Two Pieces Of Drama
I feel like I’ve wandered in unannounced to a scene in a bad soap opera. Max is telling me stuff he clearly hasn’t told anyone else. It’s pouring from him like his mouth is a power shower of truth, and I’m sat here like a bad cross between Oprah and a hypocritical priest in a confession booth. He says there’d been ‘problems’ at home for a while, even before the kids came along. That he buried himself in his work and had gotten close to his assistant, a little too close. He’s been living one of the oldest cliché’s in the book. Of course this isn’t what he wanted – he loves Lucy and that hasn’t changed, but the whole situation has gotten way out of hand.
It started, as is common in these situation (so I’ve been told by Paul McCarthy, the stations resident bi-weekly psychiatrist) with problems at home. Liam was about six months old so too young to do any real damage (although I’m sure the little bugger was planning!) and Lucy was adamant about getting some form of life back. They hired a nanny three days a week so she could return to work part-time and start going to the gym again. She even started an evening art class to give her something else to do. Max isn’t such an insensitive prick as to deny the bearer of his children a life. But the longer he went on the lonelier he got. Sure Noel tried to fill the void, and no doubt Liam in his own way, but as Lucy’s nights out became later and more frequent he found himself with nothing much to do. He started working on projects outside of work, but soon found them tiresome – he hated bringing work home. He couldn’t go out because of the kids, and despite his previous high standing in the social circles at university, he had very little of a social life outside of his friends at work. One night he found the joys of free internet porn, which is doubtless where he discovered my starring role. When that got boring, which he’s adamant does happen, he found himself experimenting with live web cam sites, and even registering with adult dating websites, all under an assumed name he would no doubt want you to know. funrider1976 never met anyone in person. It started out just by people posting, shall we say racy pictures of themselves on their profile so others could gawp at and rate them. Apparently Max got quite a few 5 stars (I’m guessing the Danger Mouse boxers weren’t involved!). But turns out this wasn’t an ego-boost enough, and when Max got a friend request from the infamous aubern_audreyxXx, Max decided to get in touch. Turns out this was a big mistake as you have to pay for such a privilege, and seeing as the lady of the house had an uncontrollable need to open any bit of post no matter who it was addressed to, she of course found out and took the roof off. And of course Max promised to delete the account and start to behave more like a respectable husband and father.
You’d think, or at least hope that would be the end of it. And maybe it would have been were it not for two reasons: the first being a new contract being awarded to his company which would require many a man hour and late night, and the second being his newly appointed assistant.
“I didn’t think I needed one, but it sounded cool!” Max says, clearly remembering those slightly more innocent times. Michelle Weatherford is almost nine years his junior, but had been noticed by the company’s higher powers for her tenacity and attention to detail. When they first started working together there was apparent disdain between the two of them – Max suspicious she was trying to steal his job and Michelle no doubt thinking she was worth more than just being an assistant. But as the story so often goes –what with the late nights and less and less time with Lucy - Max started enjoying Michelle’s company more and more. They found common ground on music and TV, a similar sense of humour. They would dare each other on stupid little tasks for at first monetary rewards, until, when Max realised he had no money in his pocket, made it slightly more flirtatious.
“I dared her for a kiss if I won!”
“What would she have got if she lost?” I ask, curious of the answer.
“I would have been her slave for an hour.”
He started walking her to her car where the kisses would increase in length. Sometimes they would end up in her car steaming up the windows. There would be impromptu rendezvous in the bathrooms, or urgent meetings in his office where the door would be quickly locked. Inevitably it went from just kissing to more intimate acts, which soon led to them taking urgent afternoon meetings back at her flat in Poole. And when Lucy would call, or even just send an email saying she was going away on another one of her artistic excursions, he would arrange a babysitter and spend the night round at Michelle’s. And then, the inevitable – that crushing realisation that what’s going on is just a fantasy that can never last, unless you’re willing to sacrifice everything.
“This isn’t me!” Max declares, probably more for himself than me. “I mean, sure, I played the field a lot in the past. You know that. Shit, she knows that! But never once was I unfaithful. Not once! I just went from girl to girl until I met Lucy. Then I swore that was it. No more fuckin’ around! And I meant it too.”
I just sit there and listen, occasionally nodding – trying to convey my understanding.
“Oh don’t look at me like that!” he points to my face. I guess I should be trying harder.
“Just sat here listening chap, that’s all!”
Max drops his stare to the ground. I think I caught a quick glance of an apology before he started to burn holes in the carpet with his eyes. He’s a mess.
“So does Lucy know?” It’s the only question I can come out with. Even as I’m saying it I’m expecting my skull to get cut open.
