framedwacko

Confessions of an oddball

No. 7: Where He stands

No. 7: Where He standsI was raised Catholic, although you know that now. My interests lay in biology, art and God. If a ‘God spot’ exists in the brain, mine was anabolic in size. I’m told I wanted to be a priest when I was in primary school. That soon changed. The artist’s muse in my soul posed a question. My stroll through religion started in church and ended where he will soon stand… Let me explain.

Catholicism changed gradually into rebellion. When you rebel against an organisation based around God’s glory, who do you make friends with? Well I heard about a book you could send away for. You would enclose £25 with your address and in a few weeks it would arrive. It did. It had all sorts of charms and curses to harm your dearly despised ones. I didn’t ever believe what I was reading but I was fascinated. It must have taken such creativity for someone to put down on paper. Even more so the fact that they had created an urban legend around this book – a legend so convincing that people would send cash through the post with no proof of its return. The innocent artwork of my youth degraded into dark images I attributed to the devil, yet these were more likely based on teenage angst. The muse had an unanswered question.

This was soon abandoned, my mum told me to pray for forgiveness as God would condemn me to hell. I will admit I was a little worried. Worry dissolved away into atheism. Whenever the subject of God or religion would arise I would be the first on the scene. In case of religion break glass! My axe was keen with facts, logic and science. All with the intention of disproving this God I had heard so much about.

One day as I sat watching the morning news, a reporter stated that there had been a book published with the first evidence of an after life. This was the scientific method based on thousands of cases. They formed together into one book with 23 questions. Each question a logical one to enquire. Each question had an answer. Each answer was a case study of one particular case in the multitude which best answered the query. I missed the title and author, so I forgot about it for a year or two. I filled these years with stifled creativity which soon became a potential career in art and design. My GCSE art teacher had faith that if I applied myself that I might go professional someday. The unanswered question had a possible conclusion.

On a day much like the morning news, during a phone call with my sister, the subject of this fabled book arose. She instantly recognised its description and informed me of title and author. The game was afoot! I found it, bought it, absorbed it. It gave me a sense of deja vu while I digested its knowledge. It had such logic and science in droves that I couldn’t disprove it. Not for all my atheism. He had searched himself for mentions of the world his case studies were describing in their deep trances. He could not find a match. Not in books, articles, media – anything! This book soon became a very important part of my life. I read more around the subject, yet these further books gave me a sense of doubt. Eventually I reached a point where my beliefs were less faith, more fascination.

Every religion and belief became a thought-provoking icon. The world was abundant with icons and I could not help but feel that all of them were wide of the mark. Their creativity abounds, yet their theory of creation seemed obscured. I felt inspired. My planned artwork moved from mythology and into biology. I ordered a 25m length of rope and a heated glue gun. My plan was to coil the rope into the contours of the human body. It was man-made man: an artificial theory of creation. My muse could see the true answer on its horizon.

The intention of this was not to highlight the untruths of religion. It was to demonstrate humility. Should an afterlife exist, the human race has worked its utmost to describe and explain it. We have attempted on countless occasions to stare at the face of God and then to draw his likeness – in words, mostly. While believers each scoff at their contemporaries, I stand detached. My outsider’s view is this:

Should an afterlife exist, the human mind is too feeble and limited in this physical environment to even come close to describing its ethereal one. We see less of the visible spectrum of light than goldfish. Sharks can smell blood from miles away. Whales hold conversations across vast distances. Dogs have the ability to hear a great deal better than any living human. Ergo we have a limited sense of our surroundings than even other earthly creatures. Who are we to say that the snake has not a better view of the afterlife than us, since its pallet so many more colours? Man-made man is not an insult to religion, it is a humble account of the potential to our afterlife. Should an afterlife exist, it is far more glorious in its splendour and simplicity than any one of us could devise.

And so now my beliefs are redundant to my mind. I choose to believe in fundamental basics with which I will not furnish this entry. My quest to complete this earthbound piece of contemporary art will continue – yet it will not be rushed. In the old idiom quoted far and wide, I may be run over by a bus leaving the house tomorrow morning. Should this happen, the artist in my soul will have an answer at last for its muse. On that day, man-made man’s purpose will be derelict, as my oblivion will open its eyes and he will stand beside me an equal.

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No. 6: Junctions

JunctionsWhy would I want to recount these events? Each is painful to remember. Each had the potential to brake me. Each has its place in my private hell. Wouldn’t it make sense to drive the hateful and destructive memories from my mind? The truth is I don’t know exactly. Every period of my life before I reached 25 bears a scar. Some are physical, others emotional. Even my soul has suffered more than its quota. Perhaps recalling these memories and storing them in the public eye is like deleting junk mail. Perhaps not.

