Gervaise’s neighbor, Alfred Maron, went by the nickname “Alfie.” He invited me down to his flat for a cuppa and a chat, and as I didn’t have a heck of a lot on my plate, so to speak, I was glad for the company. He was an actor, and had lived a life on the stage. . .
(From All Movie Guide: British actor Alfred Maron played character roles on television, stage, and in feature films. He was typically cast in comical roles and specialized in playing Orthodox Jewish people. Before he became an actor, Maron was a tailor. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi)
Alfie was a small man, about my height, weighing maybe 20 pounds more (as I weighed around 110 pounds, he was still slender at that weight). Somewhere in his sixties, I imagine (he was 70), he still had a head of hair and twinkling brown eyes. I do believe he was gay, though he didn’t come out and say so, he hinted around at it and his mannerisms were “swishy.” He didn’t dress the part of a total “queen,” but I suspect his working class roots were partly to blame (older “queers” and queens like Quentin Crisp came from upper middle class beginnings, homes where culture and beautiful clothes were valued).
Alfie served me tea in his basement flat, a darkish place but comfortable, decorated in browns and deep greens. We had some nice small talk, and I was enjoying his colorful, dramatic verbal meanderings and turns of phrase. Alfie was born a cockney, then he went into the theater. He smiled at me, cocked his head, and asked, “Are you on the game, love?”
“Er, what do you mean? What game?”
He smiled again and repeated, “Are you on the game, love?”
I looked at him again, blankly. “What do you mean, game?” This was a new one on me!
Alfie started to look slightly annoyed. “Come on, love. You’re on the game, aren’t you?”
I started to feel frustrated. “Alfie, that’s a new one on me. I’ve never heard that expression, so you have to explain to me what ‘on the game’ means. I’m a Yank, remember?”
Hi expressive face now registered comprehension. “Oh. Well, are you a prostitute? Are you on the game?”
“Huh? NO!!” Trying not to feel insulted, I chuckled. “Whyever would you think that? It can’t be that I’m bringing men home -- I never have, over here!!”
Alfie explained that my comings and goings late in the day and into the night -- with me not getting home until the wee hours, half the time -- pointed to that sort of lifestyle. Then he waved his hand, “That’s all right, love, your secret’s safe with Alfie!”
I spent the next half hour alternately laughing, then protesting. I guess it’s cute that he thought me a real working girl and all, but come on!! If I say I’m not, believe me!
Clearly, Alfie was a mischievous man, a bit of a “king mixer”: he liked to mix it up and cause trouble. Maybe he was bored. . .But he did give me an idea that I might try getting work somewhere “under the table,” working in a bar or restaurant. . .
. . . though I still wasn’t sold on working “on the game,” under a stranger. And yes, life WAS getting ever stranger. . .