‘Well?’ she enquired, in hopeful anticipation.
Gavin looked at his friend blankly.
‘Is it supposed to be funny or like a court drama or what?’
Jen sighed and fell back onto her bed, putting her pillow over her face in frustration.
‘What’s the matter babe? It’s all good and stuff, especially the bit about the hamsters, that gave me chills.’
‘Gave you chills? It’s a comedy, the hamsters aren’t even important, it’s just a joke’ came the strained reply from beneath the pillow.
Jen sat up; the pillow fell from her face. Gavin noted the dejection carved into her gaunt yet attractive features. He changed the topic, searching for positives.
‘It’s not about me though is it; I’m not your tutor. Will he like it?’
Jen’s features softened a little as she considered this, ‘well, I think he’s looking for originality most of all.’
She looked up at the white matte ceiling as though searching its surface for her answer before continuing slowly
‘Yeah it’s all been done before. All of comedy has been done before, countless times. Nothing is original or truly original anymore. Nothing pushes boundaries except maybe meta-humour.’
Gavin was clearly puzzled by this. He was out of his depth anyway and becoming quite bored. It had become clear to him in the previous few minutes that sex wasn’t on the menu tonight. She really had asked him round to ‘read my coursework’. No innuendo, no metaphor. He might as well just go back to his block and jack it. Eliot had told him about a good site and he’d wanted to check it out for a while. Alas, for now, he would have to continue the charade, the charade of giving a fuck.
‘What’s meta-humour?’ he asked with false alacrity.
‘It’s really weird, you know, like retrospective ironic humour, like for example if I wrote about a comedy writer in a funny way or something.’
Jen fought for each word; attempting to do justice to a subject she had only vague conceptions of.
‘You don’t know do you?’ he enquired with a grin.
‘No, not really’ Jen admitted, her face fell.
‘I guess you’d have to be well clever to write like that.’ He was provoking her out of sheer frustration but his subtle delivery slipped under her radar.
Jen drew her legs up and leant her dainty chin on her knees. She looked straight at Gavin. She was deep in thought, struggling for answers. She wrestled with her issues; what did she need to do? How could she be original? If she drenched her writing in enough clichés would it be deemed a subversive ironic masterpiece? Why the fuck did she get involved with the complete idiot sitting opposite her? The idiot broke the silence.
‘Why don’t you draw upon your influences then?’
‘How do you mean?
‘Well, what’s your favourite comedy? Mine’s Big Bang Theory’ he offered.
Jen recoiled and, with blank bemusement chiselled across her usually expressive little face, uttered with poisonous indignation
‘Big Bang Theory, the contrived American middle-of-the-road sitcom that attempts to use pretentiously complex dialogue to fill the gaping holes in its plot? The show that plays on the ‘lovable geek’ stereotype to strangle some cheap laughs out of its degenerate fans and attempt to reassure them that they are somehow of above average intelligence through the transitive substance?’
‘What? I like it, it’s funny’
Jen seized on this, Gavin had struck a nerve. The frustration she’d felt whilst writing manifested itself as anger. Gavin was stupid, she would play with him a while, trap him and humiliate him.
‘Tell me, do you ever laugh without being cued by the incessant canned laughter?’
Gavin was startled by her grimace and her verbosity, though he doubtless wouldn’t have understood the word ‘verbose’.
‘What? No, it’s there for all the funny bits.’ He stuttered back to her.
‘Funny bits? If they’re funny they would needn’t a pre-recorded laughter track to prompt you to engage in what should be a reflex action.’
She paused. The onslaught continued.
‘So you’re telling me that you don’t find my writing funny but you like Big Bang Theory? I guess if anything that’s a compliment, it’s not really the audience I’d like to be associated with.’
She had sat up now, her straight back and relaxed posture in contrast to the bitterness in her expression.
‘Look I like it ok, I don’t have to think about it, I can just watch it. Not everyone wants to study a show like it was a fucking exam paper.’ Gavin’s milky blue eyes glared impotently at his tormentor.
‘You don’t have to think? That’s your best excuse? I don’t have to think to be stabbed but that doesn’t mean it’s somehow better than not being stabbed.’ Jen had run out of steam, her stabbing analogy was weak but it still had the desired effect.
‘Fuck off you pretentious prick, I hope you fail!’ Gavin yelled as he slammed the door on his way out.
‘Yeah, well time will tell won’t it, Gavin?!’
Then, more quietly, to herself ‘time will tell’.
Epilogues and Elegies
Jen sat alone in her room. She was angry, not because she had driven Gavin out, she didn’t care much for him and besides, that was repairable anyway. No, she was angry with her essay. She glared at it, she deconstructed it, and she ran over each and every word a dozen times. Were there any metaphorical stones left unturned? She searched for typographical errors, she found none but it was 4am. How would she know? She got off her bed, crossed the muddied carpet, opened the heavy fire door and went into the communal kitchen. The kettle boiled, the discount granules dissolved and the young woman stood by the open window smoking. Just two more hours, she thought, two more miserable hours then I’ll print this and get to sleep. Her phone buzzed. Gavin’s text simply read ‘Sorry babe r we ok?xxx’. Jen returned the Blackberry to its pouch. She would text him in the morning, if at all.
Back in her room with the nicotine and caffeine embracing her in their familiar way Jen worked through her first short story. She wondered whether it had ended too abruptly and if such an ending was truly plausible. Sure, people do strange and impulsive things but wasn’t the ending just a bit too optimistic, too positive in its tone? Maybe she should kill Tom off, have him hang himself in the outhouse, dangling from a noose made of guitar straps. Well that would’ve been far too humorous to be taken seriously, if she was going to do that she might as well go all out and have the unfortunate man shove his bass neck into the car’s exhaust and go out with an ironic twist. No, she resolved, I’m always ending my stories with a death or a portentous signifier of misery. Perhaps a story with a positive message would work better. Perhaps the message to take from all of this is that if you dare, if you take a risk, if you defy convention you can achieve great things, happiness and contentedness. Jen went over to the mirror by the door, did she have happiness, and was she content? She practiced her best Cheshire cat grin, it felt forced, it was forced. Was she happy?
Quietly to herself she whispered
‘Time Will Tell’.