Home > Don't You Forget About Me(10)

Don't You Forget About Me(10)
Author: Mhairi McFarlane

Oh, God. She’s right. At first I was bowled over by Robin’s iconoclastic take on my life – yet the solution, now I think about it, was always that I should fix my attitude and stop being such a princess. Wow, I’ve chosen a smart cookie and a challenge here, I congratulated myself, look at how he’ll just come right out and say it. Not: why is this bloke never on my side?

I gave Robin so much leeway because I thought he was ‘Other’ – an emissary from a cleverer, more rarefied and liberal world than that of Georgina the Waitress. Anything I disliked was down to having not caught up with the latest trend yet, not being an artist with an artist’s temperament. I realise, as per the Lou conversation, he was always subtly reinforcing the idea I was two steps behind.

‘He’s this loaded posh boy and his idea of showing you a good time was you trekking out to the flat his parents bought him to get high and listen to his drivel,’ Clem says. ‘Did he ever take you anywhere?’

Ah. No. Again, I told myself that was a sign of how gloriously unmaterialistic he was – not short of funds but uninterested in spendy dinners, showing off, roostering round town, trying to bedazzle me with his wealth. He wanted to talk about cerebral things. (Himself and his work.)

I’m sucking down wine fast and writing myself an internal memo about how an athletic ability to find the positive – the sort that’s drilled into girls especially: be grateful, smile! – isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes you should ask yourself why you’re having to.

And I’m reflecting on other signals I successfully blocked out. The first time I properly introduced Robin to the gang was Clem’s thirtieth. I’d thought Clem spent the whole night on the other side of the room to circulate, that Rav got lordly drunk due to the units in a pitcher of Dark and Stormy and that Jo was quiet due to pre-menstrual issues. Meanwhile, a visibly bored Robin said he ‘wasn’t good in crowds’.

I grimace into my glass:

‘I hope you don’t think I dated a tosser because he’d been on television once or twice.’

‘Oh, no,’ Rav says, ‘We think you dated a tosser as you thought he was something out of the ordinary, am I right? Which, y’know. He was …’

Jo adds: ‘It’s not as if the rest of us are doing any better.’

I wasn’t going to say it but it’s not usually me who brings a cuckoo into the nest. My few boyfriends in my twenties have been albeit-unthrilling, unsuited-to-me, but nice enough guys.

Meanwhile Rav’s carousel of internet dates end up being hard to distinguish from his therapy list – ‘Only I can’t charge for my time’ – Jo is long-term hung up on the charismatic neighbourhood rotter, Shagger Phil, and Clem believes romantic love is a concept designed to subdue and enslave humanity. She’s rarely seeing anyone long enough for us to meet him.

Rav goes to give Clem a hand at the bar for round three and Jo, from under her blunt, glossy brown fringe – her current dip-dyed style is two thirds cappuccino shade vs one third cappuccino foam (she’s a hairdresser) – says: ‘You’re coping very well. I hope we’ve not been too full on.’

‘Oh, thanks. Not at all. I’m appalled by myself to be honest. I’m wondering if he’d not done this, how long I’d have gone on telling myself we made a good couple. Only we were never a couple.’

The excitement of the night and the adrenaline of unmasking Robin’s audacious act is fading, and I’m left with a hollowed-out feeling inside.

‘You were! A couple, I mean.’

‘We weren’t, Jo. I glommed on to someone I thought was cool.’ I rub my temples and resist the urge to bang my head on the table. ‘I didn’t feel feelings, that’s the worrying part. I’m wondering if I’ll ever actually fall in love with anyone now. Perhaps this is it. Least worst options and growing the fuck up.’

I’ve entered the maudlin stage of red wine soakedness.

‘You will find someone! You could have your pick, you really could.’

I hesitate, worrying at the beer mat in front of me. You can say more to someone you’ve known for twenty years, who knows the bones of you. Who knows where you came from.

‘I don’t know if there’s anyone I want to pick. I’ve never fallen for anyone …’ I plough on, unable to meet her eye, reckless in drink: ‘Well, maybe once. When very young and stupid. But turns out it didn’t mean anything.’

‘… Richard Hardy?’ Jo whispers, quizzical, but respectful. Oh God. The danger of someone having known me this long.

