How Not to Survive

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The first thing I do after I get back from visiting the house of waxworks is call Dad to ask if he’s out of his fucking mind.

Hello Jaz! Barbie sings down the line, Your father’s just popped out for some groceries – we’re making gluten free cookies!

The only thing preventing me from barfing all over my phone is that there’s no way in hell I can afford another one. I cannot believe this sadistic aging pastels-obsessed wag is actually planning to wed my father, and for a second I wonder if she’s not some master hypnotist and Dad’s just like, really susceptible, because it’s fucking hard to see what else could be the appeal.

I’m like, Could you get him to call me back immediately?

I narrowly resist the urge to add You home-wrecking whore, and go to put the phone down on her, but before I can hang up Barbie goes, Don’t you want to hear about the meeting with Bob? I’ve got some very exciting news for you...

My finger hovers over the End Call button, and I swear if only it were End Barbie things would be a different story.

So what’s the situation? goes Judas.

Barbie emits a manic giggle.

Well... she goes all dramatically, We’re all systems a-go! I said you were a craftsman through and through and Bob pencilled you in for Saturday morning! Isn’t it the most exciting thing EVER?

I want to shout back NO but the truth is it is pretty damn exciting, especially in light of my current turn as the living set in our school productions. It’s all I can do to keep from letting out a stream of silly giggles myself. Fortunately I’m still an actor.

Do I need to prepare anything? I deadpan.

Barbie assures me I should just go as my fabulous amazing self and then promises to email me the details, and I have to cough up my hotmail address for her, which probably means I’m going to get spammed with awful messages tactfully alluding to how much I owe her.

Wear something pale blue, she advises, To bring out your lovely eyes.

I take a deep breath and like, tense every muscle in my body. What comes now is probably one of the grossest things I’ll ever have to do, and I figure I’d better just get it over with and deal with the fact that I’ll probably be haunted by it for the rest of my time on this planet.

Thank you Julia, I go, It’s really nice of you.

I can practically hear her lapping it up down the phone, probably rubbing her hands together like some Bond mega-villain at how amazingly well her evil scheme to take me and Teresa away from Mum is coming along. But of course as soon as I’m on my way I’ll be telling her exactly where to get off.

Your father and I have some exciting news to tell you too... Barbie goes, then pauses.

She’s obviously waiting for me to ask what it is, but at this stage I’m too overwhelmed with self-disgust to give her any more satisfaction.

I’m like, Sick, all disinterestedly.

But I’m not going to tell you! she cries, making it quite clear enthusiasm from me is totally non-essential, You’re just going to have to wait!

I’m like, OK.

Barbie’s like, Now I’d best be getting on as your Dad’ll be back soon with the shopping and that dough isn’t going to mix itself. You do us proud at the meeting, you hear me? I’ll be expecting a full report!

And with this the demon doll clicks off, seeming to have completely edited out of her memory the fact that I wanted to speak to Dad. Probably just as well I figure, since the only thing I’m going to be saying to him is What the demented fuck is going on in your brain?

There’s a knock at my door and I leap to my defence position in case it turns out to be Sour Face armed with a saucepan full of boiling water. I open it a crack to reveal Eli, who sees my face and grins.

He’s like, It’s OK. I think she’s gone out.

I relax a bit. Sour Face actually leaving the flat these days is a pretty special occasion. Supposedly she’s studying some subject or other that’s so crushingly uninteresting neither me nor Eli can ever remember what it is, but she never seems to leave the house for lectures or anything. Probably she just said she was doing it so that we’d think she was a student too, just as she smiled and laughed and spoke in sentences to make us think she was a fellow Earthling.

Eli is like, You want to watch the new episode of True Blood?

Jerk Jackson’s given me the task of working on my stage presence, or rather like, trying to reduce it. He even gave me exercises for this if you can believe it, such as going and standing in a crowded place and joining groups of people and seeing how long before they ask who I am. There’s no way in hell I’m going to, of course, especially not now my wicked-step-mother-to-be has got me a shot at the big time. I shrug.

I’m like, No more bitching on about this thing with your folks OK?

Eli sighs. He’s like, OK.

I follow him across the landing to his room, still on the look out in case Sour Face is like, really a kung fu assassin and is stuck to the ceiling with suction pads waiting to disembowel me with a samurai sword. We make the journey safely and I settle down on the bed while Eli rolls us a spliff. Considering his stance on other drugs, I’m always surprised by how much weed he’s prepared to ingest, especially since he’s a total hypochondriac and refuses to pop even one Neurofen even when he’s got a killer hangover. It’s not like I want to turn him onto crack or anything, but I do think you should try everything in life at least once, apart maybe from doing it with your socks on – though who knows, maybe one day even that’ll be sexy. But when you’re young is the time to experiment if you ask me. I’ve tried to introduce Eli to small amounts of coke and MDMA, just so he can see what he’s missing out on, but it’s like trying to force a melon down the gob of a millipede, and he always backs up at the last second saying he’s not comfortable and would rather just smoke a doobie.

