set the scene in three shots, and the photographer tried. That first photograph - the biggest of the series, though you don't know that yet - that's a man on a bike on the curve of a road. Big bike, 1970's, silver and steel, banked over. Rider in black leather (what else?) and darkened visor. Helmet at that curious cant that means the horizon stays level even when the footpegs are sparking the road. Not a bad shot. No sense of where - dusty road, worn stripe leading the eye to the bike's front wheel, scrub verges.
Easy rider it's not. Look down. Next shot. Bike listing on sidestand. Rider standing in the dust. Helmet off (last time you'll see any kind of protection) and looking down at the road. Look twice, it's worth it. Broad shoulders, strong hips, muscles of his thighs and the tight curve of his arse outlined in leathers. Eyes shadowed, but the jawline's clear, stubbled, strong. Neat ponytail.
Fast forward. Next shot, bike on pick-up truck, rider looking down into an empty wallet. No text. Background's garage, old fashioned bubble headed petrol pumps, shabby engine sheds, grass on the forecourt. Yeah, right, you get the picture. Move on. This is the frame that caught your eye last time. Your guy, the biker. Propping himself up against the frame of the doorway - that linear grace, that line of shoulder and waist and hip - is that deliberate? Over his shoulder, the edge of a desk, a window with blinds, paperwork, mugs, a pair of workman's boots crossed at the ankle with the a set of overalls tucked in the top. Second actor.
Turn the page.
Camera angled into the office. Across the worn soles of those boots, over the grubby overalls - that face, that second face. That sharp shark's smile and teeth, face all bones and angles, eyes slit. Two fingers and a thumb wrapped round the half-inch stub of a rollie. And a close-up of wicked eyes, slanting downwards. Wolfish. Smudge of oil against one cheekbone, but the nails of the hand with the cigarette are clean. Manicured.
Porn. First person, text or the eye of the camera, I, the gaze, the object, the objectified...ack. Move on.
Next shot. Quantify this second actor as the object, this is the subject, the biker, this first actor. First time there's a full on shot of his face, and he's not quite the pretty boy you were expecting. This is not a boy. (Nor is there a gang of leather clad muscle men with faux colours. No one gets fucked over the back of a bike. The budget, at a guess, doesn't run to extras or collateral damage.) This is a man. Laughter lines round his eyes, stubble hazed over his chin. Experience shows in that face, good humour and the capacity for friendship, but there's a hardness about the eyes that is not offset by the laughter lines. It draws the eye, that face, but behind it is the considering, clear gaze of the man behind the desk.
Turn the page. And, suddenly, action. What you get now is a full on crotch shot, buttoned jeans, belt, and a hand cupped round the swell of genitals. That's all. But it says something, this picture: it says something about sex, about the immediacy of desire inarticulate and honest, although the image is nothing but artifice.
Move on. Double portrait. Double profile shot, heads bent together, eyes meeting - smudge of eyelashes, sharp jawline. Second crotch shot, jeans undone, hand slipping inside, a fine trail of hair under the rucked-up T-shirt. Jacket corner just swinging out of shot, zip-bitten leather. Skin against skin - shading, the contrast of pale against dark in monochrome, contrast in pixels, deep tan and Northern pale.
And then filler shots, quick and dirty as the clothes come off: elbows and T-shirt strained up and over: washboard stomach, arch of muscle crossed down a racked ribcage, strong curled black hair. Teasing arse shot, jeans falling, skin and skin-tight underwear - this'll be the Calvin Klein name check. Just glimpses of that dimple in the apple round of a man's arse, shadowed under cotton. Out of sequence, fingers with close-cropped nails, pulling open the studs of a set of overalls. Pale chest, hairless, aesthete-linear. Skin and cloth. Imagine it technicolour, under the strobe light. There's sheen of sweat on that chest, there on the curve of that pectoral muscle where the light slants down and picks at the rise of a taut nipple. Imagine your hand - I, you, that impersonal personal eye - cupping the press of flesh and under it blood -
Move on. Face shot, eyes not glazed but intent, skin darkened where it stretches over the fine facial bones. Mouth thinned. And that other face, tipped back, thumb smeared across the loosened lush flesh of that mouth.
