When the setting sun casts amber light across the surrounding clouds, when the leaves blow calm and peaceful in the breeze, when shadow falls amidst the hush outside and you know that in the city the people are milling in the streets beneath streetlights bright as day, dancing in crowded clubs until the daybreak, pressed together their bodies entwined like the roots of trees. And it's something deceptively modern and synthetic but deep down you know it has that undercurrent.. that ancient, primal essence. This is what I draw towards, coming of age. Tomorrow, I leave home.
Home, with its suburban stillness and bored, lanky youths. My street, with its undertows of dismal poverty, obese parents leading scores of grubby, sallow-looking children, crowing their after-school exultations into the crisp air. The old school where I made daisy chains and a gang of friends and spun in circles with classmates on the field, holding hands. The other school I would run from when the day was over, where my child self suffered torment after torment.
And another home far removed from this, a home on the other side of the world, long gone and deep within the recesses of my mind.
spent last Friday night with a boy, his soft gentle hands passing over my flesh, his blue eyes unreadable. Coarse blonde hair beneath my fingers. Me sitting on his lap, stroking his hair. We got off for hours.
"I don't have any plans for the future," he said.
he didn't know, he said, he just couldn't see it.
"I predicted my own death when I was six years old," he told me. "I'm definitely not going to live past twenty-one."
There was something terribly sad about this statement, something heart-rendingly poignant, as though his belief made it true, a definite future event. I wanted to comfort him, but I couldn't put into words what I felt. He was tall, blonde and handsome, with a certain grace often found in male models. Otherwordly boys with gaunt bodies and defined cheekbones, posing in black and white. Perfectly styled hair, blank expressions. Flawless clothes. On closer inspection, his cheeks were pitted with acne scars. They looked like tiny crevasses.
He told me how he gets into fights when he drinks. Told me how he beat up some kid over next to nothing at all. Told me how he was scared to go to Dublin with his male friends because the men carry knives there, and aren't afraid to use them in fights. It wasn't his own life he feared for, he informed me, but the feelings of his friends, who would hate to see him die. He had had the shit beaten out of him a while back in his own garden, he said. "Had to go to hospital, and everything."
The incident had completely changed his outlook, given him a new perspective. Removed his fear of death, he claimed.
But it was clear that this wasn't the truth.
I wondered what had led this boy to feel so worthless- he and others like him. What drives men- young, privileged, heterosexual, cisgendered white men like him- because there are so, so many others- what drives them? What drives them to carry knives and fight amongst themselves and take drugs and throw themselves headlong into violence, drug-taking? What causes them to deny themselves success, to drop out of school, of college, of life? What causes them to want nothing for themselves when they could have so much. Do they truly feel so worthless that all they want is just to die?
here are the young men, a weight on their shoulders:
here are the young men, oh where have they been-
Because that was what this boy had. A deathwish. He had no fear of death, he said. It seemed all he wanted was to meet his end at knifepoint, at the end of someone else's wrath.
And deep down, so deep down it felt like an ancient stream within me stirring, I felt a powerful urge to love this boy as though he were my own child. I wanted to nurture him, to tell him he was loved. I wanted to make him feel safe. I wanted to let him know that I cared, and that he wasn't alone on this great lonely Earth trying to make manifest his feelings with angry destructive jabs at himself, hurting just to feel. But I knew that all the love in the world would never be enough. That's what made it so damn sad- it would never be enough to smash the frozen sea of raw hurt within him, never enough to quell the voices of self-loathing and inadequacy whispering from the shadows of his mind.
So as the boy leant over and sucked my bare breasts, one after the other, I thought: is this what it feels like to be a mother? Child suckling at my breast, his eyes reflecting my entity. His hair beneath my fingertips. His forehead was so soft, soft as a baby's skin. There was something inherently maternal about the whole situation. In hindsight, there wasn't anything particularly sexual about it. That was the first time since with Karl that I felt like a mother. Vulnerable, wounded little boys seeking refuge. Seeking comfort. The prospect is addictive.. but you have to walk away. Can't have that imbalance in a relationship between two people of the same age. Can't fix damaged individuals. Can't make somebody love themselves if they don't.
The camera panned out. The roaring of the crowd echoing around the stadium seemed to subside for a moment, then the five rings glided together, as though compelled by magnetic force. They hovered, the way skeletons of leaves rest on the surface of water. The middle one glowed a raw, molten orange and a spattering of sparks exploded. Against the evening sky they glimmered, blindingly bright, sprinkled from the heavens like falling starshine. The rings fused together. A showering of brilliant, golden light ran the looping gauntlet, flowing down into the stadium and setting the ground alight with shimmering sparks. Then the fantastic rain ebbed and stopped, leaving the one ring aglow amidst the electric blue lights
I feel so happy and life is beautiful. There's no better way I can think to put it, because everyday I experience joy and I can delight in everything. I've been doing a lot of reading online about Borderline Personality Disorder and Codependency, and I'm able to appreciate how far I've come. How I've recovered, woken up to experience the world in full, vivid technicolour. Every sensation, every emotion; I feel them all. There's no shutting down or tuning out, no numbness or the emptiness I had begun to think was my natural emotional state. No panic attacks or paralyzing misery. The best thing about it is that if I feel the onset of ennui or sadness, I can self-soothe and comfort myself out of it. I realized a week or so ago that I alone am in contol of the way I feel- so why choose to be bored and miserable? On that day, I had been on the verge of tears with boredom, believing that my lack of social activity was a negative reflection on myself. That's when I realized that self worth is internal; you are not worth what you do- you are not the total sum of:
- your looks
- how much money you have in the bank
- your designer clothing
- sexual prowess
- how popular/well liked you are
- how talented you are
- how well you dress
- how thin/fat you are
- how attractive your partner is
- how many prizes you've won, etc.
or any other similar things. If you base your self worth on external manifestations of your Self, you are setting yourself up to be codependent, because these things are all transient. They're temporary; they can provide distraction and momentary validation, but they can't fill us spiritually, or give us self worth.
