short stories

~ Trapped in Time ~

pexels-photo-5207797
Trapped in Time

It was a random weekend I had come back to visit the parents in my hometown of Coventry. I was unemployed and waiting to do a medical trial in a couple of weeks’ time, so I thought I’d pop home to be bored there instead of where I was currently living (Nottingham). It was still national lockdown from the coronavirus and there wasn’t much to do, so I arranged to meet a friend and walk around the local park while venting our frustration at the situation. We were both approaching our 30th birthday as the closing years of our twenties were wasted by a hysterical overreaction of a virus outbreak. Both of us should have been out travelling the world, having romances, living life, but instead we were wandering around the drab suburbs of our childhood town, unable to even go to a bar or do anything of any real excitement. After a while he told me his younger brother had just bought a house and was having a house-warming gathering. Well, what the hell; it was something else to do other than wander around aimlessly, so we bought some drinks from a cornershop and then headed over.

We made our way inside the house where his brother and a friend were setting up a TV on the wall. We helped them assemble some chairs and then got started with the drinking. His brother and his friend were 21 years old; they had crates of beer, wide eyes, high spirits and were ready for another Saturday on the booze. Soon another couple of his brother’s friends arrived to join the party. We were a good age distance apart from everyone there and it wasn’t long until the obvious subject of our age came up. “How old are you?” one of them asked. “29 I said. “29? That’s old man. I thought I’d be having kids and stuff at 29. Don’t you want to have kids?” I shrugged my shoulders and told him no. I then cracked open another beer before moving on to the drinking games. At first it was drink whenever someone with your name scored in a football game, then it was beer pong, then a load of other games as shots and drinks were consumed every few minutes. Vodka, Rum, Bucksfast – it all went down as everything began to darken and my memory blacked out as it had so many times over the years.

The next day I awoke in my bedroom covered in cuts and scratches. There were blood stains on the sheets and unhappy parents downstairs. It took me a while to figure out the ins and outs of the situation, but apparently I had been kicked out of the house-gathering by my friend’s younger brother. Having skipped dinner and downed copious amounts of alcohol, I had become intoxicated to the point I was spilling my drinks everywhere and falling over into thorn bushes. I had also lost my jacket and smashed a bottle of liquor I had bought my mum for mother’s day. Oh – and just to round things off – I had left the key in the front door along with blood on the handle (something my parents found slightly disconcerting). The thought hit me that I was about to leave my youth behind and I was still doing the same stupid shit I had always done. In fact, I was even worse than those 21 year-olds. It was a sobering realisation and I tried to avoid the judgment of my parents by hiding in my room all day. In that lair I dwelled in my hungover state until boredom and horniness caused me to get out my phone to go on Tinder. It was after a few minutes of swiping that I came across the profile of a girl I used to see when I was twenty-two. Seven years had passed but I thought I’d start speaking to her again anyway. Suddenly I was feeling super nostalgic; probably I just wanted to feel like I was younger again, but I asked her to go for a walk over the local farmland near where we lived. She agreed.

We met on a street corner and got catching up. It had been a weird year since the pandemic began, but this was a whole new level of sailing out onto the sea of strange. We hadn’t spoken in five years but somehow it felt like no time had passed at all. Tales of the past and present were discussed as we wandered around the farm fields under a grey and gloomy sky.

“So what are you doing with your life now?” she asked. “It must be weird now the pandemic caused you to be a stable UK citizen.”

“It has been weird,” I said. “I was about to jet off to South America when the pandemic hit but  instead I found myself moving back in with my parents and getting a job at Amazon. Then I quit and enjoyed the summer before moving back to Nottingham. But yeah, to be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing right now. I always wanted to just travel throughout my twenties, but now that has been taken away from me by this pandemic. Right now I’m just living month to month, working here and there, doing medical trials and trying to get by. You know how it is in lockdown.”

“Yeah I can imagine it’s been strange for you not being able to take some trips…” There was a pause. “So do you think you can finally see yourself settling down or are you planning to get away again after the crisis is over?“ I knew why she was asking this of course – it was to see if I was finally someone worth imagining a future with. That was what she wanted in the past and what I had disappointed her with once already. When I came back from an eighteen-month trip five years ago, she had hopes that I was finished with the life of being a wandering nomad. We saw each other a couple of times again but I quickly realised it was the wrong thing to do. She only ever wanted a normal life and back then even after that trip I knew there was no way I could give her what she wanted. Well, here I was five years on still feeling the exact same way. Time had changed nothing; I was still just a drifting bum with no direction or desire to join her in a settled existence. Well, if I wanted to get laid I’d have to give her hope, so I continued talking about how I was open to whatever life brought my way now travel wasn’t possible.

It must have worked as the next day she invited me around to her place for the evening. I walked over to hers from my parents, a fifty-minute walk through the streets of a sleepy suburb, filled with big houses and nice cars on the drives outside. I got to her house, knocked on the front door and entered. Inside I was jumped upon by her puppy – an eight-month-old cocker-spaniel. She had bought him during lockdown, presumably to have some company while living alone. I then made my way into the living room and sat down with her on the sofa. As we chatted about life, I looked around at the interior of the house. Something about it saddened me. It was a new-build house and you could see it was a formulaic design –  a computer-generated building on a computer-generated street where everything looked the same (almost like it was taken from The Sims). I looked at all the Ikea furniture tidily laid out; I looked out at the garden which was a blank square of grass with a small shed at the bottom. Everything was neat, clean, featureless. Of course, I couldn’t knock her for buying her own home at the age of twenty-five, but to me there was just no soul there at all. In that house we sat discussing old times as I imagined the possibility of finally forming a relationship with this girl. I could live here with her in suburbia, come home to this sofa, walk the dog in the local park, make love with her at night. I could get my old job back at the Amazon warehouse that was right off her street. It was all there within my reach: a civilized and normal life. A chance to come in from the wilderness. A chance to ‘grow up’, as my parents kept pressuring me to do. No more getting drunk and hurting myself. No more floating idly with the breeze. Just a steady, sensible, neat existence.

