“I don’t understand why you freak so much about that book mark. Why does it HAVE to be THAT bookmark in THAT book?”
Even in 2015, there are still a hole heap of social taboos that centre around how an individual causes themselves physical or emotional pain or even death. Suicide, self harm, sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, alcoholism – all of them will raise an eyebrow or two in any “socially acceptable” forum. However, and I am saying this as that little voice on the other side of the fence, there are ways that people mutilate their hearts and heads without ever picking up a razor blade or contemplating a one way waltz off of a tall building.
I’ll give you an example – when my marriage broke down, my first reaction was to get my nipple pierced. Now, for a couple of seconds can we just forget that the nipple is a “rude” place to get a piercing and just concentrate on the task at hand. It was a Tuesday evening and I called my mother to ask if she was around and if she wanted to pop by to the house that I had shared with my ex-husband, our daughter and two fabulous lodgers. She said yes, and I had a request – that she bring a cannula and a reasonably sized BCR. She obliged, without questioning this as she had been piercing me and my brother for years. Yep, we’re that kind of family.
So Ma pulls up and gets out of the car, comes in to the house and plops herself down on the settee. My friend and lodger was sitting on the other settee, my daughter asleep, the male lodger at work and my ex-husband was somewhere probably doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing. Or someone…I was in pain. And that pain wouldn’t go away. So, in the true spirit of fighting fire with fire, I, no noob to a cannula, asked my mother to pierce my nipple. My friend and my mother laughed, knowing that it was ludicrous and that I’d always maintained that I’d never be stupid enough to pierce anything below my neck for the simple reason – that shit hurts, man.
But I wanted it to hurt. That’s the point I’m trying to get across here. I wanted something to hurt more than my heart did, something to sharpen that dull, relentless ache in the pit of my stomach, something to spike some fresh, lucid tears from my swollen eyes. So, my mother, being the woman she is, pierced my nipple for me as I sat there on a cold Tuesday in November and my friend cringed right beside me. Needless to say, I don’t think she’ll ever be getting her nipple pierced…
And you want to know something totally fucking insane? It worked. For awhile. For at least the first week after I mutilated my left nipple, whilst the pain was still fresh and it ached like a rotten tooth somewhere near my heart, I felt like I could breathe again. So much so that a few weeks later, when the house was gone, the lodgers moved on and my marriage officially in the gutter, when I moved in with my mother for the first time since I’d left two years before, I asked my mother one day as she made her way out of the door, again on a Tuesday – if she had time to stick a couple of cannula’s through my lip. I didn’t bother asking her to “snake bite” me because my mother learned how to pierce people before people gave said piercings such ludicrous names. Again, she obliged, and I had two newborn piercings in my brutally swollen lip to get me through the next few weeks until they healed and the real pain came back again.
So then, after those piercings were on their way to healed, I went out and gave myself a rather nasty case of the “dead drunks” when I decided that a cocktail of tramadol, anti depressants and whiskey would numb me for a night in February. It worked, until I woke in a hospital bed feeling more shit than I thought was humanly possible. I trudged home looking like death warmed up, apologised profusely to my mother and sent a bunch of flowers and a thank you card to Joy, the nurse who had to deal with my issues that night in the emergency room because I hadn’t quite figured out how to tame my demons on my lonesome by this point. Rest assured, it was the last time I ever did that.
It all boiled down to distraction in the end. I started writing more and reading too much (as many as four books a day) and gardening, fuck me, the gardening. I started walking everywhere and playing my guitar and baking all the time. I was drawing, painting, sewing and even tried my hand at ceramics before I realised just what in the hell was going on – I was shutting down, slowly but surely each and every one of the little lights inside me were burning out whilst I was busy knitting or learning the chord progressions in Bruce Springsteen’s newest song. I was a husk of the teenager I had been, caught somewhere on the front line of being an adult, being a mother, being a woman and being alive.
Slowly, I was drowning in my own distraction. So I stuck a pin in it and tried, fuck me I tried, to be a good person and for the most part its worked ever since. The issue is, sometimes, things still hurt. It’s like I have a chamber in my heart solely reserved for a swarm of hornets that hold my all the tiny arrows the poor bastard has taken over the years and every now and then, one of those hornets stings against the bars I have carefully built up around it and its friends. Sometimes, the really determined ones even manage to break free of their cage and terrorise the softer patches of my heart.
And that’s when I’d give anything to feel a tangible pain again, instead of just the vague burning sensation that comes with immense emotional distress. Something I can get my hands on and sink my teeth into, a pain that I can control and manipulate at my pleasure or discomfort – something to make me feel anything other than what I’m feeling when one of those mutant wasps breaks free and pours its poison into my veins.
