Mr Pie

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Mr Pie bent himself forward into the climb. Twenty young schoolkids, his schoolkids, walked behind him wearing rucksacks and carrying clipboards and pencils. They were excited.

‘Hey, Mr Pie, here’s another old building. I wonder what it was used for?’

‘Hmmph’ Mr Pie continued his slow walk, grey head bowed.

‘Mr Pie?’

Silence. Mr Pie didn’t raise his head from staring at the gravel. The view was beautiful but he wasn’t looking. Still, the wide space was putting the zap on little brains behind him; the simple pleasure of not being encased in the middle of concrete, bricks, and diesel particles. Here there were golden leaves, the soft rolling hill stretching up and over and down to the river, ducks to feed. Small birds were jinking between the birch trees, spider webs hung with hope. Life was everywhere. No traffic. The kids were making memories.

Mr Pie was thinking about how long he’d been in the job, and how he could manage to get through the day with as little hassle as possible. There are limits to how much someone can be pushed. Teaching was overrated, like most things. He had a home, no kids, and an equally unhappy wife to sit in silence with as soon as he could get out of the school gates and through the rush hour. A takeaway; bottle of wine; Eastenders; sleep; shared experience of misery. These things are to be cherished, unlike his job, unlike today. ‘Teaching,’ he mouthed silently.

The kids made their way up the incline, past the last crashed train truck in the Catch Pit. Excited noises. Mr Pie trudging on stoically. Staring at his feet moving forward in big walking boots, moving forward towards the end of his day.

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Fine Print

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Someone told me that you should just write. Doesn’t matter what it’s about – choose the first thing that comes into your head. I followed that advice for years. Even sitting doing paid gigs for magazines/websites and PR companies. Mostly the advice proved to be good. Only one Editor refused to print something I’d written without ‘Major fucking changes to the way you are blowing smoke up the ass of the W.B.C.’

Today I’m finding it difficult. Really difficult. Worse than psychotic episode brain-freeze. Or gibberish. Shit, I liked the gibberish. Reading the ravings of someone deep into a paranoid belief the neighbours are all police officers makes for fun reflection when the dust has settled. I’ve written high, low, hallucinating, starving, puking, hungover, and when it’s been so cold that the olive oil in my kitchen has frozen. But not today. There is no coherent thought I can drag along on the back of. Well, there’s one, but it’s so consuming that I feel like I’m being eaten from the inside out.

My Psychologist and I argued on the phone about how I deal with this. She’s worried. Kept asking me about my propensity to self harm. Wanting to assess the level of danger. I could hear her typing things down carefully as I spoke. ‘No……honestly, for fuck’s sake, I’m safe.’ One answer like that is usually enough, but she must have asked me four or five times over twenty minutes. Same answer, same typing. Same thought, over and over and over. Same face, same smile, same laughter.

Music on now. Loud. Someone told me it’s all about grounding yourself in times like these. I guess it works, mostly. Maybe a quick prayer will help?

Okay, God, you fucking owe me. Let’s not argue about that, eh. We both know it. I’ve borne enough bullshit and hurt to last me from here until you high-five my hand warmly as I ride through those big gates on a Raleigh Chopper. Time for that re-birth you’re always banging on about in those pamphlets that come through my letterbox infrequently. Forget the gibberish about dinosaurs and homosexuals. That stuff isn’t important. You’ve lost your way a bit concentrating on things that don’t matter. Give me this one fucking chance to feel good.

There. I told you this thing would be incoherent. But at least whatever being is tending the eternal campfire up there now has the fine print in black and white. Spiritual proof, if you will. Maybe you can write your way to anything if you let it just flow?

Nights of panic

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The house was on a new development. Mock Tudor. Hideous. I was only looking at it because my partner thought it was the right thing – the upwardly mobile thing – to do. She was bland. I guess that’s why the blandness of the little street appealed. All I knew was that it was bigger than the house we were living in. And I wouldn’t have to hear the neighbours over the road fucking in the summer with their windows open. Screaming up the hot night while I lay in bed not wanting to do the same with the woman laying next to me. Every time I heard them I imagined the kind of love and lust that was driving those screams and moans. It had never been like that in my life. Fuck those hot summer nights. We would breath heavy. Both of us knowing the other wasn’t asleep. Not touching in bed. Me staring into the gloom praying I wouldn’t feel a hand on me under the thin sheets. Having to make up an excuse.

