Talk Talk Talk
“Come on, if you must insist on deluding yourself you can cut it as a writer, you’re going to have to accept that the writer’s life’s not just a matter of sifting about and writing,” she cajoled.
“No?” I asked. We’d been through this one on innumerable occasions previously, but for old time’s sake, I was willing to witness a rerun.
“No,” she returned, nailing the feed I had, for all my sins, fed her. “The writer is a media person. A successful writer works just like a successful musician, a rock star, an actor, a personality. I know that may be hard for you, but… It’s not just about being a good writer – which you’re not – no, not any more, anyway, it’s about marketing and how you put yourself and your writing across. You have to meet people, people who aren’t just willing to publish your books, but people who are going to give you exposure – the right kind of exposure, and lots of it.”
So I had arrived home from work to find Emma, my partner of just over two years, racing about the flat with armfuls of makeup and clothing, and one of her accomplices, Helen, a hideous, big-mouthed tart, reclined on the settee drinking my vodka and smoking.
“This’d look good on you,” Emma was telling the hag in the living room as I breezed in feigning good humour after my less than enjoyable day at work. On acknowledging my arrival, I had been told all of the unnecessary details about the gathering of luvvies and wannabe media-whores which some flabby wench named Carrie and her ‘S.O.’ named Bob was hosting, and that, yes, I was invited, nay, expected.
I had been about to wrinkle my nose and toss off some line in bullshit about either being too tired and having an early start in the morning or that I’d agreed to meet Mike because he was having a personal and domestic crisis which required my taking him out for a few distracting jars, when I stalled. The moment taken to decide on which excuse to volunteer allowed the recollection of the threat of something less than pleasant if I failed to turn out once more to one of these profile-meets.
“Partners are expected,” she’d spat. Of course. Naturally. Moreover, someone would be required to assist one or more very drunken girlies home after they’d made a big impression and booked a month’s worth of business dinner-dates, be it by hook or by fuck.
“Okay,” I’d replied, relishing the look of shock on her face, presently devoid of makeup. “I’ll get changed… how smart are we going?”
“Smart-ish, I don’t want you to show me up and go out looking like a fucking tramp.” Biting.
“Of course not,” had been my most courteous reply. “But if I make an effort to go for you, can I ask what’s in it for me?”
I’m not the self-seeking, self-centred, mercenary whoreson motherfuck that my question may suggest. But, having been subject to ritual use and abuse for some time, I am beginning to realise that perhaps, just occasionally, I ought to start to look out for myself a bit.
“Free drink,” Emma had said.
“Good start,” I affirmed. “Anything else?” Okay, so it was a gamble that this further push may rile her, but I figured that with Hogbitch Helen sitting supping on my sofa, I was protected by the rules of etiquette, which clearly dictate that one does not initiate a major row in the presence of visitors. So, instead, she’d given me the ‘if you want to make it as a writer’ talk, replete with all of the obligatory snide pops and barbs relating to the standard and marketability of my prose. Lecture over, I had set about readying myself for the truly ghastly time which doubtless lay ahead.
We arrived fashionably on time: moderate punctuality provided for a greater length of time in which to target and pitch with the project managers, the wallets, the contacts people and so on. It also allowed for a greater length of time imbibing copious quantities of someone else’s relatively expensive wine, which was almost compensation… but not really. The lifestyle to which these fakers and no-hoper eternally up-their-own-anus optimists aspired to, accompanied by worldwide adoration and absolute happiness for the rest of eternity would only be part compensation for a long evening the company of these deluded dog-ends. Emma burst in first, issuing forth manifold ‘look at me’ greetings. Helen was a little less extravagant in her entry, but was nevertheless met with a gush of insincere ‘nice to see yous.’ I shuffled in to the rear and was wholly ignored by all. Emma gave a dismissive wave in my general direction, saying ‘people this is Daniel, I’ve brought him along…’ No-one was impressed, so I slunk off in search of refreshment.
From the regress of the kitchen I cast an eye through the doorway and over the guests present and those arriving. Their lack of interest in me was mutual. I poured myself an offensively large glass of Chilean red and headed back into the sickeningly expansive living room where a considerable throng was beginning to congregate. Moments later, Bryany Entwistle made her grand entry to the gathering. She had it all: money, contacts, family heritage, bright prospects, a huge arse, a flabby gut, a face like an oxen’s gonads, a truly obnoxious personality, and a bizarre speech impediment. She flounced into the residence with a flourish, her entire overstated demeanor demanding the attention of all personages both within the room and without. Her pudgy pink piggy face was scrunched into its customary ingratiating gum, while her chubby chipolata digits clasped an extravagant onyx holder containing her regular smoldering Marlboro Light.
