short stories

~ A World Not Made For Lovers ~

~ A World Not Made For Lovers ~

Her hazel eyes dimmed with a sadness. There was a heaviness in them which pulled them down to the ground. There was the light of love still in there somewhere, but it had been suppressed down to the tiniest flicker in the vast darkness that enveloped every horizon of her inner universe. Like most lovers in this tortured world, she sat alone in silence and stared emptily into space, confused at the situation of existence before her. She knew deep down a sensitive soul like hers didn’t belong in this society of cruelty and trickery. She wanted affection but got rejection; she wanted passion but got apathy; she wanted to fly but was tethered down by the concrete gravity of reality. In her heart she felt betrayed that the gods had left her stranded in this environment. Her cards had been dealt and now, like a little bird in a cage, she flapped around hopelessly within her confines, aching inside to return to the place where her spirit belonged soaring free.

      We had met recently out on the road and now by circumstance I found myself with her in the Netherlands. A Spanish girl in Amsterdam, Sara, away from home, trying to get by and make her way out in foreign lands, but stuck in a struggle I knew all too well. “The people are cold here” she told me. “They are like robots. The men just fuck you and then stop speaking to you. I can’t make any friends. People put up barriers if they don’t know you already. Honestly, I have no idea what I am doing here.” She carried on spilling her pain and frustration, talking about her ex and her past failures in relationships. “I am broken but everyone is broken after a while, you just have to keep looking and find the person who is less broken than you are.” 

     Her words struck a chord with me and naturally it felt good to be around a fellow scratched and scarred soul. We continued sharing our thoughts about life as we roamed around Amsterdam, spending our time drinking in the cafes and bars, strolling down the canals and checking out the sights of the capital. At one point we walked around a museum and talked about life and travel and relationships. We looked at Van Gogh’s paintings – another lover driven to madness and isolation by the weight of the world. In his self-portraits you could sense his simultaneous love and despair for the human condition. Speaking to Sara while viewing the paintings, I stared into her eyes and saw that same tortured look. I saw that little bird inside longing to be free, to be loved and to belong to someone or something. I had seen it before in the most beautiful of souls I had come across out there on the road. It seemed that if you walked this world with an open heart, you were sure to suffer more than the average person. If you truly loved without a filter than people didn’t know what to do; often the other sex saw it as a weakness and inevitably you were left heart-broken and dejected. I thought of Van Gogh cutting off his ear giving it to a woman to show his love. Admittedly cutting off body parts was perhaps a little extreme but, like Van and Sara, whenever I fell for someone, I went in with all my heart and was inevitably left shunned. Ironically I was here with her but had recently fallen for another girl who had rejected me, and now I had only added to her misery by misleading her. I was also part of the problem. But I had my own problems too. We were both drowning in our own individual way.

     When I really thought about it, it seemed that it wasn’t just relationships where the ones who loved without a filter suffered. It was life and society in general. The more open-hearted you were, the more you were beaten and broken down by the nature of humanity. I couldn’t make sense of it. I looked out at the world around me and saw a brutal and backwards system. It was a place where the cruel and cold-hearted rose to the top. A place where sociopaths and narcissists flourished while the most caring and thoughtful were trampled underfoot. A strange game was being played and the people who were usually the winners were the ones with the fake smiles, the smooth lies and a cold, calculating nature. To be sensitive and caring was considered a weakness in this society. It wasn’t good for the economy. It wasn’t good for survival. It wasn’t good for business or strategy. The best rewards were for the merciless and uncompromising. Dog eat dog, as they said. Every man and woman and child for themselves.

