Still Unexpected

Chapter 1: A Most Outstanding Asshole

Another tip on writing, the one most commonly spouted by so-called Creative Writing teachers and professors, is: show don’t tell. What this means — I probably don’t need me to tell you this — is that you should write in a way which allows the reader to come to a conclusion or point of view naturally, without you forcing it down his or her throat. In this instance I’m not going to tell you that Jeremy Jones (Jonesy, as you would remember him from my last letter) is a complete asshole.Instead I’ll just show you an example of the kind of person he is, and I’ll let you come to that conclusion yourself.

             In previous correspondence I sent you an excerpt from my old university friend’s diary — well I call him a friend, we were never very close — in the hope of appropriating the story, and the others like, it and publishing them under my name. All straight-forward and above board. My plan therefore, and I mentioned this already, was to meet with Jonesy and convince him to hand over the rest of the journals; thus providing me with enough material to make a name for myself as a writer of short fiction. How could anything have gone wrong with such a simple mission, you ask? Well because I didn’t take into account just how much of an asshole Jonesy is. Fuck, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. Show don’t tell. To that effect:

            It was early evening in a quaint but crowded town in the south of France. The sunset was a dazzling array of reds and oranges and the evening warm enough that I’d forgone my customary tweed jacket and settled for a crisp short-sleeved collared shirt. I’d made plans to meet with Jonesy at a little café by the water and was waiting for him with a gin and tonic in hand, watching the motor and sailboats, playthings of the rich, drifting past my feet. In short, I was feeling rather contented. Jonesy was late, but since this was entirely in character for him, I didn’t feel the need to worry. I knew he would want to see me to get my feedback on his journal. I was surprised, therefore, to see him — looking to be deep in thought — walk straight by me to the dimly-lit bar. I wasn’t sure whether he hadn’t seen me or was, for some reason, ignoring me. I chose to believe the former, my outlook at this point still erring on the positive.

            “Eh? Oh, Pete. How’s things?” he said, as I sat down on a high stool next to him.

            I took a deep breath, not quite sure what to say in order to set my plan into motion. He turned to me and, for the first time in all the years I’d known him, looked me straight in the eye.

            “Do you understand women Pete?”

            I shook my head. I didn’t know where he was going with this and didn’t want to deviate from my course of action, which, as you know, was to convince him to place all his accumulated journals in my possession as quickly as possible.

            “No of course not. Look at you.” He took a long pull of his beer before regaining his former composure.

            “So what did you want to see me about?” He paused and motioned towards the bartender, three fingers extended. “Oh right, I remember, the Drunk Diary, how did you like it? Good, eh?”

            I paused. This was the big moment, the point when all those drama lessons would pay off, that would justify all those times I had donned the comical dress and fake bosoms in the name of acting.

 I took the diary out of my satchel and solemnly put it down on the counter.

            “Look Jonesy, it’s not that I don’t like it…” I started, making sure that my face remained grave and impassive.

            “Well what then?”

            “Look you trust me, right?”

             He shook his head.

             “Well at least take it as fact that I know what I’m talking about.”

             He shrugged.

            “I just don’t think that these entries, these stories can be published in this day and age. I mean, short fiction is dying… no one wants to read it anymore. All they want to do is watch television and stare at their phones. You understand?”

            He nodded. The waiter brought over three pints of beer, one of which Jonesy slid over to me. He gestured for me to start drinking. We sat in silence.

            I was about halfway through when he put down his second empty pint and gestured for me to follow him to the waterfront. As an afterthought he grabbed the black leather-bound diary which I had left (In a gambit that had obviously backfired) sitting in a small puddle of beer on the bar.

            “So it’s a no-go then?”

            I made a show of bowing my head to harsh realities of modern day publishing. Jonesy nodded and — so quickly I nearly missed it — tossed the journal out into the water.

            My heart froze. Without a moment’s consideration I dived, headfirst, into the water. The thought of letting it slip away from me — that awesome repository of short fiction; the physical manifestation of our generation’s voice — was enough to force me to take action. I thrashed at it, blindly groping through the petrol laden water; reaching out desperately, fittingly enough, as a drowning man would for a lifesaver. It was only by sheer luck that the tips of my fingers closed on its sleek, soft cover. I emerged spluttering, triumphant, my prize held over my head and the cold tightening around my chest like a straight-jacket.

             “WORTHLESS HUH? GIVE ME A CALL WHEN YOU’RE LESS FULL OF SHIT.”

              With that Jonesy, who had watched everything I’d done from the safety of the boardwalk, turned his back and walked away. I just had time to envy his cool; the way his clothes fit just right, his impeccable timing, how he made me feel, once again, like a scolded school-child, when I was hit by and oncoming ferry and sent bubbling underwater. Such an asshole.

