Cup Of Ambition
Updated: Jun 12, 2020
I can’t remember how to make a cup of tea. I just can’t fucking remember.
I look at the cup. It needs a tea bag in there, that’s for sure. Maybe it needs two, or three, or four tea bags. I just really can’t remember. I’ve made thousands of these things and I can’t remember. My heart is beating like crazy. So fast. Like if it was in a race against Usain Bolt, my heart would absolutely spank him. Everyone would think my heart was on performance enhancing drugs. There’d be a big investigation. Accusations flying everywhere. Clare Balding would be chatting shit about it on the telly. Everyone would have an opinion. But my heart would say, “No, I’ve not taken anything. I’m just unbelievably anxious. So you can stop chatting shit now, Clare.” Meanwhile, my brain would be like, “Guys, I really don’t think I know how to make a cup of tea anymore.”
I grab five tea bags and shove them into the cup. I start pouring the milk until the cup is about three-quarters full. I then top it off with some boiling water.
Fuck me, that’s the wrong way around. That’s obviously the wrong way around.
Oh no. What am I gonna do? She’ll be back any second. The room starts spinning. I feel like I’m gonna faint, so I sit down on the floor. I burst into tears. I’ve fucked up again. I just wanted to do something nice. But I’ve fucked it.
Mum walks through the door.
“There’s a… erm… I made a tea but it’s a bit milky so… l’ll sort it… just leave it, I can start again.”
“Eric,” she says, “do you think that maybe you need to go to the Doctor’s again?”
There’s a pause.
“Do you think I’m a burden?” I say.
“Of course I don’t think that,” she says.
But she has to say that. She has to make sure I don’t know. It’s like how Theresa May has to pretend that Brexit will be a success. She doesn’t really think that. She knows it’s gonna be a strain on everyone. She knows we’d be better off without it. But if even she admitted we’re headed for disaster, then what hope is there.
I just wanted to make Mum a nice cup of tea for when she got home from work. She gave me a text saying “back in 5” and I put down my dictionary and sprang into action. I thought this is my chance. I could contribute. A nice little gesture to show her I’m trying. I could prove to her that I’m not just sat here all day searching for funny old-fashioned words and phrases to put in my blog. It would fix everything lickety-split.
Gee-whiz, it was a splendid idea.
But I failed.
When I moved back home after uni, Mum said it didn’t matter how long it took me to sort things. She said because I’ve not been very well, I should take it easy. She said I’ve always got a place with her. She said my happiness is paramount. I said isn’t it Comedy Central these days. She said it’s niche jokes about the rebranding of satellite television channels like that which mean I’ll always be welcome. She said that joke doesn’t work Eric. I said do you still love me. She said yes.
But now six months have passed and I’ve done nothing. Fuck all. She probably wasn’t expecting this. At what point is she gonna tell me it’s gone too far? That I’m draining her. That I’m making her life harder. I want to change things. I just can’t. I’m too frightened, I think. Or too stupid. I don’t know. It just all seems too hard. Like a penis or something.
I don’t even know how to write jokes anymore. Ffs.
Mum says just leave the cup of tea and have a lie down. I go to my room and everything is still spinning. I look in the mirror and things come into focus again. Proper intense focus.Trying to finish a Jamie Oliver 15-minute meal in less than 15 minutes levels of focus. I can see my face and everything that’s wrong with it. Its grotesque shape. Its horrible complexion. The shitty bit between my front teeth. And my hairline. Oh mate, my hairline. It’s receding. It’s almost as if it’s seen what a horror-show my face is, and is now slowly retreating from the situation, saying to itself, “I want no part of this.”
I should do some writing. I sit at the desk. I can’t think of anything. I get my phone out. I open Tinder. I swipe right around 25 times.
I stand up and look in the mirror again.
You’re fine Eric. You’re beautiful. Remember that YouTube video you watched. About being positive. With the bald guy who spoke really softly. No one cared about his hairline. He seemed happy. What was that mantra he talked about?
“I am completely independent of the opinions of other people.”
That was it. Just remember the mantra, and I’ll be alright. Although, thinking back, I didn’t like that guy. I thought he was a massive prick. His voice annoyed me. But maybe that was the point – he’s completely independent of my opinion. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of anybody.
Who’s to say I’m not living a good life?
I can still turn things around. I’ve got loads of things going for me. I’m funny. I’m good at FIFA. I’m always respectful during a minute’s silence. If there’s a minute’s silence going on you’ll rarely hear a peep from me guys. If I do speak, it’s only because I’ve forgotten what’s happening. And in that case the intention’s not there. So it’s fine.
It’ll be alright. Tomorrow I’ll have a fresh start. I’ll put a shift in. 9-5. Proper Dolly Parton. I’ll tumble out of bed and stumble to kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, yawn and stretch and try to come to life. I’ll tidy the place up. Do some writing. Maybe even apply for a few jobs. And when Mum comes back, there’ll be a cup of tea waiting for her. Brewed to perfection. You better fucking believe it.