    Meanwhile, those who loved with reckless abandon didn’t make it. They lingered in the solitary shadows and sidelines. The lovers. The dreamers. The idealists. The poets. The INFPs. Often this world didn’t know what to do with them. So many of them were cast out, shunned, neglected, or misunderstood. In the worst cases they were gunned down by the fear and hatred of humanity. John Lennon. Martin Luther King. Gandhi. Malcolm X. JFK. Abraham Lincoln. Aside from them you also had the sensitive and artistic souls driven to suicide or early death by the crushing weight of it all. Kurt Cobain. Hemingway. Winehouse. Kerouac. Ledger. Sylvia Path. Robin Williams. For such people to survive in this world, they needed to put up walls and toughen themselves up. But so many of them were clearly unable to do that, and consequently they were left burdened by feeling too much in an uncaring and hostile world, slowly being driven to death and destruction and alcohol and madness.

     Yeah, no matter how you looked at it, it was a world not made for lovers and I guess, like Sara, I knew opening my heart up to it would also leave me tortured, sitting alone and staring into space, confused at the situation of existence before me. But I didn’t really know what else to do. I was a man ruled mercilessly by his own heart. With child-like curiosity I explored the world around me. I tenaciously followed my passions. I lived fiercely according to my ideals. I loved without a filter. I expressed myself from my heart and soul. I thought these things would be good qualities in life but so far it had only made my life extremely difficult. People abused my kind nature. Speaking from my heart often caused people to distance themselves from me. My authenticity didn’t give me acceptance. My ideals and passions were not compatible with society. I guess I had the ability to stop being this way, but a part of me refused to let the essence of myself be diluted down by the hostile environment I had found myself in. 

     “You need to stop being so sensitive and ruled by your emotions.” 

     “Man up.”

     “Learn to play the game like everyone else.”

     I’d heard it all before just like the others had, but by now I knew I wasn’t going to change. Speaking to Sara as we strolled around Amsterdam, I was reminded how much better the world was when you had those sort of people around you. Just a day or two in her company and suddenly my faith in humanity returned. Suddenly the streets of society didn’t all seem to be doom and gloom with people like her somewhere out there. As long as you just came across a few pure-hearted people every year, it restored something in you; it relinquished the dread inside of you of your own species. Normally those lovers were the most troubled people, but in my eyes they were the most courageous, the most beautiful, the most precious. They were the ones who reminded you that there was still some hope left. The ones who reminded you that humanity wasn’t totally doomed. The ones who reminded you that there was still a chance to find some gentleness in the craziness of this world. 

    To the lovers out there fighting on in this world where so many cold-hearted creatures and demons run amok, don’t let yourself be swallowed up by the storm. Keep the flowers growing in your heart; keep the doves flying in your mind; keep the sun shining in your soul. Sara, little bird, if you are reading this, I hope you find your happiness and learn to smile a little more. Don’t let the weight of this concrete world grind you down. Don’t let yourself be broken down by those hollow-hearted and empty-eyed creatures. Keep your heart kind; keep your soul pure; keep loving fearlessly without a filter. When all is said and done, it’s the people like you that keep the soul of humanity alive.

thoughts

~ Down And Out On The Road ~

~ Down And Out On The Road ~

“I awoke with a dry mouth and my head aching with the aftermath of the previous night’s exploits. The girl was gone and I lay there, alone again, in a strange hostel room. I looked at my backpack, beaten and battered and bruised on the floor. I now only had a few items of clothes left and my wallet confirmed I had burnt through all my money again. There was a sadness in the air and the fading ink on my passport cover told me I would soon be a ghost. Eventually I dragged myself out of bed and roamed the streets in search of sustenance. After devouring some cheap street-food, I made it to the beach and stood there staring out into the ocean. Somewhere on the other side of that great mass of water was the land of home – the land where I could have been suited and booted up like a regular member of the human race. I imagined myself waking to an alarm clock, fighting through traffic jams, working a conventional job and chatting about the football down the pub. I imagined the routine, the television shows, the suburban lawns and quiet desperation as I slowly and statically sank into unfulfilled old age. Maybe I was down and out in foreign lands, but returning home to that would surely finish me off. I didn’t belong to that world and the only way to save myself was to dive deeper into the abyss – deeper into the chaos – deeper into the wilderness. With a hungover heart and a mind stained with madness, the only way out was to continue wandering into the wild like an abandoned dog trying to find his way home.”

