Give Us This Day

Larry fell heavily. His left knee twisted badly, and he thought he felt something tear. His rather slim body hurt. He was not expecting this physical assault on his body. They had begun quarrelling and arguing for a few years.

The last few months had only gotten worse. Simon had often threatened to hit him when they argued. He had even slapped him on several occasions. This was the first time he had hit Larry with such force.

Matt came by Larry’s apartment and took him to the Emergency in a nearby hospital. Larry sat in a wheelchair at the Emergency waiting for a doctor. He wondered how things had sunk so low with Simon. A home they had shared for almost 20 years had become a boxing-ring. Simon had stormed out of the apartment as Larry lay in pain on the bed he had shared with Simon, the years now felt like more than a lifetime. Matt said nothing. He had said it all before and he knew Larry would not want to hear what Matt will only be repeating: get rid of Simon.

Finally, a medical officer examined Larry. “You seem to have torn some ligaments in your knee,” he said.

“What caused you to fall so badly?”

Larry remembered Simon’s fist slamming at his cheek and falling on their bedroom floor. “I didn’t know the floor was wet, I slipped and fell in an awkward way.”

“Did you hit your cheek too, when you fell?”

“I must have,” Larry replied.

The medical officer admitted Larry and informed him that an orthopaedic surgeon would examine him later in the ward.



Larry arrived at the dinner looking exhausted. He had been driving for a couple of hours to get to the restaurant. Larry constantly cursed Kuala Lumpur traffic jams. His friends had begun to tease him for a while now that he needed a young man on the side, to look after him and drive him around.

“Simon not with you?” Fred asked.

“Don’t ask the obvious, lah,” Matt chipped in.

Matt and those close to Larry knew that things have been going poorly between Larry and Simon. They no longer had to guess whether Simon would join them at their get-togethers. He had stopped coming over the last few months. Larry had confided this to them many times. They could not understand why Larry continued to stay and take the abuse. Larry did not need Simon. He was financially stable and well setup for his old age. Money from some very good investments and pension funds were available to him till his final days. Simon had neither. But he had Larry.

“Larry, you need a new younger lover-boy, lah!” said Matt. Laughter rang all round the table.

“Hey! I’m not kidding. Look at Guna. He’s got a young man. So very attentive to Guna’s needs. Guna is happy and looking good. They seem to be looking after each other. It’s all very symbiotic. It might even be love. Who’s to say!”

Ya, ya! Help find me one lah. I’m still surfing Planet Romeo. Mostly old people here.”

Aiyoh! You need to download Hornet or Jack’d! All the young lads are there. Just avoid the 2Ms—masseurs and money boys,” Matt advised.

The food arrived at their table and Larry lost his friends’ attention.



Larry went for social gatherings on his own. Simon began to move away from their mutual friends. He declined to go for social events he had once attended with Larry. Simon had no new friends. His new acquaintances were those whom he had met at bars and night clubs. These new acquaintances were never introduced to Larry.  Simon slept during the day and disappeared during the nights. Most nights he was too wasted even to go upstairs to their bedroom. In the beginning, Larry lay awake most nights wondering where his partner was and what he was doing. He would hear the key at the front door in the early hours of the morning as Simon came home. Soon, it was clear to Larry that something was wrong. Larry was neither naïve nor blind and he soon saw what Simon had succumbed to. Simon was withdrawn and often fidgety. He could not sit still and hold a conversation. He slept through the day and was out throughout the nights.

“This can’t go on,” Larry said.

“Nothing is going on. I enjoy going to clubs. I enjoy the music. I love dancing,” Simon said in his defence.

“You know, I’m not referring to that.”

“What else is there to refer to, Larry?”

“The drugs you are taking, Simon. I’m not blind. I can see what it is doing to you. What it is doing to us.”

Simon sat still in silence. The house was quiet except for the murmuring sound of the old air-conditioner. The blue walls with dim lights accentuated a feeling of sadness that now hung heavily within it.

“Let’s get help, Simon. Let’s rid you of this addiction. We’ll go for couple-counselling. Get our relationship back on track.”

“I’m in control, Larry. I know what I’m doing. I know the limits. I can take care of myself.”

“I worry about the company you keep. I don’t know any of your new acquaintances. It’s them I don’t trust. I don’t trust what they might do to you. Look at what you’ve become, Simon!” Larry wanted to stay calm and not break down. He felt he was at his wits’ end. He was screaming inside, in pain and in anger.

