short stories

~ The Hidden Treasure ~

~ The Hidden Treasure ~

“The day had come and gone, and there we sat at the end of the jetty, facing out into the sunset lake. We had only met just a few hours ago and now she was telling me things she had probably never told anyone. She told me deepest secrets, her fears, her hopes, her pains, her joys, her struggles. All of this to me: a random stranger from the bar. Back home people had their defences up; we were all standing upon society’s stage and playing whatever role it was we were supposed to play to be accepted. But there was a certain magic when you crossed paths with a stranger out on the road. Having just met and safe in the knowledge that you were probably never going to see each other again, there was no pretence or image to keep up. The masks were off and everything could be laid bare.

As the sun set below the horizon and the secrets spilled out upon the water, it made me think about how different the world would be if we all just shared what was really going on beneath the surface. So many people have undoubtedly carried the contents of their souls into the abyss without letting them ever see the light of life. One could despair for all the things that were never done and said because we were too afraid to deviate from the social script and say what we really felt. All the adventures that were never pursued, all the works of art that were never realised, all the friendships and loves that never blossomed – all because of the fear of exposing our true selves to the world. Even for the people closest to you, it would often take years and decades to unlock the vault of the soul; but get a random stranger alone for a few isolated moments in a foreign country and suddenly the secret combination is found.

As we both carried on talking about life into the night, I realised that there was something incredibly valuable about these brief and bittersweet encounters on the road. Most of us have treasure inside our chests that we want to show the world, it’s only when we feel free that the locks slip loose and the gold inside shimmers bright and brilliant under the stars.”

(Taken from my book The Thoughts from The Wild – available worldwide via Amazon)

short stories

~ Undefined ~


~ Undefined ~

It had been a day of chaotic adventure and now we were back in the hostel, drinking beers and wine around a table in the courtyard. The drinks and good times were flowing along as the air was filled with the sound of Latin music and hearty laughing. We spoke of the day’s exploits; we spoke of travelling and adventure; we spoke of Wim Hof and Zen Buddhism. Suddenly came the question I despised so much. “So what is it that you Do?” one girl asked another across the table. The other girl looked up at her. “You know for work and that back home? What do you do?” I sat back in my chair and swallowed a sip of my beer. Immediately I felt the atmosphere change. The ‘do’ question was out there and I knew it was time to categorise ourselves – to justify ourselves as functioning members of human society.

The girl answered how she was a marketing executive back in Sydney. She explained a little about her role then sat back and smiled. Her box had been ticked off: she was an accepted member of the human race. The girl carried on asking the others on the table. One guy was an accountant, another was a nurse, another a public relations manager. Tick, tick, tick. As the question crept around a table, I breathed an internal sigh of frustration. I knew I was about to be judged. I didn’t have a box to place myself in or label to slap onto myself. I was twenty-four years old and had never held a job for more than a year. I had spent the last few years post education going from job to job; from adventurer to adventure. I was officially unlabeled – a wanderer or vagabond in their civilised eyes.

The question went around the table until finally the spotlight shone down on me. They asked me and I began explaining about my life. I explained how I had worked about twenty different jobs for short periods to fund my adventures – of how I took part in medical research trials to afford those plane tickets. They all stared at me strangely. “But what is it you DO?” the girl said again. “Or what is it you want to DO?…” Their steely eyes fixated on me as they internally dissected me with a calculating look. It was a look I had experienced many times back home, but one I thought I was safe from when out on the road amongst apparent free spirits.

I took a deep breath and tried to explain how I didn’t want a career. I explained that my only aims and ambitions were to see the world, to climb the mountains, to try and create art through my writing. I tried to explain that I wanted to delve down into the depths of the human psyche and explore what it is to exist as conscious creature in the universe. But as I rambled on I realised it was of no use. The looks of dismissal shown my cover was blown; I wasn’t a functioning member of the human race like the rest of them. I didn’t have a box of economic employment to place myself in and for that I was the weird one. My label of seclusion had been slapped on me. I was an outcast, an outsider, an alien.

“Oh well that’s cool” one person said half-heartedly after a few seconds of silence. I sat back and sipped my beer as the question awkwardly skipped onto the next person. The conversation carried on flowing; I tried to join back in but I felt that something had changed in the dynamic of it. As everyone bickered away, I suddenly noticed that I was segregated from the group. I couldn’t get a foothold in the conversation, so I just sat there listening in, dwelling in my own exclusion. Eventually I got tired of it and walked off to go drink my beer alone down by the beach (at least solitude was a reliable old friend who understood me).

I sat there on the shoreline and reflected on what had just happened. The more I continued through life, the more it became clear what was required to be an accepted member of the human race. One had to fulfil some sort of title; to fit themselves into an easy-to-distinguish role. It seemed that the fate of a person was to ‘grow up’ and become an ‘accountant’, a ‘teacher’, a ‘project manager’, a ‘marketing executive’. Integrated into society, it was hard to avoid becoming defined in a box of some sort. Whenever people met each other for the first time, one of the first questions asked was always that merciless ‘what do you DO?’ It was a question that saddened me greatly. The context of it being the go-to question when you first met somebody implied that a human-being’s identity was primarily a job role. What made it worse was that when you answered the other person categorised and judged you on what sort of person you were, how much money you likely had, what sort of car you drove, and even what politics you followed.

