poetry

~ Finally ~

~ Finally ~

Here she is, finally
Standing before me
Something I only ever dreamt of
In some deluded way
During times of darkness
And desperation.

A quiet humbleness comes over me
Like standing before a natural force
With a depth and beauty
I just can’t understand

I always felt about the age of thirty
I’d stop my rampage
And meet the woman
Who would finally straighten me out

Dylan called it ‘shelter from the storm’
And it certainly feels that way
As the warmth of her 
Causes puddles of pain
To form at my feet

In the morning I lie with her in bed
Her dog lays beside it
His head rested on the carpet 
Eyes staring up at me
With a knowing look of recognition.

I say goodbye, kiss her
Walk out into the day
And suddenly things are different
The little things don’t matter
Trivial troubles are nothing

I smile and say hello to the people I pass
I hold the shop door open for the person behind me
Everything is okay;
Life is not so bad after all.

I know that this feeling probably won’t last
But for now, it’s enough
To know that a single soul can shine so brightly
Like sunlight coming through the forest canopy
Breathing life into my world
Blooming my flowers
Turning me into a dreamer

And if this is just another delusion
Then let me stay deluded
For my world has never looked so good
Now that I know
She’s in it.

poetry

~ This Burning Mess ~

~ This Burning Mess ~

I wanna write from a place where no one else has been before
I want to pour forth new truths that could have only come from me
I don’t have time for words that don’t mean anything
I’m not here to put down more scripted sentences

I’m here to speak my truth
To scream and shout
And share something in my soul
That little bit of unique fire burning
Only the way it can within me

It is fueled by all my pains and mistakes
By all my victories and defeats
And I want it to blaze bright
Showing the light
Of all my life has been

This burning brilliant mess.

poetry

~ Resigned to the Fact ~

~ Resigned to the Fact ~

Well, I guess this is it:
Thirty-one-years-old
All grown now
Fully-developed
The soul-searching done
I know who I am.
The result is in

And what is it that I am?

It’s not a lot.
It’s not a lot at all.

No useful skills
No place of belonging
No way of living sustainably
No chance of mental stability

It’s nothing but chaos
Frequent episodes of insanity
And spells of disillusionment
That leave me holding onto the rails
As life’s hurricane rips me apart

It’s not some momentary feeling
I’ve lived enough years now to know
That I’m always gonna be this way
Shifting from one crisis to the next
From one battle to the next
From one bender to the next

Yes, periods of peace shall occasionally arrive
There will be moments of contentment
Even times when I feel happy to be alive

But they won’t last long.
They won’t last long at all.

Because I know who I am now.
I’ve lived the years and walked the walk
And this is what I’ll have to deal with:
Some sort of malfunctioning mistake
Stumbling and staggering along
Fighting to survive.

I guess the first thing I should do is accept it
But I can’t help but feel
Disappointed, dejected
And even angry inside

This isn’t how it should be.

I wanted to live life
Not deal with it
Or cope with it
Or find ‘a way to get by’

I wanted to live life.

I wanted to live.



thoughts

~ The Hidden Cracks ~

~ The Hidden Cracks ~

‘Appearances can be deceiving, so they say. And you look at those cities from above and what do you see? You see everything standing straight and upright. Everything is organised, cemented down, and fixed into its correct place. There is a perfectly-engineered quality to it all. But appearances can be deceiving and in those neatly-lined houses what do you find? You find people. You find people who are not as strong and sturdy as the cities they live in. You find people who are slowly breaking down, disintegrating, being held together by the smallest things; little vices that get them through each day without collapsing. Drugs. Alcohol. Therapy. Violence. Many of those people on the surface, just like those cities, look stable on the surface. Their clothes are neat, their shoes polished, and their hair straight. But take a careful look and you’ll often see the hidden cuts and cracks behind those shiny appearances. Open your eyes and you’ll see the self-harm scars of the girl serving you coffee in the cafe; you’ll see the trembling hand of the alcoholic businessman on the train; you’ll see the bloodshot eyes of the smiling mother at the school gates. Wipe off the makeup of the modern world and you’ll see that under its surface, many people are slowly crumbling under the pressure of it. Every day the slow demolition of many people’s souls is happening all around us. Meanwhile, the city stands strong; the traffic lights flick from red to green, the bins are emptied, everything is in order and running smoothly. But as this civilisation continues to do its thing, a continual sickness pervades among its populace. This empire of sand is somehow held together by hoards of people suffering in whatever way imaginable. From one week to the next, they are slowly going on while dealing with their demons, fighting their battles, journeying through their darkness. In workplaces. In homes. In spaces so lonely that even with a million people around them, they still feel like they’re marooned on some distant planet.’

