I had a friend who claimed he could make women orgasm just by thinking about them. It's a pretty unusual ability, sure, but I'd...

   I had a friend who claimed he could make women orgasm just by thinking about them. It's a pretty unusual ability, sure, but I'd never seen any proof of it.

   The man was a compulsive liar. I remember clearly the time he told me that his father was an Inuit, a skilled fisherman built for freezing environments with a hide as thick as hippo's skin and fingers that could be as articulate as an Eton graduate's mouth. He told me this Inuit-turned-Brit father of his made his own clothes, mostly out of fabric from sofas on skips and the skins of animals that he'd found dead in the road. He said that you can move an Inuit into the big city, but you can't teach him to swim with the big fishes. He'll always be stuck in his ways, he said, because he misses the land of the snowy ground (apparently, that’s what they call Alaska) like an amputated limb. He told me that his mother had met her Inuit husband when she was the site manager at the oldest oil derrick in Alaska, drilling for the last drip of oil it could find. Staying at an Inuit village for the night, she'd huddled up to one of the locals and woken up with a bun in the oven. It was love at first sight. My friend claimed she went straight on working, and the day she finally gave birth, she was still wearing her hard hat and hi-vis jacket. 

   When I finally met his parents, when I lifted him to pick up some furniture to take to the dump for them, I was met with a small, round, bald Mancunian called Steve and his frail old wife called Ethyl. Ethyl was in a wheelchair; said she had been since she was twenty-three.

   Another time, he told me he’d met Bill Clinton at a work event. They were having their Christmas party, back when companies were allowed to have Christmas parties, and it was being held at a fancy function hall up in town. He said he was standing at a window looking out over the Thames, ‘watching the world go by’ as he put it, when he felt a tap on his elbow. Turning so suddenly that he nearly spilt his martini on his elbow-nudger, he found that his attention had been grabbed by none other than the infamous player-president. Bill was a charmer, he claims, opening the conversation with, ‘I saw your suit from across the room, and I couldn’t help but come over and compliment you on your sense of style.’ They spoke about everything from taste in women to debt consolidation, my friend tells me, before Bill had them both at the bar necking premium vodka.

   This might be believable, if you hadn’t seen my friend’s sense of style. He looks like he pulls his clothes on with his teeth, in the dark, after a heavy sniff of glue.

   If you point out the holes in the plots he weaves, your words fall on deaf ears. Selective comprehension blocks out all your protestations – he only understands what he wants to.

   And because he lies so often, I didn’t believe him when he told me told me he was disappearing. That night, in a dingy bar on the overlap between London and Shitter London, he said he was leaving the continent for good, and I just laughed at him. ‘Fuck off, Keith,’ I guffawed, ‘you’ve never been further than Portsmouth.’


   I suppose I should start from the beginning. He invited me to his flat, a one bedroom number in New Cross, to pick him up so that he could drink all he wanted. When I got there, the door to his apartment was ajar and the hallway outside stank of gin. I tried not to let my clothes touch the stained brown walls and I breathed through my mouth, as I pushed his door open and wandered inside his filthy flat. I didn’t have to look much further than his living room to find him, sprawled half on the floor and half on his sofa, covered in gin and dribble and pizza tomato sauce, straddling the line between consciousness and retardation. To be honest, after years of knowing him, I should have expected it.

   I prodded him awake. ‘Keith,’ I said, ‘you still up for the pub, or not?’

   ‘Fuck you, Smokey Robinson,’ he blurted, snapping out of his stupor and straightening up. I would have laughed if my gag reflex didn’t have such a violent hold on my throat. ‘Oh, it’s you. …Have you seen Cherry about?’

   ‘Who – or what – is Cherry?’ I asked, collecting the clothing and empty alcohol containers from his floor to assist in the clean-up operation, as he just sat there dazed.

   ‘A prostitute,’ he replied almost under his breath, murmuring as he lifted up pizza boxes and papers on his coffee table, as if looking for this whore under all his trash. ‘She was here half an hour ago, definitely.’

   ‘Of course she was.’ 

   ‘She was. Asleep on the floor in front of the telly, all foetal like. I woke up and had another go on her.’

   ‘Of course you did.’ 

   ‘She’d better not have taken my fucking wallet.’ His rooting around became more frantic.

   ‘Keith,’ I sighed, ‘stop lying and get in the shower. We need to get to the pub. I’m not wasting all night watching you sweat gin.’


   And an hour or later, there we were, finally in the pub. After two more gins, that’s when he said it.

   ‘Trust me, Aaron, this is the truth. Even if I didn’t have to go, even if they weren’t literally on my tail, I couldn’t stand being in this country any longer. The taxes, the job market, the media, the residents, everything about this country just grates on me these days. I’m disappearing. After tonight, you might never see me again.’