I had been living this way my whole life. Abusing myself, because I had never known any different. Shaming and blaming myself and invalidating my own feelings, because my parents never learned any other ways to deal with their feelings. Eighteen years I had lived that way, and it was getting to the point where I couldn't withstand any more. I was miserable. A harsh, scathing voice in my head narrated my every activity, my every interaction, consuming me with toxic anxiety. I had wanted to kill myself since I was 10 or 11 years old; fantasized about the hundreds of ways I could consummate the act, annihilate my pain. The only way it seemed it would end was if I annihilated myself. I state this with complete honesty. For me, suicide ceased to be an act. Instead, it became a way of life, a way to numb my feelings and shove them down, down into a dark, fusty place where they could fester and I could deny they had ever been mine. At the same time, I fantasized about the impact my death would have on those around me. Secretly, I liked imagining the way my parents would react. They would revere me, I fantasized, sitting alone in my room. They would speak in public of how proud they were of me, about what a wonderful daughter and person I was, how they appreciated me and wished they had told me so whilst I was alive. Just how much they had loved me, still loved me.
Back then, I needed those fantasies. I needed to hold on to those fantasies that my parents loved me, because y'know, as a little kid growing up with intermittent turmoil and inner chaos and terror, deep down, I never truly got the impression that they did.
The thought of how I was now awakens a nauseous feeling. It is real but very slight. I cry a little when I think of the implications of this. I let myself cry, because it is healthy and vital to express emotion, and jesus it was fucked up, the way I used to be. The fact that this used to be my life.
A sudden, reactionary anger leapt in my chest when the therapist said those words to me.
"... You never felt loved by your parents."
Her jovial, grandma-like tone, the way she said this with a smile in her voice, inspired a primal rage in me. It was an anger that almost didn't feel rational, more like a knee-jerk reaction. An impulse.
What did she know? She'd never even seen me with my parents, let alone properly met them! She was probably just reciting some therapy claptrap from one of her self-help books. I bet she said that to every person she treated. From the angry, hurt, aggressive rebels whose tendency was to lash out, to the timid ones who lapsed back into their chairs and struggled to assert themselves in any situation. I was angry at her for saying it. I refused to believe her. Sure, she had got the rest of my past right in hypnotherapy. She had been spot on about my dad, and Mike. But my parents? No way.
In hindsight, I think I simply wasn't ready to accept the truth she told me. I had only just recovered under her guide, and I wanted to relish the feeling. I couldn't be mad at my parents, especially not at my mother, of all people! After all, she had paid for the whole thing out of her own pocket, gone without luxuries for months so that I could be happy. She had sacrificed so much. Given me so much, when she could have said "Who cares?" like my dad. I had yet to realize that this giving, this eternal sacrifice, was precisely the problem. The truth is, my mother has always put our needs, in actual fact, the needs of everyone else, before that of herself. I used to think this was a good and virtuous thing. I used to think that this was the way women must be, and that in order to be valued by anyone, I had to conform to the martyr status my mother upheld. And I could never conform to it. There was always some selfish little want in the way, I thought, always some silly, niggling impulse to serve myself first and not others. I could never ignore these impulses; I always gave in. And then I would punish myself, for not being selfless enough, for not being perfect as I should have been, for being "rude" and "antisocial". But ultimately, for being human. Other times, I punished myself for showing emotion, or not shutting away emotions I didn't think I was entitled to have.
I was so sick. I was half a person. Dying was the only thing that seemed to make sense to my numbed, chaotic mind. Whenever I tried, I got so close. The belt around my neck, the razorblade. My mother's heavy duty painkillers, the medicine cabinet. The surging, inky promise of the sea at my feet if I would only turn and walk. But every time, something made me turn back.
When I was seven or eight years old, I had one of the worst nightmares I've ever experienced, and I can remember it still. Not the exact details in particular, but the shadowy malevolence it conjured up and the aching, paralyzing horror I felt as I lay alone in bed beneath the air conditioner. I remember waking from this nightmare in the syrupy darkness of my bedroom and feeling completely and entirely alone with my feelings. It was like they owned me. I was my feelings, and they were me, and they were consuming my entity like some black, viscous monster. Like the Symbios in the Spiderman cartoons, drenching me in their sticky, tarry sap. They had me and I would never escape. They would drag me down and possess me. I felt I could tell no-one, for not even my parents would possibly believe me. My father would laugh and my mother would say "Don't be silly, it was just a dream" in that empty way in which she would often try to reassure me. Of course no-one would believe me if I told them that I wasn't me anymore, that something dark and evil had slithered from my mind as I slept, and attached itself to me! I would look just like my old self, and no-one would be able to tell the difference. Then my parents would hate me when the monster made me do evil things, I would get all the blame and I would never be able to earn their love.
That was the flipside of my childhood world; so black and white it may as well have been composed of dominos.
The nightmare was propelled by my watching an episode of the cartoon Jumanji earlier that day. Structurally, the episode was like many others. The good guys had to find and defeat a villain who was wreaking havoc and had to be stopped. Only this time, there was a disturbing twist in the story.
This villain had a terrifying superpower. He had somehow acquired the ability to turn people to stone, just by looking into their eyes. In his house, the villain had amassed a vast collection of statues; all people and animals he had calcified. Some were caught walking, and had limbs extended as though they were eternally on the verge of taking a momentous step. Others were frozen where they stood, and their mummified expressions were those of immediate shock and horror. There was even a little stone dog frozen in mid-leap, its eyes wide open and staring. I felt pure terror upon seeing all this, but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen. The good guys eventually managed to track down and destroy the villain by turning a mirror on him; when he saw his own reflection he looked into his eyes and was immediately turned to stone, freeing his hapless victims. But for all I had seen, he might as well have remained looming large on the screen, filling it up like a glass tank and bubbling over its sides like molasses, trickling out into the real world.