            Well I survived and, miraculously enough, so did the journal. To a certain extent. Once back at home I towelled it off, borrowed a — now intolerably sullen — Nancy’s hair-dryer to dry its pages and sat huddled with it against myself in front of the fire. Despite everything I was still glad of what little I had.

          Now, no longer trusting myself with the hard copy, I’m going to transcribe what remains and send it to you in this letter for safekeeping. It’s just a pity that I couldn’t get the others journals from Jonesy, but I guess I’ll just have to think of a way to bargain for them sometime in the future. I’m not ready to deal with him for the time being.

           Also in light of all this and of Nancy and John’s quite obvious displeasure, I’ll be on train headed back to England tomorrow. So make sure to send your reply to my regular address.

            N.B. I could only salvage one complete story, so that’s the one you’re going to get. The other pages have either torn off — soggy and limp — in my hands, or else the ink has run on the page to the point of near illegibility. Hopefully, I’ll be able to translate them at a later date but for now there is only this. The silver lining, though, is that it’s a damn good read. The story is based, again, around our student-living accommodation at Sydney University. And while the previous story was localised, more or less, to Jonesy’s apartment and to his three roommates, here we begin to see a bit more of the outside world and a few more of Jonesy’s, frankly outlandish, friends. Against my better judgment I have copied everything I found, including the scene involving myself, where I am portrayed in a less-than-flattering light. Just know that things have changed, that I’m not that insecure adolescent anymore and, once again, that Jonesy really is a cunt.

             Like last time what few interjections I make will be italicised and placed in square brackets.

Chapter 2: How to Begin

The issue I always have with these journal entries is deciding where to start. Do I begin mid-flow when the going is good? Or at the end, starting with the big conclusion and work my way backwards? Mostly I like to throw myself straight back into the action, into the drinking, and gallivanting, and general fun; that way I get to live the whole thing again, which I always enjoy even if I am a little worse for wear.  This time, though, I’ll start from when I woke up yesterday morning.  My rational is that there doesn’t seem to be any definite string of narrative tying the events of the day together and so, by limiting this entry to a full twenty-four hours, I’ll be providing some form of structure and readability[1] to my writing. Also since there was a certain inevitability about everything that happened yesterday it’s probably safest to start with the first beer. Which, incidentally, was drunk approximately two minutes after waking. There. Now you know. So down to the business of the thing.

Chapter 3: Morning

I awoke with a smile on my face. This isn’t normally the case, especially early in the morning, but today was different. Among other things I could tell, from the warmth emanating from next to me and the slight dip in the mattress, that I was not alone in my bed. There passed a moment of blissful oblivion— the one that takes place just after you have regained consciousness but just before you realize just what an ass of yourself you made the previous evening — and I was fully intent on making the most of it. I rolled over, with only the most minor of grunts, and buried myself into a mass of soft, brown hair. I felt a movement against me[2] and nestled in closer to whoever it was this sleeping angel happened to be.

            Which is when she decided to roll over and sent me crashing to the ground.

            “Fuck!” I said, as quietly as the circumstances allowed, and cursed Angela (not for the first time) for winning my, larger, bedroom (and bed) in a friendly wager a few weeks ago. [As you probably remember from the extract presented in my previous letter. I’m just glad that amidst this near-perfect life, Jonesy felt some discomfiture, the prick.]

            It was at this point that I saw the open case of beer under the bed and had one of those early-morning strokes of genius which only take place after a night of heavy drinking. Wriggling my way sideways, I extended my arm and was just able to reach a, somehow still cold, bottle of that old elixir: Hahn Superdry. Before I knew it the cap was off and again I felt the warming liquid making its way down to my stomach, brightening the day of everything and everyone it encountered along the way. It was in this position, wedged underneath the bed, my one free arm holding a beer to my lips that Candice found me. She was now fully awake and looking down at me from the physical and moral heights of the bed.

            “What the hell are you doing Jeremy?”

            Normally such a judgmental question would elicit from me a scoff and a shake of my head but, seeing who it was, I merely gave out a contented chuckle.

            “And why are you giggling like that?”

            “It wasn’t a giggle.  More a throaty chortle. And what does it look like I’m doing? Obviously, I’m making smart choices and living up to my parent’s expectations.”

              I extricated myself from under the bed and handed her a beer. She took it with a shrug of her perfect shoulders and (after twisting the cap was off with a swift and practiced movement that sent butterflies swarming through my stomach) drank with as much verve and obvious pleasure as anyone should when given the option of an early morning refresher[3].

            At this point I did some strategic thinking and, from the pounding of my temples, deduced that I must have gone out drinking the night before. It followed then, that I must have met Candice at some point during the night and that she, driven into a lustful frenzy by my masculine wiles, had agreed to go home with me. A mere theory, but it made sense.

