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HomeDrama StoriesStress Lies Repression Devilish

Stress Lies Repression Devilish

A confused young man, in love, surrounded by Lads

So I tried to write you a love song, but it sounded like vomit, so I quickly and dully put any prospect of even private self-expression into the dustbin with all my other shite ideas, those piles and piles of scrunched up balls of paper building up into mountains, soon to unleash avalanches, one in every room of my flat, like Jim Carrey in The Mask the morning after he robs the bank, the detective knocking on the door as he tries to shovel cascading cash back into the closet he oh-so-unwittingly opened – somebody stole your pyjamas, Mr Ipkiss?! - except, of course, dollar bills are worth something, while my ideas: priceless. Worthless.

I don't even think I do love you. You just, so far at least, endlessly fascinate me. And I hope it comes to an end soon, I really do, because there is a serious question as to whether or not I am still in my right mind, with all this stress, and all these lies , and all this repression, and the devilish way you seem to encourage me, without saying or doing anything. I guess the growing insanity, coupled with the fact that I don't even really love you anyway, was why my attempted love song was so babblingly incoherent and tunefully awful.

My father it was who I first ever heard use the word “devilish” in context. He was a local Elder at the church by this point, and he was getting very into it; a bit too into it for my liking. When I first started seeing Carrie Burdette shortly after her family pitched up in town, I think my dad was quietly pleased I'd got my first girlfriend, at the rather late age of seventeen, but that didn't stop him from warning me against doing the “devilish thing” in having sex before we were “serious”. I asked him about the whole sex-before-marriage thing, and he'd blustered that he didn't think you could take the term “marriage” too literally as far as the Bible went; he interpreted it as just meaning a “loving union.” What about if a sheep and a farmer love each other, I'd asked, and that was the end of that conversation.

Carrie has a brother: Robin. He's my flatmate, here in Edinburgh. We'd made the move to the Big Smoke in the same year, and actually became better friends in student halls in Edinburgh than we had been in our small home-town, Haddington. I suppose I was normally only round at his house as Carrie's guest; at her side for the family dinners; hanging out in her room. But Carrie and I split up, and she's in Durham these days.

I can remember the first time I met Carrie. Higher English; Canterbury Tales. She was the new girl, and my double-desk had a vacancy. We didn't say much for the first wee while, until she glanced at me while Mr Wilkinson waffled through The Wife of Bath's Tale and asked:

“What the fuck is he talking about?”

Which made me laugh, and I looked at her and immediately liked her. She had this ease with people, and light laugh, and lovely white opal skin which could cherry-blush. English was the last class of the day, and I walked with her to the car-park, where her cool-dude gap-year brother, Robin, waited in his car to pick her up.

I still miss her sometimes. A whole lot, in fact. We split up two years ago. I've not seen her since Robin's birthday party last year, which was quite the riotous student halls affair, pink lambrini and deadly cheap cider and bad hash and all the rest. As drunk as I was, it was really great to see Carrie, and we talked for a long time. But there was one thing she said, and I still remember it, it shook me up so bad:

“It was ...”

So what happened was, Carrie went to Durham and I got accepted into Edinburgh to do Theology. I'm into my second year now and I still don't really know why I'm doing it. I guess I just want to understand. I'm really good at it; I can hear the pangs of desperate doubt in my father's voice every time we start getting into one of our theological, philosophical debates over the phone. I can tell he, too, just wants to understand … doesn't want to just blindly accept … wants there to be some logical basis to his faith. My father is no blind follower, but he is certainly … a confused man. Like father like

Robin Burdette ended up living mere doors down from me in halls. Eight, to be precise; just the next block. The students in our blocks quickly became mutual acquaintances for Fresher's week, and shortly thereafter, good friends. Us rowdy bunch of lads, shirted and eau de toilette'd, hair slicked and styled, out on the New Town – GET IT DOWN, GET IT DOWN, GET IT DOWN YOU ZULU WARRIOR – pulling scantily-clad orange specimens on sticky dancefloors – GET IN THERE MATE, SHE'S WELL FIT – staggering home into taxis with our new-found fake-tanned loves – HERE MATE, YOU GOT A SPARE JONNY? - and there were times when Robin entertained and wooed so coolly the finest of ladies that I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd put on a yellow feathered hat, his face suddenly green, and gone “Ooh, somebody stop me!” - and sorry dad, but none of it ever seemed devilish to me.

Just mundane.

More than ever, I missed the simplicity and sweetness of Carrie. But we split up for a reason.