In the nightmare, I was the one pursued by the villain. He was chasing me through his house, a claustrophobic, cluttered space filled with passageways made narrow by the amount of horrified looking statues stood to attention about the place. As he ran, he knocked into some, and they hit the ground. The hollow clock that rang out as heavy stone collided with the marble floor resounded in my bones and shuddered through me, and I felt sick to my stomach. Shattered heads and fragmented limbs rolled across the floor as I ran from him. I was running, panting, feeling raw terror coarsing through my body. All I could hear were the savage screams of my own nauseating fear. It was so loud, I thought I would drop dead. And then, all of a sudden, it stopped. The villain disappeared. There was no sign of him anywhere. It was as though he had never existed. I slowed to a walk. I turned down one of the passageways and in an instant, he was right in front of me. I could have run, could have shielded myself- but I was paralyzed. Perhaps secretly, I really wanted what he could give me. He stared into my eyes, a piercing, demented, emerald-green gaze that rooted me to the spot- and that was it. I turned to stone. I knew it because I could not move and he was laughing, laughing, but he sounded strangely distant. Nothing could enter me- I was stone, impenetrable, a fortress. I could not be cut or bruised or kicked. I could not feel the lash of my father's belt, or his hand cracking across my backside, the pain so stark and horrifying and sudden, it made me want to die.
I woke up then, sobbing. Sobbing so intense it felt as though I couldn't breathe. Every breath I took was pain. Every time I blinked I saw his eyes. I crawled to the end of my bed and curled into a ball, tears staining the collar of my colourful car pajamas. The only sound was the whirring of the air conditioner above the door. It felt like the end of the world, an awful, gaping feeling like an ominous black hole, an endless void that consumes all.
That dream turned out to be a precursor for the rest of my life thereafter, for my coping mechanism was, in some disconcerting irony, to become statuesque. I shut down and tried to shut off all emotions. For a period in my life it was as though I was made of stone and rooted to the spot- watching my life unfold before cold, soul-dead eyes, unable to actively participate in any of it. Looking expressionless, frozen, but feeling every single thing behind a wall of stone. Powerless, a victim of my own emotions.
But was it really just a manifestation of a hidden desire I felt subconsciously, but could never express? The burning desire to be entirely numb to my father's physical abuse, but the fear this evoked due to the fact that it was all I'd ever known? The fear that I would cease to exist without my father's beatings. Cease to get any attention from him whatsoever if I didn't incur his wrath. The fragile sense of self created by his emotional absence, that craving for his love, never satisfied. Seeing the pictures and cards I drew for him at five years old lying in the wastepaper basket, in the trash, the same day I had given them to him. That feeling you get when you plunge from a height. Child Me, helpless, with no boundaries feeling: I am trash to my father. I mean nothing to him. Nothing I do, all of my efforts, they will never be enough.
On Friday, I watched an episode of the documentary 24 Hours in A&E. In this episode, a father accompanied his five year old daughter to the resus room. She had sustained first and second degree burns after her skirt caught fire. Her father, seeing this, had rushed over and put the fire out with his hands. The little girl was in agony, a tiny figure in pink on the hospital bed; she was sobbing as the medical team moved around her, her light blue eyes wide with terror. I couldn't watch their part of the episode without bursting into tears. It triggered something in me. Something I realized I was sorely lacking as a child of that age. In fact, I blocked out so much of being 5 years old that it was as though I had only been born after that age. It must have been a traumatic year, because I remember next to nothing of it.
But in the interactions between that father and his little girl, I witnessed something so, so beautiful. It was something that gave me hope for myself and for the world; that there are parents who aren't, at their core, damaged, wounded individuals, who are able to deal with their emotions and those of their child's in healthy, positive ways. This father was a prime example of the way every parent should behave, should their child be sick or badly injured. As the little girl cried, croaked, "Daddy, it hurts!" as the medical team acted with urgency, assessing her, her father didn't shout or panic. He didn't rage and scream at her the way my father did when I had to go to hospital as a little kid. He didn't forcibly tell her to calm down, or else. He didn't tell her it was her fault, or that she was being "stupid" for not cooperating, for crying.
You know what he did?
He got down close to his little girl, and in a calming, soothing voice, he comforted her. He told her that she was alright. That it would be alright. Let her know she was safe. That he was there for her. That the pain wouldn't get any worse. That the pain would get better in a while, and that she was being so, so brave. Brilliant, he said. That she was being utterly brilliant, and he congratulated her.
Then he said, "You know what happens when things get bad?"
The little girl looked up at him through a haze of pain, her brow furrowed.
And I wept then, cried tears I had no idea were in me, felt an acute pain I had never addressed before because until now I had never known what it was, the name of it and the reason why I had spent my whole life running round in circles consumed with self-hatred, fearing abandonment the way most people fear death, terrified of intimacy, running away the minute anyone got too close because I was so fucking terrified that they wouldn't be able to handle my love and would abandon me the way my father did, abusing myself emotionally and physically and psychologically, seeking out and attracting marauding narcissists and sociopaths and bullies, convinced I was rotten at the core, unlovable, discardable, throwaway. Convinced I was not worthy of love. Hating myself.
But then I thought of that father and his daughter. And what he said about his daughter's experience in A&E when they interviewed him afterwards. Many other people would have described solely how they felt when they turned around and saw their child, ablaze and screaming, the panic and horror they felt and how they and their child reacted during and after the event. They might have cried, remembering how terrified and powerless they felt.
This father touched briefly on the terror and panic he felt when he had to save his daughter. However, he then went on to speak about the particular night on which the event happened, how it was snowing and his little girl really appreciated seeing the icy flakes falling down on her, as though from heaven, as they stretchered her into the ambulance. He spoke of how wonderful the the icy, minus degree-air felt against his badly burned, painful hands.
"Absolute heaven," he said of the night, "Absolutely heavenly." and you could see his eyes glittering with the beauty of that moment; the snow falling, his daughter safe and taken care of, him delighting in the beauty of this world, our world, and that there is beauty and positivity in even the most tragic things; it just depends on how you choose to let it affect you. The father spoke of the exceptionally kind nurse who cared for the little girl and accompanied them in the ambulance.
