For anyone interested, this is my creative writing piece that I submitted with a rationale for my dissertation. It is based on Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho but I have set it in Bristol about a University student.
If anyone would like to leave feedback I would be very interested to hear it and find out what people like/don’t like as I have plans to develop it into a novel. Thanks.
‘University Psycho’ By S. A. Ramsey
It’s sometime in the morning. I drag myself out of bed and reach for the bottle of Red Bull that I have waiting: the sugar and caffeine combine to hit my hangover to wake me up. I take my wash bag and towel to the bathroom, and while I run the shower I look at myself in the mirror and think, what the fuck. I get into the shower, but misjudge it and get hit by a cold spray of water. I jump back out and wait for it to warm up. Shitty student shower, I’m thinking. I get back in once it’s on maximum heat, and while I stand there, letting the water wash over me, I try to remember what happened last night. Dim memories and hazy faces. I give up and go about my morning routine.
First, I cleanse my hair with Redken For Men Mint Clean Invigorating Shampoo which gets rid of the smell of alcohol and cigarettes from the night before because it lathers off dirt and build up to leave my hair stronger and my scalp tingling clean. I then use Redken For Men Cool Finish Invigorating Conditioner which also strengthens my hair and stimulates my scalp because it is formulated with protein, peppermint and soothing macro vitamins. After that I reach for a bottle of Men-U Healthy Facial Wash which has won multiple awards because it is deep cleansing, soap free and pH balanced with a high concentration of tea-tree oil and it is ideal to cleanse spots and clean my tired pores. I finish by washing my body with Molten Brown Re-Charge Black Pepper Body Wash which heightens my senses and reawakens my energy banks and then I get out and dry myself before walking back upstairs.
In a towel I turn on Spotify and choose the latest Top40 playlist, but it doesn’t quite cut it for me, so I close Spotify and open my Itunes and put on Gotye’s ‘Making Mirrors’ which I recently bought because it is in the top 5 album chart this week.
While staring in the mirror at my body, which looks damn good, especially under the dim light that hangs from the ceiling, I think about what outfit I will wear today. I reach for my computer and check Met Office for the weather forecast. Deciding that I’m hungover and it’s set to be cold, I choose my All Saints Black Peacoat, teamed with a white button oxford shirt from Fred Perry, and grey knitted roundneck jumper from American Apparel. I finish the look with black skinny jeans from Aubin and Wills, and stone desert boots by Clarks Originals.
I go back to the bathroom and avoid cleaning my teeth because I’m too hungover. I use my Babyliss iStubble beard trimmer to shave and set the trim length to 0.4mm and I move the trimmer over my face in a slow motion so I don’t miss any hairs. It’s strangely satisfying to see the stubble fall from my face into the sink, and I try to make shapes out of it stuck to the damp basin. My mind tries to manipulate them into images and scenes from last night, but I fail to recognise what any of them mean so I finish shaving and go back upstairs to my room.
‘Just somebody that I used to know’.
While admiring my outfit I finish towel-drying my hair before reaching for a hair dryer and vented brush. I’m sporting an expensive haircut that I picked out of GQ at the beginning of the week which has been termed ‘disconnected’. The sides and back are cut short, and the top is kept long and textured so I can wear it in a quiff or slicked back. Today I choose a natural looking side-part, so I sprinkle a small amount of Osis Dust It Mattifying Powder onto my hair and while using my hairdryer on the highest heat setting I follow the movements of the brush as I work through my hair, styling it backwards and to the side. Once it stays in place, still looking natural, I put down the hair dryer and brush, and work a small amount of American Crew Fiber into my palms before distributing it evenly into my hair, working it into place with my finger tips to gain definition. Once satisfied I finish off the look with TIGI Bed Head for men Power Surge hairspray to hold it in place.
I go back to the bathroom and wash my hands before I return to my bedroom mirror and apply L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Anti-Fatigue Moisturising Lotion which I work through my skin from the nose outwards so it’s easily absorbed. I use L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Cooling Eye Roll-On and run it over the bags under my eyes which immediately relaxes me, before I moisturise my lips with Vaseline Lip Therapy, and use Gentleman’s Tonic Moisturising Hand Balm on my hands to make them feel soft and nourished.
‘You’re just somebody that I used to know.’
I’m too hungover to eat breakfast so I down a protein shake instead. I go back upstairs and reach for my gym kit and place it in my Fred Perry shoulder bag before I leave the flat.
