Originally not aired on ??/??/????
That’s it. The build-up is over, Christmas is tomorrow and – unless you’re a bloody bloke – you’ve done your shopping and you’ve wrapped your presents. Now it’s just time to sit back and relax, unless of course you’re one of the unlucky few that has to work tonight. I think we should all take a moment to appreciate those who don’t stop at Christmas, who provide a much-needed service regardless of what day it is. I’m talking doctors; I’m talking nurses; and I’m talking the girls on Babestation who still have a nightshift to get through. God bless them all.
One thing that does still need to be wrapped up though, is another successful series of the festive unrecorded podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes.” If you’re one of the lads from East-17, then don’t worry, because we are staying for another day, but then THAT’S IT you needy pricks.
I’m back in my hometown of Stone, Staffordshire today, and I went to Costa earlier to finish this thing. I didn’t have a guest lined-up; I was just gonna have a coffee with my intern Pablo (he’s spending Christmas with me) and write a round-up of the series. The plan was to write about my highlights of the year and then end on an overly sentimental message that blurs the line between sincerity and irony – what my fans refer to as “classic Eric Rushton”.
But then someone came over.
“Eric,” he said, “long time, no see.”
I looked up. “Long time, no see” turned into “now time, yes see.”
“Josh! Oh wow.”
Stood in front of me was my old friend Josh Harris. And by old friend, I don’t mean like “ooh my good old mate Josh” I mean like we used to be friends but we’re definitely not anymore. I haven’t spoken to him in 5 or 6 years, since school.
“How’s it going?” He said. “Do you mind if I grab a seat?”
“Well, I mean…”
He sat down.
“How’ve you been?” He said.
“Yeah good. How are you?”
The conversation was extremely stilted. Ironically, when we were younger, we used to play on actual stilts quite a lot, and back then the conversation couldn’t have flowed any better.
“Josh,” I said, “I don’t think we should pretend like nothing’s happened.”
“Well, I feel like you’ve got some explaining to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been writing about me.”
If you’ve been following this series, you’ll have noticed that several times I’ve alluded to my broken friendship with Josh. I definitely didn’t know it then, but it seems to have foreshadowed this meeting and has given the series the illusion of having a narrative arc rather than being just a collection of standalone episodes. Nice one.
“To be honest, I didn’t think you’d read them. You haven’t spoken to me for years.”
“You haven’t spoken to me, either.”
I looked down. I felt uncomfortable. This is the exact thing I hate about returning to my hometown at Christmas: seeing people from the past. They’re everywhere – on the highstreet, in Wetherspoons, and now in my favourite coffee-joint, Costa.
“Listen, Josh, I don’t really wanna do this right now.”
“Is this still about Jody Cartwright? Get over it.”
As my latte was beginning to cool, I felt my own temperature rising.
“You knew I liked her, Josh. You knew it!”
“Yeah, and you also said it would be okay if I went for it with her.”
“Well what was I supposed to say?” I said, flinging my arms out in exasperation. “And anyway, it’s not about just that. It’s about you always getting everything. Everyone loved you, and you’d rub it in my face. You’re better looking, better at sports, you even did Medicine at Oxford for Christ’s sake.”
‘Is that really how you see it?” He said.
“You know, Eric, it hurt me when we stopped speaking. I reached out and you ignored my messages.”
“You were at Oxford with the posh boys, I’m sure you were doing just fine.”
He laughed. Not like a laugh someone does when they find something funny, more like one of those laughs that means “Is this guy for real?”
“You have no idea what it was like. Have you ever thought that maybe I needed a friend too?”
I sighed. There was a lot of sighing going on in this exchange. I guess it’s just the perfect way of indicating that something serious is about to be said.
“I wanted a fresh start,” I said, sighing yet again. “I thought I could reinvent myself when I left home. Be cool, be liked. I just hate coming back here to be honest.”
“What are you talking about? Everyone loved you. You were always making people laugh at school. And since you’ve been doing the comedy, everyone here is so proud of you man.”
I looked at Josh’s face and I suddenly felt transported back to the past. I didn’t see the person I’ve grown bitter about anymore. I saw the two of us in year 8, making jokes at the back of Mr. Taylor’s English lessons. I saw us playing FIFA. I saw getting drunk for the first time at Westbridge Park. I saw us at Prom together. These all memories that I’d tried to bury, because I didn’t want to feel the pain I’d associated with our friendship. But now there didn’t seem to be any pain, or inadequacy, the passage of time had fixed all that. Maybe what I was burying them under was just snow, and now it was beginning to melt.
“I’m sorry, man,” I said.
“Me too, Eric. Me too.”
It made me think, at this time of year we often look to the future and our goals for the new year. But I guess Christmas is also about confronting the past, and coming to terms with it. I’m home for Christmas, and I want to make the most of it.
“Are you gonna go to Wetherspoons’ tonight, Josh?” I asked.
“Nah, I’m working unfortunately.”
“Oh of course, at the hospital?”
“No, I actually dropped out of medicine. I’m a cameraman for Babestation.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!