Unlike the others, there wasn’t a singular job role out there that interested me. All I ever wanted to do was go on adventures and write here and there. People said: “oh you like writing: why don’t you be a journalist?” I did follow my passion of writing into the profession of journalism, but my introduction to that world only left me disinterested and disenfranchised. I wanted to WRITE, not be sat behind a desk in an office typing up some press release or news story I had no interest in.

As I sat there drinking my beer and staring out into the sunset sky, I decided that I just had to accept that I was an undefined being. I was a man without a label; a citizen without a box. I was a person who belonged to tribe or had no particular trade. As I rode down the highway of life, I was destined to continue being undefined – a wanderer with no role other than to rescue my own truth and bliss from the wilderness. I wasn’t compatible with society, so instead I roamed the earth, I stared up into the skies – I drank beers alone and waited for words of wisdom to pour down onto the page. In all the madness of human existence, I was a solitary gypsy spirit doomed to forever wander with the wind. That – it turns out – is what I did. That is what I do. And that – I guessed as I sat alone scribbling on a piece of paper for the rest of the evening – is what I would always do.”

(Taken from my book The Thoughts From The Wild – available worldwide via Amazon)

 

short stories

~ Hibernation ~

alone man room smoking

~ Hibernation ~

For once, it was a cosy room; an attic conversion in an old Victorian house with a couple of desks, a fireplace, a comfortable bed with paisley sheets, and soft carpeting. I moved into that room at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. I didn’t bother to look for a job when I arrived; the medical trials were still supporting my lifestyle (the most recent one paying a very healthy five grand). The clinic I did them at was just down the road which made it convenient, especially because they had my old address and gave me excessive travel expenses every time I cycled my bike there. So when I wasn’t locked up inside some clinic testing a new drug to treat some disease, I was in that room sleeping, writing, reading, meditating, and talking to people over the internet. In the house there were four other people living there: three guys and the landlady. Oh and a couple of cats. One of the cats was very friendly and came and kept me company in my room, sitting on my bed, staring at me with a look of understanding that I never saw in the eyes of humans. We soon became good friends. Anyway, at this point the country was in a state of lockdown. No pubs or restaurants open, no gyms open, only essential shops allowed to do business. Couple this with the winter weather and short days, then it was fair to say there wasn’t a whole lot to do. I thought about my plan of action and decided the best thing a man like me could do was to move into a state of hibernation while waiting out the pandemic. This I did while spending the days shamelessly carefree, waking up late, avoiding the world, and just generally taking it as easy as possible (aside from a fitness routine I had devised which had me regularly running along the nearby river).

As time went on, I found myself entering a state of total peace and happiness, almost a nirvana-like state of being. This struck me as something quite interesting. All year I had heard about the mental health dangers of closing yourself off and not seeing anyone. Apparently these things were essential to people’s happiness, but seemingly not for mine. The more I avoided society, the happier I became. This was something I first discovered a few years back living in a small room in Brighton – a town I had moved to not knowing anyone. I had felt that peace and happiness then, but this time it was even greater, and I almost felt guilty for feeling this way. It seemed that most people were struggling during this ‘difficult time’. People were fearful, angry, frustrated, lonely, yet there I was – sitting alone on my bed with the cat, meditating my way to a mental paradise. I didn’t need anything else. Well, a bit of human interaction was still nice from time to time, and I got that from my trips to the kitchen where the landlady would be ready to chat away. Other than that I had a new friend in America, Cristina. She had popped up on my blog at the start of the year and we had become pen-pals, and now we were speaking regularly on the phone, sharing our day to day stories, which – from my end – were clearly not too interesting. But it was nice to hear about her life, and even though we had never even met, I considered her a closer friend to the majority of people I knew. 

The guy in the room next to me was also a recluse. He was around sixty and had been living in a treehouse in Mexico for the last ten years until he had to come back to the U.K (for reasons I couldn’t seem to make out). In that room he also lingered in solitude, playing his guitar, talking on the phone to some girl in Mexico who he had promised to go back and see when he could. It was funny; his situation was a lot like mine, even though he was over thirty years older. I considered if that would be me somewhere in the future. At times I did think about going and speaking to him, but ultimately the desire to be left alone was too great, and I felt that was what he wanted as well. Another man in hibernation, avoiding the world the best he could. I left him to it.

Other than him was a guy who lived in a hut at the bottom of the garden. He was also older and unemployed, although he managed to get by with his cheap rent and the occasional day of tree surgery. I only saw him in the kitchen making some healthy meal or smoothie, and the rest of the time he went and got high alone in his hut. He seemed like a nice guy, although his constant need to vent his frustration about the pandemic caused me to be cautious when speaking to him. Anything longer than a one minute conversation would inevitably end in him going on a massive lecture about the conspiracies behind the coronavirus crisis. His rantings disturbed my nirvana, so most of the time I said a quick hello before retreating to the shelter of my room.

The only employed one of the household was a twenty-six-year-old guy who worked in something related to environmental science. We shared a beer sometimes in the kitchen, and out of everyone there, he was the one I had most in common with. Unlike me though, he had a girlfriend and this kept him busy during the pandemic, along with his work which he did from his room, so naturally I didn’t see much of him. 

And then finally was the landlady herself: a retired nurse in her sixties, who loved to bake cakes and host music lessons, although naturally they had ceased due to the pandemic. She was a ‘high risk’ person for the coronavirus due to several health conditions, and this also caused her to become a recluse, although she seemed to be quite at peace with this as she baked her cakes and watched her seemingly endless list of TV series.