            We sat up, feet dangling off the edge of the bed, and talked about a large this and a small that. After a while she got up to play some music on my laptop and I reached under the bed for a few more beers. We discussed inane little nothings: our futures, the general state of the world, and our specific places in it; as well as big things like what to do once the beer ran out and whether or not there would be any drinking to be done once we left the room. With a smile on her lips, Candice kissed my mouth, my chin, my chest and finally, well, continued in that direction; making me feel at one with the universe in a way that only she really knows how. In short, life proved itself to be inordinately fond of Jonesy; heaping upon him all of her bounty and wonder in one great heave of generosity.

          It was a little later that we stumbled — modern-day zombies — into the living room. There we found Tom munching away at a bowl of Rice Krispies, staring down at his phone.

          “Mate you wouldn’t believe who I fucked last night…” he said, looking up, his mouth still full. “…Oh, um, hey, Candice. How’s it goin’?”

          “The gentleman as always Tom. Okay well I’ll leave you two to it.”

           “What about hanging out? Playing a few games?”

            She shook that wonderful head of hair and, with a skip in her step, was on her way.

             Disheartened by this loss of good company, I sat down with a sigh. My blues lasted a whole ten seconds, at which point Tom — spraying cereal as he did — said:

              “So, rummy?”

             I was back. Alive again. I went to fetch the cards while Tom reached over for the traditional bottle of whisky.

             We played for a while, not saying much as we eased into the light-hearted competition which could last most of a day if played right. The bowl of cereal was shifted to the side where, most likely, it is still sitting as I write this, nearly twenty-four hours later.

Chapter 4: Afternoon

            After a few good hands, in which I was able to scrape a small but significant lead, I decided to get the conversational ball rolling.

             “So you were saying some poor girl had the unfortunate pleasure of sleeping with you last night?”

              He looked up, distracted (as I had hoped he would be) at a key moment of his game.

             “Oh yea. Rachel.”

              “Our friend Rachel? Smoking hot, but in a long-term relationship?”

               “Her boyfriend actually turned up a few hours after, while I was still asleep in her fucking bed. She rushed me out of her room with all my clothes in my arms. I have no choice but to dive across the corridor, into her roommate’s bedroom. A second later he comes tramping up the stairwell.”

               “And obviously you don’t want to meet him because, if I remember correctly, he’s built like a gorilla on steroids and has at least thirty kilos on you.”

              “Exactly. Not to mention the anger issues. So, there I am, buck-naked. I’ve woken up this poor little Asian girl who, of course, starts screaming. I’m trying to quiet her down —she’s having none of it — meanwhile this monster of a man is making his way upstairs and would quite literally fucking kill me if he knew the things I had been doing to his girlfriend only hours earlier. The shouting from my side of the door is getting pretty intense, so I ease my way out, hoping by this time Rachel has him safely in her room. No such luck; they’re both still in the corridor. Meanwhile, I’m standing there naked with only my sneakers to cover me because I’ve dropped the rest of the clothes’ in the roommate’s room.”

               “Obviously.”

             “I look up at him, ready to bolt, and he just smiles and shakes his head.”

              “Do you think that he maybe just thought you had slept with the roommate and had been kicked out when you tried something a little over the line?”

               “Yea I reckon so.”

               “So what did you do?”

              “What could I do? I smiled at the three of them, ‘cause at this point the roommate is at her door staring out at me in disbelief, and I walk slowly down the stairs, shoes hiding my junk.”

               “So they’re all just staring at your pasty white ass?”

             “Yep. I get all the way down to the front door when I hear this yell — sounds like a wounded bull. I yank it open and sprint down the back alleys, not stopping till I get here.”

           “He didn’t follow you?”

             “I don’t think he could keep up. I was running pretty fucking fast.”

             “Understandable.”

              “So clearly I’ve got to lie low for a little while. You won’t tell anyone, right?”

               I nodded, only adding that these things do have a tendency to get around, especially in communities as small as ours. Not to worry though, was my advice, seeing as, he, Tom has always come out clean in these sort of situations. He has some unbelievable luck and I told him as much.

              With that covered we went back to the game, heads bowed in concentration, surfacing only for the occasional pull of whisky. It was sometime in the early afternoon (I had already cooked some Mi Goreng and eggs for myself — the pinnacle of my culinary expertise) when we were interrupted by the sight of a stocky, brown-haired man climbing— with a certain amount of difficulty — up our balcony. We watched as, hoisting his legs over the banister, he jumped down and wandered through the living room to the fridge. Without a word of explanation, he sat down at the end of the table, beer in hand.

            “So heard you fucked Rachel.”

             He levered his feet up on the table.

             “How the fuck do you know that?”

               “Ah, just ran into Angela outside. Thought I’d pop in to say hello.”

              “And you didn’t think to use the door?”