short stories

~ Cold Thoughts ~

~ Cold Thoughts ~

I watched my breath in front of my face as I lay frozen in pain. Shivering uncontrollably, I reflected back to the time seven years previously when I had got lost on the mountain in New Zealand – my sorry ass eventually salvaged by a rescue team before hypothermia had set in. This time I was not lost on a mountain on the other side of the world from home; this time I was home – in the comfort of my own bedroom, to be exact. It had so far been the coldest weather in years and some parts of the country were even experiencing their lowest-ever recorded temperatures. Outside it was minus five degrees, which isn’t too bad if you have central heating, but unfortunately mine had decided to break in conjunction with this cold snap. My bedroom hadn’t received any warmth in two days now – the same amount of time I had been confined to my bed. Four blankets covered me, along with my thermal clothing and jumper – but it still wasn’t enough to keep my body warm. Not only was I fighting off the cold, but also a bad bout of the flu.

Yes, I had also managed to come down with one of the worst sicknesses of my life during this tragic heating malfunction. It was a pitiful situation – the sort of situation where you had to question whether the universe was out to get you. I was drained and defeated in almost every way; my head pounded with a headache, my throat felt like it had razor blades in it, and my whole body ached with a fever. I didn’t even have the energy to get out of bed, let alone go to the toilet, so I used a plastic bottle beside my bed to piss in whenever the time came. It seemed like it would be a good time to sleep and try to fast-forward to a time when I was feeling better and the heating had been fixed, but unfortunately my insomnia had come on strong too. I had barely slept in two days now. With not even enough energy to reach for my laptop and put a film on, I simply stared trance-like into space like a wounded soldier, letting whatever thoughts drift through my delirious and dying mind. 

None of them were cheery thoughts, naturally. I considered that I actually was a dying soldier and this is how my eventual demise played out. It would have been a somewhat underwhelming exit from this earth if that was the case, but at that point, I’m not even sure I would have even fought it off too much. Whenever one is consumed by such intense illness and pain, it’s almost a nice feeling to surrender yourself to the darkness. It was that darkness where you could rest in peace, free from existence and all its traumatic struggles – pain, sickness, depression, loneliness, taxes and tiredness. At that point, I reminded myself that I had come down with the flu before, and, as bad as it got, you were usually up and kicking a few days later. No, I was admittedly being slightly somewhat melodramatic about things. I was going to make it out of this one, but what was I making it out into? What was my life looking like on the other side of this sickness? 

In a way, this did feel like the universe was punishing me and putting me in a place where I had nothing else to do but reflect on the plight of my life. I knew almost certainly when I had got this flu – the previous Saturday night when I had gone out on my own and drank myself into oblivion. That was the night I had managed to buy over twenty drinks and go to four different nightclubs until 7am in the morning. This was the latest reckless bender in a series of benders where I had been destroying my health and finances. I had tried to curb my drinking a couple of months before, but that had backfired and now I was drinking even heavier than before. I knew I was heading down a dark path and perhaps this was life’s way of forcing me to stop and reflect on my ruinous behaviour. I had nothing else to do after all, and that’s exactly what I was doing – reflecting on why I was a self-destructive idiot who got myself into terrible states such as the one I was in. 

I knew exactly where some of this self-destructive behaviour was stemming from; an underlying feeling that had been growing inside of me for a while. I looked out at the current state of the world and saw little hope in anything. Society was becoming more ridiculous by the day and it was harder to find the strength to take part in the circus at all – especially when sober. There was a cost of living crisis, a climate crisis, a nuclear war crisis, a mental health crisis, a physical health crisis, and my own personal ageing crisis. I also now knew I lived in a world where people would quite happily throw away their freedoms in response to whatever hysteria the media created. Things went from one low to the next, and it was now looking like working a full-time job soon wouldn’t be enough to even feed yourself or heat your house (if the heating was even working that is). Myself and a friend had recently coined our catchphrase ‘The Collapse is Coming’ and this was now embedded into our doomed worldview. Because everything was clearly going to total shit, it seemed that nothing was worth it so you might as well just get drunk and live like there was no tomorrow. This was the new-age nihilism, I recognised – a feeling which had been sending me those reckless benders and ultimately helping me end up in this pitiful situation. 

