Costa del Sick Day
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
I get proper sad when it gets cold. I’m not that happy when it’s warm, but when the weather starts to become what’s known in meteorology as “fucking shit and depressing” then I become fucking shit and depressing too. Well, maybe depressed rather than depressing. But to be fair, I’m probably also depressing to be around when I’m like this.
I’ve taken the day off work today. I woke up (which is how I traditionally start the day) and I felt the cold and I was like fuck this; I’m gonna stay in bed and hug my pillow and pretend it’s a lady that I’m in a deep and meaningful relationship with.
I work for an agency and they ring me every morning to see if I’m available for work. I’ve been trying for a long time to get in with a comedy agency. When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe, I emailed every big comedy agency to invite them to see me perform. I was hoping if I got some representation, then maybe my career could advance, maybe I’d get to do some tour support work, or at least get a few trial spots with the big comedy clubs. There must’ve been a mix up because the only agency that replied was a company that supplies teaching assistants to schools in Birmingham. They absolutely loved my joke about body dysmorphia though, so fair play to them.
They rang me today and said they had some work for me. I told them I wasn’t feeling well.
I didn’t make any effort to sound ill on the phone, and if they questioned my illness I was ready to go off on one. “Not every illness is physical, you know,” I’d say. “Depression can be invisible to others, but when it hits you, it’s all you can see. It makes everything grey. It makes you push away people that care about you. And you know what? It affects a lot of people, probably most people at some point in their lives. So, if you ever get badly depressed, good luck to you, but don’t expect any sympathy from me. Actually, do expect sympathy from me, no one should have to face it alone, that’s the problem. Wait no, I’ve changed my mind again, don’t talk to me if you get sad. Oh man, I’m all over the place. Please help me. I know our relationship is strictly professional, but would you be up for getting a coffee later? I just need someone to talk to.”
But unfortunately, they didn’t question it.
When I got off the phone, I realised that all I had ahead of me was a blank day to fill, a day of being sad with no distractions, and I thought, why did you tell them you were sick? You fucking idiot.
Lying in bed wasn’t as good as I thought it would be either. I got into an argument with my pillow/girlfriend. I was squeezing her and she felt cold, and I said, “Are you cold?” and she said, “No I’m fine,” but in like a really cutting anyway, and I said, “What’s wrong with you?” but with a bit of anger as well because I feel like she’s been really emotionally distant recently and then she just told me to shut up and stop being paranoid.
“Maybe we need a break,” I said to her.
“Yeah, maybe we do,” she said. “Now get up and leave me alone you twat.”
“Oh go fuck yourself,” I shouted.
I got up and went downstairs, slamming my bedroom door behind me. I didn’t know what to do. Or how to fix things. This might sound a bit crude, but sometimes I watch porn when things get a bit too much. It’s an escape. I think a lot of men do it. It’s so widespread that I’m surprised doctors don’t just prescribe Brazzers accounts when men come to them with depression. I’ve been trying to not watch any recently, because I don’t think it’s healthy and I’m unsure of how it affects the way I see women. Plus it’s giving me erectile dysfunction I think. All sorts of problems for Old Roy (Old Roy is me, my middle name is Roy). But I was so sad that I don’t think it would’ve worked anyway. I’d probably just want to ask the pornstars how they all are, how they’re coping, whether they feel like failures sometimes too, like they’ve got no one that understands them.
I decided to go to Costa and do some writing. I do this every day before work normally. I get up, get my shoes and coat on, get out the door, and head towards Costa. I then walk back home, open the door, take my shoes and coat off, remember to put the rest of my clothes on before I leave the house again.
No amount of sadness will stop Old Roy’s penchant for a pull-back and reveal.
I always order the same thing at Costa: a medium latte with a straw. It’s £2.85. I can’t really afford to be spending money on coffees every day (especially if I’m off work with invisible illnesses), but I tell myself it’s an investment in the future. I’m not gonna be worrying about the price of a coffee when I have books published and my own stand up tour where I play the smaller studio spaces in already quite obscure theatre venues. I get a straw with it, and I know that’s a bit different, a bit out-there, but I’m worried if I consume the coffee mouth-first like a maniac then all my teeth will fall out. I’ve developed an awful obsession surrounding my teeth. I’m worried I’ve ruined them beyond repair through years of eating and drinking sugary crap, so now I’ll do anything that might reduce that, even if I’m just clutching at straws.
I came in this morning at about 10:00am, which is still breakfast time. Often when the breakfast menu is on, I flirt with the idea of getting the coffee and bacon roll deal, but today the only thing I was flirting with was the idea of leaving and throwing myself in front of the next bus. Also, the croissant looked good.
I know everyone who works in Costa by name. In my head, they’re my friends. There’s a young guy about my age called Sayed, who is extremely attractive and has a hench jawline. There’s Will, who’s in his thirties and is chubbier and more tired-looking than Sayed. There’s Louise, a middle-aged lady that always looks pissed off (probably justifiably so in this cruel cruel world). There’s Emily, who has an Irish accent (probably because she’s Irish) and is dead nice and I fancy her a bit. And there’s Dave, the manager, who has no discernible features (probably because he doesn’t have a face).