All I can tell you for sure is this: At every junction in my life I’ve had a choice of which path to walk down. Each problem had its own method of self-preservation. I chose every one of them. Ignorance, isolation, instigator. They all have had their place on my yellow brick road. There came a time when I became tired of the coward’s role call.

It came when I worked for a clothes store. I started there filling the shoes of a boy my age who had died in a car accident a week earlier. He was much loved, and I was much resented. In this place of work it seemed I would play the role of puppet. The person pulling my strings will enter stage-left in one moment…

She spoke all of the right words, made all of the right moves, and offered me a role of seniority. I lapped it all up, as gullible as can be. She began with earning my confidence in her managerial prowess, yet things soon changed. One of her junior managers was nipping at her heels and she disliked it. Firing him was not an option, as he had done nothing wrong. Instead she went one worse.

One day he had made a comment that she was not happy about. It was on the shop floor in front of a handful of customers and staff. She requested that I join her in the office, and explained that she was afraid of her younger rival. Her hand reached for the telephone and, as she dialled the area manager’s mobile phone number, she explained that she was on a store inspection nearby. Conversation over and telephone receiver replaced, the younger manager came into the office. He asked me to leave, but the office’s other occupant demanded I stay. I felt as if I should stay out of protection for her safety, and so I placed myself in-between them.

He began the conversation yet was interrupted abruptly by our manager. She informed him that the area manager had been telephoned about his behaviour and she was on her way to ‘sort it out’. At this he became visibly angry, yet he remained in place by the office door. His hand gestures were elaborate, but he kept control of his temper well. He left the office and confined himself upstairs – I assume to calm down.

At the AM’s arrival she asked me to provide a statement. The store manager remained in the office with us both as I gave this, and began suggesting things that had happened. My words on their own were pure statement of fact, yet with her embellishments it soon became a story of threat and fear. The AM suggested that the store manager go on her lunch via the service entrance to the store. As I went to close the door behind her, she reminded me quietly that I ought to tell her about the threats of violence. I found this puzzling, but I didn’t think much to it.

From the statement already given, the AM decided to put the junior manager on immediate paid suspension pending enquiries. It took me two weeks but I eventually faced the truth: The person who had been so kind to me in providing me with a senior grade job had been manipulating me into getting her junior manager fired. I responded by telephoning the AM myself and talking to her about the events properly. My leading question was whether she had noted down my manager’s comments while I provided my statement to her, because they were untrue. I explained the full story in complete unbridled honesty. In short, he returned from suspension a vindicated man. She on the other hand, was fired immediately. Something very hushed up by the company.

Why did I let a good thing go? She gave me all of the things I wanted at the time: a senior job, a good pay cheque, responsibilities and trust. Why did I stop this before it had really started? Because a man was soon to lose his job for no good reason. He may not have been a role model for his whole life, but he had a talent for clothing sales and he didn’t deserve to be painted as abusive.

I had started work in customer services because of my diluted ambition to help people. I had worked in this sector for many years before starting at this clothing store. It was while I sat and pondered on my role in returning him to work that I realised something. This was the first real time that I had helped somebody. I knew that it was impossible to continue righting social injustice every day so I looked for a better way to spend my time.

Sculpting had been a solid interest of mine, so I applied my hand to learning carpentry. It fell apart when I realised I was not passionate enough for it. The history and extended history of our lives interested me – theories and all – so I started a distance learning course in hypnotherapy and regression. Nobody would volunteer to be my first patient, meaning I could not qualify. Eventually I found myself in this clothing store looking directly down the barrel of a wasted life.

One day my colleague informed me that she was soon to be leaving to be a student nurse. I did not know much about this nobel pursuit, so I paid it no heed. She encouraged me to look further into its merits, and so I did. All of the parts of being a doctor that I had been passionate about were all written on this webpage in front of me. It meant helping people on a daily basis from all walks of life.

I applied on a friday and started the following monday.

It took me until just after my 25th birthday to qualify as a nurse. I took the opportunity and used it to travel away from my hometown. Its values were detestable and its people despicable. Ever since moving to work in this big city hospital, the winds of change have blown through my life. I found my ex-girlfriend, had my sofa thrown in a skip by a crazy landlady, and started medication for the depression my ex caused me.