               Jeff looked up. It was obvious that it was the first time the idea had occurred to him.

            “Hmm sure, I guess so.”

           “And you didn’t think the downstairs neighbours would find it weird that a guy in footy shorts and thongs [what non- Australians call flip-flops, makes for quite the misunderstanding] happened to be scaling the side of the building?” He shrugged and settled himself down to watch as we returned to our cards. [I should just interject again at this point to say that Jeff was another of Jonesy and Tom’s friends. He was a country boy and was known mostly for his straightforward approach to life. Sometimes ridiculously straightforward.]

          It was only ten minutes later that Tom looked up and asked how it was that Angela knew about, what was supposed to be, a clandestine affair.

           “Someone probably told her. Maybe Rachel. You know how it is.”

              Tom admitted that he did know how it was, adding only that he wished that it wasn’t how it was, that he hated how it was, and would be much happier if it was, instead, somehow, markedly different. He added that what he really wanted was to maybe make his way through the day with his face intact rather than with his nose pointing out the back of his head, which was what was most likely to happen if Rachel’s boyfriend ever found him.

                 “True.” Jeff said. I agreed.

                Still, we rallied to raise the man’s spirits, remarking that we’d all been in similar circumstances, adding the question that, hadn’t he managed to sleep with engaged-Emily and even married-Molly without any major drawbacks? [The names have obviously been altered, since I know that the married woman was actually named Agnes.  I think that these were only picked for the sake of alliteration. Unfortunately, Jonesy does have a habit of tweaking reality slightly for no other reason than convenience.]

               After hitting him with a few winning hands and, in doing so, a few more swigs of whisky, Tom was back to his carefree self — ready to laugh at the memory he had undoubtedly created rather than the impending doom that it probably spelt out.

                By this point we were all feeling quite boisterous and full of joie de vivre and so were in the perfect frame of mind to greet with open arms the next suggestion, which was to play Commander in Chief.

             Commander in Chief (and it does indeed deserve the capitalisation)v— I’ll write this down as my gift to posterity — is a drinking game which came into being (as do all great inventions) from necessity. The necessity just happened to be to get three people outrageously drunk as quickly and as convivially as possible.

                 What had happened was this: I had woken up in the house of a girl with whom I’d been sleeping, only to find that sometime over the course of the night before (the alcohol had been flowing somewhat), I had done something that had made her more than a little unhappy with me (I won’t go into those details now since, among other things, I can’t remember them). So I was stuck with a large supply of alcohol, a furious young woman and her equally furious friend who was, I think, mad at something which Tom had perpetrated (though again I can’t be sure). So putting all these elements together, I realised that what I needed more than anything was a whole lot of drinks and a way of getting them into me without making anyone any madder than they already were.

                From these humble origins Commander in Chief was born.

                The game  is a bastardization of that greatest of games, Beer Pong which, if it has a fault, is that generally only an even number of players can enjoy it to any satisfaction. As it was imperative that no-one in our delicate little trio was left out in the cold, as it were, I had to emend the rules somewhat. And so to my adapted version an amalgamation of King’s Cup (Ring of Fire), Asshole Parade, Baseball and Trivia was introduced. And a whole lot more alcohol.

                Actually the rules were whatever I felt like at the time; whatever gave me the opportunity to make a general fool of myself, thus earning back the smiles and begrudging friendship of the two girls I had so efficiently alienated.  The whole incident just goes to show that which I’ve always believed: that alcohol really is the cause and the solution to all of life’s ills (actually I think that was originally Homer; either the bard or the cartoon character, I’m not sure).

                So back to yesterday. Someone had made the suggestion to play the great game of C. in Chief. I really couldn’t tell you who, it might very well have been me; I just don’t know. All that mattered was that the suggestion had been made. We commended our souls to whomsoever would have them and prepared to start. Chairs were out, shot-glasses lined up. Jeff stood on an upturned sofa with a cricket cap on his head and a catcher’s mitt in his hand. The safety zones were set, the approximate rules decided upon (to be continually argued about later). There was yelling, there was carousing; there were great shots and many missed opportunities. Tom hit a bounce shot that forced me to down three beers in quick succession. I retaliated by hitting the central shot-glass and forcing him to down a Black Sambuca. Jeff drank everything and anything he could lay his hands on. As Pangloss so aptly put it: all really was for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

                 A little while later, as the excitement started to wane, our voices horse from shouting, I emerged from a fog to see Tom sat on top of the fridge, a plastic President Nixon mask upturned on his head. He was preparing to tell a joke.

               “How do you get a gay man to fuck a woman?”

               Jeff and I looked at each other. Our course of action was clear.

               “How?”

               “You shit in her cunt!”

              We stood silent. Tom’s face deadpan, a blank page. No one moved. Finally, preceded by a small cough, Jeff erupted in great, heaving, guffaws. He drank. I drank. We drank. The game continued.

