“You seem to be hurting, to be asking these impossible-to-answer questions of yourself. I can’t watch it anymore, it’s too difficult. Will you try your best today to make a difference, however small it may be, please?”
She takes a deep breath, poor creature she’s had to deal with this too. If only we could go back. There’s no going back, of course.
“I can try but it’s killing me, making me a shoddy version of myself at best. I’m lonely and petrified too.”
She thinks. She appears tired. From me probably. No, definitely from me.
“I understand, really, I do. Not entirely but enough to see that your world’s been turned upside down. Did you book yourself in for that haircut?”
“I did, tomorrow, I can go tomorrow.”
We look at each other and I light another cigarette. Another thing to worry about – it’s become a chain thing at this stage, a part of me. A horrible, crows-feet inducing part. Half of my face is ready for Halloween it does seem.
“You look like that fecking politician with the hair. Ming what’s-his-name.”
I shake my head and stare at the floor.
“I know, yeah, bloody awful isn’t it. Ming Flanagan. No one wants to ever look like him.”
I’ve been doing everything I can lately to cease the crazy what-ifs. Not easy by the longest shot in the world. My OCD is gone but what I’ve been left with seems to be too hard to bear. I knew I was capable, so very capable, but how could eighteen years of being boxed-off by your own brain, completely frozen out, not cause some kind of irreparable damage? How could it not leave you on the pile with your every movement slow and tedious and all kinds of unsatisfactory? The people are there but not really either. Too long in the tooth and I don’t blame them. These relationships were stop-start all the time. I was there but I wasn’t, begging for my thoughts to stop sprinting. Sometimes I do catch myself thinking and still, I would never, ever want for my worst enemy in the world to go through that sort of living hell. Like sending them to prison for something they didn’t do. Give them a week of it, maybe. Anymore than that and I’d be a demon.
“I know that you were stuck for so very long, your memories soaked in pain. But the real test of you is how you can combat this part right now, don’t you think? Christ I can’t imagine the agony you’ve had to ensue but what I can do is absolutely be there for you. How’s about it, will you let me be there for you?”
I smoke and smile. She hates it.
“You were always there for me, course you were, but I’ve no bite left in me, no get-up-and-go.”
Her need to fix me is all too obvious. It always was.
“Your writing’s going pretty well. It’s really good, you say what you see. Always. People appreciate that.”
My writing is difficult because, again, I have to wonder how well it would do if I wasn’t boxed away. If I were actually meeting the right people. Any people. I can charm them into submission given the right setting and right haircut, course I can. And good clothes courtesy of my older brother’s fashioned eye because I go into a clothes shop and I’m in the changing room banging my head against the wall, begging for reprieve. I don’t know why I give the OCD a mention because it’s gone – passed off over a one month stint where, suddenly, my thoughts were my own. It was absolutely bewildering, to think for yourself for the first time since you were eleven. No constant intrusions, no hiding, no panic attacks. Actually I only ever incurred one panic attack and it seemed to last eighteen years. That’s, hmm, almost four and a half world cups worth of misery. Shit. I recently picked up that new book by that fella Bressie, the one about his problems with anxiety – pretty cutting for its detail – and I would never, ever look to take anything from him, he’s seems like a great lad, I know because I got to interview him once but he had moments away from it, he was able to turn it off. I wasn’t. Fair play for putting it out there though. He’s good now, still handling it but Roz Purcell by any man’s side surely can’t hurt. Thinking back to that interview he did appear a little, I dunno, shuffly. A little over-contemplative. He certainly wasn’t the humourous fella he is on The Voice, that’s for sure. At that moment the pair of us were ramshackled by our own problems and trying to carry out this one interview – in a radio station with professionals looking on, needing it to make absolute sense. And we got there. That’s where my journalism career went to die and his whole thing took off. We crossed paths again a couple of years later and he did recall the interview. Of course he had a ridiculously beautiful girl on his arm then too. Me – just cigarettes and fear and, from what I can remember, a girl left standing back by the entrance of a nightclub I had just fleed who had tried to strike a conversation only my head was wanting to shove itself beneath a duvet to roar someplace less loudly. Away from prying eyes. The amount of conversations where I had to stand in agony wishing I could control it goes into the thousands. Sliding doors. Damn. My friend coined the phrase right then for me ‘the beautiful disaster’. I don’t think I’m in any way beautiful, obviously, and I think it was more to do with the line from that song ages ago by Kelly Clarkson. In any case, if I might have been fine to look at way back when, the years are beginning to show their meaner side now. The bollix, much later on he informed me that on a gorgeous girl approaching him and asking if his mate was single – mate being me – he proceeded to tell her that no, I wasn’t, and besides, I was gay. Nicely played but from that occurence alone I can now see why people always likened us to chalk and cheese. That’s where the cracks probably started. Mind-boggling. OCD finished us off, I never turned up to anything for him so fair game really.
“You know, I think it’s fine. People know I write and to be fair I’ve passed the point of them ever questioning my ability. So I can write but the burning question is just how well?”
The postman appears out of nowhere and pushes the letters through the letter box, giving the mandatory nod. Just how many of them have come and gone over the years with my head wedged so far up my ass it’s embarrassing. She switches on the telly. Fair City. My God, depression on wheels right there. That sorry sod Deco will have my skin crawling before long. That face was fashioned for soaps, no more.
“It’s fine. I know you analyse the life from it, that it has to be perfect but what’s perfect for one person won’t be that way for another. You realise that right?”
I do but something in me believes I can be the one who manages to write that book that does appeal to everyone. That it’s all building to something. Then why do I loathe to read? Surely that’s like a musician who hates watching other peers perform. I’ve a mate who does music and exceptionally well at that and he can’t get it. He’s either gigging or turning out to one gig or another. The one thing we have in common though, seems you can’t cut that dream off however hard you might try. Another smoke.
“It’s okay I guess. Frustrating but there’s a beauty in that push alone, just wish I didn’t have to experience it first-hand, you know?”
She knows. Always has.
“What I wouldn’t give for a normal life, to work and play in equal measure. You know what, it’s been my dream of late to have a solid foundation – personality completely intact – and to get to rush into all these things. Like I say, sipping on a roasting hot coffee in a bustling coffee shop with a good friend, to feel kinda cool. Surely everyone deserves to feel that way at one point or other in their life. To talk with that friend about the normal things, where we might be going this weekend, what girls we might meet, what new beers we’ll slam back to our hearts content. Know what, the last time I kissed someone was a while ago, not that long but most of them are either married or engaged or having babies now. Hell, hand on my heart I’d misplace a baby. Leave them with my cigarettes by the entrance to a shopping centre or something. “Ooh, I forgot my cigarettes… and the baby.” The simple things that feel so far out of reach right now and that’s the part I can’t deal with. The impossible reach. She starts wiping my leftover tobacco from the dinner table. I’ll be needing that.
“I do think you’re right, you are a cliché writer but at least you’re a writer and therein lies your backbone. Don’t you have to do that poem for that lady with cancer? She’s in remission now. She seems so nice. And so strong.”
Some are certainly stronger than others and that gets me too. To the bone. I’ll roll and smoke another fifteen cigarettes today, staring at Deco and the likes, trying to find a way, any way. People are good though. Incredibly so.
I just wish they could have seen me before It was too late. Okay, not too late but seriously cellotaped together. No one likes a cellotape job. Least of all me. It’s pretty tough when a mother’s unconditional love is called into play to prove its real worth. Tit-for-tat.