So there I was: in a state of hibernation with all these other people in similar states of hibernation. Four people living under one roof who rarely interacted, yet we all seemed fairly happy. Maybe this was just the new way of things. Maybe now society had simply gotten so insane that the way to human happiness was not by interacting with the world and having an active social life, but instead by claiming whatever small space you could find. Of course, this wasn’t how it was for most, but at least from what I saw in that household, it definitely was that for some, and especially for me. The weeks went on and my happiness just increased until the point where I felt the best I had ever felt. I just wanted to stay forever in this cosy space, sitting on my bed, writing random things like this story, and meditating with my cat. That cat had been living this way all its life, and I guess all cats lived that way. They were beings that knew the secret apparently. And I couldn’t help but smile as I watched him sleep in a little ball at the bottom of my bed. No stress, no problems, no drama. A world of apparent crisis and insanity lay out beyond those walls, and it seemed the best way to peace was just to avoid it. That was what I planned to do for that entire winter, and what I planned to do in some way for the rest of my life – finding my peace and happiness by claiming whatever cosy space I could.

Anyway, time to go and meditate for the third time this day.

short stories

~ The Hills Above The Cities ~

~ The Hills Above The Cities ~

A brain overcharged by absurdity; a soul starving for something real. Another day of menial work and superficial interaction had left me craving a space of solitude. Like I had so many times before, I took myself up to that hill that overlooked my hometown. Standing above that urban expanse with its rows and rows of streets sprawled out before me, I cast my gaze outward and watched the city lights shimmering in the night. There they were: the flames of humanity flickering in the abyss of the universe; the human race floating through space, going about its transient existence. I stood there for a while and absorbed the sight. From the outside looking in, I thought of all those people living in those houses, walking those sidewalks, staring into those televisions and bathroom windows. I thought of the families at dinner tables, the lovers entwined on sofas, the friends laughing together in the bars and clubs and restaurants.

In that moment a great feeling of isolation crashed over me. In vivid detail, I began to realise just how much I was cut adrift, floating uncontrollably further and further away from those shores of human belonging. And no matter how I looked at it, there seemed to be no way to pull or anchor myself back in. It had always been this way from a young age it seemed. The times I tried to fit myself into the herd had torn and twisted me up beyond repair. I simply didn’t understand my fellow species, or any of their customs. I didn’t understand the conventions. I didn’t understand the expectations and traditions. I didn’t understand why everyone wanted to be the same rather than live a life true to themselves. It was all a great mystery to me: the jobs, the media, the school-system, the paperwork, the small-talk, the religions – the monotonous routine. It seemed that I was allergic to it all. In my most desperate times, I did try to fake it, but like an undercover alien with a bad cover story, it was never long before people cast their looks of bewilderment upon me, before they realised that I was not one of them – that I was an intruder.

It’s not that the situation of isolation was completely soul-destroying, of course. There was a great joy to be found in sailing your own ship, in walking your own path and getting lost among your own mountains of madness. Often I felt great pleasure in not being labelled and closed in to some sort of box of limitation. There was a sort of freedom that many people never got to taste, let alone fully explore. But still despite that, I was burdened with the situation of being a human-being, and like all human-beings I needed to stare into the eyes of someone who understood – of someone who recognised me for who I really was. I guess for a while on my travels I looked out for those people, expecting to find them on sunset beaches and sitting wistful-eyed in smoky bars in foreign lands. Sometimes I was even lucky to find one or two, but the interactions were usually short-lived, lasting only a few hours or days at the most. Like captains of two ships briefly passing by in a wide ocean, we stared into each other’s eyes and exchanged knowing glances before disappearing silently into the mist.

Yes, the more I stood there on that hill and thought about it, the more it seemed this was the destiny of someone like myself. The cards had been dealt and I knew deep down in my flesh and bones that it was my fate to sail alone, to get lost in the mazes of my own mind, to dwell in solitude among those mountains of madness. This was how it was; for some reason I would never fully understand, this is how it was. I guess by now it was just a matter of acceptance: a matter of accepting that I was a lone wanderer – a matter of accepting that I didn’t belong. I guess by now it was a matter of accepting the fact that no matter where I went in this world, I would always return to those hills above the cities, standing alone, staring up into the skies, looking for something – anything – to come and take me home.

short stories

~ Voicing Your Truth ~

the fighter

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.

short stories · thoughts

~ It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding ~

back-view-black-and-white-boy-827993
~ It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding ~

I pulled the photos from the family album. I held them up in the light and studied each of them closely. There in the pictures I was: a young boy, curly-haired, bright eyes, and a beaming smile of joy and delight. It was a time from a family holiday when I was around eight years old, a time and place that seemed almost a lifetime ago now. In my eyes, I could see the childhood purity and innocence. I could see the hope and optimism for the life ahead of me. I could see the simple joy of playing on a beach in the sand. It was a striking sight and I couldn’t help but feel sadness when studying those images. I knew over the next couple of decades that young boy in the photo would undergo a path that would lead him through crooked and haunted lands. First would come the bullying and social isolation. Then would come the anxiety and self-hatred. Finally would come the emptiness and total disillusionment with the world around him. Specifically the sight of my smile brought about a pain in my heart; these days that smile was never to be seen, at least not with the same purity it had in the photos. The claws of life had ravaged it away. It was gone, disfigured – taken from me somewhere along a turbulent path of pain and heartache.

