Once again, I owe my apologies. Once again I missed my deadline, and last month’s edition of this magazine went to print without me. Once again my fabulously innovative blame-avoidance system kicked in and, in the interests of my conscience and my editor, somehow plucked a feather of mitigation from the smooth fur of my drama-less life. Once again I had the feeling of uselessness, and frustration that you may be regarding these frequent absences as an indication that I take your audience for granted.
Because that’s really not the case, I hope you know. It still seems weird, in a good way, when I see my name, buffoony grin and emotional baggage appear in these pages – and for as long as I live I’ll remain utterly grateful for your time. But like many of us, I have my demons. This gratitude and obligation I feel towards you may be strong, but the acute laziness running through my bones sometimes overpowers my desire to be dutifully and reliably present.
I can’t remember exactly how I justified my tardiness this time round. I think I convinced myself that the stress of starting a new job had made me physically tired and not in the right head space to think of funny stuff to tell you. But with the hindsight of the month that has passed since, of course I remember that I wasn’t so distracted that I couldn’t spend countless very late evenings and four whole weekends drinking wine, talking rubbish, having sex and watching telly. So, therefore, what was my problem with taking a little time out to write 1500 words?
I’m clinging to the consolation that, as a direct result of my in-action, the direction in which to steer the half-story I’d written so far, kicked me up my lackadaisical behind. As I read the email from my editor, confirming I’d been replaced (by a story she had waiting in the wings, confident in my letting her down), I was sitting on about 500 words. As someone once said in one of my favourite films: “Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes!”
My half-story read like this:
“ …Our ‘boys night’ turned a bit sour last Wednesday. As I climbed into bed, the contented grin that I traditionally sport after our midweek get-together was nowhere to be seen. There were no fond memories of jokes shared, stories swapped, routines performed and fun made out of. I wasn’t reminiscing about the heavenly huge taco mix or the sublimely spicy wine. Instead I awaited sleep with feelings of grave disappointment in myself. I’d cut my nose to spite my face, and it hurt like hell. There’s a bickering that occurs after dinner is eaten, which is as sure a bet as the eating of the dinner itself. We’re all overweight, and until we can actually lose it the next best thing is proudly showing off our plumes of willpower, by congregating without sweets or desserts. But as we gurgle away on the couch and the protein and carbs digest, our hopelessly habitual bodies scream for sugar. Which then of course begs the question: Who’s going over to the servo to get chips and chocolate and biscuits and stuff?
I fancy that I stood in a particularly strong position for this debate last Wednesday, and entered the fray with a quiet confidence. But opposition was tough from the start, and I could see I was in for a rough ride. After a couple of ferocious rounds of back and forth, the established reasons why each of the boys felt that he should not be the one to go to the servo were as follows:
Matt 1. My back is killing me after that massage I had today….the same massage which two hours ago I told you had been delightfully rejuvenating. 2. I’ve still got that amazingly mysterious and conveniently arising bug that I’ve had, when convenient, since Christmas. 3. I’m really, really busy getting ready for my hugely important business trip tomorrow
Adam 1. I’m still recovering from that operation I had a few blue moons ago. 2. I’m tired and older than you. 3. It wasn’t my idea so I shouldn’t have to go – but I’d really love a Twix if someone else does.
Quicky 1. My foot still hurts from when I fell over pissed yesterday, so I can’t walk. 2. And I’m too pissed to drive, so you can see the catch-22 I’m faced with!
Justin I went last week, not my turn. Stat!
That I had undeniably made the trip the previous Wednesday, and spent my hard earned credit on chips and chocolate and biscuits and stuff for all, would normally have been enough to excuse me from any further deliberations – my friends have their demons too, but lack of reason is not one of them. However, we were in stubborn moods tonight. We were a bit tired, a bit grumpy, and a bit drunk. Things got a bit messy.
Matt cracked the shits that the debate refused to acknowledge the importance of his very important business trip, and locked himself in the study. Quicky knew he was too drunk to successfully put forward any reason other than that he was too drunk, but he wasn’t too drunk to realise that being too drunk would not be enough on its own to save him from the servo. Wisely, he decided not to say anything more at all – he stared at the telly and pretended he was too drunk to hear the insults. Adam took evasive, positively slippery action, whining about how I eat his all his cereal and use too much toilet roll, following up for good measure with a dig about something inappropriate and personal.
Nobody got any chocolate …”
I had a vague idea to reach the point that, by being so stubbornly lazy, I had deprived myself of a yummy choccy treat, that would have significantly improved the quality of my life that evening. So too, I would have proclaimed, do I deny myself satisfaction and opportunity in the more serious bits of my life, by stubbornly refusing to leave the comfort of my boundaries (the metaphorical couch) and step forth into a more exciting world (the metaphorical servo).
I was of course intending to reach this conclusion with inspired, sublime links, and subtle wit a plenty. But instead, I was bone-idle and blasé, and wrote nothing else at all.
As it happens, I’m quite relieved the way things turned out. It’s occurred to me, between then and now, that I’ve dressed laziness up as an issue at least a couple of times already in these pages. There may have been slightly different players and props, but the thread of the plot has looped numerous times through good intentions in my heart falling foul to the sloth in my soul. So even the subject selection was slack, lacking and lame!
Thankfully, I’m ending this with the conclusion that I do not, in fact, quite deserve such a bashing. Only today, some 30 days after I wrote the first word of this, I realised that maybe I’m not such a lost cause when it comes to exercising a bit of effort in order to achieve a result.
This morning my monthly email from this magazine’s editorial department arrived, enquiring as to the whereabouts of this article. I followed the usual routine: promise delivery that evening, pull strings at day job to make time, implement complete lock-down, hide in study by self. As I’m flexing my index fingers ready for action, an SMS arrives. A lovely, but very, very talkative friend, who I hadn’t seen for a very, very long time, was passing by in ten minutes and wondering if I was home for a catch up. We had been attempting to meet up for an absolute age, but the bad correlation between the needs of our respective personal lives had made it impossible so far this year.
I love this friend of mine dearly, but I was severely wrapped up in the idea of writing this, fuelled ferociously by my previous failure to conjure you up a story on time. The pressure was on. I did not have the time to swap the last six months of our lives, nor did I need the temptation of the bottles of wine she would undoubtedly crack open while she was here. At best both these things would delay me a good couple of hours, postponing therefore my important school-night bedtime. At worst both these things would render me completely useless for the rest of the night, leaving my deadline missed and pride dented once again.
However, as quick as the thought of ignoring my friend’s text appeared, it vanished – over-powered by the cringe at the recollection of all the self indulgent shit I’d been doing during the last four weeks, instead of writing this, and went dizzy with disgust at how incredulously rich it was of me to play the too-engrossed-in-my-art thing, when it suited, in the face of a good friend making efforts to see me. I replied to the text, she came to my house, we swapped the six months, we drank the wine. And here I am at 2.15am, still writing, on a school night.
But I’m glad to be here. Being in the final throws of an article that I quite like is always a good feeling, but I’m liking too the happy ending. My friend is just about to move her whole family to a new life interstate. She’s stressed and feeling isolated, her eldest daughter is punching other kids in the face, her dad has cancer. She seemed to enjoy the chat. I think I did the right thing, and I think I’ve been rewarded with the result I required.
You’ve got to admit, that irony is pretty ironic!
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