I go to press play on his laptop, but before I do there’s a beep from the screen, and he exclaims, Oh someone’s written on my wall! like it never happens and dives in front of me to check what it’s about.

Facebook is something Eli is always taking the piss out of me for, and it’s pretty much the only thing he’s got to take the piss out of me for too. The reason is because I only have twenty six friends next to his six hundred (which are mostly family members, I always point out). It’s actually because I hardly ever bother with going on it, and that’s because on an average day the last thing I feel like doing is reading people’s yawn-worthy updates. I get friend requests now and then that I always ignore, which has put me in the bad books of several people at drama school apparently. But really it’s like, What the fuck is with this so-called phenomenon anyway? I mean, people post such bland shit up there. Do I really want to know that Kate Barnes has a mild cold, or that Johnny Sanderson is eating a ham and cheese sub for lunch, or that Morven McDale has just taken a super-sized dump? The answer is no. And don’t even get me started on the whole friends debacle, it’s like the fakest thing ever invented. Remember that girl I mentioned earlier, the one who I used to be best buddies with, and who moved away and dumped me once she started getting laid? Well I’m friends with her on Facebook and every few months I get some random comment on my wall, like How’s it going baby? Really miss you! We must have a big catch up sesh soon so you can tell me everything you’re up to! l muchos love A xxx. I actually replied to a couple of these posts saying OK and like, When? only to hit another sort of wall, one that’s much more real, since she never bothered getting back to me. It’s so obviously just this total way for people to pretend stuff to themselves about how wonderful and popular they are, no matter what the actual situation. Better to lose a friend than to turn them into some avatar-nobody if you ask me. Anyway, I guess I should probably just delete my profile on there and be done with it, but somehow that seems like too much of a statement, and it’s not like I really give a fuck one way or another. Everyone’s got the god-given right to lie to themselves if they want to. And to all you obsessive Facebookers reading this and concluding what an up-his-own-arse arsehole I am, well you can just kiss it as far as I’m concerned.

I spark up the spliff while Eli types some furious response to whatever it is and finally changes the screen back to Movie Player. But instead of hitting play he lets out this long sigh, and I’m totally expecting him to start blearing on about next Friday, despite his promise. I prepare myself for the onslaught, but instead of that he goes, Why doesn’t anyone ever fancy me Jaz?

It’s pretty off topic and I’m kind of surprised by it, since like I’ve said, ordinarily Eli is totally un-bothered about kind of thing. I blow a cloud of smoke into the centre of the room.

I’m like, People do fancy you.

Eli is like, Who?

Danny is what I ought to say, but I still haven’t quite managed to get my head around this one yet and in any case, I don’t think Eli is ready for such a revelation. Instead I’m like, Just people, all cryptically and leave it at that.

Eli sighs again and nods like he’s some penniless Victorian spinster coming to terms with the fact that she’s got a lifetime of getting to know her own hand ahead of her.

He’s like, I’m never going to meet anyone, am I?

I’m like, Please just start the stupid show already.

So Anna Paquin’s just staked this vamp in a big fountain of gore when my phone bleeps. I pretty much dread the sound of it these days since it’s never good news, and I’m half expecting some message from the police, who’ll have picked up Mum selling herself for a glass of sauvignon or something. But instead it’s a text from Danny. Can u meet me in 1hr at Restless - without Eli? xxx It’s like, can it possibly be that he’s finally glimpsed the light? I quickly put my phone away and stand up.

Eli is like, Who was that?

I’m like, Nobody, not remotely convincingly, and then, I gotta split.

Eli is like, Where’re you going?

I’m like, Just for a drinkie.

Eli is like, Can I come?

He gives me this look like a puppy might give its owner right before they leave it in kennels. But when it comes to Danny and the prospect of having him all to myself, he might as well be talking to the vivisectionist.

Sorry, I go, Hot date.

When I get to Restless I don’t see Danny at first, and for a few minutes I just stand there like a total dork suddenly feeling stupid about rushing all the way out here just for a chance to like, be in Danny’s presence. But just as I’m thinking maybe I’ll go for a wander and come back I spy him over in one of the booths, and all thoughts of what a dick I am evaporate. As usual he’s looking good, this time in a tight black tee with the word STUD emblazoned across the front in studs, and an even tighter paid of black jeans. It’s like, if he ever decided to stop dealing he could totally move into the world of underwear modelling, I kid you not.

