— Read on jackecheal.wordpress.com/2018/12/23/set-aflame/
1 Hun Dread
This will, hopefully, be the final letter I need to write; may the power of this message shine through, at last.
I was diagnosed with depression at 15; I was self-harming and have consistently done so since, including several suicide attempts.
At 26 I was diagnosed, at last, with AUTISM, ADHD and DYSPRAXIA.
It is quite obvious why I was depressed.
Since being diagnosed with depression I have received NO THERAPY, save Family Consultation, which my family decided they didn’t want to do, and three Counselling sessions, paid for by a former employer, following a breakdown at work.
THESE THREE SESSIONS REMAIN THE MOST USEFUL SUPPORT I HAVE BEEN PROVIDED (they were private).
Other than that, the only person I can say has helped me in any way has been Dr. Nikita Kanani, who has been an understanding ear. However, as a GP, her power is incredibly limited.
I am desperate for therapy. It was what I asked for at 15; I was told the wait could be long, and given some SSRIs, which are not intended for pre-adults.
That is ridiculous.
I have a degree and over the past 4 years I have worked, for a maximum period of up to 8 months, as: a teacher; a teaching assistant; a holiday club assistant; a nursery senior practitioner; a nursery assistant. I also lived as a homeless man for 8 months.
SURELY, this PROVES that I am intelligent, capable and willing.
I keep having nervous breakdowns as a result of my autism; meltdowns are a feature of autism but I receive no financial support at all, so every time I have one and have to take time off work, I end up with no money. Then I can’t eat or pay rent. Then my depression gets worse.
I keep having mental breakdowns as a result of my depression; these will keep happening until I have some sort of support that means it is recognized that I have the same level of disability as anyone else with a registered disability; I feel like I am being punished for having eyes and legs and sometimes I think the best way to prove how bad my mental illness is would be to cut these off.
Worst of all, someone prescribed me Diazepam, which has been immeasurably useful in massively cutting down all features of all conditions, keeping me calm and allowing me to slow down and think carefully about things that normally cause me panic. I also feel I can do basic day-to-day tasks better. However, despite this being the one thing, other than therapy, which has helped me in any way, I am repeatedly being told that I am not allowed to use it long term, and it is just an emergency while I wait (another 12 years?) for therapy. So, basically, when I finally get the help I have been asking for, it’ll be ten times harder because ‘they/you’ will take away the one drug I am willing to take, which actually helps, unlike the three different SSRIs I have taken, which are known to have dangerous side-effects and all of which made my life worse.
Yours in very little faith,
Jack Edward Cheal Baxter
PS: How many autistic people need to kill themselves or someone else before people realise how desperate life is for us right now?
That is neither a threat, nor a warning, just a damn good question.
I sometimes have difficulty in acting assertively because…
When I am honest about my thoughts or feelings, people become offended. I do not want to offend people and sometimes I cannot even understand their offence; even when I know why they are offended I become upset, because it seems that when people upset me they become offended but if I upset them well that’s still, apparently, my problem.
Welcome to my first rant as a diagnosed ‘sufferer’ of autism; just for the record, autism doesn’t make me suffer, neurotypicals do. Autism may be annoying, but NTs seem to be just plain retarded.
So, today, I got woken up by construction noises through my open window. Annoying, but it’s 10:30, so I shouldn’t even be in bed. Get up. Close the window. No problem.
Except, it’s still there, coming through the walls, subtle but jarring. So, on goes some tunes. Everyone else in house is in bed, so I am careful to make sure them music is just loud enough to block out the construction noises that everyone else can apparently ignore. I go downstairs, close those windows too, and at the same time check how much the music is reverberating through the floor. Not at all, all I can hear is the cement mixer.
All is good for half hour or so. The otherS get out of bed. I get a phone call. I get a promotion. All is, very, good.
Then, suddenly, the whole house is shaking. The floor or my bedroom feels like it is being punched from underneath, like someone is thumping the living room ceiling.
Now, let me get this clear, this is not an issue on a social, moral, philosophical or political scale, this is purely physical. I suffer from perpetual anxiety and this sounds and feels like an attack, and what’s more it is blocking out the music I have been using to block out the work noise from outside. I turn my music up, right up, until the thud is nearly gone, and realise I need to get out of the house.
Rush downstairs, stick the lead on the dog, grab some documents I need to photocopy and prepare to head round the corner to my Gran’s house; she has a scanner/printer. Just as I am about to leave, I mention to my mother that the other day I had my music up and I got told to turn it down straight away, I ask that next time I want to do so she remembers that, today, my brother was allowed to play, what she calls, ‘thumpy thumpy’ music, very loudly.
