Johnny Neal

Actor, Writer

Chapter 3

Chapter 3:

Birthdays shouldn’t be this hard.

‘The day was gloomy.’ I stare at the page. ‘Ugh.’ Start again, ‘the day was sad.’ Oh for fucks sake.

Hitting the delete button so rapidly must constitute some form of catharsis, I haven’t written a good line in days, shit I don’t know when I last looked at the word application in my computer, before today’s tragic attempt that is.

Time for a break, I reach across the worn table and grab a pack of smokes from the carton. Empty. Grab another one. Open the new pack, the scent inviting me to light up, and as I drag the sweet, grinding smoke into my lungs I can feel the weight of it in every inch of me. I exhale a long stream of white, and watch the pale blue of the smoking fag. Staring at the ceiling, basking in the momentary triumph of accepting my mortality and throwing caution to the wind, I await the fires of creativity. Slowly I realise this could take a while.

‘Aaaaah,’ these days I speak mainly in vowels. Perhaps that’s my trouble, writing is communication and if I don’t speak to anyone then I’m not getting in the practice. Who should I speak to though? Can’t just talk to myself I’ll go insane, if I’m not already, I don’t even remember the last time I opened the door, or a window. I spot the dirty laundry littering the floor of the flat, a pale blue shirt dirty with coffee and sweat amongst the wreckage. ‘So that’s what that is.’

Perhaps I should go out, clear my head, get rid of some dust, that’ll help, that’s what that skeleton on the TV is always saying:

‘Get outside and experience the world, fresh air will reinvigorate you, and running is better than meditation.’ I don’t meditate but I imagine that means it’s good. Okay that’s it, I’ll go out, I’ll find somewhere to go and I’ll talk to people. I’ll reawaken the inspiration, the passion for ideas that I used to have. I’ll take my mind off of today.

‘Double scotch, neat.’ Okay no judgment, this is a good place to meet people, and it’s better than a bottle, on your own, in that frigid tomb you call a flat. Actually that’s quite good I should write that down.

My drink arrives and I ask the barman ‘can I have a paper and pen please?’ Yeah this is it, out in the wide world, nothing better than observing the human condition first hand; and there’s nothing more human than a drunk.

The bartender brings me the pen and paper I in turn pay for the drink. ‘Okay so what was it, “better than that cold tomb,” no, um, what word did I use? “F” something, “fffffff”. Oh bollocks.’ I know how this works, I could sit there spitting over the paper all night; the sentence is lost forever.

For the rest of the night it seemed the paper took on a more functional purpose, suffice to say when in doubt you can always make your own coasters. I suppose I could contact my agent and tell them I’ve moved onto conceptual art? It’s probably too soon to make any kind of a commitment in regards to my career, let alone one so hastily thought out. Better sleep on it and see how I feel in the morning. Besides Alex hadn’t replied to my text earlier requesting a drinking partner for the night, so I think we can assume I’m not in his good books. No point bothering him with…

‘Whisky huh? How refined.’ The statement came from nowhere, I drew my eyes from the paper, which I’m sure would be laughing at me had I bothered to draw features on it. My eyes saw her first, my brain about two seconds later, must be on my way then; she was a rough cut of what I’m sure most young men imagine having one night stands with when they watch those American teen comedies. Whereas they are beautiful and trendy, trying to look average, she was most certainly average trying too hard to be beautiful. Though seeing as her curves and limbs were in all the right places and she was at least 20 years my junior, I put my cynicism aside and remembered how long it had been since I had even been bothered to masturbate.

‘Yeah, whisky, guess you could say I’m kind of like Errol Flynn’, God I hope this set up works.

‘Why’s that?’ Like a toddler watching a magic show. I squash down any malignant feelings of pederasty the whisky hasn’t caught and resume the “joke”. ‘Well he said “I like my whisky old,”’ postponing the moment of raucous enlightenment I lean in, ‘”and my women young.”’ Thinking about that line the day after I felt nauseous, but she laughed and I laughed with her. 

It wasn’t until she asked ‘Who’s Errol Flynn?’ that it struck me she could be humouring me, Christ is this what it’s come to? I can already feel the wave of depression rising over me, another year gone and another day wasted.

Coming to terms with myself I decide the question is worth answering ‘Don’t worry about it, he was a famous actor, back in the day.’ At this her eyes light up, the glint of hope revitalised, ‘Oh, are you into films?’ The question so full of hope makes me wish I’d paid more attention in drama class at school, fuck it, the truth shall set you free.

‘No, actually I’m a writer. Not screenplays though, novels.’ Better get off this subject fast. ‘What is it you do?’ I feign interest as I take another slug of whisky, you don’t normally notice but the more you drink the bigger the sips get.

‘I’m a student.’ The blunt statement isn’t nearly as interesting as the nubile finger she uses to twirl her long, curled, brunette locks. Stop staring man, get a grip, and continue talking before your left celebrating by yourself again. Opening my mouth to speak, I realise that there is absolutely nothing that I could even pretend to want to say to her. It’s not long before I realise I’m standing at the bar, trying desperately to look suave, staring, with my mouth wide open, at a woman young enough to be my… my daughter.

‘I should go.’ Why did that thought creep into my head? As repulsive as it might have looked from the outside I know that for the brief time I’d have lasted, this could have been a good end to a shitty day.

‘Why don’t I come with you?’ She says, the words are straightforward and fearless; all she ever needed to say about herself was contained within them. “I know you want me, stop being a pussy.” I can’t help thinking “Why me?”

No sooner than the door to my flat was opened she is all over me, that same fearlessness breaking down the barriers my mind had built between us. Though her immaturity on the subject of sex was evident, or maybe it had been so long I just couldn’t keep up? The kisses, are hard and forced, all saliva and teeth, like blunt force trauma to my lips, my hands operate independently of my brain, tearing her clothes off faster than I thought capable. 

She pushes me back towards the bed, and clumsily I wiggle out of my now loose fitting jeans and shirt. Looking to her I realise the clumsiness of our encounter must have been entirely my doing, as she rhythmically saunters over, her hips swaying left to right, and back again, a hypnotists watch would have stopped dead to take notes. I force back any nervous jokes that could ruin this seemingly perfect moment and she slides on top of me, moving her tongue down my less than impressive frame. “Stop being self conscious. Fuck! Stop thinking about being self conscious.”

My boxers are being pulled off and all I can do is blush, I prepare for the inexperienced grinding of tongue and teeth and…. ‘Oh Jeeesus!’

Afterwards all I could do was lay there, my body oozing, the chemistry of alcohol and orgasmic release spiralling through my mind. I close my eyes and revel in satisfaction.

The corridor, it’s darker than I remember; the doors are grimier, but the knobs, always so well polished, shining brass in an abandoned decaying world. The crying is different.

I must have past out, I only closed my eyes for a second and she’s gone. Was she a dream? The smell of the room tells me otherwise. It’s still dark out. I reach out for my phone and check the time, “3:00 am”, breathing heavily I tell myself ‘it’s too late.’ Even as I’m dialling I tell myself, it’s too late, I listen to the empty ringing and wait. 

‘Hello?’ There it is, that voice, that beautiful, familiar, drowsy voice. I stick my courage and answer, ‘Louise?’