"Ju? Julian? Juulliaaaan...?"
No reply came as the voice became more persistent.
"Julian. Julian. Julian. Julian. Julian..."
Still no reply.
"Oh for fuck's sake! Will you come away from that picture box for one minute...?"
The straggly-haired man, not taking his eyes away from the bluish glow of the screen, answered.
"It's not a 'picture box' Noel, it's a computer - I know you're world hasn't progressed beyond the Spectrum yet, but there's no need to feign complete ignorance..."
"Bleurgh." Noel Fielding, comedian and fashion king extraordinaire, dispelled this remark in a slightly less witty but no less satisfying way than usual. What the hell had gotten into him?
Silence filled the flat as Julian Barratt, jazz maverick and Noel's partner in comedy crime, perused the images and reams of text onscreen. Eventually, Noel could stand it no longer. He'd always hated silence, and, his attention span being what it was, he was BORED.
"What're you looking at anyway, you greasy shoe?"
"Oh, nothing, just..." The sentence faded in the way people who start those kinds of sentences want them to remain.
"Just what? You've hardly taken your eyes off that thing all night." And you've not looked at me once, thought Noel, then wondering why that mattered so much to him...
"It's nothing, just looking at some fan stuff. Boosh fans, you know. The kind that break into spontaneous choruses of 'Calm a Llama Down' at the shows, follow us around..."
"Follow ME around, you mean!"
"Yeah, alright." He sounded tired and not in the mood for Noel's games. There really is something wrong here, thought the impish comedian as he scanned his friend's face, the familiar profile with its outline of scruffy brown hair... he felt overwhelmed with an urge to comfort him, reassure him, take him in his arms and… and… tell him everything will be alright. He covered it quickly with a brusque remark.
"Joke, Julian? Christy, what's gotten into you?"
"Nothing, there is NOTHING wrong with me Noel, OK, I’m FINE, read my thin lips, F-I-N-E" He crossed off the browser windows he had been reading and stomped off into his room.
Julian's outburst had phased Noel. This wasn't like him... granted, on the tour bus there had been times when they were both overtired and irritable, but hardly ever with each other, and even then all it took was an amusing random insult or an improvised song to make the other crack a smile and relieve any tension. But now? He’d been all right this morning... was it something to do with that website he'd been looking at, whatever it was? He had to find out.
Noel's knowledge of computers was thin... this one was Julian's really and had only been in the flat a few weeks, but now those tedious lectures and endless printouts he had made for Noel in a (somewhat pointless) attempt to technologify him would come in handy. It took a while to sift through the printing manuals, spreadsheets, 'trouble-shooting help' and ‘Don’t put a sandwich in here…’ warnings, but eventually he found what he was looking for.
He opened an Internet window, and selected the 'History' icon. Scrolling down the list, he found the last page his small-eyed friend had been browsing before leaving in such a dour mood, even for a Yorkshire man.
Boosh's Lash Haven? Some kind of make-up site for those crazy (but loveable) fans that love to dress as Vince Noir, or the Hitcher, or any other of the Mighty Boosh tribe...? How can that have affected Ju so much? Does he even have eyelashes...? Noel clicked the link, and once the page loaded, started to read.
Julian sat glumly on his bed, pressing his head against the cold wall in a vain attempt to feel anything, anything other than this. Outside, the world was dark and oppressive, closing in around his little room until it was as if he was at one with the darkness, consumed by it…
"If only they knew..."
The door opened with a creak as the silhouette of a marvelously root-boosted barnet showed against the light from the hall.
“Ju, are you in there…?” Noel could see nothing in the darkness except the vague shapes of shelves and shelves of records, and the outline of the bed… as he peered, he began to make out the form of his crumpled companion, trying, although Noel couldn’t know this, to will himself invisible. Eventually, a reply came:
“You saw me come in here, you berk. Of course I’m here.”
“I… brought you this…” The door opened and he could see that the slight Londoner was brandishing a cup of tea. The nectar of the gods. Despite the pact he had just made with himself never to have any sort of contact with Noel again, Julian felt his whole being calling out for that cup of warm goodness. He stuttered a reply.
“Oh, erm. Cheers.”
“Can I put the light on?”
"Oh." Julian took a sip of tea. It would’ve been so easy to slip back into the old routine, cover over the tension between them with a slice of comedic gold, throwing harmless banter back and forth, become their ‘other’ selves and not have to confront anything in the real world or say what was really on their minds. Horribly easy. He said nothing.
The pair sat in silence for a while, listening to the traffic outside, and the sound of each others’ breathing. Noel brought his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, resting his chin on top. Each had descended into his own thoughts, comfortable, and yet strangely distant from each other, as they had never been before.
