‘I’m pretty sure rugby was still amateur the last time I went even six weeks without Ant and Decs’
WE’RE BEING HELD behind a barrier, a hundred yords back from the scene of what promises to be one humongous explosion. I don’t know what I’m even doing here. Three times they’ve asked me to leave. They’ve asked us all to leave. Except, weirdly, we actually want to be here? Thirty or 40 of us who invested our hopes and our dreams and our hord cash in the Rosa Parks apartment scheme want to witness the exact moment when it’s reduced to basically rubble.
Christian goes, “So what actually happened?”
It really is great to have the dude back in my life. He’s come along to lend me a bit of moral support. And also because he saw a casino being taken down with dynamite when he lived in Vegas and it’s the kind of thing he really wants to see again.
“They took down the three unfinished blocks last year,” I go. “Same way. Controlled explosion. But it’s supposed to have, like, compromised the foundations of our building. They said it was no longer – and I’d never heard of the word before – but habitable?”
Christian just shakes his head. It’s obviously a new one on him as well. A dude in a fluorescent orange bib and a hord hat tells us we shouldn’t be there. No one moves. Then he tells us that if we choose to stay, it’s going to be at our own risk, as if that’s going to make a blind bit of difference to anyone.
I’m suddenly remembering the excitement when these aportments first went up. The big billboard on the M50 at the exit for Ticknock with the three photographs on it. A dude putting on cufflinks. A woman sipping a pomegranate bellini. A Newbridge Silver fork with a bit of asparagus on the end of it. Where is that bright future that we were promised now? Someone has the idea of ringing for pizza. Half an hour later, two dudes arrive on little motor scooters carrying 10 or 15 of them. I end up offering to pay for them all, which makes me a bit of a hero among the – you’d have to use the word – dispossessed.
Christian tears off a slice of Hawaiian for himself. We sit on the bonnet of my cor and he asks me what the deal is with the insurance. I tell him I don’t know yet how much I’ll be getting but it won’t be anything like the six hundred Ks the thing was worth when I first moved in.
I’m thinking that I really must make more of an effort with Christian. I haven’t seen nearly enough of him since he came back from the States. I know he’s got a lot on his plate. Can’t have been easy being made redundant and he’s dropped one or two hints that all is not well between him and Lauren.
“We’ve haven’t talked in ages,” I go. “As in, like, really talked?”
He straight away knows what I’m getting at and he just comes out with it. “Lauren wants another baby.” This would be in addition to Ross – or Ross Junior, as I call him.
I’m there, “Is that not a good thing? You always said you didn’t want your son growing up an only child.”
He looks at me like I’ve just said something ridiculous. He goes, “How am I going to support another kid?”
I’m like, “Dude, you’ll get another job.”
“Ross, my last job was as the project manager of a themed casino that went almost three quarters of a billion dollars over budget in the development phase and has been haemorrhaging money at a rate of about $2 million a week since it opened. I’m not only unemployed, Ross. I’m unemployable.”
He has actual tears in his eyes. I honestly had no idea he was this low. I don’t know what to say to him, so I end up saying the first thing that comes into my head.
I’m there, “Could Lauren’s old man not sort you out with a job?” I’m thinking that a man as famously crooked as Hennessy has got to be able to pull a few strings.
Christian ends up basically losing it with me. “I don’t want to have to go cap in hand to my father-in-law. Jesus Christ, Ross, I wouldn’t mind hanging on to the little bit of self esteem I have left.”
The dude in the fluorescent bib is back. He’s telling us all that we need to block our ears when the explosion happens. He says he’ll give us the signal.
I tell Christian I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. No, he says, he’s sorry. Then he goes, “Have another baby? That’s a laugh. Me and Lauren haven’t . . .”
“You know . . .”
“Jesus. How long are we talking?”
Six months? Did he really just say six months? I’m pretty sure rugby was still amateur the last time I went even six weeks without Ant and Decs. He throws his pizza crust away then in a fit of – I’d imagine – frustration.
I put my orm around his shoulder. I’m there, “Dude, things will . . .” Except he just cuts me off. “Don’t say they’ll get better,” he goes. “Why do people always say that things will get better.”
“Because they have to.”
“They don’t have to, Ross. They can get worse. They can get a lot worse.” There’s no point in talking to him. Not when he’s like this. He’ll be okay, though. He’s got good people around him.
I look at the outline of my aportment building one last time and I try to remember how I felt the day I first moved in. The dude in the bib goes, “Okay, block your ears, everyone. You really should. For your own sakes.”
We all do as we’re told. The next thing, the earth suddenly shakes beneath our feet. A big cloud of dust seems to come up from the ground, then – with the loudest bang I’ve ever heard – the entire building disappears from the skyline forever.