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» Too much information

So I ended up sleeping on a sofa, covered in a strange Spanish man's piss, too tired to even cry. Too tired to even cry.
Long. Scroll down if you like. Mostly it's a waste of time, anyway.

1995. A young Charles Calthrop is in France, living with a fat girl called ****. She wasn't much to look at, to be honest. But then, nor was I, ah, but then, nor was I.

(I once fucked a girl around the back of Woolworths solely because she thought that I looked like the suicidal one out of the Manic Street Preachers. So I was never much to look at either. It doesn't matter.)

As well as ****, I had a girlfriend who was in Spain. I actually think I might have been in love with her. Who am I kidding? Its been more than a decade, and I am STILL in love with her. So three days before her birthday I decided to hitch hike the 800 hundred or miles or so to see her. I didn't telephone her (no email in them days); I decided it would be more romantic to just turn up.

It is difficult to tell which of these two decisions would prove to be the more catastrophic.

Day one started fine. Quite early one morning, after a night of tar-black howling and rolling, I went out of the house and, standing on a slip road outside Marseilles, started to hitchhike my way to my love. (My love. When she smiled, sunlight danced in her eyes and the dizziness from the way my heart span was ecstatic. ) Then, as I started to get bored, the beautiful sight of a car pulling in to stop. Excellent. I don't remember all the lifts and all the stops, but I remember all went well till about mid afternoon, when I dozed off somewhere around Montpellier.

You know when you are asleep in the car and when the engine turns off, it's the absence of noise which wakes you? That was woke me up. That, and the hand that was trying to undo my jeans. Thank goodness for button flies.

That was the end of that lift. I remember after that, - too nervous to light my cigarette - I got picked up by 3 Brazilian lads after, which was good as they drove like lunatics shouting out "Socrates" with me retorting "Bryan Robson" etc. They dropped me off at Pau, where, for reasons which are more complex than I am willing to explain, I ended up locked up in the cells for the night.

Thus started day two. Despite the attempted sexual assault and the arrest, on the whole I was pleased. (I was very young).

I can't remember much of the journey that day, except that it did not go well and by around midnight I ended up in a café near the Pyrenees. I had the fear of the cafe owner, which I think may have been a delayed reaction to the attempted sexual assault, so I kept drinking espressos. I alternated between nearly passing out with exhaustion on the dirty table, and then waking up with juddering, jangly hypertension from the caffeine.

I also started to get nervous because tomorrow was her birthday.

Day three - an Italian truck driver. He spoke Italian and German, and I spoke French (badly) and English. About 2 hours into the journey (after annoying my by sounding his horn at _every_ fly poster with the minitel adverts for trente-six-quinze... on), gave me his magazines to look at. They were hard core Italian transsexual magazines. I'd never even heard of a chick with a dick, so I was genuinely, utterly puzzled. How could something have both breasts, and hairy balls? I didn't want to upset him as he was going past the town I wanted, so I looked at them and went "er yeah" every now and then. He drove me, as dawn broke, through the snow capped Pyrenees, and then down and down Spain until the ground got hot and dusty.

We slept in the cab, and then early next morning, he kindly drove from the motorway into the town to drop me off. We parted. I was very, very tired but happy. Around two hours later I would notice my wallet was missing.

I reached her block of flats in a posh part of ****** and with a joy which makes me shudder to remember, I pressed the buzzer thing. Nothing. Odd. 8.30 am and she's out? I settled down to wait. 10am. Nothing. I felt dozy and drifted off.....to be rudely awakened by an old Spanish posh lawyer type pissing on me. I admit I looked homeless, but there was no need for that. I think he thought I looked like a gypsy. To my shame, I did not fight the man, I just sort of angrily stood up, dodging the thick, steaming, yellow line of piss which had soaked me, shouted angry "Hey's" and "Oi's" at him. I very much doubt whether it intimidated him as I'd hoped. He finished, zipped up fucked off, I settled down to wait...and wait.

