I Was Born for This
Mac launches into a monologue about the similarities between The Ark and Radiohead and how he’s sure that they must have been inspired by Radiohead in some of their less upbeat songs but I switch off from the conversation. This guy talks nearly as much as me but has ten times more opinions. I’m sure Juliet sees him as a quirky music nerd, and I’m sure I’m only being negative because I thought I was getting Juliet all to myself this week, but I can’t stop myself imagining him getting some sort of emergency phone call, having to rush back to the train station, get on a train, never to see either of us again.
Not even the presence of Juliet’s nan prevents me from feeling like a third wheel. There’s no avoiding it. Mac and Juliet are Ferris Bueller and Sloane, and I’m Cameron. Except they’re lame and I don’t have a fancy car.
I’m extremely relieved when I retreat upstairs to perform my evening prayers, just because I get to stop listening to Mac’s voice for ten minutes. I ask God to give me strength to be kind and not judge him too hard when I’ve known him for, like, an hour, but a girl can only listen to so many monologues about obscure old bands before she snaps.
Eleven p.m. rolls around and Dorothy has long gone to bed. We’ve had food, and now we’re sitting in the living room, Mac and Juliet on one sofa and me on an armchair, TV playing something on Netflix I’ve never seen before, waiting to watch The Ark walk the red carpet on a livestream at 2 a.m. I’m used to having to lead conversations with most people, but Mac and Juliet seem to be doing perfectly fine now that they’re together.
At five past midnight, the worst happens.
Juliet goes to pee, leaving me and Mac alone in the living room together.
‘So,’ he says, once Juliet has left the living room. He smooths his hair back with one hand and looks at me. So? What am I supposed to do with ‘so’?
‘So,’ I say.
Mac looks at me, smiling. He’s got an awkward sort of smile. Clearly fake, but at least he’s trying to be nice, I guess. And I can see why Juliet’s got a thing for him. His hair’s swishy, his awkward smile is kind of cute, I suppose. He’s almost got some Ark vibes about him, if you put him in some ripped black jeans.
‘Tell me about yourself, Mac.’
He laughs, as if what I’ve said is really weird. ‘Wow, a big question!’ He leans forward, putting his elbows on his knees. ‘Well, I’m eighteen, I just finished sixth form, I’m off to Exeter Uni in a few weeks’ time to do History.’
I nod as if I am super interested in these facts.
‘And, er … well, I guess I’m just a big music fan!’
He laughs and scratches his head, like this is a really embarrassing thing to admit.
‘That’s so interesting,’ I say. I’ve learnt absolutely nothing about him at all. ‘So you and Juliet started chatting on Tumblr?’
He grins sheepishly. ‘Oh, yeah, well, I messaged her a few months back, just to start up a conversation, you know? And we got talking. I think we’re quite similar.’
‘Mmm, yeah, totally!’ I try not to say this in a sarcastic way. Juliet and Mac couldn’t be more dissimilar. Juliet likes memes and dissecting fandom theories. Mac looks like he posts #like4like selfies on Instagram.
‘How about you?’ he asks. ‘Tell me about yourself.’
‘Okay then,’ I say, eyebrows raised, as if I have accepted a challenge to duel. ‘I’m also eighteen, I’ve also just finished school, and I’m going to uni to study psychology in October.’
‘Psychology? That’s pretty cool. Do you want to be a psychologist? Or, like, a therapist or something?’
I hold up my hands and shrug. ‘Who the heck knows, man!’
He laughs, but he looks a little panicked, not knowing whether he should laugh or not. Easier than telling him the full truth, anyway, which is that I chose psychology because it’s the only subject I’m even slightly good at or interested in at school – I’m below average at everything else – and I have no idea what I want to do with my life.
Which is a bit shit, to be honest, especially when your older brother is in his third year of a medicine degree at Imperial College London, and your mum and dad are both teachers, and really you should have ended up with better genes than this.
But I don’t need to think about any of that right now. This week is for The Ark. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I can deal with the rest of my life after.
‘Honestly,’ says Mac, ‘I barely know what I want to be after uni. I mean, I chose history because I find it interesting, but, like, it’s not the sort of subject that leads you into a straightforward career path, unlike what Juliet’s doing, which is so brave obviously, not going down the lawyer route like her parents and going for backstage theatre stuff instead …’
He rambles on for a couple of minutes without leaving pauses for me to speak, and I find myself switching off again. I can actually see why he and Juliet get along. She’s more of a listener.
‘Hey,’ he says suddenly, ‘we should follow each other on Tumblr!’
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘Yeah, cool, sure.’
We both get our phones out of our pockets.
‘What’s your URL?’ he asks.
He laughs. ‘Like Charlie’s Angels? That’s cool. What a classic.’
I’ve actually never seen Charlie’s Angels. ‘Well, my name’s Angel, and you know, I love Jimmy, so, there you go.’
‘Is your name actually Angel? Because that’s really cool.’
I pause, but I end up saying with a smile, ‘Yep!’
Not technically a lie.
‘Mac’s short for Cormac, which is so stupid, because Cormac’s an Irish name and I’m not even slightly Irish–’
‘What’s your URL?’
‘Oh, yeah, it’s mac-anderson.’ I assume that’s his full name. Cormac Anderson. His Tumblr mobile description reads ‘mac, 18, uk. i live for good music and cool shoes’. This makes me have a look across the room to see what shoes he was wearing earlier, and I’m disappointed to find that they’re Yeezys. Why does everyone have Yeezys? Aren’t they like £800?
‘There,’ he says.
‘Cool,’ I say.
We sit in silence for a moment, nodding at each other.
The door opens, and Juliet comes back to us. Thank actual God. Mac looks up at her with immense relief.
She freezes in the doorway and grins, moving her head from me to Mac.
‘You two look like you’ve had … a conversation,’ she says.
‘That is accurate,’ I say.
‘Yeah, we’re BFFs now,’ says Mac, smiling. ‘We don’t need you any more, Jules.’
Jules? I want to die. First ‘You know, trains’ and now ‘Jules’? Jules?
She walks into the room and sits back down on the sofa next to Mac. ‘That’s too bad because it’s only a couple of hours until we see The Ark and you will literally have to kick me out if you think I’m gonna miss that.’