Well, I’m pretty much at the end of the story now. Next thing I know she’s raising her voice, wringing her skull, accusing me of having an issue with my brother, when clearly my issue was with her double-standards, and I’m on the back foot trying to explain how a bit of music can help me to relax but blaring bass attacks, funnily enough, are a bit much even for me. I leave the house, go to my Gran’s, to find Mum’s called ahead and Gran is ready to pick up the mantle and start shouting at me for upsetting my Mother. Great. Mum goes to her Mum when she’s been hurt, who do I got to exactly, when my Mum is the one hurting me?
Okay, I know I’m 26, but try not to judge me too harshly here, like everyone else. I’m calling out to the people of the internet because someone out there must have sensory difficulties like me and be able to understand that from the moment the road noises started, I was under attack. My anxiety was on a constant rise and whilst a bit of light music in the background can be amazingly helpful for dealing with this rise, people then taking it to the next level and playing dubstep at club volumes or shouting at me when I try to explain how it’s giving me bloody panic attacks is a surefire way to make my heart burst out of my chest (metaphorically), and for me to behave accordingly in response (literally) by (metaphorically again) melting down.
So, music’s been banned in our house (boy, I can’t wait until they get the pneumatic drill out tomorrow at meltdown o’clock), I can’t talk to my mother or brother because they both agree that, because I turned my music on first, that I ‘started it’, despite the fact that when it was just my music on, no one mentioned it being a problem and it CERTAINLY didn’t bang through the floor until after I had to turn it up, as otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to hear it at all.
Now I’m trying to use self-help books to figure out how I could have handled the situation differently, but as far as I can tell everything I did basically followed the methods outlined in those books. I was looking for solutions, not problems, but then suddenly I found myself in an argument that I did not want or predict. My automatic response here is to shut up and not be honest about my feelings anymore, which is the opposite of the intention of the writing exercise prompt that is also the title of this bit of babble (I sometimes have difficulty in acting assertively because…).
I’m supposed to construct a positive challenge to get me out of my comfort zone and help me to be more assertive, but in this case I can honestly say I believe that I was being assertive with my Mum, and then my Gran, but was hit by raw aggression in both cases, which caused me to panic and in the end, both times, I broken down and cried; my Gran continued to shout at me whilst I did.
I need to get away from my family because I believe my Mother has, without necessarily meaning to, so demonized me in all their eyes, and they cannot see how she behaves when they am not around, that if I so much as suggest that she has upset me, I get verbally abused. But I am still recovering from the mental breakdown I had at work a year ago and have only just been officially diagnosed with autism; I am at the start of my road to recovery, I certainly don’t have the money to move out, and my support network is the origin and perpetuator of my neuroses.
England and Scotland get split apart by an earthquake. The two parliaments separate entirely and the countries decide to pursue independent and completely opposing manifestos. A war ensues.
To facilitate troop mobilisation, Scotland builds a bridge. This BENEFIT ensures the WELFARE of all their troops.
In this scenario, would it be morally right for the English, who do not support the Scottish people, to use the bridge?
Considering how, in this scenario, the English fully oppose the Scottish, I would think it prudent for them to make as much use of the bridge as possible. The Scottish might hate them for it and moan about the hypocrisy of the British slagging off their policies and then using their bridge, but really that would be the pragmatic thing to do.
Scene 3: Man in Gray; Man in Gray.
Alone Now. Attempts to alleviate abdominal aggression accentuates an almost almonious agreement on agitation. Bowels blocked by bloomious stool. Counteraction and counter-reaction countermands the core. In principle, alone now is a sorry state of sordid sins, sans savingly snared sans, sorry, sans seedy sans hands to be washed. Sansitory. San. Sit. Ory…and stations to be approached. New and more avenues to follow from this junction…just another point in the way of looking for aggression.
The Pursuit of Loneliness
The Pursuit of Loneliness
a short story
There is a buzzing- a BUZZ BUZZ iiiiiiING!!- fuzzy and ringing, muffled yet sharp- an under-the-ear-drum-itch- frustrating, infuriating BUZZING…coming from the people in this room. They cannot hear it, in a sense, for them, it does not exist- except so far as it exists for them as an invention of mine. I invent many things.
There is a hot and cold bubble boiling and freezing in the pit in my mind that drains the pit in my stomach. There is a Black Fog enclosing my brain- it is a fog of hate to imprison me in a hatred I will create, whelp, nurture, expose and digest. It is a process I have invented.