Pain is the key here, people. And yeah, you can pick up a razor or a piece of something broken and sharp, maybe even something poetic like a mirror, so that you can watch yourself hurting yourself and take comfort in the solace that knowing the attacker brings. And yeah, when it all gets too much you can get punch out a single and ride the train to the end of the line. You can drown in the bottom of the bottle or soar on the tip of a needle, or you can throw your beautiful, broken body at anything willing to call it so for a time or two just to feel like you’re not entirely worthless. And all of these things, were you to tell them to a psychiatrist or a even a friend or family member, may wind you up with an intervention at the best and a funeral at the worst, depending on the quality of the people around you.
But there are a million and one socially acceptable ways to commit suicide. You can, for example, become addicted to the most foul and fiendish drug of them all – nicotine. You can smoke your life away one cigarette at a time and never once find yourself alone in a room full of judgemental faces and inquisitive eyes. Hey, you smoke, yeah you shouldn’t but my grandaddy smoked for like a hundred and two years and lived to be seventy nine thousand years old, or something like that.
You can go out every weekend and get blackout drunk, so drunk that you don’t remember how you got home or where your shoes are or what in gods name that is down the front of you t-shirt and you’re fine, because you only do it at the weekend. You hold down a nine to five, you pay your bills and you don’t beat your old lady when you’re wasted. You don’t drink and drive and nine times out of ten you walk away from the fights that find your face in those fabulous shit holes you frequent Friday to Sunday. But you’re just Dave, the local pisshead, everyone’s favourite pet yardstick that they measure their own failures against. Oh well, you weren’t as fucked as Dave was…is anyone ever as fucked as Dave is? Lol.
Spend your days walking around so stoned that you couldn’t tell your daddy from the postman. Go on, do it. You’re allowed to numb yourself so relentlessly against the bullets flying at you because you’re funny when you’re stoned, you’re easy when you’re stoned and easy is endlessly endearing. Pump yourself full of Valium and Prozac, hell skin up one hell of a joint and blaze your life away, because weed is natural and it doesn’t hurt anyone and it should be legal, man. It doesn’t hurt anyone, it helps people. Look, I’ve got this killer Wiki list that details all the good things about weed. You know, it doesn’t say anything about the fact that any chemical or natural substance, that takes you away from the way you feel is inherently dangerous to your basic understanding of identity and position, but you know… could you pass the oreos?
And here’s the best and the worst, saved for last as all things of its ilk should be. I’m going to tell you now to call him. To pick up your phone and call him. It doesn’t matter that it’s one o’clock in the morning and he’s probably passed on someone else’s bed, y’all just go ahead and call him. Tell him that you can’t live without him. Tell him that he will never, EVER find someone who will love him like you do. Tell him that you fell like you can’t breathe without him. Tell him that he’s the only thing that stops the voices in your head because he is the only fucking voice in your head. Tell him that you’re sorry and that you’ll do anything to be with him. Tell him that you’ll die without him. And believe it. Believe it all. Every. Single. Word. Of. This. Bullshit. Boil it down and breathe it in, because nothing, and I mean nothing, quite compares to the powerfully destructive pain of desperately timeless unrequited love.
And that’s how we do it. That’s how we live, creatures of immeasurable misery integrated fully into a functioning society that wouldn’t know us from the next. It’s how we survive by ritualistically torturing our minds and hearts and bodies with a whole heap of socially acceptable forms of self mutilation. We stick needles through our genitals and tattoo our rib cages. We drink, smoke and fuck like the worlds going to end, because in our heads, it already has. We throw ourselves into experiencing our lives in means and ways that we’ve told are enjoyable but in actual fact are dead end attempts to be happy on a road to absolute fucking misery.
And there’s hundreds of thousands of us out there. Some of you might have even read this and nodded along or sighed or shaken your heads because you know Dave the piss head, hell y’all might even be Dave the piss head. And you might be high now or smoking a fag or looking at your phone wondering if they got your text, telling yourself that it’s late and they’re probably asleep, crossing your fingers that they’ll text back in the morning with the obligatory apology and inadequate excuse, all the while knowing that the reason that they’re not texting back is because they’re busy living without you.
And you question whether that would be living at all because you haven’t realised that they have realised this already.