I guess it was a reality that was not just true to me, but to most people out there. As children we dream that life will be as magical as those fairy tales. Chase your dreams, they say. Go after the world with your arms wide open. Build those rockets and fly to the moon. Become presidents and footballers and movie stars. Fall in love and live happily ever after. In reality, most people after childhood quickly lose those expectations for life. First came the adolescent angst and depression. Then came the realisation that no one really gives a fuck about your dreams, or even you in general, and that you aren’t as special as they said you were. All that matters is you get a job, make money, and fit into some sort of acceptable place. You then realise that the world isn’t full of good people with good intentions, but instead full of users and liars; of people who want to use and abuse you and throw you to the wolves. The optimism continues to fade as you begin to accept that life isn’t going to be some fairy tale, and the world isn’t full of the happy people living happy lives, but of secretly scared and lost adults doing their best to get by and survive.

It’s a reality which envelops us all and I can’t help but look at children and feel sadness in their sight. There they run and play around with their minds full of delight and imagination – their wide eyes awake and alive to the world around them. Yet walk down the street of a busy city centre and stare at the faces of the adults. The contrast is stark. For many their eyes look not to the skies but to the floor, and the delight for the world around them had all but faded. It had been eroded away by the relentless barrage of everyday life. The mindless work. The morning commutes. The hateful faces. The failed romances. The suppression of dreams and desires while drifting through unfulfilling lives. For many came the alcoholism, the drugs, and constant attempts to alleviate the existential emptiness. To grow up was a trap, as they said, and to see the adult with that magic gleam in their eye was a rare sight – the sight of the child that had survived the storm of growing up and retained that all-too precious magic.

Looking at my childhood photos and the defeated faces of strangers in the street made me sad, but it was always worse when thinking about the people I cared about. There was a girl close to me, she showed me her childhood photos and I couldn’t help but feel a great pain in my heart again. There she was: in her little t-shirt with the animals on the front, her blonde hair flowing down her shoulders, her eyes so full of light and love and life. Nowadays those eyes had a greyness to them. She was surviving on therapy and antidepressant medication. She had labelled herself ‘a fuck-up’ and had admittedly abandoned her dreams. “Maybe in another lifetime,” she would say. Then there was the time I looked at the photos of my uncle as a child at his funeral. That bright-eyed child had ended up living alone in a small apartment while drinking himself to death. Not even fifty years old and his story had ended in a dark room of isolation. I felt angry that the world did this to so many of us, and a part of me wanted to do something that would save the child in people; to make them enriched and enchanted with their existence like they once were. Of course, to do this I needed to let go of my anger and find it again within myself.

Although the sight of my old family photos showed me that my inner child had gone, there were times when I rediscovered it again. I noticed that these times were usually when I was out in nature. Trekking through the mountains; swimming in lakes; running through the woods. I recalled moments from my travels: in particular, one time hiking alone in the Himalayas, standing on a ridge and watching a flock of birds dance in the sky above me. High in those mountains, I breathed in the air and looked out at that majestic sight. The world shone with a mystery and magic like it did to a new-born baby, and a feeling of ecstasy flowed through my veins. I was not a religious man, but I do think I know what Jesus meant when he said, ‘to enter the kingdom of heaven you have to become again as a child’. In reality, the kingdom of heaven was all around us. We just had to see the world again through a child’s eyes. To stay curious and wide-eyed to our surroundings. To not slump our shoulders and look down to the floor, but to allow ourselves to be in a constant state of learning and exploring and becoming. ‘He not busy being born, is busy dying’ as Bob Dylan had sung.

Thinking about that memory and a few others, I realised that the child inside of me hadn’t been totally killed. Yes, my soul bore scars that could not be erased. My innocence was long gone. My smile would perhaps never be as pure as it was in those childhood photos. But I did believe that the child was still there inside in some way, waiting to reawaken whenever in the right time and place. And the more I lived with this idea, the more I was able to let it come out and play. From day to day, I began to let go of my pains and feel the joy of being alive. I walked out the front door and saw the world glisten with magic. Things that had been clouded over during periods of depression, now looked wondrous and marvelous. I looked at the rivers flowing, and the birds singing, and the leaves fluttering in the wind, and the sunlight shimmering upon the water’s surface. I could feel it in my bones that I was a part of something magical and beautiful, and that childlike delight in my heart began to return. And then, when the bad times came (as they inevitably did), I took a step back and protected my inner child. I protected it from the hateful souls and hurtful words. I protected it from the feelings of emptiness and self-hatred. I protected it from the toils and troubles of everyday life which took the light from a person’s eye. Those things would still come at me, I knew, but I was learning to see it for what it was and not lose myself in it once the world had started to drag me down again.

These days I would be lying to say that everything is sunshine and rainbows. I regularly have breakdowns and get consumed by despair, but no matter how dark the rain clouds gather and how much shit is thrown my way, there is something deep inside of me that knows life is but a game that is here to be explored and enjoyed. This, I believe, is the wisdom of the child that we lose as the trials of adulthood come our way. Ultimately too many of us have gone to the grave with our true deaths having already happened years before. By the end, so many are people who have forgotten what life is all about – bitter and broken individuals whose imagination, curiosity and lust for life had all but faded; people who have gotten so consumed by the misery and monotony that they could not see the beauty of the world around them. It is my hope to see all those people be able to keep that same wisdom alive and reconnect with their inner child too. To see those streets full of people once again enchanted by their existence. To see that girl’s eyes rid of the greyness and return with the light and the love and life that should have been there. And for everyone’s eyes to light up again, this whole world of broken children coming back home to their true selves. Back from the pains and the heartaches and the emptiness. Back from the feelings of defeat and depression. Back from being those secretly scared and lost adults, but to return to those wide-eyed children that long to play on the beaches and run through the fields and sail to the stars.