I continued watching my breath and aching in pain as such reflections drifted through my sleep-deprived mind. I realised that if this was the universe challenging me to put myself under the microscope, I had to recognise that I couldn’t just blame it all on these external factors. In particular, I recognised that there was just an internal wild-side inside of me that had always been there. It was like a stallion in my soul – a beast that would cause me to consistently charge off into the wilderness and have no concern for anything other than the pure thrill of being alive. Its aim was to live daringly and thrash about in a way that it could never be caught and tamed. That stallion had been a part of me all my life; it had taken me to some great places and helped me to experience some wonderful things. I was happy to say that I was someone who had definitely made the most of his youth. And if this flu and cold weather were to see me off, then I could check out from the game content with my score. I had experienced life – gotten to know it to its blood and bones.

However, while I was content with what I had done with my younger years, a part of me knew I couldn’t keep living like this – at least if I wanted to have a normal lifespan, that was. I had known this for a while, but perhaps this situation was the moment where I needed to take the time to really accept that something in my personality had to change. It was time to finally start taming the stallion inside of me, or to keep letting it run wild until I died an early death. This wasn’t even me being dramatic, I deemed – something inside of me knew deeply that if I didn’t get a grip of this runaway horse, then I would end up dead and buried at a young age like so many of the writers and artists I idolised (not to forget my uncle who also died of alcoholism in his forties). When I really thought about it, in some ways I felt lucky to even be alive now. The alcohol, the drugs, the adventures, the reckless behaviour and excessive revelry – a bit more misfortune and I could have already died before my time. How much longer could I keep getting away with such a way of living? The general consequences of living so wildly were getting worse, after all. It was just a few months before when I had woken up in a town in Mexico with cuts and grazes covering my face. I had no idea what had happened and, with this mishap taking place in a particularly dangerous area, I thought myself lucky to just have a bloody face. Yes, there was no denying my reckless behaviour was getting worse and worse and it wouldn’t be long until I went too far. The edge would be found and crossed. And never recrossed. 

Oh, but what is a man like me to do when he tames the stallion within him? Especially when that stallion had brought him so many unforgettable thrills and sensations? Especially when that way of being was all he knew? I had to accept it was either to watch my life end in premature wreck and ruin, or to evolve into something else. But what was that something else, exactly? A steady career?A suburban lifestyle with a wife and kids? A life of monk-like contentment? It was hard to imagine living the rest of my life in a subdued state from what I had known, but this was what had to be done in order to have a ‘rest of my life.’ It was a confronting realisation, one that was maybe worth chatting to a therapist about. Well, for now it was just me and the cold and this flu ripping my insides apart.

I reached over in pain and took a sip of Lemsip that one of my housemates had brought me. I felt that warm liquid run down my throat as I gazed around my lair. My eyes met a picture of my family and it was then that I suddenly started thinking about my dad and my brother. Although on the surface they seemed the complete opposite to me, when I thought about it, I recognised that they, too, also once had this craziness inside of them. My brother was six years older and I recalled all the trouble he’d get into when I was a teenager. I thought of his absinthe-fuelled nights-out which could result in the police turning up at our door the next day, or even him returning with a bloody head like that one time on the morning of Christmas Day. And even my dad (a now relatively dull and ordinary man by most measures), had his stories of debauchery and anarchy from his youth as a punk. I knew what the key difference was between me and them though: a woman. A wife, even. They had eventually quietened and settled down into a sensible and sane life. Set straight by marriage, they had packed away such hedonistic tendencies and set off on a life of peace and stability. My dad had done it by the age of twenty, and my brother by the age of twenty-seven. Yet here I was now past the age of thirty, and I had barely even been in a proper relationship. All I had done was travel the world and slept with as many women as I could, all the while being uninterested in forming any real lasting bond. I dipped into dating but again it was never with a serious intent of getting a long-term partner – rather just another impulsive thing to keep myself entertained – an unhealthy vice in which I didn’t even intend to get anything out of other than momentary thrills and pleasures. 

