How Not to Survive

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3

After a joyous day spent mostly listening to Des lecturing Mum on how to be a better person and me on how to understand the mind of an addict, like this is the sum total of what I was born to do, I finally get back to the flat around early evening. I’ve forgotten all about my mash up with Sour Face last night, what with all the excitement since, so I’m not on my guard. She’s cooking something that smells disgusting when I get in. She like, whirls around holding this saucepan and gives me these evils like I’m responsible for all the animal suffering on the planet. I cower away from her because for a few seconds I think she’s going to fling the bubbling orange contents at me. After making it perfectly clear it’s only because of a massive talent for self restraint that she’s able to hold off, Sour Face turns back and puts the pan down. I’m don’t want you to think I’m particularly bothered or anything, since I’ve got way bigger fish to fry and all that, but I figure we may as well make up and try to be civil since we do live together.

I’m like, Hey Sue, all friendly like she didn’t almost just murder me with vegetable stew.

Sour Face just ignores me. It’s pretty tragic.

Look, I go, drawing on a real effort of self control not to laugh, I’m sorry about last night. It was over the edge.

Sour Face still says nothing. I figure there’s not much to be gained from continuing to apologise to her arse and I’m about to go in search of Eli since I’m seriously overdue a good bitch about life when she goes, I wish I could understand why it is you hate me so much, in this low dramatic voice like she’s Scarlet O’ Hara or something.

It’s mighty tempting to give her the list, but instead I’m like, I don’t hate you. I was having a really really bad day.

You know that’s hardly an excuse, goes Sour Face, who still hasn’t deigned to turn around and face me, You should be ashamed of yourself. What you said was extremely spiteful and very hurtful.

At this point I suddenly decide that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have Sour Face speaking to me after all. But she’s obviously waiting for me to go on about how it wasn’t true and that actually she’s a totally sexually attractive woman and just hasn’t met the right fellow yet etc, and I even open my mouth to give it to her too. Only somehow what comes out isn’t what either of us was expecting.

I’m like, The truth always hurts.

As soon as the words are out the atmosphere like, drops several degrees. I hear Sour Face take a deep breath like she’s in pain and see her fingers tighten around the saucepan handle. I make a run for it before she uses her foul concoction to fry me on the spot.

In my room I find Eli lying on the bed staring up at the ceiling like he’s never beheld something so fascinating, finishing off the spliff I rolled last night. Spliffs are the only drugs Eli does – but boy does he know how to do them. He lets out this long deep sigh as I walk in.

I’m like, You’d better not have just jerked off.

Eli lets out this short laugh that turns into a something that sounds like sob halfway through. I reach over and grab what’s left of the spliff off him and it’s then that I realise he’s got red eyes like he’s been crying. I know what you’re thinking, because it’s what I’m thinking too – like, is there no end to the drama?

I have a good long toke to prepare myself and then I’m like, So what’s the story?

Eli’s like, I told my parents.

He leaves this long pause like he’s just dropped an East Enders-style bombshell.

I’m like, Told them what?

That I’m gay, he goes, as if I’m retarded.

So this is actually pretty big shit. Eli comes from this ultra conservative Jewish family and if you think my parents are impressively damaging role models to have then you should meet his. His mum’s like, an expert in the art of interfering, and his Dad’s like, this permanently unimpressed block of stone who never smiles. I only met them once which was when we first moved in, and straight away Mrs Levinstein was like, Who are you? Where do you come from? What school did you go to? in quick succession like she was doing an emergency pedo background check. Of course with an opportunity like that I was right in with answers like, Hannibal, Hell and The Testicle-Eating Academy for Boys, to which she gave me this perfectly horrified look like she thought there might actually be some truth to it. At that point Eli like, frogmarched me into my room and ordered me to stay there because he didn’t trust me not to out him. He goes over to their house in Muswell Hill every Friday night if you can believe it, and it’s pretty funny to think of him sitting down at this respectable meal trying to fulfil their fantasy of him as this studious straight nice upstanding Jewish boy knowing that three hours later he’ll be downing vodka Redbulls with me at Abuse. Eli is always saying that I just don’t understand and it’s a cultural thing and I’m always like, Understand this? and giving him the finger.