She came back at around 5 and the guy she was with was a good looking bastard. She was wearing a pink, print floral dress which the breeze was trying to look up. Her hair was longer than I remembered but the smile was just the same. She was holding on to his arms. He is the type of man which makes other mens' hearts sink. It was the first time I'd ever seen him, and already it was twice too often.

"Didn't you get the letter" she asked. In fact, it was the first thing she said. But I knew - she was more a coward than me. There was no way she'd written. I had no money, so she had to let me in. I had a shower, of course, but all the soap in the bathroom smelt of her, so I couldn't bring myself to use it. I let the water cascade over me, but still to me I stank of the passing Spaniard's piss.

I spent the night on the sofa, still convinced I stank of piss. I was so tired I started getting visuals off the pattern on the throw on the sofa.

Sometimes I was trying not to think of the 800 miles back. Mostly, I was trying not to listen as she came, and came again. Hearing her shout "Oh god I'm going to come again" over and over was far, far more information than I wanted. In my head, as they went to bed earlier, I'd convinced myself they went to listen to the world service. In my head.

I stole 200 pounds worth of Pesetas from her, left at 5am (for some reason I could not sleep), got a coach to the border, then a first class ticket on the train back home. I bought flowers for **** with the rest. Flowers, soap, and johnnies. But when I went into her, all I could hear was that different voice. Hers. Over and over. Sometimes I can still hear it.
(Thu 6th Sep 2007, 12:10, More)

» Stupid Dares

I watched my mate bum my other mate IN THE ARSE
Over a decade ago, after giving up actively trying to off myself and instead taking to drown myself in gin, [I know, I know: boo hoo hoo] it naturally followed I should acquaint myself with others who also thought naught of breakfasting on cornflakes and vodka. Two of these were called Kev and S******. Workmanlike names for two eccentrics. S****** had an obsessive fixation with the Sex Pistols and Kev was, well, he was Kev.

We were sitting in Kev’s flat. He’d rented if from a Russian émigré – it was bedecked with crushed red velvets, had a dead tiger skin by the fire and a four poster bed. Because of the cold, and the tedium of the gas board, we were in his bedroom, huddled around the gas heater. Because we were us, we were drinking so much that only the smoke from the high tar cigarettes was keeping us afloat.

I can’t quite remember how it started, but I remember kissing Kev for a dare. It wasn’t pleasant. As I ran my hands up his face, and my tongue explored his mouth (“In for a penny”), I was perturbed by stubble and the faint but all too tangible taste of burped up lager. After the kiss, Kev dared S****** to kiss him. Which S****** did.

“Alright then” said S******, as easy as the first drink after the first drink. “I bet you wouldn’t suck my cock though!”

Now, Kev never backed down from anything – which is why he is dead. Kev got on his knees.

“Jesus” I said. I remember that I said “Jesus”.

Kev took S******’s cock, tugged it a bit and put it in his mouth. It was like being on the wrong set of a bad porn. I could see his head move. When he took it out, of course I looked. S****** was not hard. He looked bored.

“Impressive” said S******. "But you wouldn’t..."

“Jesus” I thought

“You wouldn’t dare fuck me, would you." So, with a sigh, Kev pulled down his jeans. He was not aroused.

“This is odd” I thought as, ever the gentleman, Kev turned away to try to get hard. He couldn’t, so we had a laugh about it and my girlfriend took him in her mouth.

“At least I’m not a tourist in life” I thought “Everyone hates a tourist, eh Jarvis” Then Kev fucked S****** in the arse. It was a workmanlike performance. The grunting and panting reminded me of Wolverhampton Wanderers. They sounded like a Second Division defender, diligently tracking back. The ashtrays looked like burst explosions. The gin looked as sweet as broken glass. And that’s what I looked at. That's what I looked at, as I tried not to hear them.
“Fuck, this is grim” said Kev.
“Want to be where I am” complained S******.