Word, goes Danny as I slide in beside him. He gives me this big grin and it’s a good thing I’m sitting down because my legs turn to jellified mush at the sight of it.

I’m like, Yo.

Danny’s like, So what’s up?

Probably because it’s been a while since I’ve seen him and I’m not sure what he wants (though obviously I’m like, hoping that it’s me), I start babbling on like a fourteen year old virgin. First I start going on about Mum and the whole rehab-for-robots thing, and then about Dad getting remarried to the grand dame of bitches, but then I figure this sounds whiny and like I’m some spoilt brat who can’t stop talking about his family (i.e. Eli), so instead I start telling Danny about drama school and the ongoing spectacle of debasement that are my parts in our upcoming productions. Then I figure maybe this sounds like I’m being too negative and pathetic, a real turn off, so I change tack again and tell him about my meeting with First Class Rep on Saturday and how if I get it I’ll be on course and drama school can shove it where the sun don’t shine. Then I realise Danny hasn’t said anything for about three hundred years, and so I stop babbling.

Hey that’s great – just great, goes Danny, and that’s when I notice he’s all glazed over and hasn’t taken in a single sentence, and I could have told him I’d invented the living dildo and he wouldn’t have heard it.

I’m like, So what’s the deal?

Danny glances from side to side like the walls have ears and leans in. Close up he’s so gorgeous it’s all I can do to keep from suctioning my face to his, but I put on this patient expression like I’m not about to explode with lust and nod encouragingly.

Danny’s like, I need you help with something man! in this fierce whisper.

At this my spirits like, nosedive, since it’s immediately obvious this isn’t help with getting his pants off. I try not to show how crushingly disappointed I am and give him a smile like I’m totally there for him.

I’m like, What kind of help?

Danny’s like, I need you to hold onto something for me... just for a day or two.

I’m like, What?

Danny, Probably better if you don’t know.

It’s like a scene from some shit made-for-TV thriller, and I’m half expecting the drunkard queens propping up the bar to suddenly rip open their Armani jackets to reveal bullet proof vests and Scotland Yard tags, forcing me and Danny to make a CGI-style leap through the nearby window into the back of some passing open-air truck with a handily padded cargo. The idea of landing in a heap of sweaty limbs with Danny makes the whole thing pretty appealing, and if I’m honest I’m kind of a bit turned on by the whole set up too.

I’m like, Are we in danger?

This comes out a bit more breathless and excited than I intended, and Danny gives me this look like I’m a total liability and he’s wondering why he doesn’t just turn himself in and hope they give out points for good behaviour. But then he grins.

No, he goes, Don’t worry. Just a little favour between friends. Whadoya say?

I feel something pressing against my leg, but before I even have time to get excited I realise it’s a package (like, a real one), and without thinking about whether or not it’s actually a good idea I take it off him. It’s sort of a bit soft and quite heavy, and there’s not much doubt about what it contains.

I’m like, Jesus.

Danny puts a hand to his lips.

Shhhhh. Like I said, just hang onto it for me. I’ll be in touch.

It occurs to me that what I’m being asked to do here is pretty fucking dodgy, but it’s already a bit late to back out. In any case it’s not like I’ve got much choice really. Danny’s thrown a lot of lines my way and even if I didn’t have this like, painful boner for him, I’d have to say yes.

I’m like, Don’t worry, I promise not to do it all.

Danny doesn’t look too impressed by this joke, but he gives me another one of his sex-on-a-stick grins, then reaches across the table to take my hand. For a second I think he’s tickling my palm, that it’s finally actually happening, he’s making the long awaited pass, but then I realise he’s pressing something small and hard into my fingers.

He’s like, A little thank you. From me to you.

I take my hand back and sneak a peek at what looks an awful lot like a small bag of Charlie. I slip it into my pocket. As far as conciliation prizes go, things could be worse.

I’m like, Cheers.

Danny winks. I wink back. I take the package and have a quick squiz around, then ever so subtly I reach down, pull up the leg of my jeans and wedge it in under my sock. I’m pretty pleased with myself for the way this comes off, and I’m hoping Danny’s been watching, but when I look up I realise he’s not even at the table anymore, and is ordering us two mojitos from the bar. He returns and plants one of them in front of me and then, to my total irritation, goes, So how’s baby bro?

I’m like, Still alive, meaning, Not interested.

He’s like, You reckon he’d maybe go for a drink with me some time?

It’s like, What am I? His pimp?

I’m like, I doubt it. He likes you and all, but I think he’s kind of wary of... you know. Your line of work.

