Magpies, Re-runs and Lost Time
Carl sat there, on the sofa, mesmerised by the sound of magpies. Their clicking calls like rattle clackers at a football match in the old days. He watched them swoop and dive, attacking the screaming songbirds, relentless egg raids one after another. Thieving and hunting, blue, black and white blurs. That clicking noise, against the midday silence, soothed him into magic trance. Turning his attention back to the TV playing an episode of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, he grinned at Frank annoying some poor bastard in a shop. But as Frank nervously caused another calamity, something went wrong with the telly. The screen didn’t look right. Carl focused, squinting and, as the soft fuzz sharpened, he realised he was looking at the skirting in a corner of the room.
Where’s the TV?
Somehow, he was folded over, slumped to the left, with his head hanging over the sofa. He straightened, as he sat up and the television set was way over to his right. Carl adjusted himself in his disorientation and blinked at the screen, which was half-way through an episode of Monkey. He’d lost time again and wasn’t sure how much had passed.
I’m sure Boon is on in between.
Looking down at the marks on his arms, he scratched his itchy nose and wondered at all the time he’d lost over the years. His gaze was pulled back to the tube like a magnet and he laughed to himself, as Pigsy started getting all pervy with some pretty girls.
In the Worlds before Monkey, Primal chaos reigned, Heaven sought order.
“You’re a fucking idiot.”
Stab pain jolts me in the chest, as chemicals of anxiety rush through blood. I keep driving, both hands gripping the wheel tight. Going to the pub to meet a man with the money to get paid.
“You prick. You fucking prick.”
I concentrate on the road, the car becomes an alien vehicle, strange to drive, white knuckles on the wheel, tense jaw, ignoring the voice,
“Oi, remember me?”
Sounds like me this cunt, but it ain’t me. I stay quiet as I hear an old familiar sinister laughing. My blood runs cold and I shift uncomfortably in my seat.
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha……..you can’t ignore me……..you fuckin’ prick…………you’re an idiot……..you know you are don’t you. You’re pathetic!”
“Fuck off!” I shout back, angry and scared.
“Pathetic little worm. Everyone thinks you’re a cunt.”
“Leave me alone!”
“You sad, pathetic fuck.”
Somewhere in my mind, I realise this is not real, this voice is part of my illness. A rational part of my brain asserts control. I’ve learnt to recognise these hallucinations quickly and deal with them as best as I can in a situation. There was a time when delusion and fear rendered my psychosis unmanageable. Not this time, I know what this is. I know what’s what.
“Don’t talk to it Rob, just ignore it, it’s not real,” I say it out loud to myself, trying to sound assertive and firm, feeling anything but confident.
My mind fighting against my mind. I know it’s real, I know it’s not real. So disconcerting to realise my reality is not reality. Easier to go along with it, but the consequence, a nosedive into oblivion.
“Everybody knows you’re weak.”
“Fuck off! Fuck off!”
I’m shouting at nothing and become aware of it and what I must look like if somebody saw. This voice cuts me deep, gets to me more than the others. The other voices are all monsters, demonic, but this one is clearly human. An invisible creep. Taunting entity, without flesh. He sounds like an evil version of myself. The things he says wouldn’t usually bother me, but for some reason, when he says them, it just fucks me up. I feel like a bullied child, weak and alone. A child bullied by an adult, powerless and vulnerable. I haven’t heard this bastard since my psychosis put me in the mad house. That’s what frightens me more, the possibility of being like that again.
I pull up in the car park.
“Ok Rob, pull yourself together now, you’ve got to mix with normal people.”
I get out, walk across the grey, melancholy tarmac, smell of childhood, after summer rain. I look up at dim sun behind cloud sky, remember I don’t really exist and go in the pub. Bar full of after work faces, can sense my difference and I feel like I might attack the first person whose eyes catch mine. Alien. I see the guy I’m meeting standing with another feller I know at the near end of the bar and walk straight past them to the men’s room. He calls after me, but I don’t respond.