These you may agree were not the greatest moments of my life. They were, however junctions. These moments each presented me with choices. With my ex I chose to be a devoted and loving boyfriend. With my landlady I decided it was time to move into an apartment alone. And with my depression I decided to build up my own confidence.

My confidence would not return by mere will-power alone, and so I decided that my journey lay in an athletic pursuit. It has challenged my sense of self-image, my fitness level, and has earned me the best friends a man can have. I have discovered more strengths to my character doing this than I ever had before. It is as much a part of my life as my career in nursing, and I would not be without either of these. Now I am a kickboxer. I heal wounds in the emergency department by day, and inflict them by night.

Ever since I turned 25, life has given me challenges that were just as difficult as in my youth. These challenges have brought me to a better stage in my life than ever before. I now live on my own in a large and affordable apartment. My car is my own and was my dream car since I was a child. Nursing is turning in more directions than I knew existed, and it is taking me along for the ride. And at kickboxing my friends are teaching me to be a stronger and more confident man. I have stopped needing medication to improve my mood; my fitness has come on leaps and bounds; and I have learned there that no matter how hard a person hits me I will never back down. Blame this determination on my lifetime of trials and tribulations – but blame my newfound confidence on my friends!

No. 5: Crooked right angles

Crooked right angles

It started in primary school. I would align my ink and lead-filled daggers together at the corner of my table – not too far from either edge. My standard issue laces would be tied identically. The black white and red hangman’s noose dangling from my neck would be positioned just-so. If any child breached no man’s land, and left the point of their elbow as a lone invader in my territory, I would push it back with strong resistance.

In high school I had developed a tremor. I would be filled with thoughts that clouded my mind, and would tense my whole body to resist them. It left me visibly shaking – yet only slightly – as the turmoil inside of me grew. My thoughts were clouded, but my hearing was not. As the pin dropped in a loud room I heard its final cry, “Is he shaking?”

That was it. I had learned my limits, and I operated within them from that day on. I never understood this part of me, yet it had been my own since before I could remember. The walking along paving without stepping on cracks. The immediate correction of others’ grammar and spelling. The urge for ‘evenness’. This last one has endured me the longest. It is woven through my being and, try as I might, it will not depart willingly.

This need for order stemmed from the inner turmoil (what I have called my tornado). In the days when I was bullied, I would bury my head in the sand reading about mythology and fantasy – anything outside of this world and my life. It shut out the bullies, but it left my mind paralysed. With no external stimulus you are left with your own thoughts. For me this was a terrifying prospect. Each day would be the same cycle as the previous. Wake. Wash. Eat. Drink. Dress. Leave. School. Bully. Shrink. Class. Bully. Recede. Class. Bully. Retract. Lunch. Retreat. Shutdown… Turmoil.

Growing older gave me nil added strength; no amount of discipline aided in my repair; never did this turmoil go away. The moments when it wreaked havoc with my life were the moments when my mental fortitude had abandoned me. I had given in to the monster inside, and it made merry with my demise. Eventually I reached the most difficult decision of my life before or since. I would speak to a doctor.

Our family doctor was a partner in his small cottage practice. It lay in the middle of a poor district. A brick-built monument to ill health. As a toddler my height would be charted against a giraffe. As the years fell away, my partner in crime became less giant more dwarf. In my adult years he remained, a silent companion to my family doctor – same office, same beard, same smile. I let loose.

He made comment on my obsessive thoughts, and the compulsions which would follow. He stated that there was a diagnosis for this which he would like confirmed. He made a referral and further suggested I should look online for its symptoms. Should I find if any other of my mannerisms tallied with the recognised symptoms that it might give me some comfort. It did. The list was without end. As my eyes scanned the page I felt a shudder of excitement rise in me. This was the opening of Tutankhamun’s crypt. The unanswered question in my soul finally had an answer: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I rejoiced to know that my obsessions were another part of me – a contorted limb that was to be amputated. As if a physical entity, mental health problems are seldom characterised by the subject’s internal struggle. People only find significance in external appearance. In my case, the turmoil would interrogate me. His questions were always out of paranoia and never in logic:

What if the bus crashes and I have no seat belt on?
Don’t worry about it. It hasn’t crashed before.
What if I lose the money from my pocket and can’t eat?
I have my money still, I just checked.
What if people see my ticks and think me a freak?
I have hidden them my entire life – why would I stop now?
This doesn’t feel right, what if I’m gay?
I’m not attracted to men, so that’s out of the question.
It still doesn’t feel right, what if I’m a paedophile?
A little far-fetched considering I’m not into children, or a pervert.
What if my friends or family find out?