   I kept my eyes on the girl at the bar, the one with the thick-rimmed glasses and turtle-neck jumper. Her in the pencil skirt and the high heels, looking like she’d had a shit day at work. Given half a chance, I’d make it better for her. 

   ‘Where are you going? France? Germany?’

   ‘Fuck that. I’m going to the US. People like me blend into the scenery in the US. Somewhere like LA, I was made for places like that. They’d never find me there.’

   ‘Sorry… who? I have no idea what you’re talking about. Who’s after you?’

   ‘Who isn’t,’ he replied, sniffing and eyeing the room suspiciously. More of a statement than a question, despite his choice of words. ‘It’s the drugs, mostly. Bad deals, bad debt, bad lies I should never have told. Either way, if I’m not out of the country by tomorrow I’ll be dead by Thursday.’

   To be honest, the way he was living his life at the time, it wouldn’t surprise me if that one was the truth.

   ‘Have you ever read The Boy Who Cried Wolf? That’s you.’

   He laughed, clicking his fingers at the barmaid for another gin, despite knowing that that place didn’t do table service. ‘Aaron, you’re a prick. But I love you. And I’m leaving. Tonight. As soon as possible. Just say goodbye, please. Whether you believe me or not, just humour me by having this goodbye drink with me and pretending. …What are you staring at?’

   ‘What?’ My attention snapped back to Keith, like he’d caught my cock in a mouse trap.

   ‘That girl at the bar. You’ve been eyeing her up since she walked in. You’re like a dog that’s spotted a rabbit. My drinks nearly spilled, the way your erection propped the table up.’

   I laughed, shrugging off my reddened cheeks. ‘Shut up, Keith. No idea what you’re talking about. Carry on, what were you saying? Some bullshit or other.’

   He paused, just staring at me. My blush intensified, and a grin crept across his face like a caterpillar crawling across a leaf. All tooth and smugness, he downed the rest of his drink, ice and all, and said, ‘Watch this.’

   The slicing noise of drifting paper and the hard thump of dropped books distracted me, as the paperwork that my lady friend at the bar had been reading fell from her hands onto the beer-stained carpet below her stool. I wanted not to look because I didn’t want to focus on her again under his watch, but I couldn’t keep my eyes from her as her hand slapped onto the bar, drawing the attention of all seven punters in the room. Her breathing quickened gradually, that chest of hers heaving under the figure-hugging jumper as she gripped the bar for support. As her head threw itself back, flinging that shiny brunette hair all over the place, her legs uncrossed and the first groan fell from her lips, hanging in the air like Viagra for my ears. ‘Oh,’ she sighed, as her ankles curled to point her toes at the floor, ‘oh God.’

   Someone should help her, I thought. She’s having a heart attack!

   But then she groaned, ‘Oh, yes.’

   I sat there with my mouth agape, as her back arched and her sighs grew louder and louder with every passing second. Pushing her chest toward the sky, she cried out for God again as she ran her hand from her slender neck, down her gasping chest and across her stomach. The fingernails of her other hand scratched deep trenches into the wooden surface of the bar. ‘Fuck, yes,’ she cried out, at the top of her lungs, throwing her head around so the hairband that was holding her ponytail in place came loose and allowed some of her hair to escape. ‘YES!’ 

   She was having an orgasm. An intense, blissful, all-consuming orgasm that drowned her in pleasure and erased the world around her, as her insides exploded with delight and her muscles quivered uncontrollably. She was coming hard, and the world around her paused to watch.

   My breathing grew agitated to match hers as I kept my eyes glued on her, and she pushed a hand into her crotch to quell the feeling of ecstasy that was erupting down there. ‘FUCK ME!’ She cried. ‘FUCK FUCK FUCK OH FUCK YES DON’T STOP THIS IS THE BEST I’VE EVER – ’

   She screamed.

   And that’s when it stopped. Her legs stopped shaking, her back straightened up, and her breathing began to return to its normal pattern. Her intense orgasm abated, and the bar fell silent in its wake. 

   I’m not even sure she was embarrassed. To me, she just looked dazed. She bent to pick up her papers, and staggered out of the pub with them clasped under her thin arm. The rest of us replayed every filthy second of what had just happened in our heads, reliving the moment for just a while longer, holding onto the beautiful view.

   Still speechless, I turned back to Keith, and found that he had disappeared. 

   I haven’t seen him since.

    ‘If you want to go, babe,’ I said, slurring slightly, ‘we can go. We don’t have to let him talk to you like that.’     ‘Who the fuck...

   ‘If you want to go, babe,’ I said, slurring slightly, ‘we can go. We don’t have to let him talk to you like that.’

