How Not to Survive

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4

The next day is serious. Danny hardly ever takes drugs himself (some deep seated issue about not liking to be out of control) but he can rack up the lines like a vending machine, and I was pretty out of it when me and Eli finally staggered out of Abuse and like, floundered down a taxi for a rip-off ride home. I get up at one the next day, feeling all shivery and spaced out with my jaw aching like I’ve been giving head all night (I haven’t btw, it’s the coke). It’s just the sort of mood you want to be in to run into someone like Sour Face on the stairs, who’s probably been standing outside my room waiting for me all morning just so she could inflict a devastating revenge by shrieking right in my ear.

I’ve got a few things to say to you! she goes, like, scalpel shrill, I’ve been on to the landlord and he’s not happy about any of the stuff I’ve told him. He says that if you don’t belt up you’ll be out, contract or not!

Feebly I like, raise my hand to try and ward her off, but there’s no defence against a sound like Sour Face. Seriously it’s like, she’s totally wasting her talent on me and should be off in Afghanistan forcing the enemy out of hiding simply by giving them the dim hope that if they surrender she’ll shut the fuck up.

And don’t think you can just say something smart-mouthed and mean, she continues, as if I would dare, Because that’s not going to work! You’d better apologise to me and do it properly!

Straight away I’m like, I’m sorry.

She’s like, You don’t mean it! I can tell by your face.

I’m like, I’m really sorry.

But there’s no pleasing Sour Face, who just glares at me, her eyes vibrating from the pressure like any second they’re going to explode. OK so maybe I do sound a teeny bit sarcastic, but it’s pretty difficult to sound genuinely apologetic when suffering a coke crash out. Sour Face raises her fist and I think she’s actually going to like, plant one on me, and I screw up my face and prepare for the worst. But in the end all she does is wave it in this menacing way under my nose.

You will be sorry, she promises, You’re nothing but a mean malicious person, and sooner or later people are going to see you for what you really are! I’d have a long hard think about that if I were you.

With this she sweeps grandly up the hall to her bedroom, which I happen to know from glimpses through the open door is has grey bed sheets and pillows and no posters on the walls, almost as if the person who slept there was totally devoid of personality or interests.

I’m so ruined I can’t face doing my monologue today. Every time I think about it I get this pain in the back of my head, and I figure even Jerk Jackson wouldn’t want me to give myself a brain haemorrhage just for one of his seminars. Instead I endure the next few hours in Eli’s room watching reruns of Glee, Cougar Town and The Purrfect Search on his laptop, until I remember I’ve got a bloody shift at the Old Vic starting in less than an hour. Eli isn’t in a much better state than me, freaking out all over again about his parents with a raging hangover. I leave him compiling this list of things he’s he’s gonna do to like, bring them around to the fact that he’s flaming.


At work we’re an usher down because Frankie, one of the regulars, has apparently got this vicious virus that makes her cough up globs of phlegm, like something out of Resident Evil. Twiggy tells us this fact all super solemnly, like she’s announcing Frankie’s imminent demise, then proceeds to divide up her duties between us.

It’s at times like this when the whole team needs to come together, she declares, like she’s pep-talking the Justice League for an epic final battle, And I know I can rely on everybody to do their bit. Jaz – you’ll be taking on Frankie’s second half.

I’m like, Are you serious? since I’m already on duty for the first act and watching the whole of Waiting for Godot on come down is about as appealing as an un-anesthetised eye operation. It’s like, totally past my comprehension why this show is so popular btw. I mean, it practically sells out every other night. There’s always a whole bunch of people who leave during the interval feigning headaches or muttering about sudden emergency things they forgot to do, and you can totally tell what they’re thinking is, Why the fuck do I need to be reminded of how fucking meaningless life is? After he saw it the other day Jackson made this point of going on about how ‘utterly unique and spellbinding’ it was to the class, and I pretty much had to hold my own jaws together to keep from mentioning how I saw him doze off halfway through the first act.

Yes I am perfectly serious, Twiggy bitchily assures me, And if you could try and be serious too for once, perhaps we could all actually get on with the job.

