bulk :: 17st 2
alcohol units imbibed :: 20
cigarettes smoked :: 0
runs run :: 2
swims swum :: 2
friendships ruined :: 0
readers disappointed :: quite a few, it seems
regrets :: a few, but then again, too few to mention
So. Now then. A lot of people have voiced their disappointment in me for what recently passed between Patricia and I. A few of you made your feelings clear in comments and a couple of you even took time out to write me an email. This one, for example, which I received from Mark D, who was so furious he could barely think straight:
‘i use to really think you cool man till this. i cant believe it- your best mates got like a fatal disease or something and your sleeping with his girlfiend a wek or two after they splitup??? you really ate a beastman.’
Whoa! Whoa there! I did not eat a beastman! I think we need a little distance here. This is all getting a tiny bit out of hand. Now chill the heck out and let me tell you a story, a story about a boy called Eric…
Eric and the Irresistible Force
Eric had never had much luck with women. He was not what you’d call a good looker. In fact, he was what you’d call a bad looker. He was, in other words, ugly. Very ugly. Because of this fact, he’d only ever slept with two women: one physically disabled, one mentally bereft. Generally, when they caught sight of him, women tended to look away as if their retinas had been scorched, as if Eric were human pepper spray. Even men didn’t particularly enjoy his company, almost as if they thought they themselves might be infected by Eric’s gruesome appearance. But children, once they’d asked their usual guileless questions – ‘What’s wrong with your face?’, ‘Why is your head so big and bumpy?’, ‘Are you Hellboy?’ – loved him.
Something in Eric had never really grown up. It was almost as if the childhood he’d been denied by vicious, loveless parents had been packed away until the time was right. At 17, when he moved into a place of his own with Kevin, his childhood friend, the time was right and Eric’s childhood was finally unleashed. For most of the next five years, he spent almost all of almost every day playing games, giggling till he wet himself and running around the house in his damp, unlovely pants. Furthermore, once it had been unleashed, this infantile vivacity never really left Eric, and children, when they met him, latched onto it and were quickly entranced, invariably wrapped around Eric’s neck within half an hour, like giggling, meaty scarves.
For most of his 20s, Eric didn’t meet any children. Neither did he meet many adults. The constant taunting and cruelty which his ugliness had prompted throughout his childhood had taken its toll. He was fed up with it. He was fed up with being singled out and frowned upon simply because of his appearance, and the only way he knew how to deal with this was to go into hiding. So this is what he did.
However, by the time he was 30, the solitude had quite worn him down. He had become sad and withdrawn. He’d become heavier, both physically and spiritually, and without the light of human companionship, his flesh had become quite pale.
Then there was change. Eric eventually saw what he had become, and he was not best pleased. ‘I have grown into my ugliness,’ he thought. ‘I have allowed my unpleasant exterior to creep inside.’ And so he resolved to do something. He resolved to change, to force himself out into the world, to force himself into the company of other people.
And all went well. Better in fact, than he could ever have expected. Eric found that not only was he accepted, but that his own unique brand of self-deprecation and childlike innocence went over a storm. People really seemed to genuinely like him, split infinitives and all, until one day, when it all went horribly, sickeningly wrong.
Kevin had done well for himself since he and Eric were kids. Not only had he found himself a piss-easy, well-paying job in something called ‘the new media’, but he’d also met a wonderful woman called Pamela. Pamela was taller than Kevin, with long black hair which she usually wore in a loose pony tail over her right shoulder, and dark, deep, profoundly seductive eyes. She was bright like a thousand suns and had a great talent for making divine, heart-melting music. Kevin was not alone in thinking that he really wasn’t good enough for her. But Pamela loved him. She loved him because he was charming, funny and, much like Spontaniouse from the 8th cycle of America’s Next Top Model, he was spontaneous. One day he’d send her an enormous bouquet of bluebells, the next there’d be tickets for Billy Elliot hidden inside her All Bran box. One time he even surprised her with a weekend in Paris! Sadly, they couldn’t go on that because it was Pamela’s son’s birthday. Pamela was really sorry. ‘It’s OK,’ said Kevin. ‘I got the tickets free from work anyway. Bloody kids though, eh?’ Pamela smiled. Then looked away.