It would be so easy, thought Julian, as he pretended not to watch his androgynous friend in the near-darkness. But he couldn’t. He just couldn’t, and that was that. Why was he thinking like this, anyway? He sounded like one of those bloody stories… stuff like that doesn’t happen in real life, it’s so much more complicated, couldn’t they see? And yet here he was, sat in the dark, so close, with his best friend, his companion, his…
Maybe you’ve got it wrong, Noel considered to himself. Maybe he’s just having a crisis or something. Not that…… he knows I’m joking, doesn’t he? About his hair, and clothes, and shit… I mean, he knows I don’t mean it…? He looks…… great... he quickly shook himself in a fairly futile attempt to clear his head, and hoped that Ju hadn’t noticed in the dark.
The sound of the doorbell broke them from their individual reveries. “Oh shit yeah, Rich said he was coming round some time this afternoon.”
“He’s early.” The American wasn’t known for his punctuality.
Julian watched the small retreating form as it disappeared out of the door and down the hallway. Could life really imitate art? He sighed, and in a soft breath, muttered ‘Why are you doing this to me…?’
He really wasn’t in the mood for Rich’s upbeat craziness.
He fell back against the pillow, and tried to forget the world.
Next morning when Noel awoke, it was to the sound of…nothing. It took until he had shaken sleep from his head and preened his hair a couple of times for him to register the lack of, well, anything. How long had he lived here? And how many mornings had he woken to the steady murmur of Julian’s first LP of the day? A good few, that was for sure. Had he overslept…?
Investigation yielded an empty room, and no sign of Julian. Odd. He stumbled into the kitchen and checked every conceivable place that Ju (ever the worrier of the pair) would have left one of his notes… the fridge, the fruit bowl, wedged in the door frame, the fridge again… nothing.
OK, no worries, probably gone down the shop or something. Or, had to do something, or… he’ll be back. He’s Julian. Attempting to distract himself, he set about peeling an orange. Not that he’d ever really liked the taste, or anything – far too many vitamins and all that rubbish for his preferred sugar-based diet – but, you know. He liked to peel them. Reveal something that no eye had ever seen, something fresh and new, and, juicy…
Time passed and no Julian arrived. It was nine-thirty by the time the sound of the door closing made Noel jump out of his skin and rush to the hall.
“Ju, it’s you.”
‘Yeah. Yeah, it is - what’s the matter?” Noel was staring at him like a lost child in a supermarket upon being reunited with its wayward parent.
“Nothing, I just… where’ve you been?”
“Out and about. What, am I not allowed out any more? Sorry, I must’ve forgotten that particular clause of the rent agreement…”
“What’s the matter with you Julian?!” Noel felt an anger rising in him, a resentment at being made to feel this small, this irritating, like a nagging mother…
“Nothing, what – ”
“Yes there is, yes there bloody well is! You’re all… grey, and, and brooding and frowning away and you won’t even tell me what’s wrong with you!”
“Look, just… just leave it ok, there’s nothing you can – ”
“How do you know that if I don’t even know what’s going on?”
“Oh you CAN’T fix EVERYTHING Noel!” Julian made for the sanctuary his room, slamming the door behind him.
“I know… but, you won’t even let me try.” Speaking softly to the blank wood of the door, Noel sighed and slid down the opposite wall, never taking his eyes from the space his best friend had a moment ago been occupying. What had gone wrong?
He found himself thinking about all the times he and Ju had had… when they were writing together, brainstorming craziness all over the place, and when Ju would get out his guitar and play him his new riff that he was so proud of, he and Noel improvising lyrics over the top that would always descend into paroxysms of laughter… where had all that gone? In a couple of days, he had moved so far away that Noel could barely even see his ‘best friend’ anymore… the only definite thing in his life for the last ten years, the only thing that was always stable, always solid, always there… had drifted away. And he had no idea why. Unless… no. No, don’t be a pillock Noel, it couldn’t really be that, that’s… that’s just ridiculous. Just a bit of harmless silliness by some Boosh fans with over-active imaginations, too much time on their hands... there’s no way that’s affected Ju like this, he’s too, too…… he doesn’t care what people think…
It was then Noel realised he was sitting on the floor in the hallway, and that this state of affairs had gone on long enough for his uncomfortable limbs and back. Not knowing what else to do, he went and put the kettle on.
Another morning dawned on the flat and Noel awoke with a stream of sunlight outlining his pointed features, promising a beautiful day. He did his usual routine of ridding himself of sleep and checking his hair from different angles, and wandered out into the main area of the flat. Everywhere was silent, again, although Noel didn’t seem to consider this with as much worry as he had the previous morning, given Julian’s mood, and the fact that he hadn’t strayed out of his room since yesterday despite Noel’s offer of tea, that in the end, garnering no response, he had left outside his door in a vain attempt to coax him out. And there it sat still, cold and unsipped. It was like a dagger in Noel’s stomach – if there was one thing this world could rely on, it was Julian Barratt’s attachment to a good cup of tea. He turned away from the sorry sight and padded into the kitchen.