              When Angela walked back into the living room a little while later, she found us in varying states of inebriation and consciousness. Tom was passed out on the couch, wearing nothing but football shorts, a line of drool creeping from his mouth. Jeff was swaying slightly, ping-ping ball in hand, sighting down a table devoid of any targets but covered in great pools of spilled spirits and stale beer. Meanwhile, I sat against the wall, nodding towards the full glass of beer that was still held tightly in my hand.

               It was four in the afternoon.

              “Common guys, what the fuck?” she asked. Quite rightly, I suppose.

                I tried to focus on her, and from what I could make out she was more exasperated than mad. I was fairly certain we weren’t in too much trouble. Tom, raised his head slightly from the couch.

                  “Shhhhh: Can’t you see that some of us are trying to sleep? Let’s talk in the morning.”

Chapter 5: Evening

I awoke approximately four hours later in my own bed. Bleary eyed, I wandered out into the living room in the hope of finding water. There had been a half-finished beer next to me and I was hoping not to have to drink it just yet. From what I could see someone had done some cleaning. I was stumbling towards the sink when I noticed something strange happening: I kept on bumping into soft objects. I saw feet around my feet. Open-toed shoes that I knew can’t have been mine. Peculiar, I thought. I tried to pull myself together. Now that I was paying more attention I noticed that the repetitive beat, which I had originally taken to be the blood pulsing through my skull, was in fact coming from somewhere to my left. I stood and analysed the sound some more and came to the conclusion that, upon reflection, it sounded a bit more like music. A waft of sweet floral perfume caused me to look up into the eyes of a surprised-looking blonde. Her great-big blues met my blood-shot browns. I muttered an apology and let her walk by. It was with a certain amount of relief that I found Tom and Angela standing together at the kitchen sink.

            “Hey Jonesy.”

            ‘Water.”

            “You seem awake. Here have a beer.”

I held my hand up signifying that, though beer had its fine points and that I would very much like consuming one in the near future, there was something I had to do first. I shoved my head under the sink and allowed the stream of crisp, cold water to engulf my head and neck. I lapped at the oncoming rush like a dog in a heat-wave. Standing again, and consolidating my resemblance to a member of the canine race, I shook the water out of my hair. Finally, I studied my surroundings. Moving blurs resolved themselves into recognisable shapes. I enquired about all the people.

            “We’re having a party,” Angela said.

            To which Tom, handing me the beer, added: “I feel like that’s something you could have figured out yourself.”

            I looked down at what I was wearing, which, at this point, was only a pair of tight, white, underwear.

            “Clothes.” I opined. The other two nodded.

            “Back.” I added and retreated to my room.

Two minutes later I was back and ready to mingle with the best of them. I caught the eye of the blonde girl and gave her a smile. She looked away, shaking her head. I was on track.

“So what’s the plan for tonight?”

“The usual, I guess. Drink here, stumble down to Kelly’s. Drink some more. Maybe some Karaoke. Then head home.”

The perfect evening.

 I was ready to step high and wide, making myself known among my friends and acquaintances. It occurred to me that the plan seemed eerily similar to that of the night before, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that no two nights at Kelly’s were ever the same. I emerged from my reverie to the sound of Angela raising some legitimate grievances.

“I can’t believe you bastards played Commander without me.”

“Well, what do you want? You weren’t there when the call was made to play.”

“Speaking of which where were you this morning? I know you can’t have been in class.”

As it turns out Angela had been with the boy she had been seeing lately, who had to be considered as a serious contender, seeing as she had slept at his place at least three times in the past few weeks, the whole night through. It seemed like pretty meaningful stuff. We were happy with the whole situation too, since the guy is a Good Bloke (again worthy of the capitalisation) and a friend of ours. The state of affairs also meant that Angela spent more time out of the apartment in the mornings, something which suited us since, if she has a fault, it lies in the fact that her voice does carry somewhat. Especially in those early hours of the morning when your head isn’t feeling quite at one-hundred percent.  The only issue being that the two are hot headed and passionate people and so tend to argue a fair bit. That, with the resulting angry sex, sometimes makes them a difficult couple to feel comfortable around. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, since they do appear to make each other happy.

Which is why, when Angela proceeded to tell us that the two of them had called it quits, Tom and I tactfully raised our objections.

 “Why the fuck would you do that?”

Normally we wouldn’t get involved in matters of the heart, especially when they involve Angela, since she is better equipped to deal with them than us and is, frankly, terrifying. This time, though, we felt that it was our duty to intercede. To our minds Angela was onto a good thing and we wanted her to see it out.

“So what do we do about this?” I asked Tom, when she had left us to be with some of her other, more emotionally understanding, friends.

“Get them both drunk, put them in the same room and hope for the best.”

I approved, it was a solid plan.