As I wait for the bus people drive by in their cars, some staring at me as they turn the corner, others with their heads thrust forward, focusing on the road ahead. A few people walk by, mainly workers in shabby suits either wearing badly matched trainers, or cheap work shoes. On the other side of the road a tramp waddles past, seemingly with no direction to go and no direction to come from. He glances at me and I wish I had worn my RayBans even though it’s not sunny. He shuffles on as a group of school girls come screaming round the corner, I try to ignore them, but I know I look good, and they try not to make the awkward eye contact that we make, and I’m thinking, if only they knew. They pass me by and overtake the tramp on the other side of the road. He mutters something to them and they run away from him. He turns around, smiles at me, and walks back the way he came. I struggle to control the irrepressible feeling inside, but the bus comes round the corner so I fumble for my pass. I get on not having fully recovered noticing that the side of the bus is advertising the new film with Daniel Radcliffe in Woman in Black. After I swipe my card, I look for a place to sit and see the blank faces staring back at me. The camera begins rolling and I compose myself.
I pass a girl to my left who’s sat at the very front behind the driver. She’s wearing some kind of multi-coloured fluffy acrylic animal coat which looks ridiculous, and to make it worse she is wearing Doc Martens which do not match any of her outfit and fail to clash appropriately with anything to make a statement. She looks like a chameleon that doesn’t blend in. She swivels her eyes at me and sees me staring and she looks away. I half expect her tongue to come whirling at my face.
A guy to my right acts as if he might move his bag to let me sit, and I look at him pretending to be interested before I move on. He looks okay, he’s wearing a Barbour quilted jacket in navy blue with a white Lacoste polo shirt underneath. I like his indigo dark wash jeans which look like they might be from UniQlo, but his shoes let the outfit down, Aisics trainers, which is why I don’t sit next to him.
I reach the back of the bus, and see a blonde who is trying not to look too keen, but definitely wants me. There is a smile that plays on her lips but she can’t quite bring herself to release it. I decide that I’m going to play hard to get, so I ignore her and sit behind her. I let my eyes bore into the back of her as I check out her outfit, skinny jeans from TopShop in faded pink that hug her thighs, cream knitted jumper probably from H&M with a button oxford shirt underneath in blue that could be from American Apparel. I can feel her start to squirm as she senses that someone is looking at her, probably wishing that it’s me.
I gaze out the window and watch the grey houses and buildings pass by in a blur of cement and stone wondering what time I got home last night and whether anyone saw me. As we get off the bus I get her number and tell her that I might ring her, still playing hard to get.
“Wearing trackies to Uni is simply not acceptable anymore”.
“No, man. If you’re hungover, haven’t slept, or just can’t be arsed then it is acceptable.”
“Yeah, if you want to look like someone who was dressed by a homeless man pretending to work for a charity shop.”
“Nothing is fair,” I join the conversation. “The only criteria for which you can wear trackies to Uni is when you live on Campus and are making a short trip to the shop. Or if you are going to the gym or playing sport. In this case they must be worn with appropriate footwear, and not something that you would wear for anything other than sport. Especially Uggs, male or female. If it’s warm enough and your feet are well tanned then flip flops will do as long as they are clean and well branded.”
“Jesus. Where did that come from?”
“I don’t know. I drank too much Red Bull this morning. Has anyone got a paracetamol?” I say looking around the room.
“What happened to you last night, man?”
“I really can’t remember.”
“Yeah, one minute you were with us, then the next you’d disappeared.”
“Probably went home with some slut.”
“I bet you can’t even remember her name.”
“I bet she was a virgin.”
“I don’t know.” I say, before I look away and make eye contact with a girl at the bar ordering a skinny latte. She wears tapered skinny jeans in tobacco, with a floral print shirt, probably both TopShop. No. The top is H&M.
“Hey guys,” I say. “Is it too early for a beer?”
“It’s 6pm somewhere in the world right now.”
I leave the table and casually walk up to the bar. Standing next to the girl – she hasn’t seen me yet – I imagine what she might look like naked, and then I have a flashback where I actually think I’ve seen her naked. Whilst I mull this over in my mind I notice that the barmaid is looking at me, as if she’s asked me something.
“Can I have three Coors Lights?” I ask, annoyed that she’s broken the scene being acted out in my head. I realise however that she’s not bad looking either and if it wasn’t for her staff uniform, if she was wearing light denim Jack Wills jeans with a Fred Perry striped t-shirt, she’d be hot. I start to picture her naked, and add her to the scene inside my head but I now notice that skinny latte girl is looking at me as if she’s expecting a response. I look confused and she repeats, I think, what she already said to me.
“Isn’t it a bit too early for alcohol?”
“Hey babe,” I smile “it’s never too early… Do I know you?”
“I don’t think so,” she says.
I can’t get the image of her naked out of my mind, and it doesn’t help when the barmaid interjects asking me to pay for my round. I smoothly hand her a twenty feeling smug that they are both interested.