Pamela’s kids were called Alice and Will and to say they meant the world to Pamela would be to understate the case somewhat. Their father, the love of Pamela’s life, died of cancer when Alice was just three years old and Will was one. Pamela had wanted to die too, and perhaps it was only her love for her kids that pulled her through. But perhaps she would have pulled through anyway.
When Eric came back out into the world, he saw quite a lot of Kev and Pam. He was invited over for meals and fashionable soirees. He even spent Christmas with them and when Kev and Pam finally found time to take that weekend in Paris, Eric was happy to look after the kids while they were away. Alice and Will doted on Eric.
Then disaster struck. Kevin got sick. Pamela, afraid that he might go the way of her first husband, drew him closer to her. Kevin meanwhile - splendid in so very many ways, moronic in others - strayed into the arms of another woman. He attempted to justify his betrayal by telling himself that it was fear of death and decay that had prompted him to betrayal. Like in Moonstruck. ‘I must live,’ he thought. ‘How long before even the possibility of a stolen kiss eludes me? I must act now while I can, even if the act is a foul one.’ He confessed his betrayal to Pamela as soon as it had happened in the hope of limiting the damage, in the vain hope that she might understand his fears and forgive him.
When Pamela and Kevin parted, Eric was devastated. He had grown extremely fond of Pamela over the year that she had been with Kevin, and he had grown to love her kids. Consequently, he was furious with Kevin and rashly, he lashed out. Kevin was hurt and confused. He expected support from his childhood friend, not condemnation, but here was Eric drying Pamela’s tears whilst Kevin was left to smoke his lungs sore with dirty drugs and beat himself senseless with a paperweight in the shape of a pyramid.
Meanwhile, Pamela was determined that her kids should not suffer from the break-up, or at least no more than was inevitable. They would miss Kevin, and their mum’s sadness would rub off on them for sure, but there was no need for them to miss their favourite babysitter. So not so very long after the split-up, Pam asked Eric if he’d mind looking after Alice and Will when she went out with friends to eat dinner and drink wine and talk bad about menfolk. Eric jumped at the chance. It felt like months since he’d seen the kids. Although it wasn’t.
And so he passed a thoroughly pleasant evening, playing games, speaking in silly voices and jumping about like a overweight tigger. He put the kids to bed at around 11 and read John Bellairs to them till they slept.
At fifteen minutes past one, Pamela came home. She had the glazed expression and slightly stained teeth of one who had drunk too much red wine, then followed up on the wine with cocktails and dancing.
She ran to the loo when she got in, then tiptoed in to gaze upon her sleeping children for a moment. Returning downstairs, still wearing her short satin dress with no arms and no back, she asked Eric if he’d like a White Russian. Eric liked White Russians and he was in no hurry to leave, so he said yes. He also knew that if he drank a White Russian, then he’d probably be over the limit and wouldn’t be able to drive home. He said yes anyway.
‘I have had a fantastic evening,’ declared Pamela emphatically, slurring only very slightly.
‘Good,’ said Eric. ‘Fantastic. What did you do?’
As she noisily prepared the drinks, Pamela talked him through the three-course dinner at the Italian restaurant and the White Russians and dancing afterwards at some bar in Soho. Then she brought Eric his drink, plonked herself down in an adjacent armchair and said, ‘It’s weird, but all these guys were trying to get into my pants tonight.’
‘You’ve got great pants though, Pam,’ said Eric. ‘I mean, that’s probably not weird at all, really, all things considered. They’re only human.’ He squirmed uncomfortably. He was uncomfortable because this was not an area of conversation he particularly wanted to enter into. Pamela’s pants were not his business.
‘How do you know what my pants are like?’ said Pamela, leering slightly.
Eric couldn’t help himself. ‘Well, you don’t honestly think that when the kids are asleep I just sit here watching television, do you?’
Pamela looked confused for a second, then she understood. ‘Ewwww.’ She laughed. ‘Have you been kippering through my underwear, Eric?’
Eric laughed too. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I’m joking. Honest. My kippering days are long gone.’ This was true.
Then Pamela changed tack and Eric relaxed. ‘What did you guys get up to tonight then?’
