Sunday, June 13, 1999

"A week of firsts"

I now have five and-a-half months to live. Although I am easy enough with my looming demise to discuss it over dressed crab with my mother, it seems in some way to be laughing at me. With a cruel irony, even Xobephenes would envy (to avoid poison, he refused to eat and thus starved), it seems to be creating me a completely new life.

This has been a week of firsts. For instance, I had never been invited to address a group of students before. On Monday, I gave my first talk, `Wrestling with Angels'. At the end, I fielded questions. A lot were about suicide methods. I had taken the trouble to discover more about this since my botched attempt last month (based entirely on that sod useless Final Exit book). Did you know that there is a website that sells the kit for car-exhaust suicide? Different vehicles require different lengths of hose.

And the most popular length is the one that fits people carriers? I told the students that I actually found that offensive. The selfishness of someone who owns a people carrier - clearly someone with a family - deciding to commit suicide appals me. It's bloody irresponsible. If you're single, alone and fucked up like me - and most of those students - well hey, join me in Hades baby. Otherwise, bloody well grow up.

I was also pleased to find most of the audience agreeing with me about the terminally ill. Some specced-up babe with a voice like a Guardian reader asked me if I didn't feel insignificant alongside those writers who've had illness and death inflicted upon them - like some random `tax disadvantage handed out to the socially excluded' - I could see written all over her uselessly thoughtful, still pretty but soon-to-be-crazed-with- worry-lines face.

Of course, I feel insignificant, you fucking moo. Even a crashing dung brain like Jeremy Clarkson could tell you that a sense of insignificance might just be linked to suicidal tendencies. And as for the terminally ill. Well, at least those people can blame something else - their genes, their god, their luck. All I can blame is myself. My condition is no one's fault but mine. You may say: `Yes, but that means you could stop it all tomorrow' and you know what? All I can do is shake my head sadly and say: `I know… that's what makes it so ghastly in here.' Can you imagine how loud they clapped?

My first celebrity invites have also started to flutter in. I am not talking about junket stuff sent out to slipstreamers like Baps Raven. I mean exclusive screenings of Eyes Wide Shut at the new Bullring Imax [Yentob not asked], to playbacks of new cuts by Richard Ashcroft featuring Madonna on drums at the Town House.

So on Wednesday, for example, I found myself at a private viewing in a blanco-ed Hoxton artspace, standing still among the we-crowd while conversations formed around me, typically: `Richard, I just wanted to say your work reaches out to a beautifully sad place in all of us' followed by a soft gaze to see if I said anything. So I said just anything to fill the silence. And pretty soon they were all going: `Yes oh yes, mmm, and you're so brave'.

That was another first - realising how brave I was. When 40 independent strangers tell you how brave you are, it is difficult not to suspect they are right. And when one of them is perhaps the most intelligent man in Britain, someone, who though scarcely 32, no longer introduces himself by name, in fact has given up speaking altogether, but has a uniformed nuncio who respectfully announces him as `the greatest living playwright of his or any other generation', who writes on a note pad: `You are wonderfully brave' and then shuffles off in a preternaturally humble way, when one of them is him, you just know beyond mistaking that what they're all saying is true.

So there I was, surrounded by famous or just plain beautiful people, while David Bowie fiddled alone with his sarong in the corner. And through all this, I had no inkling that my next first that evening would be going to bed with three women at once. OK, so they may have been sobbing empathy boffs but who cares? The convulsions of tears only seemed to heighten their many, many, many, many orgasms.

I also managed for the first time to trick Thad into letting me out of the house alone. Thad is the vulcanised velocipedophile whom this paper has placed in my flat to stop me killing myself ahead of time. Do you want to know why they've take such care? I'll tell you. When we struck the Time To Go deal, I insisted they pay for all 25 columns up front and the last thing they want is for me to snuff myself after only five, thereby setting a record rate of 15 grand per thousand words.

And perhaps the most shocking first actually occurred within the last hour. Every week, a columnist has to crash through a wall of embarrassment that says `How dare you take up a thousand words in a newspaper writing about nothing more than yourself?' You get used to dealing with your own lack of importance. But this week that didn't happen. Now I have a bigger problem... when you actually do become genuinely important, how do you deal with that? I am only just beginning to find out.