So, yeah, we’re all in pain and we’re all trying to find a way to make that pain go away or at least shut the hell up. Sometimes we win and it does shut up. And sometimes we lose and it whispers in the backs of our minds and we feel that wave wash over us, feel the water trickle down the back of our throats and find ourselves crawling through the hours on all fours gasping for the air that everyone around us is breathing seemingly with so much ease. And we wonder if that pain will ever go away. We wonder if we’ll ever be able to breathe again.
And sometimes, we hope we won’t. We call it a day and we settle into a sleep that we wish, somewhere deep and dark inside ourselves, that we don’t open our eyes again. That we just silently tap out of all it is that weighs us down and tears us apart, but then, more often than not, we wake up and realise that the world woke up again too. And that it would whether or not we were here or gone. We realise how small and insignificant we actually are and it scares the shit out of us. The notion occurs to us that were we to shuffle off this mortal coil and into the blessed abyss, no one would care. Yeah your mum and you dad would probably be devastated and your friends would probably go get your name tattooed on them and raise a bomb to you every other weekend, but given time, they’d live, because like all things, pain fades.
So you have a choice. You can either accept the fact that the world will go on without you just fine, that even those that would want to die if you did, would find a way to deal with that pain and would remember you always but that there would come a day in even their lives when they would be pouring milk into their cereal in the morning and your face wouldn’t be in their mind or your voice in their ears – you can take this information and drown in it, or you can take this information as a free pass to live exactly how you want to live without fear of what the world will think – because it doesn’t care, remember?
You’re free. Free to do whatever you want whenever you want with whomever you want for whatever reasons you want. The world doesn’t care. And neither should you. Be yourself, your own magnificently mutated self. And remember, that that place in your chest that aches all the time also beats all of the time, and in those moments of universal despair, lend a hand to that spot on your chest for a moment or two and take comfort in the fact that it never stopped beating, through it all – however much you may have wanted it to.
And be beautiful.
Because you are.
And know that we’re in it together.
Because we are.
So on every other blog I’ve ever had I’ve written a piece called “Me” in which I detail strange facts about myself in one long (very, very long) uninterrupted rambling sprawl. Sitting on the train this afternoon, I thought of a few of these posts that I had made and realised how much I have changed from “Me” to “Me”, so much so, that I don’t want to write another “Me” here on what I hope to be my last blog (because, damn, I’m tired of starting again).
Still, I think that effortlessly honest blog posts are hard to come by. Some are worried they’d be judged (and some should be worried about being judged) and some just don’t see the point. I get this overall impression from a lot of bloggers, similar to the vloggers on YouTube that put on a full face of make up and dress the top half of their bodies (because y’all know they be wearing pyjama trousers!) just to give an impression that is conducive to the image that they want to portray of themselves on the internet. I have no time for this. To paraphrase Twain – if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
I don’t try to be any weirder than I am, because, well…you’ll see.
So, 101, because that’s “the number” (and it sounds good, right?) facts, quirks, touches, about this blogger.
1. I am very aware of my organs and when my heart beats too fast I feel genuine fear.
2. I suck my thumb pretty much all the time but especially when I’m tired.
3. I got married when I was eighteen.
4. I got divorced when I was twenty one.
5. I name plants that I own and read to them often.
6. I have a fear of being the first person to the train door and having the responsibility of pushing the button with people waiting behind me, watching
7. I always (and I mean always) have headphones on when I am in public. Call it a safety mechanism.
8. I have voted every year of my life that I have been able to but I have always defaced my ballot paper, so, in essence – I have never made a vote that has been counted.
9. When I was a kid E.T. was the most terrifying creature I had ever seen. I regularly had nightmares about him.
10. My family have developed an umbrella term for all the messed up B and D movies we watched as kids that no one else on earth ever saw – we call them “Harper Films.”
11. I don’t like horses. I find them intimidating and unnecessarily large. Ponies are fine. In fact, ponies are awesome.
12. I have a five year old daughter named Molly.
13. In 2014, I legally changed my last named to Roland, after Roland Deschain from the Dark Tower books by Stephen King. I also entertained “Burgundy” which would have made my name…wait for it…Ron Burgundy. Say wha?!
14. I have intensely lucid dreams that I can remember with stunning clarity upon waking. Nightmarish erotica is my favourite genre of my dreamscape.
15. I am allergic to nutmeg. Lame, right?
16. I cut the sleeves off of almost all of my t-shirts, and off of all of my band shirts. I always wanted to be a Metallica roadie I guess.
17. My first real kiss was with a girl when I was fourteen and it was perfect.
18. I scream (and I mean horror-movie-the-dude-with-the-chainsaws-gonna-get-me scream) almost constantly. People find it hilarious, I remind them that I am (contrary to appearance) a lady and am therefore, entitled to scream at everything.