The Black Fog comes and goes with the tides of people who lap at the shores of my perception. Some bring ill-wind, some bring fair wind- it matters not to me or the fog; it travels at random on temporal seas.
It seems random to me…but then time follows no laws; it is an invention of man, which he imposes, unfairly, on reality.
Everyone agrees- the invention becomes real.
My inventions are my inventions and very few people exhibit very little interest in them.
Suffice to say I find it infuriating to know that of all the infinite universes in which people could choose to live, many choose to inhabit the same few! (; making them much cluttered, dull universes). Where I can, without hurting others, (as I perceive it) I like to live in my universe of my invention. When I can’t, I flounder on the shores of everybody else’s perception.
There is a buzzing and a boiling and a black, encompassing fog and there are so many noisy universes, all in one room, which I cannot bear. Somehow those blessed words make their way through to me-
‘And that’s it for this lecture; see you, next Tuesday’.
And I think- Bring it to Charlie’s House. But I don’t say it, because no one else will get it.
And I run; up the stairs; out the door; down the stairs; out the door; freedom.
That sweetest of sorrows- the sky is a beautiful shade of gray- the most fleeting of feelings- a single drop of rain- LONELINESS- that I long for!- loneliness– that I need!
I walk. I walk fast- faster than anyone else; away from anyone else. I force an absent minded expression onto my moody, desolate expression. I force my instincts to recede and train my countenance to obey me this once and be that mask of deceit which comes- unfairly – easily to lesser mortals.
I try to look like I haven’t a care in the world because if anyone asks me if I do have a care in the world I shall explode, I shall burst forth with such vitriolic determination that the very world of which they ask me shall feel scathed.
And if she be a thing, let her feel so! She is, like any woman, multi-facetted and deceitful.
I reach my sanctuary; the Writer’s Paradise; place of peace; where scholars and the great creative minds (I do not draw a distinction per se) join to sit, alone, in quiet to work; work in its most physical and spiritual manifestation: thought. My sanctuary…
The woman at the desk looks at me and I hate her; the old couple stand BLOCKING! The doorway and I HATE them; the children giggle at computers in corners and I hate them and I hate hate hate their parents and I hate this place and I’ll never get a moments peace as women browse and natter through aisles lined with ‘inspiring’ (!) novels about abuse and neglect and other ‘inspiring’ (!) themes and men peruse literature beyond far far beyond their capacity for understanding Dickens and Carroll and Wilde they couldn’t possibly understand those people if they were alive today so how dare (!!) they touch those leaves and students giving themselves kudos and pats on the back and other such shit just for finding (!) the books from their reading lists and I want them to go ALL GO AWAY NOW NOW NOW and I RUN FLEE ESCAPE THIS PLACE
No sanctuary now.
So I walk, past coffee houses blaring pop and restaurants blaring pop and churches full of kids and pubs full of kids and bus stops inhabited by homeless and alleys ditto ditto ditto – GOD! F.U.C.K, where is my place of peace; where is my sanctuary!?
Gone; the world is gone from me, gone gone gone, no peace, no quiet, just hustle and bustle and rudeness everywhere…no respect.
Suddenly I feel afraid; I have gone too far! I will miss the start of my next seminar! I will have to arrive late and walk in ALONE and eyes EYES will stare and they will THINK such horrible (horrible!) things and I will choose WRONG and my friends will hate me and my enemies will laugh and I will suffocate in black, the Black Fog…
I walk quick-time double pace back back back, fast, onto campus, past halls, down the hall, upstairs, through door- alone.
No one is here; classroom empty.
This is wrong- the class was definitely in here so why (why!) why-the-fuck is it empty?
This makes no sense!
Makes no sense
Call a friend; my best friend in the whole university. Times are hard, but they’ve been hard before; friends- friend- THIS friend has always seen my through.
“Hello! Hi, yes, sorry, sorry to call, I’m such a fool, I’ve gone to, well I must be in the wrong class, no one’s here, and-
Go home early?
Could have told…
I ran here!
You have a phone you stupid cunt! What kind of fucking friends are you making me look like a fucking tit you can just drive back and get me you just left me here to make a fucking fucking fool of myself why the FUCK do I even bother with useless FUCKING friends like you you worthless fucking waste of space cun…”
This is not what I expected…
How many times have we avoided places like this? How many years have we wasted trying to find something better only to have our night in a dive like this?