I make it though the first half with my eyes open, but no sooner have the lights dimmed again and I’m out of it. This is all fine but the only trouble is I drift off a little too deeply, and when I wake up I’m being prodded by this mad-looking elderly dude going on about his missing phone. It takes me a while to like, refocus and work out that it’s not just some new interactive part of the show they’re experimenting with, by which point this guy’s practically developed apoplexy.

It’s your job to help me find it! he’s going, Not to fall asleep!

I’m like, OK. Where were you sitting?

I don’t know! Find it for me! I need to call my wife!

Fortunately Twiggy doesn’t hear, as she’s busy being distracted by the usual brigade of old biddies who seem to come to see this show by coach load, and always mob the kiosk afterwards to go on about how interesting they found it – some instinct obviously telling them the person behind the counter has no escape route.

Can’t you ring it or something? demands The Crazy.

Eventually I locate the missing phone in his front pocket, but instead of being grateful the old bastard acts like I’ve just insulted his great grandmother by putting his nose in the air like I’ve just let off a ripe one and stalking off, going on loudly about how in his day employees who slept on the job would have been sacked on the spot.

What was that about? demands Twiggy, coming up behind me.

I give her this angelic smile.

I’m like, He was mad that Godot never arrived.

Twiggy replies with this look like she’s just waiting for the day when she gets to take a piss on my gravestone, before ordering me to help the others cleaning up the left over detritus.


I get back to the flat close to midnight to find a full on regression happening in Eli’s bedroom. He’s curled up by his bed in a foetal position and is actually sucking his thumb. On his laptop slutty Riana is telling the camera what a bunch of prissy daddie’s girls the other contestants are.

I’m like, Dude. You may as well face it. There’s no Father Christmas.

To this Eli suddenly sits bolt upright like he’s just achieved the mother of all erections.

Oh my god I’m got it! he screams.

I’m like, Shhh for Jesus’ sake! raising my hands to my poor already-crippled ears.

Eli reaches across and pauses the screen just as Joni and Louise are about to go bitch on bitch with each other.

You’ll come to dinner! he goes. I’ll introduce you as my boyfriend. You can be all sophisticated and suave, and they’ll get this stupid image they have of gay men as druggie sex maniacs out of their heads. It’s perfect!

I reach over and un-pause the screen.

I’m like, Inside I’m laughing.

He’s like, I’m serious Jaz – you’re an actor! You could have them eating out of your hand if you wanted!

I tell Eli to get a grip but he won’t stop whining on about it. Finally I can’t deal with it anymore and tell him frankly that the idea is unworthy of a fucktard and go back to my own room where I collapse in bed like I’ve just fought a world war or something. I’m just about to black out when I get a text from Danny asking if I want to come out for a late one. It’s pretty much the last thing I feel like doing, but it’d be rude not to after he basically saved my life. I have a quick inner debate and then decide not to bring Eli along since his powers of rationality are obviously messed up and he needs the time to like, grow up all over again. OK so it might also be that I’ve developed this overnight crush on Danny and kind of want him all to myself, but it’s only one of those passing things, like twenty four flu. It’s certainly not like I’m planning on throwing myself at him or anything.

Danny seems kind of surprised when I show up alone. He’s wearing a tight purple tee with a vee neck that shows off his impressive heavage and super-defined guns, and I don’t know if it’s just because of last night’s whole knight-in-shining-armour routine, but it’s like, How did I not see this before? This guy is ripped.

I play it cool. I’m like, Hey.

Hey, goes Danny, then, Where’s baby bro? which is his pet name for Eli.

I’m like, Stayed in, meaning, Who cares?

He’s like, Ah – shame.

Suddenly I’m a mite bit jealous. Danny’s pretty fond of Eli, and I’ve even wondered once or twice if he doesn’t have a thing for him, even though Danny’s so way out of Eli’s league it’s unfunny. Plus it’s not like he’d stand a chance with Eli anyway, since Eli is tit-over-minge in love with me and hasn’t so much as looked at another guy since we met, apart from maybe drooling over pics of Marco Dapper on-line. But still it’s like, Hello? If you stand me and Eli side by side there’s just no competition.