   ‘Who the fuck are you?’ She snapped back, turning away from the hand I’d placed on the small of her back and looking at me like I’d done a shit in her breakfast. ‘I don’t know who the fuck you are. I’m not going anywhere with you. Get away from me.’

   I just laughed. She was always quirky like that, old whatsherface. With her dyed black hair and her… fringe. I laughed so hard I spilt beer all down my arm, but she and all those boring fuckers that were trash talking her just stood there staring at me, all pretending not to get the joke. Which was funny and all, but after a while I wasn’t in the mood for it so I decided to walk off and talk to someone else for a bit. I’d fuck whatsherface extra hard later, just because I could.

   I saw a baby in a pram, shaking a rattle and talking gibberish to itself. Diddl-iddl-iddl-iddl-aaaaaaaah it was saying, and its parents were sitting next to its pram talking to another couple about something or other and I’m sure I knew the whole crowd from somewhere but I didn’t really know how to start conversation so I just started tickling the baby’s cheek and making funny faces at it, until the pram was pulled away from me and I found the whole table of adults staring at me. I suddenly felt an immense pressure to greet them; to look at me this intensely, they must have recognised me.

   ‘Oh, hi everyone,’ I grinned, ‘how are you all?’

   ‘Who the fuck are you?’ said the dad, a dashing young chap I must have drunk with a thousand times in this very bar. Real cutting edge banter was going down in the bar that night, and I was lapping it up. Heartily laughing, I play-punched his arm.

   ‘Oh, you,’ I said, stumbling a tad and spilling a bit more of my pint onto their table. ‘What are you like?’

   The wife – I can’t remember her name for the life of me, but it’ll come back to me at some point – was covering her nose with the neck of her jumper.

   ‘Look, you’re making my wife uncomfortable and I’m not happy with you touching my baby’s face. You’re filthy. Can you go away please?’ He play-snarled.

   I gave him a cheeky wink. He’s a riot, that guy. ‘Sure thing, mate,’ I said, backing away, ‘I’ll see you next time you’re in here anyway.’

   On my way to the bar, I bumped into a guy wearing a sweater vest and slacks, all posh like, and his four friends, all wearing the same. It took me a while to recognise them, but when I did I was so pleased that I downed the rest of my pint.

   ‘It’s you!’ I said, pointing at whateverhisnameis, the tall one who I used to play cricket with down at the wherever. ‘How’s it going, man?’

   He just looked at me, a wry smile creeping over his lips. He eyed his friends one by one, then looked back at me. ‘I-I’m sorry,’ he stuttered, ‘do I know you?’

   ‘Oh shuttup,’ I chuckled, ‘and Tony! It is Tony, isn’t it? Or Greg? Mitchell? I forget, I’ve got a shit memory these days, but it’s you as well!’

   Tony or Greg or Mitchell also looked around at all his friends, who were all stifling laughs like I was, before formulating his answer: ‘I have honestly never met you in my life.’

   Of course, we all burst into fits of laughter. All of us, in on the joke, we just stood there wetting our pants with laughter. One of them even said to me, ‘It appears none of us know who the fuck you are!’ My sides nearly split.

   But soon they got boring too, so I eloped with my empty to the bar, where I called the bartender over in the jovialest of tones. ‘The usual please, mate,’ I grinned.

   ‘You don’t have a usual,’ he replied, maintaining a deadpan expression with much more skill than I could have mustered in his shoes, ‘you’ve never been in here, and frankly, we’d like you to leave now anyway. You’re scaring away our real customers.’

   I pointed and winked and guffawed a little more as I walked away from the bar. Real, tangible, world-class banter was going on that night. All round mental bant. I decided that if he was going to keep up his act (and he was keeping it up brilliantly and hilariously, so who could blame him), I should wait for another barman if I hoped to get served. I realised I should probably take a break anyway, since I’d had eight pints already.

   So I just leant on the bar for a while, looking around the pub and baring my teeth in a big grin at the room. I looked around until I spotted whatshername, that bird with the huge jugs from a couple of weeks ago, the one who did that thing with the wine bottle. Instead of greeting her, I thought I’d give her a pleasant surprise – a cheeky snog. Grabbing hold of her arse with one hand and her neck with the other, I locked my lips onto hers before her eyes had even focused on me.

   She must have recognised who it was straight away though, because she screamed in pleasure straight away. She screamed and screamed and struggled and struggled, but I just kept laughing and snogging. That is, until the barman from before grabbed my collar and bent my arm behind my back and wrenched me off her.

   ‘Who the fuck are you?!’ she screamed. Looking at her more closely, I realised that maybe I had the wrong woman. But I still definitely knew this one.

   ‘Right, get the fuck out,’ barked the barman, pushing me into this strange little porch thing by the doors, ‘and don’t come back.’