Actually dive is quite a romantic sounding word these days, conjuring images of ramshackle pubs along the quayside deep in the heart of old London, it does not suite at all this modern, sterile hall.
Hall I think is a far more appropriate moniker and one that I can bestow upon this place with what might seem uncanny vitriol, but it is so reminiscent of the scout hut round the back of the C of E church I used to reluctantly attend with the family I used to, reluctantly, have.
I assume this is more akin to a Catholic Church hall, not that I would have any way of knowing for sure. The only significant difference that I am aware of between modern Catholics and old-school C of E’rs is the level of booze they imbibe; this set definitely suite the Catholic stereotype, for me.
The only real difference between this place and my old hut is that instead of having four blank walls, one short one set with a doorway in its centre, like the scouts’, this hall has two that are slightly different running parallel to each other. One has a bar and the doorway to the toilets built into it and the other is all glass, and garish chromed metal, outlining the main entranceway. Over the doorway, a sickly sign in comic sans and butchers-overalls-blue-and-white says: Bar Mungo. Under this sign, my best friend and I sit, smoking joints on cold metal chairs.
‘Are you sure this is the right place to put this night on?’ I ask Micha; who turns from his discussion with Len to assail me with his sycophantic smile and ‘Do-I-Give-a-Fuck?’ Polish attitude.
‘This is perfect maaaate, this is our night,’ the skinny Pole croons in Pigeon-Cockney, ‘Look at these fella’s; they’re not gonna know what’s him ‘em maaate!’
I bite my tongue, resisting the urge to point out that most of these people won’t know what has hit them but they’ll sure as fuck know who they’re going to hit in retaliation…
‘I dunno man, this is the sort of place we’d normally avoid…’
‘Exactly man; these guys live in some closed-off world,’ (he sniggers, derisively, and my heckles are up; is this Xenophobic Rage or Good Samaritan Instinct, me, subconsciously, desiring to help the less-fortunate no matter how diametrical they may seem?) ‘We’re going to blow their brains; they won’t know what’s going on, haha!’
I agree. I do not share his humour. I have a bad feeling, gradually growing worse as the time draws near…
I have been sitting outside this bar in Arrowbridge, a town that could be any of several that once blessed by the proud distinction of being part of ‘The Garden of England’ but now condemned being a ‘Greater London Borough’; the title is for reserved areas defined by high living cost, shit transport links (by comparison to Central London anyway) and anti-social behaviour…oh yeah, and we get a retrograde town chair more ridiculous than the most pontifical of pantomime mayors.
I have been waiting for Micha, Len’s latest business acquaintance and infatuation, to start this so called ‘Eggy Energy’ event for about half an hour now and part of me wants to think he’s lost his bottle and none of this is going to go off at all…
But, no; Micha is Polish and if there’s one thing I have learned about Polish people, after seven years of my best friend working as a building contractor SLASH events promoter, it’s that they don’t, generally, find English people very threatening.
And, honestly, however fucking hard you think you are, if you’re English I don’t blame them; I’m English and I’m a goddamned pussy-hole but even I don’t get fucked around that often. If you’ve never done it, have yourself a little conversation with a Latvian or Romanian or Pole and you’ll probably be shocked at the level of violence they deem ‘casual’.
Actually, I’m just guessing about the Romanians….
But, Fuck, one of the ‘geekiest’ looking guys I ever knew was Latvian, and one time he just nonchalantly described how a typical night out for him and his friends would be to go out- bat in right hand knife in left- and find a gang of Russians to fight.
‘You hold bat in your right hand to hit with, you hold knife in your left hand because everyone is scared of knife, then you hit, hit, hit!’
This guy was one of the top-ten seeded players for ‘Counter-Strike Online’. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, neither do I really but, basically, in between knife-and-bat fights with gangs of disaffected Russian teens this guy was one of the top-ten neeks in the world.
How many British gamers can say that?
So, yeah, I don’t blame Micha for not being scared; fuck knows what that mad cunt’s seen in his life. Still, it doesn’t stop him being a skinny little bohemian who will definitely be not any fucking use if this crowd decides to turn, which I am sure they will when they realise the level of piss-taking that this diminutive Slav has planned…
As I sit and ponder, over a pint of Peroni and a pre-rolled spliff, it becomes apparent that this is, as I feared, definitely going ahead.