As soon as I’ve started this conversation, I realise I don’t want to have it, not now, not ever. The name being spoken has caused my insides to seize up. I make an indistinct ‘mmmm’ noise.

‘I see his photos sometimes. Is it Toronto where he lives now?’

‘Mmmm. I think he moved to Canada, yeah,’ I say, and wish my glass wasn’t empty, so I had a way of keeping my mouth busy.

Jo pats my arm. I can feel her working out what to say and I don’t know how to stop her.

‘I didn’t know that you—’ she starts, and I cut her off.

‘Where has Rav got to? Is he trampling the grapes for this wine?’

She looks round, and I know she senses there’s something amiss, but that this moment will have passed before she’s even started to wonder what it might be.


These first few minutes of consciousness with a hangover are the worst, like waking up in a field after being thrown from a car crash, only you were the car crash.

The end of the night plays in my head: licking salt, biting lemons, throwing back tequilas that tasted like nail varnish remover, laughing like hyenas in the taxi. Urrrrrggggh. Shots. Nothing about the experience can legitimately be called pleasurable and the bell tolls heavily the morning after.

Reality reassembles in a series of bare-skin-filled flashes: Lou topless and strung up, Robin presenting his junk in front of passers-by. It has the quality of a very strange dream, and for a second I think it was one, until my eyes settle on a tattered I’m Not Being Funny But tour poster on my floor with NOB BAG written on Robin’s forehead in lipstick.

Oh God, did I make much noise? Karen will go spare. She works a week of night shifts alternating with a week of day shifts at a biscuit factory and I regularly forget which is which. When I moved in I said: ‘Do we really eat so many biscuits that we need biscuits to be baked at night?’ and she said ‘Is that a joke or are you really that stupid?’ which set the tone for our co-habitation.

I poke a lizardy tongue out of a dry mouth, try stretching limbs, my hinges creak. I’ll have a fat Coke, two Nurofen Lemon Meltlets and try for another two hours, I think.

What time is it? I tip my phone towards me to check and see a text message from an unknown number. I prop myself on my elbow – seeing myself in the glass chest of drawers opposite, hair like the late Rick Parfitt on a Quo comeback tour, why does drunk-sleep always give you root lift at the crown? – and swipe to unlock.

Hi Georgina, this is Devlin, Mark gave me your number, said you could give us a hand at the wake this avvo. Can you be here around three? LMK if that works, we’re pretty desperate!

Fuuuuuuuuc … I’ve got Mark’s client’s job! The one thing Esther doesn’t want me to fuck up! Must cancel must cancel CAN’T CANCEL. I need to not enrage my sister, not to mention the money – there’s a second text offering a pretty healthy chunk of cash in hand (plus ‘any tips you can cadge’) that’ll tide me over until next month at least.

It’s half eleven. I’m summoned for three. Much as I could do with another hour, better get a move on – oversleeping would be fatal.

I have a hot shower, spend ages on make-up that’s supposed to disguise my condition. I know this is temporary, with pink eyeballs and grey skin. In a steamy mirror, you convince yourself you’ve done a magical Lazarus by piling on the cosmetics, then as the day wears on, catch your exhausted reflection and see Baby Jane.

I can’t face solids yet. I drain a strong black coffee, gritty with white sugar, while Jammy the tortoise gives me a shrewd look that says – rough as arseholes again, are we? My my.

Oh, good. Karen’s left one of her love notes on the kitchen table.


It seems we have a TAMPON GOBLIN. This mythical creature sneaks around stealing sanitary items. I had a box of Super Plus, with approx. three left, now none. Had to use your Lil-Lets. If I wanted Lil-Lets I would buy Lil-Lets. Plus I have a heavy flow and they have nothing like the absorbency. Plz replace ASAP.


PS adding this at 6 a.m. as leaving for work: after crashing around your bedroom (alone? I assume) for an HOUR at 2 A.M. you think you can play your Taylor Swift songs on headphones and I won’t hear you SINGING ALONG. THE DISRESPECT IS STAGGERING.

Given I can’t remember getting home, this will mean buying apology cava, as well as more Tampax.

I’m absolutely sure I didn’t use hers, Karen has a faulty memory and a relish for persecution, just one of the many reasons it’s such a privilege to share with her.

She also has no sense of humour so drawing Dobby the House Elf and captioning him ‘Blobby’ is a definite no.

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