I’m like, So I’m guessing they weren’t down with it?

Eli let’s out another pained sigh like he’s trying to pass kidney stone. I can see he’s having difficulty holding back the fountains and so I hand him back the spliff so he’s got something to distract himself with.

He’s like, Dad just walked out the room. Mum said that if I’m gay then I’m no son of hers. Those were her actual words.

I’m like, ... (gaping noise)

Eli’s like, Exactly.

Eli’s a year younger than me and about a decade less savvy, to be frank. We met when we were both working in this embarrassingly paid McFuck job serving coffee to business types in St Paul’s. His family are like, oil baron rich, but his Mum wanted him to go out and get a job so he’d know what it was like in the real world or something. I was just dirt poor because of going out so much. Neither of us lasted more than a month, me because self-dignity finally kicked in and Eli because I persuaded him we could do better, which it turned out I was wrong about but hey – how was I to know? He studies Fine Art at Central St Martins, which is just up the road from my crappy drama school, so we got into the habit of meeting up at the end of the day for some after hours drinking and moaning about our respective bitch tutors and loser classmates. Anyway, the whole dynamic about our friendship is that he fancies the pants off me while I look after him like he’s this clueless little lamb lost in a big dark forest full of hungry creatures, which is basically the situation. Not only did he not have a single gay friend when I met him, he was also a total virgin – and still is, if you can swallow it. It’s obvious I’m the coolest thing that’s ever happened to him, which isn’t saying a lot, but without me he’d probably have been sacrificed to a life of closeted respectability or something. But what you really need to understand about Eli is that he’s one of life’s genetic freaks, the ones who should have been culled way back when evolution was thinning out the species, and it’s just lucky that I came along when I did. Trouble is, it means I feel totally responsible every time something fucks up for him.

This like, life-consuming pause is stretching on and on and it’s obvious Eli is waiting for me to say something that’ll make it all better, so I’m like, You know what?

Eli is like, What?

I’m like, Fuck ’em. If they don’t want to know then fuck ’em. Who needs people like that anyway?

Eli manages to give this like, pathologically pathetic chuckle.

He’s like, Yeah. Except they gave birth to me. Plus they pay my rent and tuition.

It’s a bit difficult to come back to that, since he’s got a point. The good thing about having rich arseholes for parents is that even though they’re arseholes at least they’re rich. That’s why you should never come out until after you’ve graduated. But somehow I don’t think Eli will be receptive to this lesson right now.

I’m like, all deflatedly, So what are you going to do?

Eli is like, I don’t know, in this mournful voice like shooting him between the eyes right now would be doing him a massive favour. I kind of want to start chewing him out about telling them in the first place, since having met them the once it was blatantly the stupidest idea he’s ever had, but now’s clearly not the time to get all tough love. Instead I like, give his hand a pat, which is the lamest gesture I could probably have come up with, but he smiles anyway because any like, actual contact with me is pretty exciting to him, and finally looks over.

He’s like, Oh my God – you’ve had a nose job!

I’m actually looking a bit better now, having spent half the day lying on my back breathing into a packet of frozen peas, though of you look close there’s still this round patch of purple across my nose, a bit like a target-shaped birthmark. I give Eli the low-down, and he makes all these grunts and gasps and starts going on about hunting down the bastards and making them pay, which is pretty hilarious since he’s the sort of kid who spent his childhood hiding from bullies in the toilets. But at least he seems to forget about his own gaping chasm of a problem for a few, so I figure let him go for it. Then I tell him about my granny dying and he gets even more worked up about how unfair life is, always fucking you over when you’re down. I’m like, Tell me about it.

