How Not to Survive

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So we all troop downstairs expecting the worst, only to find Andrew lying on one of the bushes outside the front door, making small groaning noises. He looks a bit like a hybrid of human and plant, since the bush he landed on has been totally mangled and bits of it are sticking up all around him like leafy tentacles. As soon as Kate realises he’s not dead she lets out a little scream, and it’s kind of hard to tell if it’s from relief or disappointment. She rushes up to him and starts patting the air around him and making these cooing noises while Andrew lets out more weird groans. They sound a lot like a pair of mating pigeons.

Don’t get up! orders Higgs, bringing up the rear in our little party, Just stay exactly where you are and don’t move a muscle!

I’ll call an ambulance! offers Eli excitedly, already on speed dial to London services, Hello? Listen, a man just fell off the roof to his house! What’s the address here again?

My leg feels funny... Andrew says in this little boy lost voice.

It could possibly be broken, goes Higgs sagely, like this would never have occurred to anyone else.

Kate’s like, Oh you poor stupid wonderful darling!

Andrew’s eyes are big as moons and he keeps looking from one side to the other like he doesn’t understand who he is. Then his eyes lock onto mine and he gives me this helpless look, and suddenly I’m almost crying. It hits me that he almost really did die, that he actually wanted to, and I have to like, turn away and suppress this urge to erupt right there in front of everyone. Then there’s this crunching sound under my feet, and I look down to find Andrew’s totally flattened specs just as he goes in this pathetic little voice, I can’t see anything – where’re my glasses?

So we all stand there fussing over Andrew until the ambulance arrives – well, I say we but I mostly just smoke and stand a few feet off listening to Kate and Higgs giving him bland platitudes of advice about how everything’s going to be all right now, until they’re interrupted by Eli usefully pointing out that Andrew’s underwear has ridden up to his ribs in a total wedgy. Everyone looks at him like he’s this blob of sick that’s just plopped out of nowhere and he falls silent and scuttles over to me.

I was just trying to help! he whines.

The paramedics are pretty impressed when they find out about Andrew jumping off the roof, especially when it turns out the only thing wrong with him is a possible cracked rib and a broken ankle. He’s still staring around all gormless and keeps wittering on about some time when he was a little boy and got told off for swinging on a window ledge. The crew say he’s in shock and clamp an oxygen mask over his mouth, which neatly shuts him right up. Then they lift him into the back of the ambulance and Kate climbs in after him, giving me evils, as if I pushed him off or something rather than tried to talk him out of it. When I go to say I’ll visit him in hospital she goes, Don’t bother! in this clipped way like only girls who’ve been to boarding school and spent half their lives wanting to be a pony can put on. Higgs assures her he’ll lock up the house and then they’re off.

Me and Eli are left standing with Higgs, along with a whole bunch of people who’ve come out of their houses to watch Andrew being ferried into the ambulance like it’s a primetime viewing.

Higgs is like, Well that was exciting.

He gives me this long knowing look which is weirdly infuriating and makes me want to headbutt him. Instead I content myself with a scornful lip curl that’s basically an impression of Jerk Jackson’s standard expression.

I’m like, Come on Eli – let’s blow.

You know Jarold, goes Higgs as if I hadn’t said anything, If you wanted to see me, even just to talk for an hour, I’d be more than happy to accommodate you.

Ever noticed how gross shrinks can be, always making the stuff they’re talking about sound like having it off? I give Higgs this look like he can have a stroke in the shower and be eaten by roaches for all I care.

I’m like, It’s Jaz and no fucking way.

Higgs blinks and I have the brief satisfaction seeing him look all hurt before I turn and start walking off with Eli hurrying after me. As we get to the gate Higgs calls out, I’ll give your best to Mike! He’ll be very interested to know that we bumped into each other Jarold!

Who’s Mike? goes Eli.

I’m like, Just some other arsehole.

I look around for a taxi to flag down, but then I remember I’ve got no money and that Kate never reimbursed me. Since Eli is currently dead to his mum and dad and therefore his bank account has ceased dispensing cash, there’s nothing to do but catch the bus. I’m pretty wound up after the near death of my stalker, and start striding off, forcing Eli to like, jog to keep up.

