Sometimes the real you isn’t you at all. But family and friends convince you you’re definitely one of them. No-one’s ever fit succinctly into the unique holes they’re cutting for others, but you’re the closest and that’s got to be fateful or, at the very least, meaningful. No-one considers they’re desperate, they’ll let anybody be what they’re after if it means one less night looking in TV guides, a Sunday without a solo cinema trip. Although some people like that, but it’s not what you like but what you should that’s important. So keep the game up, and the extensions plugged in and the hair colour a shade off the other people in your new circles. You don’t want to be dull, but noticeable’s almost as bad in situations when you’re pretending to be who someone else thinks you are.
Our out loud jibes at the TV, Jack’s, “Are you fucking kidding me?” and mine “For God’s Sake,” are weekly and this episode Jack even says, “This isn’t Brokeback, it’s not a don’t know how to quit you kind of a situation,” and my agreeal, “They’re not Ross and Rachel,” and then I consider it: “But giving shit up is hard, unlike primary school isn’t a marked chart on the wall demonstrating classmate’s mistakes, when it was easy to win because everyone else’s opt out day wasn’t one for you: schools and churches have different rules according to denominations and where a Lent slip’s a simple Monday fix prayer to jewellery or statues at one, it’s full body immersion at the other. And giving up people for a set number of days won’t get you over them any more than quitting caffeine will stop your body craving it for years after.”
“Why do people bother?” Jack asks me.
“Clean slates,” I tell him. “Same as at New Year’s. A shifting scenery, possibilities, perspectives you might miss. Because being hopeful sucks but sometimes you just have to be however much the enthusiasm kills you.”
Jack says, “I don’t get why terrorists in films, hit men on TV, have such nondescript accents, could be from any country in Europe really, and sometimes it’s not implied where they’re from or why they’re doing what they are.”
“What’s worse,” I tell him, “are the sideline story lines, the inconsequential ones, taking place next to kidnappings or shootings, that involve reality TV show actors and their real life girlfriends trying to make names for themselves as the series curtails, 3 seasons after the leads left, and we already know they couldn’t get everyone back, that cutting deals was tough, that Chad will be back wife-less and Nathan’s in less episodes then everyone else, so we can only assume he’s dead, or partially buried at the least.”
Jack says there’s not a day for what he does, what he is, but there might be someday and he hopes he lives up to the title, and the title him. But not everything’s a perfect fit, and in some shops the labels don’t correspond to the nationally recognised measurements at all. And sometimes you can know too much but praying doesn’t undo anything and wishes are fallacies spawned by books then movies and positive action can be carried out with zero good intentions and I used to like Angelina Jolie, I think, once.
In the first few weeks we’re hands behind backs, using playground games to direct the other to where we want them. But kiss chase was corrupt in that Max could run faster than me and got me 5 days a week through primary school. So we pick subtler games like Guess Who? or that one where you tell someone when they’re getting hot (Clue: if you were hotter you’d be a cooker or a George Foreman grill).
Jack asks if I watch The Office and I ask what else he likes and tell him I gave up TV for Lent one year, except school gave us Sundays off, said we could do what we want, presumably because we’d be confessing that day anyway, so may as well take the opportunity to sin.
“I always gave up sweets,” Jack says. “I like challenges and I like punishment,” and I ask if he knows the Stations of the Cross and he says, “Break times for me were meditations on badly drawn pictures, on graphic stained-glass windows and wooden objects. That’s when I learnt you should never let yourself get too settled, or happy, because love’s a sliding abacus-scale and those that feel their pain deeply get rewarded later,” where I’ve always thought a man would save me, and I can’t blame Renée Zellweger for that.
I add up what I’d get on eBay for my CDs and books and even my films, but I sell myself short already and picking prices for my possessions is a little like my dating history.
I stop watching films when the characters make fun of tramps, when that character gets labeled a terrorist as a running joke, especially when Adam Sandler’s playing two people.
