This is the first few extracts of a new book I'm working on....
There’s this girl who comes in here all the time. I like her, so I don’t charge her for a large coffee. I just charge her for a small. I don’t think she notices. Because I’ve always charged her for a small. She must think the large coffees only cost £1.80. But they don’t. They cost £2.20. I could get fired if my manager found out. But he wouldn’t, because he just is in the office all day. He never serves anyone coffees. That’s good, because I get to serve her. She was on her phone today. She said thank you to me. Then said not you to the phone. Then said just the guy in the coffee shop. I liked that. I’ve never been called a guy before. I hear it in American movies. She noticed me, and thanked me. I can’t wait til Christmas. I’ll put some of the Christmas-flavoured syrup in her coffee for free! That normally costs 30p.
Aw, shit man! I’ve gotta tell you about this girl on the bus – she was well bangin! Fuckin choice! I was on the back row, centre seat, and she kept lookin back at me. I ad my legs apart, foot on either seat, and she was checkin me out proper! Every few minutes mate! This goes on for a while, then she gets up an gets off. Shit! But then, easy come, easy go, I think, getting ready to give her the smile as she goes by the window that says “so long, baby – it could’ve been sweet!” Get this, though – doesn’t even look at me! After all that eyeballin of me on the bus! I try my luck once more, turn and look out the back window. I see er getting on the fuckin 36 – she’d just been lookin out the back window to see if er conectin bus were behind us all that time! Shit man!
He looked at me earlier today. At least I think it was me. I looked behind me, and there was no-one else there. Maybe he was looking at the clock? It is boring here, so I’m often looking at the clock, too. When I’m not looking at him. He sits on the other bank of phones, nearer the window. I saw him on my training day. He stood up and walked to the coffee machine – so tall! He smiled over at us as we were being shown round, and his eyes crinkled in that way that shows he smiles a lot. He looked away and went back to his seat. Brown leather jacket hung over it.
I missed a bit of what our team leader was saying, so I’m not really sure where the toilets are yet. Or how we log out of our phones to visit them. Doesn’t matter, I just avoid water and keep on looking. He swivels around on his chair a bit, and twists the phone line around his fingers. Strong, large hands, slightly tanned. A call came in:
“Good morning, Blue Arrow response centre, Harriet speaking, how can I help?”
“Ah, hello, ah was wondrin’ if you could ‘elp me. Ah wanna apply for the car factory job I saw in the paper.”
Here we go. What paper? What job? Does he think I’m waiting here for him, only him, to ring up and apply for the only job we have? Morons.
“Certainly sir. Do you have the job reference number there at all?”
“Err… whass… I dunno.”
“You can find it in bold at the bottom of the ad where you saw this number.”
“Oh. Yeah. ‘Ere we are – 0330, 831, 831.”
God in heaven.
“No, sorry sir, not this phone number, the reference number next to it.”
“No other number alright? Just that one, right?”
“Must be our mistake, sir – I’ll just put you through to someone who can help. Please hold.”
Forget this. I slam the hold button and dial 120 to transfer to the supervisory desk. It rings for a moment, then he answers.
“Good morning, Blue Arrow response centre, Damien speaking, how can I help?”
“Oh, hello, it’s just me!”
Get it together for God’s sake, he doesn’t know who you are, or that this is –
“I mean, it’s Harriet from the call centre! I’m new here. I just have a caller who is having some difficulty finding the reference number…”
“OK. Have you told him where to find it?”
“Then what do you want me to do about it?”
“I thought you could… err… help him find it or work out…”
“You can search by the job title in Pacifica. Just ask him the role and the region. OK?”
There was a long beep then –
“– I’ve ‘ad enough of waitin’! I’ve been on this bloody phone for –”
“Sorry sir, just checking how we can locate your reference number. What is the job role and what region are you in?”
This nutter drones on about how was he supposed to know et cetera. I wasn’t really listening, as I was looking over at him, I mean Damien. I’d found out his name. Not bad going. Damien… I’m not too sure I like… it’s sort of satanic, isn’t it? Damien. Strong, though. He certainly gave me short shrift. I hope he doesn’t know who – oh no – I gave my name! But he doesn’t know that’s me. I don’t want that to be the first impression. I need to find another way to meet him properly.
“An don’t put me on ‘old again. You’ve got what you need there. If you can’t get it from tha, I wanna speak to your –”
I slammed down the phone. That is rule number one breeched. You never hang up. They log all hang-ups, and it gets reported to our supervisor.
I got another call, and carried on. I probably shouldn’t look at him again today.
I really need the toilet.
“Err… Harriet, is it?”
“Can I have a word with you, please?”
“In the office.”
He walks away, to a glass fronted office. I get up and I have to walk fast to follow him. In the room, he indicates a chair, and he goes around the other side of the wide conference table and sits down. I sit down and my chair squeaks.
“I know you are new here, but we have already had three breaches from you today. A hang-up, a complaint and a missed call. We cannot afford to have errors at this rate. Can you explain to me why this is happening?”
Come on Harriet, now is your chance!
“Err… what it is, is… I’ve been a little distracted… I… just wanted to… say… that… I’m sorry, and I’ll concentrate more – I won’t let it happen again.”