This one I had no answer to but to confront it. I informed my family and friends, and explained my behaviour for the past years. They wretched their faces in disgust, pulled their pitchforks and- …oh. They’re hugging me. This isn’t disgust, it’s support. Why didn’t I do this sooner? I saw the therapist who gave me no quick answers. My therapy was to talk it through. 6 sessions at 1 hour a go did nothing to calm the storm. I was on my own.

Years of struggle culminated in a final push for survival. I could see the paranoia taking hold and it wanted a blood sacrifice – suicide. This would not do. I fought back, stumbling at every hurdle. The turmoil increased. Its beginning as a tornado became hurricane Colin. He wreaked havoc, but his kindly nature and sweet name tried to usher me back to its grasp. I knew that should I let it take me in that it would consume me once and for all.

When trying to fight it my ticks and mannerisms became visible. Open. Public. My workmates at yet another clothes store wanted nothing to do with Colin and I. They had no words of support and no tolerance to my ‘attention seeking’. In time my mental exhaustion led to motivation. Motivation led to determination. Determination led to success! I had calmed the storm and put him in a jar even Pandora would not dare open.

This was the proudest moment of my life, and something which I felt needed commemorating. In the spirit of Pandora I picked a greek myth. It was a symbol of rebirth from destruction. A demise which led to all out splendour. The Phoenix. It lies on my skin as a reminder. Will-power and determination pulled me from the dark and into the future. It lies on my skin as a prison cell. My turmoil will never again see the light of day. It lies on my skin as a symbol of hope. Should I ever find myself at a dead end, and should the light from around me fade, I know that I will find a way through. Mythology may be its origin, but its strength is my reality.

No. 4: About us

About usWe remain anonymous. Our lives are hidden from the outside world. The methods at our disposal are bone, flesh, coded number plates and opaque clothing. We create laws to prohibit the reading of another’s mail. Our true persona played out with loved ones is labelled our ‘private life’. These things are normal, acceptable, ordinary. For most it is seen as obligatory to share your whole self with your life partner – some things even your doctor would struggle to hear from you. We have no real reason for this hidden aspect of our lives, aside from it is our own ‘personal space’.

My upbringing was a marathon, my work life a numbing sensation, and my core a home for true anarchy. These at the main milestones of my life were hidden from the world – it’s true – but it was not always this way. I have been known to dislike, hate, loath – and yet my fickle heart has always found it so easy to love. When you spend your entire existence sailing through the murky depths of reality, it becomes difficult not to latch on to the one light which could steer you to more serene waters. I have found said lights, and all of them were sirens – agents of my destruction.

This of course is not any of their fault. My destruction was a hair’s breadth away, and I was all too swift with my shears. Impulsiveness cost me the purest love I’ve known, breaking both our hearts. Disregard ensured the downfall of the future I might spend with a sweetheart. Honesty burned away a desert rose who always lay out of my reach. Cowardice let a fellow tornado drift and spin off into the dust. Yet none of these were the object of their destruction. They were my doing, out of a need for anarchy in our perfect world. I had remained anonymous, withheld my feelings, and never truly settled with any of those aforementioned. My past and present were my own, and nobody would take them away from me. This narcissism may have been borne of self-preservation, denial, or purely selfish routes, but on this day I am sure of one thing. It was love which eventually caused my own downfall.

I had hit a milestone in my life where I had taken stock of my doings, dealings, and debts. Life had dealt me a lucky hand with women and I was on a losing streak. My tornado loved nothing more than tossing aside emotions to wreak anarchy once more. I decided at the age of 17 to stop this for good, by abstaining from relationships until my lake became placid.

At the age of 25 I felt like time was running out and, in the pit of my despair, a friend called out into my hole. She suggested I try using an online dating site. Well we know now how the internet had served its purpose in my life before, but I hoped it might see its redemption. And so I tried. And failed. And failed. And failed… And succeeded. Here was a girl with flaws all her own. She had crooked eyes glazed with bifocals, a parent complex too difficult to explain, but with one gift of her voice she would calm the turning storm. I found myself thinking of her at all times of day, night, and the seconds in-between. She could look at me and with her softest gaze melt me into the ground. My life had taken a turn, and it appeared to be an incline.

We started off in the most innocuous of places for our first date. By the 2nd we had kissed. 3rd was a lot more kissing. At the 4th we were in love. The 5th we became an item. On the 10th I had betrayed my heart’s anonymity. And the 11th… well a gentleman doesn’t tell. An hour and a half saw us sharing the same air, so we used every minute we could to ignite the passion we had for each other. May it be a bar, a bowling alley, or a shopping mall, it seemed like home with her beside me. And so it continued – for a time.