"She was more than just a nurse," he said, his voice warm and sincere. "She was a soulmate."
And just in that moment I took joy in the fact that someone, somewhere, is doing it right. Took joy in the knowledge that that little girl most likely will never have to grow up with the soul-destroying pain I had to endure as a child and teenager. Why? Because she knows her father loves her. His love flows out from his every action, his language, his behaviour, his calm, everything, and it makes her feel secure; has done ever since the beginning of her life. She is safe in the knowledge that no harm will come to her, because her father loves and values her, and it is okay and healthy for her to express a full range of emotion, to show fear and hurt, to cry. Her father has given her the greatest gift that you can give a child, and that gift is self worth. It is more than just belief in yourself. It is having the self-love to accept yourself and your mistakes. To be whole, and to own your feelings. To set boundaries and self-sooth when things don't go as planned. To value yourself spiritually, and not on your money, belongings, or looks. To choose healthy, balanced, loving partners who will accept, value, validate, and truly love us. But most of all, self worth provides us with the ability to bestow all this upon our children, as well as ourselves, and forge a bright, healthy future.
I cannot thank that father, and other parents like him, enough.
Everything's gonna be alright forever and ever and ever I know because I value myself for me for the first time in my life. It's the most wonderful feeling and it belongs to me. I'm gonna do it right.
It's been a while, I guess. I try to immerse myself in the strong Sensor culture my friends inhabit, and I get too caught up thinking about it and forget to write things down. Forget that I need to.
I'm going to be a writer someday. It's the only thing I've ever always yearned to do, the only thing I've ever truly felt strongly about, as though it belonged to me. As though words were in some way entwined with my synapses. The written word is automatic. I never really noticed until now how everyday I breathe and exude and coexist with and think and hear words words words, how I've lived and exalted in the different lives of a hundred or more narratives. Unlike my art, my writing never ceases to hold meaning for me. I can look at a journal entry from 2009 and feel pride, instead of the vague nothingness I feel when looking at a drawing or painting I made from the same timeframe. It's odd, really.
My year-long art course ended a month ago, and with it any sense of structured socializing in my life. I had my 19th birthday in June. A group of my friends and I went out clubbing to celebrate, and ended up separated, two of us surrounded by a large group of mangy, horny, misogynistic guys, our friends nowhere to be seen. Never in my life have I been so glad to see the back of one guy. Never before had I danced until 6 in the morning, nor been so highly commended for my "dancing". It was a bizarre, hilarious and horrendous night. I got hit on by and danced with so many guys, I lost count. One particularly obnoxious piece of shit came up and grabbed me from behind, grasped me about the waist and lifted me off the ground. It hurt. His hands closing so suddenly around my flesh, his long, hairy arms hardening to muscle as I struggled to prise his fingers off me, that nauseating feeling of powerlessness, was one that made me cry later with the memory. I couldn't call out above the pulsing music, couldn't scream "Get off!" couldn't register what was happening until it was.
When later, sobbing I told my mother, she said that I "should have kneed him in the balls", and why didn't I? She didn't understand. That hurt, too. To have experienced something traumatic and attempt to seek comfort for that fact, only to be rebuked and blamed for it by one's own parent. I hate victim blaming. It makes attackers into faceless shadows of the night, bestial, inhuman, absolved of blame, and holds victims as responsible, "stupid", "asking for it". It makes me sick and I wish people would realize the sheer ignorance of what they're doing, before they blame a person for the senseless violence enacted on them by someone else.
Anyway, that was mine and my friend's joint birthday. Delightful.
Since then, sex has been encroaching on my life, leering at me from every corner. A guy I met and made out with at a houseparty back in early June wants to see me, but I've made excuses to avoid him. At the party he first came across as cold and aloof. I thought he was the opposite of interested in me when we were first introduced; he showed zero emotion or enthusiasm whatsoever. He was knocking back cheap whisky and sitting in a plastic garden chair when I actually spoke to him. We sat on an upturned trolley together at the back of the tiny, concrete garden, amidst the hubbub of music, conversation and light. "Come 'ere for a bit," were his gruff words, before he leaned in and kissed me. Whether it was rough or sensual, I can't remember, but we ended up heading off to a nearby park after he asked if I wanted to go "somewhere more private". I remember being offended, and telling him so, when he suggested we go in a bush.
"What do you take me for?" I asked him. So we lay on the patchy grass, before a stone wall. The weight of him on top of me was immense. He was a boxer. Big slopes of muscle for arms, an athletic physique, broad shoulders. Brown hair, freckles and blue eyes, he looked vaguely Irish. The most attractive thing about him had been his silence. All the other boys talked, laughed, made conversation, but he never said anything, just strode along with his quaint boxer's stride.
Lying on my back in the park in my dress, his hands all over me, I sighed and thought of the disconnect. I couldn't get anything sexual out of the situation, I rarely could. All these panting, horny boys with their wolfish smiles and roaming hands always so eager to touch touch touch, it was so foreign to me. I couldn't understand what they got so aroused about, and so quickly! It seemed ridiculous somehow, like some kind of twisted Chicken Little. Some guy convinced it's the fucking second coming all because they kissed a girl, it didn't make sense. I thought I might be gay. I thought he might pull my hair out, the way he kept pushing my head against the wall. I thought it was a shame, how no-one was ever really interested in talking, or listening. It was the only thing of another person's I ever seemed to get consistently turned on by- their ideas.
As he straddled me, fully clothed, I let out a whimper. "You're gonna think I'm a slut," I said with concern half feigned, half genuine. I wanted to hear a standard guy's opinion on what a "slut" generally "was", the way as a kid you want to know what happens in a horror movie, despite the fact you know it'll scare you half to death to see it.
"If you were a slut, you'd have had sex with me already!" He said, candidly as his limited range of emotion would allow. I listened and mentally filed his opinion, knowing that the margins of the word really extended much further than that.