All these thoughts whirled around my mind as a sudden fever came on. Suddenly the shivers stopped and I started sweating profusely instead. My heart palpitated, almost as if I had some bug or creature inside of me pounding at my chest to get out. At that moment, I felt like some sort of terrible bug myself, and the thoughts of why I had never been in a relationship began to make sense. A terrible feeling of self-loathing came over me. I felt that I really had something hideous inside of me and that I put this shield up against love and relationships because deep down I knew that I was someone that no woman deserved to get entangled with. I wasn’t worthy of love or affection or someone sharing their life with me. I was a ghastly insect, an unwholesome creature like Frankenstein’s monster that belonged banished from civilisation, wandering alone in the barren wilderness. Perhaps this is why I so frequently pushed others away? Perhaps this is why I poured so much poison inside myself? Perhaps this is why the world was apparently trying to kill me?

The thoughts continued to get heavier and heavier as the sweat poured from me. My headache was now at the point where I felt like I had an axe embedded in my brain. I yearned deeply for sleep to take me away from myself, but that wasn’t going to happen. My mind kept racing and I wanted to be anywhere but there, but it was no use – I was stranded with myself in one of the coldest times of my life. It was a winter of discontent and even the thought of my one regular escape, alcohol, made me feel sick. There was nothing to do but dwell in my own solitary suffering. To make it even worse, outside the sun was shining. Rays of light entered through the curtains. I heard birds chirping. I could even hear the hearty laughs of my housemate in the garden while on the phone. 

Although at first such sounds and sights compounded my misery, they eventually reminded me that there was something bright in this world. It wasn’t all the doom and gloom I had been living in within my own mind. There was light and there was victory. There were moments of great triumph and joy. There were birds jumping out of nests and tasting flight for the first time. There were baby turtles crawling courageously towards the ocean. There were little children standing up to bullies. There were shy loners creating beautiful music to be played in concert halls. There were poor kids growing up to be doctors and saving people’s lives. There were flowers growing through gaps in concrete streets. Yes, if you kept your eyes open, there were moments of pure universal triumph bursting and blooming and blossoming all around you. I knew this; I had seen these things with my own eyes. And yet I had forgotten them. Time and time again, I let the darkness of the world drive out the light, even when I had seen the glory in life and felt true bliss. I thought of those moments of standing on those sunset shorelines, staring out at the sea, watching the seagulls dancing in the sky as the daylight faded out and the light of distant stars was slowly revealed. I saw that sight again there in my room one more time as the pain faded for just a second.

Immediately, I wondered whether I was on my deathbed. This is how I imagined it to be on your deathbed, after all. You’d see all these visions of all the wonder your eyes had set sight upon throughout their long journey. I smiled to myself as I saw the other visions: bright faces in moments of joy; tender kisses on lips; the laughs of people free from their struggles. Yes, I knew things were bad – there was no denying that – and there was also some light on the other side of this sickness and my general struggles. I couldn’t feel it now but I knew it was there, and the only thing left to do was to own my suffering. This was my suffering that was currently taking place, and yet with it, I was finding something useful with it. It was a time to lie down, stare into space, and reflect. This was the purpose of my life at the moment. And I knew it was going to pass and that in a few days, I’d be back out on those streets with my mind in a different space. I’d be back at work, or running along the river, or shopping at the supermarket, or talking with friends in the pub. It would be time to re-enter the circus again and do my best to get through to the next day. In sickness and in health, fighting to go on and survive. The neverending battle. The only thing that we were all united on – trying to keep it together and finding the air to breathe and searching for the sunlight as the storm of life shakes us to the core.

short stories · thoughts

~ Wandering the Darkness ~

~ Wandering the Darkness ~

At times I knew I was falling too far into the pits of depravity and insanity. My drinking became heavier and my behaviour more outrageous. I wanted to come back to some sort of peace and tranquillity. I always thought it was there, like a bridge I could cross whenever I got tired, but one day I considered that maybe that bridge had collapsed and I wouldn’t be able to easily return to that steady state I was once in. I was stuck in the lands of madness, where the crooked tree branches surrounded me, where wild-eyed vultures picked at carcasses, and dark spaces held hidden terrors. There was no clear way of going back so onward I kept walking into the dense foliage toward whatever fate awaited me. 

On that path I thought of all the others who had gone crazy and lost themselves completely on similar journeys. I didn’t want to be like them and I knew I still had the light inside of me – the light that could lead me to the lands of peace once more. But at that moment a great doubt settled in my head and I couldn’t help but wonder whether destruction and disaster was my inevitable destination. My drinking continued to become heavier as I felt more and more distant from the people who stood in front of me. I was losing touch with reality at times, drifting away in a room of crowded people, fading out from my surroundings, losing my mind while wandering in the darkness.