As he went toward the fridge, a familiar and yet daunting site caught his eye – a note. From Julian. He almost dared not read it, but he willed himself on…
out away. I don’t know where, or for how long… I don’t seem to know anything anymore. If I don’t Take care. Julian.
He froze, and stood there reading it again and again as if the words couldn’t quite get themselves in the right order, wouldn’t make sense in his brain... things really had gotten this bad. Worse than even he had foreseen. Oh God, Julian…
Summer turned to autumn. The sunlight was still golden, the sky a clear blue and the air had a chill crisp that was not unpleasant. Outside, a million Londoners went about their business, each following their interlocking routes, each with their own destination, their own agenda.
Inside his flat, Noel Fielding groaned and awoke gradually, cursing the sunlight for blinding his sensitive eyes… shit. Not again. He forced himself out of bed, swaying slightly and holding his head, and stumbled to the kitchen.
Glass. Tap. Water. He found it easier to order his thoughts with one word commands. The water was cool and refreshing as it washed the taste of last night from his mouth. He could feel it running all the way down, regenerating his cells as it went. Breathing in deeply, he closed his eyes, and as he opened them caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror on the far wall, through in the living area. He almost dropped the glass as he stared fixatedly at the bedraggled mess staring back at him. Shit.
All else was forgotten as Noel moved as frantically as he could in his hung-over state to the bathroom, feeling the immediate need to do something about the terrible site he had beheld in the mirror. Must clean. Clean.
He felt a peculiar sense of awakening from the falling water, running hot and fierce all over his body like a torrent, surrounding him in steam like he was in a cloud world, where everything was soft and white and… vaporous. He had let himself slip, these last few months. He’d drunk too much, and thought too much, and forgotten about getting on with his life. But, what was his life, anyhow?
Finding a couple of towels he wrapped himself and his hair in them and ambled into the living area, where he was mightily shocked to see a figure facing him sitting on the sofa.
“Oh, what the f- !”
“Um, hi. Noel.”
It was Julian. Bearded, and world-weary, but otherwise still the same. The two stared at each other for a moment. Noel found himself communicating through that glance, they way they’d always done. It felt so strange it almost frightened him.
“I let myself in. I heard the shower, and so I thought I’d wait here, to… to see you. Wait, ‘til you’d finished. And…”
“Julian…” It was all he could muster. When nothing followed, Julian asked,
“Are you, alright? Umm, how’ve you been?”
“Julian…” It was a while before Noel could collect his thoughts enough to reply:
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m alright.”
Noel sat down on a chair opposite the tall
“Where’ve you been?”
Julian sighed as if he knew this question was coming, and after much thought was no nearer to a reasonable answer.
“Just, about, you know. Went, back up North for a bit. Been around.”
“Look….” This felt like one of those conversations with repercussions that ring around for weeks, probably even longer “…I shouldn’t have just gone off like that without a word, it was shit of me, and I’m sorry. I’m really sorry Noel.” Noel stared at the floor. He’d often wondered what he’d say to Julian when or if he ever returned, but now the moment had arrived and his mind was frustratingly blank.
“But, I’m back, and, well, that is I... I think I’ll be ok to come back now, and live here again.”
“So that’s it then.”
“So, that’s all you have to say.”
“I am sorry, Noel”
“Yeah. Well, you know what? Be fucking sorry.” It was hard to control the resentment as it rose inside him, bubbling and broiling as it took him over. He’d abandoned him, for no reason! And now this sorry excuse for an apology was meant to make everything better? Make him forget the months he’d spent living by himself, the endless questions from everyone from close friends to random strangers ‘Where’s Julian?’ ‘What’s he up to?’, the endless lies… ‘Oh he’s just off visiting his mum, soppy git!’ ‘He’s gone to see his Aunt Clarence in
Noel got to his feet, on the verge of exploding. He turned as if to walk away, but then turned back again and met his former best friend’s gaze with a glare of sadness and contempt that anyone who knew him wouldn’t think him capable of.
“I’ve spent the last four months of my life sitting around, thinking about where you are, or what you’re doing, or if you’re even still ALIVE, and all you can say is ‘I’m sorry’?? What the hell has gone wrong with you Julian?! Why can’t you just tell me what’s wrong?!!”