“Hhalllo, schwiddie,” she schmoozed instinctively to those there gathered before her.
A tall guy with ludicrous sideburns and a well-oiled quiff which shimmered in the light stepped from the drawing room. She pounced over to him, throwing her fleshy arms about him and planting a large, audibly wet kiss on his slack-jawed mouth.
“Well, hhhellllo Bob!” she bellowed at eardrum-splitting volume. “It’s been bladdy aaages sinsh I’ve sheen you! You’re looking bladdy marvellous, I masht shay. How are you doing, anyway, you handsome devil?” she quimmed extravagantly.
The goofy twonk named Bob looked awkward and shuffled uneasily on his feet, which were housed in highly-polished black leather shoes with large-gripped deep rubber soles. He shrugged in an almost literal attempt to discard his discomfiture.
“Erm, I’m fine…” he replied hesitantly.
“Exshellent, exshellent, she boomed theatrically. “Let me get you a drink, we must have shshshooo much to talk abouch…” Bob suffered the indignity of being offered a drink in his own home by one of his guests remarkably well, and the two of them babbled their way into the kitchen for beverages.
The bodies began to pack their way in and the intensity of the volume became raised to such a pitch that within half an hour of my being there I had made the decision that the only way to emerge from this particular evening intact and no more mentally scarred than after any other terrible social event was through alcohol-induced oblivion. Having wandered aimlessly, and somehow, remarkably, inconspicuously thus far, I returned to the kitchen and took a refill so large it could have been mistaken for a half carafe measure. What the hell, I figured it wasn’t too big a deal to offend anyone present, and, just supposing I did, which was unlikely, given the fact that all of the other guests were so engrossed in their preening and posturing, Emma could always disown me. Again. I could be forgiven for having a strange sort of Christ complex – after all, I’ve been denied many more times than three prior to the cock’s crowing, and I’ve lost track of the number of crucifixions I’ve experienced.
Within five minutes, I was taking yet another refill. As the warmth of the wine began to filter through my system, I decided to take a wander. I happened upon the collection of compact discs stacked on the sideboard and could not resist scanning the titles. Appalled by the appalling lack of taste, represented by a conspicuously small range of middle of the road and chart-orientated bilge and a handful of obvious classical titles on budget labels such as Naxos and MFP, which supposedly said ‘culture, dahling’, I simply could do no more than make may way to the kitchen to replenish my crystal-cut vessel once more. The piss-poor excuse for a laid-back jazz album which was being buried by the rattle of empty conversation only served to increase my need to annihilate my awareness of my surroundings. I had to either escape from this sonic abomination or change the disc – I refused to contemplate the notion that the soundtrack to the film of my life would be marred for any length of time by such self-indulgent yuppiefied aural jissom, and made my way back to the kitchen.
Having re-fuelled again, I began to survey my surroundings once more. Several girls were flapping around in showy dresses, fiddling with their hair and laughing excessively loudly as they conversed with a curious array of gentlemen, from besuited chinless wonders to goateed posturing arty types and turtle-neck and beret wearing pseudo-Beat pretentious bad poetry-penning tossers.
“Well I think his latest film is his best work yet. Yes, I really think he’s finally fulfilling the potential he showed when he first came onto the scene, and his work is, at last, worthy of all the praise and hype,” a nondescript suit-wearer in his early thirties was pronouncing to a couple of pudgy girlies in ill-fitting clothes and poorly applied glitter makeup, who were nodding and smiling inanely, hanging on every empty word which flowed from his lisping idiot mouth.
“I have no problem with admitting that I watch Neighbours and actually really enjoy watching Neighbours. It’s really cool if you watch it ironically,” another faceless suit pimped needlessly to a mustachioed artist-wannabe in a long coat.
“Oh, yeah, I love all the soaps, I really like them in a so-good-they’re-bad sort of a way. Y’know, they’re like mental chewing gum, a worthwhile distraction from real life,” the ersatz artfag burbled back.
Another closet buttlover, who would doubtless live his entire life in rugger-playing, communal-showering, wet-towel-slapping denial, wearing his large weekend club-fashion shirt and front-pleated chinos combo in a distinctly uncomfortable manner, and who had been loitering on the edge of the conversation made his timely interjection:
“Yeah, but the thing is, soaps are also, like, really good as escapism ‘cause they are, like, effectively, microcosms of real life, and watching all the bad things that happen to the characters in soaps reminds you that your own life isn’t so bad really.”
“Oh, I absolutely agree, you’re absolutely right,” the suit backslapped facilely.