Knowing that heartache needed time to heal before we could put our finely thought-out plan into action; we spread ourselves around the party. Around us people laughed, smoked, drank, played cards and generally enjoyed themselves. As an unwitting host it was a pleasure to see. I made my way through it all, greeting friends, helping myself to the occasional drink and, all in all, making sure things ran smoothly. I happened upon Jeff, who was in conference in the corner. He was looking a little worse for wear but still managing to captivate the attention of a pretty-young-thing in a dress so short that it was bordering on the obscene. It seemed like a solid situation. I decided to come to the aid of the party by sidling up next to him, throwing my arm around his shoulders, and planting a big wet kiss on his cheek.

“Darling, I’m so sorry to say, I’ve gotten the results back, and you were right about the burning— you gave me the clap, you naughty boy.”

The girl, looking only a little disgusted, gave out a huff of exasperation and stalked off.

“That’s a pity. She looked like she was really into you.”

I smiled at a job well done and skipped off to spread joy and cheer to the rest of my friends. A little here, a little there and soon we were ready to make our uncertain way down the street to the Irish pub that is like a second home; full of the same smiling faces and exuding that same stink of old beer and bad decisions.

Chapter 6: Night

We wound are way happily through the back alleys and parks of our pilgrimage. Luckily most of us had thought ahead and grabbed a few beers for the road; it being with these that we now conducted the singing of a half-dozen different songs. My own choice was Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road which, I have to admit, I performed admirably in my roaring baritone. Winding down to the final “something, something HEY THUNDER ROOOAAAADDD….”, I saw a familiar head of long brown hair and I jogged up until I was walking next to Candice.

“So there you are. Couldn’t resist seeing me again I see.”

“You were the one who just ran up to me.”

“Perhaps.”

Strike while the iron is hot, I’ve always said, which is why I took the opportunity to suggested a repeat of the night before.

“What passing out together watching episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?”

“Among other things.”

Her pace quickened but I could see the suspicion of a smile on her face. Happily, she hadn’t turned me down straight away, which I have always taken as a good sign. I fell back as she strode ahead to re-gain her friends, who, I couldn’t help but notice, kept glancing back and laughing.

I felt a weight on my shoulder and looked down a muscled arm to see Jeff’s grinning face.

“She looks like a nice girl. It’d be a pity if anyone said anything to make her think any less of you. Eh mate?”

Angela and Tom caught up with us just as we rounded the corner and reached the small, non-descript, entrance to the bar. It was with consternation that I noticed that, instead of a welcome, open door, there stood our sometimes friend, sometimes enemy, Mark. The 150 kilogram Samoan bouncer is as behemoth a man as ever to don the leather jacket and black sunglasses of the professional thrower-out. On seeing him, Angela, far from cowering — the natural course of action — skipped up and threw her arms around his thick frame. The rest of us did our best to remain inconspicuous. She talked animatedly and we saw, to our amazement, Mark’s ever-present scowl turn into a wide, cherubic, grin. A second later he was holding the door open as Angela waltzed into the bar.  We heard a short blast of music and it was slammed, once more, in our faces.

“How many have you had?”

“Just one or two at home.”

“Yea right. Stand over there.”

He waved at me to approach.

“And you?”

“Okay, I’ve had a six-pack” I said, picking a number at random. Mark reluctantly opened the door and ushered me through. As I was confronted by the thick, heavy atmosphere of the bar I just have time to hear:

“Well at least he didn’t try lying to me.”

I thought for a moment about waiting to see what would happen to my friends, but the moment passed. Stepping through the pressing bodies — all grooving to the soulful rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody being lovingly crooned by an overweight, balding man in a tropical shirt — I made my way to the bar. It was a busy night and ten minutes later I was still doing everything I could to catch the bartender’s eye. I turned and I found myself face-to-face with a little squirt of a man in a tweed jacket.

“Pete, how’s it going?”  I said. It always does to be friendly to the neighbours, even if they are unpleasant little bastards like this one.

“Jonesy. I can see you’ve had a few.”

Now normally I wouldn’t take this kind of insult from a man who I’d personally seen decant a bottle of wine at a university party, but I knew that I could turn the situation to my advantage. I smiled my winning smile.

“Hey Pete, you’re into my roommate Angela right?”

This unfortunate fact I knew to be true as I’d seen him on numerous occasions mooning around her like a kicked puppy.

 “You don’t have to hide it from me.” I continued, draping a friendly arm over his bony shoulders, “it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Um, well. You know. That’s not very. Um. Well, yes, if you must know.”

I pressed on, imparting to him the fact that I had always been rooting for him and that I could do a lot to help his faltering romance along. Seeing his eyes light up, I pressed my advantage. He asked why I was suddenly ready to help him out, in response to which I intimated that I had always liked him — the slimy little weasel — and that we friends had to stick together. At which point I let drop that we would need a few drinks to tide us over as we hashed things out. He reluctantly agreed and gestured towards the bartender.