But the new house was going to be away from all that. The neighbours weren’t going to screw all night and shout each others names into the stinking rotten Epworth air. This was a move upwards. Up Up, into the middle class. Two cars on the drive. Waving to grass-cutting middle-aged car salesmen across the way on Saturday afternoons. Pristine house. Glass of wine with Dinner. Better and better cars and sofas and holidays until the rest of my hair fell out and the pension cheques started dropping on the mat. Climbing up into the apex of fat mediocrity. Tense puckered kisses goodbye in the mornings, the limit of sexual contact. Thankful for it.

The house was owned by a single woman in her mid to late forties. I can’t remember her name but it was something like Crapper, or Merde, or some other shit-based reference. I remember laughing when I first heard it. She had curly brown hair and, possibly, an eating disorder. She was very thin, drawn, and her eyes had sunk right down into their sockets. I was shocked when she opened the door to show us around. And she was timid, really scared-looking. Mousy. Like she was about to run to a safe room and bolt the door behind her. She barely whispered when she talked. Something told me she’d seen something awful and couldn’t wash it away. I thought that’s why she kept the house so clean. The hallway and stairs had a brand new carpet, you could smell the newness. The walls had been painted cream and it looked as though the paint layers were thick and expensive. My partner loved the place, so after we looked round we went back to the estate agents and told them we’d offer near the asking price. I wondered about the new carpets in a new house. I asked what it was all about.

‘You didn’t see the news last year?’ she replied.

‘No..’

‘Her husband attacked her one night in the house with an axe. It was pretty bad. She was trying to leave and he was chopping at her as she was coming down the stairs into the hallway to the front door, trying to run. I heard she curled up into ball by the front door and he just kept on hacking. Someone next door heard the noise and called the police. She nearly died.’

‘Jesus!’

‘He got twenty years in prison.’

‘And that’s why the new carpet and the paint job?’

‘Yeah. You do still want to put an offer in?’

The sales pitch wasn’t the best I’d ever heard. But at least it was honest. Mrs Crapper, or whatever she was called, had only just come out of hospital and wanted rid of the place where she’d almost been chopped to pieces by someone she trusted. She wasn’t even living there any more. She’d moved in to her sister’s. She couldn’t face living alone. Being hacked at with an axe tends to change people.

So we bought the house, violent memories and all, and I set about cleaning the car on Saturdays, waving to the guy across the road. Losing more of me by the second. Disappearing into the middle of my life in a beige haze of nothing out of the ordinary. At least in the summer, with the bedroom windows open, the nights were still. Like they were in the marriage bed.

 

Feelin’ it fast

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The cars were wrecked, covered in mud, dinted, full of hungover kids and fucked up camping equipment. Girls had tried to plat their hair but the rain and the sweating atmosphere of airless tents had rat-tailed every one of them. They looked like refugees escaping some desperate war zone. Close to the edge of panic.

Car after car sat in the gridlock in the village. The bus driver was shouting to me about the madness of camping in a field around here and listening to ‘that shit music’. I shouted back that he just felt old. Like I did.

I got off at my stop, walked slowly across the road, waved at the Romanians at the car wash. They smiled and waved back, then went on cleaning a Porsche as the fat driver stood back admiring the power of money. His sunglasses were too big for his piggy face. Trousers too tight, belly hanging over the front. Gold bracelet, heavy and glinting in the sun, hung against the top of one hand, dragging him down, nailing his soul to the floor. His teeth matched the white foam but his skin was red. Blood pressure too high. Climbed off his big-titted wife barely half an hour ago as she lay panting under the weight. Cock barely functioning despite the view below him writhing in mock ecstasy, trying her best.

He moved his head to one side, checking out the cleaning job on the car. It had never occurred to him how much you can get people to do for ten pounds. You got your car cleaned, smiled at – bowed at, too, sometimes. Language barriers make for odd gestures. The traffic moved slowly. He eyeballed the bored drivers. He thought about where to drive when the car was clean. Maybe McDonalds? Eat a burger. Then pick up the wine and get back to those tits. Man…they’d been a good investment.

I went inside my house. Put my bag down. I heard the roar of the Porsche start up. He revved the engine four or five times for maximum effect, turned up the stereo. I heard him pull out into the traffic and accelerate away up the hill, really gunning it. I wondered if his wife was ready for another go on the mountain of blubber that was heading her way in the sunshine, too fast to stop.

 

Pawed-at-4-Life: Hallucination

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Some things aren’t meant to be explained. A face peeking at you through a fence on a rainy morning, the rhythmic thumping of a headboard on an adjoining wall, grim face at a Dog Funeral. These things might all have come into my life in one form or another in the recent past, but I learn quickly. I don’t ask questions when the answer could be something I don’t want to hear.