In time for her the romance dissolved into routine, yet it remained in my heart. She regained the need for sporting dominance, her career progressed, we met family members, and after 6 months together our two homes became one. My impulsiveness – it seemed – had returned. Our home bliss soon removed my blinkers and let me see her for who she really was. Her routine became my routine, her chores became my chores, her bills became my bills, and in a vain effort to rekindle our romance her bedtime became my bedtime. I was in hot pursuit of the life we once had. She cared for another thing entirely: herself.

This disregard started all at once and would not be diminished. Her family sympathised, her friends motivated, her ex-boyfriend kept a close eye. I became suspicious. Her need for family mutated into a longing for a new companion. She was living with me, so the easiest introduction would be a dog. And so we found a rescue shelter and adopted a dog together. This became the utmost object of her affection. When leaving for work she would kiss him goodbye and leave me wanting. She would allow him my space in our double bed. The final straw came when she politely informed me that she loved the dog more than she loved me.

My efforts to rekindle moved from the bedroom into wining and dining. I encouraged her to go out on date nights with me more often as I was seeing little or nothing of her. These she volleyed back in her accomplished tennis technique. One twilight saw us across a table from one another. The food disappeared, the wine flowed, and honesty came forth. This time it was her turn, and it was sharp. She confessed (in her matter of fact way) that in the league table of her desires, I lay in a lowly 4th behind two pin-ups and a rock star. Her one word of comfort lay in the fact that she was with me at the time. My search for answers garnered me what I have not hoped for before or since: given the opportunity she would leave me for either one.

Why would I continue to punish myself with this life of misplaced affection? Because I was deeply in love with her, and for all her flaws she was exceptional. I pushed on through the icy blizzard, while she retreated to her ex-boyfriend. He was a listening ear, a dry shoulder, and warmth from her past. He was my enemy. In trying to explain that his intentions were not angelic, my beloved accused me of mistrust in her. Our home life spiralled into a separated home life. Her mother bid her return home with open arms, while I found new accommodation. In her cowardice of facing our situation head-on she left me behind, and moved on with her life.

The relationship continued at a steady pace, but the passion had gone cold. I began to wonder what it was worth working for, while my heart sank deeper into the pit I had once called home. After numerous tries, endless pleading, and a broken heart, she had succeeded in destroying what strength I may have had left. It was with one final stroke that I dealt the killing blow: “If we travel this path once more I cannot see how I would have the strength to try again… but if you ever find yourself planning your inevitable break up, perhaps you should just end it.” She agreed, and so the darkness enclosed me. With one last kiss we parted ways.

It took 16 years of imposed isolation to prove my identity; 24 months of promiscuity to prove my narcissism; and a further 384 weeks of celibacy to prove my longing for something meaningful. Yet it took only 390 days with one woman to prove that even without a tornado chaos ensues. She had used tools of destruction I knew all too well to dig my new hole. In this shallow grave I honed my senses, regained my strength, and made a bid for freedom. Yet my freedom came at a cost. As I surveyed the world anew, I had an epiphany: Maybe anonymity isn’t so bad after all.

No. 3: Adults only

Adults onlyAs I approached the end of my time in sixth form, I turned 18 years of age. It was much the same as any other day around that period, in that it was well wasted. Nobody had informed me that the building would be closed that day, and so I attended anyway. One other person had not received this memo – someone I had a crush on. We decided between us that we should break up the disappointment by going into town and hanging out.

Our plan seemed fool proof – what could go wrong about walking into town? Another of my friends was wandering down the main shopping street of my hometown when the girl I was with stopped for a girly chat with her. They got talking about the head joker. Let me make myself clear when I give him this name. He had no credentials as a joker. His jokes were unfunny, his attitude was sour, and he was the most obnoxious person I had ever known. When standing around having a conversation with his joker friends, he would step into their huddle and stand inches away from the person he was talking to. You don’t need to be Sigmund Freud to know he was an attention seeker.

Well the fool proof plan was about to unravel. Not only had my 18th birthday started with me wasting a day off I didn’t know I had. It took a further nose dive when the girl I fancied remarked about how enormous the head joker’s penis was. This did little to stir up envy, as I had no problems in that regard. Instead it made me wonder why fate would bestow the greatest of gifts to a boy with not a single good bone in his body. This was a boy who rejoiced in bullying, taunting, and otherwise berating any person he came across. He was ridiculous to look at, had a vile demeanour, and yet he was one of the most popular boys in my year.