I wouldn’t be the first in my family to have wandered down such a path. I thought of my uncle who died alone in a room of sadness and alcoholism. They found him amid the empty bottles, unresponsive and not even fifty years old. He had been living in that apartment for some years, separated from his ex, rarely seeing his son and drinking heavily. I remember my father first telling me about his problem. “You have to understand that he can’t stop himself when drinking. Most people can have a few and then stop themselves, but he can’t. When he drinks just one, he carries on drinking until he passes out. That’s why he can’t drink any alcohol at all.” 

At his funeral I looked around at the forlorn faces of my relatives. Funerals were always sad occasions, but when they were for someone who had passed before their time, then there was an extra bleakness in the air. My other uncle got up and told stories of his life before breaking down in tears. Listening to his words, I reflected on the last times I had seen him, usually in passing in the city centre while he was on his way to his job serving meat on a deli counter in the market. As a teenager, I had failed to spot the pain in his eyes, but now I was older and the sadness of the world had made itself home in my heart too, I looked back at those occasions and understood things a bit more clearly. I think about the situation he was in, barely surviving off a cash-in-hand job at the local market, living alone in a small flat, failed relationships and rarely seeing his only child. Like many hurting people, he turned to the bottle to numb the pain of his reality. And now I see his face in my memory; the bloated face, the red cheeks, the lost look in those eyes. The reality was always there in front of me if only I had the awareness to see it.

As a child, I didn’t understand how someone couldn’t stop themselves from drinking. But now I have reached a time in my life where I start to see the darkness in which my uncle lost himself within. The demons lure you in, and it becomes so easy to spiral off into a storm of self-destruction. There had been too many times that I had gone on reckless benders, drinking myself into oblivion, sedating and medicating through the bottle. When your world feels a bit empty, it’s a quick fix to migrate to a different land – a hazy land that may feel like heaven in moments, but is really hell. You make a trade to distort and suppress your senses, but life loses its shine until the darkness is all you know. Slowly you become comfortable in it as it surrounds and engulfs you. You don’t even struggle against it; you like the feeling of seeing yourself slip away in the distortion. That blur of new faces, the hedonistic excess, the reckless and wild behaviour – the brutal hangovers only cured by picking up the bottle again. It’s madness. Pure madness. And you get sucked into the vortex ever more rapidly until that chaos is all you know and understand.

Despite currently drinking heavily and being out of control, a part of me believed that I was able to put the bottle down if I absolutely had to. I had a period every year where I stopped drinking for two or three months in the autumn. I also knew the happiest I’ve ever been were those stages at the age of 26 and 28 when I went sober for a few months. I exercised often, ate reasonably okay, slept well, meditated and didn’t go near the bottle. Even just staring at a drink made me feel nothing at that point. There was zero attraction. I knew it was poison to the state of consciousness I’d acheived – that all the gains of happiness I’d made would be dragged back and taken away from me. But despite those periods, I still find myself here I am a few years on drinking more heavily than ever before. There are reasons for this I suppose. The loss of time and frustration that came from the covid lockdowns; the fact I’ve just turned 30 and want to make the most of this very last bit of my youth. I’d had fun in some ways, I suppose, but these latest benders fill me with almost a fear that perhaps I really have lost my mind; that I have lost control; that I will never return from these woods of madness and find my way back to the lands of peaceful light. It fills me with a fear that I will not be able to stop and they’ll find me one day in that room of isolation, unresponsive on some beer-stained sofa, amid the bottles and beer caps – another soul taken by the need to try and find some shelter and escape from life’s unrelenting storm.