So yet another FLASHBACK here, of me about half an hour after I’ve had the results for my A-levels, coming to terms with the fact that I’ve spent eight years at school and basically qualified myself to flip burgers. I’m sitting in my old classroom, the last time I’ll ever have to plant my buttocks in here, and Mike Fellows, aka my geography teacher, is crouching in front of me with his arms balanced on his knees and this deeply concerned look on his face like he’s comforting a bomb survivor or something.

You know Jaz, Fellows is going in a gentle voice, You don’t need to worry about what’s written there. You can be anything you want.

I’m like, Right, all dejected and staring at the piece of paper that tells me what a loser I am.

Fellows is like, You just have to work out what that is.

With this sudden movement that’s like, full of delinquent anger towards the world, I crumple it up and throw it on the floor.

I’m like, Fuck this!

I stand up and pick up my jacket. Fellows goes to put his hand on my shoulder but I shake him off and give him this look like I’d rather get groped by a randy leper than touched by him.

I’m like, All I know is I don’t want to end up like you!

At these words Fellows’ goes all pale and kind of staggers backwards, like he’s this sensei I’ve been studying under for years and who I’ve just stabbed in the gut with his own sai.

You don’t meant that, he goes.

I stare at him and somewhere inside a little alarm bell is ringing, trying to tell me that if I don’t apologise I’ll basically be the biggest shit who ever graduated from this hole, because this guy has been there for me way beyond the call of duty. Fellows taken me aside numerous times to lecture me on what it means to be gay in the modern world and how I mustn’t let anyone make me feel like I don’t belong. He’s made it his personal mission to check that I’m OK, constantly demanding to know if I’ve been like, the victim of homophobia, or stigma, or Chlamydia or anything at all. It’s obvious that I should close my eyes, take a few, then basically say sorry for being such a fuck up and a walking breathing insult and thank him for all the times he’s not lost his temper with me. But the thing is, while I know I should do that, something I can’t seem to control is preventing me, like the real me is has been taken over by some evil spirit or something. I’m blinded by this image of my future which is like, servitude at Burger King, and by this feeling of not knowing who I am or where I’m going. I look deep into Fellows’ eyes and it’s like he’s using The Force to will me to turn back from the Dark Side. Trouble is, I’ve already gone over.

I’m like, Yeah you heard me right bitch.

With these angelic words me and my ’tude march out of the room, and that’s the last time I see or hear from Fellows.

Seriously Jaz! pants Eli as he trots along beside me, How do you know that guy?

I’m like, An old acquaintance, and leave it at that, all mysterious, like we have this history that’s so fucking deep it’s beyond. Eli grinds to a halt, totally incredulous.

You didn’t... you-know-what with him, did you?

I’m like, Barf off!

Since it’s practically en route we head into Soho for a quick one before heading home. I’m ready to chill over a nice drink and basically forget tonight’s comedy horror extravanganza asap, but the thing about Eli is he’s like a dog that won’t let something go – and we’re not talking cute bog-roll hunting puppy here.

Come on Jaz, he keeps going, ’Fess up – Who was he?

He starts jabbing his finger playfully into my shoulder, in a kind of parody of a high school bully.

I’m like, If you really must know he used to be my shrink.

Eli is dead impressed when I tell him I was sectioned and put in a mental hospital for six months. His mouth drops open into this perfect circle and his eyes grow all round like an insect’s. It totally serves him right for being so gullible, and just to see how much he’ll swallow I even show him some like, folds of skin on my wrist and tell him they’re faded scars from where I slashed myself with a bread knife.

Jesus Jaz, Eli breathes, I didn’t know that!

I’m like, Yeah... all wounded as if it’s killing me to talk about it.

Eli is like, You know, you’re the most amazing person.

I’m like, Thanks.

Piece is like, I meant it! You’ve been through so much!

I start to tell him that it was all a big wind up, but Eli is too busy going off on this big speech about how fantastic I am and how I like, changed his life and that he wouldn’t know one tit from the other or something if I hadn’t come along and shown him the way. I’m not saying it isn’t mostly true, but at the same time it’s a bit much. The way he’s going on you’d think all I do is shelter abused animals and feed orphans all day.

