25. The Drinker

Part 1 of the 'Moriarty' series.

THE LAST I HEARD of Moriarty, he was a cleaner in a brothel. Or at least he claimed to be working as a cleaner in a brothel - one could never tell with Moriarty. He'd always been utterly unreliable, artfully mixing fact and fiction. If he was mad, he was really only half-mad - he was capable of the utmost lucidity too. He was not lost in his fantasies; he simply preferred them to reality, or rather like all the best liars he wove them together so artfully it was impossible to tell the difference. I didn't blame him - I couldn't. We were all in the same boat, half lost in our fantasies, but I felt a special connection with him, by dint of the fact that he and I called ourselves writers, whereas none of the others were that foolish. We - by we I mean Moriarty and me, at least, and perhaps a few of the others - we knew that, by dint of the comfort of our suburban childhoods, somehow wat we thought of as real life was sure to pass us by, if it had not already done so. Subsequent events have proven our hunch correct. Moriarty was simply the one who was least willing to go with the flow. I half-understood him, maybe a few of the others too, but now that it's too late I understand him better. He idolised the tough guys - Miller, Bukowski, Cave. He didn't see through their poses the way everybody else did, sooner or later, or he didn't want to. While many of us claimed to read Bukowski, in actual fact almost nobody did – nobody except Moriarty. I tried, of course. I tried harder than most. I bought Bukowski without reading him. But in the end, I didn't hate myself enough, not as much as Moriarty hated himself. Or my heart wasn't big enough, which in a way amounts to the same thing. Nowadays to speak of these things has become shameful. Self loathing isn't in vogue the way it was back then. Or maybe it's simply the onset of middle age. Once, at a wedding in Brighton, he rounded on me as he could do and pronounced me a misogynist and I, crestfallen, was ready to believe him. He's the only person I have ever known who could proudly say he worked as a cleaner in a brothel, even if it was untrue - especially so, in fact. What brothel manager in their right mind would hire a young man – not just a bachelor, but a writer, no less – to clean the establishment's rooms? And of course he will forever remain a young man, as the rest of us are condemned to live in the shadows of our youth. There are essentially two differences between a Bukowski and a Moriarty, the first being that a Bukowski sprays himself with the perfume of darkness, whereas a Moriarty drinks it; and the second that a Bukowski writes, copiously, while Moriarty left us only one short story that I know of, a semi-autobiographical tale set on a farm in Tasmania, called 'The Teepee'.