This boy was a rough one. I felt the needle pricks of his teeth against my lips as he kissed me aggressively, rolled my eyes as his hands sought my breasts and squeezed.
"Here we go again," were my thoughts, as I remembered the countless others and their lurid wants. I wasn't scared of him, just mildly bemused. I'd always fancied the idea of meeting a gruff but kindhearted working lad, and having a tender, albeit traditional relationship with him. He'd be a six foot garage mechanic or scaffolder, with a strong build and big gentle hands. He'd go to absurd lengths just to see me, travelling miles on the train or getting up extra early to catch the bus, and when he eventually caught sight of me, he'd follow me down the street with a motley crew of friends in tow, dressed in denim dungarees and singing C'mon, Eileen, toolooray-ay...
Well, I fancied the "gruff but warm" part of it, anyway. This boy was sadly lacking in that department. He was like some kind of sex machine; rough, cold, not affectionate, not verbally affirming. When I watched Shame, Fassbender's protagonist reminded me eerily of him. All carnal impulse and no warmth. It was weird. I'd never encountered anything like it. He was at least considerate enough to ask if I was comfortable with him touching me, saying he wouldn't pressure me to do anything I didn't want to.
"I wouldn't be a dick who pressures people," he said. "We don't have to go all the way."
The night was silent, and heady coloured streetlights painted the park a deep orange. "But just let me touch you."
I let him, for the life experience, and back at the house we climbed on the roof and he lay on me again and kissed me and bit me, and squeezed my breast. I felt his hand slip between my legs, rest on my tights above my underpants for a moment, then begin to rub, quickly and clumsily, the area surrounding my vagina. Instead of feeling violated, I felt more like laughing in his face. His efforts to get me aroused were so misguided, it was comical. I put my hand on his and lifted it away. He wanted me to suck his fingers, so I did, thinking "This is hilarious, he's clearly mentally substituting it for his dick", so slipped a few of my fingers into his mouth, just to see his reaction. From what I observed, he found it a massive turn-on. I felt like an amused, curious kid playing with a doll, probing tentatively at the erection in his jeans as he fondled my breasts. As early morning pulled in and the gulls screamed overhead, his kisses grew slow and tender. He lifted my hand to his lips and softly kissed each knuckle. It was with this tenderness that he kissed me goodbye when we parted in the hall- the second time I've ever kissed anybody whilst sober. I was proud of myself for not getting emotionally attached in any way. I felt calm and empowered and just about indestructible.
Now he wants to see me, and I can't be bothered. He has all the marks of a Red Flag, and I know he only wants sex. I don't know how to break it to him that at this point, I don't want sex. Not with him, or anyone. I don't feel I'm ready. So what relationship could we possibly have, if our desires are completely mismatched? Unless he intends to pressurize/coerce/manipulate me into having sex with him, which is just not on. I won't have that. And the possibility is that if I meet him, that's exactly what he'll try to do- but in person, there wouldn't be anything I'd be able to do about it. I've had the experience of 140 plus pounds of man bearing down on top of me, and it is not one I would like to have repeated involuntarily. And that guy was at least sweet, seemed warm and affectionate, and stopped when I told him to.
I don't want a fuckbuddy just yet, I'm not ready. I want a soulmate.
I feel like my virginity isn't mine to lose, but patriarchy's to take.
Sometimes the most beautiful parts of life are the things that go unseen. When I meet someone, I find myself wanting to do away with trivialities and small talk, wanting to delve deep and discover what motivates them. What makes them laugh, what makes them cry. What they truly want most in life. These things are more often than not completely different from the image people project externally, or the things I had at first assumed about them. Most of all, I just try to listen and withhold judgement. And I wonder:
Foreign students are so isolated at college, their culture marginalized and dismissed by the white-bread English majority. I want to ask them- what is it like to lie beneath a tree in summer and listen to the soughing of leaves in the breeze in their country? What is the national sense of humour? Do the trains bank and groan their restless energy into the surrounding countryside, or do they sigh ceaselessly amidst the city's frantic bustle? How does the ground feel beneath your feet there? What kind of things do people dream about?
These are questions no-one has ever thought to ask the foreign students at my college. And yet, I can sense their answers brimming at the surface, love for their country in their eyes unspoken. They have to suppress what they really want to talk about, because the people they're surrounded by simply aren't interested. This limited mindset confuses me. Maybe because I have been privileged enough to have travelled, and lived on the other side of the world. But I will always find other cultures fascinating, that knowledge that there are a hundred other possibilities that exist, and more than a dozen ways to dream, to think, to draw upon and experience life. It reminds me of that which is pure and sincere.
This has nothing to do with anything "hip" or "current". It is older than time immemorial. Sincere because this knowing is spoken from the mouths and hands and eyes of hundreds of thousands of people, inherent in their dance and physical expression, their art. Made pure not by its immaculate conception, but by the fact that it has been eroded, like a pebble on a beach, by its passage through a thousand hands.
Not expressing what you truly feel, or talking about what excites you, is draining in so many different ways. Art school has taught me this; but I have also learned a great deal. I do not regret it.
On Friday night, I nearly lost my virginity to a stranger from a club. It was horrible.
I want to talk about it, but no-one seems to understand, or care. I didn't expect to feel so alone and unholy afterwards. I was so scared, I wasn't ready. I thought I was, but I wasn't. I have never been so terrified in my entire life as I was in that moment. I couldn't stomach the feeling of his hands all over me, sliding all over my skin and making electric ripples wherever they lingered. When he pinned me down, I wanted to scream. It was like he had suddenly turned to a mass of rock hard muscle, bearing down upon me... and I couldn't make a sound. Then, a very strange thing happened. I saw the playground from my childhood, the garish, vivid colours of the swirling slide, as though I were standing there in the sand before it. Just as I did as a child. It was so real, I couldn't believe it; the sun so warm against my skin, the trees above so lush and green and quivering in the breeze. In that moment, I wasn't in a stranger's bed, writhing at his touch, I was a child back in a tropical paradise.