After a while we started making out and I ended up staying the night. The next morning we made love again before I headed to leave her so she could get started with her job. Of course, I didn’t have such responsibility and I walked out into the rain to begin the long walk back to my parents place. “Do you want a lift?” she asked as I headed out the door. I remembered how she always gave me a lift home in the past from her old place. I still hadn’t got my driving license after all these years, but this time I couldn’t allow her to drop me home. “No, don’t worry about it, “ I said. “You’ve got work to do.” I then left her with a kiss before walking off into the rain (without my rain jacket, of course, which had been lost at the house-warming party).

When I got back to my parents, I packed my bags and began the journey back to Nottingham. It had been a strange old weekend and I just wanted to be back far away from my hometown. The train journey would be two hours and I spent that time staring out the window, my old pastime, wondering what was next for me in this purgatory state of living I had been experiencing. It had now been one year of living in this existential blur. No direction, no desire, no possibility to do what I wanted to do anymore. All the years were coming and going. I saw the younger kids buying houses and settling down. I saw past love flames still living a stable existence. Elsewhere friends were getting married or engaged, climbing career ladders, having babies. All those things which I still had no desire to do. My way of life was dead for the time being and I saw myself as just plodding along, acting as stupid and reckless as I had always done. Getting drunk and hurting myself; losing my belongings and breaking things; leading girls on I had no intention of forming a relationship with. Not much had changed over the last decade. I was a man trapped in time, repeating the same reckless behaviours I had always done. A couple of lines across the forehead showed the passage of time ageing me, but other than that just the same old fool I had always been. Where to go from here? Who the hell knew. The lockdown of the world had left my brain in a frozen state and all I could do was stare into space and wait for something to appear to me in the greyness.

When I got back to Nottingham I got a message of a twenty-year old Italian student I had recently had a fling with. We had arranged to buy some psychedelic drugs and take a trip together sometime soon. “I’ve got the goods,” she told me. “Nice,” I said. “Let’s do it tomorrow.” And so we did.

thoughts

~ The Same Old Feeling ~

lifee

Now I’m turning 30

I’m about to be an age where the average person is supposed to have it figured out. The career, the partner, the place of residence. In all honesty, things haven’t changed much since my 20th birthday. I look at the world I am supposed to be a part of and still feel nothing but total indifference with it. It’s all just so beyond me. The expectations, the traditions, the system of living. I still read the job descriptions and feel hopelessness in my soul. Is that what a man is supposed to become? A business analyst? A communications officer? A marketing manager? I could never bring myself to even engage in that world just cause the very sight of it filled me with despair. Even just writing a CV made me sad. The robotic nature of it; the notion that my intrinsic worth as a human-being came down to some bullet points on a piece of paper. The depressing thought of sitting in front of an employer with a fake smile and speaking insincere words just to get a job I didn’t even want. Then there was the idea of marriage; standing all-dressed up at a pompous ceremony, wasting money on that event while having to engage in small-talk with people you didn’t even like. Kids, well, I looked at how crazy the world was becoming and felt only the selfish wanted to bring more inmates into the asylum. Owning a property also had no appeal; I looked at houses and was disinterested with the idea of looking after them and paying council tax and being tied to one residence. No, all these things still confused and depressed the hell out of me. My mind disregarded it all and instead toyed with far-fetched ideas. Riding a bicycle to Asia. Hiking through the Himalayas. Working on a vineyard in France. Writing poetry under the stars. I imagined myself meeting a beautiful woman and residing in a quiet little village somewhere in Spain, sipping wine as the sun set across the fields every evening. I imagined hitch-hiking around Europe, working season to season while meeting strange and interesting people. My mind was a gateway to a better place and I imagined myself living a life of purity and beauty, far away from the suffocating reality of a society which had taken all the life out of living.

thoughts

~ A Beacon ~

woman

~ A Beacon ~

“You’re not alone. Forget about it. There are many out there who feel like you out there. There are out there dwelling in the crowds, in the cities, in their chambers of solitude. They are returning home to a dark room everyday to stare at the walls. Like you do, they will enjoy their solitude and release from society. They will enjoy their peace and their quiet and their cats and dogs. But a part of them needs to know there are others out there somewhere. So write your words. Spill your soul onto a blank page. Graffiti the walls with your deepest secret. Send out a beacon of your own soul for others looking for some guidance through the wilderness. You never know who is out there needing to know they’re not the last of their kind in this world.”

thoughts

~ Unstoppable ~

“For most human-beings there is no greater spiritual pain than a life devoid of substance and meaning, but if you are willing to do the inner work and have the courage to follow your heart, then one day you’re going to find that thing that sets your soul on fire; the thing that leaves you feeling like you can march against a million armies, and sail the stormiest seas, and climb the deadliest mountains. There is no gift greater than this, and a person who is deeply in touch with their own existential core is surely the person who gets the most out of this life. Unfortunately we are currently living in a society where many are made strangers to themselves – whose morning mirrors show them every day drifting ever further away from the shores of their own souls. This is the fate that befalls so many in the modern world and right now through television, consumerism, social media, drugs and alcohol, we are seeing so many people self-medicating on vices which help them escape from the existential emptiness of disconnected lives. It is an ever-growing reality and to be able to truly live in this day and age, one must be able to do the inner work; to light the torches of self-discovery, to venture wide-eyed into the unexplored areas within themselves, and find the thing that fills their veins with purpose and desire. On the path to a fulfilled and meaningful life, nothing is more important than this. A person who has enlightened every corner of their being, who has found their inner treasure and knows how to yield it while aligning themselves in with the totality of it all, becomes a person of incredible power in a society that seeks to suppress this very state of being. They become wild-eyed creatures of purpose and passion. They become healers of a lost generation. They become empowered, awakened, emboldened, alive. Sometimes they even become unstoppable.”