Whilst I have been worrying, whoever is responsible for setting up the sound at this so-called venue has successfully installed a pair of Numark CD turntables, wired them into a Behringer mixing system and hooked this up to an amplifier, which is too scratched and faded for me to be sure but I think is an ancient Cambridge Audio system, very similar, by strange coincidence, to the sort they used play music on in my old scout hut. The test scratch noises emanating from the PA alert me to the imminent danger…
‘You guys ready to get EGGY?!’ I hear Micha’s indistinct accent- untraceable unless you know him personally, in which case you’ll insist it’s obvious- announce to the assembled skinheads, Ex-Millwall Bushwackers and local cokeheads-in-general…
‘The first song!’
Micha starts off, he believes, with something subtly ‘eggy’; an accordion cover version, by North Koreans, of ‘Take on Me’ by A-ha.
Maybe I should explain…
‘Eggy’ is a term that my bohemian friends (by which I mean cynical deadbeats with too much time and facial hair) give to anything that- when judged according to the limited spectrum of criteria set by them and deemed necessary for artwork to be diagnosed as ‘acceptable’- they find valueless but which is created to contribute to the artistic canon of a certain style of music, film or literature that they claim to appreciate.
Anything that so much as dents the charts, the box-office or best-seller list is considered facile and/or contrived.
Every hipster loves a sell-out but, of course, we all have our guilty pleasures. We find ‘acceptable’ forms of cheesiness (usually the least popular proponent of a particularly unruly style), which leads me to believe we are all a bunch of hypocrites, listening to shit and forcing our shit on other people simply because they don’t want to accept any difference of opinion.
If you’re gonna shit everywhere, maybe just try to make it real shit. Don’t try to cover up it by calling it ‘entertainment’.
Fuck entertainment; I find it entertaining to wank in public conveniences but that doesn’t make it art, or even acceptable, it’s my gross fucking secret and, you know what, your artistic taste is yours. Just accept and move on.
We all like shit.
Case in point: one of the bald-headed, cauliflower-eared, England-shirt-wearing motherfuckers that has been loitering at the bar, sending perplexed looks at the night’s influx of scraggy-faced scenesters and baggy-jumpered hippies, has decided now to saunter jauntily onto the dance floor, doing some kind of weird, epilepsy-inspired skank and waving his arms loosely, rocking from side to side whilst bending his knees or occasionally spinning or moon-walking completely out of time with every element of the music that is actually playing; he looks like Ian Curtis on Rhino Ket, I’d imagine.
I can’t believe it.
Another local has taken to the floor, this time female. In another few years she may be attractive; at the moment it is only cool to have a gap between your two front teeth but if the trend diversifies, as they often do, then she will surely be the queen of the beauty-scene; she has wide gaps between all of the spokes of her yellowed grill.
Now they are all taking to the fucking floor!
I am, literally, stunned, and Len is too. We sit, mouths agape, eyes wide, looking in through the glass front of the bar, still smoking weed, still getting ever further away from ever entering the bar ourselves…
‘Fucking hell, man! They actually like this eggy shit!’
Micha has joined us again. He is clearly feeling elated and in complete control of this shit-storm.
My best friend, Len, who has been nervously twitching, scanning over his shoulders, taking negligible sips of beer and constantly fumbling with something in his pocket, forces a laugh that only I can tell is fake and gives Micha a slap on the shoulder, which he will no doubt construe as supportive but I know is merely desperation for any kind of physical contact. Len is not a happy man, but he is much better at hiding it than I am.
‘Yeah, I know man, what the fuck?’ He smiles, and again I am sadly reminded of how fucking easy it actually is to appear happy and sane; smile at the right time and ask a lot of questions and no one realises you are utterly bat-shit.
‘This is not what I was expecting!’ Micha laughs, taking a swig from my pint before returning to the interior of the bar.
I have to say something:
‘Len, do you think this is a good idea?’
‘What the fuck is wrong man? It’s just a local, these people are here every day to get drunk and listen to whatever music is playing, they don’t care about us, stop worrying.’
I force a smile but do not agree.
‘Yeah but, surely someone is going to figure out he’s taking the piss? I mean, what right has Micha got to conduct an ‘experiment’ on these people?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, what I mean is: these guys like pop music, football and booze, right?
‘And we like dance music, rugby and drugs, so what’s the difference? Just because the stuff we like is a little bit more obscure, or illegal, do we have the right to lord it over these people? We’re acting like wolves in sheep’s clothing but if any of these ‘sheep’ decide to turn on us we are going to get fucked up…and deserve it!’
‘How the fuck would we deserve it?’