“Oh make that four whiskies, we have a lot of talking to do.” I said turning to hail a friend of mine I’d just seen pressing his through the throng.

When I returned Pete was standing with four glasses of whisky balanced precariously in front of him. I took three and placed them in the bar.

“We can talk here.” I said and tipped one of them back.

“Now what you need to know about Angela…” Another down the hatch. “Is that she likes real men.” I stared at his diminutive frame, noting just how much work I’d have to do if he were ever to be successful.

 “So what you have to do is change everything about yourself, absolutely everything that is, until you finally have the balls to man up and actually talk to her like a real human being. No, no — no need to protest — I have your best interests at heart. What you need to do is actually start treating women as they should be treated, as human-beings of unsurpassable beauty, deserving empathy and respect. They are not goals to be obtained and they don’t owe you anything. Got it?”

I finished the last whisky.

A final pat on the man’s shoulder and I left him to ponder the obvious wisdom of my advice. Then, my good deed being done, I set my sights elsewhere; looking to find those people of sparkling wit whose company I actually enjoy.

The warmth of the whiskies was now spreading through my body and I was ready and rearing to spread the joy and happiness that I was feeling to all those around me. A pat here, a ‘how ya going?’ there, a kiss on the cheek here and all of a sudden I was upstairs where I found Angela, Tom, Jeff and Candice tucked away in a corner table. They were playing a game which involved bouncing a coin into a cup and drinking. There were other rules to the game but at this point it appeared that they had been forgotten.

I allowed myself to collapse next to Jeff, relieving him of the playing coin as I did.

“So you guys got in.”

“Well not exactly. We had to climb the building next door and drop in over the back fucking fence.”

As always in these situations I felt both relieved and disappointed. Relieved that getting in had been so easy for me, but disappointed that I hadn’t taken part in another adventure. I decided to change the subject.

“I just got some free drinks off of Pete.”

I lined up my shot and sent the coin careening off to the right. It hit a man wearing nothing but black leather, causing him to turn a scowl my way. I waved my hand placatingly.

“What the creep from next door?”

I shook my head at this, obviously false, characterisation.

“C’mon Angela, you shouldn’t talk about him like that, he’s a nice little creep. I think you should give him a chance.”

“No way.”

“Well I tried,” I said, content in the knowledge that I had given it all three whiskies worth of effort.

“Anyway what were you guys talking about before I graced you with my presence?”

“Most embarrassing sexual experiences,” Jeff said, with, what I noted with consternation, was a glint in his eye.

“No we weren’t”

“We are now.”

I knew where this was going and I didn’t like it. The whiskies, however, were working their magic and I couldn’t find it in me to protest too vociferously.

“Tom was just about to tell us about his adventure last night with Rachel…”

“Hey. What the fuck?” Tom said, lolling to attention. Jeff cut him off before he could explain himself.

“… but I don’t think that’s embarrassing enough. So Jonesy, help him out, why don’t you? What about, I don’t know, that time you fell asleep while eating a girl out?”

It was with a sinking feeling that I saw Candice look up, abruptly interested. I was starting to regret pulling my earlier stunt. Jeff was certainly taking his revenge seriously.

“There are ladies present, maybe not the best time.”

“No, no I think we should hear this,” Candice said “go on, tell us what happened.”

I saw that there was no way out of it. I had also reached that stage of tipsiness that makes you want to brag a little, no matter what the subject.

“Okay it’s true that I may have dozed off while performing cunnilingus, but to be fair, I had had quite a lot to drink and was properly apologetic once I had been made aware of the facts in the morning.”

 “So was that the same girl who punched you?”

“No, that was another…”

“Go on…”

“Well she was a bit jealous and had accused me of trying to sleep with a friend of hers”

“So what happened?”

“I naturally focused on the wrong part of the accusation and replied ‘trying to? I slept with her last night.’ She didn’t take it too well.”

“Hence the right hook to the jaw?”

“Exactly.”

At this point you might be thinking, and it has indeed been said of me, that I sometimes divulge too much, that I don’t keep my cards to my chest. This is perhaps true. My own philosophy, though, is that any experience worth having is worth using as an anecdote to amuse your friends. Even if it does get you in a bit of trouble from time to time. That being said, it must be clear: I don’t kiss and tell.

I fuck and I brag.

Later, at the urinals, I found myself standing next to Jeff and, as I was shaking myself off, felt the need to admit defeat.

“Nicely played.” I said, wiping my hand on his shoulder.

“Yea, well, a cock-block for a cock-block. It’s in the bible.”

