August 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
“The wolf is just a puppy and the door’s double locked so what have you got to worry me for?” – Holes – Passenger.
In my line of work you see things. You see things which stay with you. Which effect you. Things that people who don’t do this job don’t see. I’ve seen children throw stones at uniformed men on the Gaza strip, men who fired back with the hiss and rattle of tear gas for reason I’m yet to understand. I’ve seen bullets fly over hot sands for reason I’m yet to understand. I’ve seen soldiers take their last breathes in the dirt of some back water town he’d couldn’t even pronounce the name of all for reasons I’m yet to understand. I’ve seen helicopter gunships fly overhead with their guns loaded and pouting and desperate to get hot. These are things that I don’t like to talk about in any great detail. But of all the things I’ve seen, one story which I’m willing to share, is one which happened to me this Sunday.
I found my self sat waiting on the cheap padded chair of a North London unisex salon. Another impulsive haircut, having caught my reflection in a shop window minutes before and deciding that it was necessary. The salon was run, as far as I could tell, by the two tall women with thick Jamaican accents. They moved slow around the shop, relaxed, easy. The sort of women who would knock a glass to the floor by accident and just watch it fall in favour of making a desperate, jolting lunge. There was no lunging here. No sudden movements. It’s all easy. My turn comes up as the elderly gentlemen departs the chair and pays his money. A few minutes into the haircut a man and a young girl who is clearly his daughter walks through the door letting the noise in from the street.
He held her hand on the way in as they crossed the threshold together. The man looked like he was around 40, dark short hair, wearing a coat, white t-shirt, jeans, trainers and a wild smile spread from ear to ear. The girl looked around 5 or 6 in a pink floral dress, her blonde hair was messy, almost tomboyish, like it had been allowed to grow, almost as if she had had a go at cutting it herself. She also smiled wide, but there was something different in her eyes. A mad open mouthed wonder, like all of Disneyland had been contained in a room and she had just walked in. As if she’d never seen such a magical and marvellous place as this unremarkable North London salon. The second women who worked there came out from the back and waved the little girl over to the chair next to where I was getting my hair cut. She ran up, smiling wider still, ear to ear. It shined out of her face. It was an extraordinary and remarkable sight, that smile. And it was shared by the father. He wore it too. This mad, crazy smile painted across the width of their faces, complete will eyes that burned with love and happiness. The girl sat on the seat and the hairdresser jimmyed up the seat so she sat at an accessible height. I watched the smile sit on this man’s face, watched it grow further and tried to pick apart how someone could take this much pleasure from this situation.
“Now then sweet’art, what is it we are doin’ for you?” Spoke the hairdresser through that thick Jamaican accent. The girl paused, too young to speak for herself, but the smile did not drop from her face. She shrugged playfully and the hairdresser smiled and turned to the dad for direction. His smile sat still on his face as he looked in the daughters eyes via the mirror that was sat in front of her. “Just cut it anyway, anyway at all is fine, any style, just a haircut please.” He said in a strange wistful tone. Anyone listening could tell that the sentence was loaded. That for some reason this trip meant something. Being in this salon today was loaded with sentimental value for some reason. The hairdresser smiled at this odd request and set about her business.
A minute later the hairdresser cutting the little girls hair spoke over the quiet of my haircut and the radio playing almost silently in the background.
“This hair’s a mess sweet’art, have you been cutting it yourself?” I looked over and the thing and ragged hair that had been left to grow on the young girls head.
“This is actually her first haircut for a few years.” Spoke the father, not for a second letting that smile lift from his lips. The Jamaican woman paused, double took, and pouted her lips in confusion.
“Her first haircut for years? Now how can that be?” The unsettling realisation washed over me like cold, thick water, creeping slow over my body. I prayed to whichever God would listen that what I was thinking wasn’t true.
“She hasn’t exactly had the best of times,” spoke the father, still through his wide smiling mouth. “But for now at least, she’s cancer free.” The sentence hung in the air. The father and daughter continued to smile like they were punch drunk. The woman cutting my hair stopped, took a moment to herself. As did I. The words seemed to echo. Rattling around in all our heads, like we’d actually managed to forget that this sort of thing goes on. Like we’d got caught up in all our own shit that we had all lost perspective. Shaken from our blissful bubble to end up here. But this story isn’t about us. It isn’t about what conclusion we could use this situation to draw from our own lives. It’s not about our own self improvement or how we hide behind our own ignorance. This story is about a little six year old girl in North London who, for the first time in a long time, is getting her haircut with her father on a Sunday afternoon.
August 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Because of the shame I associate with vulnerability I am numbing myself completely.” – Because of the shame.
I suppose what is bothering me is the feeling that nothing feels like it should any more. Like it did, at least. It’s cold, autopilot, muscle memory, clinical, cynical recycled conversation that gets me through the days. When did I start “getting through” days? When did I start counting the minutes in the hours in the days? When did I stop that break neck, ricochet madness that meant so much to me. That defined me. I’d pinball around, everything was new, everything was shiny, everything was exciting. I miss exciting. I feel the dull peace creep over me.
