Earlier this year I found myself in Tesco Express in Finsbury Park trying to buy some wine. I can’t remember when exactly this thrilling exchange of money for wine happened, only that it was cold and wet. Nor would I care to remember exactly when it happened. I’ve fallen out with my memory, you see, my memory refuses to do what I tell it – it refuses to remember stuff for me – so in turn I’ve decided not to even try and remember stuff as some sort of punishment. That’s right, I’m ‘punishing’ my own memory now. Weirdly, this has left me feeling both noble and elated.
Anyway, I do remember it raining outside and the floor being wet inside and that it was around ten at night and the place was full of plums buying shit food for their shit selves. I was in a foul mood. I’d just finished work and all I wanted to do was drink wine, smoke and try to sleep without my shoulders hunched up at the side of my head. But there was a massive queue of people in front of me and I felt slightly uncomfortable buying my wine surrounded by all these people because my wine cost £3.69 and had a blurty, fun label on it saying “Spanish Red Wine!” or something like that and just looked a bit, well, shit.
I remember (fuck you memory) that the wine cost £3.69 because I’d checked my bank balance shortly before leaving work and was disappointed – though not entirely surprised – to find out that I only had £3.73 in my account. This meant that those bottles of wine that everyone thinks are quite good because they’ve stopped being eight pounds and are now four pounds were out of my reach, financially speaking.
And as I queued I spent a lot of time right next to a whole display of these half-price wines. I could sense people looking at me. I could feel their eyes going from my blurty “Spanish Red Wine!” to the much more tasteful display of red wine behind me and I could feel them thinking. “Why’s he not getting that red wine, the stuff that used to be eight quid? It’s only four pounds now and much better than the shit he’s about to drink. What’s the matter with the man?”
That’s what they were thinking. And I couldn’t explain to them that I only had £3.73 left in my account – not with my eyes, anyway – so I took out my bank card, a card that they only give to fourteen year olds and psychiatric patients, a card without even a hologram on it or an embossed number, a card I’m surprised that before sending out they even bothered to put my name on rather than just scribbling “FUCK YOU, CLOWN” all across it, and started tapping it on my wine bottle. “Happy now?” my eyes said, “Happy that you’ve reduced me to this – to tapping my Visa Bastard Electron card on my “Spanish Red Wine!” bottle just to prove a point. Well fuck you. And fuck me too. Fuck us all.”
That, I hope, is what my eyes said.
When it was my turn at the register I felt my face flush as my card was put through and there was a moment that just hung there when I thought my card was going to be rejected. “If my card gets rejected,” I thought, “I’m going to kill everyone in this shop. But not right now, I’ll find out their addresses and over a number of – ” but it wasn’t rejected and I walked out of the shop but before I got to the door I opened the bottle and began taking a huge swig of it thinking “That’ll show them” but it didn’t show them, if anything it showed me because I slipped on the wet floor and did a sort of strange-wobbly-drinking-dance thing out of the shop.
I should explain here that the rubber on the bottom of my shoe had worn away, exposing the wood underneath. Not fully, but enough in certain places to cause me to slide around and slip over when it rained. And when I was back out onto the mean streets of Finsbury Park I took very small, very careful steps. Everyone walked past me, brimming with confidence. People who I’d seen way back in the queue at the Tesco Metro and who’d witnessed my drinking-dance as I left the shop walked past me, brimming with confidence. A man who I judged to be about 90 walked past me brimming with confidence, and when that happened I decided to go into my fake limp and periodically stop and swig from the bottle when I sensed people coming up behind me, just so that I wouldn’t feel the shame of them walking past me, brimming with confidence.
That was a low point. But I managed to fake-limp my way to a friend’s flat where I was staying and I sat on his balcony and drank the remaining wine and smoked three of four cigarettes and thought: “It’s going to get better. I’ll stick at my well-paid job in Mayfair and I’ll buy lots of pairs of shoes. And I’ll smoke cigars and things will be fine.”
They’re not though are they? Fine, I mean. Things – they’re not fine. If anything, they’re a lot worse: I still have and wear those shoes (except when it’s raining) and they’re the only shoes I have apart from a pair of George Costanza Nikes that are falling to bits. And everything else is pretty much falling to bits too. My shoes, then, are a sign. A sign that I need a new pair of shoes, but also a sign that perhaps I need a new way of living my life. I think the way I’ve carved out isn’t working for me.