thoughts

Piercing Reflections

‘One morning I awoke in a strange room with a foul taste in my mouth. My date from the previous night was still fast asleep and I figured it was easier for both of us if I just left before she stirred. I had no battery on my phone and wasn’t sure exactly where I was. I walked out of the house which was on the top of a hill. From the doorstep, I saw the city centre in the distance and realised I was on the opposite side of the city. I then started making my long way home through unknown streets and neighbourhoods. I could have gotten a bus, but I had always resented paying for public transport, so I kept on walking – tired, hungover and even more of a daze than usual. I looked at the people walking past me, wondering which of them was also doing a walk of shame. My stumbling continued until I had made it back into the city centre when I caught my reflection in a shop window. For a minute I stood there staring at it. It seemed that on every street a window reflection was there to show you to yourself and suddenly make you question what the hell it was you were doing on that street, in that city, in that life. Did your path have purpose? Were you a good person anymore? Were you even a sane person anymore? Looking into my tired eyes, I could see I was just another messed-up young man, entertaining myself and keeping life interesting in whatever way I could. I was no different than the drunks and druggies; than the addicts and adrenaline junkies. I found my solace in the thrill of casual sex; my shelter in the tangled limbs of a stranger. It was a depressing reality and my reflection continued to stare back at me almost in disgust. There was only so much of it I could take before I had to look away and carry on along the avenue. This is what life could do to a man. He enters it with wide eyes ready to discover and explore, and then thirty years later he stands staring at his reflection in confusion and consternation. The only thing to do was carry on walking and try to avoid that reflection for a little while longer.’

short stories

~ Frayed ~

~ Frayed ~

I entered the airport at dawn in a zombie-like state. It had been another sleepless night and it was time to return home after what was perhaps my most reckless trip yet. Leaving Portugal, I found myself depleted in more ways than one. My belongings now amounted to just three kilograms in my carry-on backpack. I was light, lighter in everything – bodyweight, money, clothes, sanity. I was travelling on an emergency passport after having lost my normal one along with other things. Those other things included my electric razor – my lack of razor made evident by the big, bushy beard now covering my face. What had happened to everything I wasn’t entirely sure about. The trip had been a total blur, fueled by heavy amounts of alcohol and a lack of sleep which was now commonplace whenever I travelled. That insomnia had left my brain in a beaten and battered state. My body too was a similar way – skinny and sunburnt and in need of some serious rest after a chaotic few weeks in the Portuguese sunshine.

In such a weary state, I naturally got reflective about things. I realised that at that point I’d been living on the run for almost ten years. A whole decade ago I went out on the road of discovery and adventure, seeing what awaited me out there in this wilderness that has maddened my mind and scarred my skin. I went out into the world with wide eyes seeking something that seemed not available in my immediate surroundings. I stuffed those backpacks with my few belongings; I stuffed my eyes with beautiful sights; I stuffed myself with soul-stirring experiences. I was living for myself and soaking in as much life as I could during my youth. But after all of that, I’m finally at the point where I start to wonder how sustainable this lifestyle is. On this trip I had once again experienced enriching moments and connections with others, but more than any other trip, I had also experienced some very dark moments, including a couple of days that I would reckon as the worst of my entire life. That time began with me being kicked out of a hostel for passing out on the floor of a room that wasn’t my own. The memory of the night before was non-existent and in my ashamed state, I decided to carry on drinking at a nearby bar in the morning on my own. The last thing I remembered was smoking a joint with a retired guy from California before waking the next day with a large number of belongings missing including my passport. I had a bus booked up north to start a five-day hike along the coast that I really didn’t want to take. Confused, stressed and with the worst comedown of my life, I stumbled onto that bus feeling like some sort of gremlin – my lack of identification now confirming I was out of place officially as well as mentally.

That feeling of defeat was also there in that airport that morning as I continued drifting around in a zombie-like state, wondering just how much longer I could keep living life on the edge like this. Just two days I was partying ’til 6am on the streets of Lisbon before going to the British embassy to pick up my emergency passport. A stern-looking guard with a machine gun searched me and escorted me through the building while my comedown and lack of sleep filled me with nerve-shredding anxiety. That moment was just another point of chaos and madness in what was now a strong back-catalogue. My mind thought back to getting arrested in Australia for trespassing and having to hitch-hike to my court case. It thought back to almost being hit in the head by a falling rock on a precarious mountain path; to narrowly missing an avalanche by thirty minutes in a Himalayan valley. It was true that there was only so much chaos one man could endure before he was pushed to the brink of total madness (or worse, death), and now – at thirty years old – I feel the voice of sanity call out to me through this mist, telling me to calm down and stop this freefall into the abyss of anarchy. “Come in and relax,” it says. “You’ve experienced enough of this hedonistic life. Take a breath. Step back. Take some time to enjoy a quiet life.”