And tonight you went on the way across town to talk somebody out of killing himself! he continues, I mean, only a truly decent person would do that. You could have just ignored that woman when she called!

I’m like, Oh my god you’re right, I never saw it before – I’m a fucking saint!

He’s like, Pretend as much as you want. But I know you’re a good guy, Jaz.

He gives me this big soppy grin and at this point it suddenly seems inevitable that he’s going to tell me he loves me and would do anything for me, which has been a confession that’s a long time coming let me tell you. I rapidly try to work out how I’m going to let him down gently, maybe some crap about not wanting to ruin our beautiful friendship, when he goes, And that’s why I also know you’re going to do me this favour and come and talk to my parents.

I’m like, Excuse me? and I see that behind Eli’s grin there’s this conniving look on his mug, and maybe for the first time ever I realise he’s more than this whiny closeted pampered baby brother and could maybe one day even be a player in his own right. Kids – they grow up faster and faster these days. What can you do?

But he’s not a Jedi yet. I reach into my drink and pluck out an ice cube. I’m like, How’s this for nice? and before Eli has a chance to react I’ve slipped it into the back of his jeans where it nestles into its new home nicely.

Hello boys, goes Danny smoothly, appearing just as Eli starts madly dancing around. He gives Eli this puzzled look, What’s going on?

Scabies, I go, He just got it.

After the last time when I basically threw myself at Danny I’ve been pretty cool around him, accepting the odd line and then fucking off to do my own thing. But as he gives me this big goofy smile and squeezes into the seat beside me I’ve suddenly got all these butterflies Minogue-ing it up and down my stomach and it’s like, Oh fuck, here we go again... I’ve tried really hard to repress any thought about him, but these fantasies of Danny’s hard naked body keep like, assailing me at vulnerable moments, such as when I’m ushering at the Old Vic, or in class listening to Jerk Jackson witter on about the expressiveness of the middle toe. There’s no denying he’s looking better and better these days, all ripped and chiselled and to die for, though I can’t work out if it’s just because I’ve opened myself up to the possibility. Thing is, I could totally handle it if he was just rejecting me, but the real fucker is, not only does he have no idea I’m feeling the Feelings, he basically has no receptors to the hints I’m throwing out whatsoever, even though I’m practically radioactive here. I’m starting to think the reason Danny’s still single is because he depresses anyone who tries it on so much that they end up figuring Jack Daniels would make for an easier lay, and head home for a glug and a self-fondle. Or else maybe it’s just what happens when you have a crack whore for a mum and a heroin addict for a father figure, I don’t know.

Eli is pretty cut up about the ice cube manoeuvre, but at least he stops going on about how wonderful I am and how I ought to like, have my statue erected so people can visit it in order to draw strength to face their own moral dilemmas. Instead he goes into a major sulk and stirs his drink around hardly talking to Danny or me at all, which just goes to show he still hasn’t quite grown up yet after all. Anyway, it’s not like I mind, since it means I get Danny to myself.

I tell him about our crazy night’s rescue mission and how I like, risked my life to talk Andrew down from a skyscraper. But instead of instantly seeing what selfless shining soul I am like Eli, Danny starts empathising with my stupid suicidal stalker. He can’t get over it when I tell him Andrew actually did it.

Danny’s like, Poor guy – I can’t believe I hit him! Shit...

I’m like, He deserved that, he was coming after me!

But Danny doesn’t seem to hear this. He drums his fingers up and down to the beat of the crappy Black Eyed Peas song they’re playing all reflectively and looks across the room like he’s transfixed. At first I think he’s staring at this tranny with a massive beehive and comedy-balloon tits, and suddenly it’s like it’s all falling into place and I’m thinking, So that’s what he’s into... But then the tranny moves it along and he’s still staring at the place where she was standing, face all serious like he’s having a power-think.

He must be seriously fucked up, muses Mr Pot, The dude probably just wanted to talk to you that night. Shit – they’ll put him right away now. He’ll have no chance after pulling a stunt like that.

