Flatmate still texts me.
From time to time, usually last thing at night, I will get a ‘Hello monkey how’s it going? x’, or a ‘Shush you! x’ or even a ‘Miaow!’ (with or without a kiss) out of the blue.
I haven’t seen him for about a month now. We arranged to meet in the coffee shop so he could give me some mail of mine that went to his address.
I was there before him, ensconced with a latte and a book, and I watched him carefully as he climbed the stairs.
I was shocked by how haggard he looked, and by the pained expression that flitted across his face when he saw me.
As usual, he resisted all attempts to talk about anything other than chess, although he was happy to expand on his reasons for being really pissed off
Every sentence started with “I hate…”. It boiled down to this:
I hate the people who get in your way in the supermarket. I hate the noise and the traffic and the fumes. I hate the immigrants, the litter, the people who shout instead of talk, people who use their mobile phones in the street, all the noise pollution. I hate buses, lorries, motorbikes and sirens. I hate people who park wherever they want and block the road. I hate those bloody boom-boom-boom cars that go by driven by idiot alpha males playing that awful bloody music. I hate people who walk around listening to music on earphones. I hate people who walk behind me. I hate people who walk in front of me, crowding the pavement. I hate computers. I hate CCTV. I hate people who take photos all the time. I hate the moronic attitude of the general populous. I hate work. I hate having to pretend I’m looking for a job when I actually never want to work again. I hate being deeply in debt, and I hate the banks for putting me in this situation. I hate all the hassle. I hate not being able to just get on with what I want to do, which is play chess and be left alone. I hate people being in my face bothering me and asking me questions all the time. In fact, I hate people. I can't wait to go and live with my mum in France in September and just drop out for a year.
It was quite a monologue. I just listened. As usual, he apologised afterwards, blaming the fact he didn't talk to anyone these days so it all got bottled up.
Here is one unhappy soul, I thought.
Later, I fired off an email to BK:
Your brother is not in a good way. I'm worried about him. I think he’s depressed – even more negative than usual, really paranoid, looking like shit, completely withdrawn and apparently unable to handle normal life anymore. He's blaming the whole world for everything and denying his problems have anything to do with him. He also mentioned he’s been feeling down and not sleeping but wouldn’t expand. I think being made redundant last year hit him harder than he cares to admit. He's not the same person I knew in 2008. He’s made it plain he doesn’t want to see me so I can’t do anything. Please could you do the brotherly thing and stay in contact - discreetly - so he’s not totally isolated?
(I didn't tell him Flatmate had started to smoke dope again, as Flatmate had specifically asked me not to. It was one of the things that caused our row.
"I don't want BK to know because he'll tell Ma and Ma will worry unneccessarily," he'd said.
"I'm not quibbling about telling BK, I'm quibbling your use of the word unneccessarily," I'd snapped. Turned out he didn't like being talked to that way.)
BK wrote back: forget it, he’s always been like that, leave him to it.
And now weeks have slipped by. I think about Flatmate sometimes, but thankfully without the anguish of before. What I feel for him now is mostly worry, with flashes of frustration that he has chosen to mould himself into this impenetrable fortress, and occasionally anger at his utter denial that what he and I once shared actually meant something.
“What about Flatmate's accident then!” he says.
“What accident? What happened? Is he all right?”
“He hurt his wrist. He got knocked off his bike by a car or something. I don’t know, I got this secondhand from Ma, I haven’t spoken to him.”
“He’s been texting me, but he hasn’t mentioned it," I say. "I can’t believe he hasn’t mentioned it. I totally, totally give up. Your brother is an idiot."
All the same, I remain concerned for his mental, spiritual and now his physical state.
But a small and very evil part of me hopes the wrist that sustained the damage was the one he favours for wanking.