‘One morning I awoke in a strange room with a foul taste in my mouth. My date from the previous night was still fast asleep and I figured it was easier for both of us if I just left before she stirred. I had no battery on my phone and wasn’t sure exactly where I was. I walked out of the house which was on the top of a hill. From the doorstep, I saw the city centre in the distance and realised I was on the opposite side of the city. I then started making my long way home through unknown streets and neighbourhoods. I could have gotten a bus, but I had always resented paying for public transport, so I kept on walking – tired, hungover and even more of a daze than usual. I looked at the people walking past me, wondering which of them was also doing a walk of shame. My stumbling continued until I had made it back into the city centre when I caught my reflection in a shop window. For a minute I stood there staring at it. It seemed that on every street a window reflection was there to show you to yourself and suddenly make you question what the hell it was you were doing on that street, in that city, in that life. Did your path have purpose? Were you a good person anymore? Were you even a sane person anymore? Looking into my tired eyes, I could see I was just another messed-up young man, entertaining myself and keeping life interesting in whatever way I could. I was no different than the drunks and druggies; than the addicts and adrenaline junkies. I found my solace in the thrill of casual sex; my shelter in the tangled limbs of a stranger. It was a depressing reality and my reflection continued to stare back at me almost in disgust. There was only so much of it I could take before I had to look away and carry on along the avenue. This is what life could do to a man. He enters it with wide eyes ready to discover and explore, and then thirty years later he stands staring at his reflection in confusion and consternation. The only thing to do was carry on walking and try to avoid that reflection for a little while longer.’
Tag: first person writing
~ Voicing Your Truth ~
I sat alone in my bedroom, staring blankly at the wall, listening to music playing from my laptop on the desk beside me. The usually reliable combination of solitude and ambient music could not bring me any peace. It had been another day of absurdity and my mind was plagued with thoughts. As I stared into space I wondered why couldn’t I just tell them all how I felt? Why couldn’t I speak up about this hollow life I was stuck in? Why couldn’t I get the truth inside of me out into plain sight?
Such thoughts weighed heavy on my mind. I considered reaching for my phone and ringing some people. I thought of confessing my madness, of writing my notice of resignation – of messaging her and telling her how I really felt. What a joy it would have been to see the wings of truth taking flight. But as usual there was a strange force that constricted me. Once again, I was back in that private prison of expression which I knew too well. All the words and sentences that should have been spoken were still trapped inside my head, and they were angry and resentful about remaining imprisoned. Those expressions of truth began to riot and kick at the walls of my skull. They scraped and they brawled; they set fires and screamed. It was a war of words in there, and the chaos and anarchy ensued until the point where I had to take myself out for a walk in the city to try and steady the storm.
I exited the apartment block and began walking westward toward the city centre. As I started walking I stared into the eyes of everyone passing me. Along those sidewalks I saw fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. I saw husbands and wives; the poor and the rich; the young and the old. It was true that likely many of those people were happy, even content with their lives, but I couldn’t help but think of the other ones out there. I couldn’t help but think of the ones who were silently fighting battles behind tired eyes and forced smiles; behind cluttered desks and tightly-gripped steering wheels. I couldn’t help but try to spot the people drifting down those sidewalks in quiet desperation – all the lonely eyes of secretly starving souls trapped in private prisons from which they could not escape. Each street I turned down, each person I passed, my mind considered all the many truths which have remained unspoken, all the love letters that were never sent, all the notices of resignation not handed in to jobs that slowly murdered the people employed in them. Was it just me who stayed silent about the things most important? How many people like me were out there? And is this what was normal: for people to silence their truth just out of the convenience of not disturbing everyone else with the rugged face of their true self?
The more I stared into those eyes and faces and thought about it, the more certain I was that in this world one could fill entire libraries with all the words of truth that have never been shared, but rather kept locked inside hearts and minds that eventually decayed into dust, leaving those words and the consequences of them forever lost in some great eternal unknown. I was sure there were cemeteries all around me where the grounds were haunted by the ghosts of the lives that were not really lived because people were too afraid to simply stand and speak up for themselves. No doubt across this forsaken planet there were millions and millions of people who had brought their truth to the grave out of fear of judgement from friends and relatives and lovers and neighbours and work colleagues.