 

 

 

short stories

~ Companions in the Darkness ~

~ Companions in the Darkness ~

At first, I didn’t really understand what it was about me that drew them all in. I was a person freefalling through my own insanity, and probably the last person in the world to give advice on life, yet they always found me. The messages arrived in my inbox one by one. Hurt people had read my blog online, and ended up in contact with me. This girl from the U.S, she poured out her pain; over two-thousand words of stream-of-consciousness, introspective confession. I didn’t know what to tell her. Her mind was a storm of noise like mine. Was I supposed to quell it? I wanted to help but I just didn’t know how. The thought hit me that perhaps she just needed someone to listen to and acknowledge her thoughts. I guess that’s what we all need from time to time. No doubt it was the reason I wrote away at the keyboard in the first place.

A few days later I was getting messages from a woman having a breakdown in Italy. She was on a bender and telling me she had just broken up with her boyfriend and that her life was in tatters. Usually she was the one giving me advice on life, but now here I was feeling like I should say something to support her. Her messages continued to trail off into drunken, incoherent statements of despair. I was in the middle of my own episode and tried to offer some condolences, but what else really could be done? Again, the basic acknowledgment of her pain from another seemed to help a little. 

A week later came some messages from a fellow writer. He sent me his stuff and asked for some direction and guidance. “I want to write from the heart like you do, but I just can’t seem to find my voice.” There is no great secret to it, I told him. My fingertips strike these keys because they have to. There’s nothing else for me to do out there in this world. I’ve been through all that. I’m not compatible with anything else and so I just pour out my mind to get this shit out of my system. He thanked me for my reply before disappearing to continue on his path.          

Again and again they seemed to find me. The hurt, the crazy, the lost, the lonely, the broken and the confused. The tortured souls lingered out there in great numbers, and the more of my own soul I shared with the world, the more they arrived at my doorstep. The reason for this eventually became clear to me. Deep down, we crave to connect with people whose hearts share the same pains, and when someone screams out a little with their own, the people who feel what you have felt will come to you like moths to a flame. Ultimately, it’s a cathartic experience to realise you aren’t alone with how you feel; something which alleviates your loneliness and reminds you that you aren’t totally crazy. They needed it from me, and I guess I needed them too. That’s why I devoted so much of my time to getting down my thought process on paper and sending it out into the world. As a great thinker had once realised: “No matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you do your work truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you.” 

And it wasn’t just online that I came into contact with them. Even out there in real life, they crossed my path. In the bars. In the streets. On the park benches. They wandered into my life as if we were all connected by some sort of frequency. This frequency peaked one time when I cycled down to the south coast of the country to collect my thoughts after the failure of a romance. It was there in a random bar that I met a collection of characters who were also being beaten by the fists of life. First was the sad-eyed man in the bar – a young guy whose best friend had recently killed himself. Then was the heartbroken girl who had just split up with the father of her two kids. Then later on we met an ex-soldier with PTSD who was constantly on the verge of fighting someone. Next it was a homeless man, followed by a man with terminally ill cancer who had six months to live. All of us had been strangers before the day began, yet there we all sat together smoking and drinking beer in a rare moment of belonging for us broken ones. The misery of everyone’s lives subsided for a short while as the music filled the air and the good times flowed. 

I eventually concluded that there is some sort of universal force that bonds the damaged souls together. I look out on those streets and see the people who stroll through life easily come together. I watch them dine at classy bars and restaurants. I watch them congregate in crowds of sanity and stability. They are the ones who never know what it is to feel lost, isolated and hopeless. Meanwhile, those who do not know such a life must wander in the outside spaces to find the people who understand. Few things are more powerful than the human urge to be understood and to connect with others who know what you’ve felt, and this is why this universal force exists. It is a way to human connection; a way to remind you that no matter what pain you feel in your heart, there are others out there who feel it too, and if you offer yourself to this world, let the light of your truth shine bright, you will attract those who know and understand what you are feeling inside. Maybe their companionship will help you overcome your pain, or maybe it won’t, but god knows, we could all do with some company when we’re alone in the darkness.

short stories

~ In Between Places ~

~ In Between Places ~

Living in a hostel in my own country, I had become one of those strange ones who was a drifter in their own ‘home’. There was no way around it when people asked what I was doing; I was without a job, without a place to stay, without a woman, a car, and any real sort of life plan. I was floating in the existential breeze, a modern-day drifter, and no matter how clean my clothes were, people still stared at me like I was a bum when they found out my circumstance. I guess in reality that was the truth these days. After all, I had just spent the last couple of weeks drifting around the country on a bicycle – my few belongings crammed into a couple of flimsy pannier bags while staying in random hostels along the way. On top of that, I had quit two jobs and lived in three cities within the space of nine months. I was out living on the edge and it was a strange feeling because, although I had a decent amount of savings in my bank account, I still felt as though I wasn’t far from being completely in the gutter altogether. I guess that was just the anxiety speaking.