34782958_1699483460127659_6102209158138822656_n

(taken from my book ‘The Thoughts From The Wild’ available here)

short stories

~ Alone With Everybody ~

~ Alone With Everybody ~

Back alone in my chamber of solitude once again: the small bedroom in my apartment with only a bed, a backpack, a set of drawers and a looming sense of existential dread that now filled every crack, crevice and dark, cobwebbed corner.

    I sat in silence on my bed and looked around at my surrounding lair. On the walls sat some photos of my travels out in the world – good times with people who were now out of sight, some of them no doubt also sitting alone in a small apartment room in somewhere on planet earth. I also had my laptop beside me from where I been pouring the contents of my mind onto a blank page never to be read by anyone except a few random strangers on the internet. It was an act of release and many words had been typed the last few days. Whenever I felt most starved for human interaction, I often found my fingertips scratching and clawing at keyboard keys in a desperate attempt to reach another out there in the wilderness. I sent my words out into hyperspace like a flare of my own madness, hoping to attract another one of my kind roaming somewhere in the far reaches of human civilisation. Sometimes people responded, but still I was left stranded in front of a keyboard, staring into a screen with nothing to do except to keep on typing more words onto that all-too familiar blank page.

   In a moment of realisation, it struck me how alone I was. My head spun around and I felt like I was stranded faraway on another planet in another galaxy; I felt like I was stuck in some kind of void of nothingness where no person, animal or god could reach me. It was true that normally I sought solitude for a decent amount of time in my everyday life – my introverted mind demanded it – but like most things there was a limit to it all: a boundary where a real danger of genuine insanity lingered on the other side. Us humans were inherently social creatures who needed some kind of occasional interaction to stay sane, however despite a few electronic messages across that virtual wilderness of the internet, it had been almost a week without any significant form of human contact. Consequently I could feel the walls around me closing in; I could my own aching isolation eating me alive from within. Before I was consumed totally, I crawled out of my lair and ventured up to the roof of the apartment block to get some fresh air – that was usually one thing which I could rely on to help clear my mind when the storm inside got too fierce.

    I climbed up the stairs and reached the rooftop. I opened the door and ventured over to the edge where I stood and stared out at the surrounding city landscape. There it all was sprawled out before me: the concrete jungle in all its chaos and madness and urban sadness. From the edge of that roof I looked out at the mazy streets; I looked out at the houses with their windows all illuminated like Christmas tree lights; I looked out at the parks and the bars and the restaurants where so many couples would be dining together in love and companionship. I thought being out the room would do me good, but the sight of civilisation only made me feel worse. It just didn’t seem to make any sense. How could loneliness exist when thousands of people surrounded you? How could we be so close but so far away at the same time? And how did it all end up like this? What had gone wrong in our species for us to develop technologically but not as beings capable of true connection and community for all?

   Alone as I was, I looked out at that city and knew that there were others far worse off than I. Often in my life I spent large amounts of time travelling in foreign lands with fellow wanderers, but I knew how many souls out there were constantly dwelling in lives of inescapable loneliness and isolation year after year. The homeless people. The old people. The disabled. The alcoholics and drug addicts. The depressed and the anxious. Even on the apartment block below my feet, I wondered how many people were sat alone scrolling on their phones, desperately aching in their flesh and bones for just some basic form of human interaction. What made it worse that so many other souls close to them but separately by some shoddy walls. It was a strange situation. The thought of it made my mind wonder with possibility. Maybe there was someone like me sleeping just a few metres away in a vertical or horizontal direction? Maybe the girl of my dreams was just a few rooms away? Maybe there was a chance? A chance to connect with someone or something?

