A Tantalising Mixture of Excitement and Disgust (Excerpt)
There was papaya salad to start, Prosecco for the others, Diet Coke for me. After a minute or two Monica came out of the bathroom with the celery and houmous and in their wake a faintly shitty smell.
“Has Philip told you our news?” she asked.
“News,” said Natasha, “how exciting."
“Go on,” urged Monica.
“Go on what?” I said. “You want me to tell them?"
She sat there forking the papaya, saying “yum yum” and emitting her belittling trademark giggle. I said I never felt comfortable being pressurized into telling stories.
“Really?” said Monica. “You mean you’re not going to tell them what happened the other day?"
“Many things,” I said, “have happened in the last couple of days. I don’t really know which one of them you’re referring to."
“Just tell them the fucking story,” she said, and Granville affected an indulgent laugh, trying to pretend that we were lightly bantering.
“Oh well, actually, yes, alright,” I said, “we don’t know who it was yet, although I have my firm suspicions, but someone did an enormous poo at the bottom of our drive."
Natasha stood up and went into the kitchen on some culinary pretext.
“I’m not talking about fucking poos,” said Monica.
“I’m talking about my flashback."
“I’m talking about me being abused."
Granville looked down, patting his lips with a napkin, and Natasha, who’d been doing some banging in the kitchen, went quiet. After a few seconds she tiptoed from the kitchen with the main dish, which looked like Thai green curry, put it down and took a seat, and we all waited for Monica to speak.
She has a very particular way of talking (I should have told you this before), a way of telling a story almost as if she is taking it as read that you know what she is talking about, that you were either with her when it happened or you’ve heard it all before. It might well be the case that you’ve heard it all before, but whether you have or haven’t heard it all before she talks to you as though you have, skimming breathlessly over details and leaving little or no time for you to butt in and ask questions. It’s exhausting. You will begin by thinking to yourself “I’m going to do my duty as her friend, husband or whatever I am and sit here and listen intently to what she’s got to say”. Actually, you will probably be thinking that, or saying it to yourself, as she is already half way through her story, and then you’ll interrupt the previous thing that you were saying to yourself (while aware of her lips moving and also hearing sounds, if not actual words, coming out of them), by thinking “oh my goodness”, or you’ll think something a little stronger, you’ll think “oh my fuckety fuck shit piss I haven’t been fucking listening to the woman, what the hell’s wrong with me? I must look interested. I must.” But then all your energies will be focused on trying to look interested, drawing on all your faculties, perhaps as an actor would, being focused and in the so-called moment, which is something I can relate to very well, not only because I am an actor, obviously, but because I am spending increasingly lengthy intervals not being focused, or certainly in a semi-focused state from which I’m being constantly distracted.
In fact, and let’s look at this closely, am I being distracted now? Or does it even make sense to talk of distraction when that is more or less one’s permanent state? I think what’s happening with me is, quite simply, that I’m being distracted from my distracted state, which might just mean that I am paying attention, unless there are distractions within distractions, or on top of them, what one might call alternating levels of distraction. While writing that last sentence, for instance, or the last few words of it anyway, I began to think about something else, although I’ve already forgotten what that was because another thing has superseded it. Very probably the distraction before last concerned my ambitions to fashion some kind of memoir out of these experiences and whether or not there would be any mileage, let alone commercial potential, in a memoir that is constantly being distracted from itself. And the most recent distraction…Ah, well, this is where we really run into difficulties, because since what I called, a few lines ago, the distraction before last, I’ve actually been distracted and gone off into a whole little chat with myself, out loud, talking at the wall, well, at the window and the branches of the trees that I can see from my room here in this Travelodge, all about something else, which I’ve also now forgotten.
Anyway, on this occasion what was very much distracting me was Granville’s foot, which he was jigging away with a lot more vim and verve than the vim and verve with which he usually jigged it and which he carried on jigging when I met him outside the bathroom and he told me that he’d been abused. I should have been able to tell this, I suppose, from the way he kept saying the word “victimised” and pulling funny faces after it, but I was distracted at the time by a rather funny smell. Once he’d gone I sat down on this lilac-coloured ottoman that seemed to be the source of it and heard Natasha say she was sure it was something that Monica could never forget. And to this, I’m afraid, I couldn’t help shouting “bollocks,” for the simple and quite obvious reason that it was.
“I mean for this whole ridiculous recovered memory thing to work,” I said as I went back in, “you’d have to forget it, wouldn’t you, for it then to be possible for you to recover it?"
This kicked off an argument of sorts in which Monica told us about the coping mechanisms she employed, how she put things in these little rooms in her mind and told herself we don’t go into them.
“But in spite of that,” she said, “I do remember little things. I remember him telling me that it was natural. I remember him telling me that I was doing very well while all the time his hand was up my arse."
“I’m feeling ever so slightly nauseous,” Granville said, getting up and heading for the bathroom.
Then I remembered that I’d left the Shipman there so I got up as well.
“What are you doing?” shouted Monica. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?"
I told her I’d developed a sort of sympathetic IBS.
“Like sympathetic pregnancy,” I said, lingering a bit to describe the sensation, how as soon as I’d been to the toilet I’d feel the need to go again.
“I might need to borrow your emergency pack,” I called out to her from the hall.
“I’ve left the fucking thing behind,” she said as Granville slammed the toilet door behind him.
My hands met up beneath my groin, clasping each other so firmly it felt like I was being lifted up into the air. He’d turned the taps on in the bath. I guess he thought I wouldn’t hear him shit. A moment later the door opened and he came out with the Shipman in his hand just as Monica was telling us his pubic hairs were red and that he didn’t have a penis.
“How on earth would that be possible?” I heard Natasha ask.
I moved to go straight in, but he was clearly in the mood for talk and stopped me with a blast of positively faecal breath. I threw in some “ums” and “ahs” while he was speaking and pointed out to him that sweat was trickling down from underneath his spectacles and onto his left cheek. I was inside, pulling down my pants, when there was a knocking on the door. I pulled them up and opened it.
“I appear to have mislaid my wine."
There was more sweat on his face. He stepped past me, raised an eyebrow at the question mark-shaped turd that he’d left floating in the pan, picked up a glass that was balanced precariously on the sink and walked straight out.
About the Author
Jon Haynes is a writer and one half of the multi-award winning theatre company Ridiculusmus.