18th September, 2000
The next Saturday morning, I awoke to the sound of my Auntie Amandine thoroughly sanitising her nether regions. She was in the shower. I could tell she had the shower head set to the high-pressure-jet-setting because I’d already heard her blue ornamental trout get blasted off its fixing and smash on the enamel bottom of the roll-top bath. That trout was designed by some Turner Prize winning artist from Milan. She’ll be gutted. She cherished that trout.
I held my breath as her wet hand groped out the bathroom door and along the hall table for a towel like a wretched prisoner in Alcatraz.
‘David? Will you get your poor, dear Auntie a towel please? This one has cat hair all over it and my eyes are itching.’
I slunk off, letting the PC’s CD-ROM drive rev up to 24x like a Boeing spooling up on a runway. It seems part of the penance of being a 16-year-old estranged from his parents is to act as major factotum to an aunt with dyspraxia. I swear it’s a form of abuse. I have programmed my Nokia to dial ChildLine if I hold down the number ‘7’ for more than 3 seconds.
‘Where do you keep them?’
‘That’s part of the task, David. Find where I keep them.’
‘You’re naked, aren’t you.’
‘No, I’m not naked, you silly boy. I have the bath mat round me. Now help me please…’
I fished in her bedroom cupboard until an avalanche of white mollusc-bundled M&S cotton fell down on to my face. I grabbed one and extended my hand around the bathroom door, eyes gummed shut.
‘Thanks, darling. Oh, you know Maurice is coming later, don’t you?’
Maurice is my Auntie Amandine’s new so-called ‘interest’. They met on Guardian soulmates, and have been on two dates – once to Café Rouge, and once to Aunt Amandine’s house where she made an overly complicated ravioli recipe. He’s Italian and has a peculiar obsession with breadsticks which he uses like a conductor’s baton to denote emphasis when conversing. Dav-eed-i, you-a are-a far-a too-a obsess-ive abowa-dee love! Also, I recently learnt that he named his son from a previous marriage after a porn-star from the eighties. Yes, reader. This is the type of man we’re talking about.
‘You named your son after a porn star?’ I’d asked on his previous visit.
‘Si!’ he’d replied.
‘Ahh, you Eeenglish, Dav-eed-i!’ (breadstick-waft) ‘You iz so full ova-dee seriousness…’ (second breadstick-waft).
Maurice smokes roll-up cigarettes which he lines with tiny worm-like slivers of tobacco. I think Maurice has been in prison. There is a peculiar blackness in his eyes which means the iris merges with the pupil. It gives me an unnatural feeling. Something occult-like.
[Cross-oneself] Touch-wood. [Cross-oneself] [Cross-oneself] [Cross-oneself]
Later that Saturday, I skulked back to my bedroom. I’d left the computer on all night so the air had become fragrant with hot static. I wonder if -.¸¸,.-~*'FreyaButtercup¯¨'*·~- is online. -.¸¸,.~*'FreyaButtercup¯¨'*·~- is my cyber friend and confidant, who might be a girlfriend because we had a conversation once in which we mentioned the word ‘love’, and several winky faces, which now makes me wonder whether my love for Hayley is fundamentally compromised and worthless. I don’t know what she looks like. The closest I have come to seeing her was in a photo of Edinburgh that she uploaded onto MSN Messenger in which her reflection was slightly discernible in the window of a branch of The Edinburgh Woollen Mill. I used Coral Draw to adjust the hue and see more, but to no avail. I bet she knew. Edinburgh looks ludicrously beautiful. The sort of place where you could imagine someone called ¸¸,.*'FreyaButtercup¯¨'*·~ coming from. We have told each other most things; she’s the closest I have to a real-life proper friend. I feel I should mention Hayley to her. Keeping silent about it is so difficult. I need to hear what she thinks.
‘David, that’s the doorbell!’ (Once again, Aunt Amandine got me to do her bidding for her.) She’s like a slave driver but her whip hand is her Slavic tongue. ‘Quick! Quick!’ I bolted down the stairs, being careful not to step on the bits of exposed wood where the threadbare stare runner has been scratched away by Towser. That would be unlucky. As a result, I nearly stacked it off the last two steps and have to do a little routine to negate the potentially-accrued negative karma.
[Cross-oneself] one-spin-on-the-spot [Cross-oneself]
‘Hello-a David!’ (It was Maurice).
‘Oooh yoo seem-a-dee-anxious, David. Tella Pappa Maurice, the problem, eh?’ He was sans breadstick, which somehow made him even less trustworthy and all the more creepy. I’d rather have a cactus shoved up my jacksie than confide in Maurice. Maurice is one of those people who always feigns concern for your welfare. Really, he just wants shot of me. He wants me out the way, so he can steal my old aunt and gold dig her modest fortune. I coughed as a silver wisp of his Benson & Hedges fag smoke invaded my lungs.
‘Uh, you iz ill-a, Da-vid-a?’
‘No, I’m fine. Um, I have to go.’
I ran back upstairs, and swung round my bedpost to the computer. -.¸¸,.-~*'FreyaButtercup¯¨'*·~ had gone. Her little green man had gone grey. Grey. The deathly grey of an offline person. I refreshed the webpage to try and revive some verdant green back into Freya’s pallid MSN icon-man. No avail. Alas, he remained grey.
Well sod you, Maurice, you utter arse-bandit. Thanks for that. Who knows when I’ll next be able to talk to the only sane person about my complicated love life.