It was the pull of living that made me move straight out of sixth form and straight into full-time work. I started with an italian restaurant chain. It was built on the principles I valued most – family, unity, and healthy home made food. During my interview, the manager informed me that this was all a fallacy. A large american company had bought the photo album of an italian family and fabricated a story about two men named Frankie & Benny.

Although my cynic alarm was ringing I decided to take the job, and started waiting tables in the place I would call work for the next 9 months. I rose through the ranks quickly and easily, earning a net gain of £1 extra per hour for 1 ton of added stress. There is stress in any job though, right? Mine came the night of a waiter leaving without cleaning his section. I became annoyed at this once he had left, and my work mates did nothing to hold their silence. He returned the favour by threatening to break my neck (while slicing an apple in a laughably hollywood way). I laughed at him and walked away, but Benny & co hadn’t finished with me yet. One night, much the same as this, I was handed the telephone by a manager who had a distinct lack of balls. An ex-employee had called to demand the money he felt was owed. It was up to me to explain that we owed him nothing. This favour was returned in much the same vein, by a threat from him to ram-raid the restaurant and ‘cut my throat out’.

The police decided this was not worthy of their effort – at least not until my throat had been removed – yet this was not the first time. Indeed there were other times when the police did nothing to help me. On a night when I had worked in a local chip shop, an employee sprung at the opportunity presented to him by the owner leaving for a walk around the block. His first move was to intimidate me. As I pushed him away from me, he launched an attack that had me lying on the floor being kicked repeatedly in the face. This the police stated was my fault for pushing him. Years earlier while still working at Matalan my bike had been stolen from the iron bar it was chained to, and similarly a second bike from outside of Frankie & Benny’s. This must have been my fault for owning a bike.

My faith in the police was altogether lost when I grew older and one of my two friends from school became a police officer himself. His ambition was greater than his empathy, and he enjoyed nothing more than informing me how superior he was. His views on the people he arrested was less than understanding; he became a racist and a bigot as time progressed; and he ceased any interesting pursuits in exchange for attending the same pub every week for the rest of his life. This was enough to make me question our friendship, yet our friendship was shaken to its foundations at another point in our history. In years to come he would explain that if a man in custody lay dead, and a team were resuscitating him, that he could legally obstruct this. Furthermore he stated that if the team asked for him to move aside he would arrest any team member for obstruction of justice.

Truly my 18th year was a lesson in faith for me. It began with my faith in fate, through the world of work mates, and concluded with the Police force. This lesson had no main lecturer and no break for coffee – yet its core message was the same throughout. Never put faith in anything outside of your own control. Your friends will betray you, your work mates will never care, and the police are as unreliable as the wind. You must live your own life and not dwell on the things which you will never change. Only accept that they are a necessary evil to highlight the good elsewhere in the world.

I have moved on from my hometown’s values; I no longer wait tables in hostility; I bear no grudge with the police force. The anarchy at my core remains unchecked however. Indeed in my 18th year it had been let loose to wreak havoc, and its target was my faith in the world.

No. 2: Life goes on

Life goes onSchooling for me had always been a chore. I attempted during my time there to get as much life experience as I could without having to go very far or talk to anyone. This led me to karate. It had discipline, people of all ages, and happened every Saturday. Of course I enjoyed going, but not for the people. Somehow even here I was the butt of people’s jokes – the instructor included. During my 3 years attending this class my enduring memories are of quitting when only 2 belts from black, and of getting the biggest most painful verruca of my life.

I had no good reason for leaving. It just seems that for some times in my life when things fall into routine, the tornado inside of me feels the need to disrupt things. There was only ever one person who could calm the storm, but she comes later in our tale. Karate paid me in uniforms, belts, and certificates. It did not pay me in strength, fitness or skill. I feel cheated when I gaze back on this part of my history, but it was myself I was cheating.

It took me some years to figure this out, and by that time college had passed me by. These my sixth form years were not my favourite. I had the misread understanding that because I had aced my GCSEs that this would allow me to pass my A-Levels with flying colours. Further from the truth than I am to Jupiter, this led to all out failure. One of my ambitions had been to become a doctor. My mother had politely informed me as a child that should I become anything other than a doctor or lawyer that she would be disappointed. This was a light-hearted joke, but for a boy with my view on things it was as serious as a pick axe.