It was a sad thought, but who the hell was I to pass judgement? I was no doubt worse them than all. I kept quiet in crowds of fools. I bit my tongue in moments of injustice. I couldn’t tell the girl I loved how I felt. I had words of comfort to offer to desperate people but failed to voice them. I was afraid – I was afraid like them too. The only time I felt like I could truly express myself was when I was sat alone in a dark room pouring the contents of my mind onto a blank page which would never be read by anyone. I was just as screwed up as the rest of them. The society had silenced me too, and all that was left to do was stab at keyboard keys in the hope that just writing all this stuff down would somehow keep me from completely falling into the pits of madness.
Meanwhile as people like me sat in silent darkness, the idiots of the world shouted out. Meanwhile the sociopaths and liars barked their way to top of society and soulless politicians confidently spat out meaningless sound bites at an entire nation. “Strong and stable; strong and stable; strong and stable!!” As I looked out at that jungle of barking idiots, I realised that there was no room out there for me to share my truth – to spill the contents of my soul. The words I had inside of me did not belong to that crazy and confusing world out there. Instead they sit typed on documents on a computer hard-drive never to be read by anyone. They stalk and haunt the hallways of my mind. They riot against the walls of my skull.
But sometimes you know out on those streets I hear voices and get brave. I hear the ghosts of the dead whisper in my ear. They tell me go on: speak your heart now while you’re alive. Be yourself. Tell your story. Share your words. Life is not a rehearsal so live your life like you goddamn mean it. Where we have failed, you will succeed.
Listening in to those haunting voices, I imagined myself working up some bravery, in handing in that resignation – in confessing my madness and ringing her to tell her how I felt. It was a nice thought but in the end I didn’t do it. The thought passed and I retreated back to my apartment. I retreated back to my cave of darkness to sit alone at my computer – to dwell in solitude, to dwell in silence – to hit the keys of a grubby keyboard and hope that someone out there, somewhere, understood me.
~ Beaten ~
~ Beaten ~
Eyes full of sickness and sadness, I stared at the dancefloor with a feeling of resentment. There they all were: those happy people with their happy faces. They moved effortlessly across the floor like they moved effortlessly through life. No doubt they all lived sane and orderly lives of structure and stability. They didn’t know my pain, my madness. They didn’t know what it was like to linger always on the sidelines and stare in from the outside. I stood there doing exactly that, leaning on the bar while watching them as they moved and grooved. I downed a double whiskey coke while continuing my ethnographic observation. I drank another one then realised my friend had left with a girl. I looked around for any possible chance with a female before conceding defeat and heading for the door.
Exiting the bar and stumbling down the street, my eyes beheld a jungle of kebab shops and neon lights leading me through the city centre. I watched as drunken revellers shouted, scoffed food and clambered into taxis. The human race was a wild species that had been tamed by its own creation of civilisation, but there was still a certain level of anarchy we allowed to unfold. This was best witnessed at 4am on highstreets full of broken bottles and broken minds; on highstreets where couples stood screaming at each other; on highstreets bearing piles of puke that were symbolic of the inner sickness of society. The sight of it all made me sad and it was at this point I remembered that it was my first time in Sheffield and I was supposed to be staying with my mate who had disappeared with a girl. I had no battery on my phone to contact him and suddenly found myself in the situation of having nowhere to sleep. Not an ideal situation admittedly, but by that point I was too drunk to care. Lost in the blur, I carried on staggering down the sidewalk until three men started speaking to me. I must have done or said something slightly disagreeable because the next thing I know I was getting the shit kicked out of me on the floor. Kicks and punches rained down upon me. My body grinded against the pavement. Venomous words of hate filled my ears. The beating continued for a good thirty seconds until the blurry figures ran off and disappeared out of sight. I picked myself up and assessed the damage. Blood dripped from above my left eye as my ribs ached and hip throbbed with a friction burn from the concrete. I knew immediately that my body was going to have more scars – more symbols of the destruction of my life etched permanently into my skin and flesh.