“I CAN’T, alright!” the shout caught Noel unexpectedly (and he was still a little fragile from last night’s ‘overindulgence’) and he staggered backwards slightly before regaining his composure.
“I wish, I wish I could tell you but I hardly know myself. It’s all so, bloody complicated, I just… I don’t KNOW!” His head fell into his hands, dejected and tired, unable, or unwilling to fight any longer.
“I just…” He looked up, and Noel thought he could sense the outline of a tear in his eyes “…I…”
Noel took a deep breath. “Julian… is it…” Hesitation. Was this the single biggest mistake of his life? Fuck it, he had to. He had to know.
“Is it me?”
As soon as the words left his mouth, they took on a life of their own and swam around the room, filling every crevice with their shape and implications. The air was swollen with emotions. For a moment, everything was still.
“Umm –” Barely more than a murmur escaped his lips before Noel interjected.
“Is that why you went away?”
Silence. For a moment all words left Julian Barratt’s head and he just sat, blank as a canvas.
“Ju I looked on the comp-u-ter,” the word was strange on his tongue but he dealt with it.
“…and I saw that website. That you were looking at before you, went off. I read it. The stories, and the pictures… and I thought that maybe that was why you’d gone off. That you were all creeped out, by our… success and stuff…” And by their mind-reading powers? he thought, but wasn’t quite brave enough to say.
“I, it… it was partly that, yeah. It drove something home to me that I couldn’t handle. It was all…a little… well, a little close to home”
The last words came out in a flood and he looked at Noel with a mixture of fear and questioning in his eyes. What would he take from that comment? Had he just ruined everything even more? He was met with Noel’s blue eyes, and a strangely blank expression.
“That’s why I went away, I mean, I thought, I thought if I ignored the problem long enough then it would just, go away…”
“The problem?? I’m not an STD Julian!”
“I know, I didn’t mean…”
“Christ.” He walked over to the window and stood with his back to Julian, looking out over old
The door was open and half of Julian’s willowy frame was outside before the sound he had longed for entered his ears, stopping him dead:
He turned and saw Noel looking at him with a new expression, one that he had never seen before and could not fathom… that hadn’t happened in a good many years: they always knew what each other was thinking, that was part of their, ‘thing’.
Noel turned away from the window, staring at Julian across the living room.
“In one of those stories…”
“Oh, don’t - ”
“In one of those stories, we had an argument, and I threw stuff at you, plates and all sorts, and you went away. You disappeared. And then, a while later, you came back. And I was all upset, and so were you, and then…”
“Yeah… but I mean, you mustn’t - ”
“And the world seemed golden and we were so happy… that happens a lot in those stories, doesn’t it Ju…?” As he spoke he edged forward softly, moving closer until he was looking up into Julian’s brown eyes. The taller man froze. His breathing was shallow and soft and he struggled with himself to do something, say something, anything Julian just don’t stand there like an piece of performance art…
“They always fix us in the end, don’t they?” Their faces were no more than a few inches apart as Julian managed to utter:
“Well, yeah… after I’ve been mean, and you’ve cried, usually, everything turns out for… the better…”
It was Noel who made the first move. As if he had been held in a trance and someone had suddenly snapped their fingers, he grabbed Julian’s face and kissed him, desperately and passionately. Julian, taken off-guard at first let him lead the way as they stood in their whirling, excited, contented reverie forgetting everything in the world, everything but each other, and this... Noel pulled away a little and stared at his friend – now Ju recognised that look. And oh God, it’s all for me…
“Shut the door Ju, its freezing out there…!”
“Certainly,” He did so, and turned back to his beaming friend. “Would this be a good time to remind you of the absence of anything but a towel about your person…?”
“I don’t know…… would it?” The cheeky smirk was too much for Julian and he laughed as he pushed the smiling cockney onto the sofa and followed him there, touching and kissing and possessing everything about him.
Sometimes things aren’t as complicated as they seem. Julian pondered on this later as he lay on the sofa, one arm around the sleeping Noel curled up across his chest, watching out of the window as the leaves fell in the golden-reddish light of the setting autumn sun. Sometimes it’s best to stop thinking, and start, well, doing… His perpetual smile grew a little more as his friend, his best friend, stirred in his sleep and groaned contentedly.
“Mmm hmm?” He looked down and smoothed Noel’s hair gently. The little man was in that hazy space between sleeping and waking, not quite able to form sentences but still willing to try.
“Fixed, now?” Julian grinned.
“Yeah. All fixed.”
“Good.” And he drifted back into a contented and blissful sleep.
Thought I'd post it here as well (we must have our perfect symmetry after all my dear banshee!), just for shits and giggles and whatnot.
Is it bad that we spend our time writing stories about men discovering they're gay...?!
Oh the wondrous joys of unemployment!