I’d kind of forgotten I’d told Danny that Andrew was this serial offender with a multiple personality disorder on his last parole warning. I figure it’s time to change the subject, but Danny’s having none of it. He glances and Eli still sulking in the corner and goes, That must be why Baby Bro is in such a bad mood!

I’m like, Yeah.

I’m going to the loo, announces Eli at this precise moment like it’s a headline or something.

I’m like, Try not to lose yourself.

As soon as he’s gone Danny surprises me by leaning in all up close and personal. It catches me totally off guard, but that’s pretty sexy and for a second I’m like, so turned on it hurts. But just as I’m about to like, aim myself at his mouth, Danny goes, Listen, does he ever talk about me?

I’m like, Pardon?

Danny’s like, Does Eli ever, you know, say anything about me?

I like, choke back my lust and then put on my best nonchalant expression like I don’t have a serious hard on waiting downstairs. Talk about acting.

I’m like, Nope. Never.

Danny’s all crestfallen and kind of slumps back in his seat like I’ve just told him that a certain something is not benign.

Oh, he goes.

He has a swig of his drink and resumes staring reflectively off into the distance, which this time consists of these two guys with tango tans and distressed designer clothes bitching loudly about the lack of talent around. As soon as they think Danny is looking at them they change their minds about this pretty quickly and both strike a pose as if they’re having the best night out ever. But all of a sudden Danny doesn’t seem to want to stick around. He slips me an E, all apologetic saying it’s all he can spare, as if the recession has gone had a real detrimental effect on the old drugs trade, then rushes off, just as Eli is getting back to the table.

Eli is like, Where’s Danny?

I’m like, How the fuck should I know?

Eli shrugs and sits down and starts going on about his poor tender bottom following my vicious icy assault. I’m like, Better call mummy, and then remember mummy’s gone and decided he’s dead to her. Eli gives me this look which is probably the closest thing to evils he can manage and turns away with his nose in the air, back to sulking.

I use Eli’s silence to have a good old assessment of him, which I’ve not properly done for ages because the idea of him as anything other than like, totally asexual hardly even figures. When we first met I gave myself this secret mission to get him laid, and I kept trying to pair him up with guys in clubs and bars. But the thing about Eli is that he just gives off the impression of being a plant, like he’s perfectly capable of self-pollination thank you very much, which puts everybody else right off. Every now and then he’ll have a long moan about how he’s never had a boyfriend and nobody ever fancies him, but the truth is that hardly even factors, since the only other person he has any real interest in is me. I guess if I’m gonna be totally honest I’ve never minded that much either, since there’re definite perks to having your own fan club for a best mate. I’ve had friends in the past who’ve suddenly got boyfs and then totally cut me off. This one girl who I used to be super tight with at school for example – after she moved away we concocted this big plan to meet up after our A-levels were done. We were meant go travelling round Europe together, but then right at the very last minute she texts me to say it’s not gonna happen because her dude is taking her to New York instead. I was so mad that I totally stopped replying to her texts, which she didn’t seem all that cut up about since she stopped sending them pretty quickly too. Thinking about her makes me feel bad and I reach out and pull Eli round to face me.

I’m like, Sorry alright?

Eli turns back and grabs his ear.

He’s like, What did you say?

I’m like, Sorry for being a cunt.

Eli is like, I still didn’t hear.

I’m like, I said eat my shit, dog cunt!

We grin at each other and then Eli slides along the booth till he’s right up in my face and begins ad-nauseating about me coming to meet his parents again in order to like, convert them to the great gay brotherhood or something. It’s funny but I guess when you look at Eli in the right light he’s almost not bad-looking in an unremarkable sort of way. He’d look a hell of a lot better if he’d start wearing contacts, stop doing his hair in that stupid quiff and like, discontinue trying to be Simon Amstall. But still. I guess there’s potential, if you’re like, open to seeing it.

I zone back in to Eli still whining away.

Come on Jaz, he’s going in this repetitive nasal twang which I can just see him using on his parents when he was seven and wanted a new video game, You’re my best friend. Please!

I can take no more. I’m like Stone Henge – at long last all weathered down.

I’m like, Fine – whatever.

To this Eli lets out a squeal and throws his arms around me like I’ve just agreed to carry his baby.

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