   This was all part of the plan anyway. I’d been planning to leave soon, so they’d done me a favour by chucking me out. I’d go home, have a little cry, have a big wank and then go to bed.

   But when I got outside, I realised that it was only midday, and the sun was blistering hot, and I had no home to go to. So I downed a half-pint I found on the windowsill (swallowing the floating fag butt too), and moved on to the next bar.

    'Here, that's great, lad,' mumbled Derek, barely audible over his grandson's babbling. His eyes remained inches away fr...

   'Here, that's great, lad,' mumbled Derek, barely audible over his grandson's babbling. His eyes remained inches away from the blue glow of his computer screen. He was Googling donkey shows.

   Derek's grandson Harry was reciting the fourth division table out loud, making sure his grandfather could hear every result. Although Derek's hearing was starting to buckle under the pressure of passing time, he never let on to the kids that it wasn't bad enough yet that he couldn't hear the television unassisted because then he couldn't pretend not to have heard them when they asked a question he didn't want to answer or brought up a subject he didn't care to discuss. He was happy for Harry to read the table out to him, as long as he didn't start reading what was on the computer screen.

   'Charlton nil, Crystal Palace three,' Harry practically shouted across the room. He accented certain syllables in a way that Derek had heard many teenagers do in recent years, putting on some accent he was never brought up with just to fit in with friends that Derek can never imagine himself choosing when he was Harry’s age. Harry was fifteen, an age at which boys are normally loth to spend time alone with their grandfathers; but since the death of Ethyl, Derek’s wife, Harry’s mum has never been the same. She spends one half of her time staring into space, and the other half crying and yelling incomprehensible curses at Harry without reason. Grief has turned her into a wreck, a shell of the mother she once was; and as such, Harry avoids her like the plague.

   ‘Chelsea two, Bromley three,’ he shouts, typing a text message into his phone.

   Ethyl’s death was three years ago now, and although Derek still grieved for her, he had dealt with it in a far different way than his daughter. At first, he had sunk so far back into his shell that he feared even leaving the house. He would lock himself in his bedroom and hardly explore the house at all. When the mail came, he would throw it straight in the bin, fearing that it might hold more bad news he wasn’t ready for. Danger lurked around every corner, in every cupboard, in the face of every stranger that wandered past in the street. He read books, he wrote short poems about the pain he was feeling, and he lost two stones in those months.

   Then he found a present that his daughter and her son had bought him the Christmas before Ethyl died. Still boxed, never even looked at for longer than a few minutes, it was a laptop computer that Derek had no idea how to use and no idea what to use for. He unwrapped it that day, and invited his grandson round to teach him what to do with it. He’d heard somewhere that you could send letters to people on the other side of the world for free, in seconds, using one of these; and he wanted to learn how to do that, and then more.

   Over the weeks that followed, Derek gradually discovered the Internet. Having become a terrified skeleton following the death of his wife, he fattened up again into a chubby explorer, emerging from his shell and surfing everywhere from the Amazon to Expedia, from Adult Friend Finder to Flickr. He found out about karate and yoga, LCD screens and time travel, cats and literature, religion and India and hacking and boilers and Canada and wars and pregnancy and everything else that exists in the bottomless pit of the blogosphere. Even stuck inside his house, he was freed by the world inside his computer screen.

   And after it dragged him out of his shell, the Internet dragged him out of his house. He arranged French lessons for himself, cookery classes, a writing club, a skydiving trip, and holidays to every European city you or I could name off the top of our heads. He learned to play guitar (although not that well), he bought a games console that he never even played, and he went to plays he never even knew had been written. He even fucked a prostitute, a lovely young lady who it turned out had been in the year above his own daughter at the very same school. And now, the same Internet that had brought him all those new experiences had Derek discovering his favourite new topics yet: donkey shows and Tijuana.

   Derek had always heard that curiosity killed the cat. But for him, curiosity killed the pussy. The terrified wretch he had become was slaughtered mercilessly by his newfound thirst for knowledge.

   ‘Grimsby four, Man United one,’ mumbled Harry.

   ‘YES!’ Ejaculated Derek, at the top of his rusted lungs. Harry jumped out of his skin, and Derek couldn’t stop coughing until his laughter broke through as the more powerful convulsion.

   ‘Is you alright, granddad?’

   Derek looked up from his laptop screen. Still chuckling and coughing and spluttering and guffawing, he met Harry’s eye across the room that hadn’t been tidied or vacuumed for the last three months, what with Derek spending so little time in it; and he said, ‘Yes, son. I just like Grimsby, that’s all.’

   But it wasn’t that. It wasn’t a love of Grimsby at all. It was the amazing price that Derek had just got for a return flight to Tijuana, Mexico.