My CPN didn’t turn up the other day. I cursed her slack ways. She rang the next morning to offer an explanation about admin workers, cut-backs, and the world being full of people with Borderline Personality Disorder. In fact, that was the theme of this week. In an argument with my Psychologist I said ‘Well, I’ve got BPD…..that means I can say what I like, eh?’

‘So has everybody right now,’ she replied with a sigh.

This might be true, I don’t know, I never check the facts about anything. Gut instinct – that’s where the future of Mankind lies. The unscientific, unpredictable, untrustworthy method preferred by most people with BPD. The thing that has kept me from being eaten by a shark, mauled by a bear, or beaten to a pile of bloody pulp and rags in prison. Sneer all you want about gut instinct, but when a hundred pissed off prisoners are corralled in a room and you’re the only member of staff in there, you learn to trust the sudden psychic shift in the ether. And your gut responds by sending messages of preparation for extreme violence – to meter out, or to be on the receiving end of – or to run. Sometimes it will tell you that all will be well. It never failed me. People thought I was tough, but it was all simply down to the precognition of gut instinct.

I guess this is the only benefit of BPD, apart from the compulsion to create stuff, hatred of humans, and getting to spend lots of time in windowless rooms with Psychiatrists. I can’t think of any others. We’re supposed to be more passionate about life, generally, and easier to hurt, but I don’t know if that’s true or just a cop-out. Stops us facing facts.

But back to the face at the fence. It wasn’t my eighty-five year old neighbour. And it wasn’t the other neighbour who masturbates drunk most nights, headboard pounding on our shared wall for a good thirty seconds until he reaches his climax. I sometimes wonder who he thinks of. And why?

The face outside was hairy. Female, I think. Kinda looked a bit like a big dog. Yeah, that’s a good description. Out of place in the rain of the morning. Gently popped up to peer over at me, blinked a couple of times, smiled, then ducked back down.

For the first couple of seconds these things are shocking. Like seeing a tiger leaping out of an enclosure right at you. Then you realise you are crazy; none of it is real. That’s when the vision leaves. Mostly. I still don’t know why I see Bigfoot. A Psychiatrist said it’s a metaphor for when I was in uncontrolled states of terror at the hands of a powerful adult when I was little. Returning again and again when I feel stressed, scared, or mixed up. And they could be right. I guess I don’t really ever want to know the truth. The truth would take the edge off. Make it worse.

Some people see Aliens, some see men with enormous chins wearing long leather coats and chrome-toed cowboy boots. I should be thankful for small mercies. Regardless of the explanation.

Plain sight

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The blind guy had a white stick and was being helped onto the train by Station staff. ‘Step up here, sir.’

He tentatively put one foot onto the train, then the other, waving his stick, looking into the blackness, his eyes going in all directions, not seeming to see anything. She lead him to a seat and helped him into it. I was pretty sure by his mannerisms that he was totally blind. He looked just past her shoulder when he said thanks. Stared off into the back of the seat in front of him.

After a few minutes the train went through a tunnel and I wondered if the blind guy had any light perception at all. I turned around as we exited it. As I got a look at him he seemed to catch me and, for a moment, looked right at me the way anyone would who was being stared at by someone twenty feet away on a train. Then, as if he remembered something, his gaze moved to the window. I watched him following the sight of a herd of cows, turning his head a little to watch them as we passed. How blind was he? I needed to know if he was conning us. Like it mattered. Like it was my business to find out. The jaded and judgmental thoughts of someone coming back from therapy with too much to think about.

My Psychologist had just told told me she thought I was lonely. Hard to take in. I don’t feel lonely. We agreed that I would try to make some friends, just to test out the fear I have that they’ll hurt me, or they’ll find out how horrible I am and the whole thing will collapse they way it always does. I was hating on myself on the train, sitting there judging that poor blind guy. Taking the nastiest possible line of thought. The feelings made me feel sick. I took out my meds and necked a couple, hoping they’d sedate me enough to get off the train without upsetting anyone. Which worked.

An old friend from 25 years ago is coming over this weekend. I haven’t seen her in all that time. I’m nervous. My therapist says this is lucky, and to use it as opportunity to prove myself wrong. To show myself that people can really like me. All I know is that deep down I’m right about myself and she’s just doing some psychological back-slapping. Expensive cheerleading. It’s what you do – positive encouragement, compliments, ‘don’t kill yourself’ – in order to try and shift the balance in people like me. I rate her ability to keep focused despite our arguments on the subject. Her face flushed red with frustration and anger this week. I wouldn’t do her job, just like I wouldn’t tie myself to a chair and watch twenty hours of back to back shark attack videos.