Sayed served me. I ordered my usual. One thing that upsets me is that I still have to ask for the straw. I come in every day and they don’t remember. At the very least they could be like “do you want a straw with that?” But no, it’s like I’m a stranger. These are supposed to be my friends, but I’m treated like someone that’s just wondered in.
They can go fuck themselves, I thought. It’s lucky I vibe so much with the interior design of the place and the delicious taste of the coffee and oh who am I kidding I love the staff as well. The feeling doesn’t have to be mutual to make it meaningful. It’s like they say, “You are what you love, not what loves you.” I heard that in a film (non-pornographic).
I sat down with my coffee and opened my laptop. Then I got what’s known in meteorology as “writers block”. The reason I go to Costa every day is because I wanna get really good at writing. In my head, I think that if I carry on writing, then one day I’ll have honed my skills enough to be considered an excellent writer. I’ll hopefully be able to publish books that bring money and validation and confirmation that I’ve not been wasting my time, and then one day I’ll be doing a book signing and a pretty and quirky girl with glasses and an eccentric dress-sense will shyly approach me and she will turn out to be my soulmate. BOOM. Life complete. Nothing to worry about again. Nice one.
Instead of getting closer to my dreams, I feel like with each Medium Latte I finish, I’m further away. Maybe I should stop finishing them, and leave a bit at the bottom to symbolise that there’s hope left. Or maybe I should switch to Cappuccinos to symbolise that Cappuccinos might be a better drink. I don’t know what symbolism is. I didn’t study English beyond GCSE and this is probably part of the problem.
I should probably just pack it in. It’s too much pressure. Sometimes I just want to sink into the bosom of large-breasted woman — not dissimilar to Nigella Lawson, but also not similar enough for it to actually be her in the fantasy – and cry, while she comforts me and says “You don’t have to do this you know? People love you as you are. You matter. You really do matter, Eric.” And as her breasts jangle in front of me, I’ll cry and realise that she’s right. I will stop doing comedy, and I will spend the rest of my life living as an activist and advocate for big, jangly breasts.
But she’s not a real person, and being an advocate for big, jangly breasts isn’t a real job. Maybe today was just a write off when it came to writing. I didn’t wanna go back out in the horrible cold again though, or go home and argue with my pillow/girlfriend again, so I stayed. I closed my laptop and thought about life a bit. Then I listened to the song Barking by Ramz, you know the one that goes:
I might link my ting from Barking
7am in the morning
She’s callin’, I’m yawnin’ She’s jarrin’, no stallin’
(It’s better with the music).
Then I got sad because I wished I had a ting I could link. I ain’t got nobody I can link. Even my best friend Joe wasn’t very sympathetic when I was feeling sad last night.
So I just sat there in Costa for a bit. Then I remembered I had a book in my bag, A Book For Her, by the comedian Bridget Christie. I got it from a charity shop, and I hadn’t started it yet. I haven’t seen her stand up before, but I figured because it was comedy related it might be a good book.
I couldn’t stop reading. Like properly couldn’t stop. I sat there for hours, reading about her life in stand-up and the challenges she’s faced to get where she is. And it was so interesting, and funny, and thought provoking. And real. I think that was the main thing, like a real person was talking to me. Suddenly there was somewhere for my feelings to go if that makes sense? Like there was so much sadness inside of me and I was feeling angry on top of that because it felt so isolating. But someone else was talking about things in the world that are shit and it was cathartic. The shit thing in the world she was mainly focusing on was sexism, which if I’m honest, I know embarrassingly little about. Like I don’t think I properly understand it or give it enough thought. Then I felt guilty reading about all the oppression she was talking about because I probably contribute. Just look back at the casual sexism all over this blog #RereadValue.
Her writing was challenging me to be a better person and also making me laugh at the same time. And she was being vulnerable and honest, she said she spent years failing at stand up and not making any money, which made the pressure I was putting on myself seem a bit silly. I ended up reading about 150 pages in one sitting, just completely absorbed. When I finally put it down, I felt inspired. I opened my laptop and started typing. If she can write a whole book and be funny and interesting, then I can at least do a blog. So here I am now.
And also, I don’t feel as bad anymore. I’m sure the sadness is still there waiting to take over, but I don’t really mind. That’s a weird thing about depression as well: sometimes a glimmer of hope will appear and it’s enough to pick you up, to at least function for a bit. I feel like I can maybe contribute in some way, by saying I feel shit. Maybe by attempting to write openly it will help someone else, like Bridget Christie’s book helped me. And if the blog’s shit, then you can just read her book instead. So it’s win-win.
I know deep down whenever I get depressed that it won’t last forever, that things will look brighter, that the feelings of everything being against me are probably just lies I’ve told myself and there really are lots of people that care about me.
After I started writing, I got up to get another coffee.
“Medium latte, please.”
“Yeah mate — straw with that?”
Anyway, that’s about it.
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