I hang out with Eli for a while getting stoned, and then I remember what day it is and that I’m supposed to have this monologue prepared for school on Monday and that I’ve done sweet fuck all on it. It’s meant to be this crucial moment from your life that defined who you are today, and I’m having serious trouble thinking of something. It’s not like I haven’t had plenty of important moments, it’s just that I’m worried if I talk about them I might come off looking like a cunt, and since Jerk Jackson hates me with an obscure passion already, the last thing I want to do is give him actual ammunition.

Let’s go out, says Eli.

I think about it. I figure it’s too late to do anything now anyway, plus I reason I’ve got all of tomorrow to produce the sort of masterpiece that’ll make Jackson see me in a new light.

I’m like, You had me at Let’s.

Eli heads off to his room to beautify himself, which is pretty amusing since he always comes back looking exactly the same, demanding to know what you think as if he’s gone and had a full makeover rather than just stuck a bit of gel in his hair. While he’s off shaping himself an ironic quiff I send Danny a text saying Me & Eli off 2 soho, u arnd? x and almost straight away get one back saying Alreddy on the way, C U @ restless xxx Yet again my phone’s winking with another voice message from Andrew, and to tell the truth it’s getting kind of on the freaky side. It’s like, take the hint already.

Getting out of the house is a bit of a mission, since I’ve no intention of running into the Stepford Housemate again. In the kitchen Sour Face is frenziedly banging pots around like she’s just discovered the joy of making noise, and we have to tiptoe past like escaping convicts. Once we’re safely outside Eli tells me she bit his head off when he went in there for a snack earlier on, going on about cleaning rotas and veggie boxes in this unnaturally high voice like a total woman on the verge, and then when he asked if she’d seen me she apparently went all white like she was having to concentrate very hard in order not to rupture something.

Restless is this newish bar where the walls are all mirrors, not remotely designed with the gay market in mind or anything. At first it’s always a bit disorientating when you enter, seeing these multiple versions of yourself in every direction. I’ve heard like, stories about people getting spasticated and trying to pull themselves too. Eli thinks it’s all pretty cool, but then he thinks everything’s pretty cool. Me, I’m ambivalent.

Yo, goes Danny, lounging at the bar with a JD and coke like he owns the place, What happened to your T-zone?

I repeat the whole story, and wait for Danny to take his turn getting all butch and riled up. The trouble is it doesn’t matter how shit your life gets, it’s never gonna be as shit as Danny’s already had it, which sometimes makes it kind of hard for him to empathise. Instead of getting indignant on my behalf he’s all calm and like, Man you gotta be careful, and then just turns away and has a reflective sip of his drink.

Eli is properly outraged by this total lack of a reaction. He’s like, It’s not his fault! He was just minding his own business on the train! It could have happened to anyone!

But I’m like, Leave it.

In case you hadn’t already figured from that story earlier about Danny’s parents who were like something out of Mike Leigh wet dream, this boy’s got issues. He hides it pretty well from most people, with this whole relaxed ’tude like as long as the earth’s still turning everything’s gonna be OK. But you can tell there’s stuff going on if you look real close. Danny’s way too much of a drop out to go to college, and he spends most of his spare time doing spliffs or down at the gym. In fact he’s pretty buff, the sort of guy you totally would, but he hardly ever gets off with anyone (he’s bi) and when he does he’s always really dismissive about it, like getting laid is this massive chore he can’t be bothered with. It’s like, talk about too cool for school. Oh, and in case you didn’t get that whole prologue thing at the start where we got busted for dealing, that’s like, what he does for a living.

So we have a few drinks and Eli tells us more about de-closeting himself over a Friday night dinner, and how his little sister was all Pass-the-salt unsurprised in contrast to being totally disavowed by his parents. Danny’s a bit more sympathetic about this for some reason, and advises Eli to hold on to his Mum and Dad if he can – and because we both know his only parent is the British Fostering Association we’re both like, Good point, instead of, Shut the fuck up, like we would be with anyone else.

