266 – The Opportunity

Opportunity presented itself today in the form of this absolutely lazy illustrative picture.

Opportunity, common wisdom dictates, doesn’t just fall into one’s lap like a spider dislodged from a car sunshade. It doesn’t drop from the heavens creating panic wherever it skitters–the good kind of panic, you understand, the kind you might experience when, just for a moment, you believe you’ve scored three numbers on the National Lottery instead of the usual two.

Ten whole pounds! Can you imagine that? Why, you could buy a few pints down the Anchor and Pit with that, or an eight piece bargain bucket or–most likely–another ten weeks’ worth of lottery tickets.

But what you actually get is a spider who worries your lap at pace before decamping somewhere in the car, meaning once you’ve escaped you have to set fire to the vehicle and its environs because what if it comes back, to scamper across your crotch once more? Instead of being a greasy bucket of gluttony up you’re a Vauxhall Corsa down–which is about what you’d expect from opportunity, which promises so much but delivers only spiders.

The first and only girl I’ve ever asked out had opportunity approach her at a supermarket. She had, she was told, a face people would want to see in magazines and on billboards. She was a kid at the time–we both were, before you start insinuating–and in this instance opportunity was a scout for a modelling agency, or so he or she claimed. I never received the full rundown on what might or might not have transpired after this chance meeting, as when I asked Sally out she turned me down and became the laughing stock of her comprehensive–not because the foolish girl declined to go with me to the cinema but because she’d been asked on a date by an ogre. And she, a model! Oh, I could go on living my ogrish life but it would be weeks before Sally would live down the shame of being asked out by an ugly boy, the poor fucking thing.

I don’t know if her modelling career took off, if it ever progressed beyond a couple of photo shoots–in fact I don’t know if it was a legitimate modelling agency who plucked her from the Asda crowd or one of those dodgy firms that specialises in pictures of naked children playing volleyball. Whoever they were and whatever happened from then on, Sally had–through no fault or effort on her part–a Face.

Opportunity tends to find people with Faces. You hear about it all the time. A scout was getting a latte or Jazzercising at the mall when, hold the phone, stop the clock, there goes a Face, walking among all the other faces as if it wasn’t special and unique and something people would pay to see. Like inverse John Merricks these Faces are pulled aside by show barkers who use not megaphones but Photoshop. What a Face! Never have I seen a Face of such exquisite Faceiness. Your cheek bones are like ledges, your lips like inner tubes. You have a doe-eyed sensuality we could use to sell everything from clothes to chicken soup. Just sign this contract and I’ll make you a star, kid–and please, do use your own blood when signing.

It works well for the models–it must do, otherwise why would anyone want to be one? Drape a few gowns over your bony frame, saunter up and down a catwalk, do a little turn, shake a little tush, whambo jumbo, here’s your cash.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise for you to hear I’ve never been a model. It sounds positively ghastly, being poked, prodded and pulled about, having your hair teased to frizz, your eyeballs drawn upon with kohl. How do they fit that gap between your teeth that all supermodels have? Some kind of torture device I reckon, like those irons they stick on a child’s ungrown legs, cranking the device a half-turn every day so they might grow up tall, only instead of drilling it into your thighs you put it between your two front incisors and part them like Biblical seas. It seems like a lot of fuss to create a distinctive look, but then, all that heroin can’t be good for models either and that’s positively essential if you want to strut, pout and wear clothes all at the same time.

Meanwhile, a thousand girls across the globe open Junior Vogue to see Sally, gap-toothed and high as a kite, and hope that they, too, might one day be discovered. “In Asda!” they say, intoning the name as if it’s a magical land where the aisles are paved with contracts. “While her mum was buying mini kievs!” And they start hanging out by the turkey drummers, crayola lipstick smeared onto their fish mouth in hope opportunity might discover them, too.

Or what about singing? I mean, who needs to go through the rigmarole of starting a band, touring the clubs, building a reputation, sending out demo tapes in the hopes of being signed when you can dress as a fucking clown and show up to The X-Factor? Look distinctive enough and throw a hissy fit on national television and you’ll be recognised, oh aye, and you won’t need a Voice to turn heads.

I mean, Jedward. Really, Jedward. I mean, what were you thinking when you took Jedward to heart, when you made them a star: the dimmest binary system in the galaxy.

And Jedward aren’t the worst of it. Between the Subos and Paul Pottses, some poor chap was pushed on stage to pump his fist and yell at the crowd “Who’s got talent? Britain’s got talent! Britain’s got talent with DJ Talent!” And one, he’s not a DJ–if anything he’s an MC; two, he doesn’t have any discernible talent for anything; three, the nation as one was laughing at a guy with mental problems, laughing at the handicapped. As far as Faces go, there’s your Elephant Man right there. ITV bosses saw this delusional, mentally challenged young man and put him on screen to caper for our entertainment. Meanwhile a number of the viewing audience sees this as spider-less Opportunity, and flocks to book their appointment for the next series. Turn up to auditions and if you’re enough of a freak you too will be infamous overnight.

I shouldn’t complain about Opportunity because right now I’m doing rather well from it, having been, ahem, ‘discovered’ through no real effort on my part. While my face will never be recognised as anything other than a hazard to the sighted, my words–or Words, if you prefer–are a different matter. Like Sally and her fortunate genes, writing comes naturally to me; I sit at keyboard and words pour out. I’m gracious enough to realise this isn’t the case for everyone who writes. I mean, it depends on my mood as to whether I view my writing as a talent or–just as likely–the shittiest waste of keystrokes imaginable: by hammering the keyboard with my talentless fists I am actually summoning the spirit of John Wyndham who will chase me about the house kicking my no-good ass with his spectral feet . . . but at least I recognise that nobody else writes in quite the same way as I do, which means I’ve either bored grub-like into a niche of my own or I’m actually special, in a way.

‘Special’ being a word that has many meanings, of course.

It remains to be seen whether Opportunity will propel me to the catwalks of the writing world or whether I’ll remain here, blogging it up like a bag lady putting on a fashion show in rush hour traffic. As always I’ll hope for the best, fear for the worst, and drown my sorrows in homemade baked goods.

It’s funny for me to write about opportunity. Without a Face or a Voice or any other obvious talent, it so rarely appears for people not born to be stars: it’s the rarest of creatures, a Sasquatch forever sloping away from those who want to see it, shaky and indistinct as amateur film.

Baited and sprung, I hope this time my trap’s caught something. And if it hasn’t I hope being rejected again so many years down the line is a little less harsh on a boy currently in the throes of infatuation.

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