You can tell when someone is hungover. It’s not a pleasant sight. They’re eyes are reddened and can only focus for a few seconds at a time. Their blinking becomes prolonged, like taking teeny weeny naps instead of just cleaning the eye. Their balance has been returned after the night but their body doesn’t want to use it. They talk slowly, making sure every word is pronounced properly, or very quickly in an effort to get the words out before they’re followed by breakfast. After a shower and a meal they still look clammy, sickly, and malnourished. Their skin is like it’s been stretched in a taffy puller and put back, so it’s paler and looser but it has the same surface area.
Junkies are much worse. A hungover person can still function within normal societal parameters. They may vomit before and after but they’ll still eat a meal and enjoy it. Junkies don’t do food. The idea doesn’t even register in their heads. Their skin is worse, like it was first shrunk before being pulled tightly across their skulls, so much so that in places it tore a little bit. They talk at whatever speed the words appear to them, some slow and seemingly deliberate, some quick and often nonsensical. It’s the eyes that get me, though, they aren’t soulless and lifeless as many have told me. There is life in their eyes, it’s just being held prisoner, shackled and in pain. A dungeon inside themselves where the captive has not just accepted their terrible fate, but they asked for and encouraged it.
I served one last week at work. She joked with me, I found her less funny than intriguing. She had no sense to hide what she was - she told me straight up she felt very ill and would only get better if she ‘found more drugs.’ What struck me most was that, aside from her gaunt face and tattered hair, her clothes were fine. They were nicer than mine. She wasn’t a real junkie, she was a weekend junkie. A business woman with a respectable place in life that spent her spare time relaxing with a glass pipe instead of a glass of wine. I didn’t feel sorry for her, nor disgusted, nor ashamed. No, I found myself drawn to her. I wanted to know what made her tick. What in her life made her choose cocaine or meth or whatever it was, what made her curl up with an 8 ball instead of a good book.
Is that accepted or allowed? Am I supposed to look at what society deems disgusting with fascination? I feel like I should want to help her where others ignored her but I don’t want to do either. I just wanted to let her continue her activities while I watch and learn. Because that’s where the answer lies for, I think, most of us. ‘Us’ being those who feel incomplete. To look at these people and the choices they make and, rather than simply being scared off drugs, begin to understand the reasoning and pathology behind what made them want to be on them. Some are broken, abused, insane. Are all of them? Or are some, perhaps that woman, just regular working people who one day decided that there was something missing and could be found in a pill, a line, a hit or a glass too many? Maybe some of them don’t have a reason, it was simply that the chemical state of sobriety they had didn’t compare ti the one they could induce with something else. One thing is for sure, that woman, as alluring as she was, was certainly not happy.
’So hey you want to hear a joke?’ The Reaper asked.
‘Not really, you know nobody understands your sense of humor’ Replied Oliver, as he drove the pole deeply into the river to drive the boat forwards. Most people found reaper’s to be gloomy and unpleasant, there was something about the way they always appeared to loom over you no matter how close or far away they were. Not Oliver, they just annoyed him.
‘Come on, it’ll be quick. It’s based on a true story!’ The Reaper tried, at least in Oliver’s mind, to sound excited about it. It was hard to tell with them, their voices always came in scarcely audible whispers, to most they sounded like the wind. Over time he had learned to understand them, it was all he could do to occupy himself. Ferrying the dead across the river made for an unhappy eternity if you had no conversation. It occurred to him he may have offended this one, that is if they had feelings at all. Finally, to ease his guilt or, more accurately, to give him something to do, he said,
‘Ugh, fine, go on.’
‘Basically here’s this guy and he’s depressed, yeah? Not just the mopey and sad and ‘it’s raining in my head all day’ kind. I’m talking proper-fed-up-done-with-this-bullshit clinical stuff. So anyway he’s so fucking sad because, you know, his wife has left and she took their little girl and even the damned puppy – he loved that thing, really, like the son he always wanted – and I guess his job, while average, had no real draw anymore. This man has no passion. Shit, he hadn’t had an erection in years so he decides that he’s going to do it.’
‘He’s going out. He’s done with it all, she can have the kid and the dear, sweet little puppy. His job can rot with him in hell and, given it’s managed to keep him locked in his whole life, he more than expects it will follow him there. He hasn’t decided to actually die, though, no it’s more that he no longer cares that he’s alive.’
‘Those aren’t the same thing?’
‘Not at all. So one day he says ‘fuck it’ and he grabs a necktie from his wardrobe.
He ties the necktie around the doorknob of his bedroom door and lays down against it. He closes his eyes and lets his imagination drift, from the pain through to the pleasurable – that is, nudity, profanity, the nasty stuff you know, boring human fleshy stuff – And he starts to move his hands down when his body slides down for a second and he hears a ripping sound. The necktie tears itself in half and he winds up on the floor.’
‘That’s not very fu-‘
‘Not done yet.
Anyway, annoyed but determined, he scans the room. His eyes lock sight with the glinting eye of the ceiling light reflecting off a belt buckle. There’s a soft chinking sound as he repeats the process: Tie it around the doorknob, lay against it, slide your head in, let go. He noticed the loop made by the belt to be smaller than the necktie but, thinking nothing of it, continues. He rests slightly on the belt and waits a few seconds. His head feels a small tingle, it travels down through his neck to his fingers, to his toes, tiny pin prick signals alerting him that the race is on.