    The more I thought about it, the more absurd it all seemed – the scenario of being so united yet so separated simultaneously – of being together under one roof but segregated alone in private rooms of darkness and isolation. It seemed that our society at its core was constantly stuck in that apartment block where everyone was so close and so far away at the same time. It was just innate of our species in the modern world of hectic cities and so-called civilisation. Everyday we were separated into offices, into cubicles, into traffic lanes, supermarket queues and apartment blocks. And not just physically; the strongest and most rigid barriers of separation were usually lined up within people’s skulls. If it wasn’t religion, race or social class, then it was that people put barriers up because they were simply sick of or scared of each another – of what people would say and do and the sudden sight of their unfiltered souls was revealed to the crowd. Mostly that fear was justified; people often didn’t react well to seeing the gritty contents of someone’s genuine self. In a society where superficiality and conformity called the shots, such an uncombed sight often caused people to be rejected, hated and sometimes even murdered depending on the culture. Because of this we kept the mask on in the crowd and let our true thoughts linger in the dark apartment rooms inside our skulls where our deepest secrets and desires lay gathering cobwebs and dust in dark, forgotten corners.

    I thought back to when I myself had shared the contents of my heart with the crowd. The times I had opened up myself up to others I had been rejected and cast out from the group; I had been looked at like an utter madman and a lunatic. There were a few who delighted in what they saw, but mostly people were concerned, disinterested or even resentful towards me. Over time I came to the conclusion that generally people didn’t want the raw and rugged face of someone’s true self. Such an image was an unwelcome sight and instead so many wanted lives dressed up in pretty fonts and filters; they wanted people pretending on social media that their lives were wonderful and great; they wanted people insincerely asking people how they were before giving the generic ‘yeah okay you?’ response. At the very core of it, it just seemed the majority of people had no time for anything that wasn’t clean and polished. It was just more convenient for us all I guess. I would have liked to think that I was as open as possible to another soul, but I also knew there were times where I too had distanced myself from someone trying to connect with me at a deeper level. Like most people in these cities, I was overcome with a fear that left us afraid and unwilling to let someone slip under the walls we put up inside our own minds.

    Such a nature lead to the loneliness that afflicted so many dwelling in towns and cities and apartment blocks far and wide across the world. Right now throughout the urban landscape that lay before me I knew that people sat alone in rooms watching the clock tick slowly towards their death; I knew some already had died alone and were waiting to be found in an old house no one ever visited. Elsewhere some of those in the peak of their youth scrolled through internet forums and blogs hoping that there were others like them somewhere out there in the chaotic mess of society. Throughout our modern civilisation were so many lost souls dwelling alone, starving, dying, decaying in modern isolated lives of sedentary comfort but spiritual pain. They were the lives where people had followers but no friends; the lives where people’s greatest moment of connection was being served by the cashier at the supermarket; the lives where people screamed out through bloodshot eyes and internet blogs because their physical voices had been silenced out of fear of judgement from the crowd.

   Looking out at the convoluted mess of houses, streets and apartment blocks, the thought hit me that perhaps we had just simple gone too far? Humans who once lived in close-knit tribes on the plains of the wild were now living in gigantic, industrial cities where underground tubes transported us robotically around like electrons around a circuit-board. One could sit in a tube of fifty silent people and watch everyone look away from each other’s eyes and down to phones, floors and newspapers. It was a strange situation: the more the population continued to grow, the more separated we seemed to all become as individuals. Often the moments when the loneliness hit you greatest was when you were sat on those packed tubes, or stood in the crowds that momentarily formed at the traffic lights, or waiting in a long queue at the supermarket. There you’d stand and look around at that sea of faces, scanning and searching the eyes for another of your kind, yet you would always end up sailing on alone back to your dark apartment room. I guess I speak for myself mainly here of course, but I am sure for many other souls dwelling somewhere out there within the concrete wilderness too.

     Thinking back to my travels, it struck me that the greatest moments of connection I had with another human were usually with complete and total strangers out hiking a mountain trail in foreign lands. Whenever you were out on that trail, all the barriers and shoddy walls of society disappeared. Being in nature without the crowd surrounding and suffocating you allowed our true nature to shine as individuals. Amongst the hills and lack of civilisation was a haven for the soul – a paradise of mental freedom where the social masks could be tossed away into a ditch and we could finally just be ourselves in all our gritty messiness and madness.