purpose

short stories

~ Blocked ~

~ Blocked ~

Locked away alone in my bedroom, in the middle of winter, with the wind and rain howling outside the window. I sat staring at the screen waiting for words to come. Nothing did. It had been this way for a while now – racking my brain and having nothing new to put down onto the page. It was frustrating, but what can a writer really do when their creative well-spring has run dry? You feel incomplete, almost sick in a way, but ultimately you know there simply is no way to force inspiration or emotion; it has to flow out of you naturally, like blood coming out from a wound. And the reason nothing was coming out was because everything had been drained dry. I had written down all my experience up until now, and I now needed to go out and experience life some more. However, the lockdowns of the country over the last year had made that somewhat difficult. I was now in a strange state of being: stuck in one place, unable to take a trip anywhere, unable to do anything of any real excitement. On the flip side to this, I had recently discovered something novel to me; a strange sort of peace and harmony. I was living undisturbed, eating and exercising well, as healthy as I’d ever been, but the confronting truth – as I had come to realise  – was that deep down I needed the chaos and the adventure. I needed to go get lost, to struggle and to suffer, to elevate and overcome. I needed new pains and pleasures to be felt in my heart. Such existential turbulence was what I was born for, and the fact that my words ran dry when I hadn’t done it for a while was confirmation to me of that. Listening to the rain outside, I began to imagine myself back out on a new adventure, living life on some precarious edge. I imagined getting my heart broken again and new truths being discovered. I imagined pouring all those new emotions into new stories and poems – the wisdom of the wilderness being further explored as I resumed my chaotic journey through life. But there was nothing I could do. I was powerless. Locked down. Blocked. Simply existing and no longer living…

I wasn’t alone in this feeling, of course, and I thought of everyone else out there in the storm, also just existing and waiting for the world to go back to how it was before so we could all carry on with our lives. Maybe the conspiracy theorists were right; this was the end of normality as we knew it and it was all a part of some grand plan to control us all under a new globalist agenda. Maybe the government was right and things would be back to normal by the summer once people had been vaccinated. In reality, it was hard to know what to believe; getting to the complete truth of things with your own short-sighted perspective of such a complicated, global issue was an almost impossible task, and a part of me had mentally withdrawn myself from the whole mess altogether. I didn’t follow the news anymore; I didn’t debate about it with friends and family. I simply waited and waited, practicing contentment, meditating on my bed as the last years of my twenties drifted by in static silence.

I took solace in the fact that I had taken advantage of the preceding years when a man could go online and book a flight to almost any country in the world for the next day. Such a lifestyle seemed like it was a relic of a bygone age, even though it hadn’t even been a year since the first lockdown started. Now the feeling is almost becoming normal, and that’s what worries me the most. To live a life that is constantly on hold, blocked, and you become accepting of and adjusted to this new reality. But how many people like this lived their whole lives this way? Waiting constantly for life to begin? Fuck, maybe I was just getting sucked into it like the others. Maybe I should have taken the gaps in lockdown to move to another country, or take up a new hobby, or at least try something. Maybe I’m just on the downward slope to having this spark inside my soul snuffed out, and I’ll attribute it to old age or the lockdown, but really I’ll just be another person made complacent and incompetent by the world, wasting out his one existence on the shores of security, rather than going out and braving that storm. No creativity or imagination left. Rotting away. Blocked forever. Spiritually locked down forever. 

Well at least I had some ideas about how I would get out living again, and some money in the bank to put those ideas into realisation once the travel bans were finally lifted. I was in contact with my French friend who had taken a risk to book a flight to Indonesia for April. He too was like me, itching to get out and do something, although he was being sent slightly more insane by the lockdowns than I was – drinking often, and losing his mind from being sex-starved. “Life is shit,” he said. “I need to go pub and to fuck some girl.” It was the type of pent-up sexual frustration that only a single man in a global pandemic could resonate with. He was urging me to book a flight too. It was tempting, although I felt April was most certainly too soon to escape this prison. I was also in communication with my Dutch friend who had gotten lucky to be in Australia during the pandemic, where things were currently running normally in most parts. He had been moving around the island of Tasmania, going on hikes, drinking in bars, meeting new people. The pictures arrived in my inbox. The other side of the world, in the summer sun, free to roam as he pleased as I stayed locked away in this small room with the winter winds howling against the window.

It’s a shit situation and there’s not a whole lot to do but write these words and carry on waiting for life to begin again. A part of me knows I’m gonna get back out there doing what I was born to do eventually, but I can’t for now; I am blocked, both physically and mentally. I’m just a man in a waiting room and seemingly out of words to say. But as the wind keeps howling outside, I can at least still feel that wilderness inside of me fighting to break out – out of this room, out of this winter, out of this insane situation society finds itself in. It will take me onto that first plane, travelling to some distant land, sharing drinks with strangers, embracing, hugging, kissing, dancing. It’s all out there beyond the rain clouds, beyond this crisis, and it’s going to come back to me, and I will soak in all those experiences and all those new truths and all those new words, and I will come back to you and share some stories and poems with you. Until then, I’ll be here, staring at these four walls, trapped, blocked, waiting for life to return. A prisoner of circumstance.

thoughts

~ The Wisdom of the Weirdo ~

“To live free, to be free. It’s more than just putting flowers in your hair and quoting Eckhart Tolle. The free souls are the ones who live completely in tune with their inner nature – whatever that may be – and don’t allow the influences of culture and society to distort their unique shape. It’s about being thoroughly yourself in everything you do, and I believe it’s all on a scale on how much people maintain their individuality while fitting themselves into a societal system. I see some people free to a degree: perhaps 70% themselves while the other 30% acts out the social role. I see some people at 80% or 90%. But it’s only when I see someone being completely themselves that I smile and rejoice. Usually these people are known as madmen and outsiders, but what I see is something so beautiful that I can’t but see a great victory in their very existence. The sight of true authenticity brings joy to my heart, and I do not desire to live in a world of people who dilute down their essence to meet the crowd’s taste. No, I long to live in a world of free-spirits, all shining and setting this world alight with the contents of their hearts. I long to live in a world where people’s words come straight from the soul. So please, give me the ones whose tongues know the dance of their truth. Give me the ones whose eyes contain an untamed wilderness. Give me the ones who choose authenticity over acceptance; who choose integrity over integration. Give me the wisdom of the weirdo; the insight of the outcast. Please, just give me some straight-up, pure, unfiltered soul, and no matter how crazy you may seem to this world, you will always have my heart, my admiration and my respect.”