Time has taught me it’s much better to keep myself secluded away, where I can’t form appalling thoughts about blind people, and where I can’t do any damage to folk. Where my vile form can’t be mocked by strangers in the street. Where I can’t be laughed at. Where people won’t work out what I’m really like. I like my Psychologist’s optimism and pig-headed take on my diagnosis, but the walk with my old friend won’t be anything other than showing someone I once knew that I am even more awful than all those years ago; a massive let down; a dreadful mistake. Even if my friend is blinded by the yahoo of our shared youth and memories of good times long gone, the truth of my ravaged personality disorder is in plain sight.

 

Party

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Anyone else look forward to social events like they look forward to being gored by a bull? I’ve got the pain coming today. It’ll be administered at my partners friends’ house in the next village.

I’ve already been told off yesterday by my partner for not taking my tablets and for having a meltdown on Saturday; I’m a bit all over the place at the moment. So, the writing is on the wall, and the ley-lines and hexes are all intersecting on her friends home this afternoon, with its pretty garden and borrowed marquee. The rain will help to dampen the moods of my dining companions. Fuses will be short and nervous glances will shoot at me the second someone mentions politics, or mental health, or death, or…just about anything where the topic can turn serious – which is just about any topic as far as I’m concerned.

The opposing team include a right-wing lizard of a man, a drunk social worker, a tetchy support worker and her cattle farmer husband, a former head of a social services department, her stoner partner, an ‘I’m wacky’ old people’s services assessor, a registered mental health nurse – recently disciplined for punching a patient in a mental health unit, the hosts (nervous and highly strung teacher and insurance salesman), and my old friend – the only one I have left. He will provide the only sense and safety in the whole thing. I genuinely am ramping up with high anxiety right now. Those people are out to get me and I don’t have a hope in Hell. Judging on past experiences I’ll either take too many meds prior to getting there, or drink to much. I’m not popular sober, but whacked on tablets and/or booze makes the whole thing much, much worse. Anything could happen. At the very least I’ll be a huge embarrassment to my partner in front of all her friends. And they will ask her, in text messages afterwards, why she bothers with me. It’s a good question – and one I ask myself many times more than they do – but I can’t bear to think about it right now. Got to keep the anxiety on just one threat. One is enough today.

In three hours I could be walking home in the rain, covered in my own sweat and slime. Soaked and slithering away from what most other people enjoy; it’s just a party.

The Midnight Monster

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It had been a bad night again. Not down to the meds this time. I think I’d fallen asleep around 11pm, laptop still on next to the bed. The air was hot from a day in the heatwave. The stone house had retained the warmth and was releasing it slowly, cooking me. A dog barked, waking me up. I kicked the duvet off and lay there on my back, naked, the dog barking and barking out the back somewhere. The thing wasn’t happy, wherever it was. There was aggression in its voice.

Behind my house is just miles of countryside. Probably ten miles in a straight line from my back door to the nearest house in that direction. It’s quiet, and sometimes you can see the Milky Way up there, and those fools in the Space Station. Noise around here means you should be alert. Noise doesn’t herald anything of any good out here. You learn to take notice of sounds when the nights are usually deep silence.

From over the hill the sound of Sheep baaaaaa baaaaaa, bleating and concerned. I got up and looked out of the window expecting to see a flock of loose sheep behind my house, or the pack of Wolverines chasing them. Nothing. I scanned around but the place looked still. Getting back into bed, I grabbed my Mag-Light torch, and wondered if it was worth going downstairs to get my axe – kept by the back door in case of emergencies – but I reckoned I needed more evidence and reason before I introduced a large sharp steel blade to the night. I turned off the laptop and fell asleep.

3am – I was woken hideously from a dream about riding Bill Gates around a Horse Track. Something had let out a yell outside. The dog barked again, scared, yelping. Silence, then a terrifying scream, something so cutting and bizarre that I reached for the torch without thinking. No animal I’d ever heard could make a noise like that. There it was again. A high pitched, blood-curdling shriek that sounded like it ended in a laugh. I lay there, heart beating faster, waiting for it to yell again so I could judge how far it was from my home and, more importantly, my open windows.

