WealthSubmitted by Spam at 2008-10-02 21:50:32 EDT
Rating: 1.77 on 34 ratings (34 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
She steps in the door and slides through the cramped hallway, half tuning as she does so because it's too damned narrow in here to walk through straight on.
"It's a little small in here hey?" She says, and I'm sure she doesn't mean it nastily but the months apart have hardened me up and I instantly take it as an insult that I refuse to respond to. Instead, I move through to my flat's tiny living room and slip onto one of the moth-eaten stained sofas that came with the place.
She follows me in and I see the look in her eyes and know the scorn is for real this time, that patronising glower - 'this is how you're living now is it?' - but she doesn't say it.
"what do you want?" I ask gruffly.
But she doesn't respond, she's too busy looking around at what's become my home now, this shitty two bedroom place I share with my old wreckhead mate Weatherstone. I watch silently as she takes it all in, threadbare carpets, crumbling wallpaper, the miscellaneous boxes of crap that we've had to stack in the corner because there's nowhere else for us to store them. There's a kind of stupefied wonder in her expression, like she's seeing into the life of another race: the mess, the clutter, the overall cheapness of everything, it's all alien to her.
"What happened to the Plasma TV?" The question’s almost rhetorical because the broken old 14 inch black and white we've got in the corner makes the answer pretty obvious, "And your leather sofas? and the stereo and... Sam... what happened to all of your Stuff?"
I just smile and avoid the question by repeating my earlier one.
"What did you want?"
And she still seems distracted by it all, this upheaval, the transition from the material excesses of the past to this, a poverty inspired sub-life crisis where everything is old, cheap, falling apart or all three.
"...er...” she stutters, I was in town and I just wanted to see you I guess. I wanted to see how things have been going for you since you moved off... but I take it it's not been going too well."
The scorn of before seeps away and her gaze now swells with a kind of pity that, if I really gave a fuck, would piss me off but I’m feeling like an evasive fuck today so I change the subject again.
"Want a drink?" I ask.
She nods and I mooch off into the kitchen, returning a minute or so later with a couple of glasses, crystal cut and beautifully crafted. She can't mask her confusion at the mismatched opulence of these goblets compared to everything else in here.
And I can't be arsed to explain it all; how I won £300 of House of Fraser vouchers back when I was destitute and hungry and that HoF will give change in cash when using a £10 voucher for any remainder amount below £4.99. Consequently, our place is now full of expensive but useless tat, all bought for around £5.25 back in the days when the subsequent change in cash was the difference between eating or not.
There's a long silence as we sip on our drinks and she clearly feels uncomfortable in this festering sty.
"So what exactly did you take with you when you left those six months ago?"
"Nothing at all. Just the clothes on my back."
Her brow furrows like I’m insane and Immediately I can see her mentally calculating the cost of all of the shiny gadgets and furnishings from my old apartment back home.
"But… why? You spent a fortune on all that stuff - why just throw it all away and live like.... like… this?"
And I just smile because she doesn't understand, somebody like her never could. So I don’t even bother trying to explain it to her.
"It may have been a mistake for you to come here Nik. You’re looking for somebody who doesn’t exist anymore."
The furrow deepens.
"What? Why? Why won't you talk to me? I miss you. The way you talk. Nobody ever talked to me like that"
She's referring of course to my penchant for eloquent little speeches so I sigh and resolve one final time to give her the florid answer she deserves.
"Because my dear, the thin veneer of warn affection that I once had for you has gradually cooled over time and now, the only thing left over is the hard shell of frosty indifference that you see before you."
And I've thought this before I know, but surely, this time, that really will be the last thing I ever say to her.
And I'm kinda proud of it.
An hour or so later, Flatmate Rob strolls in and flops into the sofa across from me and props his feet up on the coffee table between us, less out of comfort and more because there's only enough space in the room for one of us to have our legs between the table and the sofas.
"Good Day mate?"
"Yeah" I Say with a genuine smile. "The Succubus came over earlier."
Rob's face darkens and I can see that instantly he's wondering if she got to me again, if the interlude has fucked me up any.
"What the fuck did She want?"
"Dunno, I guess she wanted to know how things have been going for me, you know? if it’s all been worth it.”
“Well… has it?”
And yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to answer that question. I was too trapped in that past life. The life where I had everything that I could ever want, a gorgeous little flat replete with every piece of modern life you could possibly want plus a whole more. A decent job that paid ridiculous sums of money, nice suits, good drugs, late nights, a beautiful woman. Easy street.
Yeah man, yesterday I would have been too hung-up on how tough the last six months have been, right from the start when I jacked the job halfway through the day for no other reason then because I suddenly felt like I could sit there and predict every single little thing that would happen to me, every day, for the rest of my life.
I wouldn’t be able to answer because I’d be remembering how truly fucking hard it was to move to a new city a couple of hundred miles away from my childhood home and turn up on a mate’s doorstep with only a carrier-bag full of clothes and fifty-seven pence in my pocket and say: “Remember all those favours you owe me?”
Remembering living off £600 a month for half a year as I took the first minimum wage job going and had to make the tough decision between buying alcohol or food at weekends. Recycling used tobacco 3 or 4 times over, just so I could at least pretend like I’d smoked something. Buying 30 packs of Sainsbury’s 8p MagiNoodles and a loaf of bread and being happy that my shopping for the month was done for £3.20.
Visiting the same cashier at House of Fraser once a day, buying the same luxury china plate with the same £10 voucher and having the same conversation with her every time. “Yes, I would prefer my change in cash.” …“No actually I think you’ll find that it’s company policy to provide any change in cash so long as the amount is less than a fiver” … “Yes, that is why I keep coming here and buying these lovely Swedish Linea Plates at £5.15”.
Yeah man, yesterday, “Was it all worth it?” would have been a hard question to answer.
But today, I can spark up a joint and point my fellow bum in the direction of the green and black envelope sitting on my desk from the shithole company I’ve been working for for the last three months seeing nothing in return.
“Started getting my commission this month, finally”
I see his eyes widen as he reads.
“Fuck me. Twelve hundred quid!! That’s twice what you got last month! Are you really that good?”
And it kind of makes me sad that he’s so impressed by it.
“No mate.” I say without looking at him. “I’m better. That’s just the Tax.”
And there’s a long silence you could roll up and smoke as he takes those figures in.
Was it all worth it man?
Of course it fucking was.
But the cool thing brothers, the really fucking beautiful part, is when Joe calls me up and asks me when I’m gonna finally go round to his house and pick up all my stuff that’s been rotting in his barn for six months.
“Nah mate, Sell it. Keep it. Give it away. I don’t give a fuck.”
“Yeah but dude, you’ve got a 42” plasma TV in here.”
And his incredulity bleeds through the phone loud enough for Rob to hear as well and I see him smile at the ridiculousness of it all.
“So, don’t you want any of it? This stuff’s all pretty expensive.”
And I lean back in my shitty fucking armchair and inhale the damp-ridden poverty of my abode, taking in the mouldy wallpaper, the plywood TV stand, the rickety table between me and my fucking hero of a flatmate.
“Nah man,” I say.
“I’ve got everything I need right Here.”