I wake up the next morning and look at my phone.
Two o’clock! How the fuck did that happen?
I jump out of bed, trip over the hoover and smack my head on the drawers.
“Who put that there for God’s sake?” I scream.
“Me mate,” God says, appearing in front of me in the form of a half-eaten custard cream that’s been left on the floor. “I did it for my own sake. Funny little prank if I do say so myself.”
This does not bode well mental health-wise, I think.
I throw the custard cream in the bin.
Okay, she’ll be back in three hours. I can do loads in three hours. Jamie Oliver could serve up 12 delicious dishes in that time. It’s fine.
I get up and look in the mirror to assess the damage on my face from that classic smacking-my-head-on-the-drawers incident that happened a few moments ago. It seems alright. Then after a few seconds the grotesque-face-receding-hairline routine starts happening again. I stand there staring at my reflection. When I snap out of it, I check the time.
I can deal with that.
She’ll be back in two hours. I can do loads in two hours. Jamie Oliver. Not a problem.
I sit down at the desk and open my laptop. I’ll get some writing done. Some good writing. Quality writing. Game-changing stuff. Coming up soon. When exactly? Soon mate. Very soon. So soon that it’s basically in the past. In fact… I’ll look over some of my old stuff. That’ll get me started. Get the juices flowing.
I open up my wordpress and start reading through.
This blog used to be good, man.
Yeah man. Yeah it did.
I close the laptop. I’ve got nothing.
My heart starts beating faster. I can feel it coming on again.
I get up and walk to the kitchen.
How can I let another day go by without doing anything? I should be writing. Practising stand-up. Following my dreams. Working hard like all those highfalutin city folk down south.
I just wanna do something with my life because then maybe I won’t be alone like this. People will be drawn to me. And maybe I’ll get a girlfriend. And she’ll make it alright. And I won’t be so stressed out. And I’ll be able to make a cup of tea again. And me and my mum and my girlfriend will drink tea and watch panel shows together. And my mum will say to my girlfriend that she’s like the daughter she never had. And I’ll say you’ve got two daughters Mum. And she’ll say yeah but none like your Alison. And we’ll all laugh out loud before dunking shortbreads in our tea.
“I am completely independent of the opinions of other people.”
I look at the kettle. I should have a practice-run, to make sure I can do it this time. I grab a cup and rack my brain for what to do next. Why is making a brew so hard these days? I put the cup back down. I can’t breathe. It’s all spinning again.
Calm it down, Eric. You’re fine, mate. Go outside, get some fresh air. What would that YouTube prick do?
Okay, going outside is a good idea. A very good idea. It’s got legs, that’s for sure. Long lovely legs. I don’t normally like to objectify coping strategies, but this one has fantastic set of pins on it. Maybe I’ll go to the shop and get some biscuits.
Ten minutes later and I’m in Morrison’s. I feel dead hot. And itchy. I’m looking for the shortbreads but I can’t find them. I see chocolate digestives. I see hobnobs. I see custard creams. I see bourbons. I see an old man walking around with just a tin of kidney beans in his hands. I don’t see why he doesn’t have a basket. I see a sadness in his eyes. I see myself. I see how one day I’ll be old as fuck. I see all the pain between now and then. I see the failures. I see the bad decisions. I see the regret I’ll feel. I see the people I’ll hurt. I see the people I’ve already hurt. I see my whole life passing without me achieving anything. I see there’s no point trying. I see how unbearable it all is. I see why sometimes people decide enough is enough. I see some Jammy Dodgers.
“Where the fuck are the shortbreads!?” I scream.
A member of staff approaches me. Their name-tag says Paul but they look more like a dickhead.
“Excuse me sir, can I help you?”
I’m still so hot and itchy and I’m scratching my neck and my chest and this geezer’s face is annoying me.
“Shortbreads! Just get me some fucking shortbreads!” I shout*.
“Okay you need to calm down, sir.”
“Fuck you, Paul. Fuck your stupid fucking face mate. You don’t know shit. I’m completely independent of the opinions of other people.”
“I’m out of my mind mate. I’m out of my fucking mind. What are you gonna do about it?” I say, pulling off my jumper. I’m itching all over. Scratching like crazy. I take my top off. It’s so hot. Heart is going ten to the dozen. I don’t wanna feel like this anymore. I’m out of my mind. I’m out of my fucking mind.
I fall to the floor and burst into tears. I start to laugh hysterically.
“I AM COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT OF THE OPINIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE AND I AM OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND!”
I look up and see my mum standing over me. She’s carrying a shopping basket with a packet of shortbreads inside.
“Eric,” she says, “do you think that maybe you need to go to the doctor’s again?”
Anyway, that’s about it.
*So loudly that the kidney bean fella drops his kidney beans. As the tin rolls down the aisle, I see he has a tear in one of his eyes. A tear so pathetic that gravity doesn’t bother to pull it down his face. He doesn’t go after the tin. He’s done chasing things in his life. He’s got nothing left. He turns and walks out of the shop.