At this point I noticed my girlfriend had gone quiet. I could see the way she was drawing on her cigarette. I could see the way, and I didn’t like it at all.
(Thu 1st Nov 2007, 14:54, More)

» What's the hardest you've tried to get dumped?

I decided to leave her after, well, after, cough, you know, that type of sex. As I withered in her, and wondered how long the perfunctory kissing on the back of the neck would have to go on for, I found a profound sense of boredom. It wasn't with the way her body lay on the sheets, or the way the sunshine shuffled uneasy through the blinds and cowered from the corners, it was just the sense that I could see my future mapped out - islands of intimacy, and shopping and drugs and her friends in a sea of grey glooply despair. I didn't know what I wanted to do - still don't - I just knew I didn't want this. I hated the way her hair fell on her face and I hated the way she put her legs over mine as we slept. Like she owned me, or wanted me to own her.

I lay there for a while, going "mmm", wondering if it was too early for the vodka in the freezer. It was either always too early, or never early enough. She rolled over and held me and I could see the sun on her perfect face and the two red rosy spots high on either of her cheeks. There was a layer of sweat on her forehead so I stroked it with my hands. I could wash them later much easier than the floral pillow cases which she had bought at Monoprix before Christmas. She sat up and lit a cigarette. I watched the smoke spiral up to the ceiling, as if it couldn't bear to be inside her, either. I was frozen. I knew she'd get up and dress herself after the cigarette. I hated the way she dressed so casually, so matter of factly in front of me. The callous intimacy. I couldn't bear to watch it. She'd just stand up and pull her bra on and then bend down and pull her pink knickers on and then put her jumper and jeans on. She was taking something for granted which I hadn't realised I'd given.

The plans I devised grew more outlandish, and for a while I was seriously, seriously contemplating faking my own death. In the end, I decided to start off more gently - whispering another girl's name in my faked sleep and then going "ooh yeah". I did this for a few nights, but she slept on regardless, doubtless cos of the cheap French red wine and the expensive Moroccan hash. Once this failed, I decided to hire an actress. I'd get a drama student or something and while *** was out, I'd get the actress round and pretend, somehow, to be in love with me when *** came back. I didn't know how much an actress cost, so to be on the safe side, I started stealing money from her. When I pissed all that up the wall, I decided to tip off the drug police that she was a drug dealer. All the while this was going on, she'd drape herself around me, or tell me she loved me, or kiss me, and every time skin touched skin, I felt the infinity between the intimacies.

One day we were sitting with friends around the big table in the flat. We'd had crusty bread and ham and cheese and an ice cold white wine and I could smell the fresh coffee percolating, and I just looked at her and said "Do you know what? I fucking hate you". She made a sound that sounded a bit like the coffee machine. A sort of hot spluttering. Well, that was the end of that. I ended up crying myself to sleep in my empty bed for a month or so afterwards.

What a cunt. Fuck it.
(Fri 6th Jun 2008, 16:39, More)

» Guilty Secrets

I had often mused on the nature of addiction. What is it, exactly, to be “addicted”? Are the parameters self defined, and if so, how can consensus be reached to define the essence of “addiction”? Was it measured and defined only by its effects? If so, how could one theorise on consequences? Is a man who mainlines heroin, but is nice to his wife and children more or less an addict than a homeless waster who dabbles in lieu of other, accepted, entertainment? Was there such a thing at all, or was it just a necessary invention of the caustic jealousy of a society to those who had rejected its imposed mores in favour of the individuals own?

Normally, this sort of half arsed speculation idly filled my comedowns, as the strychnine and bicarbonate made the jaw ache, and Screamadelica made the impending sleep seem an even more delicious draught. It made me feel clever: a cheap blanket to cover my insecurity.

But this time I was thinking of, shall we say an acquaintance called Jeremy (I refuse to call any man named Jeremy a friend). I had given Jeremy his first tab of LSD and he had taken to it with a passion I had unanticipated.