In the toilets I splash my face with cold water and look up in the mirror. Eyes black, all pupil, face distorted, pale, with purple and green, melting flesh. Behind me, the cubicles fluid, everything moving. I hold on to the basin for dear life and make a strange squeaking noise through gritted teeth. A man pissing in a urinal to my right looks over. I don’t care. Ten deep breaths and out the door, back in the bar.
The bar is so long, longer than it usually is, like a dream corridor, the room goes on forever. I’m walking along the bar for a long time, when Chris stops me with his hand on my shoulder from behind,
“Rob, where you goin’?”
I’ve walked right past them, nothing is real.
“I dunno,” here to get money, here to get money, here to get money.
“What you drinkin’?”
“I’ll have a Kronenburg,” I just about manage, as my existence becomes almost painful, experience of environment is intense.
He orders my pint and gives to me.
“No man. I tell ya what, do me a favour and don’t talk to me ‘till I’ve finished this pint.”
I sink it like I’m on coke or speed and slam the empty glass on the bar, “Ah…..I’m alright now.”
I notice them give each other that sideways glance people do when they’re with a lunatic like me. I scan the room, everything less threatening now and I feel power. I’m quite confident that I can kick the shit out of anyone in here.
I was laggin’. Come back from oblivion. Forty-ml. Valium washed down with a hundred-ml. methadone and four tins o’ Tennent’s Super. Black hole, sole suck. Dark vortex. On my way to fall off Tintagel House in despair, I bumped into Adjiman. He talked me out of it, with Ghana voice. Said, come with me. He took me under his wing. Said I could stay with him. Looked after me in his own way. For a while. Down on luck, living in the Downs. Broken flat, no water, no electric. Candle lit fixes through needles shared with a forty something year old African geezer. Very romantic. I was twenty-one, just out the mad house, after a bad psychotic episode. Strange to think that not much more than eight months before, I had fifty grand cash, kilos of this, that and the other, piles of cocaine on a mirror for a table, like Scar Face. Funny how madness can take everything away.
Thieving suits with Adjiman, one looking suspicious, one doing the chore. Hoover out a shop window, right opposite Edmonton nick. Up to the sports club, to sell to the old boys and buy heroin with the money for dealing and using.
Strutting round Euston, baseball cap backwards, old checked Savile Row jacket, with a shiv and a bag of smack, dishin’ out doses. Seemed alright for a while and then it went wrong, as inevitably, it always does.
Adjiman got arrested and I got robbed on the same day. One nicked African and a blade at my throat later, down on luck. I’d ticked the last bit of gear and now I had to pay up, as well as keep withdrawal at bay. Failed on both counts.
Sick as a dog, shiverin’ on the phone to Adam. I ain’t got the dough mate, I told him. He said he was coming. I told ‘im I weren’t going nowhere, I’m sick, but he said he was gonna do me. I lay there shivering and sweating, retching and writhing with pain and sickness of withdrawal horror. Waiting for him to turn up and kick the shit out of me. He was a big feller Adam. Most people were scared of him. Loved a row. Always fighting. I weren’t frightened of him. I knew he could batter me. I weren’t frightened of him, but I could hardly stand straight, let alone defend myself.
He smashed me all over the room. Give me a proper good beating. To be honest, I hardly cared. It was a distraction from the real pain. Every time he finished, I stood up and called him a cunt and he started hitting me again. Third time, he grabbed me by the throat, slammed me into the wall and lifted me onto my toes. He punched me in the head three times like that. I couldn’t swallow for weeks. I called him a cunt one more time, through crushed voice and he fucking lost it. He bashed me to the floor again and grabbed a heavy stone ashtray, to stove my head in. Alright, alright, I said, hands out for protection. Beaten. He dragged me up and slammed me back down on an armchair, like a ragdoll. Junky scum, he said and spat a greenie, right in my face.
All in all, it had been a good few weeks. Things were looking up. Better than a burst bag of smashed guts, at the bottom of Tintagel House.
Rob True was born in London 1971. He left school with no qualifications, got lost in an abyss and spent a decade on another planet. He returned to earth just in time for the new millennium and married a beautiful, strange girl. She taught him how to use paragraphs and punctuation and his writing has been a bit better ever since.
author photograph by Sophie Pitchford
featured photography by badpoem