19. I loved pickled food. In the trinity of pickled goods roll mop herrings are god, gherkins the son and beetroot the holy spirit. Ahh, pickle juice. Damn, that shit’s tasty.
20. My birthday is the 20th August.
21. My middle name is Kyriaky, which is the female version of my grandfathers name Kyriakou, and also Greek for “Sunday” which was all well and good until I was seventeen and realised that I was actually born ten minutes into a Monday and not in fact, a Sunday. My Ma maintains that she did all the work on the Sunday and sticks by her decision to give me the wrong day of the week as my middle name.
22. When I was kid I went everywhere on roller blades. It was the 90’s and I was cool.
23. I have a tendency to veer right when I am walking due to an old injury to the leg on that side.
24. My favourite animal is an alligator.
25. I never do up my shoes and contrary to what my parents, teachers and peers have always said, to this day I have never once fallen or tripped as a result of this strange habit.
26. I wait for my toast to go cold before I butter it. No one likes soggy toast.
27. If I need to be somewhere and it’s less than ten miles away, I walk. People find it odd, my Ma thinks it’s dangerous and I think…most of the time, I think about dragons. With laser eyes! 😀
28. Peanut butter forms one of the sides of a magnificent food triangle in my life. The other two sides are marshmallows and Oreos. *drool*
29. I have cried five times when celebrities have died. The celebrities that elicited these tears were none other than Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Patrick Swayze, Keith Floyd and Ronnie Barker. The last one was particularly difficult as, as a child, my mother told me that Ronnie Barker was already dead. In essence – I had to mourn him twice. It still sucks to think about it.
30. I have an extensive knowledge of 70’s and 80’s power ballads. And I’m not ashamed.
31. I met the first boy I ever really liked (like, that) in an adolescent mental health unit. Ah, young love ❤
32. Withnail and I is the only movie that makes me feel better when I’m deathly ill.
33. I hum or sing out loud when I have my headphones on in public. Some people like it, others think its weird and the man sitting opposite me on the train today apparently thought it was infuriating. Douchebag.
34. I randomly drop into what my Ma calls my “Forrest Gump” voice which is a mixture of Forrest Gump’s accent and Sweet Brown (the “ain’t-nobody-got-time-for-that lady). My mother in particular loves this voice and often makes me quote phrases from the movie to her when she’s feeling down. Her favourite remains “I guess sometimes, there just aren’t enough rocks.” A phrase that I plan on getting tattooed on me as an homage to the lady what birthed me 🙂
35. I am the fifth of six children including three brothers and two sisters that vary in age from 40 to 22.
36. My grandmother is the only Anastasia that I have ever met. It made reading the Fifty Shades of Grey books awkward, let me tell you that…
37. When picking out names for our daughter, my ex-husband and I entertained Sugar Magnolia, Lucy-Louise (after my aunt, Lucy, and my mother, Louise) or Lulu for short. In the end, we decided not to scar the child any more than she would already be with us as her parents and settled on Molly. I think she’ll thank us in the end.
38. I have never had any interest in learning to drive and cars, more often than not, terrify me.
39. I drink my coffee black with no sugar, my tea black with one sugar and my water at room temperature.
40. My toenails are always painted.
41. My daughter calls me Dragon more than she calls me Mum because I wrote her a book when she was three that explained how she came to be with me – a princess sent to live with a dragon to protect her from an evil wizard. The characters in said book were all based on her family members and friends, with the place names being plays off of the real places she has lived and been to. It took me a little over a year to write and illustrate the book, having to add characters when people had children etc. To this day Molly still calls me Dragon and argues passionately with anyone (including her teachers) who dares defy the book. The book was written as my rebuttal to creationism as a result of my kid telling me that dragons weren’t real because God didn’t make them in the Bible. Now, Molly swears by my book. Dragon – 1. God – 0.
42. I have the cover illustration of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak tattooed on my right forearm. It is my favourite book and is footed by the quote “I am haunted by humans.” the last words of the narrator, Death, in the book. The tattoo depicts the Grim Reaper dancing hand in hand with a little girl. Well, at least it’s not an anchor or a dream catcher right?
43. When I was fifteen I wrote an manuscript that came in at about 2,500 pages of absolute bollocks. It was about a teenage pot head called Dylan (yes, really) who ran away from home to explore the world. It was my first and last attempt at being Jack Kerouac and I have never written a story like it or as long as it again. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
44. When I was in school I wrote a paper comparing three film adaptations of novels to their original stories. The subjects in question were One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. My English teacher gave me an A. My headteacher called my Ma in to ask her just what in the fuck she was letting me watch and read at home. I was fourteen at the time.
