How Not to Survive

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16

On the journey home I spend most of the time wondering why it is my life is turning out so shit and exactly what I’m supposed to do to make it better. I could really use someone to talk to, but without Eli the question is Who? I actually consider calling Mum, a real desperate step, but then I remember she’s in purgatory for middle class ladies where she’s not receiving calls, and has probably had her brains replaced with batteries by now anyway.

So all in all I’m feeling pretty optimist by the time I get back, which is the point where life serves up my next steaming plate of shit. There’s this familiar-looking pile of clothes and books and crap on the street outside our house, and at first I think Arse Face must be having a clean out and have gone and organised a charity pick up or something. Then I realise the reason it looks familiar is because it’s all mine. Like, my stuff, just dumped there out on the road. Even my laptop, if you can believe it, just sitting there on top of a box of my CDs for anyone who feels like it to nick off with. I spend a few seconds just getting over my complete disbelief, then storm up to the house, preparing myself to fly at Arse Face and like, take off her scalp. But when I stick my key in the lock nothing happens. The lock’s been changed.

There are times when it pays to remain calm, and times when calmness just isn’t even an option. I start pounding on the door, screaming at the top of my lungs, YOU MISERABLE FUCKING BITCH! YOU BETTER LET ME IN RIGHT THIS SECOND SO THAT I CAN FUCKING KILL YOU!

As well as being nonsensical it’s exactly the sort of thing that gets you a really good name with the neighbourhood. But I’m not screaming and pounding for long. The door abruptly opens wide and this massive guy who looks like he’s the son of a concrete wall stands there with his meaty arms folded. It takes me a second to recognise him as Matt, our landlord, who I only met once when I signed the lease. Behind him stands Arse Face with this look of evil enjoyment. It’s probably the closest to a genuine smile I’ve ever seen on her miserable mug.

Anyway, the sight of gigantic Matt cools me down a bit.

I’m like, What the hell is going on here?

Matt’s like, You don’t live here anymore, mate.

I’m like, What?!

You don’t live here anymore, he repeats.

I’m like, Look, you really can’t listen to what that witch has been saying! She’s totally insane and she’s never even got laid before. Ask Eli if you don’t believe me!

You don’t live here anymore, goes Matt again, like it’s the only sentence he knows. It’s like talking to a piece of corrugated iron. Or a halfwit.

I’m like, You can’t do this! in total disbelief.

I can do what I like, mate. This is a drug-free household.

But where am I supposed to go? I say, making a stab at being reasonable, And how am I supposed to go anywhere with all that stuff?

Matt shrugs.

Not my problem really, he goes.

At this point Arse Face behind him can’t contain herself any longer. She takes a little run forward and peeps over Matt’s shoulder yelling, I warned you! I warned you and you didn’t listen to me! Well it serves you right Jarold! It serves you damn well right!

Her cheeks are all flushed with excitement. It’s obviously like, the most satisfying thing that’s ever happened to her, and no doubt is the most satisfying thing that’s ever going to happen to her too, since sex is clearly be making a total bypass. In other circumstances I might even feel sorry for such an agonising excuse of life but the rage at being tossed out of my own flat is too great. I give her a neutral look and drop my voice to a deadly level tone.

I’m like, One day, when you’re least expecting it, I will come for you.

Arse Face’s mouth falls open and she shrinks back into the hall.

Matt’s like, Think you’d better get off my front step now, all menacingly to make it quite clear if I don’t he’s going to be throwing me off it.

I’m like, What about my deposit?

Matt folds his arms like he’s been expecting this and gives me a tight smile.

He’s like, Forfeit. Now fuck off!