Anyway, I get a drink and we sit at the bar and chew, interrupted every so often by one of Danny’s customers who he has to like, pretend to be introduced to so he can slip the goods into their palms while they shake hands with him. It’s dead smooth, like something out of Miami Vice, though at the same time you can’t help but wonder if the staff don’t get suspicious, what with this guy in front of them who’s constantly meeting new people all night. It’s like, how popular can one person really be? The more I watch him in action though, the more I’m seeing it. Or gagging for it, more like.

Danny’s like, So tell me about this Andrew dude.

It’s like, the ultimate in unsexy subject matter, but it occurs to me I can play the whole thing up so I give him the broad strokes, maybe creating one or two past felonies for Andrew in the process, along with a spell in prison, just to spice it all up. Danny nods like he can understand what a tense situation it must be. I start thanking him again for playing hero and say how frightened I am and then crank it up with this long meaningful look that’s supposed convey just how cock-suckingly grateful I truly am.

Danny’s all dismissive about it. He’s like, Bah – you’re welcome.

I figure it’s time to give him the works, so I start moaning on about how impossible it is to meet decent guys who aren’t total head cases, and how I always seem to pick massive losers, and what the hell’s wrong with me? It’s about as desperate as you could be, and I even put my hand on top of his and give it this squeeze like I’m just a teensy bit too drunk to know what I’m doing, which is so cringe-worthy I think I even catch the barman barfing into a glass. Even worse is it turns out to be a total waste of life, since when it comes to Danny and flirting, the lights are on but there’s nobody home.

Tell me about it, he sighs, like there’s just no opportunities out there for fit guys with great pecs and drugs on tap, So is Eli coming along later d’you reckon?

To this I totally give up and snatch my hand away. It’s like, talk about humiliating.

I’m like, We’re not psychic twins you know.

Danny raises both hands like I’ve totally just overreacted and so to cover for it I tell him about Eli’s stupid idea of me going round to his house to pose as the perfect gay man. Danny grins and shakes his head like it’s just another of those adorably hare-brained schemes from that adorable hare-brain.

Foolish child, he goes, What do you say to a little pick me up?

I get to school the following morning after about one hour of sleep feeling like I’ve been pumped full of battery acid. I’m all white and clammy and even though I wash down like, a handful of Neurofen with a bucket of Diet Coke, I still can’t get my head to stop pounding. It’s not exactly the best frame of mind to be facing Jerk Jackson but then, he’s only going to lay into me anyway.

The London Acting Academy is over in Clerkenwell, right behind this blacked out pub which I discovered was a seedy strip joint one afternoon when we were sent out to explore the area by Jerk Jackson. He Jerk Jackson didn’t look too pleased at the revelation and wanted to know why I’d gone in there anyway since we were supposed to be out and about, not drinking, and even wouldn’t let me finish giving my observations, even though I’d found out plenty of cool stuff. The school itself is basically a total joke, the sort of place that reliably churns out dole-queuers every year. It used to have this almost-reputation because Harold Hammersmith who was quite a big stage actor in the early nineties went there, but these days the planet’s pretty much forgotten him (including Google) and the only people who go are the rejects who couldn’t get into anywhere better. Like yours truly. The place is basically governed by Jerk Jackson, who has like, a whole coven of deputy jerks who take us for stuff like vocal training and stage lingo. When you go there to audition for a place Jackson sits there on a little throne watching with his arms folded and this look on his face like he’s watching a dog eating its own shit. He started out as an actor himself, and I guess one of the few compensations for never hitting the big time is getting to completely trample over other people who’ve still got dreams. And in case you hadn’t got the message by now, he’s one of the most repulsive life forms on the planet, like, his very own species that probably started out in life as an It, and I hope for your sake you never have the bad luck to cross paths with him.

You’re late, he snaps with that classic charm no amount of grooming can get you as I bound into the room, What a surprise! Everyone – people who are late are examples of people who will never get work.

I’m like, I’m sorry, all sweaty from the effort of running up four flights of stairs.

