ItÂ’s been a stressful bank holiday weekend for me and IÂ’ve pretty much been stuck in the house or the library working. ItÂ’s going OK. I have a week to finish two and a half chapters (and just over 11,000 words now. It helps that I have already written the show).
Tonight I felt the need to go out and at least be around other human beings for a while, so I went to read some of my books in a bar and had a glass of wine. On my way home I was tired and anxious and depressed and my stomach cried out for fried chicken. I had already eaten, and so I tried to resist it, but I somehow convinced myself that just on piece would cheer me up. I donÂ’t do drugs and fried chicken is the crack of the thirty-something overweight man who lives on his own.
By the time IÂ’d got to the counter IÂ’d convinced myself I might as well have two pieces of chicken and chips. I am crumbling so easy.
But before me in the queue I saw myself. Not literally myself, but another version of me. A more extreme version of me. He was about my age, a bit more overweight, had more grey hair and was more of a nerd than me. He was such a regular of the Flavas fried chicken shop that he greeted the confused man behind the counter like an old friend. He actually insisted on reaching over the counter and shaking his hand. He was such a chicken addict that he wasnÂ’t even ashamed to be here, like me. He ordered the same thing I was about to.
Â“Anything else,Â” enquired the man behind the counter.
Â“No!Â” chirped the outwardly happy man (though I am convinced inside he was screaming in anguish at his loneliness. ItÂ’s a guess, based on him being an exaggerated version of myself). But he then looked up at the board and um-ed and ah-ed self-consciously as if the thought of having something else had just struck him. Â“OhÂ…actually just four chicken wings as wellÂ”. He chuckled a little awkwardly. Thank God. He was embarrassed to be here, and ashamed of his greed, he just hid it better than me.
I (quite pointedly not ordering anything extra. It was good to feel superior to the other sad fool who was clearly a proper addict) and we waited for our chicken. I wondered how many thirty-something overweight men were spending this glorious bank holiday night eating unpleasant, artery clogging fried food, before returning to their flats alone.
I thought it was probably 29.
I wondered about saying to him, Â“Hey look, we are similar. I am a bit cooler than you, obviously, but weÂ’re both doing nothing, why donÂ’t we go and have a drink and see if that eases the pain of solitude that fills our heartsÂ”.
Then I looked into his eyes and realised he was thinking of saying exactly the same thing. Perhaps he had seen me jogging round Balham this morning with a notebook and looking at car number plates.
In any case, our chicken was ready, so we couldnÂ’t have gone to the pub even if we hadnÂ’t both been scared about having to talk to a more nerdy version of ourselves.
Instead we both went home to our separate flats. I was glad. The desperation of loneliness clung to him like a lingering fart.
Not me though. No. Because I am cool. Comparitively. The car number plate thing not withstanding.
It is important to me to feel superior to the man who is essentially the same as me, because unlike most nerds I am not comfortable with my nerd status. IÂ’d like to think that in the kingdom of the nerds I am the king. Realistically though I realise I am
more like the junior minister for transport.
Even nerds arenÂ’t impressed by that.
And nerds are impressed by anything.