Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong in the last seven days.I could order the incidents from best to worst or most humiliating or most surprising or even most funny for onlookers, but that would spoil it. Chronological order is the only way. Event building upon event building upon event.
Monday morning, and I'm talking early Monday, in the wee hours of the morning you still think of as Sunday, I only say Monday because you have to get the date right for the insurance people, I was woken by a car alarm. Or, rather, by an elbow in the ribs and a voice in my ear. "Alex,are you awake?"
Spluttering, I came to, snapped away from an all-too-
vivid dream in which I was growing smaller and smaller,shrink-
ing in size until I was slightly larger than a penny. I don't
know what would have happened if it had continued. Would I
have shrunk to nothing and died not only in my dream state
but also in reality? Should I have performed some sort of
post-Freudian, post-Jungian psychological interpretation of
this dream? Was my subconscious trying to tell me that I was
nothing? Or that I was in danger of becoming nothing? Was
it a warning sign? An early warning sign my complacent, com-
fortable,content waking self would never have recognized?
"Alex. Alex, wake up." Sarah's voice,so gentle and lilt-
ing in the day,seemed harsh and screeching, unkind even, as
if her lack of sleep was all my fault. As if she were blam-
"I am awake."
"Then do something," she said..
The car alarm, lost to me in the confusion of my pull
from deep sleep, suddenly seemed to grow in volume. The
more I listened to it, the louder and more strident it became.
"Damn things,"I said, pulling my pillow over my head
to dampen the noise. "Bloody nuisance. Don't know why peo-
Sarah snatched the pillow away. Slowly, as if she were
explaining the concept of crayons to a dull-witted five-year-
old, she said,"It's your car alarm."
I leapt from the bed and raced to the window, snatching
the curtains aside. Out on the road, three floors down, I could
see a group of four teenagers. Male, of course. Probably no
more than fourteen, with that particular aura about them so
you just knew they were going to be spotty and greasy, and
stringy, squeaky and unpleasant in a way that girls never are,
no matter how big their glasses, how shiny their metal braces,
how riddled with acne their own faces. For a second I felt
sorry for them, for their ages, for what they were suffering,
for what they were going to suffer in the next few years, then
I saw what they were doing. Surrounding my car. Kicking my
car. Breaking my windscreen. Slashing my tires.
"Hey," I shouted. Idiot. Of course they couldn't hear
me. I grabbed a pair of jeans from the floor and tried to pull
them on as I ran to the door. Why is it that when you're in a
hurry something always goes wrong? I should have been sen-
sible and logical and known that I couldn't run and put on
jeans at the same time. Instead, I tried to do both and wasn't
very successful at either. So, hobbling with one leg hampered
by the jeans I couldn't quite pull up, I flung open the door
and ran out into the hall. Thud. The door slammed shut be-
hind me and I quickly became aware of a few things all at
once. The door was locked and I didn't have any keys. I'd
only managed to pull my jeans up to my thighs. Mrs.Roberts,
the sixty-something insomniac from next door who'd taken
to roaming the stairs at all hours of the night, was staring,
goggle-eyed, at the first male testicles she 'd seen since her
husband had run off with an air stewardess the year before.
And I wasn 't wearing any shoes.
Okay, okay, I admit it. They weren't necessarily all of
the same importance, but that's what happened. I'd like to say
that I shrugged it off, zipped up my jeans and ran outside to
kick the shit out of those four little punks, but this is Alex
we're talking about, not Alexander.
I blushed beet red as Mrs.Roberts (I don't even know
her Christian name)continued to stare, and to make matters
worse, as if it were aware of the scrutiny, as if it wanted to give
a poor lonely old woman something to remember, my own
flesh betrayed me.
"Hello, Alex," said Mrs. Roberts as she stared, a smile
hovering around her lips.
I yanked my jeans up, nodded and ran down the stairs as
I tried to do up the zipper. I felt as if I'd betrayed Sarah. And
with a woman older than my own mother. I decided not to
think about it, to leave the incident unanalyzed, fearful of what
conclusions I might draw.
So, bare-chested, bare-footed, I raced down the stairs,
sick at heart, sick to my stomach, certain only that I was an-
gry. I flung open the foyer doors and went out into the street.
They were gone. I didn't even have the satisfaction of
shouting at them or chasing them down the street. I didn't
even have the chance to get into a fight. They were gone and
all that was left was my poor, battered car.
It was defaced. It was wounded. Sacrilege. Tires slashed
and deflated, front and back windscreens smashed, all but one
side window gone. The clear outline of a boot print on the
driver's door. Indentations up and down the bonnet. Key
scratches ruining the paintwork. The stereo --one of those
where you take off the front panel so thieves can see it's not
worth breaking in to steal it --smashed in and useless. The
leather seats --soft and welcoming and so inviting --slashed
and hacked into pieces. Even the car alarm was broken. Ru-
A Jaguar XKR Supercharged Coupe is a work of art. Its
contours are smooth and rounded, the paint shiny and fresh,
the tires a perfect fit, the lights sexy and sleek. I'm one of those
men who loves cars the way women love clothes and shop-
ping, the way other men are mad about football. If it were up
to me, the Tate Modern would be filled with sports cars, lux-
ury cars, seductive, shiny points of worship. Who needs the
cross-section of a sheep or a pig's foetus in formaldehyde when
you can have a Porsche? A Jaguar? A Lamborghini? That's real
Okay, okay, our flat's in Finsbury Park, I should have
known better. It used to be safe when I lived in Clapham and
had my own garage (a wide one so I didn't have to worry
about scraping my car), but Sarah wanted to move in to-
gether, I wanted it too, and we ended up in her flat.(She in-
sisted on living north of the river to make the journey out of
London to see her family in Luton as easy as possible. Never
mind that it was better for me to live south of the Thames to
see mine.) I know I shouldn't have parked it on the street, but
the waiting list for a garage that's reasonably close and wide
enough inside to open the driver's door is over two years. I
wasn't going to give up my car. I couldn't wait that long. Any-
thing can happen in two years. I could be dead in two years. I
decided not to store it in my old garage all the way across
town, as it was impractical and inconvenient. I'd thought it
was worth the risk. I'd decided --maturely, logically --that I
could cope if it was stolen. It was beautiful. There's no other
word to describe it. It never crossed my mind that it would be
subject to this sort of mindless violence. Only a man with-
out a soul would wantonly cause such destruction to a Jaguar
XKR. Or a handful of spotty youths. Philistines.
They didn't even try to take it on a joyride.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Being Alexander by Nancy Sparling. Copyright © 2002 by Nancy Sparling. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.