I shrug all mysteriously like I can’t imagine why this should be a problem for him. For a second Danny looks like I’ve just nutted him in the face, and it’s kind of satisfying to be honest. I’m basically prickling all over with jealous rage, which isn’t something I’m too proud of but at least I can admit it to myself. Anyway, even if I’m not saying strictly saying this on behalf of Eli, it’s pretty much the truth, because somehow I can’t exactly see him living happily ever after with a drug dealer.

All of sudden Danny’s like, Listen Jaz I gotta get going, like he’s just remembered the babysitter needs to be sent home, Thanks again, OK?

I’m like, No problem, as if being used as a mule is the coolest thing ever. But on the inside I’m this seething mass, and as I watch him go it’s all I can do not to take out his shit and throw it after him, maybe with some quip like, Call that a package? But of course I don’t. Instead I sit there feeling sorry for myself and down both of the mojitos.

So yeah – the dumbest thing I’ve ever done probably, even worse than this time when I was sixteen and I skipped off to Brighton thinking teenage runaways have this great life free of hassle and authority. But sometimes you do stupid things. That’s what it means to be human, right?

As soon as Danny’s gone and my jealous rage has like, been drowned in mojito, paranoia starts to set in, and I morph into this bag of nerves, scared like at any second I’m gonna feel this hand on my shoulder and be spun around to look into the face of about five to ten. With good reason really, since we know what happens there, don’t we? But the inevitable hasn’t yet become like, actual events, and I’m all clammy and keep reaching down to touch my ankle like I’ve got some kind of weird OCD sock fetish. All the ride home I’m drumming my fingers up and down, worried The Package is going to suddenly launch itself into the air and explode at everybody’s feet in a mushroom cloud of white powder.

The lights are all off when I get in, something I’m ready to praise Jesus for since it means once again I’ve evaded the live-in loon. I’ve just closed the door to my room behind me when the bedside light pings on.

Jaz, says Sour Face, almost killing me.

The Psychopath is standing right in front of me, and has obviously been waiting there, in my own fucking room, in the darkness. I let out this scream of pure terror and topple backwards, groping for something to defend myself with since I’m certain she’s about to come at me with her teeth.

What the hell are you doing here? I demand, once my heart has like, started beating again. I look around quickly to see if she’s moved anything, and then glance at the bed to see if the sheets are ruffled, in case she’s been lying there all day wanking or something.

Sour Face lifts her head like she’s too good to answer this question and holds up a piece of paper.

She’s like, This is a letter from the landlord. I wanted to give it to you in person so you couldn’t pretend you hadn’t got it. He agrees that you should look for another place to live.

Maybe it’s because that last shock has made me immune, but this time I don’t even blink.

I’m like, Listen to me you crazy ho, get out of my space and don’t ever fucking dare to come in here again!

With these words I march towards her with my fist raised as if I’m gonna give her a knuckle sandwich. It’s Sour Face’s turn to let out a scream, and she dives to the side of me and scrambles for the door, knocking over the bedside lamp and the pot containing Bazil, my ancient dried out husk of a plant from IKEA. In the hall she turns and throws the letter back into the room.

You need to take anger management classes! she shrieks, You need to get control of your urges! I can’t live in fear like this all the time!

Better not fall asleep then, bitch! I yell and make another start towards her.

Sour Face flees as if for her life. I hear her running down the stairs and slamming the door to her room, and then there’s the satisfying sound of her loudly locking it, something I intend to be doing myself from here on out.

I slam my own door and pick up the letter. On it is written:

Dear Jarold Jones,

It has been brought to my attention you have been disruptive and disrespectful towards the other tenants, and have been smoking drugs on the premises. I therefore require that you vacate my property immediately.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew C Johnston

It’s like, the last thing I feel like dealing with right now, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from marching down the stairs, kicking open the door to Sour Face’s room and stuffing Matthew C Johnston’s words down the mutant loser’s throat.

Letting out this long sigh that’s actually quite painful to me, I reach down and take out Danny’s package. Now that I’m alone I have a good look, and sure enough it’s a double bagged pouch of white powder, either coke or maybe something even scarier, probably enough to keep half the city supplied for a week. I get this little thrill of nervous energy shooting through my blood just by holding it. I decide the best hiding place is the most obvious, because that’s the last place anyone ever looks. You watch films and the first place they look is the toilet tank, and then under the floorboards and in the mattress, and all the while whoever’s being accused is just standing watching and waiting to be found out. I take off my jacket and stuff the package into the breast pocket. I figure in the catastrophic event of a raid I can just slip it on and stand there all strapped up while they tear the flat apart. I’d almost like to see them do it in fact, just so I could get a load of Sour Face’s disbelieving mug while they do it.

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