But that child's voice came ricocheting through my subconscious. And it was crying, "NO!" it was begging him to stop; it was weeping. It screamed and screamed, until I finally found my voice. The first time I asked him, he didn't seem to hear me, but when I told him forcefully, he finally stopped. He was surprised when I told him I was a virgin. He sounded shocked and dismayed when I told him that no, no-one else had ever made me orgasm. I think he meant to go down on me. But I didn't want him down there. I didn't want his tongue on me, where no-one else had ever been. I had been too drunk to know what I really wanted, but I knew that above all, I did not want this. I felt like a child, thrust into a sexual situation without choice and paralyzed with fear because of it. I lay beside him, staring up at the ceiling, so blank and white, and I did not want any of it. I remember contemplating running away, the scene horrified me so much.
I must have blacked out after that, because the next thing I knew, he was snoring on top of me.
I don't remember what happened in that interval. Everything was intact from the waist down, but the memory is a blank. All that comes to mind is the vision of the colourful slide in the playground, the swaying, tropical trees, and the sand underfoot. I felt empty and unholy ever since I got home, and realized what I had done; how it could have ended. Come to think of it, it felt wrong to be on the lookout for something carnal without having first experienced anything lasting or real. Like skiing before learning to walk.
And I wanted to learn how to walk.
I didn't know what I was doing in the club.
I got really drunk on Saturday and lost all sense of time, space, impulse control. Found myself giving an inspiring speech to two of my fellow art students, I remember them looking on, incredulous, in the kitchen. I think it was the kitchen. We played drinking games and before I knew it, I was absolutely smashed. Concluded the night having thrown up on the carpet and passed out on the sofa. I was dancing with a beautiful girl; I made my first foray into expressing my sexuality as we danced together, holding hands. I told her she was beautiful- which she was; a lovely, blonde little gone girl. Her name was Candy. Over the thrum of the music in the background, she asked if I was gay.
"I'm bisexual," I told her. The room was a warmly coloured whirl.
"How do you know?" she replied, with curiosity.
I tried to express the fact that whenever I see beautiful girls walk past, on the street or on a station platform or even at the gym, I feel a strange buzzing feeling, a warm sensation and an exhilarating urge to turn to look at them and not stop, in the absurd hope that I could somehow absorb the essence of their beauty just by looking. In drunken reverie, I tried to tell her that I somehow knew my gaze was like that of a teenage boy, or a man- that I felt like a man inside, looking at all the gorgeous girls with their honey-soft skin, something warm and sumptuous that can't be found in guys.
But she liked a quiet, geeky looking kid with glasses who was sitting in the corner with his drink. She wanted to know if she should go talk to him, and I told her she should. Thought, "Lucky guy." I only wanted her to be happy; isn't it strange to find yourself concerned about the true happiness of strangers?
I can't stop thinking about her. She was absolutely perfect. Just the memory of her sweet face, illuminated by the glowing fairy lights, gorgeous blonde hair just touching her exposed shoulders... baby-soft skin.. I wanted her so badly. I want to meet someone like her, who is also bi or gay and likes me too...
I have to come out to my parents at some point, and the thought terrifies me... I don't know what to do.
In the distance I saw a child bouncing on a trampoline, hair streaming golden in the lamp-starred night. I had given up feeling any real emotion at all about my lack of personal attachments or places to go. Yesterday, I stood on a station platform and watched the express trains go hurtling past at a hundred miles an hour, and thought, "If I was to get on one of those trains, there is nowhere on this Earth I could go shooting off to. There is no-one I know who would welcome me."
I supposed I should have felt depressed at this, but I simply felt a numb disappointment. How is it that we can't speak about what we feel deepest of all; our carnal loneliness and desperation, how we feel when we're looking out of the window late at night and wondering about all the people we've ever known? Perhaps if we could, it would not be so shameful. And if I could, I would tell my friends at college the stark, unrelenting truth: in the holidays, I'm lonely and bored to tears at home, there is not and never has been anything or anyone there for me; it's just as good as living in an unpopulated wasteland.
I have a facebook, but just one person actually talks to me on it.
Technically, I only really came alive at 16; before then I drifted along, connected to nothing at all, nothing real ever occurring in my life. My classmates rejected me. I had to rely on my inner life to entertain myself; save for one occasion, there were no ventures into the outside world. Now I live with one foot in it, as though it were one great glittering pool, still experiencing things from my world of primordial slime, looking up at endlessly bleak skies, but with the giddy excitement of the other world filtering up as if through osmosis.
I have even given up going into clothes shops. Such things seem pointless when you have no particular group of people you are familiar with. The days seem to rise up and flop down deflatedly, segueing from pallid day to silent, pitchy night. I have lost all motivation I previously possessed. My home life is like a blank page; I could live anywhere in this world and it would not matter, because all I know day in, day out, is this house, my room. The walls are duly decorated. Not a picture of anyone I have ever actually known in sight, but a rich tapestry of musicians from the past, art, pictures... everything but warmth.
Regarding the issue with Karl, I have given up seeing him in any way that is at all preventable. This is because he is a vindictive, passive-aggressive asshole. Devastatingly handsome, yes- I'm flattered that someone as attractive as he would take such a sincere interest in me, and that he would even go so far as to kiss me like he did. But he is undeniably damaged. It's impossible to ignore it, his actions are like the barbed wire that digs into your flesh when you go to climb a fence. Really very unpleasant. He will ignore you on purpose just to punish you for things an ordinary person wouldn't even think about. He is cruel and vindictive, filled with a strange kind of bitterness, its source impossible to pinpoint. When he ignored my text the last time, I could no longer have any illusions. There was nothing to do but to leave him alone, and give up all hopes of having any kind of relationship with him, friendship or otherwise. Act as though I had in fact never known him, resign him to the ranks of obscurity he inhabited before he stepped forth and made himself known to me. It seemed I would be forever pushing down memories of my time spent with different boys, pretending as though all those fervent conversations and furtive glances and giddy tokens of affection were just ghosts, echoes of a strange, vivid dream. That was depressing. Having to be in the same room as him was like getting salt in a wound; not once did he look at me or acknowledge my existence. I felt like a third class ticket, watching something very still and very beautiful from afar, as though from the edge of a chasm. Red jumper, blue denim sheep's wool-lined waistcoat, and light blue skinny jeans. I could have cried, he looked so perfect. There is something oddly sexy about a man in red, that I can't deny.