“It was never ...”

Shook me up so bad.

Now the stress is so ever-present, the lies covered in masks so thin, the repression so suffocating, your devilish eyes glinting and laughing at me over a drink. What would Jesus do? What would dad say?

I hear the front door going; I know Terry's home, ill in bed with a cold. John's got Uni 'til 5 he said, so it must be Robin.

“Alright man? You still on dinner duty the night?” he says in my doorway.

“Aye mate, big pot of Spaghetti Bolognese, it's going to be the tits,” I say.

“Look forward to it,” he says, and heads to his room.

John, Terry, Robin and I got ourselves a really nice four-bedroom in Tollcross for a pretty good price – not bad for Edinburgh, anyway. It's good fun; lad's banter; lots of boozy sessions; wireless broadband; Sky plus; decent-sized kitchen for dinner parties. It's all the same old faces popping in and out from student halls, the only difference is now we can entertain them in the comfort of a well-insulated, aesthetically pleasing and non-sardine-tin property.

You'd think I'd be happy, but you don't really know me. Nobody does. That's just a fact.

“It was never really ...”

I put my book down and go through to the kitchen to start cooking dinner. Like any testosterone-fuelled activity, cooking has become very competitive in our flat. We take it in turns to out-do each other, which is undoubtedly massively improving our culinary skills, as we trawl the BBC Good Food database for the next great dinner we can make. Spicy bean and sausage casserole is topped the next day by Mexican Lasagne which is topped the day after that by fillets of sea-bass dressed in garlic, chilli and lime … it can be an expensive game, but it's fun and nourishing. I'm not as competitive as the other boys though, and I'm keeping it wholesome and good but simple tonight. Spaghetti Bolognese.

I start chopping onions and Robin comes through and plonks himself at the kitchen table with a Playstation magazine.

I find myself struggling with a hunky clove of garlic; my fingers, not particularly nimble at the best of times, are failing to line up the sliced garlic to dice it and then chop it finer still. Robin's grinning over at me, then gets up.

“ Here's some tricks of the trade,” he says, and budges me aside by the chopping board. “Wee bit of salt, right, and then you can grind the garlic against it, just really rub it and crush it, and you can get it nice and fine … well, that's not perfect, but you get the idea, honestly, saves tons of time ...”

He's still talking, but I'm away … Canterbury tales … the cool gap-year dude waiting by the car … the smooth wooing of any girl he wanted … the similarities with his sister, the smiling eyes

“It was never really ...”

their insistent glint, the white opal skin, so blush-able.

Robin stops speaking, looking at me strangely, and I know it must be because I am staring at him

“It was never really me, was it? It was my brother, wasn't it?”

It shook me up so bad when you said that, Carrie, because you knew , you knew , in spite of it all, in spite of everything I'd done to bury it, mask it, hide it, lie , and with that had come the stress, and the repression, and the terrible devilish way I felt, and the devilish world, and those devilish eyes of yours, Robin, which smile and glint and laugh and endlessly fascinate me, like your skin does and your mannerisms and your strong tall body and your light humour and Carrie, when you said that, I was drunk and I wasn't thinking and as such, honesty spewed forth, my mask ripped off, and Ooh, Somebody Stop Me but nobody could, and I just came out and said it, my burning Mr Hyde's guilty confession:

“From the first time I met him.”

Canterbury tales ... the gap-year cool-dude with a car. And Carrie looked hurt, but not surprised – more sad than stricken. I'd already broken her heart; this was just a small punch to the kidneys. As for dad, I could never “come out” to him, what a ridiculous premise! A blind follower he may not be, but he's a follower nonetheless. Accept a gay son? Oh, he'd do it, at least to my face, but he'd torture himself about it, and ask the Minister for guidance, and pray for my spiritual future, for the rest of his days, because he's a confused man, like father like son. The looks he'd give me when he'd think I wasn't looking. You'd wondered, hadn't you dad, when most of my teenage friends were girls and not boys, when I didn't take any interest in football, or church, or even Top Gear. Then there's the look Cameron Diaz gives Jim Carrey at the film's culmination, up on the bridge – Sssmokin'! - as she throws the mask over her shoulder into the river, and Jim Carrey no longer has to pretend to be anything other than what he is, and they embrace, and kiss.

It's Robin who's looking at me now, strangely, surprised, unsure, and now the question is: do I keep the Devil guessing?

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © All work the sole property of Dan Vevers, 2011

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