“You don’t have to worry about me or my new friends. Just fuck off, Larry. I can take care of myself,” Simon hissed and walked out of the room.

That ended the argument, for now. It will be repeated in various ways, over the next few months, over the same issue that was beginning to tear the two of them apart.

Larry and Simon had been happy for many years. They were the envy of their gay friends. They were successful in their business and made a home together. This was what many gay men dreamed of and others pretended not to envy. Although they were not inseparable, they certainly spent a lot of time together. They did things together. They were very much in love with each other. It was from this love that Larry drew his hope from, for now. That love kept him with Simon. His continued desire to be with Simon, despite being rebuffed. Larry still remembered the young Simon, the 20-year-old lad, he first loved, and that just made the present Simon almost bearable.

Larry blamed himself for Simon’s decline. He had turned a blind eye to Simon’s growing nocturnal forays into seedy clubs. Later, Larry began insisting that Simon seek help, but it was too late. Simon paid no heed to Larry’s insistence which soon turned to pleas. In his desperation, Larry turned to Simon’s family for help.

Sitting in Simon’s elder brother’s living room, Larry saw the family Catholic altar on one of the walls. A crucifix stood next to a small, rectangular-framed picture of the Virgin Mary. And in front of them were two burned-out candles. Simon’s elder brother called him a pondan and a loser. He had disapproved of Simon’s sexual orientation and had said that he will come to a bad end. Drug addiction was Simon’s wage for his sins, his elder brother declared. His saree-clad unwed sisters sat quietly, too scared of their elder brother to say anything.



Larry underwent a series of blood tests, x-rays and an MRI. The surgeon advised him to surgically remove the torn meniscus ligament in his knee. The operation was a simple procedure and necessary. The sooner Larry got it done, the earlier he would be able to walk without any pain.

Three days passed and still no sign of Simon at the hospital. Larry had sent him text messages but there were no replies. Simon only turned up on Monday after his weekend binge. Larry was surprised to see him. So, he did read my messages, he still cared, Larry thought to himself. Simon looked as if he hadn’t slept for days. There were black rings around his dark brown skin. He was all skin and bones. His worn-out T-shirt hung baggy on him. He looked a sad figure. Simon looked at Larry lying on the hospital bed that he had put him in. Sitting on the side of the bed, he held Larry’s hand and softly muttered the words, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you.” This time, Larry lay there in silence. He felt a new numbness to Simon’s apology.

Larry looked at Simon sitting on his hospital. He could not remember when they had last held hands or hugged, let alone kiss. All that had come to past many months ago. Larry could not understand what had happened. Simon seemed lost to him now. The man sitting by him was a stranger.

Larry agreed to the operation. He couldn’t imagine being unable to use his two legs. He knew he had to be well. He knew he had to be independent. He knew the Simon he once knew and still loved was no longer the man he could depend on. Simon, these days, was not able to care even for himself.

Simon returned every day for the next three days. He looked remorseful. He cleaned and cared for Larry as he had once done, after Larry’s appendicitis operation when they just had become a couple. He had to put me through this hell, and now takes care of me, to show he still loves me, Larry thought to himself. They spoke little to each other. They skirted around perfunctory household matters and the cats that needed feeding. When friends came to visit Larry, Simon would give some excuse and leave. He saw in their eyes the words that had not been spoken against him.



A Nepali concierge staff brought a wheelchair for Larry to be taken for his physiotherapy session. The journey seemed long, going up and down a couple of lifts before arriving at the physio centre. At the physio counter, he was greeted by a young Chinese man. The young man confirmed his patient’s name and details and wheeled Larry to an available bed with beige curtains around it.

Larry noticed the therapist’s name as he bent to push down the brake on his wheelchair.

“Hi Alan,” Larry greeted him.

“Hi Mr Larry. How are you today?” came Alan’s reply.

Larry couldn’t help noticing Alan’s keen eyes and smiling lips. His face was bright and cheerful. Someone here enjoys his work, were Larry’s first thoughts of Alan. Alan was all business and gentle with the 63-year-old man he was handling. Larry was glad Alan didn’t call him uncle. How he hated the word young Malaysians used on any male older than them. He felt worse when older women called him that. Who wants to be related to the whole bloody community!