I was around 15 when I diagnosed my depression. Boxed it in. Took notes. Started trying to understand one of the biggest, most important and best hidden parts of me. “It’s a loss of perspective.” I thought to myself. “Clinical loss of perspective.” That’s what they should tell you when you leave the doctors. Instead of the mountains of pills, that I never touched, they should instead just list every reason you shouldn’t feel how you do. Nice life. No immediate threat of death. Immediate water and food. Health. They should, but they don’t. They don’t because it wouldn’t work. You can’t out think it like that. You have to get on top of it, sure, but for me, not like that. It’s messy.
For something so slow burning and cold it started loudly. I awoke bolt up right at 15, cold sweat, heart racing, afraid and brought to this state by a noise. A loud and piercing scream, the kind of thing that comes from all the way down. The bottom of the stomach, the heart of the lungs. A roar that span me into confusion. That special fear that comes to those who are shocked to waking. I heard my heart first, then the scream. I felt the scream before I heard it. The rumble and tensing of those tight muscles in my own throat and jaw. It was me. Like some terrible memory had come to me in the night. Like I was trying to fight it on it’s way in. Scare it away. I wasn’t lucky. I made the concious decision to stop the scream I had no concious decision in starting. I sat in my sweat and confusion listening to heart rattle around in my rib cage like a baby’s toy. I heard the noise of lights turning on, feet fast on floorboards, my door opening and my parents concern. I had no explanation. It had started. A week later it happened again. And the week after. It carried on for a whole month. And then another. It got so regular my parents would barely wake.
In the following months I had the fortune to fall in love. Teenage love. That mad roller coaster of uppers and downers. Way downers. It hid behind it. The plummeting sensation I put down to toying with a very volatile and potent emotion. It dug it’s nails in deep, it climbed on my back, held on, made camp. It carried on. It lived in my boredom. I turned 18 and went to University where I feel in love with everything all at once. I met friends and fell in love with the friends closest to me. I found rest-bite. I could keep it at bay. Despite the large amount of substances I was consuming, my friends kept me safe, kept me level, kept me that elusive happy. When I left at 21 the darkness found me again. Got back on. Made home. I started pouring it into this blog to relieve the pressure I was feeling. I was never the cutting myself type. This isn’t a cry for attention. I strived to hide my illness from my family and friends. Pushed it deep down and only let it come out when I was locked away, alone. Scars make that harder to do. Scars are outside proof that there’s something wrong. If anyone asks, nothing’s wrong. If anyone looks, nothing’s wrong.
The best actors in the world aren’t on TV. They aren’t in our films and they aren’t on a stage on the West end or Broadway. They aren’t picking up Oscars. They are our addicts and manic depressives. They are us. They are me.
No Longer an Astronaut.
August 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
The music dropped in my blood and I realised it would keep me up for at least an hour. An hour I thought would be best spent with you. In the past days I’ve realised that it is our friends that will prove to be our salvation. That wild unconditional love. Like a mothers love, but on the level, open, more understanding. They pick you up. Friends are all ups, I’ve found. Friends are love. Love are dangerous. Real lovers. They are a gamble. Like you are investing your blood on something. The wideness of your vessels. Those sky rocket ups. Those lead based free falls. The heart-based stock. Imagine. If there was a Wall Street somewhere where people were trading love. Pushing and shouting and waving and screaming in their bright jackets, trying to buy it low and sell it high. Merging those that needed it. Like a soulless, stress-filled, modern day cupid. Wouldn’t that be something? It sure as hell would. A trading floor covered in broken hearts instead of broken wallets. But what I’m saying is, friend stock, it’s safe stock all the way.
I breathe deep and feel my fingers. Have you noticed that no one listens to CDs any more? It’s a shame, they’re so much better, the quality I mean, there’s so much more there than the alternative. I listen to CDs like people smoke cigars. I wait for the right moment. Light it up. Let it burn, all the way. Every time.
I’ve been around a fair few years and the most important thing I have learnt from my time is that satisfaction is fleeting and elusive. It’s also essential. Also I’m not bullet proof. There’s no way that’s true despite how I felt when I was younger. There’s hole that’s been shot clean through my heart and these bones are a ticking clock just waiting to be broken. But that’s life, the sooner you come to terms with the this the soon you buy that smile and spread it wide across your face. The sooner you stop writing notes in the night and making deals with your god. The sooner you find peace, which, by the way, is also fleeting.
The song’s hang out of the speakers. Those old 60’s style drum beats. The ones that roll and twist through the air on the way to the ear. The ones where you can actually hear the drugs and see the colours in those tones. The bottles sat dripping their last in the floor and the dull early morning sunlight was peeking through everything it could. It finds that strange twilight between party end and morning waking. That hue. That sweat and stink. The down. The deep, deep downs. But that’s OK. Because these are the people I’ve become accustomed to being here with. They are my life support. They prop me up, even just with memories. Balanced. Settled. Missing like a removed organ. They run in my blood. They are the reason I still breathe in.