Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Way Forward: Chapter 18

This is a chapter from my book, The Way Forward. Buy the whole novel now from or

I spun onto Andrew and cinched his right arm behind him. I tightened the hold to the extent that the back of his hand touched between his shoulder blades and I hooked my left arm around his neck. I was able to get him sloppily to his feet by lifting him up at the throat, I then effectively threw him down the stairs and hustled him back toward Harry Law Hall. I was supporting my weight on him, keeping my left leg as far from danger as I could, so I had to steer him through town by kicking the backs of his legs and locking my grip.
We went spinning through city centre in a fit of violence. We were a two-man version of the Tasmanian devil from Bugs Bunny cartoons.

"I see. You're the big American. You think you're fucking Rambo, do you?"
"Shut the fuck up. We're going home."
"I hate you. You fucking bastard! You're so hard, huh? You're going to kick my ass? You fucking wanker! Fuck off!"
"Shut up! I have no problem with beating the shit out of you, Andrew. I will choke you out."

This went on for every step home -- him calling me Rambo and me making threats I had picked up from professional wrestling. Occasionally I would relock my grip on him and he would leap into the air in an effort to avoid the pain. To be honest, I'm surprised I didn't separate his shoulder, I was trying to. And yet not one person expressed even the slightest concern about the fact that a mobile public assault was taking place. It really says something about a town when you can march someone through a major public thoroughfare, their arm twisted up behind their back, the both of you screaming obscenities, and no one says a word. Portsmouth is that kind of town. How can you not love Portsmouth?

The fight carried through city centre, through Guildhall Square, into Harry Law Hall, into the elevator, up to the third floor and down the hall to the Andrew's kitchen. I opened the door and shoved him in. We were greeted by Jared, Connor, and Andrew's parents. Andrew and I were both disheveled and breathing heavy. His nose had started bleeding again. Andrew went instantly calm upon seeing his parents. I let go of him and fell back against a counter, suddenly feeling again the pain in my knee.

"Hello Mum. Hello Dad. Benjamin and I have just been having sex."    
"We did not have sex, Andrew."


I returned £247 of Andrew's money to his parents, as well as Take That's greatest hits CD and the Spice Girls' Spice. I decided to keep The Best Irish Album in the World… Ever, as payment for saving Andrew's life. It was, in fact, not the best Irish album in the world, ever. It was not the best anything in the world, ever. There's a lesson in that, I think.

His parents told me the whole story of Africa and Andrew's manic depression and said they were taking him back to Newcastle to be committed to a mental hospital. They had been through this sort of thing before and figured that it would take a while to get him back to normal. It made me sad. He wasn't a drug addict but someone whom fate had been cruel to. Jared, Connor, several other people from the floor, and I escorted the Bern family out to their little red car and said our final goodbyes figuring we'd never see Andrew again.

A few weeks later, his parents brought him back to Pompey to visit for the day and collect the last of his things. He was doing a little better and was going to be allowed to complete his semester's coursework while up in Newcastle.

To keep him from feeling overwhelmed, Andrew's parents asked that we reintroduce ourselves to him slowly. They sat him in his old kitchen and asked that we come in one at a time. I was the last person to walk into the kitchen.

"Do you remember Benjamin?" his mother asked as I stepped in.
"Course I do. Hello, Benny. Remember when we had sex?"
"We did not have sex, Andrew."


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