This year seems magical to me now. I know it wasn’t truly like that but looking back now, the immediate world around me still seemed to possess magical properties. Dancing carefree at a Christmas family gathering to Wham!, belly full, Christmas jumper so big I could almost trip over it, fights with my sister over who had the most presents, my first Henry the Hippo Ulster bank account, giant collections of Gremlins movie cards, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on tea time television, lost in comic books and Star Wars dreams, cartoons, movies, music all captured my imagination. And then there was school. I was a good little student; shy, awkward, quiet, afraid to say boo especially to girls and like most people at some point in the playground, you get picked on but at least there was a screening of the Karate Kid in the school gym to take me away from my surroundings, where I grew up. We practiced the main characters moves and felt emboldened, alive and lost in what for us was reality on-screen. The concept of fantasy at that age was beyond us except among the most streetwise and prematurely cynical of youth hanging around the laneways of Ballybrack. Was I troubled? No. Afraid? Timid? Sensitive, that dreaded word which made parents and other figures of authority uncomfortable, disdainful even as it meant you never fit into the average 7-year old boy category, a hint you were effeminate and weak. Not a real boy at all.
Don’t cry. Don’t back down. Just let him act the hard man and don’t let your temper get the better of you. You can’t fight for shit and if you get caught by Mr Keane in the hallway, well expulsion or suspension is on the cards and then you will be shame your entire family. Him and his little dwarf cohort want to make you and mates uncomfortable, intimidate for the sake of it to make themselves feel better. You can not really fathom but this part of being 14, part of becoming a man. You can still make mistakes. And you can’t look bad in front of the older girls, the ones you have secret crushed on and want to impress even though making conversation with them is still torture, your ugly pre-adult body sweating without warning. Confusion, self-loathing begin to creep in now and deep down you want to rebel against your folks so blast out a bit of Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, Faith No More, Overkill, Annihilator and see what happens. But you still need their permission. Growing your hair long and entering the rocker fraternity cult? Not a chance but a relationship, a long-term love affair is forged. The melodramatic vocals, heavy riffs, dark theatricality and danger of heavy metal makes music your ally, a safe place to filter your directionless confusion and anger. Let’s not forget the first girl I fell in love with from afar, Vivian strawberry blonde, mysterious and three years older, untouchable All of it happened in my mind and it was glorious. But now, reality’s cruel sting became more evident as childhood wonder gave way to carefree boredom, hanging out on streets, still tied to the weekly allowance, house rules and future work/drinking days still a mirage. The anxieties are there in my blood. Like before, I need to shut in and escape sometimes. My friends think me weird, antisocial.
The aftermath. The comedown. First love or was it? Death of a friend, out of the blue. This is what it is to be an adult huh? Working for the weekend and any other day that will have me. Think I will try my hand as a singer though I really don’t have a clue. But some awareness, self-confidence emerges out of this feckless phase. So many changes but still music is my anchor through the hurt, providing clarity during the breakdowns. When the family question everything I do, it still stings and cuts, throws me off course into self-doubt and merciless self-analysis. No one can criticize or hurt as much as myself. It only takes one event to take me off course, once I was a singer and then she broke my heart with such ease, the world turned black along with my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. This was love? Maybe give it a miss the next time but probably not. Romantic and sexual notions still fuel my sense of self. To be loved/worshipped by a woman/women is all there is right? That is the ultimate aim isn’t it? Perhaps not. Until the next drink, watching your favourite band of the moment in their full glory, thinking you look cool, sexy even, you snatch a kiss and then without the wherewithal in how to actually play the game, it escapes your grasp once again. Keep on chasing. All your friends are leaving, she’s gone, your alone for the first time. Batman’s not going to get you out of this one kiddo. I want to disappear again. Shame and guilt I now wear with such ease. Bring on the cold morning water.
How did I get here? Oh right, you decided to be here. Take responsibility for fuck sake! Look at what you’ve done and deal with it. You hurt her so deeply and now it’s your turn to reap what you have sown. In another place. This place belongs to her. You were a guest in this city and now you are just an unwelcome reminder of her recent mistakes. What are you now? Nothing. You barely deserve to exist. But still you have to go on. No going home to mammy and daddy now. Get yourself through this. Find a job, a place to stay, start making friends as you hold back the fears, the thoughts of self-harm, the blame. Maybe you can find a God here, something to latch onto but you need to open yourself up to this city and it’s multitudes. I try to fit in but I feel broken, incomplete, an open wound wandering the cold cobbled streets with my heart hanging out and a crown made of shit. I express everything with everywhere people; aspiring artists, local performers, deadlocked travellers, wannabe mystical wanderers, university refugees, poseurs, pirates and smooth voiced hipsters. Underneath us all, her in the cultural underbelly we are all yearning, growing, putting on brave and stupid faces. I am free from my past but it still lingers. Much joy, much sorrow but I tried to destroy someone and my cycle of purging, myself, my previous actions, my persona is almost complete. Building myself back up from the darkness, out of the basement and the muck and back to the real. It feels like the right time. Friends now faded, embrace me and write the kindest words that I will always remember but still within there resides a beast who wails, a pain so acute it can never be mentioned. They could see it for so long but this just won’t do back home. Begin to shut down. Time to put on the Fools mask once more.
From self-exile in the dark star of the North to stinging comfort of self-exile back in your home town. Somehow you’ve managed it once more, In just six months, well done! Quite an achievement brother. Keep it up and you will have fucked every single opportunity you have had to be loved, to succeed, to fit in, to live by the time you are….well, by time you are well and truly expired. The relief of no longer being controlled by someone is immense, weight lifted from your body with such ease but there are the consequences and the inevitable self-hatred and doubt that will come every dark night you spend back in the darkened room of your childhood. Again, you led yourself somewhere you thought you should be and not where you actually should or need to be. Desires and ambitions clouded, misjudged and other people get damaged in the process. She tried her best. I tried my best. What is there left to say or to look back on? We both lived it and knew the truth, hid it from each other until it couldn’t be hidden any longer, the resentment and bile seeping out. I detested myself for granting her the power to guide and manipulate me. But I couldn’t resist fighting against it. Then, it was a case of digging myself out, appeasing her, hoping that erotic chemistry would lead to something more pure. We both hoped I think but our desperation and anxiety led to more frustration and anger. I tried to please, I’ve always tried to please women but I knew the darkness inside us both would lead nowhere and that hate was only a hair’s breadth away from love. Tears flowed, voices split walls, overshadowing moments of pleasure and affection, shadows followed us day and night and into our dreams. This was not me. I am lost again. Who am I today? A human question which may never be answered. We contain everything but in this world, a choice must be made to present oneself to others.You’re a big boy now Del boy they say! Sort it out they say! Look at me! Still a child lost in the snow.