45. Fast Car by Tracy Chapman and Redemption Song by Bob Marley were the first two songs I learned how to play without music on a guitar. I tested this the other day and yep, I can still play them! (If nothing else…)
46. Allen Ginsberg is my favourite poet. And possibly my favouirte human being…
47. I always wear a watch and have a hard time dealing with, well, time and it’s terrifyingly transient nature.
48. The first vlog I ever did on YouTube was reviewing the horror movie A Serbian Film. Last time I checked it had 11,000 views. I learned many things from that vlog, mainly, never to mention the title of that movie on the internet…
49. I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid until my father, an engineer and graphic designer, explained to me how much maths was involved. That revelation shot that horse in the face and ever since, I’ve wanted to be a teacher.
50. I love the sound of trumpets, harmonicas and banjos.
51. When we were kids, my Ma would take my little brother and I to the Thames to swim because it was free and we were, well, we weren’t all that well off. I used to swim in the river with my steel toe cap boots (or “shitkickers” as my Ma called them) on my feet because I was convinced that I was going to tread on the face of a corpse thrown at the bottom of the river. My little brother (who swam barefoot because bitches be crazy!) maintains that he did step on the face of a corpse and thus, the little nook of the River Thames that we used to swim in, was named “Dead Man’s Croogy”.
52. My longest serving ringtones have been Pencil Full of Lead by Paolo Nutini, Hard Candy by Counting Crows and Lookin’ Out My Back Door by CCR. My ring tone at present is the theme to Rescue Rangers. Chip and Dale are also deities to me.
53. I shaved my head two and a half years ago when I randomly cut off my dreadlocks one surprisingly sober night. I could have had a full head of hair again by now but I genuinely loved having hair this short. Shaving your head, ladies, if it’s not on your bucket list – it freakin’ should be. Shit be liberating.
54. I have thirteen piercings, twelve of which have been done by my mother or brother.
55. I have brief dalliances with Freeganism when the mood takes me and go a couple of weeks living off of what I can salvage from bins and dumpsters behind shops. It’s definitely something that you should look into if you don’t care for labels that lie about the life of your food.
56. I love swimming but am terrified of water, especially the ocean.
57. If I don’t have my backpack with me at any given time, something has or is about to go terribly, terribly wrong…it’s like another limb to me.
58. I disconnected my internet for a year, deleted my Facebook (that I haven’t brought back from the dead since) and threw out my television for a year just to see if I would miss it. Truth is, I didn’t.
59. I am a total sun slut and regularly smother myself with olive oil in an attempt to cook my still living flesh right on the bone. On the flip side of that, I never wear a coat in the winter and am almost constantly too hot.
60. I sometimes go three or four minutes without blinking and don’t notice until either someone tells me or I feel my eyes drying out.
61. I have been single for two and a half solid years and have been surprisingly content with my alone time.
62. I have broken many bones including my wrists, arms, collar bone, leg, fingers, toes and ribs.
63. I feel intensely uncomfortable when I am near anything riddled with holes – honeycombe, ant hills, old stone – *shudder* it’s making me feel sick just thinking about it.
64. My name at birth was Veronika Kyriaky Harper. My parents didn’t like me.
65. I cannot stand twilight (the lighting, but the franchise is…let’s not get me started aye?) Either turn your lights up or down, what is this perpetual dimness?! Are you trying to seduce me sir?! Turn the light up or turn it off! Ffs.
66. Poorly maintained notice boards irritate me.
67. I am a quote hound (I even have a blog dedicated to just book quotes) and always have a notebook in my bag that I write these quotes in on the go. Last time I checked, I own seventy one of these quotenotebooks. I also like inventing words like quotenotebook.
68. I am almost always speaking in metaphor when speaking with meaning.
69. I do not believe that family is forever, more than I believe that family is something you can and should choose. Abandon those that weigh you down and replace them with those that set you free, whether or not their spume made you or their womb cradled you. Run free, dammit! Forge your own future with those who love you now, as they did then and will forever.
70. I cannot sing. In theory I can, so I should really say that I cannot sing well. A close friend came to the conclusion that this is why I listen to people like Tom Waits and Bob Dylan, theorising that when I sing to them I cannot sing badly because they already sing horrifically to begin with. I couldn’t fault his logic, but to me, those men sound like nirvana ❤ (the state of being rather than the band.) In
71. I have always wanted to visit Moscow, Maine and Madagascar. That fact that all these places begin with “M” is coincidence and has nothing to do with the illuminati…wait a second – is that an inverted triangle in the letter M?! :O
72. I am not-so-secretly in love with the YouTuber, Rob Dyke. My post “When I Dream of Buttermilk” was actually a direct retelling of a dream I had about him. I dream about him a lot…it’s creepy, but I can’t help it. He makes me feel, well, something. I’m not sure what but it’s nice. And that’s enough.