And so the day came for my chemistry teacher to take me to one side. He impolitely informed me that should my ambition be doctor that I would fail, but that if it be failure then I would succeed. Much obliged by this encouragement and motivation, I went on resenting him for years to come. He became my litmus test for whether I would succeed in life. This ambition was always my mother’s, but my own was simply to help people in whatever form that took.

In my free time I would find jobs, apply, succeed, rejoice, start work, and become utterly bored senseless. What was there to do that would challenge me everyday, have a different work environment than anywhere else, and that would allow me to help people? I settled for Matalan. I worked in customer services and I mastered the cashier till system within a week of part-time work. I was billy the kid with a returns rail. Some old classmates that worked there invited me to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers live with them. I had to sleep on the floor of a hotel room, but it only added to the atmosphere. A workmate was attracted to me from the moment I first walked through the door (I was later told). I was besotted back. For the first time in my life I felt the pull of something that was worth taking a risk for. She was the first real time I could feel my dull heart beat. And boy did it beat!

I caught wind that there was a sixth form party for her cohort. My insider was a boy with whom I had shared a mutual hatred in high school. He had moved on to a rival sixth form college, and it just so happened to be hers. He bought a ticket to the event on my behalf and I sat waiting for her in the club – Merlin’s! As I sat there I cared about one thing only, and that was her. More and more people arrived, but not her. I heard reports from people she knew that she couldn’t wait to see me, that she was becoming gradually more drunk, and that she would mount me in the streets. This I thoroughly approved of.

As my cares lay elsewhere I lapsed in my notice of a girl sat by the table to my left. I struck up friendly conversation and she returned in kind. The moment that my girl walked through the door I leapt at the opportunity to join her on the dance floor. I received a prod in my back, and I turned to see the girl from the table in a dark corner throwing me a sultry gaze. Oblivious to a woman’s wiles I simply said ‘Hi!’ and turned to see my girl put her tongue down the throat of a boy with whom she had shared a ‘will they won’t they’ relationship for years. I felt shaken to the core, heartbroken, and truly cold. With some hesitation I left Merlin’s and found a taxi home.

This litmus test had failed its primary goal, yet another byproduct had appeared from the wastes. I had taken a risk for something I knew was a long-shot. It was the first risk of my life, and it led me down a road of destruction. In one moment I felt more alive than ever before, and in the next I felt like digging my own grave. This period of my life contained the first big trial that I actually cared about and – although I had failed in most of my endeavours – I had succeeded in feeling human. When at last I became 18, I felt that this should be commemorated in some form or another. And so it became my first tattoo. I made a choice on what to base the symbol of this era. It was not ‘Matalan’ or a chemistry set. It was not Merlin’s beard or a finger in my back. It was the symbol of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That night may have hurt my back, and Merlin may have hurt my feelings, but I felt alive for the first time and I was hooked.

No. 1: Beginnings

Beginnings

Life began much the same for me as for anyone else you might see in the street. The difference was I was born late, blue, and not breathing. There was no apparent brain damage as I grew and developed so there was no cause for concern. Still, it wasn’t the best start in life that you might hope for your son.

My sisters were victims of abuse from our dad. That’s their story so I’ll leave it to them to clarify, but he left before I could remember so you’d assume I was unaffected. Well yes, you’d assume. Not having a father of any kind would have been better than having a father I was constantly compared to. It reminded me for my entire life that I was not from a normal upbringing, and that half of my DNA came from an asshole.

Feeling different from everyone else my age turned into being different from everyone else. I was a private child who didn’t like to share with others. My life was my own and I liked it that way. When school years began I didn’t integrate very well. Something well noted by a few of my teachers. They decided to have me tested for autism. That came out negative, yet as ripples in a pond the repercussions continued to echo through my adult years. When being a victim of bullying became the norm for my life, what else was there to do but accept it into my daily routine? I had no contemporaries to discuss this with and my teachers thought me abnormal, so what could I do but accept it?

Later in school I became a disruption. Our teacher believed me a problem child. I had problems and I was a child, so this wasn’t so far from the truth. I began to rebel against the bullies. Fabricating the trouble they had caused and reporting it to teachers; feeding them false answers when they were demanded; causing them to trip and fall when they ran past me. Eventually of course this meant everyone avoided me. I had started life alone in every respect.

As I entered high school I didn’t know how to be normal. Normal for me was either sitting at home with my mother who struggled financially but still worked hard to keep us. Or it was sitting on my own at school with classmates who avoided and despised me to the fabric of my being. At my core I was a tornado wanting to bring everything down in anarchy around me. I never let this side of me see the light of day… not yet, anyway.