“Oh, yesh, he’sh an abshalute bladdy genius!” Entwistle was hollering through a pall of
Marlboro Light smog to Emma and two or three other painted wenches who were draped about one of several chaise-longues located in the sickening ostentatious living room.
“I couldn’t agree more, Briyshe,” Emma smarmed, aping her cohort’s cringe-inducing mannerisms down to the laughable Sean Connery-esqe verbal defect.
“I know you couldn’t shwiddie,” smugged Entwistle nauseatingly, her gurning grin smeared lopsidedly over her half-plastered pig face. “Emsh here’s ac-chewally a really good friend of Shamsun’sh,” she explained for the needless benefit of the other captive members of her audience, who were smiling vacuously in the direction of the Smug Twins.
“I wouldn’t so quite so far as to shay that, Bri,” Emma modestified. “We jusht have a particularly good professional relationship, if you shee what I mean. We… have an undershtanding, we do each other mutual favours, dear.”
“Of course you do, shwiddie,” Bryany gozzed, hugging up to Emma whilst resting her head on her shoulder and shooting her an overtly sexual glance. Emma returned both the contact and the gaze, oblivious of my presence. My doubts about the nature of the relationship between my supposed partner and her hideous blimp of a bisexual fuck-’em-all, it’s-what-people-who-are-close-do friend rose once more, and I beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen, my quest for oblivion fired with renewed vigour.
As I reached the free-flowing wine-bottle mountain, I realised that I had somehow, somewhere on my travels, misplaced my drinking vessel. Curiously, the kitchen was almost deserted, save for a couple who were slouched against the freezer, immersed in one another’s attempts to suck each other’s faces off, and a girl who was picking up each bottle of wine in turn, glancing at the label, and replacing the bottle with the rest. I studied her anomalous behaviour for a moment, before electing to go over and begin my own rummage through the rammel in search of a clean and unbroken glass. As I pulled up beside her at the deluxe breakfast bar, she ceased her scurrying activity and looked at me. I looked back at her. She was of slender build, with fair skin and remarkably fine features. Her dark eyes glinted as she glowered menacingly at me.
“What’re you after?” she asked. Her voice was soft, yet bruising in its interrogative aggression.
Taken aback, I replied a little shakily, but clearly, that I was seeking a glass. This response seemed to puzzle her, as she gave me a look which implied simultaneous surprise, confusion, and conspiracy.
“Why would you want a glass?” she asked, her tone quizzical with a sly undertone which I could not fathom.
“To drink out of…” I shrugged, unable to volunteer a more reasonable response, and realising I was, quite probably, being mocked a little here.
“You don’t look like the sort of person who’d usually frequent such gatherings,” she said. Or use a glass, her look implied.
I frowned. Was she suggesting that my choice of clothes simply wasn’t arty enough, or glitzy enough, or swish enough, or expensive enough, dahling? “Hmmm,” I replied, attempting to gauge the level at which this strange bird was pitching. “I shan’t ask why not. But you are right,” I conceded.
“Several reasons why not,” she returned, despite my having made a point of not asking.
“See, you don’t look like the rest of this lot for a start.”
“Er, thanks, I think.” Okay, so if she was one of this lot, then I risked offense. Like I cared. However, I was forming the impression that this wasn’t exactly her scene either. Her long dress, with its leg-exposing slit, looked easily as expensive as that of anyone else present, but her style was more individual, more tasteful, more classy, and more dynamic than most. And her outfit not only suited her, but fitted her too.
“Mmmm, definitely thanks.” she measured. She continued her appraisal of my nonconformity to my present environment: “And you look pissed off, hardly the sort of look you carry if you’re out on a schmoozing spree.”
I liked her turn of phrase and the blatant cynicism regarding the whole scene. “Okay,” I concurred, “But I could be pissed off because I just lost out on a deal, or blew a definite shag or something.”
“You could, but I can tell a ‘pissed off’ ‘cause I hate it here with these people’ look from a ‘pissed off ‘cause a bad thing happened’ look a mile off,” she said, her stony expression warming slightly.
“Yeah,” she puffed. “And I tell you what – you’re not here to ingratiate yourself to some luvvies or any fat wallets, are you? And another thing,” she continued. “You don’t sound like the pompous gits we’re surrounded by. You don’t talk like you’re Sean Connery with his mouth full of bloody marbles for a start!”
I laughed, consciously omitting at this juncture to mention my connections to Emma and Bryany. “Coo, I am flattered,” I blustered, aware that this was the closest thing to a compliment I had been in receipt of in many long months.
“So, what’re you drinking?” she chirped airily.
