Mark Fraser: Day Three Hundred and Twenty One – Stage Fright

Posted on November 17, 2011 by

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This is almost certainly poor form but I’ve literally just finished this piece and was very, very eager to share it. It’s still a first draft. I apologise for any errors. I also apologies for WordPress’ poor formatting.

Stage Fight/Urinal Cakes

The graffiti polluting my eye line reads:

“My cock is much bigger than yours.”

Underneath it someone had scrawled:

“My cock can walk right through the door.”

A reassuring thought when you’re standing at a urinal. There was of course other graffiti. The walls were covered in it, but nothing as witty. It’s the same in all places where the clientele are students. Each chicken scratch scrawl of graffiti seems to be an attempt to outdo the others. Down the sides of toilet stalls there were debates, sloganeering and the occasional phone number to call if you were after some “fun”.

Well, I guess it’s something to do when you’re going about your business.

I don’t generally come to places like this often, however it was a friend’s birthday and I thought I’d oblige. We’re altogether far too old for this shit, yet we came here all the same. I continued to point the pink pistol at the porcelain firing range, trying not to think about who wrote the first line of the aforementioned graffiti. Aging has meant that this process takes a little longer than it used to. I would get into the mechanics and description of how my youthful alter ego used to do this kind of thing but I suppose I should get into the actual story part of this…story.

So there I am, standing staring at the vandalised walls thinking about nothing in particular when a man steps up to the urinal beside me. I’ve never been sure of the etiquette in situations like this; generally I tend to avoid eye contact with any part of the body standing next to me and in this situation I stuck to my guns. I could feel the man beside me swaying slightly and from the corner of the eye I spotted him look at my face, look away, then look again. I kept my eyes to the wall. This was either going to go one of two ways because he was either A) gearing up to slip me a chat up line or B) he was going to make excruciating small talk. I looked down and willed my body to go faster. Eventually he piped up:

“Here, you look a bit familiar…ah’m sure ah’ve seen yer face somewhere afore…”

I sighed and replied:

“Ah, I’ve just got one of those faces.”
“Naw, naw. Ah’m sure ah know you…”

Reading students trying to intellectually one up each other in what was basically a kind of postmodern graffito discourse never seemed so appealing. I knew what was coming next.

“Fuck, that’s it! You’re that guy!!”
“…I’m that guy.”
“Aye, that guy. Ye writ them books.”
“Aye, aye. I wrote some books.”
“Fuck. Ah thought ye were deid. Ye’ve no released anyhin new in pure ages! Writers block?”

I laughed as the steady stream of urine ceased. I was now holding my penis for apparently no reason at all while some drunkard gave me the fourth degree on the current state of my artistic integrity.

“Eh, naw naw. I’m writing. I’ve had some short stories published this year…”
“Ah, so yer struggling to get yer latest book published, is that it?”
“Naw, naw. I’m still working on it. Think it’s my best yet, to be honest.”

As I’m saying this, I’m hoping that the guy beside me is not going to look down. He does. He looks back up, looks me in the eye and smiles. He has definitely figured out that I am now holding my penis for no apparent reason and now he’s going to think I’m some kind of weirdo.

What had actually happened is I got stage fright. My bladder took a fit of nerves and decided it’d stop for a bit, leaving me in this terrible predicament. The guy zips up and goes to wash his hands. As he walks over to the hand dryer he tosses his head back as if he’s just had a great idea. I really hope his great idea doesn’t involve me.

“Fuck! I know someone who’d love to meet ye! Wait here.”
“Why not, I’m not going anywhere…” I said under my breath as he opened the toilet door and shouted out into the bar
“Malky. HEY, MALKY! Guess who’s in the pisser?”

Two seconds later ‘Malky’ arrived.

“It’s him. The guy that wrote them books ye like.
“Oh aye! Fuck, I thought he was deid!”
“That’s what I said!”
“Aw mate, it’s nice tae meet ye!”

Malky walks over to shake my hand. I glanced at his open hand and looked down, he understood that I was “engaged” and retracted his hand.

“It’s so weird seein you in here. Ah studied wan eh yer texts in a literature course last year. Always heard ye lived doon this area but ah never thought I’d actually ye meet ye, ye know?
“Oh aye? What book of mine did the university decide to put in its course?”
“Chamber.”
“Christ. My first book. That’s not so good, that one.”

I continued to stare at the wall while this conversation happened, still stage frightened.

“Aye. It’s no the kind eh thing ah usually read like, but ah really enjoyed it. Ah checked oot aw yer books eifter it. Genius man. Pure genius.”

I blushed. I’d never been called that before. ‘Malky’ clearly thought highly of my writing but I suppose when he sobers up and looks back on this scene, his favourite author standing talking to him the toilets, holding his dick and not pissing, his opinion of me might change.

“Ye look aulder than ah pictured ye but.”
“Aye, Malky’s right. Ye look aulder than that picture in yer last book. Wee bit eh photoshop, eh?”

They laughed. I joined it. It was moderately witty. I was really just hoping they’d go away though.

“Well, my last book was published in 2001 so it’s been a good ten years since…”
“2001? Fuckin hell man. Ye goat writers block?!”
“Naw Malky. He’s hud some stuff published. Short stories.”
“Is that right?”
“Aye, aye. In a few magazines y’know?”
“Ah, so no in a book naw? Ye strugglin tae get published?”
“Naw, naw. The publishers are still waiting on my new book.”
“Nice! Whit’s it called? Whit’s it aboot?”

I had to find a way to head this conversation off somewhere. A deep and insightful conversation about my writing was brewing somewhere and really, it was not a conversation I was fit for having in my current mental and physical state of mind. Bloody bladder…

“Eh, well, it’s about…”
“Haud oan a minute. Afore ye tell us aboot it, ye fancy signing a book fur me?”
“Eh, sure. Why not.”

‘Malky’ and his friend vanished. I took a few seconds to see if my body was going to let me finish the task I came in here and started a good 15 minutes ago. Sadly it was not to be. ‘Malky’ returned with a white hardback and a black marker. I washed my hands, dried them and took the book and marker from the boy.

“Who shall I make it out to?”

‘Malky’ laughed. I grimaced. A cliché if ever there was one.

“Just to me is fine.”
“Malky, is it?”
“Aye, aye.”

I hummed and hawed over it for a second as I opened the book and checked if it were a first edition. It was and then I then decided to write:

To Malky,
We’ll always have that time in the bogs of the student union.

Then I signed it in the most elaborate way possible. I closed the book over and handed it back to him and as I did so, I noticed a big green sticker on the front that said “Reduced: £3!” the exclamation mark was like a dagger to my heart. It was a sudden knot in my stomach. It wasn’t only reduced to three pounds (the RRP was fifteen) but the bookseller was triumphant in their marking down of the cost of my work. I tried not to let it get to me. ‘Malky’ thanked me, we shook hands and he left the toilet smiling.

My bladder changed its mind and my body and I went back to finish the task we started earlier on.

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