‘What didn’t we get up to more like. We played Jack Sparrow, or Jack Ptarmigan as I was rather cruelly dubbed by Will. Also Jack Frigate and Jack Blue-Footed Boobie. We did a bit of Wii bowling, which Alice won with her left hand and one eye closed. We watched a bit of South Park and we made some cakes.’
Eric then jumped up and fetched a lopsided cake from the kitchen, on top of which Alice had written in green icing sugar ‘We love you, Mummy!’
Pamela was moved. Her eyes became a little moist and her voice cracked as she said how much she adored her cake. She really loved her kids to bits, and alcohol didn’t help matters. Eric put the cake away.
Pamela winced. ‘Let’s erm… we don’t need to talk about Kevin.’ She smiled.
‘Alice has got a huge crush on you, you know.’
‘Oh hush, she’s 11 years old.’
Pamela shook her head. ‘What’s your point? She’s been interested in boys since she was seven.’
‘Well, I don’t want to worry you,’ said Eric, ‘but I’ve got a bit of a crush on her too. I do intend to wait until she’s 16 though, before I….’ He faltered, realising that the conversation was perhaps veering toward the unpleasant. ‘I’m joking,’ he said. And of course he was. ‘But if I was 20 years younger, I’d be all over your daughter like plague of toads. She’s a genius. She drew a picture of Will tonight which is eerily good.’
Pamela nodded. ‘She gets that from her dad.’
‘Yeah,’ said Eric. ‘Well, he would be incredibly proud. As proud as you are.’
‘You know what she said this morning? She asked me if we would be seeing more of you now that Kevin’s not coming round anymore.’
‘Eek,’ said Eric. ‘Well, that’s sweet of her.’
‘The way she talks about you, I know she thinks of you….’ She trailed off. ‘She really misses her dad. That’s never going to go away.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ said Eric, wondering how on earth he could turn the conversation round to something more cheerful. But then Pamela did that for him.
‘Do you know that my breasts swell up something rotten if I don’t have regular sex.’
Eric opened his mouth to speak but for a moment nothing came out. He shook his head slightly. ‘I didn’t know that,’ he said. ‘Is that a medical condition or, or…?’
‘One more drink I think,’ said Pamela, standing up, ‘then bed. Come on, knock it back.’ Eric finished his drink and handed over his glass.
While Pam was in the kitchen, Eric stood up, adjusted his erection and paced the living room nervously. He glanced in the large mirror over the fireplace and was reminded of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. He patted his jeans pockets for his heroin, then remembered that he didn’t take heroin. ‘Just one more drink,’ he told himself. ‘Then I’ll go.’
He was still by the mirror chatting to himself when Pamela returned with more White Russians. She handed one to Eric and held up her own glass for clinking. ‘Here’s to being free,’ she said. They clinked, and drank. Eric noticed that Pamela had given him the wrong glass, with traces of her lipstick around the rim. He didn’t say anything.
‘I think I’m going to like being single,’ said Pamela. ‘I’d forgotten about the upsides.’
‘There are upsides?’ said Eric.
‘Loads of upsides,’ said Pamela. ‘You can do what you want when you want; you can go out dancing and flirting and you can let men buy you drinks and stroke your hair if you want them to...’
‘Oh yes,’ said Eric. ‘There’s always that.’
‘You can see your friends whenever you like and you can kiss people who are completely inappropriate.’
At that moment Eric was feeling completely inappropriate and physically very awkward.
‘Come and sit down with me,’ said Pamela.
‘Oh, OK,’ said Eric. ‘Sitting down is good. I can do that.’
Eric sat on the sofa. Pamela sat next to him. Eric took a gulp of his drink. Pamela took his glass off him and placed it on the coffee table in front of them. Eric looked straight ahead of him like a terrified child. Pamela said, ‘I know you find me attractive.’
Eric snapped. ‘Alright, listen, Pam, stop, please. I don’t know what you’re thinking…’
‘You know what I’m thinking.’