73. Depending on what catastrophe has befallen me depends on who I call to shout at. If I’m crying or worried it’s my Ma, if I have some hilarious or horrific gossip to share, it’s my sister and if I want to shout and rant and rave, it’s one of my two best friends. And when I am scared or down, it’s my kid. She always knows what to say. Lately she’s been telling me to “upload Skype” a lot. I don’t know what that means but she when she says “munch bunch” it damn near breaks my heart.
74. I used to use Facebook like Twitter so I now I use Twitter like I used to use Facebook which is apparently how Twitter is supposed to be used.
75. My favourite font is Times New Roman. I’m a purist.
76. I have a recurring nightmare that I have had since I was a kid that I am in a canoe on a Indian river and I fall to the bottom of the river and look up to see the universe in the water above me. I always wake up petrified and confused. Sometimes there is a whale, sometimes there is a shark. But always the same boat, the same river, the same universe. I can feel the fish swimming against me as I write this and it makes me want to scream.
77. Many people have accused me of listening to the most depressing music they’ve ever heard. I don’t know how to feel about this accusation….
78. I genuinely enjoy doing laundry. No, really, I do.
79. The first thing my mother ever taught me how to make was a white cheese sauce and I still make it the same to this day, much to the appreciation and delight of those that request it.
80. I cannot stand jelly or any thing that is set with gelatine. No thank you, sir! right
81. I write with my right hand but do almost everything else – including brushing my teeth and texting – with my left hand.
82. When I was eleven my parents had a real life shouting argument about which language I should learn at the new school I was attending. My mother fought for Spanish saying that it was the most commonly spoken language in the world and would be most useful in everyday life, my father vouched for Latin, maintaining it was the root of all language even if my mother damned it as a dead language. In the end I learned Latin, because dad won, but as the adult I am now, I know more Spanish than Latin so I guess mum won eventually.
83. I am very particular about the way I use condiments and only use ketchup on three things (and I mean ever) – scrambled eggs, sandwiches and chips from the Fish and Chip shop. No exceptions.
84. Every Christmas I bake for the neighbours in an attempt to distract myself from the panic attacks I have annually during this particular festivity. Last year one particular neighbour weighed the gingerbread cookies I made her and well, six kilograms of biscuits in a week would be weird but it was Christmas for chrissakes! (Is that a pun? I hope it’s a pun!)
85. I am useless at playing video games myself but have spent hours (possibly years) watching my brothers and in more recent years, random men and women on YouTube, play them. I am actually, rather infatuated with many games that I have never played myself but know inside and out such as the Fable, Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed games.
86. I don’t like people touching my ears. So don’t.
87. My drink of choice is a bottle of Budweiser and a short double of Jamesons. Yeah, I thought I was a cowboy for so long it never really left me and now *sob* it’s too late.
88. It takes me a really long time tell someone that I love them, so much so that my last boyfriend actually confronted me about it after six months of dating and no L-Bombs. I find the word itself a precious thing and do not throw it around in regards to true face to face feelings. It’s something strange that only those who know me intimately know about me.
89. I was a vegetarian for six years not because I gave a hoot about animals or was on a health kick, rather than that I convinced myself, as a result of the messed up shit I’d read and seen, that whenever I bit into meat that it was human meat. It took me years to get over this strange eating disorder and still to this day if I find a vein or piece of cartilage in my mouth or on my plate, I instantly lose my appetite. Weird, but true.
90. Due to the almost incessant stimulation I require to function as a regular human being the rest of the time, when it comes to sleep, I need absolute darkness and absolute silence to drift off. Even a blinking light on a laptop or the sound of the boiler can make me toss and turn.
91. I can touch type and don’t really know how that happened, but it happened nevertheless and people find it impressive. I find it more productive than impressive but nevertheless I have actually won awards for the keyboard karate. No, really, I have. Three to be exact.
92. I have accidentally dedicated much of my life to becoming a walking thesaurus, with some friends and family members calling me instead of just right clicking the word and hitting the synonyms tab. I like that they do it, it makes me feel awesome, I just don’t understand why they do it.