“There was a few bottles of rather nice Chilean red,” I replied.
“Good choice,” she said, returning to her search through the bank of bottles. “Ah!” she exclaimed, pulling out two bottles of the stuff and quickly proceeding to unscrew the corks prior to handing one of the bottles to me. Surprised, I took the offering and watched as she took a phat slug from the bottle in her hand. “Cheers!” she said with a smile.
“Cheers,” I returned and glugged down a sizeable quantity of the full-bodied fruity liquor.
“So,” she said, turning on me with a leer, “who are you, what do you do and why are you here?”
I could not help but be impressed with her direct line of questioning, which was forthright, but not, somehow, in any way blunt, rude or offensive.
“Er, I’m Daniel, I work for The Corporation and I’m here under duress,” I told her. “And you? You’re not one of them, are you?”
“Hell no!” she draughted back. “I’m here… I’m not quite sure why I’m here actually, other than for the free booze. I suppose I’m here because of my boyfriend, who I’ve misplaced: he’s here because one of his contacts persuaded him that he ought to come here to raise his profile and some funds. I think he’s probably regretting it, but… well, films don’t pay for themselves, you know. And I’m Suzanne, by the way,” she concluded, extending a slender hand toward me.
“Pleased to meet you,” I said, politely and gently shaking the dainty paw.
“I hate this kind of thing,” she said with a sigh.
“Tell me about it,” I replied.
“I’m sure you don’t need telling about it,” she pedanted with a smirk.
“Oh, alright,” I said, “but you know what I mean.”
“Of course I do, I’m not stooopid,” she said with a smile.
“Thought never crossed my mind,” I returned, warming to her. She was the first person who had actually seen fit to squander breath on me all night, and she seemed pleasant enough. At least she wasn’t one of them.
“All this phoney smarming makes me want to puke,” she spat irately.
“I know. And I have to live with it,” I sighed.
“My other half seems to have fallen in with this crowd… to the extent that she’s become like them,” I explained wanly.
“Oh dear!” Suzanne exclaimed, her eyebrows raised. “So she’s a demanding diva type is she, running about throwing tantrums if she doesn’t get her way?”
I let the fact that she was effectively insulting my partner, and, by default, me, ride. I was relieved to be in conversation with someone who understood. “You know her?” I quipped.
Suzanne laughed. It was a pretty, natural laugh, which lit the whole of her face. “You don’t have to live with it,” she proffered.
I frowned. “If only it was that simple,” I said, failing at this juncture to consider the fact that to be discussing my personal life with a perfect stranger was not only bad practice, but wholly uncharacteristic on my part, and instead took a large gulp of wine. “I’m sort of stuck where I am at the minute,” I said. “Anyway, in long-term relationships I believe it necessary to give a little, be a bit flexible, make allowances, and so on. And besides, it’s only been the last month or two she’s been like this.”
“So you’re chronically under the thumb and tolerate her running about, behaving like a brat and giving you orders, right?” Harsh, but not too far off the mark.
I shrugged in concession. “Maybe. But as I said, she hasn’t always been this way, and I’m hoping she won’t remain it either.”
“And she is…?”
“Er, that girl over there,” I said, moving toward the kitchen doorway and gesticulating, with my wine bottle firmly clasped, toward the group on the living room at which Emma and Bryany were in the centre. “The one with the boa. Emma.”
“Bryany Entwistle’s cohort?” Suzanne tossed back, hints of surprise and contempt in her voice.
“Er, yeah. You know her?”
“Know of her,” she replied dryly.
“Yes. You see, Stephen, my boyfriend, knows Andrew Downs, who’s had dealings with Bryany in connection with the production company she’s trying to set up using shome of her daddie’sh money, yew shee,” she explained, affecting the Entwistle sloane-and-slur with devastating accuracy.
“Stop that!” I squeaked. “That’s jusht too convinshing!”
“Shame I can’t shay the shame for your feeble attempt choo emulate tha bladdy bitch,” Suzanne grinned wickedly.
“Careful,” I cautioned.
“I can’t abide all of this success based on contacts and insider dealing, all of the fake smiles, backstabbing ‘friendships’ of convenience, use and abuse, pretentious tossers…” she vented splenetically.
“I couldn’t agree more. I’m of the opinion that the majority of the true talent goes unnoticed and either remains underground or becomes quelled by the weight of the tide of inbreeding and privilege-passing nature of this terribly incestuous self-satisfied, non-meritocratic self-propagatory up its own arse ‘scene’,” I ranted.
“I’m of that opinion too,” Suzanne nodded. “You sound like you have experience of this in a major way.”
