How Not to Survive

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14

Jayne tells me West Hampstead station is just up the road and gives me instructions on how to get to there, only I’m in such a blind panic that the second I’m out of his flat I completely forget them, and end up rushing up and down the street as if I’m trapped in like, this League of Gentlemen style absurdist farce. To make matters even more nightmarish/surreal when I turn the corner this like, whole company of old women are all streaming down the street rattling charity tins. It’s like, an invasion, as if elderly dears all across the city have been plotting against London for years and finally the day of reckoning is upon us. My head’s still pounding despite the super strength Neurofens I necked on the way out of Jayne’s, and I can’t see anything that a sign to the station. Before I can think if it’s a good idea I plunge into the thick of the geries, and suddenly I’m surrounded by them shaking their tins in my face and crowing, Any change for the blind?

Since there are so many of them that they could easily like, cannibalise me if they chose, I frantically dig in my pockets, eventually producing a solitary twenty pence piece which I insert into the nearest tin. The old dear it belongs to purses her lips like she’s never beheld such an insult.

She’s like, Thank you very much! in this thin voice that’s like, the epitome of unimpressed.

I’m like, Do you know where the nearest station is?

My old dear considers this question like she’s debating whether or not to charge me for the information. While she’s thinking a second old dear pipes up, Where you wanting to go to?

I’m like, Waterloo.

She’s like, Ooh! as if I’d just told her The Bahamas.

I’m just about to give up and carry on running down the road when a third old dear who’s obviously the one with the brains chimes in.

She’s like, You want the bus my lad. Fastest way is to catch the 355. That stop there.

She points to the corner of the street where a bus stop I could swear wasn’t there before seems to have magically appeared, and even more amazingly a bus with the number 355 is just drawing in. I throw myself at it like it’s my only chance of salvation, waving my arms SOS-style then running directly at it so the driver can’t take off. He looks pretty pissed off at having to wait for me, but he lets me on and then glares at me while I spend about an epoch trying to locate my Oyster Card, which I can’t find, before jerking his thumb backwards like I’m such a loser I’m not worth the effort of ejecting.

I make my way up to the deck, swaying like an old drunk and colliding with the wall as I negotiate the stairs. The whirring of the engine makes me want to vom, but fortunately I don’t have anything to bring up. A woman bouncing a toddler on her lap gives me this aghast look like I’m an example of everything she hopes her kid will never turn out to be, and I give her a look back that’s designed to say, Just you wait.

It’s quite busy but I manage to find two seats to myself near the back and take some power yoga breaths, trying to use will power alone to calm the blood that’s pounding in my temples. To try and take my mind off what a fucktard I am, messing up on this day of all days, I take out my phone, which has somehow been switched off or else run out of battery, and like, switch it back on. I’m sort of hoping I’ll have a text from Eli saying he’s sorry he overreacted and that he hopes I’m OK and didn’t get mugged and raped because I never came home last night. But there’s only a voicemail from Dad asking me to call him back because he and Barbie are meeting Teresa in town tomorrow for lunch and want me to come too, presumably so they can deliver The Last News On Earth I Want To Hear. I try to call the number of First Class Rep that Barbie gave me, but every time I do it’s engaged, and when I finally give up trying to get through and figure I’ll leave a message the piece of crap gives up the ghost. I smack it a couple of times against the seat in front of my mine, just for catharsis, then settle down, trying to think up a good story to give about why I was delayed. Trouble is all my ideas are vastly improbable, like I had to seek shelter from a cloud of acid rain, or that I was accosted by a gang of skin-eating mutant-inbreds. Even more annoyingly I keep getting distracted by these two teens sitting behind me, a boy and a girl, who are giggling manically at something on the boy’s i-phone. He’s dressed in this lime green skin tight T shirt with I Fucked A Jonas Brother on it, and the girl’s wearing this neon pink tutu. It’s obvious they’re high, on their way back from a party, but the sound of their laughter, especially the girl’s, is excruciating, like a needle being raked over my already tenderised brain tissue. After about ten minutes of nonstop pipsqueak merriment I can endure it no longer and turn around.

I’m like, Could you guys maybe keep it down? Some of us have sensibilities here.

Neither of them even acknowledges me, and they both just continue giggling, like my little confrontation never even happened. It’s amazing how much it makes me want to reach out and clock their heads together, but I tell myself we’re all young once and put on this grin like kids will be kids. I manage about another five minutes of inanity before it’s a choice between a cranial haemorrhage or another blast.

