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Jimmy the Love-Virus.
By John T. S. Teller.
We're about ten minutes from Rob's house. He lives in the posh part of town, about a mile from the shitty Social-Housing estate I live in. Me and Sam are going to clean Rob's car, and then pick up the computer. I'm thinking about Rob. "What do you think, Sam? Do you think he likes me?"
"Mum says he hasn't stopped talking about you since you walked across his lawn. I reckon he must fancy you, if he's given you a computer. He was out with a girl last night. Doesn't that make you jealous?"
"A bit. If he'd been out with a bloke, I'd be fucking furious."
Sam laughs. I laugh. We reach the corner of Willow Row and walk to Rob's house, and unlock the side door to the garage. "Bloody hell, Sam, look at that!"
"Blimey, it's even got a flat screen monitor. Let's see if we can boot it up."
"No. We'll do that at my house when we get back. Can you stop over tonight?"
"Yeah, no probs. We'll do it then. That bloody thing you've got now is a waste of space."
"I know. I managed to get it going on Tuesday, and then it conked out again."
"Perhaps he'll have some porn on it. Mum reckons he swings both ways, so there might be some blokes on it you fancy, and some tarts for me."
"You've got a mind like a sewer rat. Shut your gob, and give us a hand cleaning the car."
The taxi driver shoots off, and leaves me and Sam by the side of the road with all the computer stuff, and Sam stands guard while I carry the case up to the flat. I return for the monitor, and he carries the rest of the stuff up with me.
Mum gives me a sour look. "I hope that thing doesn't use too much electric. You can pay for it yourself, if it does."
"It's ok, Mum; it's a power saving thing. It'll use less than that old one. Can we have something to eat? I'm bloody starving. What about you Sam?"
"Yeah, me, too. I could eat a bloody horse."
Mum gives Sam a sour look. "You'd better start bringing a packed bloody lunch then, Sammy. It's bad enough feeding Hungry Henry, without feeding the rest of the neighbourhood."
Sam puts on one of his best angelic smiles. "You know you love me, Mrs T. I'll have the same as Jimmy, please."
While we're eating, I text Rob to tell him the car's done, and to thank him for the PC. There's no reply. Perhaps he's busy. At eight, I've still not had a reply, so I text him again. No reply. I'm getting worried.
Out of sight, out of mind am I? Don't be daft; he's been brill with me up to now. It must be another reason. I hope he's ok. My Rob: my beautiful Rob. Please let nothing happen to you now, not after all I've been through. I changed my paper round because of you! Willow Row: the posh end. It cost me thirty quid to persuade Flinty to swap rounds. I think it's worth it now, but three bloody months! Yes, that's how long it took for me to get you to notice me. Haha. It did the trick. I saw you sitting at your desk, and I knew you'd see me go past the window. Haha You fell for it, hook, line, and bloody sinker. All those months I'd gone trying all ways to get you to notice me, even getting your paper wet on purpose so you could give me a rollicking, because that's the worst thing a paper lad can do. Some people go mad about it, but not you! Oh no; not even a slight moan. I almost gave up on you when I caught you cleaning your car, and actually handed the paper to you in June, and you just took it from me and thanked me like the polite man you are. Fuck, you were even reading it as I left you. I wanted, then, to try and talk to you about football or something, but I was tongue-tied. Sorry, Rob; that was my fault. I was just too bloody shy. But I've got you now, I think. Oh yes; the walk across the lawn was a stroke of genius. Haha. It was a gamble, but it paid off, and you couldn't fool me. I saw it in your eyes when you were rollicking me. I gave you one of my special smiles, and you couldn't resist, could you? From there, well, this is beyond my wildest dreams, so please be safe, Rob. I love you more than anything in the world.