      I recalled hiking in the French Alps with a young Israeli guy in the summer of the previous year. I was walking towards a mountain pass when I came across him sat on a rock in the shade eating some nuts. After asking if I wanted some, we began walking together toward the pass. While walking it quickly became apparent we were of different cultures, of a different theological belief, and of a different age – yet none of those things mattered on the trail. Instead of distancing ourselves, we spoke from the heart about what lead us to travel; we shared our hopes and aspirations for life; we cooked and shared food with each other in the shadow of the mountain. As we continued walking we met other hikers including an American girl and an old English nomad who lived in his campervan. Again, despite all our obvious differences in backgrounds and demographic, there was nothing but community and connection between us all. We sat around our campsite at sundown eating dinner, drinking wine and discussing life, adventure and philosophy. We looked into each other’s eyes and spoke freely from the heart with no shoddy walls to separate us. It felt good; it felt strangely like how it should have been.

    But those times on the trail were a long way away I realised as I stood alone on that rooftop edge in the middle of the concrete jungle, hearing a distant siren wail out into the night – the sound of another ambulance on its way to retrieve another life which had ended. The mountains of freedom were out of sight and I was back on the stage of society where masks had to be worn, scripts had to be recited and anyone who deviated from social convention or normality was seen as an outcast or a hippy or simply crazy. Thinking about the absurdity of it, I looked up to the skies above, staring out into the few visible stars shining through the light pollution, dreaming of something ineffable – some kind of home that I could never seem to find for any more than a short period of time here on planet earth.

   Eventually I decided to retreat back down to my lair to pour all my thoughts onto that blank page yet again. Enough air had been breathed in for now. I crawled back down the stairs, entered my apartment and sat in solitude before a computer screen, sending out that flare of my mind’s madness via some some words typed on a grubby keyboard. A raised voice shouted out from the room beside me and I knew I was back where I belonged: in my small space, cornered by society, alone in the dark, my mind filled with madness as my fingers scratched and clawed at those keyboards once more.

    If this is to be my continual fate and someone does happen to find me one day in this apartment room as another old person who watched that clock tick slowly towards their death, know that I truly wanted to connect with you all like I did with those people on that trail. Here in this society there are just some shoddy walls in my skull and yours that I can’t knock down. Hopefully these words at least let you know that behind my social mask was somebody who wanted to unite, but was too consumed by a society and system that lead me pour these words onto this page. I am alone with you all, lost in a concrete jungle, afflicted by the human condition, floating through space on this rock towards an unknown abyss. If these words don’t help anyone else out there, at least they helped me momentarily escape this dark room. If these words don’t help anyone else out there, at least they let my heart sing out in all its truth – if only for a brief moment – the spirit bird fluttering free in the sky before returning to its rusty cage of isolation and separation and segregation.

alone-architecture-buildings-220444.jpg

thoughts

~ Incomplete ~

~ Incomplete ~

“She walked barefoot through the fields of my heart, untouchable like a ghost, her skin shining in the sun like the blazing light of the cosmos in all its glory. And now the thoughts of what could have been haunt those same fields as I sit alone in the night, hearing those voices of happiness echo in the wind before I return to that silence I know all too well. Some of us are just never meant to feel that union of love; to feel confirmed or completed by another soul. We have that empty space in the heart where we sit still in solitude and stare into skies above, waiting to be liberated from our pain, waiting to be saved from our own madness – waiting for someone or something to come deliver us to a home we know deep inside we will never touch nor feel.”

alone-dawn-depth-of-field-734479.jpg

short stories

~ Voicing your Truth ~

~ 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 site?

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 walked, 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 raw and real self?

The more I stared into those eyes 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 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 this stuff down would somehow keep me from falling completely 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 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 cruel 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 truth. 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 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.”

adult-alone-clothes-159069.jpg

(taken from my book ‘The Thoughts From The Wild’ available here)