It was whilst I was in the cubicle racking up a fat line that I decided I definitely would write a column about this torrid gathering. I’d been thinking about doing so all evening, because tonight clearly had all the ingredients required to keep Londoners amused whilst confirming all their prejudices about Cityboys and their insatiable hunger for debauchery. Of course, I’d omit to mention our drug consumption or the insider trading, as those aspects wouldn’t do any of us any good if my identity were ever revealed.
I’d started writing the column for a laugh. A London-based free paper had come into existence in September 2006 and an old school friend happened to be its deputy editor. She’d told me two weeks before the newspaper’s first edition that they wanted a weekly column exposing the excesses of the City and I’d leapt at the opportunity. Every week I could vent my spleen – anonymously – about the job I’d accidentally fallen into to the half-million or so communters who read the newspaper. I soon found that publicly revealing my internal struggle with my job acted as a kind of therapy for me and helped me overcome my guilt about ‘playing for the wrong team’. Over time, and much to my surprise, the column garnered a cult following.
I’d got away with it for a year but there was every chance I’d be rumbled soon. There’d be quite a few colleagues and clients amongst the bored drones on the tube who read thelondonpaper every Friday afternoon and if one of them recognised the tale I recounted then I could be done for. I was fully aware that I’d lose my job if anyone at my bank could prove I was ‘Cityboy’, and though I desperately wanted to leave the City before I morphed into a rotund, red-faced alcoholic facing my third divorce I wanted to do it in my own time and certainly not before this year’s bonus, which looked likely to be disgustingly huge. That bonus alone would almost certainly be enough to finally make me give up my bullshit career and start living La Dolce Vita on a tropical beach. Truth be told, it was only the image of me smoking a fat joint in a hammock in the cool shade of a palm tree that kept me going through all this relentless two-faced drudgery.
The rest of the night proceeded in a horrifyingly predictable way. The conversation became ever more edgy and the trips to the bogs ever more regular. At some point Dimitri proposed that we pick up some hookers and head to either the Dorchester or the Mandarin Oriental but, I’m pleased to say, that idea was quickly dismissed. The boys were obviously feeling particularly morally upstanding that night. Predictably, none of us managed to pull. The fit, Gucci-clad, Eastern European gold-diggers must, for some unfathomable reason, have decided that their future didn’t lie with four sweaty, wide-eyed buffoons who could barely string a sentence together without first rushing off to the gents. A baffling decision if ever there was one.
When the club signalled the end to the night’s fun by turning on the all too bright lights we filed out with the rest of the punters, trying not to let the bouncers see our horribly dilated pupils. We briefly discussed sharing cabs home and I secretly rejoiced that no one lived in my direction. After allowing my three clients to pick up the remaining taxis idling outside the club I had to wait five minutes before another black cab rolled by. As I entered the taxi I felt a warm glow of relief envelop me as I took on board the fact that I wouldn’t have to kowtow to anyone for at least four hours.
It was whilst my cab was rocketing down a deserted Bayswater Road that an idea I’d been flirting with for several hours began to announce itself more loudly in my psychotic cerebellum. I knew I’d soon be passing close to Jane’s flat in Queensway, and now I decided to call her to see if there was any chance of a latenight rendezvous. Jane was a graduate trainee who’d been with us for a year. She was the confident, sassy 22-year-old Oxford grad I’d embraced in a nightclub whilst pilled off my head.
She was the pretty, sexy Lolita who had cost me my relation- ship. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but after we’d kissed she’d promptly gone home alone despite my overly eager protestations at the taxi rank. It was my bad luck that my girlfriend’s cousin had spied us leaving the club together and informed Gemma of my misdeed. That was two weeks before and Gemma was neither taking my calls nor letting me cross her threshold. Our terse, brief conversations had all been via the intercom. It seemed that no amount of reasoned voicemail, Interflora bouquets or impassioned email was going to disabuse my beautiful girlfriend of the view that I was a grotty little toerag who had ‘snogged the help’ and couldn’t be trusted. That ocean-going, copperbottomed fuck-up was why I faced the world alone again.
I’d just lost someone really special but, I thought, my crime should at least have been worth it. I should try to take something from this catastrophe. I stared at my BlackBerry. I had about a minute before I passed Jane’s road. It was 3.25 a.m. on Friday morning and she’d be getting up for work in about two and a half hours. She had been formal with me at the office since our ‘encounter’ and had indicated in no uncertain terms over the last fortnight that dipping your nib in the company ink is never a good idea. She almost certainly wasn’t remotely interested in her burnt-out, depraved boss who was thirteen years her senior and was rapidly developing such large bags under his eyes that one amusing secretary referred to them as ‘suitcases’. I took all these persuasive points on board . . . and then rang her. Of course, I was sure to dial 141 before her number so she couldn’t see it was me.
The ring tone sounded once, then again. My heart began to quicken. After six rings she finally answered. ‘Hi, it’s Jane Saint here—’ I interrupted her way too enthusiastically. ‘Listen, it’s Steve. I know this is crazy, but I’m in the area and . . .’
‘I’m sorry I can’t get to the phone right now so please leave a message after the tone.’
On arriving home in Shepherd’s Bush I spent five drunken minutes trying to remove my contact lenses, only stopping when I remembered that I’d had laser surgery at the beginning of the year and hadn’t worn lenses for over six months. I slumped into bed wishing desperately that I had more than two hours of coked-up, restless sleep ahead of me.
Buy the full book at Amazon
Not a member?
To share your thoughts sign up now. You'll also be entered into the weekly lunchtime lottery.