How Not to Survive

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9

I figure the best way to cheer myself up after this darkest day in my lifeline is to go and visit someone even more pathetic than me, so I hop on the tube and head North to see Andrew.

It’s been almost a week since he tried to kill himself, and I’ve been meaning to go sooner, it’s just that every time I like, get up the nerve I’m all overcome with doubt – like, what if he’s still fixated or tries some new kind of psycho shit out on me. Not that there’s much left after stalking and suicide, but still.

I walk up the pavement to his house thinking again what a nice neighbourhood he lives in, not a single pregnant teenager or skulking drug dealer in sight. It looks like the sort of place you’re supposed to settle down in for a fantasy life, a bit like Wisteria Lane only without any of the black humour. Basically exactly the kind of lethally dull area that’d be enough to drive anyone to want to throw themselves off the roof.

I pass the line up of gray Mercedes and navy 4by4s and pause outside Andrew’s house, just a few feet from the squished bush that basically saved his life, trying to work out if I actually want to do this. But then I look up and see this pair of eyes staring at me and realise it’s him, watching from the window, and that takes turning around off the table, so I go up and ring the bell.

Kate opens the door and gives me this look like I’m a gypsy.

She’s like, Oh it’s you, looking like she can’t make up her mind whether or not to slam the door on me.

I’m like, Hi it’s you!

I’m trying to be all kooky to like, ease the immediate tension in the atmosphere, but Mrs Joy and Rapture here doesn’t so much as crack a smile. Instead she takes a long deep breath like she’s about to do some serious muff diving and stands to one side.

She’s like, You’d better come in.

She leads me through the hall upstairs to the bedroom, and it’s pretty bloody awkward let me tell you, going up those stairs again. Inside Andrew is like, sitting in a dressing gown at the window with his fingers wrapped around this mug of tea like it’s the only thing standing between him and freezing to death. He turns as we enter. His skin is corpse pale and his eyes have these massive dark circles under them, a bit like tyres. His left foot is in a cast and he’s got the overall demeanour of chorus member from Les Mis, all waif-like and pathetic. But as soon as he sees me his eyes light up, even though he’s obviously trying to hide it, and it’s like, Oh brother, here we go...

He’s like, Jaz, and it’s like I’ve never heard my name mean so much.

I’m like, Hey. How’s it going?

The answer is pretty obviously like, Not fucking great, but he manages to give me this weak grin.

Oh you know, he goes, Pretty good all things considered.

Kate ahems behind me and Andrew like, comes to his senses and stops gawping at me like I’m his own personal Jesus.

She’s like, Let me get you some tea, Jaz, all pointedly and exits.

There’s this dorkish silence for a minute while we both shuffle about, me on the spot and him in his chair, and finally I sort of sidewind my way towards the bed and sit down opposite him a few feet away. It’s totally out there, since we did it in here a couple of times and it’s obviously like, the master bedroom. Andrew frowns like he’s thinking this too then gives me another ghost of a smile.

He’s like, You must be wishing you never met me.

It’s like, I started wishing that a long time ago mate, but I don’t say this. Instead I give him a smile and shake my head like it’s such a crazy thought it hadn’t even occurred to me.

I’m like, Of course not!

He nods like I’ve just said yes.

He’s like, I’m sorry about what happened.

I’m like, Forget about it, which isn’t likely when he’s got a massive cast on one ankle.

Andrew’s like, No Jaz – I mean it. I’m sorry about all the calls, and the following. And for thrusting myself on you. I... You didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of that.

He’s obviously been seeing a lot of Higgs lately, since he can’t seem to stop talking in innuendos. I give him this understanding look which I hope doesn’t come over all fake and tell him it’s forgotten already. This actually seems to comfort him quite a lot as he looks all relieved, which makes me feel nice about coming here, like I’ve actually managed to do something decent for a change. I find myself suddenly feeling all protective towards this guy in front of me, like he’s a forty year old baby or something. I don’t fancy him anymore, that’s for sure, but I still kind of want to help him out if I can.

I’m like, So what’s the plan now?

Andrew lets out this ironic laugh.

He’s like, Well... if you really want to know, me and Kate are going to give it another shot.

I’m like, Exsqueeze me?

Andrew looks all sheepish.

She wants us to try, he goes, I owe her that.

I’m like, Dude, what are you on? You’re seriously homo.

Andrew’s face seems to cave in on itself, like something’s sucking it in from the inside. For a minute the whole thing wobbles, like it’s going to start streaming tears, or maybe explode.

I do love her, he goes in this tiny voice, like he’s maybe trying to convince himself or something. It’s like, wake up and smell the napalm. I lean forward and give him a look that I hope is supportive, rather than You’re-a-fucking-moron-ish, which is what I am thinking.

