A Long Way Down

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby Read Free Book Online

Book: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nick Hornby
you’ll maybe smile to yourself when you hear me going, He broke my heart. You’ll remember someone who broke your heart, and you’ll think to yourself, Oh, yes, I can remember how that feels. But you can’t, you smug old git. Oh, you might remember feeling sort of pleasantly sad. You might remember listening to music and eating chocolates in your room, or walking along the Embankment on your own, wrapped up in a winter coat and feeling lonely and brave. But can you remember how with every mouthful of food it felt like you were biting into your own stomach? Can you remember the taste of red wine as it came back up and into the toilet bowl? Can you remember dreaming every night that you were still together, that he was talking to you gently and touching you, so that every morning when you woke up you had to go through it all over again? Can you remember carving his initials in your arm with a kitchen knife? Can you remember standing too close to the edge of an Underground platform? No? Well, fucking shut up then. Stick your smile up your saggy old arse.
    I was going to just like splurge, tell ’em everything they needed to know – Big Yellow, Lizzie, the works. There was no need to lie. I guess I felt a little queasy listening to the other guys, because their reasons for being up there seemed pretty solid. Jesus, everyone understood why Maureen’s life wasn’t worth living. And, sure, Martin had kind of dug his own grave, but even so, that level of humiliation and shame… If I’d been him, I doubt if I’d have stuck around as long as he had. And Jess was very unhappy and very nuts. So it wasn’t like people were being competitive, exactly, but there was a certain amount of, I don’t know what you’d call it…marking out territory? And maybe I felt a little insecure because Martin had pissed all over my patch. I was going to be the shame and humiliation guy, but my shame and humiliation was beginning to look a little pale. He’d been locked up for sleeping with a fifteen-year-old, and fucked over in the tabloids; I’d been dumped by a girl, and my band wasn’t going anywhere. Big fucking deal.
    Still, I didn’t think of lying until I had the trouble with my name. Jess was so fucking aggressive, and I just lost my nerve.
    ‘So,’ I said. ‘OK. I’m JJ, and…’
    ‘Woss that stand for?’
    People always want to know what my initials are for, and I never tell them. I hate my name. What happened was, my dad was one of those self-educated guys, and he had a real, like, reverence for the BBC, so he spent too much time listening to the World Service on his big old short-wave radio in the den, and he was real hung up on this dude who was always on the radio in the sixties, John Julius Norwich, who was like a lord or something, and writes millions of books about like churches and stuff. And that’s me. John fucking Julius. Did I become a lord, or a radio anchor, or even an Englishman? No. Did I drop out of school and form a band? Yep. Is John Julius a good name for a high-school dropout? Nope. JJ is OK, though. JJ’s cool enough.
    ‘That’s my business. Anyway, I’m JJ, and I’m here because…’
    ‘I’ll find out what your name is.’
    ‘I’ll come round your house and ransack it until I find something that tells me. Your passport or bank book or something. And if I can’t find anything then I’ll just steal something you love and I won’t give it back until you’ve coughed up.’
    Jesus Christ. What gives with this girl?
    ‘You’d rather do that than call me by my initials?’
    ‘Yeah. Course. I hate not knowing things.’
    ‘I don’t know you very well,’ said Martin. ‘But if you’re really troubled by your own ignorance, I’d have thought there should be one or two things higher up the list than JJ’s name.’
    ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
    ‘Do you know who the Chancellor of the Exchequer is? Or who wrote
    ‘No,’ said Jess. ‘Course

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