I’m like, Guys – seriously! Less of the sonic shit.

They both look up this time and stare at me like I’m this breathing bogey.

The girl’s like, What’s your problem, dick-mouth?

I’m like, You are, junior bitch.

The boy’s like, Hey arsehole – why don’t you fuck off and die in a pool of your own blood?

I’m like, Or else what? You’ll irritate me to death?

They both stare at me open mouthed for a few seconds while they try to think of comebacks, then the boy suddenly stands up muttering, Fuck this shit! and the girl follows him into the aisle. As they make their way down the stairs he gives me the finger and shouts out GAY! and his friend makes the international sign for loser – only with her left hand, God bless her. I give them both a wink. It’s like, Do not mess with the master.

It’s weird though, because even though I kind of won our little exchange and got my peace and quiet, I still can’t concentrate on my excuse. Instead of feeling better about myself and planning for the future I feel all unsettled. It’s like, I used to be those kids, sort of, and now all of a sudden I’m the guy who gets pissed off at them and tells them to shut up because they’re giving him a headache. I mean, when did this transition even take place?

My brain is basically fried by the time the bus crawls across Waterloo Bridge, and I can pretty much definitely kiss goodbye to a lucid old age. I’m sort of existing in a weird half-reality where the whole world seems to be looming in and out of focus, a bit like something from one of the Saw films. I’m now way beyond late for my audition and I’m basically showing up at a different time altogether. But I figure I’ve got nothing to lose, except maybe my dignity – and hell, that’s like, barely intact anyway. I like, stagger off the bus and like, lurch around the back of The National, where this Bob Phillips dude has his office.

Hi, I go to the miserable-looking woman sitting at the reception desk, who looks like her sole aim in life is to like, repel, I’ve got an audition with Bob Phillips. I’m a bit late I’m afraid... The name’s Jaz Jones.

The woman stares at me like she’s never beheld such brazenness.

She’s like, Your meeting with Bob was an hour ago, all slowly as if she can’t work out why I’m not grovelling on my hands and knees with my head hung in shame. I really don’t think he’ll have time to see you now, she finishes curtly.

I’m like, Yeah I know I’m late, but there was this guy having a heart attack on the bus –

But the coldblooded bitch isn’t listening. She’s already on the phone going, Mr Phillips, I have a young man here to see you, Jarold Jones – yes he knows he’s extremely late. I gather he has a story about it. Do you still want to see him or shall I send him away? Certainly, Mr Phillips.

She looks up at me with this smirk and pauses, and it’s pretty much the most humiliating thing ever having this fucking assistant keep me on tenterhooks. I guess she must see a lot of desperate wannabes come this way, and it must be one of the few bits of joy in her life putting the fear of god into them. It’s probably what she lives for, in fact. Finally, after licking her lips and like, checking her nails, she goes, Mr Phillips will see you, really fast under her breath and presses a button to open the door behind her. I make a dash for it in case the power-mad bitch has some bizarre rule about only pressing it once, and manage to open it just before the lock clicks on again. As I go through I realise I have a duty on behalf of all other needy actors who have to make it past this harridan, and turn around and give the woman a big friendly smile.

I’m like, You do know you’re just a secretary right?

Her face morphs from icy cool into this expression of unadulterated outrage, which is pretty satisfying let me tell you. I let the door close behind me before she can think of what to do and find myself in a corridor with like, multiple doors. I’m just wondering which one to go through when this portly guy with eyes like a bug’s sticks his head out of the one at the furthest end and goes, Ah Jaz – do you want to come this way?

I hurry over. He looks sort of harassed like he’s got a million things on his mind, and I give him this apologetic smile as I enter that’s meant to show sympathy.

I’m like, I’m so sorry I’m late, there was this old guy on the bus –

Bob holds up his hand and I instantly stop talking, like it’s a reflex reaction or something.

He’s like, Don’t worry about it – at least you’re here now.

He gives me a weary smile like there is no sort of pressure he doesn’t understand and ushers me towards a seat. I’m pretty relieved as he seems like a decent sort of guy, and I was kind of expecting some brisk no-shit-taking shark. I’m just thinking that maybe everything’s going to be all right when I’m overcome by another urge to vomit – this time one that’s like, totally insurmountable.

I’m like, Could I quickly use the bathroom please?

Bob looks amazed. For a second I think he’s going to start shouting at me for wasting his time, but then he lets out this laugh like I’m a total scream and tells me it’s down the hall. I head out into the corridor again like a bat out of hell, sweat like, gushing out of every pore.