‘I don’t think you know what I’m thinking – what you’re thinking I mean. You don’t know what you’re thinking. You’ve had a lot to think, to drink I mean, and you don’t really know what you’re saying. You’re drunk and you’ve probably eaten too much too, and you’re upset over Keith, Kevin I mean, and your breasts are swollen and... and your hand, Pamela, your hand is on my thigh.’ He stopped. ‘Pamela,’ he said sharply, like he was speaking to a dog who looked like it was about to urinate on his stamp collection.
‘I know,’ said Pam, staring at Eric’s face, smiling. ‘I want your cock.’
‘Whoa!’ cried Eric and he jumped up from the sofa and moved back over to the fireplace.
Pamela laughed, then she pretended to be hurt. ‘Do you find me so repulsive?’ she whimpered.
‘Oh stop,’ said Eric. ‘Don’t. Please. You know I think you’re amazing, in every sense, and would give my right arm to… you know, but this is all wrong. You’re drunk for a start, and you’re just trying to get back at Kevin. And it isn’t fair on me, frankly.’ He stopped there, but he was thinking, ‘One kiss is all it’ll take and I’ll fall madly, deeply, irreversibly in love with you.’
Pamela stopped smiling. ‘OK, OK,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry. You’re right.’ She shrugged. ‘Come and sit down again.’
‘I’ll sit over here,’ said Eric.
‘Come and sit over here,’ snapped Pamela. ‘Jesus, I’ve said you’re right. I’m not going to rape you, for God’s sake.’ Pamela smiled, patted the sofa next to her. Eric returned, slightly shaken, and sat down. Pamela stood up, moved in front on Eric, facing him, lifted her right leg and climbed into his lap.
‘Listen,’ she said. ‘You’re not taking advantage of me, OK?’ Her hands moved from his shoulders to his neck, to his ears. A shock ran through him, his limbs became a mess of goose bumps. ‘I’m taking advantage of you.’
Eric could feel Pamela’s naked thighs on his legs where her dress had ridden up. He could feel her hands on the sides of his face and then her lips and breath on his neck and ears and part of him wanted to grab hold of her wrists and push her away, to get up from the sofa, grab his coat and storm out of the house, drive home over the limit in an almighty huff, reporting Pamela to the police as he drove. ‘Yes, officer. There’s been an attempted rape. A beautiful woman climbed into my lap and tenderly kissed the side of my face. I want to press charges.’
But another part of him, had it been capable of thinking, would have thought, ‘Hold on a minute. Mate, this is – in many important ways – the best thing that has ever happened to you, bar none. There isn’t a court in the land that would convict you if you just allowed what is already happening to reach its natural conclusion. Even Kevin, once he’s calmed down, will understand. Pamela likes you. She thinks you’re funny and clever and great for her kids, and she just wants someone to ease the swelling in her breasts.’
As it turned out, Eric’s non-thinking part was quite right.
Pamela took Eric to her bed that night and wasn’t so drunk that she regretted what she had done in the morning. Not entirely. In fact, she did it again that same morning, and then carried on doing it again for another week or two. Then she thought it was best to stop. She decided it wasn’t fair on Eric. She could see he was developing feelings for her, despite himself.
No hard feelings. That’s what she said.
No hard feelings.
Eric repeated those words to Kevin when they met a couple of days after it had all blown over.
Kevin shrugged. ‘No hard feelings,’ he said. ‘No feelings at all really.’
They drank a toast to Pamela. ‘To Pamela,’ they said. ‘And all who sail in her,’ added Kevin.
Meanwhile, somewhere in an orchestra chamber on the other side of London, Pamela’s breasts began, imperceptibly, to swell.
I don't know whether you picked on the clues at all, but that story was actually about me and Patricia. And that's pretty much how it happened. All of which is to say, look, for Christ's sake, we all make mistakes. I don’t think that my sleeping with Patricia for the week or so we managed was my finest hour, morally, but I don’t think it was the worst thing anyone’s ever done. Keith’s forgiven me, therefore I shouldn’t really care if a few people I’ve never met before think I’m a shit, but for some reason I do.
Oh, come on. You’re no saint either. Come on, admit it, I dare you. Tell me your most shameful, immoral, regrettable secret and we’ll call it quits.
In the meantime, Keith and I are off to see his dad and stepmum in Newcastle. I’m driving. Keith is smoking grass. It’s for his MS.
Have a great weekend.