Rob hasn't texted me by the time we're all round the telly, and the arts program comes on. Debbie is here, and so is that bloody Pauline. She knows I'm gay, so why doesn't she sod off and find someone else to bugger? Bloody wenches! Little Tracey is ok, though. Debbie's youngest is tucked up by my side, and I've got my arm around her. I don't mind if she loves me; she's only ten. They're introducing Rob now. He walks into the studio in front of an audience, shakes hands with the interviewer, and sits down on a nice sofa. He gets a good applause from the audience when he's introduced to them. He's gorgeous. Thank God he's ok.
"Ladies and gentlemen, tonight, our guest is Robert Spencer, prolific and successful author, despite the fact that he's only twenty-six-years-old. Rob, first of all, I want to ask you why you think you've been so successful?"
Probably because I'm simple. (Interviewer and audience laugh.) I mean that in terms that I don't aspire to intellectual greatness; to works of great art and fiction. I'm never going to be able to do that, because I'm not an intellectual. That doesn't mean I don't admire those who are. Indeed, one of my friends is amongst the greatest wordsmiths of our time, and I'm enthralled with his work. But he writes for one audience, and I write for another. I'm fortunate that my target readership is far more numerous than his. It's the type of reader that's made me so successful, both in terms of volume, and financially. I write for so-called `ordinary people'.
"Is that because you're an ordinary person yourself?"
Yes, very much so. I'm very much like those who enjoy my books, insomuch that I make mistakes in life. Today, when I left home, I left my mobile on the kitchen worktop. I'll be in The City for a week, so I'll need to get the old-fashioned pen and paper out and write to a few people whose number I don't have filed away to let them know my new, temporary mobile number. In fact, I've already done it, and they'll be aware of the silly error on Monday, and I'm sure there are a couple of people right now wondering why I'm ignoring them. Just think about it: that's the beginning of a plot on its own. A life could be ruined, simply because I was absent-minded. The world isn't really complicated... it revolves around incidents, and I like to analyse each one as it happens. I'm quite sure that this forgetful incident will pop up in one of my books one day. Everyday experiences are life, and readers can associate themselves with that simplicity, and that's what I try to take to my readership. And it's successful.
"I know where you're coming from, but you also have other talents. One of them, (the interviewer picks up Rob's latest book) is the way you, unashamedly, deal with emotions. This book, M******, is a perfect example of that. The way you explore emotional reactions rather than actions, is key, in my opinion, to your success. Wouldn't you agree?"
Yes, I would. The beauty of books, even more so than films, where one is usually in the company of someone else, is that you can allow your mind to escape from inhibitions. My readership, I think, likes to take one of my books, retire into themselves, and have a good laugh; a good cry; or even feel hate for a particular character they dislike. I'm an emotional person: I actually cry if I'm feeling sad. To some, that's a crime. Men don't do that, do they? Well, in some people's eyes, so-called `real men' don't. On that basis, I have to admit that I'm not a real man, and I think a lot of not-real-men sneak off with one of my books and have a good cry. Good on them if they do. Do you cry?
(Interviewer laughs.) "Sometimes."
(Rob and the audience laugh.) Good on you. Welcome to my world.
Characters. I've read most of your books, and one thing that strikes me is the strength of your characters. I find that I can easily get into the mind of each character in your books, because you have a special way of bringing them out.
My books, like life, are all about characters. Wonderful characters surround me almost every day of my life. My cleaner, Debs, is a most colourful character. She lives on a Social-Housing estate, and some of the tales she tells me are music to my writer-ears. She's one of the so-called `Under-Class', which I despise as a term. There's certainly nothing `Under-Class' about my Debbie. When she says `jump', I jump, and I wouldn't swap her for anything. Also, I try to keep descriptive narrative of peripheral events to a minimum. You'll find little in my books about how particularly warm it is today, or whether the sun is setting in a particular way, or what colour blooms are giving off what aroma. My descriptive narrative deals with emotions, and emotional events; what people are feeling; or the way they are judging other people. Usually, I do that by dialogue. I think there's no better way of exploring relationships than having characters talking to one another, and I like to flit between characters, so that my readers can explore a relationship from both sides. One should never, ever forget that the most important aspect of any literary work is the reader. I don't write for myself; I write so others can fill a small part of their lives with something they enjoy.