The time spent doing nothing allowed me to reflect a lot on what the next chapter of my life would entail. It seemed the coronavirus crisis had put an end to any international backpacking desires – that world was at least a year away from recovering to its former self. The best thing I decided for me was to get my own place and wait it all out, try and get some words down on paper and some miles down on the bike to maintain whatever sanity I had left. I began searching for a place and quickly found out I was no longer worthy to pay overpriced rent to landlords. Most house shares and apartments demanded ‘PROFESSIONALS ONLY’, as well as proof of income, three month’s bank statements and references – none of which I was duly able to provide. I quickly realised that, even with those savings in my account, I was not able to integrate myself so smoothly into human society. So in that hostel I dwelled, perpetually extending my stay every couple of days, telling people I was looking for a place and was just there temporarily whenever they enquired about my living circumstances. 

It seemed I wasn’t alone in being in between places. Another woman in her fifties was staying at the hostel in the week while working as a nurse, before going back to stay at her mum’s on the weekend. Then there was the Brazilian guy working there after leaving his family behind in Brazil. Then there were the people from the council who were put there temporarily while searching for housing. That’s not to forget the Chinese girl waiting to see if her visa was granted so she could stay in the country. All in all, it was a random collection of vagrant characters, and it made me feel slightly at home to be around people whose days and weeks were not scheduled or planned to any civilised degree. At night, we sat in the kitchen and chatted away while the world of society went on outside. The hostel was on top of a hill and I stared out the window and saw the lights of the city shimmer below: settled people in their settled lives, going through the roundabout of their routine existence’. Did I want to be like them? At the moment, for the first time in my life, I felt like I did, but I knew I’d also be feeling lost after a couple of weeks in that life too. No doubt the problem wasn’t my circumstance, but myself (as usual).

My days continued to meander on in the city of Sheffield. I took myself out hiking and cycling in the peak district. I saw some friends and drank some beer. I soon got to the point where I had no motivation to even look for a place to stay and entered into some sort of passive, detached state. I sat in parks and stared into space for hours. I aimlessly drifted down the city streets, deciding at the last second where to turn. One day that random route took me into a rundown bar in a rough neighbourhood. I sat down beside the bar and drank a beer when a guy I had met on a medical trial the year before walked in. We started catching up and I soon realised my situation wasn’t so bad. He confessed to me his drinking and gambling problems, and the fact he had spent a grand in the last five days, as well as his frequent visits to the local brothel. Maybe I had no direction, but at least I wasn’t that low, although the bottle was tempting me more and more. I tried to stay away from drinking heavily to help keep my mind clear, but pretty soon I was back at it with people in the hostel, stumbling to the pub with my comrades of the rootless life. I guess there was no way around it. I needed it there and then to help alleviate the anxiety of my situation.

I continued to look at the options I had and felt no desire toward any of them. A couple of years ago, I would have got on a plane to anywhere that I could afford. But now, something in me had seemingly changed. I was in between places physically and mentally. There was no clear thought process; everything was hazy and it was like reaching the peak of my entire existential journey through life. I was drifting in a smoky mist, expecting to see the sight of a lighthouse somewhere in the distance to help direct me towards the shores of belonging. But the reality was that the shoreline was never going to come. I was a lost sailor out on the ocean of human existence, and for now the fog was thicker than ever – my mind in a state of frozen helplessness. I think many people experience this in their lives at some point, but for me this seemed to be my eternal state. The state of being in between places. The state of feeling lost. The state of total non-belonging to the world around me.

Some more days drifted by and I eventually managed to get some viewings for places to live. I had decided Sheffield wasn’t the city for me and that it would be better to retreat back to Nottingham – the city I had lived in previously before the coronavirus had forced me to move back with my parents. I arrived at the viewing and was shown around the property by the landlady. It was an old Victorian house on a quiet street, occupied with two other tenants – a Spanish bartender and an old sound engineer who lived in a hut at the bottom of the garden. After introducing me to them, she showed me up to my room in the attic conversion. “The previous tenant was a woman who lived here for eleven years,” she said as we entered. “She was an alcoholic and didn’t look after the room too well, so I’ve cleaned it all out and redone it completely.” At that moment I looked around the room and imagined that woman being myself; someone who had stumbled in there one day while unsure what to do with her life, and had ended up dwelling there for over a decade while enslaved to the bottle. It was a grim thought and I looked at the bed in the corner. I looked at the old desk beside the window. The sight of it all made me feel uneasy. There was an aura of sadness and I imagined my months and years passing by between the walls of that small room. I imagined lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling as the fire inside me finally died out. I wanted to run far away from it, but there was nowhere to run to anymore. It was either this, or back to the hostel, or back home to live with my parents. Seemingly, I had been cornered by life.

After the viewing, I went to a park I knew and lay there in the grass. It was a hot September day and the park was full of groups of people, all relaxing and laughing; drinking and playing sports together. It was the same park I had visited frequently the last time I lived there. I walked through it and sat down in my usual spot – a patch of grass beside a tree on the back of the field. Deja vu struck as I beheld that familiar sight, and it seemed I had gotten absolutely nowhere since the last time I sat there. In fact, I had even gone backwards. I had even less direction than usual and I didn’t know whether to take the room. I didn’t know whether to book a flight to some far-off country. I didn’t know anything and I just sat there like a statue frozen in time. Perhaps the future would hold something better for me, I thought; something where I at least felt a connection to what I was doing, but for now I was directionless, passionless and devoid of any real zest for life. Questions about what I was doing with my life would have to be avoided and deflected. I was in survival mode; just holding on until the fog in my mind cleared and some basic way forward was revealed. This was it. There was no great wisdom or revelation like in past times. My guts had gone; my burning desire for life extinguished. There was nothing left to do and, with that, I laid down on the grass, looked up at the sky and closed my eyes – hoping my dreams at least could save me from the reality of life.

short stories

~ A Brush With Normality ~

a brush with normality

~ A Brush With Normality ~

It ended with a crash. The pieces finally fell down as I sat there reading her texts. “You need to sort your head out,” she told me. “I mean that in a caring way.” The previous couple of days had been a mess of emotions, arguments, excessive drinking and brushes with self-harm. Something had been brewing for a while, and it was the inevitable end to events we both knew was the fate of our short and sweet romance. With the realisation it was over, I left her dad’s flat covered in empty bottles of spirits and headed to the train station to retreat back home.