I look away and tell myself, he was just a blot on my radar, just a drunken mistake. I tell myself there was nothing I could have done. And in a vague, distant way, I know it is the truth.
"Why did we stop talking?" I asked him. Rows of houses ranged on before and behind us, and I felt as though I was the femme fatale of a 1960s movie, suave and slick and just about indestructible.
Mike grinned sheepishly. "I don't know."
For a moment he seemed to pause, then we continued. Each step sent small jolts of pain rippling through the balls of my feet.
I told him everything that was on my mind with that limbic, cosmic awareness we always spoke with, the special breathless excitement I never had to work too hard to muster up around him. I knew he understood everything I was saying, and vice versa. But there was something sad about it now. Something about the whole affair depressed me, despite soft wash of sunrise and the fact that the morning was hushed and beautiful, with only solitary dog walkers dotting the outskirts of the park and town. It was cold and damp with the air of forgotten promises. I knew that for the rest of the day I would be lying to myself that I had felt anything at all, telling myself that I was lost to him as a shipwreck, moss-covered and ocean-deep. Though I wished it to be, this was not the truth. Throughout the night, the vague memory of a feeling had jabbed at me through the haze of boozed-up pubs and cigarette smoke. Part of me wanted to speak to him, as though all that had happened between us had been nothing but a strange dream; but when I sought for words to say, there was nothing at all.
He bought me a drink in a dingy, Grand Theft Auto-esque club and I accepted it with a polite smile. We all sat back and watched in silence as hordes of women, ranging from young to middle aged, shimmied and cavorted about the dance floor with a blow up doll. The effect was comedic. I sipped my drink and looked around at the scene, and it sickened me. Was this what everyone did to escape the mundanity of everyday life? Was this the great "something" they used as an excuse, to justify their existence? Was this what I had previously been ashamed of "missing out" on?
Thinking of the droves of girls in tight, short dresses and the brawling, bellowing men outside, I wanted to sink down and never have to lay eyes on the night again. There was a middle-aged man flailing wildly in the corner, surrounded by a series of obese women, all of a similar age, their eyes vacant in the dancing light. I felt the sudden and ridiculous urge to cry. Mike, John and Katie sat in silence opposite me, watching the absurd scene in silence, reminding me somehow of the scene from Trainspotting in which Renton experiences feelings of isolation whilst in a club. It occurred to me that in the film, the club was bustling. This one was empty, and in its emptiness, its perennial shabbiness was obvious. The music was kitsch, loud and pulsing; I almost cried and then, I could have laughed. It all seemed so ridiculous. I did not know why it had depressed me just moments before, for I felt that having seen it, nothing could touch me. I had seen it, seen people in all their glory having what is stereotypically defined as "good times" and all there was to do was either laugh, or despair. I was certain they were only doing it because deep down, they knew they would die in the end, and it would all be for nothing.
When we headed out I felt its mark on my hand, a small, grubby black stencil that I knew would not rub off but would remain for days, reminding me of the embarrassing fact that I had been there. After that, the night only ranged from failure to self-induced failure. Standing outside in what seemed like a trial run of homelessness, I remembered the cold that day back in 2009 spent waiting for Mike and his friends with Katie, a dense cold that seemed to inch into your bones and huddled there as though it would never leave. I could not escape it, it chilled me deeply and seemed only intensified by the air of depression that had long since pervaded our small group. John refused club after club, each time citing its customers as the reason. We stood under the harsh light of a fish and chip shop as the boys ate mounds of parcel-wrapped chips and sausages from greasy white paper packages. John and Katie wanted to go home. My last train had left hours earlier, and I couldn't have gone home if I'd wanted to. Mike shouted at Katie for refusing to let me stay over at her house, and then he offered to put me up with him. Like the offer of the drink, I politely accepted. But silently, I thought, "About bloody time." Years earlier, I had waited in earnest for him to offer such a thing, imagining his house in great sprawling detail and constructing his home life from snippets of conversations we'd had. It had seemed only natural that he would let me stay with him, considering the fact that it was he who invited me out every time, but he never did. Instead, he'd leave me to wander the streets of his hometown alone. The memory used to hit me like a punch in the chest, but now it only drifted up foggily and dispersed without much feeling at all.
All through the night, Mike kept giving me things. His jacket in Katie's car because I was cold, some of his drink. Weed, food, water, the offer of a place to sleep. It seemed to me that every strange, fervent boy I ever met wanted to give me something, but all of a sudden I didn't feel that there was anything they could give me. I wondered why he had not made this much effort in the beginning. Back then, I was young and incredulous and would have agreed to anything he proposed, had he only bothered to do so. But he never did, was only evasive and inconsistent and ignored me, and then I had a breakdown and we went our separate ways.
I half expected him to make a move on me when we finally got to his house in the early hours of the morning. The house was silent, a pile of shoes strewn at the door; I stepped in and was met with the sight of an elaborately patterned navy blue and maroon carpet. We padded through to the kitchen, where he offered me water- then back to the living room, where we lay down on opposite sofas. I can never be sure if I've slept when I stay over at other people's houses, and this night was no exception. I lay there in my coat, dress and tights, a bizarre and garish blanket pulled up to my chin. It seemed to be made of just about every material imaginable. Mike was very quiet laying on the sofa opposite mine, and yet I was certain he wasn't asleep. I did not feel anything at all except very cold, and a shadowy sort of regret at the fact that we had never slept together. I entertained the idea of going over to him and initiating something, but the thought made my limbs heavy, and besides, I was on my period. Down the road from John's house, I had peed out in the open for the very first time in my supposed adulthood and left my used sanitary towel, in an unsavoury moment, in someone's front garden, not knowing what else to do with it.