short stories

~ Power Out ~

man window

~ Power Out ~

I sat alone in the darkness drinking rum. A power cut was a good enough excuse to finish off the emergency bottle I had stashed away. The remaining battery on my laptop was offering a little light for my room, and I stared at the shadow of my desk against the wall, listening to the winter wind howl against the window. A storm had been battering the country for a couple of days now, and this – alongside the national lockdown of the coronavirus – had left me feeling like I was living in some post-apocalyptic nightmare. Right now was perhaps the moment when the absurdity of the situation had peaked. I should have been somewhere else, living my one life, making the most of the last year of my twenties; instead I was imprisoned in a room of darkness, watching my youth disappear with absolutely nothing else to do but get drunk and stare into space. I couldn’t go around a friend’s house. I couldn’t go to the local pub. I couldn’t even go for a walk along the nearby river as it had recently flooded from the non-stop rain. It was a moment in time when life had just gotten so ridiculous I didn’t even know what to think or do anymore, so I just carried on sitting there in silence, drinking rum straight from the bottle, completely paralysed by the reality of the situation.

Like many people, I was frustrated and suspicious about what was actually going on with the pandemic, but at this point trying to have an informed viewpoint on the whole thing was a tiring affair. It had been almost a year since the initial outbreak, and it was hard to know what to think anymore when there was so much conflicting information out there, the media constantly creating hysteria, and everyone shouting their own viewpoint as if you were in some sort of football match. On one side you had the ‘sheep’ – the people who devoutly followed what the government said, lived in fear of the virus, and saw nothing suspicious about the whole thing. On the other side you had the ‘conspiracy theorists’ – those who questioned the rationale of the lockdown, pointed out that the statistics were being manipulated, and that there were hidden agendas at play. I researched and contemplated what I could, but it eventually got to the point where I started to question my own sanity and morality, so I had decided to just mentally detach myself from the whole thing. Maybe that was what they wanted.

Not having a job during the lockdown left me with nothing but free time, and I spent my days in a zombie-like state, daydreaming and mindlessly browsing the internet. Normally I would have used the situation at hand to get some writing done, but very little writing had been done over the last couple of months. Like the house, the power was just not there within me. That creative force that had once surged through me was dwindling, and I listened to the raindrops outside as if they were the sound of my soul being slowly bled dry. Perhaps a part of me was actually dying, I considered. This lockdown had me in some sort of spiritual prison, and looking into the mirror my eyes seemed a little dimmer than usual. Something was definitely missing inside of me, reflected by my writer’s block, and I knew I needed to do something soon to stop it from disappearing for good. But what could I do? Where could I go? How could I keep my inner flame burning in a world of rain and darkness and nothingness?

Of course, it wasn’t just me struggling in some way with the situation. I had one friend, a bar manager, who hadn’t been into work for months and was surviving off what would be half of his usual paycheck. He stayed at home all day smoking weed, playing computer games, putting on all the weight he had worked hard to shift in the time before the pandemic. Down in London I had another friend who had just been made redundant, stuck in a house-share with people he no longer liked, spending his savings on simply surviving while also struggling from a variety of health issues. Back in my hometown was a guy who had saved up to go on a big world travel trip before he turned 30; with that trip not looking like it was going to happen anytime soon, he sat at home every evening drinking heavily, complaining that his hair was going grey and that his trip was never going to happen. All in all it was a total shitshow, and one couldn’t help but wonder when everyone was going to crack and start rioting, like they had started doing on the streets of France and The Netherlands. 

I didn’t expect that to be any time soon; us British were too polite for things like that. We bottled up our frustration and instead sat in rooms of darkness, drinking our pain away, complaining about the world but never actually doing anything about it. I was no different and, in a sense of helplessness, I got out my phone and downloaded the dating apps to try and force some excitement into my life. In a time where excitement was practically illegal, you had to do whatever you could to get some, and the idea that you might meet up and have sex with some stranger on the internet was about as thrilling as things got.

Scrolling and swiping through the sea of faces, it was always good to know that there were women out there looking for companionship; looking for someone perhaps like you. Of course, the majority of matches didn’t result in conversation, and even the ones which did usually died out after a few messages. Most talk was about lockdown, about how shit life currently was, and how you were only on the app out of sheer boredom. Naturally you tried to push the idea of meeting up for a bit of fun, but most girls weren’t into that. They wanted socially-distanced walks in the park and constant messaging to eventually see where things went after lockdown was over. It was a tedious affair, and I was quickly reminded why I had downloaded and deleted the app so many times already. I put it away and carried on drinking my bottle of rum, which was now down to the final quarter, reflected by me starting to feel my head spin. 

It was then that an almighty bit of luck came my way. Like a holy bolt of lightning had struck, I got a message off a girl I knew. She was a twenty-year-old Spanish nurse who had been living back in Spain, but had just arrived back in the U.K for her studies. We had hooked up the previous summer and she was now inviting me around her new place to “watch a movie and chill”. Of course, by doing that I would be breaking the rules, but as a single man who hadn’t been laid in five months, I had no choice but to answer nature’s call. I finished off the bottle before heading down to the garage and grab my bike. Finally, some action was on the horizon.

I took to the road and started pedaling like a madman through the storm. Her place was on the other side of town, so I cycled as fast as I could, weaving my way through the deserted streets and alleyways, battling the wind and rain which almost seemed to be trying to stop me from reaching my destination. My willpower prevailed and after twenty minutes I arrived at her place soaked and exhausted. Unfortunately I couldn’t just knock on the door; there were two other students living in the building unaware of me coming over, so she would have to stealthily sneak me in. I locked my bike up against a streetlamp and used the last of my phone battery to announce my arrival.