Alone once again, I reflected on a story that had started three months previously. It was a strange time to meet a girl, I guess. The world had just gone into lockdown due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. In most countries, people were restricted to leaving their homes except for food, medicine, exercise or essential work. Perhaps it was that surreal turn of events which led to a change in my character. I was never one to pay much mind to the settled life with a girl; in many ways, I had already resided myself to a life of solitude and isolation, but every now and again there was a moment of connection with another that caused me to imagine strange and foreign scenarios. Apparitions appeared in my mind: visions of a peaceful existence with a girl by my side, holding hands while walking in the park, lying in bed and caressing her cheek as the sunlight came through the window – that feeling of knowing that everything would be okay for that day just because I had her next to me. Like I said, it was something that I wasn’t really expecting for my life, but I was soon to find myself daydreaming about more and more.

At first, it was just a bit of virtual chit-chat via a dating app; just two people keeping themselves busy and wanting someone to talk to while undergoing lockdown of the virus. We chatted about movies and music. We chatted about poetry and philosophy. She told me about her pets and I told her about my backpacking adventures. It was nice. There wasn’t much to do in the world at that moment, so sitting around and chatting with a stranger kinda made sense. Plus, it was something I really needed at that time. It was soon to be the weirdest few months of my life, and she would be there to help lead me through it. With lockdown messing up my travel plans, I had to move back in with my parents and get a job at the local Amazon warehouse. My days there would be spent alongside a conveyor-belt while sorting packages for ten hours a day. It was a depressing reality, in all honesty, but having her to chat to allowed me to exist in an alternative world. It was a world of romantic escapism. A world of sharing your soul with a stranger. A world of exciting possibilities such as going camping together while the whole country was under quarantine. 

After talking some more, we finally arranged to break lockdown measures and meet up. We were living in different cities and she drove fifty miles down the highway to come and meet me for a walk. Normally, I would be nervous meeting a girl for the first time, but due to the connection we had already formed over a month of chatting online, I was strangely calm. I met her in a pub car-park near the entrance to the park where we got walking and talking. Within ten minutes, I knew this wasn’t just another date. Speaking to her was a surreal experience; it was like meeting someone I had already known for many years, two long-lost companions reconvening from another life. With that connection fueling our conversation, we strolled idly through the countryside; we petted horses and sheep; we lay in the grass and talked about our lives.

It soon became clear we were two people who had walked very different paths in our twenties. She had led the settled existence in one place with a long-term partner, and I had been out travelling the world on my own. Yet, although we were different on the surface, it seemed we were surprisingly similar at our core. I already knew we shared similar interests in nature, fantasy films and philosophy as well as having the same personality type, but meeting her showed me just exactly how much of myself I saw residing in her troubled eyes. She even told me how she had always wanted to do the things I had done, but had left it as a sort of distant dream for another lifetime. I told her something similar as we shared our first kiss before heading back to her city where we got drunk, cuddled up in bed and watched a Lord of the Rings movie.

Our story continued to develop and I soon felt like I was somewhat in a fantasy movie of my own. The world continued to get stranger by the week as the crisis turned society into a dystopian state. Entire countries continued to lockdown, people lost jobs and businesses, strange new rules were implemented. There were skies without planes and shops without food. In the meanwhile, I went to work every day before coming home and spending the evening chatting to her on my bed. I continued to get lost in that world of romantic escapism until we met up again to go camping. It was a glorious spring day and we sat in a farmer’s field at sunset where everything melted into a perfect mixture of human connection. The wine, the weather, the music, the conversation. At one point she started telling me how much she missed her grandad and started crying. I think it was probably at that moment where I fell for her. Once the sun had fallen below the horizon, we retreated to the tent to eat pot noodles, make love and listen to music under the stars. Holding her in my arms, those grand visions appeared again in my mind: taking our campervan out together in the peak district; walking her dogs in the park; drinking wine together and making love in a drunken evening haze. I even imagined telling our grandchildren how we met during the great crisis of our generation. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening to me, but by the time we did our next camping trip and sat by the stream drinking wine again, I was convinced the gods had put some sort of temptation in front of me to change my lifestyle.

Before lockdown began, I was just as committed to the life of bohemian travel as I had ever been. In fact, I was right on the verge of flying one-way to Colombia. But the life of flinging myself relentlessly into foreign lands was on hold and suddenly my mind entertained new possibilities. Could I lead an adventurous life at home with a girl? Buying a campervan, going on weekend adventures, getting drunk and writing poetry together? Maybe I had it wrong all along; maybe the happy life was within grasp right here under my nose in my own backyard? It was a thought I couldn’t slip as those apparitions continued to grow clearer in my mind. Dreams of wandering alone in foreign lands quickly changed to living a more settled existence at home. I imagined our days and years together. The summer vacations. The lazy Sunday mornings lying in bed. The flowery dresses she would wear to our anniversary meals. By the time summer had arrived, I knew something had struck me deeply. I looked into the mirror and questioned the very essence of who I was. This is what a woman can do to a man. Every person thinks they know what is going on in their lives, but at the touch of love, we crumble and lose our minds. We go crazy, deluded, insane. We wander off into the woods and lose ourselves in places we didn’t know existed.