In the bathroom I lock the door and make a dive at the toilet where I like, projectile all over the seat. It’s that gloopy yellowy sick you get when you haven’t really got anything in your system apart from bile. I stare at my reflection in the toilet bowl and it’s like my senses are shutting down one by one, and if I stay here any longer I’m gonna collapse against the wall in a total black out and probably not wake up until somebody breaks the door down. I like, reel my way to the sink and splash some cold water in my face, but it’s like trying ward of narcolepsy with healing crystals. Unfortunately I long since finished off the coke last night, but at that moment I remember The Package and it occurs to me that maybe one teeny tiny line from it wouldn’t make any difference to such a supersized cargo... and after all, I am basically putting my entire life in jeopardy, and it’s already cost me my best friend, so surely I’m entitled to a dab?

OK I’m not exactly thinking in a straight line here, and you’re probably hoping I’m gonna pass out and hit my head on the sink as I go down, and that’ll knock some sense into me. But we all do glaringly dumb things in our lives, sometimes on repeat, it’s part of the big learning curb, and if you’re one of those types who’s never made a single mistake then all I can say is you haven’t lived, end of.

So I dig out this package, start unwinding the cling film and finally undo the bag containing the powder. Time is ticking away and I’m pretty much at the stage where I’m ready to just shove my nose in and take a deep breath, but I make myself pinch out the tiniest of lines on the hand dryer and then snort it as best I can. Instantly I feel calmer and in control. The world stops jumping about like at any second it’s going to disintegrate altogether and stands still like it’s supposed to. I take another look at my reflection, thinking I look a bit damp but otherwise OK. I quickly wrap the parcel back up, congratulating myself on my decision, and thrust it back in my pocket. I hurry back to Bob’s office determined to do or say whatever it takes to get myself on his books.

Alright then, he goes as I enter. How about a quick monologue, just so I know you’re the real thing?

He gives a light laugh and I laugh back at him, this ridiculous falsetto giggle.

I’m like, Sounds great to me!

This comes out way too enthusiastically and Bob gives me a wary look, like I’m one of those excitable horse-sized dogs that could at any second get carried away and accidently bite his hand off.

He’s like, Great. Have a quick read.

He points at a script on the desk in front of my chair. I pick it up and have a look. There’s this character called Gabriel with this long weird diatribe, which seems to be all about how his parents never took him with them anywhere, how fond he is of grasshoppers, and the day he discovered his very own pair of wings. It’s obviously one of these off-the-wall style abstract pieces, but I kind of like it and I can already sort of see myself on a raised platform above the stage, dressed as an angel and delivering this speech to a hoard of deputy angels below.

Bob’s like, OK. Whenever you’re ready, Jaz.

I begin. I hear my voice coming out loud and strong and think how confident and powerful I sound – yet with a hint of vulnerability, just as I reckon this Gabrielle would feel when recounting the story of how his parents went to Cloud 9 without him. As I reach the part where he is told by his father that he’s nothing but a piece of baggage they don’t want to carry around, my voice cracks with what sounds like real emotion.

That’s where it all starts to go wrong, because all of a sudden the words are jumping out of the page at me and squiggling around like they’re turning into insects. I feel this wave of heat passing through me, followed by a wave of cold, and then this amazing rushing feeling that’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, a bit like mental orgasm.

Is everything alright? goes Bob.

It’s way better than alright! I want to shout at him, but it’s also like, the worst time ever to start coming up on the high of your life. I force myself to concentrate on catching the words, which are now flying around like insects trying to escape the room. It’s pretty hard to inject much emotion into it now though, other than screaming rapture, and it’s taking every ounce of will power I’ve got not to drop to the floor and start rolling around in ecstasy. Somehow, despite my total euphoria, I manage to finish the monologue, and I look up to see Bob watching me with this face all twisted up in pain like he’s just been tied down and forced to witness a nuclear holocaust.

He’s like, Thank you Jaz. That was... unusual.

I’m like, I’m sorry. I can do it again!

Oh no, Bob goes quickly like the dentist has just offered to pull out two teeth for the price of one, That’s quite all right. I’ll be in touch, OK?

Giddily I lean over to shake his hand. And almost as if someone somewhere with had said Now Fellas! and pulled a lever, from out of my mouth exorcist-style shoots out this fountain of yellow spew, that like, tsunamis its way across Bob’s desk taking down everything in its path before splattering into a pool in his lap.

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