No one waits for latecomers, continues Jackson, who’s late all the time, Especially no casting agents. Jarold Jones, you can officially consider yourself to have lost this job before you even walked in the room.

He gives me this super smug look, like he’s just made himself cum or something, then turns back to the class, who’re all in their groups and looking pretty strained, no doubt because Jackson is midway through one of his life force- depleting lectures on the importance of integrity, which is like, beyond ironic from a man who regularly wears socks with sandals.

I take the nearest seat and flop down trying not to pant too loudly. A couple of people shoot me looks, including rich bitch Tania, who’s wearing the usual host of designer labels and basically looks like a walking billboard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I hate the rest of my classmates. It’s just we don’t seem to get on. I think it’s something to do with them being actors, which might sound a little hypocritical, since that’s what I am too, but seriously, these people have a way of speaking that drives me mad. When we first started out most of them were all right, but now it’s all like, super-accented with lots and lots of stressing like every sentence is straight out of a courtroom drama. They all speak with these big gestures and flashy smiles as if every conversation is a mega big deal interview on TV, and if you look into their eyes you can see this neediness like, pouring out of them. I mean, who the hell talks like that in real life? The hilarious thing is, we were all encouraged to be like this by Jerk Jackson and his team. He went on and on about how important it was to conduct ourselves in the right way, and that we had to like, keep at it until it was part of who we were, and then spent ages showing us these techniques with obscure titles like ‘optimum body placement’ and ‘correct tonal-levelling’ and such crap, but something he never bothered to tell us is exactly why they’re so important. And when someone (i.e. me) actually got up the balls to ask him, he just gave them this look like they had a piss pool forming at the front of their jeans and went, This is the craft and if you don’t want to learn then you’ve come to the wrong institution.

OK so maybe that makes me sound like a bit of a prick who just doesn’t want to learn anything. I don’t think I’m better than the rest of them though – that’s not what it is at all. I do want to be an actor. I just don’t want any of the bullshit that always seems to go with it, any of that fake dumb pretending. I don’t get why you can’t just be an actor and then switch off and be yourself, and no matter how much Jerk Jackson goes on about your body being your tool blah blah, I still want it to be me when I’m taking my bows.

Not that I’m ever gonna have any bows according to Jackson. After he’s finally finished getting off on the sound of his own voice he tells us that it’s time for our monologues and that he hopes we’ve paid close attention to the brief and he wants no sentimental rubbish under any circumstances.

Remember, he goes, It’s not about making people feel sorry for you, it’s about making them empathise, and to do that you have to forget they’re even there.

Fat chance of that with someone who looks like malevolent muppet drumming his fingers up and down while he assesses you, but everyone puts on thoughtful expressions and nods like they’re really getting this. Want to know one of the major differences between school and higher ed? At school everyone acts like they couldn’t give a fuck, mostly because they couldn’t, whereas at college everyone falls over themselves to look like they do give one.

Jarold Jones, enunciates Jackson, who takes this special delight in saying my full name like he somehow knows how much I hate it, Since you were the last to arrive why don’t you be the first to dazzle us?

This is so not what I was hoping for, but I take to the front of the class figuring I’ve got to go some time. I’ve been wracking my fried brains for a good memory to give them, and was starting to think I just didn’t have any, until it occurred to me that seeing Mum at the weekend was probably the most perfect material any method actor could ask for.

So on Friday when I got home I got this phone call... I begin.

I describe how I went over to see Mum after getting the news my grandma’s died and find her in this drunken stupor. I give it a couple of small embellishments, just to make it seem a bit more of a story, like that she’s choking on her own vom when I walk in the room and that I have to like, insert my finger down her throat and make her bring it back up. But mostly I just stick to what actually happened. I get quite a few groans at the vomiting bit, but everyone in class is sitting bolt upright staring with these big eyes that are like, so obviously full of jealousy at my amazing experience. When I finish they all clap and quite a few people are pretending to look like they’ve never been so moved. Tania Palmer Tomkinson in front of me even wipes away at an invisible tear. When everyone’s finally done there’s still one person clapping, and slowly all eyes swivel around to the back of the room where Jerk Jackson is smacking his palms together with this smirk on his face as if he’s just been proven right.

