What I avoided

I dropped the rental car in Park Lane, back into that underground car park. The end of two very full-on jobs back to back. It was a beautiful day in Mayfair and suddenly I had nowhere to be. I slowly wandered through town, eventually stopping at Reblochon, a little deli opposite Green Park. I ordered a Leek and Potato soup and a glass of champagne, and I sat there fascinated by somebody’s grievance. He’s made over £700,000 for the company, it seems. But Pete has creamed most of it the bastard. He’s not a happy man, our employee.

The other person in the conversation is mostly quiet, unsure how to react, awkward. He is clearly from privilege, unlike the speaker, who has been working hard and knows it.

He comes under fire, this privileged fellow. He’s had a bit of the pie as well, clearly, at the speaker’s expense. Eventually: “I’m off. You can pay for it,” says the guy opposite me and he leaves in well displayed high dudgeon.

I greet the privileged man sitting next to me by name, even if it might be awkward for him, because I know him of old.

“Hello, T. That sounded tricky.”

To his credit, despite beard and glasses and over 20 years, T recognises me immediately. I’ve had a fair amount of time to piece him together so I’ve got advantage in this exchange.

His voice was familiar. But I needed to see his face to be sure, or so I thought, until I noticed his unmistakable name at the top right of the Excel sheet that he had open on his laptop.

He was at school with me and we shared a 3 person dorm when I was 13. He lay passively by while Harry pulled me out of bed when I was sleeping and stamped on my face. He overlooked whatever he could overlook and deflected whatever he could deflect. A thorough childhood coward. I recognised a throughline into his passivity in adulthood. He ain’t no Pete, our T. He’s Pete’s bitch, still stealing but only stealing a fraction of what big bully P-bomb is stealing. And stealing from a highly motivated guy that would thrive for everybody if he was adequately compensated, but didn’t grow up in a certain narrow frame that can be identified by accent nuance.

I greeted T. We swapped numbers and I was courteous. I’ve got no beef with these people from my dysfunctional young adulthood. He’s a nice, mild fellow. He just had too much for free. Like me. And his son is a drama scholar to Harrow…

So this old harrovian ended up handling a grievance next to me as I necked my bubbly at lunchtime. I listened to how he coped.

I’m done for a bit, productionwise. I’ve put away a challenging and satisfying few weeks where I’ve embezzled nothing, fucked nobody over, worked happily and hard, and been roundly congratulated for my positive spirit and how much I care about the people I’ve found work for whilst getting the job done. I think I might be considerably better at this production malarkey than I thought. But the acting always has to be primary.

Which is why I’ve accepted a corporate gig, filming tomorrow for a major company, playing an auditor who speaks in the elusive “Perfectspeak” and is proving a bitch to learn.

They lost an actor last minute as he’s isolating. I got sent pages and pages of jargon to learn. I’ve managed to push some of it into my head and now it’s sleep. Tomorrow I must be crisp and smart. I’ll be pretending to be the type of person I sat next to at lunch, but making a fraction of what he routinely steals from his workers every day. Sorry, not steals, there’s no theft, it’s all completely legal. It’s in the terms and conditions. Sorry mate. Nothing we can do. Fuck off.

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Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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