Meanwhile, I think of a man I know in his eighties. He is a beat poet who seems to have been also living on the run all of his adult life and continues to do so in whatever way he can. I read his stories about drifting around Europe while busking and living on pennies. I also think of my friend Bryan, three years older than me who had been living even more on the edge than myself during the last few years in Australia. He’s just about to commence a one-month hike through the Alps with his girlfriend. Maybe there is a way to live like this without going totally insane. But am I like those other guys? I wasn’t sure. They certainly didn’t seem to end up in the situations I got myself into. They knew how to look after themselves and not spiral off into complete oblivion like I too often did. My self-destructive side was seemingly getting worse with each trip I went on and maybe I just had to accept that I wasn’t cut out for this high-flying lifestyle anymore. Maybe I really was crazier than the rest.

With my mind in a pensive and delirious state, I made my way through security. I wandered through the duty-free shops before finding a little cafe to sit down. I then ate some breakfast while watching others walk around the departure lounge, all of them looking so much fresher than myself.

I guess it was strange as someone who was a travel addict, but sometimes airports could make me feel alone more than any other place. I think it was the sight of the families, the loved-up couples, the rowdy groups of friends. It seemed that were very few others like myself in those crowds – solo travellers making their way to or back from another tiring adventure. As usual, when looking at regular people, thoughts of sanity and stability entered my brain. I thought of finally getting my own place and settling down in one place. I thought of women – of the French girl I had recently met in Mexico. She was on a two-week holiday there and was now back in her stable life with a good-paying job and about to buy an apartment. Maybe I’d learn French and move over there to live a nice quiet life with her. Maybe I’d finally learn to drive, get a pension and stop this calamitous journey through the wilderness. But almost as quickly as these thoughts entered my mind, they were pushed aside by the other ones – the thoughts of wandering ecstasy, of partying with new friends in foreign lands, of standing on sunset shorelines and hiking through mountainous valleys. I thought of the love of anarchy and adventure, my soul sailing further out into that intoxicating sea of the unknown – that same sea which had currently left me in a disheveled state with no passport and few belongings, with insomnia and sunburnt skin, but also with a spirit that was set on fire and a mind that was blown wide open.

Oh, what is a man to do once he has tasted such a life? This thrilling run out beyond the fences, this glorious dance in the lands of chaos – how does he return from that to a life of sensibility and suburban sanity? How does he trade the mystery and magic for the predictable and comfortable? For the safe and steady? I still had things I wanted to do, after all. I still wanted to fulfill my dream of cycling from the UK to Asia. Of hiking the great Himalayan route. Of finally travelling around Colombia. My list was still incomplete, but continuing in such a way of being didn’t bode well on the current basis of things – at least when I thought of similar others to myself. I thought Jack Kerouac – the great beat writer – drinking himself to death in his forties. I thought of Hemingway and Hunter S Thompson – their brains blown to the wall with self-inflicted shotgun wounds. I thought of that guy from Into The Wild starving to death alone in Alaska. It was true that living at full speed on the edge for so long usually made you more likely to end up in a graveyard or institution. Still, a part of me yearned to keep on living this way, putting the pedal down to the metal, soaring down that open road of life as the wind raises the hairs on my head. On the other hand, I also know it’s time to recognise that I’m slowly falling apart too. The wheels are buckling, the engine is failing, and the screws are coming loose.

The smart and sensible thing to do is to accept I’ve experienced more adventure than most people ever will, and finally begin to take my foot off the gas. But the thought of leaving this life behind fills me with tremendous sadness. It causes me to distract myself by reading through the messages on my phone. One Argentinian girl asks me when I’ll be coming back to Mexico. A dutch girl asks if we are ever doing that hike in Italy. Once again, my mind wanders and starts to dream of the next adventure, the next horizon, the next great run through this bewitching wilderness that has claimed each and every part of me.

This strange feeling of conflict is there as I sit there with my sleep-deprived mind, with my skinny body, with my half-empty backpack, with my emergency passport, with the cuts on my arm of which I’m not sure of the origin. The people around me seem to notice I’m not entirely with it as my hand shakes while drinking my coffee. A couple of coins fall out of my pocket and I reach down to pick them up off the floor. I then look at my jeans and notice that they are starting to tear apart at the seams. It almost seems symbolic and I think about getting them stitched up once again by my mother or landlady. I also think back to that nice Puerto Rican girl in Mexico mending my frayed backpack in Mexico earlier in the year. It was funny: all these women stitching me back together, mending me, repairing me. But maybe this time I’m realising that some things just can’t be stitched back together. There is no thread strong enough anymore to stop me from ripping open as I dream of the next adventure with my tired and maddened mind. And even if there was, I’m not sure I would even want that at this point.

thoughts

~ Dismissed ~

“Hello Ryan”

“Hey! How’s it going? You’re from here then?”

