“What the hell does that have to do with anything?” said Paul.
“What I’m trying to tell you is that you might think that, right now, this is what you want. But I’m telling you, you’ll get over it,” said Dan.
“Dude, I’m not 14,” said Paul. “Vivian isn’t a pair of turntables.”
“It’s kind of the same thing,” said Dan.
“Look, I know what you’re trying to say,” said Paul.
“I just don’t want you to get hurt again,” said Dan.
“I know, and I appreciate that, I do,” said Paul.
“Just give it time. Just take, like, a week to figure out what you really want to do,” said Dan. “You work with this girl, remember. You’ve heard the phrase ‘don’t shit where you eat’, haven’t you?”
Paul walked home from Dan’s and knew exactly what he was going to do. He was going to call Vivian right away and ask her to come over. Dan had never been with a girl for more than six months, and Paul knew what a loving, lasting relationship was. He and Dan just had different approaches. Neither was right or wrong, and every decision they made would work out a certain way, and would be evaluated based on their own perspective as much as the outcome.
He spoke to Vivian for only a few minutes and everything that needed to be said was said. She’d come over for dinner tomorrow night.
“Dude, what was I just telling you?” said Dan.
“I know, I know, I just thought you should know,” said Paul. “I’m sorry.”
“Well, I’ll be here to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong,” said Dan. “You’d be surprised how carried away you can get when a girl with a nice name gives you a bit of attention.”
Dan hung up before Paul had the chance to explain himself. It was all stuff they’d gone over before, anyway. Paul crossed the road and turned down his street, and noticed a blurry figure waving at him. As he got closer, he recognised who it was.
“Daisy Meredith!” he said.
“Well isn’t this a surprise,” said Daisy. “I didn’t know you lived down here.”
“Only for the past couple of months. Are you still…”
“Living with my parents, yes. Temporarily. I can feel myself going slowly insane,” said Daisy.
“I know how it is,” said Paul, laughing. “Are you heading into town?”
“Sort of. I’m just heading around Dan’s to pick something up,” said Daisy.
“Dan?” said Paul. Daisy nodded. “Dan… Smith, who was in our year? You know Dan?” said Paul.
“Yes, not too well, but wow, small world!” said Daisy.
“Sort of,” said Paul.
“Well, I’d better be getting on. Nice seeing you!” said Daisy.
Paul smiled to himself and shook his head, and wondered why he’d ever gone to Dan for advice. Just to reciprocate for all the times he’d offered Dan advice, probably, even though it was unheeded anyway. A fucking DJ, he thought. Fuck him.
When Paul got back home he turned on his TV and sank into the armchair. He thought about making himself a toastie and a glass of milk, but just wanted to relax for a moment first.
A few hours later he stirred to the sound of a TV game show’s theme tune. It was a late-night repeat and all the buzzes and jingles jarred with Paul at that time of night. He was horrified he hadn’t made it to bed. His eyes were sore. All the lights in his apartment were still on. One of the bulbs buzzed and flickered. Paul’s phone blinked beside him. It looked like a text from Dan, but he didn’t read it. He just turned everything off and went to bed.
In the morning he tidied, cleaned and dusted. He had a lot to do, and when he was done he swore he could feel the rush of endorphins in his veins. He wanted to wear his best clothes, the ones he’d been wearing yesterday, but they smelled of Dan’s bedroom. So he threw on a different shirt, saw how it looked with one button unfastened, then two buttons, and studied the difference in the mirror. By the time he was done with all the preparations and had made all the necessary decisions, there was still five hours before Vivian was due to show up.
Four empty beer bottles were rolling around in his recycling box by the time she was supposed to have arrived. Opening this fridge, Paul decided that a fifth was probably too many. His vision was already blurred because he wasn’t wearing glasses, so he sat himself back down.
Half an hour later his phone rang.
“Paul, hey, I’m sorry but I won’t be coming round tonight,” said Vivian.
“Oh, right, OK,” said Paul. “Why?”
“I’m at the hospital. Something bad’s happened and my grandma’s been admitted. Sorry, I feel really bad,” said Vivian.
“No, don’t feel bad, it’s not your fault,” said Paul. “You’re where you need to be.”
“I was really looking forward to tonight,” said Vivian.
“We’ll do it some other time. Don’t worry,” said Paul. “I hope everything goes OK.”
“I hope so,” said Vivian. “Anyway, I’d better go.”
Paul hung up, and in the same movement opened the fridge and pulled out his fifth beer. He ate his steak with blue cheese sauce, the mushrooms and the spicy potato wedges – at the table, as planned. Then he ate his ice-cream dessert, and Vivian’s as well, on the sofa.
“What can I say, man, you don’t want to be a DJ anymore,” said Dan.
He took a drag of the joint and rearranged the pillows behind him.
“There’s no shame in it, you just don’t want to be a DJ anymore. You’ll save yourself a lot of hurt in the long run, man,” he said.
“I know, I’ve just totally gone off the boil in the past week,” said Paul. As Dan flicked the joint’s ash into the lid well of an empty beer can, Paul said: “Hey, can I have a little?”
He reached out and took the joint from Dan’s fingers. As he sucked and inhaled, he heard a distant toilet flush.
“Oh, hey, there’s something I need to tell you, man,” said Dan. “Do you remember Daisy?”
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