I remember each incarnation of Katie Holmes and each is so separate, like my conquests, with only one major trait in common, otherwise they’re strangers. Jack squints as he looks at the line-up, says, “That one looks like Adam Sandler dressed up as a woman, and that one’s Billy Madison.”
Those films go first, then Punch Drunk Love because Craig liked it.
Jack says, “Some films justify cheating and even endorse it, as if the writer’s after a way of rose-tinting a past they can’t really change.”
I ask for examples and Jack gives a comprehensive list that’s almost faultless, although his romantic comedy knowledge isn’t as full as I’d like in someone I’m considering seriously.
“What about Something Borrowed?” I ask him.
“That I didn’t get,” he replies. “The first half I couldn’t tell who we were vying for. And when she had the chance to fuck Jim Halpert and maybe even marry him and didn’t take it, the character seemed unknowable, as if the writer went back and re-wrote parts of her own life to feel better about them.”
“Isn’t that everyone’s dream?” I ask Jack. “To change things we can’t?”
“Not mine,” he replies, then he reaches for his phone, and I hear the message send, knowing I’m a bad overlap, like two people’s coats on a bus seat awkwardly layering or two flat fridge magnets, one peeling from the heater heat, the other more firmly stuck, only just. Not every action’s comprehensible so it makes sense that in films sometimes people make fucking stupid decisions.
Jack says, “Remember in school when they said Rocky Horror was cult and we agreed thinking they meant cool, indie, interesting to be in to? But really they meant demonic, evil spirits, or whatever the Catholic specifics are for the other, the dark, shadows.”
“Right,” I say, “and you had the tape because your Dad copied it for you when you showed an interest in Andrew Lloyd Webber. And you’d lay in bed listening as you fell asleep, enjoying the departure from Jesus Christ Superstar which seemed a bit like homework in between Baptist Church and Catholic School, and the innuendo was lost on you at eleven, even fifteen, but really the correlation’s uncanny. We’re ants, we’re repressed, think undressing is sin even in front of doctors and we’re so pinned into our clothes any human interaction has to have meaning. We’re on a set track, a plan we can’t veer off of, and sex is so alien to us we get a Janet Weiss sort of a shock when the subject is broached. And we can pretend that Ash Wednesday’s the cut off, the second we give up every wrong thing we’ve thought, but it’s true what you put in your head stays forever, and Richard O’Brien’s the Crystal Maze guy so we don’t buy his being involved in something evil. We can’t compute that. All our favourite movies have the phrase ‘Great Scott’ in them.'”
Jack laughs. “That’s true,” he says. “And what lasts longer anyway: religion or film?” Which seems like a stupid question.
Sometimes, you don’t know, but what you’ve done is actually akin to a crime, and it’s not your fault really because the internet blurred boundaries first when, as a teenager, you could have cybersex with a stranger in any number of chat rooms, and it was never just you but you and Heather or Becky and Kim, and that pre-cursored LOL and was even before grooming came to light with any sort of consequence, before our parents got to grips with the true potential of the net and the inevitable danger of it, and after this there were hours spent on MySpace profiles trying to map people’s bodies based on sets of pictures they’d selected for upload that didn’t altogether create a true picture, but generally a quite attractive one, and you’d swap details, emails, end up on Messenger until two in the morning making innuendos about working out together with no real intention of meeting, and Facebook’s just as fake, in that every post’s a choice on behalf of its owner, so now you’re adding mutual friends and ones you’ve never met, because you’re sure that in the sets of friends of your 300, the 351 on your profile, your person must be out there, that the internet’s increased your chances of meeting that person, and it’s also filled you with all sorts of paranoia, and you’re less sure what etiquette is than you were in those first encounters in Tara’s bedroom, and then in Tim’s, and every gesture, message, poke, post, ill-advised add, is a step in the wrong direction, unless you always intended to border on stalker-like, over familiar, a step away from a police call, one warning towards the official meaning of the word harassment because all it takes is three.