He makes as if he’s going to shove me and I instinctively step backwards, only for him to shut the door in my face. After a few seconds of practically eating wood I turn around to find this whole gaggle of neighbours peering out their windows and doors trying to get a scoop on the drama. I give them all evils until they stick their noses back indoors. Then I look over at my like, hillock of worldly possessions and this chill runs through me as I remember something. I dive into the pool of clothes. A few seconds later I emerge with The Package, which amazingly appears to be intact – unless Matt and Arse Face have gone and replaced the contents with talc or something. I breathe a small sigh of relief and like, look up at the building that until a few minutes ago was the place I called home. In the window above I catch sight of Eli looking down at me, and it hits that he’s been in the whole time and hasn’t done anything to stop them. His eyes meet mine for a few seconds and it’s like we’re both frozen, like something out of an old film. Then he disappears from the window.

At this act of betrayal I’m kind of overcome, and sort of slump down onto the pavement where I take out my cigs and light one. I could really do with a spliff, but fuck knows where my weed’s buried under all the detritus in front of me, if it hasn’t been like, destroyed by The Avengers indoors. I let out a long stream of smoke trying to work out what life could possibly have in store for me next – like, an STD perhaps, or maybe cancer. Behind me there’s the sound of the door opening.

Jaz! Eli goes breathlessly, I didn’t know what they were doing!

I’m like, How could you not know? My room is opposite to yours.

Eli is like, I was sleeping! I only woke when they’d finished!

I’m like, Right. Convenient. What about the lock?

She gave me a new key! I assumed you’d got one too!

I let off this sharp little laugh that kind of hurts me a bit.

Either you’re an insult to morons or else you’re a fucking liar, I go, Which one is it?

Eli’s like, As soon as I saw what they’d done I tried to talk to Matt! I said it was all a load of BS and she was a crazy liar, but he wouldn’t have any of it. He said if I didn’t shut up I’d be out too!

I’m like, Ahuh.

You’ve got to believe me!

Yeah, well you know what? I don’t.

Eli stares at me. I wait for him to like, prostrate himself before me and start apologising as if his life depended on it, which it maybe does, but instead he nods grimly like he’s just worked something out that’s not very pretty.

Fine, he goes suddenly, It’s not like I owe you anything.

With this he whips around and stomps back to the house. For a second I’m frozen speechless with astonishment.

ENJOY YOUR TIME WITH THE HARPY FROM HELL! I scream after him, I HOPE YOU FUCKING BOND!

The only answer is the door slamming. Once again all these nosy neighbours poke their heads out to see what’s going on, only this time I’m too wound up to care. I wrack my brains, but there’s only one person I can think of to call. I take out my phone and like, select Danny from my Contacts.

He answers straight away.

Dude – that is so weird, I was just about to text you! I need to organise a meet to get back the old you-know-what...

Our menstrual cycles must be in sync, I go, Listen, I’ve got a favour to ask...

Danny’s like, You name it my friend!

I take a second to get it together, and to try and sound all casual.

I’m like, So it turns out I need a place to crash...


Danny’s pretty cool about me staying and even comes to collect me and my things in a bombed out old car he’s borrowed. I’m practically in tears by the time he arrives, all pretence at playing it cool having completely faded away, and he gives me this big old hug and yet again I’m overcome because here’s this lovely guy, saving me from the world all over again. As we drive off I see Eli again, watching from his window, and I give him this glare that I hope conveys he’s dead to me.

You got the stuff? Danny asks while we wait at some lights on the way over to his place.

Sure do.

I take The Package out of my breast pocket and hand it over. I’m a little nervous that Danny’s going to somehow notice it’s been tampered with, but he pockets it without even looking at it, then gives me a grin. I suddenly get this fresh burst of break-dancing butterflies, which have been like, lying dormant in my belly since I last saw him. I guess what with one fuck up and another I’d forgotten just how bad I have it for this guy.

You’re a star, Danny goes, giving me a wink.

I’m like, You too champion, deciding I won’t mention the incredible journey his precious stuff has been on over the past couple of days.