“So what course do you do?” she asks.
I can’t remember what happened last night let alone what course I do. So I smile at her and ask for her number.
“Would you like to know me?” I say seductively.
I cringe at how cheesy it sounds, especially when I notice them looking at me from our table.
“Yeah, why not?” She gives me her number. She mutters something about needing to get to a lecture, so I let her go and say that I might call her sometime. She buys it and walks off.
I turn towards the table with a new image in my mind. I turn back to the bar and look at the expectant barmaid holding my change. I feel confident.
“You can keep the change in exchange for your number,” I say. She looks awkwardly at me, looking me up and down. I sense she’s trying to decide whether I’m worth it or not. She decides that I am.
“But didn’t you just take that other girl’s number?” she asks.
“What other girl?” I say thinking about the barmaid with nothing on. I’m now dressing her in what I think she looks good in. She repeats her question.
“Oh that girl” I say, acting like I realise that she thought there was something going on between me and skinny latte girl.
“No she’s just on my course. She wanted help with something so I told her to call me and gave her my number.” She looks at me unconvincingly. I try to look sincere and she buys it. She gives me her number. I say I’ll call her sometime, take the change and the drinks – I can carry three at a time – and return to the table.
“Jesus. What took you so long?”
“I was just talking to the barmaid.”
“Sure you were just talking to the barmaid. What about that other girl?”
“Oh her?” I say coolly. “She’s just on my course.”
I smile. They know that I’m lying. I raise my lager to my lips.
“What’s your opinion on hoodies?”
I get the bus in to town because I feel like buying a new outfit with my student loan. Besides, I’ve had a stressful day. I step on and see the same empty faces looking at me. Everyone seems worn out, tired, from pretending to do work. I walk past a guy who says hi to me, and though I can remember his face, I can’t remember where from. He is wearing cheap brown suede shoes which don’t suit the cut of his jeans. I stroll to the back and notice a cute brunette sat in the corner. I leave a seat between us on the back row and smile as I sit down. She smiles back.
“Do I know you?” I start.
She looks at me with her big eyes and shakes her head. We talk for the bus journey. I find out that she does drama. She must be easy. Drama girls are easy. We get into town and I’m thinking that I want to take her back to mine.
“What are you up to now?” I ask instead. “Do you want to get a coffee?”
She agrees so I take her to Starbucks on Park Street. It’s crowded which is good because it means that the mixture of caffeine and the atmosphere will excite her and make her think that I’m causing the effect. We order cappuccinos and get a seat by a window as we talk.
“I really love it here” she says. “There’s so much going on, and always so much to do. My course is so good at the moment.”
I know that she’s trying to make me ask things about her. But I don’t really want to know.
“So you’re single right?” I ask.
We look at each other. I look at her face to see what she’s thinking but I can’t work it out. I want to take her back to mine, I’m thinking.
“So are you going out tonight?” I ask.
She flutters her eyelids at me and says innocently, “Maybe. Are you?”
“What day is it?” I try to remember but have to ask her. She doesn’t seem to notice how disorientated I am. I look away at the people outside. They seem to be operating on a different set, in a different world. A couple walk by who look like they’ve just come from a high street photo shoot. The guy wears grey Nike high tops with black skinny jeans, a denim jacket and flannel shirt underneath, probably all from Topman. The girl wears a navy blazer – Zara – with the sleeves rolled up. A plain white blouse beneath with grey jeans from H&M, and brown brogues by ASOS. I’m impressed. A man walks past in an ill-fitting suit that looks two sizes too big and definitely charity shop which breaks the illusion.
“Wednesday. It’s Wednesday today.” She says bringing me back into the room.
“Right.” I say. “There are various events on tonight.”
“Like what?” She doesn’t seem to know too much. I want to take her home.
“Well at Syndicate it’s Propaganda – the biggest indie night in Bristol. The Bunker hosts UOB’s official sports night with chart-busting floor fillers and classic anthems all night. And Platform 1 hosts the official UWE sports night – Spoil Sports…”
“Wow you sure know your stuff,” she says obviously impressed.
I gaze at her and really want to take her back to mine. She sips at her coffee nervously, yet she doesn’t seem scared, just nervous. I can’t remember what state the flat is in after what happened last night, but I ask her anyway.
“How about we go back to mine?”
