It started with a text.
“Got work for you, call me asap.”
Texts like this weren’t unusual by any means.
The last time I’d answered one; I’d flown to Paris. A pleading call from Adam and three days later I arrived at the studio. When I arrived I was told that the shoot had been cancelled. Adam was already gone.
I had dropped everything to get there. Even giving up a smaller local project I had been due to work on. Reluctantly paying for a one-way ticket after being assured that my return would be part of my payment. The ticket was not cheap, but emptying my savings account was enough to get there.
I tried really hard not to blame Adam, but it was an embarrassing 14-hour wait at the airport before my parents could transfer me the money to come home. Even more embarrassing was that in the eight months since I’d returned I hadn’t been able to pay them back.
Adam and I had grown up together. We both lived in the same street, and had played together every day. As we’d grown up we became obsessed with movies. Watching them together; then acting out our favorite scenes in the playground and park next to our homes.
As we grew older still we worked together delivering newspapers in our village to the houses we had once played in front of. The pay wasn’t much, but we worked together pooling our money until we could afford to buy a tiny handheld camera.
As soon as we had the camera Adam quit his part of the paper route, I ended up doing both on my own. Once we had the camera we had everything Adam had ever wanted, the ability to create our own movies together. I usually opted to stay behind the camera when I could, but Adam loved cavorting in front of it much the same as when we were younger.
After school came university. While we both studied the same course at the same university, Adam was in the year ahead. He had used this year to his advantage, working hard and networking. By the time I had graduated he had lined up work not only for himself, but for me as well. Adam grew restless before I did. While I was content to continue on with the small production team that we had been working with in Glasgow, he sought bigger and better projects.
Even after he moved to London, he would throw work my way when he could. Especially if I couldn’t find work myself.
His flighty lifestyle never left him in the same place for long, so it was often the case that you didn’t hear from him for months at a time. Not hearing from him in over a month after Paris though not unusual hurt deeply. I heard through my mother in the end, who in turn had heard from Adam’s that he had flown from Paris to America and had been working there since.
Erratic but fun. Spontaneous and impulsive.
He never sat still, and seemed happy sleeping forever on couches and floors as he bounced from project to project.
I wasn’t like Adam. I liked living in the city I’d studied in. I travelled for work, often around the coast and the Isles of Scotland, scouting for new locations for the projects I worked on. Occasionally I travelled down as far as London, but rarely left Britain.
However even limiting myself to working within the UK there was enough work for me to make the repayments on my flat, which I’d bought when I’d started University with the help of my father. The deposit had been a gift, the rest I had worked hard for getting a little help with some of the remodeling, but for the most part doing the work myself. When I could afford it.
I took jobs with small production companies when they were available, and supplemented my income as a bartender in Glasgow City Centre. I had been working in McQueen’s part time on and off since I came to study.
I’d chosen not to respond to Adam’s first text. This did not deter him. After an hour the calls started. They came from an unknown number, but I knew that if I answered all I would hear was Adam’s ever-playful voice chastising me for taking so long to answer. I let each of them go to voicemail, becoming more and more irritated each time I had to dismiss the calls.
His persistence was wearing and familiar. Another text,
“Seriously? Answer your fucking phone Luca.”
My fingers flexed and my eyebrows pulled together into a deep scowl as I read that message. I considered opening it. I considered replying. I wanted nothing more than to unleash a tirade of repressed anger and emotion at him. My finger hovered over the message for a long moment before I opted to turn my phone off completely.
Once my phone was off my day passed uneventfully, I thought about turning it back on, but managed to resist until I got back to my flat. I was hosting an open mic night at McQueen’s tomorrow evening and needed to give my girlfriend Lexi a call to plan what we were doing for dinner. Lexi often spent time with me at McQueen’s, when I was hosting music sets in particular. We both drank for free when I was working, as long as they were soft drinks.
As I waited for my phone to turn back on, I tipped the almost empty jar of coffee into my favorite mug. There was just enough. I watched as the screen glowed white, the logo in the middle pulsing until the familiar background was visible behind the lock screen.
Picking it up with my free hand my thumb began tapping the six-digit pass code before I even thought about it. The flesh memory of doing this deeply ingrained. There were eight missed calls; seven of them were from Adam’s phone directly, three within the last hour alone. This added nervousness to the ever-building annoyance I had been feeling since that first text had arrived.
