Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

Credit: Jeremy Clarke

'I'm wasted,' said Trev, meaning not that his life is futile, but that his mind was overwhelmed by illegal drugs. He conceded it. It wasn't often that drugs ruined him, but tonight they had, and credit where credit's due.

We were a disparate post-pub gathering of about a dozen people. At a push you might call it a party. The house was small, the party confined to a brightly lit kitchen and a square, semi-dark living room. Everyone bar me was in the kitchen doing this, that and the other. I was standing in the darkness of the living room listening to Hawkwind on the CD player and thinking that surely they were the greatest band in the world, ever. Then Trev came in from the kitchen with this latest report on the state of his mind.

He placed his hands on my shoulders and made a speech. 'You, bud,' he said, 'are one great man. You put me to shame. I stand before you now ashamed because I'm not one tenth of the man you are. I'm glad to know you, bud. You are quality. Come here.' Then he waved me towards him, inviting me to give him a man hug. So I stepped forward and tried to encircle him with my arms, but they were too short for the job. And we stood there like that, in the semi-darkness, with Hawkwind forcing the mental pace. And then he released me, regarded me solemnly, and returned to the kitchen. He must have been very wasted indeed.

And then another, different figure entered the room. Although the company was small, and I had been there for hours, I hadn't so far managed to speak to anybody new, or introduce myself, or even to find out whose home this was. ( I'd followed the crowd there unquestioningly.) I was enjoying a rare holiday from my inner critic, I liked myself for once, I just didn't feel much like saying anything. Words seemed otiose and inadequate. 'That for which we find words is already dead in our hearts,' said Nietzsche. 'There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking.' It was sort of like that. Sometimes I danced, sometimes I stood licking my lips to the music, which seemed acceptable in that house. Not speaking and licking one's lips was something understood there.

Then this other bloke came in and urged me to grip his hand with an arm wrestling-type clasp as a sign of his brotherly love. …

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