Restless is starting to get a bit – well restless, hardy ha, so keep things interesting we decide to move on to Abuse, just for a change (it’s where we always go). It’s shaping up to be an OK night. I’ve had a line from Danny and I’m just starting to loosen up a bit on the dance floor, and I’m even feeling a bit sexed up and thinking maybe I might check out the talent, when who should I see like, staring at me from across the room but Andrew, looking all haggard and unshaven like he’s been living on the streets. Which maybe he has, as I realise I haven’t listened to a single one of his messages. I quickly duck my head down, but it’s too late and Andrew starts making his way through the jungle of jerking limbs towards me. I like, back away from him, but pretty soon I’m right up against the wall and there’s nowhere to run, and before I can come up with a decent exit stratagem he’s right there in front of me.

Jaz! he goes, I knew I’d find you here – we have to talk!

I’m like, Oh brother, and, I don’t think so.

Don’t you get it? continues The Stalker, We belong together!

And even though it’s totally wrong for me to be saying this, the thing is Andrew actually looks kind of good in a desperado kind of way. His face is all hard and intense, and in the dark he looks a bit like a cross between Jason Statham and David Tennant, if such a combo is like, even possible. He’s basically got total hot It’s psycho chic going on. He leans in and I can feel his breath on my face and to be honest I’m kind of ready for it.

I’m like, Oh yeah and what does your wife think? only I say it a bit flirtatiously, like maybe I could even be persuaded.

Andrew’s like, She’s happy for me – and she wants to meet you.

At this point any sexiness totally evaporates the situation. I’m like, horrified personified. Before he can say another word I do this Lara Croft style dive and roll, taking out a couple of dancers in the process but hey there’re always causalities in love and war. I throw myself through the club like my life depends on it, which it quite possibly does as who knows what lengths Norman Bates behind me is prepared to go to. I glance back and see him following, and all of a sudden it’s fucking scary.

Hey, goes Danny, looming out of nowhere, What’s up?

I leap into his arms like he’s Batman.

I’m like, Save me for fuck’s sake!

Andrew’s right behind, having somehow managed to keep up on my gauntlet for survival. He’s like, Jaz please don’t run away!

I’m like, Leave me the hell alone you socio!

But this guy’s on a mission and he’s not gonna stop until he’s got what he wants. He grabs my shoulder and tries to prise me out of Danny’s arms. I cling on like Lois Lane or something, burying my head in his frankly pretty damn burly shoulder and thinking I should do this more often. Danny twists me away from harm like a fireman and turns back to face Andrew, who’s practically dancing on the spot trying to get past him.

Danny’s like, You heard him pal – dick off!

Andrew pauses to stare at Danny like he’s just become aware that the barrier between him and me has like, limbs, a head and a mouth. He almost looks like he’s going to follow Danny’s advice, but then suddenly he redoubles his efforts to get by him, flapping his hands around him in this way that’s so flaming it’s actually pretty hard to swallow that once upon a time he thought he was straight.

Danny raises his left fist and gives Andrew this jab in the gut. He’s so fast it’s like a flash of lightning, blink and you’ll miss it. Next thing I know Andrew’s doubled over and gasping like he’s having a stroke. For a nasty second I think he is having a stroke. But then he claws his way up the bar to standing again and gives Danny this look that ought to like, go down in history for being so full of reproach. Then his eyes like, drift past Danny to focus on me and he looks so award-winningly pathetic I suddenly feel almost sorry for him. Almost but not even close. I turn away. Danny’s like, Are you OK? and it’s all I can do not to like, throw myself at his feet and start worshipping him. But that wouldn’t be so cool, so instead I’m like, Yeah yeah, all gruff and manly.

When I turn back to look again Andrew’s disappeared, hopefully forever.

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