‘Well, we are here solely to play awfully cheesy music at a bunch of hooligans to, in Micha’s words, ‘mess with their minds’. Well, isn’t that actually a pretty fucking good reason to beat the shit out of someone?’
‘We have to put up with it everywhere we go; it’s their fucking turn to know what it feels like!’
‘Besides, my dad’s coming down in a bit, so we’ve got nothing to worry about’.
I frown but, against my intellectual reasoning, I am instinctively reassured. Len’s dad is a big, bad man and whilst he doesn’t exactly make me feel comfortable he is, nonetheless, Len’s dad and a much more suitable companion for a night like this than Len himself who, for all his bluster, is his mother’s son, not his father’s. Len’s penchant is for self-destruction, his dad is far better at the destruction of others.
We sit outside the bar, as usual, chain-smoking and watching through the glass as more locals join the floor.
Micha churns out a set of the most embarrassing, intellectually devoid music he has been able to obtain; sea-shanties by bedroom pirate-metal aficionados; splittercore by obscure ex-East German musicians with minds addled by decades of seclusion and steroid abuse; soundtracks to children’s shows many, many years past the use-by date of the clientele of Bar Mungo.
I have no desire to go inside; I know Len feels the opposite but only because he wants to go into the toilet to sniff Ketamine. He thinks I don’t know and is biding his time, hoping I will become so drunk that he can get ketty and I won’t notice.
Both of us are too anxious to make any kind of move. Now that Micha has gotten lost in the jollity of his endeavour and two dozen university students with dreadlocks and hemp satchels have turned up to support him the two of us sit forgotten out front, still chain-smoking and watching through the glass…
‘Ay-up son; who’s calling it on then?’
Len’s face lights up for the first time as his father materialises behind us, bald-head gleaming in the lamplight and baby-blue eyes flashing with mischievousness.
‘It’s cool Dad; I got a little bit of lovely on me.’
‘Yeah, what’s it saying?’
‘Dunar yet do I, I’ve been waiting for you mate!’
‘Alrite set it here then son and I’ll have first honours then; fucking hell he’s a pussy, inne Mark?’
Len’s father beckons towards me but, as usual, I am entirely unsure how to respond; if I attack Len but his dad is being sarcastic then I look like a mug but if I’m nice to him and his dad is picking on him then that’s ten times worse and will relegate me, as usual, to spit bucket for the night.
Not wanting an evening of abuse to follow an afternoon of anxiety I just nod and, as usual, Len’s dad gives me a disappointed look as if anything would have been better. But I know it wouldn’t have been and I am content with my lot as a disappointment to everyone’s father, except my own, who is pretty much unaware I exist.
I pursue this avenue of self-deprecation internally (which is not a tautology, my outward appearance in ill-fitting clothes, hidden behind greasy locks, testament to that fact); Len’s dad disappears to the toilet with the Ketamine.
The music continues to play and we continue to smoke; fuck, that’s what I would call my next album, if I wasn’t too busy getting stoned…
The sound of glass smashing brings me back to reality.
I quickly pan the area outside of the bar but find it serene, just a few students and locals sharing cigarettes and, for all my reservations, having a good time.
Then I look inside the bar and see what I was expecting: some silly sod has taken it too far and is stumbling around in there, knocking pints off the bar and falling into people legs, causing them, where relevant, to spill their drinks over him and the floor.
Micha, I can overhear on the microphone, has started berating the individual, mocking him about having ‘overdone it’, insisting he needs to ‘go home’. I realise, with deep joy that, somehow, someone has managed to overdo it before Len or I can. We have escaped! We can enjoy tonight, this loser is going to take all the abuse until he leaves and then we’ll all spend the rest of the night, skinheads and hippies alike, talking about what a dickhead he was and, probably, how we all kicked his head in.
The hapless individual crawls to the exit, horrible fuckers getting right up in his face and telling him: it’s time for you to go mate or look dude, I know the bouncer here, he’s gonna throw you out so let’s just go nicely…
No sooner is he outside than he is having his head kicked in; some tall, blonde, good-looking guy with a quiff and skinny jeans runs up out of nowhere and literally boots him in the head.
I am horrified but the next thing I know two more blokes, big, fat, mean looking East End types have followed the poor man out and they start kicking him in the arse and ribs, halting his hopeless attempt to stand and forcing him to begin to crawl on his knees and elbows, his hands up about his face.
I look at Len, attempting to show, with my face, my deep reluctance to be here anymore.
But Len has noticed the women. The women, like the maidens of war-time Britain, have fallen in love with the violence instantaneously and, it is obvious from their jeering and cat-calling, they hate the drunken man and will love anyone who rushes to their aid by demolishing his unruly countenance.