93. My immediate family, and immediate friends of the family, have never (and I mean never) called me Veronika. I have been known as Flump or Flumpy for longer than I have actually had my given name with my mother calling me Flumpy from birth and taking well over a month to come up my actual name. My nephew and niece have been taught to call me Aunty Flump. Yes. That’s actually true. Other variations of my name have been Purple (Purple Ronnie), Ronseal (the varnish, yes, that’s actually what my sister calls me a lot of the time) Burgs or Burgundy (Ron Burgundy) and Do-Do-Ron-Ron (my Ma finds this hilarious). But Flump has never fallen out of fashion, much to the amusement of my siblings and the devastation of my grandmother who insists on calling me Veronika to prove a point. You go, Nan!
94. I wear crocs and I am awesome.
95. I have to have sunglasses on when the sun is out or my eyes pour with water and I get immense headaches. I am almost one hundred percent sure this is because I am part Mogwai.
96. I very rarely use my debit card when paying for something in a shop because I have an unreasonable anxiousness about using money that I cannot see. I am also extremely nervous when paying for something with change as money, as I have mentioned, makes me nervous in general. It’s probably why I’m okay with not having any…
97. When I was a kid I used to make my older and younger brother dress up as the other two members of The Kinks, whilst I donned my fathers waistcoat and took the lead making them perform the song Lola over and over again in our living room until I was satisfied. It was one of many of the first “dafuq?!” moments in my parents experience with me as their child. In hindsight – dafuq they doing letting a seven year old belt out a song about a man accidentally shagging a tranny whilst she herself is dressed as a dude?! These people. Honestly.
98. I have very little left of what was my childhood home for reasons too long to go into here, but one thing I do have is my Womble, Orinoco, who is and always has been, my spirit guide. We’re connected. And I love him, dearly.
99. The first thing I did when I got home the day I got married was take my wedding dress off and put it in the bin. Shows you how happy I was with that arrangement I guess..
100. I freakin’ love roller coasters and anything else that makes me feel like my stomach is going to fall out of my arsehole.
101. I used to keep a picture of Jesus that a homeless man gave me when I was thirteen, in a snuff tin. I used to carry said tin with me for most of my adolescent years until, one cold December day when I was seventeen, drunk and angry, I threw that fucker in the Thames. I think about it often though. And more so, why the hell I carried the damn thing with me so long.
So there’s me in a rather large and splendid nutshell.
It’s been lovely getting to know you.
I think we’re going to get along.
You could burn a book, love a book, hate a book, mistreat it, beat it and wear it down.
You can spit on it, make love to it, be its best friend and its worst enemy.
It doesn’t care that you didn’t call or if you left it out in the rain to fall apart.
You can sleep on it, wrap a book around yourself to keep warm.
Its family doesn’t hate you and you never have to say thank you.
Its there when you want it and there when you don’t but it only borrows your time.
With one story to tell the pages don’t go through phases and a books favourite colour is always its favourite.
It is always on your mind but doesn’t make demands on your time.
Content in your bed or on the table beside it a book is the faithful –
Dustcatcher, doorstop, coaster, mousemat and table top levelling device.
A cracked spine, a broken spine, a beaten, worn or pristine cover, hard or paper backed –
A book cannot learn new tricks once it has learnt its only purpose.
It never sleeps but doesn’t yawn and it never eats but doesn’t feel hunger.
When you are tired the book wants to sleep and when you are hungry the book wants to eat.
A book is never jealous and doesn’t seek to control matters out of its own control.
It is there, constant and waiting, but does not mind the company you keep when it is not its own.
It loves you for who you are today, were yesterday and will be tomorrow.
It loves without selfish pride or deepening disillusionment.
It is perfectly flawed and it knows that you stopped caring a long time ago.
There was literally nothing around me but hard, red dirt and cracks of endless dust tearing through the barren rock. The sky was as blue as I have ever seen it, the sun a chrysalis of frosted glass, hanging between clouds almost soft enough to taste. It was hot. It was far too hot to be a normal day and sweat spiked on the nape of my neck and dripped into my eyes. I wiped at them tenderly, as they shrieked in their sockets.
I knew that I was not alone, but I could not see anyone. So I started to walk, ignoring the intensity of the heat beating down on my body and cooking my flesh. I walked, the dust kicking up from my shoes and settling on my wet skin. I felt as though I were caked with dirt, my throat slick and scratchy. I could hear footsteps, small, scuffling footsteps. The footsteps of something too small to make noise, or something that did not have walking down to a fine art. I would find out that the footsteps belonged to both something small, and something unable to walk.