Within six months he was living in a tree. To misquote Marwood: His mechanism had fucking gone. He was like those tapes we used to make in the old days: a copy of a copy of a copy of a human. Blurred, fady and distorted. Whatever. His choice.

Now I am old, and my bones feel as brittle as flint and my guts spill like an ugly confession over my cheap jeans. Mostly I can’t sleep and I lie awake in my IKEA bed and construct fantasies based on half imagined fragments of memory. I pluck the glistering shards from the sea of misery which fills my head: a cheap blanket to cover my insecurity, and my failures. And I know the morning will come. The nights pass in restlessness and sighing, and from the sea of my sadness, I cling to my ashamed achievements. And I await morning, and a day at the office.

And that is my dark secret. It is that I have failed. Regardless of the others, I have failed. It is that I have accepted this life. I did not spiral out, instead, like a coward, I hunkered down and “sobered” up and accepted the nature of “addiction” and became “clean”. And every day my sorrow is matched my society’s joy at my conformity. My black socks. My direct debits. My email account. The everyday darkness of the secret failure in me.

Also, I am too scared to piss in a shower.
(Mon 3rd Sep 2007, 9:55, More)

» Stalked

On the first day after the cold winter, as I felt the sun make me lithe in my skin, it started. Some graffiti on the wall by my flat. “My name” it said. It just said “My name” and when, a couple of days later she wrote her name underneath it, I viewed it with a mixture of boredom and resignation. “Oh, her” I thought, more interested in my hangover, and how the sun flecked through my fringe. A sigh between the steps on the way out in the mornings. Restless, the gifts arrived. The letters under the front door at midnight, the presents left with the concierge with the awkward smile. Whisky, gin, vodka, cigars, a video cassette, a book, some paper flecked dark red, and some photographs she’d hopefully developed herself. I drank what I could, and I burnt the unopened letters with the cigars.

Then my mother, so far away that the sky above us had different star flecked nights, started getting phone calls. She was bemused – from a telephone exchange on the hot, dusty city, the voice pulsed its way to her receiver, where she would listen as she watched Corrie as the rain fell angry on the window.

“He’s not worth it, dear” she said she said. And I didn’t blame her. For a start she was right.

The woman sat right in front of my desk and every time I tried to joke about the Present Perfect she would open her legs. As the other students talked about the people they’d scammed or the exams they’d failed, she’d look at me and just for a second, just for a second, I would think about losing myself in her soft brown eyes, or in the softness between the legs. But then I would think about the graffiti, and the letters and the presents and I would put “must try harder” on her flawless homework.

Her skirt got shorter and the space behind her eyes got blacker, but the sun withered my concern to scorn. The graffiti on the wall got bigger, and cruder and one day she wrote that she loved me with lipstick on my windows. The neighbours talked, probably, but I wouldn’t have understood them.

The presents got more elaborate – a pen with a gold nib, a cat, a lock of her hair. Sometimes, as I stared at the dirt on the ceilings, lying to myself in my dirty bed, I would think of calling her, of starting it. But I never did.

When I told her I was leaving the country, she told me she would cut her throat if I did. I tried to doubt her. The night before I left, Kev got a phone call. Kev said it was her brother, and that, basically, I was dead. The way he didn’t smile made me think I’d taken too much speed. That’s how I came to be hiding in the bushes in the garden of the restaurant opposite my flat at 4am, waiting for the taxi to the airport with my bags hidden behind the car parked crazily up the road. Everytime I heard a car, I didn’t know whether to jump out and hope it was the taxi, or hide further hoping I didn’t end up cleavered in the street. A car did pull up and a man I did not recognise did get out and he went up the steps, past the graffiti into my flat. The taxi came and I was gone before he came out. And, as I never spoke to Kev again, I never did find out whether it was her brother. But my mother got no more phone calls.
(Mon 4th Feb 2008, 13:10, More)
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