After that things became much more of a blur. I remember us at the bar, sinking rounds of rum-and-cokes. At one point we were downstairs singing Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. A group of locals joined in and, distracted by the prospect of another drink, we left them to it. We talked for a while, danced for a while; there were cigarettes in the courtyard out back and friends, even more drunk than we were, to laugh at. At one point we saw Tom locked in an embrace with girl on the balcony of the floor above and we gathered in a group to cheer him on. They noticed and she retreated in embarrassment — he gave us a wave.

Our Kelly’s night ended when the bouncer, seeing Tom and Jeff smashing their finished glasses to the floor, threw the three of us unceremoniously out. Angela and Candice brought up the rear, making it very clear that it was their choice to leave and that they weren’t doing so out of any sense of solidarity.

We began stumbling back and were just deciding whether to have a meat pie or a kebab as our early morning snack when, from out of a close-by and far classier bar, walked Rachel and her gargantuan boyfriend. On seeing Tom his eyes widened and nostrils flared. Then the man — who as I recall plays quite a high grade of rugby — was charging. We heard a ‘run boys!’ and Tom was off. Luckily Jeff had the presence of mind to stick his foot out as the boyfriend went by and the big man went crashing to the ground. This gave Tom plenty of time to disappear and for the rest of us to walk quickly around the corner. The last I saw Rachel was kneeling beside her man as he gave out great bellows of rage and pain.

Chapter 7: Morning

What with one thing and another, Candice and I were a little late to reach the apartment. As it turns out, Jeff’s plan wasn’t as effective as I had feared. We found him passed out on our couch like a giant and deeply inebriated toddler and Tom searching through the fridge for something to eat. I asked where Angela had gotten to and he said that she had found Jamie waiting outside the apartment. So he had walked them both up to the apartment and locked them in her room.

“Now we can only hope for the best.” I said, noticing — for the first time — the grunts coming from down the corridor. Tom’s smile looked like it was trying to lift him to the ceiling by his ears.

The sunrise found the three us left climbing up over the balcony and onto the roof of our building, where the sky was setting itself aflame for our enjoyment.

“It was a fun night.” Candice said, after a long silence. We nodded.

“Fun day too.” Again, nods.

I realised after a while that if I stayed there any longer I’d fall asleep and roll to my death so I woke Candice, who was dozing on my shoulder and, with a perfunctory ‘night’ to Tom, we made our way down.

Back in my room, with an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia playing, I made myself comfortable on the bed. Candice nestled herself into me and I once again found myself truly, deeply, happy. All really was for the best in the best of possible worlds.

***

Of course that was before I woke up and Candice was gone and my head was pounding and felt like I was going to die. So there’s that. But, coming to the end of this, I wouldn’t do it any other way.

Chapter 8: On the Move

Me again. So as you can see, this just goes to show what I’ve been explaining to you this whole time: that Jonesy is an asshole. It must be a certain masochistic streak in me that  left that demeaning scene of my own interaction with him in but I do think, as I’m sure you’ll agree, that it goes to my point. Beyond that I’m forced to say that even though I detest Jonesy and think that his life, both past and present, is a representation of all that is wrong with our world, I can’t deny that his writing captivates. It is crass and disgusting, serves absolutely no higher purpose, is in no way pedagogical and yet I do feel that I gain something from reading it. What it is, though, I just don’t know. Entertainment, certainly, but also a feeling of a shared experience. It felt right, somehow, to cross over to the other side, to join those who do without thinking, and who experience life to its fullest degree.

            I know that all this probably doesn’t make that much sense at this point, or maybe it does — I don’t know. All I do know is that I do truly believe that the writing in Jonesy’s journals needs to be published. That doesn’t mean I hate him any less. In fact by succeeding in my plan to publish his writing under my own name, I would be stripping from Jonesy the only thing that he seems to find valuable: the ability to be recognised as the one telling the story. He will become a work of fiction, forever entombed in a collection of stories that will have my name on the cover. I tell you, Iago wasn’t this devilish.

                        You get the picture.

Eventually, Jonesy’s holiday will have to come to an end and he’ll be returning to Australia. So who knows, maybe I’ll be finding myself down-under sometime in the near future. He did say — while I floundered to stay afloat — to call him when I was ‘less full of shit’ so maybe the lines of communication aren’t entirely closed.

Keep the story safe and I’ll be seeing you soon.

A friend,

Peter.

[1] Is readability a word? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I’ll go with it anyway. All the greats come up with their own words, Shakespeare…etc., so why can’t I in the privacy of my own journal? Hmm this aside really has gone on for too long. Done. The end. Fin.

[2]  And as these things go I also felt a movement of myself.

[3] Which was a fine example why I was so happy. Candice remains, as always, the greatest of passionate conquests since, she too, seems to hold the whole absurdity of life in the same frivolous disregard as my closest and most trusted friends. Does that make sense? It should.

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