…and the manikins featured in the window are grey and lifeless and I wonder what it would be like to be one as I think that the stylist has done a bad job because they are not smiling. I walk though TopShop into Topman and the manikins are headless with the season’s newest look draped on them and I wonder whether if I wore what they wore, I might be headless too. There are sale racks cluttering the walkways and fifteen year old boys who look like One Direction are searching through them to buy things that will replicate their desired generic image. I buy a tweed one-buttoned single breasted grey blazer in a wool mix because it looks good with the top half of the headless manikin, but I can’t bring myself to purchase the whole outfit because the manikin also has no feet. I cross into H&M and take the escalator up to the men’s section, passing middle-aged Bristolian women being dragged around by their children, or, worse, looking for clothes themselves because they think they’ll look cool. This season’s dull chrome colours sort the shop floor in to regimented ranks of no colour, and a girl who looks like she’s walked out of a bin is sorting through the bargain section hungrily. With my eyes closed and pinching the bridge of my nose I reach the men’s floor and find myself wandering through the aisle as if it’s a maze. Clothes hang off everything and price tags, reductions, bulk buys loom out at me when I open my eyes and stop pinching my nose. I look at shoes but they are all cheap and poorly made so I move through the carousel of people and hangers and pick up two gingham checked shirts, one in pink and one in blue. I am about to pay at the checkout when I see a cable knit jumper in oatmeal that I just have to have, so I dash over and get my size off the rack and pay. I walk towards Jones through the hoards of zombified people around me and I see a young mother pushing a baby in a pram. I pass a group of chavs who are spitting and smoking in Umbro trackies and Fred Perry and Lacoste polo shirts outside Sports Direct and I wonder how such classic brands earned so poor a representation. They heckle the young mother as she walks by. She looks startled and while a part of me also wants to shout abuse, I control myself and ignore the fact that she deserves it and I change my mind when I see a display in a shop window with the most beautiful pair of oxblood leather brogues and I start foaming at the lips as I’m drawn to them and start walking towards the shop…
Wednesday night. Varsity at Pam Pam. I’m hyperventilating because we’re late for guest list entry, and I’m worried the club is too full and we won’t get a good seat or served at the bar but I know someone at the door, probably from a previous night out or playing sport with him or something and we are let in and ushered towards our table. I’m wearing a black leather jacket from Zara, a white Ralph Lauren t-shirt, dark indigo jeans from Topman, and beige suede brogues by Ben Sherman. We pass a group of girls who probably go to Bristol Uni, all wearing expensive looking dresses, yet only one of them, blonde, is actually good looking. The other three huddle around her like sheep as all they have is daddy’s wages to buy themselves into VIP and although the blonde looks like she might be successful, and I contemplate going up to her and taking her in with me instead, I don’t. I walk by. The thumping sound of the bass kicks in and the shrill vocals call ‘make me, come alive’ as David Guetta blares over the speakers, making me relax, and as we walk up to the table that is reserved for us in VIP I place my hand on the small of skinny latte girl’s back who’s wearing a figure-hugging single-strap black dress from ASOS and blood red heels from Top Shop with a matching clutch bag, probably H&M, and I walk her to the bar and order a drink while I stand listening to her babble to a friend who missed the fact that we were at the bar alone.
I order five Tequilas, all for me. Down them, excuse myself, and walk over to our table where my friends are tapping their feet to Chase & Status.
Everyone is sweating on the dance floor, grinding on each other, broken glass on the floor is crunched under foot as people become more and more inebriated and lose their sense of shame. I’m starting to feel lost as the alcohol has well and truly taken hold of me, and I’m pushing my tongue down skinny latte girl’s throat as she presses herself into me, pushing back with hers. As she playfully bites my lip I pull away so I can get another drink. I push to the bar through people who don’t know how to queue. The group of girls from Bristol Uni are there and give me a dirty look– the blonde isn’t with them – and I order a double vodka and soda because it has fewer calories than lemonade which I down as soon as I get.
“Hey, I’m just trying to fit in around here,” I say to them as they’re still eyeballing me and I leave the bar and I see the blonde coming out of the toilet.
I’m lost. All I can focus on is the exit sign that looms at the back of the dance floor. I can’t think what to do. Skinny latte girl pushes into me.
I can’t reply. It says exit. I take her hand and plunge through the door dragging her with me. Outside we pass the blonde lying on the floor in the corner being sick. At least that’s what skinny latte girl thinks. She looks up helplessly at me, terrified, and points her hand towards me as if she’s about to say something before I briskly turn skinny latte girl the other way towards the taxi rank and mutter, poor thing.
I leave her flat feeling indescribably eerie. I walk through a dark street with dim lights either side that seem to be flickering. I look up at a man towering over me. He’s wearing a pinstripe suit with a bowler hat and has no face. He pours a can of red paint below him and I can feel it dripping onto me and I touch and feel my shoulders and my head. Wet. Sticky. Red. I look up again and realise that the man has no feet and it makes me think of the manikins in the shop windows that have no heads and I run screaming…
© Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.