The nerves set in as soon as I was in the booth. Just do it you big twat, I told myself. Just fucking do it. The last time I was so nervous in a booth was Amsterdam. That day the shutter had risen in the wall of a booth in a basement and there was a naked girl looking depressed and dancing drably on the other side of the glass. I’d panicked as soon as I’d seen her, it wasn’t nearly as much fun to witness as I’d hoped and I’d just shaken my head and closed my eyes until the shutter came back down. The girl dancing in Amsterdam reminded me of a mad polar bear I’d once seen at a hot zoo but given the choice of being in that booth again (or indeed seeing the polar bear walking in circles nodding its head) I’d have chosen that over the Rolls Royce that was facing me.
I don’t know why I’d agreed to do it. Why had I agreed to paint Mr Dupre’s Rolls Royce? Oh yeah, because of all the money he said he’d give me. I was pretty good at art at school. I’d watched a whole load of Overhaulin’. I knew how you paint a car with a spray gun. Smooth sweeping movements. That’s all I had to do. I picked up the gun and did a few practise sweeps. It went okay but I felt I’d certainly develop Multiple Sclerosis as soon as I did it for real. I looked at the window. Mr Dupre gave me a thumbs up and I smiled weakly.
I opened the valve on the pressurised paint cannister and felt the pressure immediately pack the pipe and jerk the gun. I did a few more practise sweeps without pressing the trigger. With the gun pressurised and the hose more rigid it was harder to move smoothly. Fucking brilliant. Okay, I told myself and had another glance at Mr Dupre. He was smiling and raised his eyebrows at me. I don’t think I smiled back. I couldn’t. What was I doing? I thought about just running away. I’d masked off all the chrome and glass. That had taken a whole day. If I ran away he’d just have to get somebody else to do the painting. Not the end of the world.
I was going to do it and it was going to be fine. I did a few more practise sweeps of my arm holding the spray gun. About ten inches from the car. It was fine. If Mr Dupre wasn’t watching I’d have actually sprayed paint onto the newspaper covering the wind-shield but the paint was made of gold. It was expensive. Mr Dupre had kept mentioning how expensive the paint was, I don’t think he was saying it to heap pressure on me but that’s the effect it had.
I’d suggested painting it gold. He was concerned it would be too much but I said it would look wicked.
The mask was making my lower face seem moist which wasn’t nice. I did a practise sweep and then pressed the trigger. I was sure once I got started I’d get into it. Like when you start a running race. I pressed the trigger and the compressor which had been rumbling grew louder but no paint came out. For fuck’s sake. I pressed it again and again the compressor went from idle to overdrive and then started clicking. Clicking wasn’t good. I looked at the gun careful not to point it into my face. I was doing everything okay. I looked at the window. Mr Dupre had cocked his head and pursed his lips. He wanted to see action.
I pressed the trigger again, this time pointing it at the floor. I might have to waste a little paint, it was unavoidable, but no paint came forth. I held my finger on the trigger even though the compressor was clicking. I needed to clear a blockage, I guessed. I held the trigger for as long as I dared but it wasn’t helping and then I thought maybe I hadn’t fully opened the valve on the paint cannister. I leant over it and checked I’d twisted it the correct way, the way the arrows embossed on the valve suggested. I’d definitely turned it that way. It was a mystery. Perhaps it would turn further?
I placed my hand on the valve and, yeah, it wouldn’t open any further Or would it? Maybe a bit mo-
I was dead. I’d exploded. All my blood that should be inside me was outside me. Through the ringing I could hear it dripping all around me, all over me. All my blood had gone. I was dead. I was cold already. Great. I blinked a few times and saw that the white clouds of heaven were splattered with gold. Classy. And then I saw the Rolls Royce. Also splattered with gold. And then I looked down at me. I was covered in gold. It wasn’t blood. I wasn’t dead. I’d fucked up big time though. I looked at the window. Mr Dupre was biting his knuckles. I was still holding the gun which still had a pipe hanging from it but the pipe no longer went anywhere. It wasn’t attached to anything. I dropped the gun and walked to the door. I opened the door and stepped out.
“What? What? What?” Asked Mr Dupre. “What?” He asked. “What? What?” What?”
I held a hand up to silence him and walked to the door that lead outside. I didn’t know where I was going and I walked and walked and walked. An hour, two hours later I was still walking. I was not thinking as I walked. I wasn’t heading anywhere. Walk, was the only thought I had but eventually another thought muscled its way in. Just stop, my brain told my legs and I stopped, it’s over. I stopped and closed my eyes. My breathing was shallow. When I opened my eyes I saw I was near St Paul’s Cathedral and a bunch of Japanese were taking photos of me and placing money at my feet. There was loads more than the £40 Mr Dupre was going to pay me. There was, like, £90. Sweet! Spent the next four months standing there motionless between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
That’s how I became one of those guys.