Danny’s place is in Peckham and it’s the total opposite of what I was expecting. I’d sort of imagined that what with the clean way he presents himself and the expensive cloths and cologne, he’d live in a sick pad where we could like, hang out in the Jacuzzi and drink cocktails on the roof terrace. So I’m pretty disappointed when he pulls up outside this council estate block that looks like it was made to house inmates and tells me we’ll have to take the stairs because the elevator’s bust. I’m still a bit hopeful, even when he leads me to the fifth floor and along this open-air walkway past all these like, syringes and fag butts, until he unlocks the door and reveals this total den that’d like, offend the sensibilities of most self-respecting rodents. It’s basically the result you get if you wiki the word Shithole.

Danny’s like, So what do you think? all proud as if he’s on Grand Designs or something.

I’m like, Very cosy, wondering how he manages to stay so clean living in a dump like this.

There’s a mattress in the cupboard we can put out for you, goes Danny, who actually seems pretty into the prospect of having a houseguest, And I think I’ve got a sleeping bag somewhere.

He opens the cupboard revealing a moth-eaten rectangular lump with yellow stains that are beyond gross, the sort of thing you’d have to pay a homeless person to bed down on. While I try and swallow my horror Danny hauls this festering petri dish onto the floor and gives it a pat.

Good as new, he goes.

I’m about to say that I’d rather bed down in a urinal when he flashes me another sexy grin and suddenly I don’t mind so much about the skanky mattress, or the hole around me. I start scheming a Machiavellian trajectory from this piss-heap to Danny’s own bed.

Thanks so much for this Danny, I say coyly.

I reach out and touch his shoulder.

Danny’s like You’re all right man! standing up and slapping me back on my arm. I’d somehow forgotten he was totally immune to signs and signals.

You want something to drink? he goes.

While Danny’s getting me a beer I wander into his bedroom and once again I’m flabbergasted someone who looks so neat and tidy can actually live like this. The walls don’t really have a colour, they’re just grubby, the curtain over the cracked window is this ragged old sheet pinned into wood, and the only light source is a yellow bulb dangling from a hole in the ceiling. He sleeps in a single bed that’s got a faded duvet with a pattern of transformers on it, and over in the far corner is are several piles of carefully folded clothing, a couple of jackets and shirts hung on nails hammered into the wall. On the broken bedside table there’s this blurred picture in a plastic white frame of a skeletally thin smiling woman with several missing teeth, holding a baby. I venture over and pick it up.

Here, says Danny from the door, holding two beers, See you’ve found mum.

I’m like, Sorry.

S’alright. Dunno why I keep it, he goes, Guess it’s ’cos it’s all I’ve got of her.

He comes over and exchanges the picture for one of the beers. He looks at it, then uses his tee to dust the glass off. There’s something very sad about this, and somehow I can’t help but link it in with the total squalor Danny lives in. It’s as if it’s not really a home, maybe because he never had one and doesn’t know how to make one either. Probably I’m just going soft, but suddenly I have this great feeling of shame, like despite everything shit that’s happened to me lately, in the big grand scheme of things maybe I don’t have it so bad.

Danny sets the picture back down by the bed and gives me one of his big sunny trademark grins, as if to confirm what a lucky bastard I am.

Just to warn you, he goes, Reg is coming round for his package.

I’m like, OK. How should I prepare for that?

Danny laughs.

He’s like, Reg is a good guy, but he can come over a bit strong. If he says anything offensive don’t you mind about it. Or about Filly. Cheers.

He clinks his bottle against mine.

Reg and Filly arrive half an hour later. I meet Filly first, this dog that looks like it eats smaller mammals for breakfast. It bounds into flat, sniffs around, decides I am the enemy and missile-launches itself at me, a fang-filled maw salivating at the thought of sampling my flesh. I hold up my hands for protection and let out a shriek, only for someone to let out a great yell from behind and grab Filly’s collar so that she only has time to taste my nose with the tip of her tongue before she’s wrenched back and pretty much thrown at the opposite wall.

Down Filly you stupid bitch! shouts this dirty Irish guy in a leather jacket, raising his fist at the dog. Filly instantly lies down on her stomach and starts whining softly. Reg turns to me furiously. Who the fuck are you? What did you have to go and upset her for? he yells, like I’m personally responsible for his mutt’s homicidal tendencies.