She came to the door and immediately dragged me toward her room. “You have to be quiet,” she said, leading the way. “There is a girl in the room above us. I’ve told her I’m video-calling people, but if she hears your voice she might get suspicious.” I entered her bedroom, took off my rain jacket, and used a towel to dry myself. We then sat on the bed and started catching up about our lives over the last few miserable months. We were talking in hushed tones for about ten minutes until there was a sudden knock on the door. “Hey Eliana, are you there?” It was the girl from upstairs. My friend then quickly dragged me into the walk-in wardrobe and told me to be silent. I stood there in the dark listening to her and her housemate chat away, feeling like I was taking part in an act of infidelity. It was already the most excitement I had experienced in months.

After she had gotten rid of her, I came back out quietly laughing at how ridiculous life was at that moment. My friend then got out the alcohol: a bottle of red wine and another bottle of rum. We poured ourselves some drinks, chose a movie to watch, and got cosy in bed. Lying there it felt strange to be so close to another person; to lay entwined limb to limb, almost as if things were normal again – almost as if human interaction was actually legal.

“How are you dealing with the lockdown she asked?”

“Oh you know, same as everyone else I guess. Doing whatever I can to not go completely insane. It didn’t help that my house had a power-cut today.”

“Yeah, I can imagine. Well, I was thinking we could at least do something fun tonight…” My excitement level suddenly increased. “I’ve got some pills of 2C-B that my old housemate left me, and I thought we could maybe take it together. It’s like a mix of ecstasy and acid, but the psychedelic effects aren’t too strong, and the high only lasts a couple of hours.” I sipped my drink and thought about it. Well, I had never taken any psychedelic drugs before, and it had been on my to-do list for a few years now. And distorting my consciousness with Class-A drugs would be a nice change from the current depressing reality of life.

“Sure,” I said.

Next thing I know, she has her little bag of drugs out on the desk, measuring out a couple of pills of 2C-B. There were also a couple of tabs of acid which we decided not to use.

“There you go,” she said, handing me half a pink pill with a batman logo on it. “I think this is a good enough amount to take for your first time, and if you don’t feel high enough, there’s another pill we can crush up and snort later.” I looked down at the pill then grabbed my glass of wine to gulp it down. She did the same, and then we went back to watching the movie while waiting for the effects to kick in.

It was about an hour or so later when my peripheral vision started to become wavy. The curtains of the bedroom looked like strands of wheat blowing in the wind, and a little crack in the ceiling looked like the whole reality of the space-time continuum being ripped open. “Can you feel it yet?” she asked. I told her what I was experiencing as we started laughing, pouring more drinks, talking absolute rubbish; no longer in hushed tones. I then went to the toilet where I sat down and looked at a bag full of clothes in the corner of the room. On top of the clothes was a grey fleece which had assumed the shape of a baby elephant all cuddled up in the womb of the bag. I could see its face, its eyes, its trunk, its legs. It stared at me for a while and then suddenly blinked. It was at this point I decided that I was hallucinating for the very first time. At least I hoped so, anyway.

I returned to the room to find Eliana dancing to some Latin music. It was clear by then the movie wasn’t going to be finished. She kept telling me how much energy she had that she needed to use in some way. I was going to suggest that she used it through the act of sexual intercourse, but before I could utter my thoughtful suggestion she was putting on her shoes and telling me that we needed to take a walk around the neighbourhood. I wasn’t too keen to go back outside but obliged her request. 

Out on the streets, the storm had quietened down and there were even a few stars visible in the night sky. The temperature was now well below freezing though, and the ground was covered in a thick, glittering frost. The glints of ice on the grass and bushes looked like a starry universe itself, and we walked around like children marvelling at the world around us. The streets were eerily silent and we talked about what it would be like when things went back to normal; if they would ever go back to normal. For that moment, it didn’t really matter though as I felt the high in my veins and saw the world through a magical new lens. In a way it felt weird to feel some form of fun being experienced again, almost as if my body had almost forgotten what it was.

We eventually returned to the room to finish the rest of our drinks and climb into bed. It took about ten minutes of cuddling until we started having sex. I’m not sure how long we went for, but it felt like hours, and god how I needed it after all that time locked up alone in my room. It did make me wonder how actual prisoners in jail fared on their life sentences. Suddenly the soap in the shower scenarios began to make sense. 

The next morning we had some more sex before I grabbed my stuff and quietly left. I had barely slept and was in a strange state of mind from the tiredness and the comedown. By now it was snowing instead of raining, and I brushed my bike seat clear of snow to begin my battle back home. Cycling through the white stuff beside the flooded river, I had to think how much life felt like some sort of disaster movie. Truly, it had been one of the worst winters on record with the grim weather reflecting the mood of society. Storms, floods, snow, the sun barely making an appearance through the constant dark clouds. It really felt like the end of days. But at least I had had some sort of life last night, which helped my spirit as I tried to keep my eyes open while cycling through the slippery roads.

Back alone again in my room, I sat down on my bed and tried to warm my hands up. They were shaking from the cold and I lay paralysed under the sheets, waiting for life to return to them again. I was also completely exhausted, yet somehow unable to sleep. There were some leftover Christmas chocolates on the table and I smashed them down, trying to get some energy back into my body. By now at least the power in the house had been sorted and I was able to charge my phone again. 