‘Gowan sexieeee, kick ‘is facking ‘ed in!’
Next thing I know we are both out of our seats, Len saying nothing and motioning in no way to me, he doesn’t have to, he is my best and only friend and I will follow him eternally against my will.
We run up and start kicking. Most of the students just watch but all the locals join in. As usual I find myself on the side I despise. I cannot help but follow the people who bless me with their occasional presence, though have no genuine love for me. Their love is for their misery and my company.
I am but filler for their can; another attempt to muffle the rattle.
So, my friend in misery and I kick the shit out of the crumpled figure, his only crime being overconsumption of the government’s chosen legal high.
I think of all the times I have gotten too stoned and I have not had my head kicked in by slightly less stoned geezers and feel instant sympathy for the broken individual.
‘Alright boys he’s had enough!’ A voice cries. I am ashamed, it is not me but the tall blonde, who instantly hooks his arm around the best-looking female in the vicinity and disappears back inside.
Slowly, each and every member of the mob returns inside to enjoy Micha’s insulting experiment.
And the man uncovers himself.
And, of course, as you have already divined, it is Len’s father, either concussed or in a pretty deep K-hole.
Len’s face is a fucking picture.
We look each another awkwardly before we realise we have to do. We turn around. We walk about three feet away and then walk back, affecting shock.
The man doesn’t stir.
‘Dad, what the fuck!’ Len kneels down besides his father and rolls him over so that he is lying on his side. He is alive and possibly conscious, his eyes staring wide open, but there is no way to say for sure…
‘Dad, Dad! Oh, WHAT THE FUCK MAN, DAD!’ Len screams and shakes his father’s immobile form, totally ignorant of the aghast expressions he is eliciting from the encircling student body of Bar Mungo, ‘How much of the fucking Ketamine did you do!?’
At this a few students turn away in disgust (‘Ketamine…murmur…Dubstep!’) and Len’s dad’s brain seems to jolt into action, just for a few seconds, the shock of what he has just heard apparently enough to Lazurus his brain into Frankenstein’s-Monsteresque functionality:
‘What….Ketamine…Len…What Ketamine?’ At least, that’s what I think he says, he has very little control of his facial muscles at this time.
We look at one another, nasty realisation dawning upon us.
Len, gingerly, reaches into his father’s back pocket to retrieve his baggy. Only, of course, it is empty. Each of us, simultaneously, remembers Len’s father’s penchant for sniffing entire grams of his son’s coke, only to withdraw from his wallet, moments later, another gram of superior coke, which he is quite adept at procuring on a regular basis.
So regular the occurrence and so beneficial the rewards that we have both, traditionally, chosen to remember this quirk selectively. It is almost always a precursor to a pleasant surprise; he emerges from the stalls with our bag empty and a reproachful look on his face, we always endeavour to feel genuine disappointment, which quickly mutates into one ecstatic triumph as he pulls out the secret bag and tosses it to us with a wink!
This time though, we really should have remembered before we let Len’s Dad go into the toilet and snort a gram of ground up Ketamine crystals, which Len personally cooked and scraped out of the frying pan before coming out today.
He has never taken Ketamine before…
The two of us look down at the pathetic, bleeding, serenely smiley man now rubbing his face nonchalantly into the concrete, in a full-blown K-hole and seeing fuck knows what and we both know what we have to do…
Len checks his father’s other pocket and withdraws the secreted, extra-potent chang, with a BIG smile on his face;
‘Sick! Half each,’ he beams.
The girl is not fair or beautiful. She is a mess stumbling around the beach, all black underwear and black tattoos and black hair and a black bottle in one hand. The girl is dancing; the bones of her skinny, bruised legs seem to wobble in the wind and her scarred arms flap like cartilage. Her eyes are closed and she is drunk; enjoying a brief moment of oblivion. Forgetting why she is here, why she has forgotten so much, she just dances.
The girl is a throwback; late seventies obsession with sex, drugs and rock and roll, the casual innocence of the sixties giving way to romanticized, self-destructive ideology in the wake of the vomit-and-heroin inspired suicide paydays; late eighties excess without early eighties post-anarchic sentiment, people wanting to do it for themselves so long as someone else is taking care of the bill; early nineties hopelessness sadly tainted by late nineties facile, mass-media prostitution. An artistic temperament trapped in a talentless consciousness; forever at odds with her political climate, perpetually unable to capitalize on the collective misery of the current global climate.
