5: A PECK OF DIRT
Lavish promises to be the model lodger amounted to a peck of dirt where Sam was concerned. He just couldn’t seem to help himself. As I drove home from work one evening I mulled over a conversation I’d had with Jon the previous night. I’d gone to his house in a desperate effort to obtain a few hours respite from Sam. He had turned the central heating up to maximum and was wandering around the house clad in nothing but a blue cotton sarong, singing the score from South Pacific. If I’d had to listen to him singing ‘I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’ one more time I would have gone mad, as well as dying from heat stroke.
“What’s the real problem,” Jon had asked, after pouring me a cooling drink and putting on some soothing music. “Why are you holding back? You like Sam, God knows why, but you do. Hell, let’s face it you more than like him. What are you afraid of, Colin?” He’d gazed at me steadily, “emotional commitment or is it something else, something to do with Suzy?”
I’d shrugged, “I just don’t think I’m up to handling a relationship with someone like Sam.”
“Why, because you somehow feel guilty about Suzy’s death? There’s no need. It wasn’t your fault, Colin. It was no one’s fault.”
I sat silently for a while. “I failed her, Jon, we all did. None of us knew how to handle her. We didn’t know when to say no, or how to judge when she was genuinely ill and beyond controlling herself, or when she was just pushing buttons for the sheer hell of it.”
Jon had smiled, “Suze certainly enjoyed pushing buttons from time to time, she had a wicked sense of humour. The main trouble was that you all over indulged her. Her condition not only ruled her life, it ruled all your lives. It doesn’t have to be like that with Sam. For a start his condition is nowhere near as complex as hers.”
“But what if I fail him?”
“You’re failing him now.” Jon was nothing if not blunt. “You’re already letting him control your life in a negative way. It’s not good for you and it isn’t good for him. Incidentally, when it comes to button pushing and key turning he’s an expert. He does it far, far more consciously than Suzy ever did and he’ll keep doing it until you stop him. Either say yes you want him and all that entails, or make sure he finds another place to live as soon as possible. This state of emotional limbo isn’t fair on either one of you, but least of all on Sam.”
Jon was right. I had to make a decision. As I parked the car I pictured Sam’s smile and my stomach gave its usual gymnastic response. A sudden wave of affection, mixed with an undercurrent of excitement, swept over me as I inserted my key in the lock and stepped into the hall. “Sam,” I called, and then stopped and sniffed curiously, there was a smell of...
“Colin, darling, come in here and see what a wonderful surprise I’ve got for you.”
I stared dumbfounded at my sitting room. When I’d left for work early that morning it had been decorated in restful tones of rose and cream, but no longer. I swallowed and closed my eyes tightly, but when I opened them again the nightmare persisted. Affection and excitement withered and died to be replaced with simmering hatred and a pathological desire to tear him limb from limb.
“Well, darling, as you can see, I’ve been a very busy boy today. What do you think?” Sam, spattered with paint particles and looking very pleased with himself, gazed at me brightly, but not as brightly as the walls of my sitting room which were now garbed in vomit inducing shades of tangerine and mauve.
What did I think? I was beyond thinking. My mind had gone into shock and was struggling on the edge of migraine. I stared mesmerised at the vibrant walls, then something, some small spark of recognition caused my mouth to open and ask, “where did you get the paint from. I thought you were broke?”
Sam beamed, “I found it, wasn’t that lucky?”
Not from where I was standing it wasn’t. I persisted, “what do you mean you ‘found’ it? You don’t just find cans of paint.”
“I did, darling, honestly. They were just sitting on the pavement in Grange Road, totally abandoned. It would have been cruel to leave them there all forlorn and homeless yearning for walls to be spread across.”
Memory suddenly surfaced and I knew where I’d seen those horrific colours before. I glared furiously at him. “You stole it! I can’t believe it. You’ve painted my sitting room with stolen paint. That’s the stuff the council are using to paint the exterior walls of the tenement flats on Grange road. I recognise the insulting colours. For heaven’s sake, Sam.”
He smiled sweetly, totally unrepentant as I remonstrated with him, “I thought no one wanted them, and let’s face it, your dreary sitting room desperately needed an update. It was like sitting in a vasectomy clinic’s waiting room, ball achingly depressing.”
From between gritted teeth, I managed to snarl. “I want my old colour scheme back, at your expense and if it isn’t back by tomorrow night then I’m going to evict you, that’s if I don’t give in to the temptation to kill you, very slowly and painfully.” Even as I snarled I could feel my arteries clogging up with stress. Having Sam as a houseguest was taking its toll on me.
“You’re so middle of the road, Colin darling,” he pouted. “It’s a wonder you haven’t been hit by a truck or had white lines painted up your back. I just wanted to brighten things up for you and do I get a single word of appreciation? Do I Fanny Craddock! I bet Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen never had this trouble when he was Changing Rooms.”
“Change this particular room back to the way it was, Sam, or I mean it, you’re history.” I began to un-knot my tie. “I’m going for a shower. If you want something to eat you’ll have to get it yourself. I’m going out this evening.”
“Out?” The pout grew more pronounced. “I’ve rented some new videos. I thought we could watch them together. I’ve bought wine too, a nice one, that New Zealand Sauvignon you like.”
I shook my head. “Tonight is my sister’s birthday party, you knew that Sam.”
“Can I come with you?”
“Because you’re not invited.”
“Surely you’re allowed to take a guest?”
“Yes, on the proviso that it isn’t you. My sister loathes you. She’d rather have dry rot in her house than you.”
“Charming I’m sure,” Sam scowled. “I don’t know why you want to go to her dreary party anyway. It’ll be dreadfully boring, especially if I’m not there.”
“Good,” I raked my eyes around my violated sitting room. “I can live with boring, at least it’s restful.”
“I could wear my sparkly tiara,” he gazed at me appealingly. “It would add a touch of glamour to the proceedings. God knows your sister doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Oxfam would reject her clothes. Poor dear, she could frump for the Commonwealth.”
“You’re not coming, Sam, and that’s that. I’ll see you later, much later.” I needed a break from my lodger. I was seriously considering putting up a tent in the garden and moving into it.
“So,” he sulkily folded his arms. “You’re really going to go out and enjoy yourself, leaving me here all on my lonesome, even though I’ve spent all day slaving away and making the house beautiful for you?”
“You haven’t made the house beautiful, Sam, you’ve made it a mess and I’m not happy. You had no right doing something like this. It’s beyond rudeness. Even if it wasn’t Anne’s birthday I’d be going out, because I’m pig sick of you and your antics.” I headed for the stairs.
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL Cat/Fabian Black 2010