My life has not changed at all. As in the last ten years, it is blessed by the stars and eschewed by the men. Be not afraid if time passes and there is no word from me, be not anxious by the tram-station nor blue when you're playing, because I have taken my destiny in my own hands. I have thought in light-years and I have suffered in seconds.
Friends’ birthdays. As well as a chance to get tanked like a submarine and pay honour to the people without whose support you couldn’t walk home on the nights when the party’s on you (dear fellows), they are characterized by the peculiar ritual of birthday presents.
Being the phenomenal boor that I am, in most cases I can’t remember that a friend’s birthday is coming up until I hear someone knocking at my room’s window and I lift my head from the plate of cheesed spaghetti I was wolfing down to find a group of smartly-dressed people who tell me, ‘Dude, you ready to go at Mark’s?’ In those occasions I am normally sitting down like an unshaved hippo with a week-old t-shirt bearing traces of tomato-juice and probably God knows what else while eating with one hand and scratching my balls with the other, so that the sudden fulgor elicited by the words ‘Mark’s birthday’ becomes something akin to a starter’s pistol for a hundred-metre sprinter. In those cases it takes me anything between ten and fifty minutes to become the model of all things handsome, depending usually on whether there’s a fitbird gracing the company in wait or not, but this one time – unbelievably – I remembered the occurrence several days beforehand.
This was, again, due to the people without whose support you couldn’t walk etc., because I found myself one day sitting in the grass, drinking cider in that religious happening that is British sunshine, when our discourse turned onto our friend’s upcoming birthday and what to get to him. In an outburst of sparkling wit, the three of us conceived the original intention of getting him gold, frankincense and myrrh. Within ten seconds we were already in a row as to who was supposed to get him the gold, and within another two minutes they had both dropped out and I was left to my own devices.
What to do, I pondered, putting up the glass against the sun and seeing the pristine cider beaming like precious metal in the evening sunrays. I couldn’t really afford the gold, even at the subatomic levels, and as to what the fuck myrrh even was I didn’t have the slightest idea where to begin, so I determined to get him frankincense. Smug and satisfied, I lay back on the green, swigged from the glass, and felt the gentle lull of alcoholic particles as they slowly took away another bit of my precious, precious brain.
When I woke up the next day, I found that I had about as much reason to be smug and satisfied as a cetacean would in the seas of Japan. Simply said, you’ve got no idea of just what kind of a grandiose quest you’ve got to go through in order to find some bloody frankincense in this civilised world of ours. I don’t know what kind of geese-necked idiot might have decided to give that to Jesus Christ, I suppose when you’re starving and freezing your balls off in a cave you just can’t think of anything you would like to have better than frankincense, but at least now I understand why it was considered something like a valuable gift: if it’s so exasperatingly difficult to find, then one has to at least admire the man who went to all the trouble of getting it.
As for myself, at the fifth health-food shop that I walked out of followed by the echoes of some fat bint splitting her lungs laughing like a hyena, I was starting to feel rather discouraged. Despair welled in me like the ink of two-hundred octopi suddenly ejaculating (if that’s what they do when they spill ink). I even went as far as to ask an old librarian – you never know what these guys may have. He said no, he didn’t have any frankincense, but he did have two wonderful books on Medieval Lyric Poetry and its evolution over the Renaissance period which I was sure to find interesting, of which both I was inclined to shove down his white-bearded gullet, just to make sure he was not oblivious to my appreciation. Finally, someone in the street I can’t even remember, presumably a dog or a hydrant for all I know, suggested I look at a certain large healthcare shop situated close by.
I walk into the health shop. It’s one of those places which look like a spaceship, where you step inside and feel like everything is clean except your corporeal being, and if you step on one of the tiles you’re going to kill some marvellous ectoplasm of cleanliness heretofore living there sustained by the magical air of the spices around you. In the white light, I walk towards the attendant (rigorously dressed like she’s about to perform surgery on your mother). ‘Do you have any frankincense?’ I ask. For the first time, I do not get stared at as if I were a polar bear on a waterslide. ‘No, but we do have some frankincense oil,’ she replies.
Now, hold on a second. I don’t have the slightest idea in hell of what frankincense could possibly be used for, but frankincense oil? What on earth can you do with that? You can’t put it on food because it’s not edible, presumably it’s more difficult to burn than anything in solid form, it doesn’t work as a sun-shield cream and anyway it’s not like you’d be dying if you’re not next to it on the two days a year that the sun appears, it’s sold in tiny bottles which wouldn’t hold a ten-year old’s sperm-test so it can’t be used in anything more than molecular bundles, and in addition to all of that, it costs six bloody pounds for a flask smaller than Prometheus’ dick after he got a blowjob from the eagle?? Excuse me, but have I got ‘retard’ stamped on my passport? What the fuck do they trade this stuff in, lingots? Should I just have gone for the gold in the first place? Do I take it that this shit is not only borderline impossible to find, but also expensive like hell?
Perceiving my lack of enthusiasm (which was not with such verbosity expressed, alas, due to exhaustion), the attendant grabbed me with aquiline eyes. (Not in the sense that she grabbed me with the eyes themselves, I mean that she grabbed my arm while looking at me with aquiline eyes).
‘You know, we do have some myrrh.’
And she pulls out a little bag of some sort of small brownish stuff. For a moment I am confused; I’ll pass on the frankincense, but surely this is not something they’ve given to Jesus Christ? I mean, there’s at least an aesthetic value to the frankincense, but this stuff looks like kitten-shit dried out in the sun for a month and then placed inside a bag, so exactly how was it even perceived as a gift? Smart shrinks, them kings, getting Jesus the presents before he’s old enough to realise what it is he’s getting. Talk about the mother of all disappointing Christmas presents, if nothing else he must have felt well paved by the time he got to crucifixion.
‘It smells great,’ I said, which was true, though at the sight of the kitten-shit thing my head was swarming with hypotheses on the derivation of the French word merde. ‘What do you do with it?’
Moment of panic. Her pupils dilate as her bullshit rotors are starting to spin.
‘You keep it in your room… for the smell…’
‘What, so you don’t do anything with it? It just sits in your room?’
‘…and you burn it. You burn it like it was incense.’
Ok, the joke is growing old – but now you’re telling me that not only Jesus got the WORST presents in the history of Christmas, but two of them were the same fucking thing, too? Why exactly would having two different kinds of incense make him feel all smug and satisfied? Or were they for the bull and the donkey respectively, you know, just to make sure they didn’t have a bovine brawl in the cave on the very first night that Jesus was there? At all events it was more – and more accessible price-wise – than the frankincense oil, so I got it.
And I can’t believe just how fucking well it went down. All right! Praise the wisdom of the magi!