Alan assisted Larry onto the bed. Alan’s strong hands held Larry’s legs firmly and helped him lie down. There was a gentleness despite the experienced manner that Alan treated Larry’s body. It had been a long while since anyone had held him gently and in a loving way. Alan was completely unaware of Larry’s thoughts. He was being professional and handling Larry’s body with care. The slow leg exercises began. Larry continued to gaze at the young man in front of him, his back towards Larry as he handled Larry’s leg. Larry’s thoughts were not sexual, mostly gratitude.

Larry hated the thought that he might take more than three months to fully recover. Alan had mentioned that and added that younger people recovered faster. Walking with a brace around his knees and with crutches was not what he had wanted. Damn Simon, he thought. I will have to deal with our shit before we kill each other, he finally admitted to himself.

The quarrel that fateful day had gone beyond anything Larry had imagined. It was early afternoon. Larry had gone out to discuss a business deal. When he returned, as he was entering his apartment, he heard voices in their bedroom. His first thought was that robbers had entered their apartment. But the door was locked and they were on the 18th floor. As he walked towards the bedroom he heard muffled voices and giggles. On hearing Simon’s voice, Larry opened the door. Amidst the smell of ganja, he saw three naked men on their bed.

“What the hell is going on Simon?” Larry shouted.

A dazed Simon looked at him.

“How dare you bring ganja and your bloody friends into our house!” Larry continued to shout at Simon. Simon’s accomplices, without a word, began to gather their clothes and slipped out of the bedroom.

“This is my house too, I can bring my friends here, if I want,” Simon finally spoke.

“Not if you are doing drugs with them, Simon. And certainly, not have a drug-induced sex-orgy on our bed. I don’t know what you do outside. You certainly cannot bring your drugs and sex-partners into our home,” Larry now spoke calmly and slowly.

“Your boss called, Simon. He said he had enough of your constant absence from work. He asked you not to come back.”


“How are you going to pay your bills, Simon?”

Simon began to put on his clothes, giving no reply.

“Where are you going to get money for your addiction?”

On hearing “addiction,” something snapped in Simon. He lunged at Larry and punched him hard on his cheek. Larry, completely unsuspecting of such an assault, fell back, twisted his knee and felt an excruciating pain. Simon stared at his fallen partner and then rushed out of their bedroom.

The heat-lamp was directed at Larry’s wounded knee. “Something troubling you, Mr. Larry,” Alan asked. This broke Larry’s reverie. Larry broke into a smile. It had been a long while since he smiled so broadly. He liked the face of the young man talking to him.

“Yes,” was all Larry said. Then changed the subject. “I’m going to be discharged tomorrow. I’ll come back for follow-ups. Can you give me the treatment?”

“Mr. Larry, if you come during my shift I will certainly attend to you,” Alan replied.

“Call me Larry, please.”

Alan nodded.

Larry asked for Alan’s mobile number. Larry’s gaydar was sending him positive vibes about Alan. He said he would write to Alan to check on his shifts so that he could come at those times. Alan obliged and flashed his very congenial smile. Larry was happy. He hoped that something will come out of these communications.

Larry was back in the ward and thought of Alan. He felt he was rather forward asking for Alan’s mobile number. Then, Alan’s smile confirmed to him that he had not gone a little too far. Alan had handled Larry’s body with ease and comfort. Although not in any sexual way, yet Larry felt Alan’s gentle hands and it pleased him.

Although nothing might come out of his desire for Alan, it was a feeling Larry had not felt for a very long time. He liked the feeling of seeing beyond Simon. Simon will have to go. Maybe, a gentle lover, someone like Alan, might come into his life. Larry felt he could at the least dream about it.


Malachi Edwin Vethamani is currently Professor, School of English, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. He holds a doctoral degree from University of Nottingham UK. He is a poet, writer and critic. His most recent publication is his first collection of short stories entitled ‘Coitus Interruptus and Other Stories’ (2018). He has published two volumes of poems, ‘Life Happens’ (Maya Press, 2017) and ‘Complicated Lives’ (Maya Press, 2016). He edited a volume of Malaysian poems entitled ‘Malchin Testament: Malaysian Poems’ (Maya Press, 2017) which covers a period of 60 years. In 2003, he edited a volume of poems for young adults entitled ‘In-Sights: Malaysian Poems’ (Maya Press). In 2015, he published ‘A Bibliography of Malaysian Literature in English’ (Maya Press).



Image credits: Artwork by Guillermo Altre Jr.


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