In the morning, I opened my eyes as though I had been asleep, although I was sure I hadn't been. Mike made me tea and toast, which I could hardly eat. The nausea of the previous night's drinking swam up at me like a bad dream. I ate tiny mouthfuls of the toast, spread thickly with a black jam, and couldn't finish it. "Let me know if you need anything", he had said the night before, when we were settling down to sleep. "Let me know if you need anything."
I thought that if he had ever shown this kind of consideration when we were younger, I would have been his from the start.
When he walked me back to the station and offered to smoke a joint with me in the park, I accepted, with a little more warmth, and in between him beckoning to me to blow the thick, acrid smoke into my lungs, the pangs of longing began to creep up. I found myself not wanting to go home, but wanting to stay with him. I had always suspected we were very similar. Now I knew it was the truth. Talking to him was like looking into a mirror and seeing my own self and behaviour reflected back there, if a little eerily. There was no effort I had to make to speak to him at all; he knew exactly what I meant and would build on it intuitively, using the wordplay and wit I love to use but so often hold back from, for fear of being misunderstood. And he was somehow old and haggard looking despite being only 19, his jet black hair flecked with grey, skin wrinkled and tired. I saw that he would be one of those white-haired old men in no time, who are bent and ancient regardless of age. There was nothing about him I found attractive, however much I wanted to. I wanted so desperately to in the light of that morning, as he wiped the wet bench for me with his coat before we sat down together. I wanted to as we walked through the cemetery and down streets he had been walking his whole life, and would most likely continue to do so for the rest of it, too.
But I looked at him and saw that there was nothing left.
I knew in that moment that he could not give me what I wanted, at all. No matter how hard he tried.
"And what's that, Laurie?" inquired a soft, sleepy voice at the back of my mind.
I didn't even have to answer it; it answered itself like a whisper, like a voice on the breeze that is everywhere and in everything.
And I saw the two of us, 16 years old and standing fresh-faced at the station platform, earnestly searching our timetables for gaps to meet in, strolling down the street deep in conversation, sharing food and water in the warm light of the park; laughing together, leaning close to whisper to each other in the hubbub of an intimate gig. And then vaguely, I saw myself, crying and depleted, wracked with childish confusion, saw the months made blank by depression.
I felt only a deep-seated disappointment.
He leaned in to hug me goodbye in the station. "It's been emotional," he said, and his face betrayed no emotion whatsoever. As I had done throughout the night and subsequent morning, I wondered whether or not he was a sociopath. "Sociopaths can't love," I recounted to myself. "Sociopaths can't truly care about other people." I debated whether or not his attentiveness had all been an act designed to impress me, but like before, I could not be certain; I decided to let it hang as undecided. He apologized for not looking his best and seemed genuinely sorry. I said nothing.
When he hugged me, I let him, and then I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. Pleasantly surprised, he kissed me back with gruff affection, a brief, rough kiss with a rasp of stubble. Then I slotted the ticket he had helped pay for into the barrier and like so many times before, got on the train.
December 19th, 2011
It must seem like I only write to you when I'm sad about something or lonely and longing. That might be the case, and yet it also might not be. I wish there was some way of conveying what I feel so often throughout the day- the visions of old childhood haunts so still and forgotten, and the sadness that fills me to know that these locations probably only exist this way in my mind. I am aware that things have changed, if only very subtly. It's like returning home after a long time away; it can only be described as akin to waking from sleep one day to find the world has changed around you, and you can't go home again.
This morning, I had a vision that went something like this: I was watching the old avenues and highways drift past, those country roads our family car used to drive down, and I remembered at that moment this old derelict cinema somewhere in the centre of town, and how there were some cotton wool cobwebs left over from Halloween just dangling from the windows, and the doors ancient and boarded up. From the car window I used to watch this go by, or walk past it, and it would make me feel strange; kind of still and wondrous. I haven't been back there in years, and so many things have changed since then, but from time to time I see it in my mind's eye and don't know what it means.
Today the day is cold and damp and misty. Everything is very quiet and subdued outside my window, the trees hushed and stoic as though they have some great secret to keep. I had forgotten what the holidays were like, how the airy silence is bearable at first and even kind of nice, but then there's holiday work for which you have no motivation, and nobody your own age to talk to for miles around, and no stimulation. That's when loneliness and depression starts to set in.
Ti Jean, did you ever feel, when sitting on your own in your room or somewhere, that you wished the great bounding exuberance of activity could just run on forever? Lately, I've been feeling this way all the time. It makes me want to cry because I know I can't be around people forever; everyone has to go home and sleep sometime. But I don't want to sleep. I want to stroll under the deep cover of night, surrounded by a gang of boys, like on Friday, I want to sit drinking and exulting, my belly warm with drink. I want the heady and exhilarating possibility of going anywhere, doing anything at any moment simply because we're young enough to have the energy to do so, yet just old enough to behave like mini adults- I want the giddy fascination and special marvelling that I'm HERE with them: who am I and how lucky I am and WHERE was I for all those years, and HOW did I get here? And then the breathless joy in being able to think, "Ah, no matter- I'm here NOW and that's all that counts"
I wonder if you ever felt that way. Like someone who doesn't know where their next meal is coming from, or when, I'm hungry for light energy attraction interaction noise noise noise movement never ending, excitement, can never get enough. Can never listen to all the music or meet all the people or taste all the good food or be everywhere, doing everything at once like I want to be.
It makes me ache.
A well lit room
and you sit at your desk watching other people's fireworks go off in the distance
smelling the stale sweat of another sleepless night
another restless night
and your remember watching millennium fireworks from a darkened room
on the other side of the world
with your brother
12 years ago
huddled on the bed beneath the stars
wondering what it all meant
They go off again
you notice you have ceased to