Teddy Cartwright is a man’s man. A good time kind of guy, top-notch bloke and friend to all. At night, between streaming Parks and Recreation on his Apple Mac and microwaving char sui fan, he self-diagnoses imagined mental illnesses on Google. Two doors down his roommate watches dead-eyed porn and ejaculates into crusty-smelling black socks that once belonged to Teddy. It is an occasional bone of contention between them.
By day Teddy is successful. Two months into twenty five, teaching tuition to doe-eyed Chinglish ex-brats in Hong Kong’s richer suburbs. Two evenings a week he volunteers for the Samaritans, manning the phones in a room that needs re-painting a less depressing shade of grey. In between this and that he plays squash with a guy he doesn’t like much and sleeps with a succession of clingy Chinese girls with tight cunts and tighter boyfriends.
Everybody says that Teddy Cartwright is a pillar of society. He is everybody’s expat success story. His mother speaks to strangers about his tenacity, made squeaky-voiced by her own swelling pride. Back home, there is no-one who doesn’t know about Teddy Cartwright, boy done good and burning brightly overseas. Every other Sunday he skypes his parents. They are misty-eyed and doting, despite the dodgy connection, welling up at the fruit of their loins in his button-up shirt and shiny four by six apartment. He’s a big boy now.
Teddy buys his fruit and veg from a local market, pays a grandmotherly Filipina to clean his place at a modest rate and attends Cantonese classes at the nearby City University. When he isn’t busy doing those things, he fantasises about raping and strangling the sex workers he passes after regular matey boozy nights in Wan Chai.
Not really. Teddy is a good boy.
What he really thinks about is his funeral. Teddy Cartwright is fed up of living in this world and he wants everyone to know about it. For weeks he has been waiting for the right time, but squash and sex and the gym and his long-standing commitment to the Samaritans have sort of been getting in the way. In between being a poster boy for goodwill amongst men and working on his six-pack – coming along nicely-
Teddy just hasn’t found the time to adequately plan his suicide.
His roommate thinks Teddy is a top-quality guy. Asif Singh is twenty five and works, begrudgingly, in international finance. Despite his penchant for Teddy’s socks as masturbatory sex aids the two get along just fine. Asif has no inclination of Teddy’s impending deathwish. He’s busy himself, busy nailing his contract extension and flirting with the Korean barista in Starbucks on Queen’s Road East. Asif does not want to go back to Pakistan. His admiration of the Korean barista’s rippling pectorals would not be so amiably tolerated there, and besides, he likes the food here.
Teddy does not intend to kill himself in the apartment and put either Asif or his jovial, tattooed landlord – from the Mainland – to any inconvenience. He’s considerate like that, anyone will tell you. He thinks about these things. Whatta guy.
Instead, he is thinking, seriously thinking, about an alfresco death. Hong Kong’s buildings are high and not every MTR station has glass safety doors on the platform. Sha Tin Wai MTR is one such example, and waiting there, enroute to extra tutoring – cash in hand, no questions asked – Teddy Cartwright sees the red pinpricks of the train approaching and his heartbeat pounds in tune to the drum and bass in his ears. Two seconds to decide, no preamble.
Teddy Cartwright swallows hard and smiles, skipping forward. When the train doors bong open, he steps aside, graciously allowing an old lady with a shopping trolley to shuffle out first. Not today, he thinks, as the doors ping closed and the train rattles off down the track.