This is a picture of #98 displaying wounds sustained after breaking in to his own home the weekend before last.
A note, before we proceed: he is indignant to be recorded in this blog as #98, since he was actually #100 in real life, but I’ve forgotten a couple of people. This boy, however: well, nobody could ever forget him.
The Spanish drug dealer moved out and #80 moved in. When the Australian fire-twirler moved out too, we needed a replacement. We placed an ad in The List. “Cyberjunkie, drama queen and all-singing all-dancing cockroach seek fourth flatmate to complete the set,” it said, or something like that. “Heavy sleeper a bonus.” The room was next to mine.
It was so specific that I don’t think anyone responded at all, until #98 phoned up. #28 and #80 showed him the flat while I was at work. We had to make a decision quickly. They called me when I was on my lunch break: “We have a list of his good points and his bad points and we’d like to read them out to you.” I directed them to give him the room, on condition that we all met up for drinks that night.
He was epic from the beginning, and we were conspiring together within minutes. I took him to a party and we got off with each other’s friends. Then I decided he was the right candidate to be #100. We were gleeful. Also he spilled red wine all over my t-shirt.
Despite living together, it was a long time before we had a sober conversation. I found my old on-line journal through the internet time machine, and every time he made an appearance vast quantities of alcohol were being consumed. He’d also disappear off for days at a time. Other things about him: he talks in exclamation marks, and he enjoys celebrity gossip.
After almost a year, we had a row. I’d finally gotten a job after months of unemployment, and I was kept awake all night before work while he got drunk in the kitchen with some random he’d met clubbing. I couldn’t take it any more, and I started looking for a new home that same day. It felt sad and weird to pack up all my stuff. I thought I wanted a quiet life, but I realise now that I was just confused from living at one extreme. I am not a quiet-life person, I just needed a little less chaos.
I’d avoided the hell out of him for a couple of days, but #98 sought me out while I was packing, and gave me Yaka, the ceramic dinosaur he’d made. I think he suggested Yaka needed a more stable environment. Yaka nowadays lives on my kitchen worktop, where he never gets knocked over.
The Bruntsfield flat imploded in a spectacular way not too long after (#98 slept with #28’s boyfriend), and #98 subsequently embarked on longer disappearing acts. Typically, he vanishes for a year or so at a time. But he’s just the sort of person who does that, so I know if I wait patiently he’ll show up again when I least expect it. Reappearances in recent years have consistently involved claims that he lives a quiet, sensible life nowadays and never gets wasted or does anything ludicrous; these reappearances invariably end in carnage. I wouldn’t live with him again, but I do love him to bits, and I love that we’ve got such a long colourful history. Together, we are capable of alienating the hell out of whoever crosses our path.
What follows is a selection of #98’s greatest hits. Please note: all of these involve at least alcohol.
1. The time he phoned me at 3am. “Nine!” he exclaimed. He had no idea where he was. “Maybe somewhere around Murrayfield,” he said, and rang off cheerily, saying he’d see me later. It wasn’t clear why he’d called in the first place. Half an hour later, he called again: “You’ll not believe this, Nine! I seem to be in a council estate in Dumbiedykes!” Additionally, he had the suspicion that he might have been walking with somebody, who might have fallen in a puddle by the roadside, and that he might have kept walking. I tried to dispense sensible advice, but he interrupted: “You know what I’m going to do, Nine? I’m just going to pretend I’m Britney Spears for half an hour. I’ll see you later!” He did not make it home that night.
2. The time he and #28 took the spare furniture out of the big cupboard in the hall and turned it into a disco before passing out in it. After that, we realised it was big enough to contain a single mattress if you slammed the door quickly, and we had a Canadian living in it for two months.
3. The time I met up with him on Boxing Day, 2000, when hardly anybody was in town. He was incapable of stringing a sentence together, other than “Anyway, let’s talk about fashion!”
4. The time he started a new temp job, promptly decided he didn’t like it, and never went back. He avoided answering the phone for days while the agency tried in vain to get hold of him. It was unclear how he was going to pay his rent now, but he went out with #28 to drink to their precarious employment situations. Neither of them had any real recollection of how the night had progressed, but somehow, we got a message on the machine afterwards from a real person called Steve who said he had met #98 that night and was serious about wanting to hire him as a receptionist. #98 managed to work there for a year before doing his disappearing act. I called round to see him at work once; he’d answer the phone and then say “Steve, it’s for you, it’s – oh, I’ve already forgotten who it is.”
5. The time he went downstairs to send a vegetarian haggis to a hotel in a taxi. He returned with four Swedish backpackers who he had conned into believing our flat was a youth hostel. They spent the night.
6. The time he moved into a fancy new flat off the Royal Mile, and he and his new flatmate invited so many people to their James Bondage flatwarming party that they had to relocate it to the Holyrood Tavern instead. Then #98 failed to turn up to it because he was in the process of discovering that his boyfriend was sixteen years old.
7. The time #129 and I spent all night drunkenly bluffing someone that I was a right-wing homophobic evangelical Christian, and #98 cranked it up a notch by proclaiming sympathy for the BNP, before #129 flipped him over to cheese-grate his ass.
8. The time we drank in the street and then eventually broke in to the back of Cabaret Voltaire, having talked some tourists into going ahead of us so that they got caught. While the staff were dealing with them, I grabbed #98 and whisked him off to a table where we pretended we’d been all night.
9. The time he was living in an office for reasons which never became clear, and we went out drinking and eventually landed back at his place, where I have a dim recollection of some boy giving me a tour: “This is the basement, where the band practises,” and I nodded like it all made sense. I still have some questions. I woke up on #98’s bed in the morning when the rest of the world was at work, and I had to find my way home.
10. The time he turned thirty and a bunch of us dutifully gathered together to watch him ricochet around the basement of the Phoenix for a few hours. Then we poured him into a taxi and sent him home.