From Jester To King XCIII
By Simon Barget
Back at Uni they’d split up the lecture group with one side doing law and the other accounting. I didn’t realise till they opened the partition and lo and behold there’s Robin Garbish on the accounting side, and at the point us law people are supposed to just lean in towards them to have sight of their screen, I noticed they’d finished a whole load of stuff we hadn’t even started yet, and when I asked Garbish if I could borrow his notes or even just borrow some paper to start noting it down, he point blank refused and for no better reason than he’s a selfish fat shit. And the amount of stuff they had got through was mind-boggling, and I was wondering how they figured that our side of the room was going to catch up, were we supposed to absorb the stuff through osmosis, and I figured that this thing with the partition had been going on for months now and the amount we’d have to claw back by now was going to be overwhelming and I wondered whether it was even worth bothering.
Garbish gave me a lift home, I think out of pity, but it was only when I realised that he thought I still lived in Finchley that I understood why he’d bothered, since he lived in Finchley too which was round the corner from my old house, but I now lived in Edgware and Stanmore very close to his old house in a flat that Jack Salomon had lent me. And then he asked why Edgware, and I told him someone was renting my flat, but I knew he wasn’t going to be willing to drop me all the way back to Edgware despite all the chit-chat so I got out the car somewhere near Cricklewood Broadway to make it easy for the both of us and just started walking. Things got a bit trippy at this point. There used to be an old telephone exchange at the woods at the back of our house when I was much younger, and I must have got lost a little bit from the main road and got myself all the way off track near to Burnt Oak and Colindale because I was all of a sudden in a place I didn’t recognise, and it was basically a dump and very similar to that exchange, and at the back of the dump were these derelict flats with all the walls knocked down so you could just look straight inside, and there were things still there like a washbasin all plugged in and a mirror above it, but the level of filth in all these objects was incredible, there were slugs in the vanity basin and the toothbrush holder, and then I look up and I see that somehow Garbish is there and has been following me all this time. Garbish seems to know all about this place, the filth and the putridness, he seems completely at home here, and he leads me over a pile of stuff to take me to look at something else implying that this thing that he’s about to show me is going to be impressive, but the thing is just a pile of rubble, and I realise that there isn’t really anything here except this bathroom sink and mirror above it, and when I realise that he’s got nothing to show me, I start complaining to him how absolutely disgusting everything is because it’s as if he thinks this place is acceptable and I want to make it absolutely clear that it’s nothing but a dung-heap. But then he just tells me you can make anything of it that you want, and I have no idea what he was really trying to say, but I just so happened to think of cockroaches and all these cockroaches appear in the vanity basin and all the little nooks and crannies where the slugs had previously been. I felt he was trying to jinx me, freak me out, play mind games with me, because the world he was creating was starting to get dark and scary, it had this pall of festering and drug addiction around it and I just didn’t want to be led there. For some reason he thought it was cute but this was my breaking point and I manage to trample my way over the rubble and back to the road.
Now this is the strange thing. When I got back to my flat I started thinking about the experience with Garbish, the things that I’d seen whether visions or real, I realised that I’d reacted like that because I had a issue with cleanliness and not having the slightest bit of grime showing, so it was weird that when I got back there I noticed for the first time how disgusting it was too, I mean it didn’t reach the levels of the building site grot but I as I looked in the washbasin in my bedroom instead of slugs I found all these wrapping papers for Wrigley’s Extra, the ones with the tabs you get in the flat paper box, no sign of the gum, and the wrappers were just open and flat and hadn’t been scrawled up and they were all floating about hideously in this little bit of water that had collected in the soap niche on top of the basin and then there were all sorts of different tiny tubes of toothpaste that you get free in hotels or in vanity kits on airplanes, and how I couldn’t have noticed all this before is beyond me, and so I start picking the things up and trying to throw them away and then I notice that it’s not just the sink but the entire room is filthy, stuff all over the place, why haven’t I cleaned it, when was the last time I got the cleaner round, and I am appalled because even if I do manage to get through all the stuff and clean it, I realise it’s not the things on the surface making the place dirty, it’s not all the stuff that I can throw in a bin, it’s that there’s dirt ingrained all the place all the time, dirt I hadn’t been alive to, dirt as impostor and demon, dirt as something that infiltrates quietly, dirt slowly collecting around you without you noticing, and I am panicking and sickened , everything around me is foul and I want to leave this flat forever and get back to something substantial, something clean, and why does it always have to be this flea-ridden university-style accommodation just because I’m at Uni?