“Nothing much specifically,” I replied dismissively. “I’m just a fair observer, an oppressed worker for the Corporation and a guy who spends too much time thinking about the wrong things… Go figure.”
At that moment, Emma blazed into the kitchen. She took my hand and led me about three feet to where the wine was situated.
“A word, dear,” she hissed quietly, just loud enough to be audible to Suzanne.
“Sure,” I said, shadowing her steps.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she steamed malevolently at a pitch audible to me only.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re embarrassing me!”
“Drinking out of a bottle and ranting you’re usual pile of inane shitty bollocks to people who aren’t interested!”
“B…” I began.
“ShutupI’mtalkingandyou’relisteningtome!” she shrieked in a whisper, small spots of saliva spraying onto my face as she seethed. “I told you not to collar people and just start moaning at them about how shit everything is and how you’re an unappreciated struggling bleeding-heart artist, writer, twat!”
“Okay.” Argument was futile.
“Now, listen and listen carefully. First, you leave that girl alone and stop ruining her party by talking shit and trying to crack onto her – you don’t have a hope anyway and how dare you try to pull some little tart right under my nose, you bastard! Second, you put that wine down and stop getting pissed and making a fool of yourself Third, you get the fuck out of here and stop embarrassing me – Bryany and me are close to making some fucking amayshing contacts and I don’t want them to realise that I’m with you or it could blow the whole thing – you could ruin my whole career, do you realise that? Do you?” she spat.
“Sorry’s not fucking good enough! Now there’ll be a taxi here for you in ten minutes, here’s a tenner to pay for it, now get the fuck home and don’t wait up I’ll be home when I’m home when I’m done.”
She then proceeded to wrench me back across the kitchen using a phenomenal amount of brute force and a vice-like grip on my arm.
“Something’s come up at home,” she smiled sweetly to Suzanne, the venom clearly apparent to me but, I believed, invisible to anyone else.
“Oh, right,” the girl said, looking a tad baffled.
I shrugged to her. “Look,” I began, but the half-inch manicured talons which dug their way sharply into the palm of my hand stated plainly that further explanation on my part was strictly forbidden.
“The neigbour’s just rung me. There’s water from our flat leaking in through his ceiling,” Emma said.
“Oh, right. I guess you ought to see to it,” she said to me, shooting a wink in my direction in a split second during which Emma’s head was turned. “Bye then. Nice meeting you.”
“Yeah, you too. Bye,” I returned as I was bundled from the kitchen, through the living room and the hall, and out through the front door into the waiting taxi.
As I sat back in the spongy seat, I tried to rid my mind of the final sight I had witnessed fleetingly on my way out through the living room: Bryany Entwistle, braying at full-tilt, standing at the bottom of the stairs with three blokes paying her undue attention. The straps of her dress were down, her stodgy, drooping and frankly pathetic breasts exposed, a clearly inebriated to the point of new-oblivion male suckling on each dingy and well-worn nipple. Kneeling before her, while she held her skirt aloft, her lack of underwear in full view, was another madman giving her maximum cunnilingual pleasure with the assistance of an arm…
The driver pulled off the forecourt and began to move on into the night. Seconds later, my mobile phone rang. It was Emma, calling from the hall of Carrie and Bob’s place.
“How dare you!” she seethed. “You bastard! I won’t forget this, you know, and if this is all blown because of you, then I’ll never forgive you, you’ll have ruined my life!” Cut. Dead. Silence on the line.
I sighed and sat back in the seat as it began to dawn on me just how drunk I was. Had I suffered from some form of memory blank and done something terrible? My concept of time was badly skewed due to the high level of alcohol in my blood, but given that it was only eleven twenty, I genuinely believed I could account for most of my time there. Surely I wasn’t that drunk? That girl… Suzanne: the conversation had been a two-way thing, not just me ranting inanely at her… hadn’t it? I didn’t think I’d been hassling her, and was almost certain that I’d not made any moves to fondle her or kiss her, nor even made so much as a single lewd comment… but then if I hadn’t done anything, what was Emma so irate for? In my alcoholic haze, self-doubt began to circulate about my addled head. I’d lost slabs of memory in the past so to do so again would not be wholly unfeasible… as I desperately tried to reassemble the sequence of events which had led me to my journey home, the car stopped. Glancing out of the window, I saw that I was home. I paid the fare, collected and pocketed my change without tipping, and made my way inside. I crashed into the bedroom. I was quite drunk, but did not feel remotely sick or dizzy. I was, however, exhausted. I removed my boots and jacket, put out the light and lay face down on the bed, whereupon I fell into a deep yet, as ever, troubled sleep.