Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

I woke up in the foetal position, on my back, on Trev's tiny sofa, with an old curtain over me.

This curtain was a step up from the tea towel I once found draped over me when I woke there. Then the usual panic-stricken search for phone, wallet and glasses. My wallet was in my back pocket. My glasses were on the floor over by the television as if flung there. No phone, though. Oh, good.

I had not the faintest idea what the time was. I peered out of the grimy window to try to gauge the hour by the strength of the daylight. The sky was overcast, the road empty.

Difficult to tell. There wasn't a clock in the sitting room. Nor was there one in the kitchen. I opened Trev's bedroom door and crept in to look for his phone.

Trev, all head and massive, tattooed torso, was sleeping on his side, gently, like a big baby.

In his bedroom's half-light, I tried to see him through the eyes of the metaphysical poet John Donne, who also admired and sought the company of what he called 'fighting and untrussed gallants'. Not that I would have lasted five minutes among those toughs in tights.

I would have been mercilessly derided as 'Mr What's-the-Time?' no doubt, or as a ludicrously lightweight drinker.

I spotted Trev's phone on his bedside table next to his Lambert & Butler Golds and his disposable lighter. It was a smartphone. Not a brand I recognised. The hard casing was partially melted. I tried to wake it up. I didn't know whether to tap the screen, swipe it, or talk to it nicely. I tried all three methods and succeeded only in opening Trev's eyes. The eyelids sprang apart, instantly awake. 'All right, Bud?' he said, genially. 'What time is it?' I said.

He took the phone and activated it. 'Ten twenty-nine, ' he said. He showed me the phone's home screen to prove it. Virtual raindrops were streaming down the inside. He switched on a pair of windscreen wipers that squeaked realistically and he roared with delighted laughter at the absurdity of it. My mission to pinpoint my position in time as well as space now accomplished, I walked around to the empty side of his bed, lay down on my back beside him, groaned and expired.

He reached out for a fag, poked it between his lips and put a long flame against the end.

The filter was submerged entirely by Trev's encircling lips and he sucked the guts out of the fag in four or five Herculean tokes. …

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