You snivelling little fool! Come on!
“OK. Please ensure you do. Consider this a warning. It would be a shame to lose you. Thank you.”
As I stand my chair makes some weird slow whine as it rises. I almost walk into the glass door on the way out. I chance a look over my shoulder, and he is looking at me. Yes! Although checking the wall, it might be the clock again.
He said “It would be a shame to lose you!” That’s good, isn’t it? He thinks it would be a shame. He wants to know me more. Or is it just a threat? I don’t really care about the job. So I don’t care if I lose it. But I don’t want to lose him before I even know him. He’s getting up! He’s going to the coffee machine! I leap up and my headset comes off:
“Sooo… how much pay do I get if I apply for – ”
Another dropped call. Who cares! Grab chance in life! I run across to the machine, before slowing rapidly to casually cruise over. I lean an elbow on the watercooler and jut my hip out. I start to feel a little self-conscious, as I realise this is not a bar in prohibition-era America, but a brightly-lit kitchen in a business park. I reel the hip in a little.
“Coffees!” I declare.
Where am I going with this?
“Ha. Yeah. Keeps me going.”
“I’m more of a tea drinker myself.”
What? Get on with it!
“This does tea too – like one? Probably shit, though, like!”
That’ll be horrible. What next? Come on!
“Err… sorry about the other - ”
“No worries! I’m sorry, actually. You’d only just started, easy mistakes to make. I’d probably had about twenty hang-ups a day in my first weeks here! The bloody prats you get calling - ”
He looks around a bit, like he’d let slip secret knowledge.
“So, yeah, I understand. Really, I’d only asked to see you because I… ”
The machine beeps and he takes the cup from it. He hands me the scalding liquid, the colour of pus, his hand shaking a little.
“So, like I say, I’d just wanted to say hello, like…”
I jut my hip out further, and lean back like I’m slowly inhaling a fine cigarette at the end of an elegant ivory holder, and breathe out an imaginary cloud of smoke on which we’ll float into our dreams…
“And ask if you’d be up for going out sometime, like the cinema… or to dinner?”
He looks up to me, hopefully, holds the coffee cup in both hands for warmth. He must be mad, trembling and being hopeful that I’d want to go out with him. Classic low self-esteem. Says “like” an awful lot. And a supervisor at a call centre! Pathetic.
“Sorry! My phone’s ringing! I don’t know how to log out yet!”
I run to my desk.
“Good afternoon, Blue Arrow response centre, Harriet speaking, how can I help?”
Hello, friends. I’m new to all this, so I wondered if you could help me. I think I’ve just got my first girlfriend. I’m seventeen years old. That’s a little late, isn’t it? Is it? If you are legally allowed to have sex from sixteen, then it’s like even the government would look at me and go “What’s the matter with you, boy? No girlfriend?”
But not anymore, because, like I say, I have a girlfriend. Her name is Lisa. She’s… Look, this is what I want to ask – how do you know if you like someone? Did you like whoever you are with right away? I mean, I have a good time with her, we drink a few cheap bottles of wine, walk through parks, have a smoke… but it’s like I wouldn’t want to be seen with her.
That sounds terrible. I’m a horrible person. She is so nice. She wears these big flared trousers, all patches sewn on them, a knitted hoodie, badges… sort of a hippy style, you know. Smells really nice. I find her attractive. Well, at least my penis does. It always gets ready for action when I see her. And it finally saw active duty last week. We got back to her parents’ house after a long walk. We watched Twin Town on video, then she started to kiss me, and we… I won’t get into it here.
I walked her to work the next day. I couldn’t wait to get away from her. I had to stay for ages, for her manager to arrive and open up the shop. I kissed her goodbye, and she said “I love you” and looked back at me as she walked into the shop. I must have looked like I was standing there agog, against the grey and vast backdrop of the trading estate. Silent.
What shall I do? If I break up with her – I can’t even believe I’m writing that! I’ve waited so long, and she is so nice, and she… If I stay with her, then when does it end? Did your marriages start like this, then you just realised you couldn’t get anyone better, and settled? But what is better? It’s a person we are talking about here.
I got back to the room we shared. Forgot to say that – we just moved into this little hippy commune of a house. I tidied the room up, put up some shelves (eventually – don’t use them) and felt like I was making our nest. We had sex again, there, and it was really amazing. She said I was good at… I won’t bore you with all that.
I’d found a vibrator in her things when I was sorting the room out. I think that was why she was not best pleased about it, nothing to do with the shelves. So she is able to take care of herself. She has a job, a room. Badges. We’d bought a joint Railcard. She’d met Mum. That showed her I wasn’t gay. Not that she thought that, probably. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
My phone kept ringing when she got to the room and saw my things had gone. She sent me a text asking “WHAT THE FUCK?!” What shall I say? That I couldn’t face a life with a girl who I don’t find as attractive as all the other ones? That I bore myself when I’m with her unless I’ve had three bottles of wine for £10? What shall I do?!
In the end I sent back “at mum’s. shes a bit under the weather. staying there this weekend. see you soon, love, david xxxxx”