"Rob, the general tone of all the books you write is that you have a disposition towards the disadvantaged, and especially towards young people, whether it be through poverty, or lifestyle. Do you do that deliberately, or is it that you're naturally a socialist at heart?"
Definitely a socialist, with a small `s'. I'm not a political animal; never have been, but that doesn't mean I'm not aware of the awful and disproportional distribution of wealth throughout the world. I try to make small amends by donating to the education of three children in poor parts of the world, and my ultimate aim in life is to create a school, probably in India or Africa. I hate profligacy, although I have to admit that I'm a hypocrite, because I drive a Ferrari, wear a Rolex, and have other expensive things. Sometimes, I hate myself for what I am, but I'm mortal, and I succumb to the good things in life. Having said that, no matter how successful I am or become, I would never go to the ridiculous lengths some go to, and buy expensive yachts and half a dozen houses throughout the world. My home is not pretentious, and my holiday home in Portugal isn't either. Each of them fulfils my simple needs.
"I'm sure there are some prospective writers watching this program, so what advice would you give to them?"
Contrary to what some people think, it's not easy to be a successful writer. I've spent months writing a novel, and then thrown it in the bin, because I just don't like it. Months of time and effort wasted. Sometimes, one can write a novel, and it flows along of its own accord, and you end up with something you like. Other times, even when a plot comes to mind and you know you're going to like the end result, one has to take public taste into account. There are some subjects that are taboo. Very few writers are as brave as Nabokov or Peyrefitte or Rushdie. There are even less brave publishers. I consider myself lucky in that respect. I didn't think my publishers would buy into B** S******, which dealt with the relationship between two boys of different ages, but they did, and now it's my best selling novel. So, it's finding that balance. Both my publishers and I must have got it right on that occasion. Could it happen again? Possibly. But there is a fine dividing line on what the general public will accept, and I like to go as near that line as I can, without overstepping it. So, perhaps that's why I'm so successful. The other vital ingredient is to find a good agent. He or she will take out all the hard work of getting your book into print. My agent, Clive Borthwick, drives me round the bend sometimes, but I wouldn't be where I am today without him. That about sums it up.
"Rob, it's been great chatting to you, and I'm sure our audience and your readers will have enjoyed discovering more about you. You're not married, so my final question for you is, do you intend to marry, and have you got a special person in your life? After all, you are a good-looking young man. (He turns to the audience.) I'm right, aren't I? (Rob's grinning, as the audience applaudes, and gives out a few wolf whistles.)
I've no intentions of ever getting married. If a relationship is strong, it doesn't need legality to make it last. As for the second part of your question, if you'd asked me a week ago, I would have said `no'.
(Interviewer laughs again.) "So, does that mean that you do have someone special in your life now?"
(Rob laughs and winks.) Maybe, but that's for me to know, and for you and the audience to guess.
(Everyone is laughing now. The interviewer holds up Rob's book and shows it to the camera.) "Having read Rob's latest book, M*****, I can highly recommend it. Ladies and gentlemen - Robert Spencer." (Loud applause, and Rob waves as he leaves.)
End of interview
Everybody is laughing and giggling. Sam points a finger at Debbie. "You're famous, Mum. And you can make him jump."
Debbie laughs. "I hope the dole don't find out I'm working for him. I've seen him on telly before, but he had a special sparkle tonight, and the audience loved him. He was brilliant. Did you hear the wolf whistles? The daft bugger's forgot his phone. I wonder who this new love in his life is?"
Pauline grunts. "He didn't say he'd got one."
"He as much as said so to me, girl. You need to read between the lines. I know him better than you. I'll ask him who it is when he gets back. I know he's got something on his mind, because he forgot my wages this week, and I had to ask him for them. He's never done that before. He's in love all right. What's up with you, Jimmy? You look as though you're coming down with something. Either that, or you're tired to death."
"Yeah, I'm tired. I'm going to bed. Are you coming, Sam?"
"Aren't we going online? I thought we were going to start a Facebook tonight."