Enough foreplay. Move on, turn the page, fast forward and from now on, assume this soundtrack, harder, faster, yes. Suck me. Fuck me. A predictable litany - although don't take the word lightly. In fact assume the film, shot after shot: straight up blowjob. Mouth. Cock. That lower lip - the curve on it like a wave breaking and on it veined hard cock, hairless, smooth, glisten of spit along the shaft of it. Hefted at this angle, not huge but big enough. Everyman. Shot of shaft and mouth. Shot of crown and mouth --foreskin caught back, taut plumed head. Shot, back six inches, stubble hollowed checks, blur of eyelashes, down. Same angle, eyes open and looking up. Thick eyebrows. Same angle, more cock, less mouth - same, and a hand round the shaft. Worker's hand. Then the business shots - taking it hard, right up to the short hairs. Two of these and then, sooner than you'd expect, the money shot, the cum shot, permanent visible proof of temporary possession - simple, hand, cock, face, the beaded spume of spunk, triumph and defeat in one moment -
But the next shot is unexpected and out of place. The camera's backed off, as if this is an afterthought, unscripted. You can see both men, close, not touching - amused. Proprietary. Anticipatory. This moment that should be about the dregs of satisfaction and is not.
Turn the page, move on - and if you missed the naked flesh before here it is in abundance, as if that first coupling has torn away the anonymous restraint of the voyeuristic lens. And if you missed the scene shots these blockish shapes of worktable and lathe, the bottles of oxy-acetylene, the sharp, thin angles of a ramp - remember now. Because you've lost narrative, here, as if these shots are picked at random from the contact sheet. Shadows are dense and clear-cut: skin is white against metal. The curved shape of it almost sculptural - here, spooned over a worktop. Two unmatched hands clutched on the block of a clamp. Heads hidden, turned away from the camera, shadow ribboning the taut muscle of entwined limbs. The upturned peach curve of a man's buttocks cheeks spread by one broad hand, glistening thumb over - and in the next shot, inside - that clenched arsehole. Visual - not just the smooth curve of arse, but the goosebump skin over the dimpled sacrum, the spare fine curls of pubic hair. On the next shot that first actor in profile against skin, face all eyelashes and cheekbones and mouth, intent. That thumb's not slender.
Turn the page. Four shots, the moment of penetration. Hand on cock, head against arsehole: half an inch of entry, the flesh bowed and whitening. Fingers spread - lock at the way those cocked thumbs caress strained flesh. Two inches, and sweat has begun to dampen those small dark hairs. The hands hold steady. And closer, further, four inches, camera angle swinging upwards. Little differences. That left hand moves, shot to shot, a slow caress. Light changes on the smooth skin of that upthrust arse, as possession takes hold - an upward thrust, a frozen moment, and a strain again upwards -
Do you need to see it again? These two are joined.
Turn over, pull back - double spread of entwined bodies urgent against each other, braced arms, tight muscles - the image is static, the power and force of the long-past fuck clear. White-knuckle ride flashed on paper, skin against skin. You've seen this before. You've been here. But this is no casual abandon, it's a forceful possession that burns off the page, the heat of it rising though the paper and the pixelated images. Take a breath. Here in black and white, for these two men in front of a camera, this is the way it's supposed to be. This isn't posed, the way these two bodies shape each other's flesh. The stripping grasp of a cramped hand, the strained back muscles curved and tight as the boss of a Celtic warshield. The strong upturned arch of a bare foot, the line of a tendon drawn tight as a bowstring, hands gripped in emphatic opposition. An elbow braced on the edge of a bench. Fingers gripped on the two-inch links of a tow chain. Bodies roll on rough sacking, against the echoed calendar porn of a pinboard, scrabble amongst the armoury of a crowded desktop. Magic lantern show. Smell the paraffin, the wax of a gas mantle - and this is, suddenly, an image from a foreign country where the language is strange and the customs unknown.
Disassociation. Turn the page.
These should be the last shots, the finale splayed white across skin, but this climax is hidden. Instead two bodies strain against and with each other, triumphant, unsettling, a private drama frozen in the camera's eye. One face thrown back, hair twisted and sweat-limp, eyes shut. And under it that other one - that bare grimace of absolute possession on the face of the possessed.
And one more. This last shot, seconds after that final climax. Two men still joined, bent together in a pose that sets strength against strength, but in shadow and binding their hands are clasped together.
The rest of the page is blank.
Yet, you know these faces, have known from the moment you opened the file who these men are. You came here for this, found it only through a half-obliterated entry in a diary you should not have been able to read and a deliberately misfiled acquisition record. But having seen it will you, now, take it and lay it bare as you planned?
There are no more pages to turn.
Instead, put the papers back into their plastic wallet. Put the wallet in the file and the file on the shelf - gently, even here, thirty feet underground, the dust is thick. Walk back to the lift. Sign yourself out.