“I live in Birmingham. What do you do?”

“Oh, I live in Nottingham. I just got back yesterday from backpacking in Mexico.”

“Don’t need work? Or still on vacation?”

“Yeah I’ll look for work soon but I have savings for now. And you? Where are you from originally?”

“Do you have any major? I’m from Kansas City, USA.”

“My degree is in communications. How’d you end up in England?

“I work here in human resources…. What position or job do you want to apply for?”

“Okay cool, and I’m not sure. Why so many questions about jobs? 

“It’s kinda important.”

“Okay, well if you’re looking for a career-obsessed guy then I’m not that sorry. I live my life to travel.”

(conversation ends as I’m blocked)

Speaking to girls on dating websites, it’s usually in the first few messages that they steer the conversation onto careers. Not always, but the majority of the time they drop the ‘what do you do’ question within the first few sentences. It both amuses and saddens me. No discourse about your life views, your interests, or what fills your soul with joy. They have to know straight away what your profession is, and then work out if you’re someone they want to invest their time in. This robotic process, cold and calculated, as if human relationships were a mere business plan. As if people were mere products and items. As if the union of two souls depended on their financial capital. And of course, I say this as someone who has never had a ‘proper job’, but who has spent his time working on his art and travelling the world for experience. When I tell them the truth about my life, the replies stop coming and I’m weeded out. I guess I can’t blame them. They have a mission in life which is different to mine. Especially if they are over thirty, they are scrambling around looking for a partner to settle down with. They need a person with a reliable income so that they can get the mortgage, the wedding, the kids, the nice kitchen, the fancy holidays, and all the things we are supposed to have to be accepted members of society. That march relentlessly to the middle-class mecca of suburbia where they will finally be happy and complete, where they will have the car on the forecourt, the flowers in the garden, the kids at the dinner table, the dog in the kennel, the plump cushions on the sofa.

I admit there are times when it can get lonely living the life I live, especially as a single man. I see the world from the outside spaces, and from there I get to look back in from a different perspective. To them I am a loner on the outside, and to me they are trapped in a herd – held in place by those around them and unable to move freely to spaces that I know contain so much treasure. I guess I should really know better by now, and not to even bother with these dating sites. Maybe it’s the masochistic side of me, or the need to constantly investigate the human condition, but again and again I return to them to face the same barrier. I know my women are not on those sites. There are some yes, but they are hard to find. They are much easier to find when I am out on the road – when I am staying in dingy hostels; when I am wandering the hiking paths of a mountain wilderness; when I am getting drunk in the local bars of a far-off land. That’s where they are, and yes I do meet many of them, but as is the nature of travelling, we both move on to different places, and there I find myself once again: back home facing the frowning frontline of women who are mostly frightened, disinterested, or even disgusted by the lives of someone like me.

I guess this is just the way life is. You choose your herd, you choose your way, and you accept your freedoms and limitations from whatever type of life you choose. I have chosen mine and I know I’ll never be going back to those women and the way of life they expect of me. But to hell with it! There is a joy bubbling in my soul right now as I type out my truth once again. The joy of the lone wolf, roaming free in untamed lands, living a life of personal truth. Living a life where I feel a greater connection to the whole than any partner or gold ring could give me.

thoughts

~ Just a Feeling ~

“There’s nothing else to do but write. No job to work, no woman to marry, no reason to settle down. I see no meaning to it all anymore. There is nothing else to do but write. So here I am typing on these keys, and walking down those streets, and staring at the things that pass me by: the faces that tell a story, the dogs staring into space, the sadness and the madness of the suburban universe. I stare at it all and try to make sense of what it is to be human, to be here on this earth, and to try to get by in whatever way you can. I try to understand this all before dying so I can put it into words that might mean something to someone somewhere. This is what I have chosen. This sickness. This insanity. I was not gifted with many things. Hell, I’m not even too good of a writer. But at least it’s something that feels inherently right. And I believe that feeling is the beginning of doing something that makes your life one worth living. To find what comes naturally and throw yourself into doing it completely. To find what makes you feel as if the whole universe is working in harmony the moment you’re doing it. Surfboards and keyboards. Dancing and singing. Sex and love. These are the things. This is the secret. Like others before me, I am a devotee to the rivers of passion running through me, letting them carry me along, moving ever forward to the lands of some divine light.”