"So you've got it working then?" That from Mum, who only just managed to get home in time to watch Rob on TV.
Sam interrupts. "Yeah, it's brill, innit, Jimmy?"
"It's ok. I'm going. Night all."
I'm feeling utterly pig sick as I go to the bedroom. This new love in his life must be that woman he took out on Friday night. Why didn't he tell me? He must know how I feel. Or is he thick? What have all these texts been about if they weren't about us? And to do it on telly is horrible. I wanted to cry when he said it.
Sam comes into the bedroom. "What's up with you?"
"Yes, there is! I thought you would have been over the moon."
"Why? He's just been on telly and told you why he hasn't texted you. He was speaking to you, and not that lot that was there. He did it to stop you worrying. Are you friggin' thick?"
"I must be. I didn't realise he was in love with that bird he took out."
"You thick sod, Turner! You're as thick as fucking pig shit. What makes you think it's that bird? (I don't answer, and Sam adopts a more conciliatory tone of voice.) Right, he's been seeing that bird for ages. He's just shagging her. Why should he suddenly have fell in love with her? What was it he said? `If you'd asked me a week ago, I would have said `no'. So, what's the new thing in his life this week? You, you daft pillock! It was you he was talking about. Apart from shagging you, he's been all over you like a dog in bloody heat. He's texting you every bloody night, coming to watch you play cricket, gives you a bloody PC, and he goes on telly and tells you that the reason he hasn't texted you is because he's forgot his phone. You must be blind, or bloody daft."
I can't help it. I'm lying on the bed with my back to Sam, and desperately trying to stop myself crying. I'm not successful, and a few sobs escape. My world is falling apart, and thoughts of Chris come flooding back. Sam's on me like a leech, and his hug is bear-like.
"Shhh, Jimmy. Shhhh. Sorry mate. But I'm right. I know I am, and I wouldn't piss you about, you know that. (Mum comes into the room.) Bugger off, Mrs T. We don't need you now."
"You ok, Jimmy?"
Sam answers for me. "Yes. Just leave it to me, Mrs. T. We've been through this before with Jimmy, and I can handle it. I'll call you if I need you."
"Ok, Sam. Call me if you need me." Mum leaves the room.
"Jimmy, turn over. I need to hug you. You won't get through this shit without me. I need to talk to you properly. Turn over, Jimmy."
I turn over and sink into Sam's arms and lose myself in my friend's love. This isn't sexual. Sam is my soul buddy who has learned how to help me when I'm in dire straights, dealing with the shit in my life. And I need him now. I'm having difficulty talking through my sobs. "Sorry, Sam. I love him so much, that I can't bear the thought of losing him, now I've just got him to like me. I thought he was talking about that bird. I'm still not sure he wasn't."
"He wasn't, Jimmy. He was talking about you. He loves you. I'm sure he does. I wouldn't say it if I wasn't sure, and Mum says he does as well. She says she can tell. His problem is same as you; he doesn't really know how you feel about him, so he daren't make a prick of himself if he's wrong about you. You two need to tell each other how you feel, and the sooner the fucking better - for both of you. I know you love him, but how much do you love him? As much as you loved Chris?"
"More. Chris was mostly sex. Rob isn't. I was a kid then, anyway."
"Don't you want him to shag you then?"
"Fuck off, Sam! You can be a dirty mouthed bastard at times."
"Hark at her! You ok now? I need a fag."
"Mum will kill you if you smoke in here. I'll fucking kill you if you smoke in here!"
"Let's go back and watch some telly, then."
"No, you go. I think I'll be OK now."
"No chance. You're coming with me. Your Mum will be worried to death about you. Come on, wipe your snotty fucking nose, and let's go."
"I dunno, Sam. I feel all knotted up inside... and I'm not sure you're right."
I walk back down the stairs thinking about what has happened, and although I think Sam is right, there's also the possibility that he's wrong. What the hell will I do if he is wrong? I could never go through another trauma like the Chris episode.
To be continued...
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