I turned it on and started mindlessly scrolling through social media once more. It was then that I got another message off Eliana. “So I still have those tabs of acid left….” Jesus, for such an innocent-looking person, this girl was really wild. I looked around my room and thought about how to reply. It would be another day of staring at walls, existing like some sort of house plant, waiting for the world to go back to normal while another day of my youth died and disappeared forever. Well, maybe I was a bad guy for breaking all the rules, but at this point I didn’t care. I texted back and told her I would be back over in the evening. I then tried to sleep and I couldn’t. I then tried to write and I couldn’t. There was nothing left to do: no job to work, no project to work on, no life to live. There was no choice but to go back to hers, take some more drugs and hope that whatever life in me would still be there when this winter had subsided, and the light of spring had returned.

poetry

~ Runaway Soul ~


~ Runaway Soul ~

My first trip was when I was nineteen
I spent a summer in Ghana
working at a local newspaper
for an internship related to my studies
(that would at least please the parents)

But really, I just needed to get out
throw myself into some foreign field
and let my mind be blown to pieces
by things I had not seen before
and would not see again

That was granted
and one year later
I was on a plane to Australia
where I spent a year wandering around
working odd jobs
staring out at sunsets
drinking with strangers
writing poetry under the stars

And then one year after coming home
I was back on a plane
this time: South America
six months of total madness
a twenty-two-year-old high on life
and drugs and women
and anything else I could get my hands on

It was my youth, my time
and I was going to take it by the balls
and have my way with it.

I had thought about other things worth doing in life
but to me, it was all about the experience
and I wanted as much as it
as my blood and brain and liver
could handle.

Seven years on nothing has really changed
I’m still planning that next trip
still running off into that sunset
still trying to find that magic something

I don’t suppose I’ll ever find it
at this stage I’m not sure I even want to

I just want to keep running
sprinting into that sunset
drinking with those strangers
staring up at those stars
another hopeless dreamer
lost in space and time
drifting in the cosmic ocean
and just falling in love
with this strange
thing called

life.

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diaries

The Secret Diary of a Depressed Therapist

(the following is the opening for a fictional diary-style novel I am experimenting with)

Photo by Sinitta Leunen on Pexels.com

“People are the greatest show on earth and you don’t even pay the ticket.”

Charles Bukowski said that. A man who lingered on the edges of society for most of his life, working odd jobs, moving around, trying to be a writer while alienated from society. He stood on the outside of the herd, looked back in, observed their behaviour and wrote about it. Some people hated his writing, others loved it. For me, I guess I am one of the latter, and I couldn’t help but agree completely with the above quote. I mean, have you ever stopped and watched people? Like really watched them? Their behaviour, their movements, their stresses and anxieties? Have you listened to the lies that come out of their mouths and tried to understand the chaos in their brains? For me, I was drawn to that stuff from an early age and I soon found myself studying the behaviour of everyone around me. From peers to parents to teachers: I wanted to know what made them tick, what their dirty little secrets were, and what it was that would push them over the edge into the abyss of total madness. The average human brain was a dense jungle of issues and for whatever reason I wanted to go and explore it (no doubt I needed therapy to ascertain why exactly that was myself).

Naturally it made sense that I had ended up electing to study psychology at university, before spending a large part of my twenties travelling the world. Of course, at school you just learn all the dull text-book crap, scanning miles and miles of print and regurgitating it in an exam, thinking you are ready to walk on a psych ward and nurse some murderous psychopath back to some form of sanity. None of that stuff really prepares you for the real thing, and it was out on my travels where I started to get some first-hand experience of helping people make sense of the human condition. I mean, there’s something about the situation of travelling overseas that causes a person to let their guard down, take off their mask, and start spilling their deepest, darkest secrets to a total stranger. This, I felt, was that travelling was already a sort of therapy for people anyway; an activity where you took yourself away from the stifling reality of ordinary life to put yourself under the existential microscope. The average Joe could learn a lot about himself while hiking through a mountain wilderness, or getting wasted with people from another culture, or staring out at an ocean sunset while wondering what the hell it all meant. And of course, people naturally felt safer sharing their issues with people they were never going to see again (after all, we all knew what judgmental gossips work colleagues and relatives could be). 

On my travels I listened to a fifty-year-old man tell me how he had quit his job after feeling suicidal from work-related stress; I listened to a young Danish girl tell me about her eating disorders and childhood abuse; I listened to an ex-heroin addict explain his addiction and fears of relapsing/overdosing. I heard tales of disaster and darkness; of pain and heartache; of death and destruction. My reserved and attentive demeanour drew people in, and I must have spent countless hours listening to people from all around the world spill their hearts out to me. Walking the ancient Christian pilgrimage El Camino de Santiago in Spain was perhaps the greatest experience in this, seeing me spend most days wandering along the trail, meeting people from all walks of life, and talking about the things that lingered in the darkest corners of a person’s mind. The most memorable encounter being with an eccentric, middle-aged man called Pete – a retired army soldier from London who had no home or next of kin. His last remaining family member (his brother) was killed by American friendly fire in Afghanistan. With no family left and no place to be, he now lived the life of a wandering nomad, walking the pilgrimage again and again with no apparent goal other than to just keep going until he dropped dead on the ground. He was a nice guy, although it’s obvious there were some serious demons lingering within, which typically came to the surface every evening after a bottle of red wine – resulting in arguments being started, abuses being hurled, and hostel tables being flipped. Such encounters were compelling to me and only made me crave the gypsy lifestyle more; clearly there was no substitute for real life experience in getting to know just how convoluted and complicated and chaotic the human mind could be. As the godfather of modern psychology had said:

“Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart through the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-halls, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul.” Carl Jung

Yeah, old Jung knew the score. The sick were out there in plagues, and by travelling the world with an open heart, you were sure to end up in the midst of human sickness. And the truth, I’ve come to learn, is that almost everybody is sick with something. Even the people who look untroubled on the surface have their monsters lurking somewhere within, and each man or woman has their own facade to hide away the reality of their true tortured self. I even remembered the teachers I had at school – people I looked up to as shining examples of successful human-beings – I later came to find out their drug habits, how some were cheating on their spouses, how one was sexually harassing members of staff, and how another was even found with underage pornography on his computer. Ultimately human-beings are wild and wounded animals ruled by desire, instinct and fear – only society has sought to suppress that side of us and to present us all as civilised beings with polished appearances. But no matter how clean your clothes are, the pain in your heart can’t be washed out; no matter how much makeup you wear, the dirt in your soul can’t be glossed over; no matter how many filters you use on Instagram, the mess in your head can’t be edited out.