“Did you not see us last night?” Actually he’s surprisingly calm! “She barely acknowledges me now. I bet the only reason she even waved to me last night was for your benefit. It’s been like that for months now, and to be honest getting worse!”
“I just thought that was how you guys were around people. Save me catching you in the hotel cupboard that night you two were always a bit stand-off-ish in public.” It’s true. Lucy hated public displays of affection.
“We’re not even sleeping in the same room anymore.” Max confesses. “The last time I tried she just grabbed a pillow and slept on the boy’s floor. She knows something alright.” He slumps himself down on the old brown leather sofa and rests his head in his hands. I can think of nothing better to do so sit in the chair opposite him.
“It’s funny really” he says, talking to the stack of paperclips on the floor. “Maybe I should have listened to Raph in the first place!”
A funny statement if ever I heard one. Raphael Turner spent the two years that we knew him so drunk or high, or both, that the only way you even stood a chance of understanding him was to use Terry Gilliams art from Monty Python as visual aids and get that backwards speaking dwarf dude from Twin Peaks to do a commentary on it. “What did he say? Tell you to marry a mermaid? Hitch a ride on a rocket powered camel to Vegas and marry a female Elvis impersonator?”
“Something even crazier. Said he’d heard she wanted you instead of me!”
Does anyone here have a backwards speaking dwarf to translate please? “Excuse me?”
He goes on to give me another round of surprising news, my third in as many hours. He goes on to tell me of his wife’s ‘feelings’ for me. That she always wanted me instead of him. That she settled for him and now she regrets it. I start looking out of the corner of my eyes, checking for any sign of hidden cameras, or even the ghost of Jeremy Beadle. “I was second choice man, how’d you think that feels?”
There’s more silence. Now I’m the one causing the agonising pause. Apparently he wants an answer. What the hell do you say to something like that?
“Bullshit!” is the only thing I can come up with. “This is bullshit. I mean, ignore the fact that you heard this from the guy who used to get Keith Richards old blood every time he got a transfusion, the woman despised me to start with and I suspect was only polite to me earlier for the sake of the kids.”
“That’s not what she told me!”
“That night in your hotel – room 117. Said she let Rita have you ’cos she felt sorry for her.”
I’m fighting the urge to shout back. What a sack of crap. It’s not my fucking hotel! “Yeah, but look on your left hand. She married you.” A sound argument if I do say so!
“And who asked you to come to this thing?” he counters.
“Well Lucy did, but I thought that was because you were too fuckin’ stubborn to do it yourself. She was trying to get two friends back on talking terms, that’s what I figured.”
“I didn’t even know you were coming ’til a couple of weeks ago. I’ll be honest with ya, if it were up to me you wouldn’t have been invited in the first place. Shit, why’d you think you didn’t get invited to the christenings, or to our wedding?”
“You’ve been married for ten years. You’ve known for this long?”
He just nods.
“Why the fuck are you still with her?”
“Because I fuckin’ love her you arrogant prick! Something I seriously doubt you’ve ever understood.”
I want to tell him to go fuck himself. I mean, what kind of idiotic prick marries a woman who has told him a year before that she liked someone else? It’s stupid. I still don’t believe it. The woman has always hated me and only stomached me for the sake of Rita. The thing is, Max believes it. That’s another persons life I’ve managed to fuck up.
“So why let me stay with you huh? How messed up is that?”
“I didn’t exactly have a choice did I? And y’know what, I thought it would be okay. I was actually looking forward to seeing you again. Thought we could be friends again.”
“I’m guessing not so much!”
The two of us sit in stunned silence. I never saw this coming. Still, I guess it explains a lot. No wonder the two of us didn’t stay in touch. It’s pretty clear I shouldn’t stay in the house tonight. He’s not comfortable with it. To be honest I should get the next train back to London but there’s someone else I need to see. And besides, it’s a free bar tonight. I’m not missing that.
“It’s a bit fucked up ain’t it?” Max sounds to have calmed down. His words don’t begin to describe the situation, but I nod in agreement.
“What are you gonna do?” My words herald the timely return of The Assistant. I manage to get a decent look at her this time. Michelle’s basically a younger, slightly shorter version of Lucy without glasses. Her eyes look red raw and puffy, she’s still on the edge of an emotional cliff. She’s in good company. She apologises and tries to excuse herself, but I figure I’m the one surplus to requirements. “I’ll leave you kids to it!”
I catch a glimpse of recognition in Michelle’s eyes as we pass. She should be asking if I’m the infamous Dan Shears right about now. I guess she’s got other things on her mind. I turn to say I’ll see Max at the hotel later, but don’t finish the sentence before his slams the door in my face.