I continued losing myself in those places until the inevitable troubles arrived. It was gradually becoming clear that our story was not going to be a straightforward one. She had made me aware that things weren’t completely finished with her ex-boyfriend, and that the door was still open for them to return to their relationship once he had sorted some things out. We had flirted with the idea of being in a relationship, but it was becoming apparent that she would have to decide between pursuing this new connection with me or sticking by her ex. Someone was clearly about to get hurt. Her ex to me represented her past eight years of her life: comfort, security and familiarity. I was a strange new thing to her: a being of a different form and territory. Emotions were getting deeper and it was reaching a tipping point where she would have to choose. The inevitable crash came one morning. She messaged me saying it was messing her head up continuing things between us because of her ex. She now wanted us to be just friends. It came at a bad time. The night before, I had laid beside her in bed and decided for the first time in my life that I wanted to be in a relationship with someone. A foreign thought, quickly proven to be a foolish one.

Following the argument, I hit the bottle and delved into a darkness I hadn’t quite known before. Those apparitions that had almost become reachable faded back to mere visions in my mind. Ideas of sharing my path were revealed to be illusions. Our summer plans of adventure disappeared into smoke. Her flowery dresses disintegrated before my eyes. There was nothing I could do and I stared into the mirror and saw myself for the deluded dreamer I was. That delusion even continued as I kept hoping she would see a light and decide to start a new adventure with me rather than return to the past. But it became clear that wasn’t going to happen and what was left to do but to keep spiralling out of control in a drunken blur of despair and pitiful self-hatred.

Over the next few weeks, I collected myself and tried to make sense of what had happened. Clearly, I had felt something that was foreign to my heart and allowed myself to get lost in it. I simply hadn’t ever experienced a connection like that with another person. All my life, I had stared at the passing faces of lovers. I watched their hands connect and their lips touch. I watched their warm embraces. I observed the happiness and contentment in their eyes. It had taken me twenty-eight years to find a girl I had a real connection with and now it was gone in an instant. Back alone in my own world again, I looked into that mirror and saw myself for I really was. I could see it in my eyes. I was a gollum, a wretch, a creature belonging to a cave. I was banished to a barren wilderness while she would return to her ex and live a peaceful existence with her dogs and her kids. Outside the comfortable homes of lovers, my feet would tread that earth of solitude and isolation. The warm fireplaces would not warm my flesh. The pillows would not support my head. The dinner tables not know my company. I knew in my heart this was the way it was destined to be. Some of us are just destined to be lone wanderers til’ the end of our days. It is written in who we are and visions of sharing our path with another soul will always remain as mere apparitions and daydreams as we stumble on alone through life’s wilderness. It was the way it was and I knew the sooner I come to terms with it, the more straightforward my life would be. 

One month later, I booked myself a ticket to a foreign country and prepared to hit the open road once again.

“Girl, I was always a bit of a solitary soul, but for a second there I saw this thing with you. To wake up on Sunday mornings with the light coming through the window. To caress the skin on your cheek as you smile with contentment. To know that I have another day by your side as my eyes open and for everything to be okay, if only for that day. I saw this thing with you. Some call it the normal life I guess. To stroll through parks hand in hand; to make love in an evening haze; to smell the scent on your neck and to not have to look anywhere else because all that I desire is there right in front of me. I saw this thing with you – this thing I now know is not gonna come. I have held you in my arms and because of that I have held happiness in my arms – that foreign thing, that strange concept. I would have given you everything of me. I would have thrown myself to your wolves, drowned myself in your sea, got lost in your forest. Yet we want different things; so it must be that we drift like ripples on the surface of water, and go separate ways. But you will always stay with me, like the other ghosts that linger inside me, those apparitions of happiness that haunt the hallways of my mind. Apparitions of something I can only see and not touch. Apparitions of another lover lost, another path not taken, another happiness not felt.”

short stories

~ A World Not Made for Lovers ~

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~ 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 foreign 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 the hell 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 also stumbling through life. We continued sharing our thoughts 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 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 heartbroken and dejected. I thought of Van Gogh cutting off his ear giving it to a woman to show his love for her. 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 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 flourished. It was a place where sociopaths and narcissists rose to the top while the most caring and thoughtful were trampled underfoot. A strange game was being played and the winners were usually the ones with the fake smiles, the smooth lies and a cold, calculating nature. It seemed that 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 reserved 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. Often this world didn’t know what to do with them. So many of them were cast out, shunned, misunderstood or neglected. 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 sitting alone and staring into space, hopelessly 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 existence extremely difficult. People abused my kind nature. My authenticity didn’t give me acceptance. My ideals and passions were not compatible with society. Speaking from my heart often caused people to distance themselves from me. 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 the streets and canals of Amsterdam, I was reminded how much better the world was when you had those sorts of people around you. Just a day or two in her company and suddenly my faith in humanity returned. Suddenly the grey 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 of those pure-hearted people every year, it restored something in you; it relinquished the dread and fear of your own species. No matter where I went in the world, I knew I would always look out for them. Normally those people were the most troubled souls, but in my eyes, they were the most courageous, the most beautiful. 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.