Everyone is fucked-up to some degree, and I guess it’s my job to help people make sense of just how fucked-up they are, and also what – if anything – can be done about it. I know, I know: you’re probably thinking how heroic and selfless I am. Well, just know I don’t see myself as some sort of hero: a dark knight that leads people back into the light from the demon-infested shadows. I’m sure there is a view of a therapist out there somewhere (I think that was what I thought when I was an idealistic young man). You see, the truth is I’m just as fucked-up as the majority of people I speak to. Perhaps even more so actually. That’s what makes this whole thing so laughable. I mean, a fucked-up person helping other fucked-up people become less fucked-up? It’s almost poetic in a Nietzsche-esque sort of way. I guess I had spent a lot of time trying to make sense of the mess inside my head so I could, to a degree, put myself into the seats of those opposite me. They were the seats of the broken, the desperate, the lost, the lonely, and the confused. And they were states of being I had gotten to experience myself over the years, so naturally I could resonate with most of the things coming out their mouths. The only difference being that I wouldn’t dare sit in front of a therapist and divulge the contents of my mind for fear of getting dragged to the nearest madhouse. So what better place to sit than in the therapist chair myself, hearing other people’s stories, and feeling some sort of relief that many human-beings were a complete mess inside too.

Often I even thought many of them were fine when compared to myself; nothing a bit of self-reflection, meditation and a few lifestyle changes couldn’t sort out. For me, my madness was an unshakable, elemental part of who I was. It was something I had knew existed within me from a young age. There were many moments of strangeness but I guess the first notable one was when I broke into a house on my way home from a night out when I was sixteen. I went into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of wine before going to drink it in the living room. It was Christmas and I sat there on the sofa looking at the Christmas tree, sipping my wine and feeling like Santa Claus himself. I considered taking one of the presents from under the tree but managed to stop myself. Aside from that, I started relationships with girls then deliberately crashed them just for some drama and passion. I got drunk and stood on the ledges of buildings, wondering what it would feel like for those few seconds of falling before hitting the ground. I went out into the world and sought out pain and drama like some deranged masochist. The reason I liked this shit? There was no way around it: I was self-destructive at my core. An absurdist. Prone to nihilistic thoughts. Human existence was a big joke to me and I wanted to make a mockery of it as much as possible – even getting a self-serving job that satisfied my fetish for delving into the minds of those around me. God, there’s so much to tell you about really, but I’ll spare you the full details of my own tragedy for now. We’ll have to entertain ourselves with other people’s tragedy instead.

03/01

The start of a new year. The ‘new year, new me’ were out in force and I was usually met with new clients looking to finally address their underlying issues in the hope they can finally achieve happiness, or perhaps just momentarily stop themselves from kicking the bucket. I was guilty too – starting this diary as a sort of new year experiment to see if I could create some added meaning to my life which was currently in the grips of my latest existential crisis. Dreams of being Charles Bukowski were still in my mind, and I was well aware this was another project that would probably dissipate and fade out into nothingness over the course of the year, just like all my previous projects – including a dystopian novel that was going to be the most prophetic book since 1984 (yeah, I was particularly deluded at that time). Still, it was something; another creative endeavour to keep me going and not let myself be crushed by the feeling of pissing your life away doing the same things every day. It was a common feeling most working adults could relate to. Just like Roger Waters of Pink Floyd had sang on the album Dark Side of The Moon:

“Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time.

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

The time is gone, the song is over,

Thought I’d something more to say…”

    Or perhaps a bit of Celine hit the nail on the head:

“The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows.”

Old Louis-Ferdinand Celine: a writer after my own heart. Anyway, enough of all that. Today’s ‘new year, new me’ client is a twenty-two-year-old woman. She is in the final year of university and expressing some of the standard concerns that ravaged the minds of young people across the world. On she went telling me about her crippling anxiety, her doubts in her head that she wasn’t good enough, that she would always be unhappy and die alone in some dark room covered in spiderwebs and sorrow somewhere. Young women are my biggest client demographic. First of all, women are more likely to actually go and get therapy, unlike us men who politely bottle up our pain and end up committing 70% of all suicides. Second of all, the young woman has a range of issues she needs to navigate in the attempt to be a functioning human-being. Everything from image issues, social media addiction, eating disorders. Some are victims of domestic or childhood abuse, some sexual assault, others are riddled with anxiety about the world and themselves. And let’s not forget the state of the economy which had left all young people screwed when it came to finding a stable career and affording their own home. It was a cluster-fuck of issues altogether, being made continually worse by the unrelenting absurdity of the modern world which was never afraid to make you feel like total shit at every opportunity.

“I feel like I’m doing all these things just to do them,” she told me. “I don’t feel a connection to what I’m doing. I’m just drifting through the motions like I’m not really there, and I keep wondering: will I always feel this way? Like when I get married and when I have kids. I’ll just be doing those things too because that’s what everyone does. Surely everyone doesn’t feel like this? I know they can’t. All my coursemates are applying for jobs and planning their lives. They sound excited, enthusiastic, hopeful. Meanwhile, I just can’t relate to them at all. I just have this emptiness inside.” I let her have a moment for self-reflection before interjecting.

“Have you spoken to anyone else close to you about this? Do you have anyone in your life you feel understands you?”

“No, that’s another thing – no one understands me. If I had someone to talk about these things with, I would, but I don’t. Isn’t that why I’m here after all?”

“I understand. I can say that you are certainly not the only one feeling these things, but that doesn’t negate how you are feeling. However, losing interest in things you once enjoyed and feeling no connection to anything is often a sign of depression. Would you say this a feeling that’s manifested recently? 

“Well, I started feeling this way after the first year of university. I was waking up in the morning with no energy, and sometimes it took me over an hour to get out of bed, then when I did……”

I sat back and let her go on, seeing if her introspective exploration of her issues could help us identify the area that was causing her these troubles. The best thing to do with a new client is to just let them speak. The thing is that most people just have so much shit inside of them they need to get out, and having a stranger whose job is to listen to anything and everything you want to express can be the godsend they’ve needed. It’s really quite simple in a way. You give them their space to scream, you acknowledge their scream, and you help them make sense of where their scream came from and what can be done about it. Most aren’t even expecting some grand epiphany or something like that; just the sheer relief of getting all that shit out inside of them is enough. All that shit that has been tearing them up through the years; all that shit they hold inside when they say ‘fine thanks, you?’ Finally, their time has come. So sit back, look attentive, and let them vomit out the contents of their constipated mind right in front of you.