Still not knowing what to do or where to go, I wandered around the early morning streets of Sheffield city centre while looking like someone from a horror movie. I didn’t have anywhere really to go and just kept stumbling around in a drunken daze. Eventually a police woman picked me up after some bystander spotted me in my gory state. I told her what had happened as she drove me around town in her car. I guess I was expecting to get taken to a hospital, or perhaps to the police station to file a report, but in the end she just cleared up my wound and dropped me outside a closed train station. I got out of the car and stood there alone in the cold winter night wearing just a t-shirt. Cuts to the public services in Britain had resulted in this – underfunded and overstretched, they looked for any way to avoid you utilising them. Consequently I stood there shivering and staring into the empty station, waiting for the damn thing to open. My ticket wasn’t until noon, but I was just going to board any train I could. If only there was a train off this planet, I pondered.
Finally the station opened and I went inside and sat down watching the smartly-dressed business people get ready for another day at work. I watched the mothers quickly glance at me and look away in horror. I watched the little kids snicker and gossip about the wounds on my face. Those looks followed me onto the train where I tried to sleep but was woken up by a ticket inspector who told me my ticket was invalid for the current service I was on. I got out my card and paid for a new one as the conductor kept his distance. Thirty minutes later, I arrived in Derby where I was meant to switch trains to Nottingham. Looking at the board, I could see it would be another fifty minute wait in the cold until I could catch the connecting train. Suddenly it was all too much and I left the station and paid for a £40 taxi back home.
I think it was about 3pm in the afternoon when I awoke finally sober. Being too tired to clean myself first, I had collapsed onto the bed and left bloodstains all over the sheets. I grabbed them and threw them in the laundry. I then went into the bathroom and stared at my beaten face in the mirror. Back in a normal state of mind, I could finally see the severity of the beating I took. There were deep cuts, bruising and bumps around the left eye, as well as a few scratches on the right. It was a sorry sight to behold and I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to be going on a date with a girl later that evening. Maybe it could be rearranged, I thought. I then spoke to a friend on the phone who convinced me to head to the hospital to check for a concussion. I walked there for an hour as people continued to look at me like some sort of circus freak. I reached the hospital and stood looking up at that sad building with its rows and rows of windows. Windows in which the dying lay dying – windows in which those old hearts beat their last beats, those lungs gasped their last breaths and those eyes soaked in their last bit of light. I guess that’s where we all end up, maybe with a few relatives and flowers beside us if we are lucky. I headed in where the doctor inspected me and told me that I didn’t have a concussion but that I needed to be careful. I asked if there was anything I could do to stop the scarring around my eye. No solid advice was given.
All things considered, I sat back and knew it had truly been a night of disaster. Perhaps the most disastrous of any night out I had, and there had been a few dramas along the way. I thought the situation couldn’t get any worse, but apparently the gods had a few more tricks up their sleeves. When I returned home I checked my jean pockets and realised I had lost my passport at some point during the night. I also remembered that I was supposed to be starting a new job in a few days, and that I would have to turn up on my first day with my face looking like I had just ten rounds with Mike Tyson. That’s not to mention what the girl would think of me when I showed up to the date. It was a sorry state of affairs and all of a sudden a strange feeling fell over me. I touched the wounds on my face and felt like crying. It was the realisation of the horror and futility of it all. The world was relentless pain and agony, and no matter how good things got, you were always just a short way away from being stamped down by the boots and fists of life. I was only one week into the new year and already it was looking to be another one of misery and destruction. It was a depressing thought and I went into the bathroom to once again stare at my gory reflection in the mirror. I was beaten – scratched and scarred and stained with a dirt of which I’d never be clean. It was a sight I had beheld many times in my life – physical and mental wounds that gathered over the years – wounds that told the story of what each human faced on their path through life.
I continued wallowing in my self-pity until something strange happened. Out of nowhere, I burst out laughing. I looked in the mirror and laughed and laughed until my stomach hurt. I walked back into my bedroom and laughed some more. I even did a little dance in front of my wardrobe mirror while marvelling at the absurdity of my appearance. The misery subsided and I felt a strange determination within me. It was something that always appeared in moments where I was truly in the swamp of despair. The more this world tried to stamp me down, the more I just wanted to rise up against it and bare the blows. Maybe I was losing my mind completely, but I was going to make sure that life would be lived before death had its dirty way with me. With that thought in mind, I cleaned my cuts up some more, showered, drank a beer and got dressed for my date.
It was going to be another magical evening.