In high school I met friends who would in later years become bigots happy with the cards they were dealt. I absorbed a love of the rock band Muse from a classmate. The bullying continued, but I mostly ignored it. The cliques ran their groups as they usually did. The smokers hung out behind the sports hall, the footballers on the school yard, and the jokers in the cafeteria. I walked around the school aimlessly. I absent-mindedly blended in to each crowd just so I wouldn’t be seen to be stood alone. It made bullying irresistible.

I tried hard in class, but I tried my own way. If a teacher had a thought with which I disagreed, I would show my disapproval (and be sent to detention). My grades had been high in my early years, but they gradually dropped as I got older. Not because I had become stupid, but because as class sizes grew I became less exceptional and more average.

The jokers would sometimes hang out by the bike sheds. This became their territory, and I became their tag-along. I enjoyed the company of one of their brood. He was most definitely different to look at, and although he had the brunt of some bullying, he had persevered and become popular. I envied him, so I studied his actions to see how I could integrate later in life (my time in high school was already lost). The rest of the joker group weren’t happy to see me. They would challenge me at every step. One of their favourite topics of conversation was masturbation. They’d talk about how they did it, when they did it, how many times they did it. It was truly disgusting to me. Then they asked me if I’d done it. I couldn’t imagine rubbing my genitals to feel better so I replied, “That’s disgusting.” For this I became a laughing stock with them.

Yet of course – as all young boys do – I did get round to this pass time. To a 13 year old the full breasts of an 20 year old are like the holy grail. I didn’t share this view. I liked girls my own age as all 13 year olds do. I didn’t look for them in pornography though, so I didn’t get much gratification. This was of course illegal, immoral, etc. etc. Well I looked for legal sites with 18 year old girls who didn’t look 20+. This was a little more gratifying for a boy my age. Of course this took a turn when I stumbled on something I had not bargained for. Back in those times the internet was not as filtered or closely examined as nowadays. It was easy for sleazy paedophiles to find what they wanted most. They disguised their links and sites to look normal from outward appearance. Yet one innocent click from an unknowing reader became my downfall. To find actual filth scarred me emotionally.

Ever since then I’ve hated myself for looking for these younger images. What I looked for may have been legal but it led to something I could not un-see. They led me down the rabbit hole and what was to be found was disgusting. I was right to call pornography and masturbation disgusting because it was for the most part. Conventional porn is acceptable, but the periphery and fringes of what others call arousing was an eye-opener (and consequently a few seconds later an eye-closer). I have struggled with this truth for a long time. I have never told anybody about falling victim to finding this. I have also never told anybody about this later event…

As I grew into 14 years of age, still images weren’t enough. I wanted moving pictures, and so through persuasion and perversion a woman of adult age had enticed me with lies about her age. She wanted me to strip on my webcam for her in exchange for images. As my pants dropped, so did the proverbial ball. The webcam was switched off just as swiftly as I’d closed the filth that had scarred me previously. I had realised what this woman was doing and what had happened to me.

Yet don’t believe this to be a blog centred around bullying or explaining that I am a victim. These are not my intentions. They are merely my beginnings. As I look back on these years I begin to take inventory. I did not have many friends at all. The friends I did have were different from everyone else. In catholic schools full of white children my friend would be the indian boy who had just joined. My grades were average toward my exit and my time in college was a failure. I had been questioned and poked and prodded and examined to determine my IQ and my diagnosis.

They found no mental ill-health, no learning disability and a high IQ. What they wouldn’t admit to was the boy they found. Abused by my classmates via bullying; abused by my teachers via calling me a disruption and removing me from a class I might otherwise enjoy; abused by the perversions of others being placed upon my shoulders.

I was born blue into a plain white world, with a grey sky, and black uniforms. Now I am my own person. I have suppressed my emotions and repressed my memories. While these days I am running with the crowd I now find myself looking at who I am as a wholly different being. I have the empathy of a bullied child; the scars of a teenage victim of paedophilia; and the good sense of a man borne of self-pity and regret. I look at the world and laugh. When your whole life has been the butt of another’s joke, the arousal to another’s monster, and the bag for everyone’s punch, what do you become?

You become whoever and whatever you want to be. If they decided the rules of a normal life don’t apply to you, then become exceptional. Be the man who sees the tears someone is holding back. Be the person who can listen to the words not being said. Be the human who can hold something fragile in their hands and not crush it for pure pleasure. Be the best that you can be, because for all your flaws you can create something wonderful. Life is filled with rules and norms for people to conform to. Don’t let selfishness be the instrument you play best.