The other call was from Lexi, and it was this one that I decided to return first. We talked first about plans for the next night, and chatted for a while about each other’s day. Half an hour passed before I gave in and asked her if she’d heard from Adam lately. Lexi was tentative as ever when I spoke about Adam, but she hadn’t heard from him since he’d gotten back from America.
I hadn’t even known he was back until recently. It upset me to no end that he had come home and hadn’t even thought to get in touch. I told Lexi about his messages and his generally weird behavior. She seemed worried, and wanted me to call him just to make sure he was okay. I still felt bitter about our last few interactions, but told her I would sleep on it. We agreed to meet on George Square, and find somewhere to eat from there before she left me to my own devices for the rest of the evening.
Once again the messages telling me about the calls I’d missed were all that I could see on my phone. As I stood scowling at the screen in my hand, my finger hovering over his name I opted to text him instead of calling. I knew that if I spoke to him I’d end up saying yes to whatever he wanted me to do. Although I had to admit, I knew that getting in touch, even if it was just to tell him to fuck off, would likely make him all the more persistent.
I felt better after sending him a message, I was expecting my phone to light up as soon as I pressed send, but the screen stayed black. I sat for a while, with a mug of green tea scowling at my mug for not having coffee in it, and at my phone for not ringing before opting to play video games as a distraction.
I played Skyrim until midnight, occasionally glancing at my lifeless phone, but for the most part I was deeply engrossed in my adventures across Tamriel. I could have stayed up all night, but opted to go to bed knowing that if I stayed up I would sleep late and invariably spend the next day drinking coffee all afternoon whilst playing video games in my underwear. Working evenings often ran the risk of my days being much more unproductive.
After moving through to my bedroom I placed my phone on my nightstand as usual. Walking into my en-suite, I stripped out of my clothes as I went. I balled the clothes I’d been wearing up tossing them at the foot of an already overflowing laundry hamper.
The corners of my mouth pulled up into a smile. I could already hear Lexi’s voice playfully chastising me, her tone reproachful, her eyes glittering with mischief for letting my laundry get so ‘out of hand’. I’d have to remember to do at least one load of laundry in the morning before heading to the gym.
As I dragged my toothbrush across the surface of my teeth I noticed a couple of bristles had come loose. The toothbrush badly needed replacing and I added it to the list of things I needed to pick up in the morning. I was more than ready for bed however so I was a little irked when I saw the notification lighting up my phone screen. I didn’t need to check it to know that it was Adam. A few steps closer and I could read the whole message he had sent,
“I need to talk to you. Now.”
My feet were rooted to the floor. As the screen once again settled into darkness I shivered, not that I was cold but the way that text was written. The tone was cold, there was no mirth hidden within the words. It was so…not Adam.
I shrugged the feeling off, putting it down to the fact that I was standing naked in the middle of a dark room. I lay down in bed turning my face to the ceiling, it took everything I had not to pick up my phone and call him back. I tried once more to just ignore him. At the very least, I wanted to make him wait.
Adam had other plans.
After less than five minutes of laying still the phone began to ring. I stared intently at the ceiling illuminated by the glowing phone and listened to it vibrate against the bedside table as it rang. Once. Twice. On the third ring I snatched the phone up before aggressively answering,
“Luca, why the fuck has it taken you all day to get back to me?”
His indignant tone did little to alleviate the black mood I was in. I audibly spluttered trying and failing to find words I could use to tear him apart. I was just about to launch into a tirade against him about his attitude when he cut me off.
“Luca, I’m sorry. I know I have no right to ask you to help me, but please, I need you.”
“Adam, I haven’t heard from you in months, I didn’t even know you were in the country until last month. What could you possibly need me to do that someone else can’t?”
“Luca you have every right to be royally fucked off with me, but please I’m in over my head…I…I can’t talk about this over the phone Luca. Please just come to London and I’ll tell you everything. I need your help Luca. Please.”
I had never heard such desperation in Adam’s voice before. Hearing it now turned my blood to ice. I wanted nothing to do with anything that could make Adam sound like this. Yet as I was finishing this thought I could hear my own voice answering him saying the words,
“When do you need me to leave?”
He uttered only one word before hanging up.