I’m like, It’s OK. I know it’s difficult.

He’s like, It’s so hard...

(cue eye roll but once again I let it pass)

He’s like, I just can’t bear to hurt her!

At this point it all starts to get a little OTT soapish for me, and I’m tempted to tell him that actually lying to yourself and your wife is totally healthy, and to imagine me cheering You go girlfriend! from the sidelines.

What does Higgs have to say about it? I say, with like, amazing restraint.

Andrew jerks like I’ve just given him an electric shock.

He’s like, I’ve stopped seeing him. He wasn’t... good for me. He didn’t understand – he wanted me to go to a support group for people who’ve... recently come out.

I’m totally over holding his hand at this point.

I’m like, You should seriously go.

There’s this pause while he has a think about it.

Will you come with me?

I’m about to tell him that I’d rather have a threesome with Higgs and Jerk Jackson, but then he gives me this beseeching look, like we’re in a warzone and he’s had a leg blown off and I’m considering leaving him in the trenches. I’m like, totally backed into a corner.

I’m like, Yeah.

Andrew beams at me like I’ve just given him the big daddy of all blow jobs, at which point there’s another aheming sound from behind us and Kate stands there looking like an anorexic version of Kathy Bates from Misery. She holds out a mug of tea for me, but I tell them I’ve got to head and say goodbye to Andrew, who insists on hugging me even though I was only leaning in for a quick shoulder pat. I can feel his wife’s eyes burning into my back, like she thinks we’re gonna jump each other right there in front of her or something, and I guess I can kind of see why she might be uncomfortable with it, given what’s like, gone down. She leads me down the stairs, impressing me by how rigid her spine is, like she’s got a broom stuck up her arse all the way to the bristles.

As we get to the door Kate’s like, Could I have a word?

By this time I just want to get out of there, away from this couple with their specially fucked up brand of what it means to be fucked up.

I’m like, Maybe another time?

But she stands with her arms folded, basically barring my way out like this school ma’am who’s about to give me a right telling off for eating too many custard tarts. It’s a bit ridiculous to be honest, and I’m like, Do you mind? I’ve got people to do.

She’s like, Please have a seat.

There’s something about her face that says it’d be a mistake to disobey, like maybe out will come the tazor, so I sit down on a chair as far away as possible. She walks over and sits down opposite me and gives me this long hard look that’s totally weird as I can’t read it at all.

I’m like, Are you about to kill me?

Kate ignores this. She’s like, Do you know why I married Andrew, Jaz?

Ordinarily that’s the sort of question that’s dying for an answer like, Gives good head, but it’s so not the right time. I shrug.

She’s like, Because I love him. I know that may be hard for you to understand, a young man like yourself who no doubt just wants to sleep around and party all night, but that’s why he married me too. We decided we wanted to build a life together.

She starts ad nauseating about how she and Andrew met, like it’s this fascinatingly original story, which it totally isn’t. I sit there and endure it for a few minutes, but when she starts telling me about the dress she wore on their first date it becomes clear she’s planning a full blow by blow, and it’s totally necessary for me to interrupt.

I’m like, That’s so beautiful. Got it.

Kate takes a big breath, like she’s clenching every muscle in her bottom to keep from doing like, a projectile crap. It’s like, what the fuck kind of yoga does this woman practise?

Andrew is in a very confused place right now, she goes, And I want to ask you to please leave us alone. You don’t owe him anything and you were very good to try to talk him down last week, but...

Here she purses her lips, since she clearly still thinks it’s my fault he ended up jumping, and takes another great mouthful of oxygen.

As he probably told you, we want to make it work.

I let out this involuntary scoffing sound and Kate hits me with this defiant look. For a second I’m tempted to be like, OK! and holler on out of there without looking back. It’s like, why should I even give a shit? But like the dufus I am I just can’t let it go.

I’m like, Get a clutch woman – your husband’s gay!

He’s bisexual actually, goes The Ice Maiden.

I’m like, He’s a flaming queen!

Kate smiles, but it’s a totally fake and bitter sort of smile, and I can see she’d like nothing better than to slap me right now.

Andrew is a complicated man and we have a complicated relationship, she goes, There’s no reason why we can’t be together, except for... outside interferences. Like yourself.

She takes yet another tantric mouthful of air.

Do you understand?

I’m like, Do you?

Kate stands up abruptly.

She’s like, Thanks again for coming Jaz, all curt and goes over to the door, which she opens and stands to the side with her head held high like she’s had quite enough of sullying her precious eyesight with me. I sigh and stand up myself. On the way out I stick out my tongue and blow a massive raspberry at her, which I’ll admit isn’t too mature of me but gets a look of such outrage it’s totally worth it.

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