Danny’s like, Calm down Reg. Jaz is a friend of mine. He’s the one who was looking after your stuff.

Reg does a double-take like he can’t believe his drugs were actually entrusted to such a person. Then he closes his eyes and bows his head, takes a deep breath like he’s going into a meditative trance. Danny gives me a wink.

Sorry, goes Reg finally, opening his eyes and giving me a big rotting smile. He holds out a hand that looks like it hasn’t been washed since like, ever, Pleased to meet ya. My name’s Reg.

I’m like, Hi, trying hard to look like I’m delighted when it’s never been more the opposite.

Reg is like, Sorry about old Filly there. She gets a bit over-excited.

I’m like, Oh that’s OK, as if almost getting my face eaten off happens to me loads. Behind him Filly gives me look that makes it totally clear she’s only biding her time until the next opportunity.

Well, goes Reg, Where is it anyway?

Danny hands him The Package and Reg sits down on the filthy mattress and turns it over and over in his hands inspecting it like it’s a holy relic or something. Suddenly he peers over at me, and I have a blast of paranoia that he’ going to be such an expert in drug quantities he’ll somehow be able to tell that like, a tiny pinch of it’s been snorted. But instead he treats me to his rotten-toothed smile again and slips it into his jacket.

You want a drink Reg? asks Danny.

Reg jumps up. The way he does it I’m half expecting him to whip out a knife, but instead he’s like, Let’s go out! and whistles to the dog, who jumps up like she’s just scented wounded prey.

We follow Reg and Filly out of the estate and over the road into this deserted grotty little pub that looks like it’s probably a front for a slave market. Reg leads us up to the bar and barks at Filly to sit, who barks right back at him until he gives her a light smack that sends her whining over to the far side of the room, where she lies down and hungrily eyes up my legs.

OK boys, what’s yer poison? goes Reg, producing a coiled up wad of notes.

Reg stays for about an hour, and it’s a long hour let me tell you. He doesn’t talk much, just kind of sits there like, existing, the whole while exuding this sense of menace and dissatisfaction. At one point while Danny’s over at the bar getting us another round he leans in and asks me something in a low voice, totally unnecessarily since he’s already shown he can hit impressive decibellage, and I’m forced to lean towards his withered old face in order to hear him.

He’s like, How’d about a pinch of charlie?

Normally you wouldn’t have to offer twice, but I suddenly realise he’s giving me this totally lewd look and then, shudder-inducingly, he proceeds to rest one of his filthy mitts on my knee, causing me to almost drown in my mouthful of JD and coke.

I’m OK, thanks! I splutter.

Reg gives me a pretend hurt look, the sort of face a little girl might pull at not getting her way, only which on a guy with a jagged scar under one eye from where he was once bottled is fucking frightening.

I’m like, Maybe later though!

Like, wondrously, Reg seems to get the message and removes his mitt, and not much after that he decides he and Filly have got to get going, despite Danny pressing him to stick around for the beer he’s just bought him.

Be seeing you real soon, he goes, giving me a blast of breath that could total an articulated lorry, Take care Jaz.

Filly! he shouts at the mutt, who immediately starts going ape shit. He grabs her by the collar, slaps her a couple of times in the nose and yanks her out of the pub.

He’s a good guy, says Danny. Obviously not the RSPCA’s book, I’m tempted to reply, but I decide to let it rest. I’m pretty freaked out by the come on and would be pretty pleased if I never saw Reg again ever.

Danny’s like, So... does this whole getting-chucked-out thing mean you and Eli aren’t friends anymore?

I’m shrug. I’m not in the mood to start analysing the crappiness of it all. Now that Reg is gone, his suggestion of some charlie is suddenly seeming a bit more attractive.

I’m like, Wanna do some sniff, Danny?