As his head lightens slightly he starts to think ‘jesus, how do I begin, I don’t have all day. Alright, here goes..’ And he slides his thumbs into the sides of his pants to pull them down. Try as he might, and he was really trying, his thumbs don’t seem to have the strength to de-clothe him. Clearly, something has gone wrong. So he freaks a little and he throws his hands up to find he can’t reach the door handle. The belt is too small that he can’t seem to push off his feet to get up. He places his hands on the side of the belt to try and lift himself up, to get a steady grip on the ground with his feet and push himself up. To no avail, his body is simply too weakened by lack of oxygen.
His heart races faster as his mind slows, the feeling and awareness of his hands and feet disappearing from him. Soon he is no more able to move his arms than he is to feel his feet and the numbness encroaches inwards towards the heart. His lungs, threatened and frightened by this sudden lack of air leap into a fitful rage, throwing themselves against the ribcage in an effort to break through and take breath on the outside of his body. His mind closes slowly, blackness forming around the outside of his vision and growing to encase everything in nothingness.’
‘So do you get it?’
‘Get what? That’s fucked up’
‘Well, here’s a guy who’s depressed and instead of killing himself he tried to live life on the edge, to it’s fullest, and then right as he begins, he dies anyway! And he doesn’t even get to the orgasm! And then - oh, I forgot that part. That’s when the door opens and his ex-wife comes in with the puppy. Sorry, I’m hopeless with jokes. It’s a sort of a ‘His life was going to get better but he was impatient’ thing’
‘That’s not funny at all. That’s just a man dying after some ill fated attempt to search the darker side of himself for his kicks. Then someone has to find him.’
‘Oh.. Guess you had to be there.’
T-Rex Trying to use a backpack…
There’s always been a creative urge in me, a desire, a need to fill the empty spaces with colour and words. I think in pictures and the only way to satisfy the urge is to paint those pictures using whatever medium is close at hand – be it the brush, the pencil, the laptop or even theatrics. Secretly, perhaps not so secretly, I always wanted to be an actor.
When I’m alone I sort of am one. There’s me and there’s the mirror and then there’s the magic. I don’t talk to myself – that would be crazy – I use the mirror to bring forth characters and I let them talk. And they’re animated, and they have stories, and they’re really quite interesting. They’re also as painfully shy as I can be. That’s why I never did the acting thing, because I can’t perform on stage. Get me drunk and put me in a room with five people and I will be whoever I want to be that night, I will assume a new opinion and I will fight for it – regardless of weather I believe it myself. Take me away from that room and place me upon a stage, the center of attention, in front of a hundred people. I’ll freeze. I’ll become a block of ice incapable of movement, speech or even thought. Lucky to be breathing.
That’s the thing, that’s the difference between me and an actor. They can be very quiet you know, in real life, but you put them up there, out in front, and they come to life. I’m more comfortable in the audience, applauding with the others.
I still crave that validation, though. I still need to create things and to have those things seen by other people. That’s why writing is such an obvious choice. I can see people and their motivations, or I can make them up at least. I can see pictures in my head and describe them. I have a colourful cast of characters roaming my mind and they have tales to tell. I just can’t do any of those things in front of a crowd.
To have an impulse in my head, a face or an action or a sentence, and to drag it out from me for the world to see? Brilliant. To write a page and have three hundred strangers see it, to have some of them say it was good? Beyond brilliant. To have to read it out, theatrically, as if that character was me? No sir. Not me. I wish, yes yes, I wish I could do that, but it isn’t my way. It isn’t my calling.
I have a tremendous respect for the performing arts, perhaps more so than any other kind. They have the confidence within themselves, or at least an assured..ness in their craft, to stand up in front of others and reveal themselves to the world. Even if that means making a mistake. They are unafraid. To use that ability of imitation and creation and understanding to not just tell a story but become the story. To become somebody else so fully that the outside world can be drawn into your own.
From an early age they will routinely find a way to be the performer. School plays, talent contests, just giving a speech to a class will set them on fire, delivering a rush they’ll soon realize nothing else can match. That was never me. I was always out the back, behind or beyond the crowds, doing what those little performers were doing but in secret. I was housing my own plays and performances for a crowd of only pets, play things and a fenced off backyard. They were good, there was emotion, there was depth, there were good guys, bad guys, all in between. Even as a young man I understood the basic archetypes of storytelling but not once did I have success replaying or retelling it in front of another person. Not until I started to write. Writing has become a bridge of sorts, between my stories and my pictures and the terrifying world from which I demand validation.
Some might say it requires a little confidence to write something, personal or not there’s a little of you in each word, and then let another person read it. That never bothered me. The need to let someone see it is far greater than the fear they’ll hate it. Nothing about that scares me because the veil is there. The wall is still up between the audience and myself. I can still hide behind the words in a way I could never do behind a mask made of my own face.
Slowly but surely, though, I am coming to terms with that. There is a craft, an art, a freedom to writing. There’s an ability within it to explore any and all possibilities. More than that, there’s the incredible fact that you can experience life from any angle with words. I have written many horrible things about many bad people and I regret not a single one. Why? Because I got to see life from that angle for a moment. I still get to be those characters and tell their stories. I still get to talk through them and let them talk through me. In a way, I may even some day get to share that with the world properly. Through a book, though, not a stage.