I woke up around half nine, AM, with a crippling headache and the taste of garlic and onions lingering in my mouth—a taste so stale, that until I managed to chomp down some toothpaste, it intermittently tickled my gag reflex, causing me to puke into my mouth and swallow.
But that wasn’t unusual, waking up regretting the last few fateful shots of Tequila and Apple Sours after a Saturday session in The Cross is quite commonplace.
All in all, I don’t really hang out with many people my own age, so propping up the bar of The Crown and listening to the town’s veterans (bumbling raconteurs with a tenuous grasp on language) tell tales of past hardships, woe and how people of our generation have no backbone (or attention span) is quite comforting. And one day, I’m sure it’ll provide the spark of inspiration I need for that award-winning novel of mine. I suppose I should be insulted by the slurs of those washed-up old codgers but in a strange way, I tend to agree with them.
Anyhow, my aunt bellowed for me in that crackly smoker’s tone of hers and just like clockwork, it was time for her meds. Like any other day, I knocked up the usual cocktail of pills to cure her ills and took a little something for myself: just a couple of prescription painkillers to numb my head and make things a little groovy for a while. She didn’t talk much when I fed her the pills and water—the old girl was weak and not having a great day so I shoved her onto her side, tucked her in on the understanding that I wouldn’t need to tend to her for at least another few hours.
I negotiated my way down the minefield of creaky cracks on the stairs and ate a sugary mound of wheat puffs while listening to soothing reports of violence and drudgery on STUNT FM’s local hourly news bulletin. It was then that I knew, Sunday was going to be another day to be cast on the scrap heap of a weary mind.
I couldn’t be bothered to wash up so I abandoned my bowl, hopped up the stairs, had a deviously long, soapy shower, slung on my lounging slacks and started to window gaze, a bonafide hobby of mine. Due to the effect of the pills, the molten mash of chimney pots and tangerine street lamps had an additional glow, as if the shy and retiring colours lost in the landscape had come out of hiding to perform for me, and me only. I’ll always remember how comforting that felt.
When my eyes came back into focus I saw someone smoking in the garden of the terrace directly opposite me, a girl who looked to be my age, and then it hit me like a shot of morphine up the arse: it was Daisy Pegg. I wouldn’t have believed it but that ashen complexion, auburn hair and I-don’t-give-a-shitstance were simply unmistakable.
Now, she may not sound like the canine’s gonads to you, but I can assure you that everything about her is alluring—she’s the unattainable drug on the black market and ever since I can remember, the girl’s had an overwhelming psychological effect on me. I couldn’t believe she was standing there in her mum’s garden after all those years. I just could not believe it: my wet nightmare.
I’ve known her since time began. Her mum and my aunt used to go to the pub together. We used to play on the swings at nursery and I’d always share my milk with the girl even when she guzzled all of hers. She always took it too. We learned to ride our bikes together, pilfered pick ‘n’ mix from the local shops, helped each other with our homework and our families even went on holiday together, once. It was all peaches and cream until we hit puberty, mind you. She developed a pair of Milk Puffers (or bosoms, as conservative people call them) and as a teenage lad, I suddenly found myself longing for a piece of that sweet anatomical pie. As you may have guessed, I was too gutless to even try to make a move, and something in me didn’t really want to. As a result, I became a spectator to the unrelenting love life of Daisy Pegg.
We still talked occasionally but being a sulky teenager, I distanced myself from her and turned to books and spending school lunchtimes kicking a football around with the unpopular lads. They had the collective social skills of a jellyfish and didn’t have one competitive bone in their bodies, so I felt like a king. Plus, it was an easy way to kill the time between life’s vital scenes without having to make new friends.
I’d often try and stare into her window in the evenings as hers was directly opposite to mine, but what was once an open portal became a black hole of segregation, with the curtains closed.
In lieu of communication with Daisy, I’d often consult my laminated Jazz pamphlets for hours on end, just to distract myself from the boredom (the teenage mind is a terrible thing; the adult one is worse when I think about it).
Then one day, without warning at the age of sixteen, she just vanished. No goodbye, no letter. Nothing. After a few weeks I worked up the courage to knock on the front door and query Daisy’s disappearance with her mum, but I was shrugged off with an explanation along the lines of she’s been given a great opportunity far, far away so just leave it at that. Over time I lost interest and just cracked on with life, after all, I had things to do, and I actually started to get a bit of female attention, so it didn’t matter, really.
Seeing her sauntering around her mum’s front lawn after eight long years made me realise that it did matter. Yes, it had always mattered and somehow, at that precise moment, it mattered more than ever. I crouched low to the left-hand side of my bedroom window with my nose just resting on the seal and peeped as she pulled out another one of those pencil-like smokes from her purse and puffed away during what looked like a long and in-depth phone conversation. I recall thinking that it must have been her boyfriend or husband—a huge bloke with a six-figure salary and a top of the range sports car: a real alpha male. She was on the phone for what I thought was ten minutes, but it turned out to be two hours and I secretly watched, statuesque and attentive: a loyal hound.
When she ended the call and glanced up at my window I cowered and dropped to my knees in an instant, skimming the end of my nose on the coarse wallpaper on the way down. I just kneeled there, stunned. Anyone who walked in at that moment might have thought I was meditating or praying to Mecca, but I wasn’t—no, I was lost in the all-encompassing mantra of Daisy Pegg.
After casting a cautious glance to see if she was still there, I realised that I hadn’t checked on my aunt for hours and it was starting to get dark, but she was okay, if not still a little unresponsive. I hand-fed her a Sunday feast of uppers, downers, pain dampeners, minestrone soup and once again, left her to her psychedelic dreams, knowing that in the Realm of Slumber, her life was more interesting, more meaningful.
Much like the start of the day, nothing particularly interesting happened other than the obligatory shitting, eating, breathing, thinking, pacing and general time-wasting, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind, and it was as exciting as it was scary.
What was I going to do? How long was she going to be in town? Maybe forever? Would she even remember me? If she did, would she actually talk to me? Why did she look up at my window? This cycle of thoughts continued to spiral through my mind and I was certain that a good night’s sleep wasn’t on the cards, so I took a small overdose of Night Nurse, slumped face down onto my pillow and as my consciousness drifted away, I decided that the next day, I was going to have a shave, iron my shirt, put on my best cologne (not that one from the market that smells like boiled cat piss) and go to see her.