The red sun sets in red skies over a red sea and orange sands and she continues to dance, losing her balance all the time; falling like fingers fumbling keys. I watch her as the sun goes down and others laugh or leave.
I’ll phone the ambulance this time.
Who do you think you are? A wannabe what: Rock-star; Groupie; an actual what; teenager; bi-polar; manic-depressive; perpetual anxiety suffer; seasonal anxiety sufferer; schizophrenic; psychotic; autistic; what is wrong with you? No one can figure it out; no one cares past one night, not even you.
How many men have you been with? How many women? Why: Nymphomaniac; adventurous teen; bi-curious; broken-hearted? Why do you value no-one like you don’t value yourself? You might be a worthless waste of space but that doesn’t prove we are.
Why do I care?
This tragic thing cannot love, cannot control her feelings at all, not without pharmaceutical assistance. My one true friend will never see me as anything more than a short, skinny, geeky boy with a bent, badly-healed, twice-broken nose, wearing his little brother’s hand-me-down-clothes, with a slight stutter, the occasional lisp and hair he cuts himself, rarely. This is not platonic love; this is not love at all but dependency.
She has made herself this tragic angel. She hates herself too deeply to hate anyone else and will give her sex away on a whim to everyone; the more they use it to harm her, the lower and so the more comfortable she feels. She will partake of anodynes and analgesics and anaesthetics seeking a panacea that does not exist.
And I will watch; do my best to provide her with these things and keep her what she has made herself: My Tragic Angel.
My angel is cold; my angel cannot love. My angel is scarcely aware of my existence though I carry her home each night (rarely alone) and fund her every habit. My angel calls me her only friend, then forgets my name, tries to fuck me and each time falls asleep too soon to find herself knocked-back, as she always will be. My angel is an animal, who needs me to live and so loves me instinctively, without even realising it, always falling at my feet after she finishes her nightly dance.
My angel is mine, and no one else wants her. No one else will ever have her. No one can help her, I will not allow it. My angel is perfect, total, oblivious suffering, an aging artist with no years or works to show; just tired lungs, a lot of superficial colouring of the skin.
Still so young, still so much potential for wasted beauty.
I watch her opaque silhouette twirl, marionette-like, before the half-circle of the dying red sun, the shhhhhhh of slow, long waves stretching halfway up the shingle then pulling slowly back, changing the sound slightly, ushering in a new measure; her dance seems to change, subtly.
My heart is racing all-the-time and gas wells in the pit of my stomach; an anxiety attack? Or perhaps the onset of IBS?
Her inky hair sticks to her red-face with sweat and twists, gets stuck in her nose-ring and her eye-bar and leaks sticky mess over the black tattoo on her back; an ugly black flower with red thorns. Her ribs show through her skin. Every knuckle, her knees and elbows, every place where thin flesh is stretched tightly over protruding bone, is white-blue and glaring, her skeleton candescent in the half-light. Occasionally, as she spins, the flesh on her face is pulled back to reveal a spacious, skeletal grin.
Alone now, will it be me who carries her home? Or a paramedic? Or a policeman? Or just the next guy from town to come strolling along the beach and come across this tragedy, the next guy to be the antagonist, to further scorn this beautiful creature that is, in every way, my total and complete failure.
My best friend; I would not have it any other way. I am nothing to her; I would not have it any other way.
That feeling- so cliché- being alone around so many others; neither of us can claim to know it. She will not allow me to for if I leave her she could die and I will not allow her to die.
Somewhere, far down the beach, our ‘peers’ light a fire and the thick-black smoke twists itself around the sky, a great ebon dragon. I lie back on the stones, a mass of them for my pillow, and focus her into the space directly between my eyes.
I watch as the burning fringe of the sun sets the indigo blanket of approaching night alight and the ebon dragon stretches itself around her flailing form. I watch her bra and knickers becoming just more smudges of black on her skin, my bubonic manikin still dancing as the world burns and beasts from the inferno make our atmosphere their playground.
And she falls; wildly, still flailing. A sound (several sounds) with which I am familiar; she breaks bones as she strikes the stony ground.
I finish rolling a cigarette. I spark it. I watch her writhe and groan then go silent and still. I watch her, for an hour, maybe more, and then I watch her get picked up and carried away by the next cock. He asks me if I know her, he thinks she might have gone out with one of his friends, if she isn’t my responsibility, he’ll take her home, if I know where that is?
No. I lie. And walk away.
When I turn back, he is carrying her. I assume back to his.