When Jeff built a water slide on the stairs of his friend Andy’s house, he knew he’d crossed a line and he couldn’t go back. He had been sofa surfing for months, alienating all his friends and now Andy would surely turn against him too. So, Jeff decided to go all out.
First, after crashing and splashing ka-bomf, ka-bomf down the stairs, almost destroying the bannister and creating pools of water on the landing, he built a fort in the living room out of some couch cushions and bed sheets. He set the mood by covering lamps with red napkins and peeked out at the TV. He ate corn puffs from a bowl and watched the pay-per-view heavyweight match Andy was too tight to pay for last night.
After a third-round knockout, Jeff found some wellington boots under the stairs and sloshed around in the water that was building up in the hall and seeping out under the front door.
He found a label maker under the rack of keys in the vestibule and slipped it into his pocket like a gunslinger. He circled the ground floor, scrutinising random objects like the French New Wave DVDs balanced precariously by the flatscreen and the knickknacks amassed from various holidays abroad – from the tribal Nigerian pottery to striking Ecuadorean quilts. He tagged them all with the label maker for the bargain price of ninety-nine pence.
He muttered under his breath, “Fancy, pretentious hmm-hmms.”
Then he noticed a holiday snap resting on a side table that pictured Andy, Jeff and all the lads soaking up the Spanish sunshine before they all landed jobs in the city and settled down with their childhood sweethearts. He labelled the photo, “Not for sale.”
Then he remembered how soon after the holiday Andy had got together with Gloria at the Hacienda club. Jeff approached her first but once she met Andy they just clicked and soon became inseparable. Things were never the same between Jeff and Andy.
Upstairs in the master bedroom Jeff plonked himself in front of the vanity mirror and analysed the smile lines carved around his cheeks. He picked up the landline and reached for lipstick and blusher. He made a call and after a few rings a woman answered.
“What went wrong between us, Consuelo? Don’t pretend it’s the distance, you’re classier than that.” Jeff sighed.
“Jeff? Is that you again? You’ve got to stop this. And I know you can’t afford to call Brazil.”
Jeff smeared lipstick across his mouth, “Not true. I am currently sunning myself in the Med on my seven-hundred-foot yacht with bikini-clad babes rubbing sunscreen onto my back. I’m sipping margaritas and guzzling oysters like they were tic tics. It’s quite boring really, so I thought I’d see what’s up. Maybe I could sail over?”
“Jesus, Jeff, you’re freaking me out. What do you really want?”
He stuck on some fake eyelashes and pouted, “I’m just a young girl looking to have a good time.”
The front door opened. Gloria screeched and Andy yelled “Jeff!”
Jeff left the phone off the hook, pulled a wig down low over his forehead and labelled the mirror with the words, “Goodbye, forever. Kiss, Kiss.”
Gloria confronted Jeff as he stumbled down the waterlogged staircase.
“So, we welcome you into our home and you smash our car windows, max out our credit card and destroy our house?”
“Jeff doesn’t live here anymore,” he said, and he stuck the word “Whore,” on her forehead. Gloria peeled it off and her mouth dropped as she read it.
Jeff reached over and labelled Andy, “Traitor.”
“Traitor? You know this is it now? All over for our friendship,” said Andy. “Jesus, no one can say I haven’t tried. So, come on, what’s with the makeup? And the price tags?”
“Political statements about identity and the nature of the bourgeoisie,” Jeff said feeling his heels pinch his size ten feet.
“Well, pack your worthless shit, honey,” said Gloria, “and get out.”
Gloria snatched the label maker from Jeff and as he gathered his belongings, she typed out a message.
On his way out, Gloria asked him for the hooped Cartier earrings he was wearing. “Those are genuinely expensive,” she said, and then she slapped a label on his chest. As the front door slammed behind him and he contemplated staying with his parents, he read the tag that cut him to the core. It said, “Wannabe.”
Image – Google images