Bravo! he goes, Amazing!

It’s beyond obvious he’s being sarcastic.

That, ladies and gents, would have to be a perfect example of what NOT to do. Ridiculous, OTT, unbelievable, irritating, and not a shred of genuine feeling. The whole point of these monologues is to give a moment of self awareness, of real depth. A split second that shows us you have gained an insight into yourself. What Jarold here gave us was nothing but first class histrionic crap!

He gives me this look like he’s waiting for me to start sobbing.

I’m like, So... you didn’t like it?

Jackson’s obviously pretty annoyed he hasn’t broken me and purses his lips into this like, furious bee stung pout.

I don’t think there’s a single person in this room who liked it, he goes, And what’s more I doubt there’s a single person who believed a word of it either.

At this The Heiress quickly affects a scornful expression and turns her nose up in the air like she’s just caught a whiff of last season’s cologne. I’m like, the definition of Whatever, though secretly I am pretty pissed off since all I basically did was tell the truth. But there’s no way I’m getting into this with the king of cunts, so I say OK and go back to my place.

But it’s totally evident I haven’t been tortured satisfactorily for Super Jerk, since as I take my seat he’s like, Jarold please see me after class today, in this real dismissive voice as if even addressing a sentence to me is this massive chore he has to like, steel himself for. Everybody gives each other these knowing looks as if it’s been a long time coming but finally I’m For It, and then Billy, this shrill little guy with all the stage presence of a gnat, goes up and tells us all about the harrowing time when his pet hamster went missing for ten minutes or something, an experience Jackson declares to be deeply profound.

I wait around at the end of the day after everyone’s left, which I don’t really have time to do since I’ve got another shift at the Old Vic in like, less than an hour. Jerk Jackson makes this show of having other far more important things to do than keeping the appointment he made with me, like shuffling papers and inspecting his manicure.

Finally I’m like, So you wanted to see me? and he looks up like he hadn’t even noticed I was there and gives me this half-hearted nod as if he didn’t secretly live for every opportunity to try and make me feel small.

Sit down please Jarold, he goes.

I’m already sitting, but he’s obviously expecting me to comply anyway, so I make a show of standing up and sitting back down again, which Jackson watches as if even this is something I can’t get right.

He’s like, Jarold, I don’t know how to say this diplomatically so I’m going to lay it on the line for you. One day, hopefully, you’ll thank me.

I’m like, so looking forward to what’s coming. Jackson pauses like he’s deep in thought and starts cleaning his out ear hole with his little finger, and then he pauses again to peer at what he’s found there, probably considering eating it. Finally he looks at me again and nods like he’s just remembered he’s supposed to be telling me what a disappointment I am.

Jarold, I don’t think you’re actor. I think you want to be one, I even think you might have an iota of talent buried somewhere deep down. But at the current pace you’re travelling, I simply cannot see it.

It’s pretty special getting this sort of advice from a never-was like Jackson, and I make sure my face like, reflects how much I think of it.

I’m like, OK.

Jackson compresses his lips and lets out this total air-fart.

You know Jarold, you remind me a bit of myself when I was your age, he goes, all wisely like he’s Morgan Freeman.

I’m like, beyond aghast at this comparison, which makes me feel like I need to rush out and get an exorcism or something.

I didn’t want to be told things either, he continues, I thought I knew it all – but I was wrong, and I had to learn the hard way.

I nod, trying not to retch.

I think if you would only listen instead of asking questions all the time, then you’d progress a lot faster. At the moment, you’re so far behind the others I don’t even know you can catch up.

I’m like, I’ll work on it, meaning, Euthanize me already.

Jackson’s like, I’m pleased to hear it. Really I am.

And then he does this creepier than creepy thing and reaches out and puts his hand on my shoulder. I have to use every ounce of self control I possess to like, keep myself from leaping away and running to the nearest pharmacy screaming for disinfectant.

I’m on your side, goes The Crypt Keeper, squeezing away, I do hope you understand that?

I nod my head up and down desperately.

Alright then Jarold, he goes, I’ll see you tomorrow – on time now.

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