There was a building in the distance, not so far away that I could not identify it as an indoor swimming pool, but still far enough away not to be able to make out whether or not it was in operation. I focused my exhausted eyes on it and continued, one step after another, the way I always had. The scuffling noise returned and I spun hard enough on my heels to swirl a cocoon of dust around myself, momentarily disappearing into the redness of the air.
There was a strangled sound of gargling, as though someone were trying frantically to breathe through oil laced sea water. I could feel my heart beating in my mouth, when I realised at once that the strangled sound was actually coming from me. I tried to smile, the skin on my scorched lips cracking and allowing tiny runlets of copper coloured blood to rise to their surface. I licked tentatively as them, wincing back against the enormity of pain, but savouring the taste of anything in my mouth, even if it were my own blood.
Caught in the monotony of walking I did not notice the deep crack in front of me until I was at eye level with it. My head hit the hard pan with a sickening thud and for a moment the sky lost its allure and became a speckled black greyness that seemed to swamp straight into my bones. I rolled over onto my back and closed my eyes, a dizzying sense of becoming unravelled settled over me and I allowed it to take me.
When I opened my eyes I could see them coming towards me, slowly staggering, as though they did not have full command of their bodies. I want to say to you now that they were mutants, out there in the middle of nowhere, the left over products of a wasteful and even more hurtful society of experiments and forgotten mistakes. However as they drew closer I saw that they were not in fact mutants but children.
They were about seven or eight in total, but grouped together amidst such nothingness there may as well have been a hundred of them versus the one wounded me. They walked with their arms drawn into their chests, their wrists locked out at awkward angles, as though they were mimicking a praying mantis. Their feet pointed inwards, their hips slanted and the closer they came to me, I realised that they had no fingers or toes. It did not look as though they had been born without them, more so than that they had been forcibly removed.
It was their faces that made me get up and away. Their heads were cocked back like an angry pistol, their twisted grimaces of what could have been pain, but could just have easily have been pleasure, saluting the silence of the topaz sky. I now realised, with a gut wrenching certainty, that the noise I had heard before my face hit the floor, the gargling sound of strangled breath, was not coming from me after all. They were all trying to speak, but their words were dead before they could be born, as though their lungs were full of sand. Every single one of them was hideously sunburnt, to the point that their skin was peeled off in great, weeping welts all over their naked bodies.
I started to walk as fast as I physically could, knowing that if I had began to run I probably would have fainted. Instead I briskly broke through the air, creating a much needed breeze against my sweltering face. They were drawing closer, in my head I was moving faster than I thought I was. I could not so much as hear them behind me, but feel them, as though the movement of their deformed feet dragging through the dust sent physical waves through the earth and up my legs.
The swimming pool was as close as it had ever been when I fell again, this time hitting my head hard enough to knock the wind out of me. I laid on the floor curled into a ball. I could feel their breath on me, hot and sour, like cabbage left in the sun to stagnate. Their eyes were the whitish blue of a blind man, and where the white should have been was blazing red. Blobs of dead black blood and hard green pus sat in the corner of those eyes. I now knew that they were not grimacing in pleasure, but in complete and irrevocable agony. A fingerless hand touched my face and I felt my heart shatter.
She could not have been older than seven, but her face was twisted and full of confusion. Her hair was blonde, hanging in dirty patches all over her head. Across her chest the skin had peeled away to bone on her ribs and in the unforgiving sun it glistened like a fish on the deck of a boat. She smelt of rotting earth and flesh – hot, decaying flesh, but something in her ethereal eyes made me want to save her. That same something inside myself told me that she, like the others, was beyond saving.
She leant in closer to me, her breath now almost too much to bare. Her eyes flickered back and forth over my face, as though she were trying desperately to see me clearer. A sticky, black tear lurched sluggishly down her cheek as I touched her face, my own vision starting to focus. As I lay there on my back, spitting distance from the swimming pool in the middle of the hard pan, a shot ran out and the girls head exploded across my face, a swatch of dirty blonde hair landing with a coy splat my face. It smelt like a memory.
I laid there on the dark, hot hard pan and laughed. I laughed until the girls blood trickled into my mouth and down my throat. I laughed until I was physically sick all over myself, but still choking on the vomit, I laughed some more. The other children were retreating from the gun shot now and I could hear someone shouting in the distance for them to disperse. Someone said that their was a girl on the hard pan covered in blood. I laughed until I I passed out, but I did not fall into the blackness of unconsciousness, but the sacred, still blue of the first and last sky I ever remember seeing.
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labour to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
– Walt Whitman
…just in case you were wondering what you shall do.