We carried on for another thirty minutes trying to get to the root cause of why she felt that way. Soon her time was up and I said goodbye to her, had some lunch, then welcomed back one of my regulars: an unemployed widow with no savings whose social anxiety stopped her from getting a job. After that it was a guy with bipolar disorder who had recently smashed up his parents house and set fire to his car. It was another cheery start to the year.

After work, I headed to my local. I had considered the dry January thing but decided it was just another trend and fashion that I didn’t really want to follow. I couldn’t bring myself to face another year sober so I sat down at the bar and ordered a drink. I then looked up at the television. More talk of Brexit negotiations were on the screen, along with the latest football scores, and something about government officials dodging taxes. It was a world of absurdity out there but drinking helped you escape for a brief while. I got my double rum and coke then got speaking to one of the resident alcoholics. You needed people like that to make yourself feel better at times; people worse than you that made you feel okay about yourself in comparison. It was a common mind trick we all played on ourselves and I utilised it too. I downed my drink with him, put the world to rights, and headed home to masturbate and eat some leftover macaroni and cheese. And some digestive biscuits too.

short stories

~ Helping to Heal a Broken World ~

alone-dawn-depth-of-field-734479

~ Helping to Heal a Broken World ~

It was a world of hurting people. No doubt about it. Forget the fairytales and the happy-ever-after stuff they tell you when you’re a kid – this life broke so many people down and left them struggling to go on. Out there I’ve seen people without hope; without any desire to live in their eyes. I’ve seen people who have had all the light and love kicked out of them. Sometimes that person was the one in the mirror’s reflection, sometimes it was a friend, sometimes a stranger on the street. When you have been down at the very bottom, you feel as if you have this sixth sense that can detect whenever another is dwelling in that darkness. You don’t know what it is specifically, but it’s just there in a person’s aura. And as my friend sat there talking to me that evening, I could sense it again. He had been acting irregularly for a long time now. And avoiding friends, a sunken look in his eye, weight gain and drinking heavily. It was evident to me: that same state of being that had consumed me in the past. I wanted to ask him if he was okay, but I couldn’t find it within me to just ask straight to the point. Instead, I asked how he was doing – some casual conversation to try and make him open up. He answered in an ordinary manner. God, maybe I was wrong. Maybe he was fine after all? But I thought of the girl I had spoken to just a few weeks before her suicide the previous year. Others that had seemed fine and had suffered in silence before meeting their ends. Why was the world like this? Why was it so hard to open ourselves up? And why did I constantly feel it within me to try and help people, when often it was me who needed help myself? 

A girl I was speaking to told me I was a healer of some kind. Maybe she was right. It seemed that I was always looking to help a wounded soul. I stood ready with words of encouragement and enough enthusiasm to drag them through hell myself. It was an innate urge that I just couldn’t suppress. I was riddled with problems of my own, but the thought of helping a broken soul immediately spurred me into action. And there were so many out there in the world to help: the depressed, the lonely, the anxious, the broken, the lost. I guess in a way it did make sense why I felt the desire to alleviate other’s pain. When you know what it’s like to feel a certain way, the thought that there are others out there feeling that same way is troubling, so naturally you look to just make their existence a little easier. I think this is ultimately what led me to writing. There was a time when the words of others helped me to go on living when everything seemed hopeless, and I knew the life-affirming power a few sentences could yield. A part of me wanted to give people what those writers had given to me, and I guess that was one of the reasons that led me to sharing my heart with others. I wrote my words down and sent them out into the world to see if they had any value to people out there. To my surprise, it seemed that they did, and over time I received messages from others saying how it had given them strength and reminded them that they weren’t alone or crazy. Reading those messages was like spiritual heroin to me, and it made me feel like I was doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do. An existential desire had been fulfilled and it was the start of a continual need to keep offering pieces of my heart to the world.

Over time I came to meet similar people to me: people who had made it through some dark times, and now possessed a specific knowledge of the human soul, as well as an innate desire to help cure others. It soon became clear to me that certain people in this world exist as healers, and most of the time they don’t even know it. Not all healers are doctors or nurses. Sometimes it’s that friend with the reassuring comment; it’s that person making you feel safe enough to share your secrets. It’s the musician you listen to, the writer you read, the postman smiling to you as he delivers your mail. In a world of secretly hurting people, naturally it happens that a few of those people exist to lift people’s spirits and illuminate the darkness in which so many dwell. Without those types of people filtered, humanity would suffer from a great sickness which would spiral out of control. But in an ironic fashion, it just so happens that these healers happen to be in desperate need of healing themselves. A classic example was the comedy actor Robin Williams – the lovable star of family movies that had persevered all his life to put smiles on people’s faces. He eventually committed suicide after a life-long battle with depression to which most people were unaware. Such a fate was a shining example of how people in the darkness try to stop others from sharing that darkness with them. It reminded me of a joke the comic book Watchmen:

“Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. And says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci…”

Indeed it’s a strange situation that the healers of this world are usually some of the most hurt individuals themselves. All those artists losing their minds while giving so many people the fuel they needed to go on. All those everyday people doing charity work and helping friends out even though they suffer from anxiety and depression. It seems that some people have a deep desire to sacrifice themselves for the aid of others. And I think I feel it inside too: this unwavering desire to lead others through the storm; to keep sharing my heart with the world no matter how much it takes out of me. Although this gives me a deep fulfilment, I guess I should try to pay more attention to myself sometimes. But ultimately this desire is paramount to my own health and happiness. Maybe it will cost me in the end, but in a world of hurting people, it seems throwing pieces of myself onto the fire to help illuminate the darkness makes more sense than anything else I ever knew.