I thought of Bigfoot. Shit, he’d be able to climb into my upstairs windows without much effort. I imagined myself being dragged outside like the Skyscraper scene from King Kong, naked, flailing weakly as I was carried off into the night. No point worrying, I told myself, things will take their course as they always do. I waited until it was starting to get light. Nothing. No more screams, no more barking. I sensed a change outside. Birds were starting to sing, the darkness ushered out by the promise of another fine day. I got up and drew back the curtains knowing whatever had been terrorising me had gone. I was right. A beautiful dawn, orange sky, green trees, dewy grass, monster-less. I had survived another attack. In calm, rational, early morning serenity I made my way downstairs chuckling to myself at how stupid I’d been. Light makes even the worst coward braver than he was when he couldn’t see what was coming. Was any of it even real? When you have a psychotic mental illness that question is one you ask yourself a lot. And you learn to appreciate how much of a target you are. There are many monsters out to get us, real or imagined. In the dark there is no difference between the two.

 

Surf

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Hello. Yes, I think that’s the right tone for the start of this thing. Hello. As you sit on the bus, on your sofa, on the toilet, walking in the street, bashing the steering wheel in a traffic jam home from a job you hate, whatever/wherever. Hello still stands. It might not be reciprocated – and I doubt it is – but it’s a free offer from me. Take it.

Medication taken today: Pregabalin (found a tablet down the side of the sofa – yeah, desperation), Codeine, Flupentixol, diazepam, ethyl alcohol.

Is that ok?

I doubt it. But it feels good. And, yes, I know that alcohol isn’t strictly a medication. ‘Self-medication’ they call it. Not gallons of the stuff, just a couple of cold beers while I’m typing and watching a guy spraying some noxious weedkiller on the hillside. He’s wearing a blue boiler suit. The chemicals must be a real doozy. Can’t get them on the skin or his curly hair’ll fall out and his testicles wither and shrivel up like walnuts. But no weeds, eh. It’s no wonder I haven’t seen a hedgehog for ten years.

But that’s all superfluous. The world is swinging now under my own chemical intervention. Bad synapses cut off at the pass by GABA-inducing, serotonin pumping, actions from the tiny tablets and swigs of Heineken. No weed in me, yet, hoho. I’m High. This old desk has never felt better. The little red keyboard – bought as an add-on because the laptop keyboard is shit – is soaking up the heavy finger stabs. Just a great slab of forgiving plastic meat.

This hubris in here won’t last. I’m not that high.The first rule of any real chemical user is you know this is the one great truth: things never last. For now, though, don’t begrudge a guy surfing on the warm wave of his own personal understanding of neuropharmacology. The beach is golden and inviting, and the water friendly and shark-free. It beats the sharp rocks, fins, teeth, and rusted steel of any other given day. Tomorrow I’ll know different, as always, but while the sun is out and the dopamine flowing I’ll take this ride until the offshore breeze ruins the wave sets.

 

Carried

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Carry me.

The words blasted out over the PA in the Opera House. The Levellers were on stage. Good Folk/Punk music. Honest singing among the middle-aged crustys of yesteryear. The audience looked like a Geography Teachers away day. The New Age Traveller scene is dead. Still, in memories and in the eyes of the people around me, the words and attitude resonated.

Songs of opting out, fucking off the establishment, freedom, the devastating facts of heroin use, alcohol addiction in wasted council estates. All delivered with conviction to us dancing in our opera seats. I wished I was younger. I wished all the people there were younger, too. A movement could’ve started on the back of the attitude their songs had if it all had taken place today. All we needed was a focus and a cause, and the balls to see it through. But The Levellers, and standing up for freedom and social RIGHTs, are irrelevant now except to the old people like me who were there before the Criminal Justice Act riots. The gig gave me inspiration, I wanted to buy an old coach and go drive it somewhere [deja vu…why?] and make a difference, opt out of the grim human race. Hang about with like-minded people who gave a damn if the planet was being destroyed and the poor stomped on. Pipe dreams.

After the gig ended we walked past a hotel. A wedding reception was winding to a climax. Sweet Child O Mine coming from ‘Billy Klub’s Mobile Disco’. I stood and watched the scenes through the windows of drunken suits doing earnest air guitar and trying not to fall over in pointed tractionless cheap shoes on the carpet dance floor.

Outside the entrance a pool of Wedding vomit slicked the pavement by a row of  parked cars in slanted slots to make good use of precious space. Someone in a hired waistcoat was pissing against one of them.

More power to The Levellers and everything they thought they could do to change the World. I enjoyed hearing the words that I thought few people ever considered. For a couple of hours I didn’t feel alone in the imaginary – and real – struggle out there; that I wasn’t the only one who knew the score. I was carried along by sadness, hope, togetherness. Just for a moment, we could change the world. Fleeting, maybe, but better than handing back a sick-stained suit this morning.