Danny’s not too keen at first, since he doesn’t very often partake. But I tell him my life is falling apart and I need some cheering up and basically all but frogmarch him into the toilets to do a couple of lines with me. I’ve got this vague hope it’ll make him a bit more receptive to my presence. It’s definitely hot being squeezed into the cubicle with him while he goes about racking up the lines for us, even if he pays me about as much attention as the bog roll dispenser.

Here, goes Danny, handing me a twenty. I take it and do one of the lines, then hand it back and watch him do the other. He clutches my arm after he snorts and throws his head back, letting out this whoop.

He’s like, Damn it’s been a while.

He looks at me with these huge shining eyes that like, have me ready to like, bear his children, then leans in and kisses my forehead like a mother superior blessing her deputy nun for good work handing out food parcels. But I’m not letting him get away with any The Sound of Music shit. I raise my face and grab his head with both hands, locking on like an anaconda and forcing it down towards me. Danny’s too surprised to resist and the next thing I’ve forced his lips apart and shoved my tongue in his mouth, real quick. He kind of just stands there, and I might as well be kissing one of those blow up sex dolls for all the response I’m getting. Then, very slowly, Danny moves his mouth against mine and I get a flash of tongue back. It’s hardly what you’d call a barrel of enthusiasm, but I’m up for the challenge and throw myself into it like a professional whore. I touch Danny’s arms and chest, which is pretty exciting to be finally doing, running my fingers over all the bumps and grooves of his amazing body. I start to get a bit more of a response finally, though not exactly fiery passion – plus Danny’s arms remain firmly stuck to his sides, like he’s channelling a penguin. There’s action happening down below though, I notice, even if we’re not talking Iron Man here. To keep things spontaneous I drop to my knees and wrench open Danny’s jeans, eliciting this noise from above that sounds like a cross between a groan and a cry for help.

Danny wears comic book boxers, and I’m greeted by the sight of the Captain America racing towards me. I reach out and yank him down, revealing a decent-sized cock wavering at about nine o clock. I lick the shaft, making it quiver and rise about half a centimetre, then figure why not just go for it and take the whole thing into my mouth, reaching down ready to jerk myself off at the same time.

Trouble is, no matter how much effort I’m putting in, I can totally tell it’s not working out. Danny’s hands are still bolted to his sides, whereas they ought to be massaging my head or touching his nipples or something by this point. Meanwhile his cock’s not really getting any harder, just maintaining a spongy sort of half erection like it doesn’t want to really commit itself. In any other situation by this point I’d get the message and back off and try to salvage some like, vestige of self respect, but by this time it’s kind of like a point of honour, and I’m working on Danny like my life depends on it, practically giving myself tonsillitis in the process. It’s probably the least erotic blow job in the like, annals of fellacio. I’m just about to throw in the towel when I feel Danny’s fingers fasten onto my ears (of all things), and his cock suddenly stiffens. There’s this pulsation and then without warning two seconds later he cums. I’m so turned off by this point that it doesn’t even occur to me to swallow, and I kind of cough it all out. It hits the floor with the unsexiest splattering sound ever heard. Anything left of my own hard on wilts to nothing immediately.

I’m like, Ahem.

As soon as I stand up Danny forestalls any further action by wrapping me in a bear-hug and clenching me as if he’s shipwrecked and I’m like, a rubber ring, panting away like he’s just ejaculated for Britain. We stand there holding each other for quite a long time, neither of us wanting to let go and deal with the aftermath of how awful it was. I stare at the wall behind Danny and read the ad of some guy called Mr X, who allegedly sucks a mean dick here every Monday night, and generously claims to accommodate all shapes and sizes.

Eventually Danny’s like, Hey Jaz?

I’m like, Yeah?

He’s like, I think maybe we’ve got a good thing going as mates. Maybe we should just – you know. Stick to that.

He pulls back looks at me like he’s waiting for me to explode in a fireball of fury, or maybe start dying in a fit of sobs. I quickly do my best to look like I’m super disappointed and let out a long sigh as if it’s this crying shame. I don’t think I’ve ever got over a crush so fast.

Oh... OK then, I sigh.

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