25 Aug

Competition entry: Paul Kilbey

H from Steps was alone at last. Being fun-loving is exhausting, he mused to himself, as he stubbed out his cigarette and reclined into a bean bag. His friends never seemed to understand that “H” didn’t really stand for “Hyperactive,” as he used to tell journalists for a laugh, but for “Hushed,” “Heartbroken,” “Hurt.” Yes, that’s right, he mumbled, reaching for the gin. My friends don’t understand my pain. Maybe I should have called myself “P,” for “Pained” and “Pathetic.” How different, he thought, my life would be, if I had been P not H.

For starters, he’d never have got recruited for Steps if his name had been a homonym of an excretory function. There was just no way. So I’d probably just have stayed put at Butlins, where I used to work, he thought to himself, the cold glass rim of the gin bottle pressed between his lips like a delicious glass penis filled with gin, he thought to himself. And then what would have happened? I’d have spent my whole life smiling at wankers, telling them which way to the beach or whatever, and they’ve have been like, “Thanks.”

And another thing, right, if I’d been “P,” he realised, as he tilted up his arm slowly and watched the slim trickle of remaining gin creep gently up the bottle and felt an expectant rush within his lips, I’d have got the shit kicked out of me at high school. And he realised as well that if he’d said to his bullies “No but guys, it’s cos I’m pained and pathetic,” that would have just made it worse. It would, in fact, have made him deserve it somewhat. There really would have been no escape from a young-adulthood of pain, opprobrium and obloquy. He would perhaps have had to change his name.

But at least, he wondered, the final drip of gin at last reaching his throat with a sweet burning tang like the first touch of a poisoned mushroom in the heavy August rain in Kent, I would have been spared this tortured life of semi-famous hell, in which my friends assume I love to dance and sing and laugh. I don’t! he mentally exclaimed, suddenly aware again of the empty gin bottle protruding vertically from his mouth, his anger only intensified by its tyrannous right-angled precision; I don’t at all!

Those bastards! he exclaimed out loud, deciding in a flash to hurl the bottle at the chic neo-modernist plain white wall to his right, as if within this empty bottle were contained the spirits of all his many enemies and everything his life had come to stand for; they take and they never give! And the thought: I have gone too far, flashed immediately through his mind as the bottle went from being bottle to being numerous inadequate bottles with no plausible reservoir section, because it smashed against the wall, because actually my friends do care for me. Perhaps they are just trying to cheer me up, when they force me to smoke loads of drugs and party.

But that’s not who I am, he resolved, wearily pressing his arms down into the bean bag in a mediocre effort to stand up, much like a newborn foal, he mused, unsure of how to use its limbs but dimly conscious that if it didn’t then life was going to be pretty rubbish and wet: I’m an artist. And I will write a story. That is how I will channel my feelings. Into a story.

It shall not be a story about me, H from Steps decided, resting half-way to the vertical on one knee and simultaneously scouting for a pen but seeing only broken glass around him, like an over-eager vulture surveying a normal picnic; then he found one; but it shall be about someone whom I am not; some stranger; some… P. He pulled himself into a standing position with a heave reminiscent of how an unfit man would pull himself into a standing position at some other point in time, and sat down again, with a pen.

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