This Time.

I would have told you that everything you do is art – the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you tie your shoelaces, make your tea in the morning and the way you laugh, but most of all, the way you feel. That always felt like art to me. The way you saw through the layers of the universe at the glue holding everything together without any deep scientific or philosophical meaning but with the burned out black and white eyes of someone who never got a chance to be a child and I would have told you how aggressively innocent that made me feel sitting next you, like my soul wasn’t stained with the same mistrust and mistakes and how you made me feel like maybe, together, we could have stitched all our broken pieces into each others hearts and made them whole again.

I would have told you that I knew how you felt and that I too had knelt in the darkness of the early hours of the morning with blood and tears and vomit in the back of my throat and begged for the gods to take it all away, but you knew that, because we knelt together, red eyed and cold limbed, in the night, praying together for the boat to stop rocking, to stop throwing us against the walls of our world and hoping blindly that the icy water lapping around our ankles would stop rising. I would have told you that we were in the same boat and that I didn’t need you to tell me that it was sinking, but that I needed you to let me help you bilge the bloody deck and that way, maybe, just maybe, we might have reached the shore together, shattered and bruised, but breathing and by each others side and alive.

I would have told you that one day you would have been as happy as they made you pretend you were and that one day, close to the first one day, you would have found the courage to run away from everything that made you feel miserable and worthless and out of place and out of sync with everyone around you. I would have told you that you’d find your place, in amongst the freaks and the geeks and the burnt out weirdos, that there was the most wonderful little nook carved out for someone with words on his arms and scars on his heart. That somewhere, out there, there was a woman of breathtaking beauty who had been living her life just waiting to find someone who she couldn’t live without, and that that someone, well, it would have been you.

I would have told you that it’s never too late to be who you would have been and go where you would’ve gone and seen what you would’ve seen and loved who you would’ve loved. I would have told you that because I know how important love was to you, how you lived for it and ached for it. How you managed somehow, when love was low in my bones to siphon out the last of it and pull me back from the brink more times than I’d care to count and how the first time I met you, you were singing “All You Need is Love” to a piece of pineapple whilst you read your book and how your jeans were too big for you but still somehow too short and your Cookie Monster socks were showing. And how you hadn’t shaved or cut your hair and how completely unkempt but entirely lovable you actually were.

I would have told you that were you ever to leave me, that’s how I would have remembered you. Entirely untethered to the world and those around you, free whilst trapped inside a place that revokes your freedom and your smile, reading Dean Koontz because you knew it would make me talk to you and like you said, you were looking for a way to start a conversation with me. And I would remind you of how I came and sat opposite you and when I spilled my soup on my shoe and you smiled and asked me if I was stoned and then you laughed, fuck man, how loud you laughed and everyone looked at you but you were only looking at me. And then you told me to sit down and asked me what I was reading and when I showed you the cover of ‘Salem’s Lot you ripped up the conversation you had had planned in your head since the day you saw me and instead we argued for the entire hour in that canteen about who was the better author.

And I would have told you how I fell in love you as the leaves fell through the courtyard and your hair got longer and my scars started to fade. I would have told you that I fell in love with you in the most organic and plausible of ways because I never once had the urge to kiss you or to run my hands through your hair or to fuck you or to even hold your hand. I fell in love with your voice and the way you said certain words and the way you used to take the piss out of people without them noticing. I fell in love with the way you used to rub your earlobe with your thumb and your forefinger when you were nervous and how you used to put a kilo of butter on your crackers and insist that the cracker was just there as a vehicle to get the butter to your mouth. I would have told you that I loved how soft your clothes were even though we all washed our clothes in the same place but somehow yours always seemed softer. I would have told you that the night you held me in your arms when we were still strangers, whilst I shook and threw up everywhere and screamed that I wanted to die was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was safe until that point. And I would have told you that you were, and always would be, my best friend.

And I would have told you to stay, Joe.

And I would have told you that one day you would wake up at ten thirty in the morning on a sun drenched Sunday next to someone who loved you in all the ways I did and in all the ways I never did and that you would get out of bed and go into the kitchen and flick the kettle on and that everything would be okay. That it would have stopped hurting if you’d stopped picking at the wound and allowing those around you to keep it open with their own warped fantasies of how you should have been, because, man – you were incredible. In everything you ever said to me and everything you didn’t. You never told me that I was a bad person or that I was toxic to those around me and you never made me feel like the twitchy little junkie I actually was because you never saw me like that.

You saw me when I didn’t even recognise myself in the mirror, but you were the mirror to myself that I could never look away from and I saw you break your own heart along side my own. And I would have told you that that day I walked into you flat and saw you on your kitchen floor, covered in blood, white as the sky outside I have never been so scared and so angry in my entire life. And that when I skidded on my knees through your blood, because, man, it was everywhere, and I took my hoody off and wrapped it round your arms all I could say was “no” over and over and over and over again because it was the only word that summed up just inherently adamant I was that this wasn’t happening. You hadn’t done this, not again. I wasn’t going to lose you, not again. I couldn’t be alone, not again.

But you did do it this time. And I did lose you this time.

Difference is – I’m not alone this time.

So I’m going to live, my friend. And I’ll miss you, hell, I’ll damn near go out of my mind wanting you back here with me where you belong but if there is one thing our friendship taught me and taught me well its that there is nothing I could have said to make you stay.

And there’s nothing left to say now but to paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, whom we spent many hours arguing about, I hope that wherever you are now, that everything is beautiful and that nothing hurts.

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Why Writers Hate You. (Yeah, You.)

You want to know why writers don’t like you? People who write don’t like people who do not write for one reason – they envy you.

They envy the musicians who take ten minutes to write a song, three minutes to sing it and live off of it for the rest of their lives. Musicians who play their guitars and make people melt, who recycle forgotten notions into meaningful lyrics and capture your heart and your soul with three chords and a couple of “ohs” and “yeahs”. The men and women that boys and girls want to be, they stick their faces to their walls and ask for that first guitar for their birthdays. The musicians that give the writers the inspiration and the drive to keep going even when their hands are weak and their eyes are tired. They envy the simplicity of it all.

They envy the painters whose genius is so blatant. The painters who may spend years working on one piece that is valued and sold in a matter of moments. The painters whose work is flung to the four corners of the earth printed and re-printed time and time again until their images become part of our lives, spanning the generations and becoming immortal. The men and women who buy their work and place it on their walls with the highest esteem for everyone to effortlessly enjoy for the rest of their days. The painters that make their space brighter, whose work peels away layer by layer and gives the writers what they need from it every time they look back, even when they think that they have gained all they can from it. They envy the stamina of it all.

They envy the performers who capture their ear without even trying. The performers whose words radiate through the minds of the masses and inspire more than just original thought. The performers who change the world with a speech or a saying, whose words are their mark on the world at large without pen ever touching paper. The men and women who live by the words of these performers and quote them in their minds when the days are short and the nights are long. The performers who made the writers want to to write to begin with, whose words seemed all too eloquent for their hands not to want to elaborate on paper and immortalise them forever on parchment. They envy the legacy of it all.

When you can play a guitar people flock to hear your songs. When you can paint a magnificent picture people climb over each other to get their hands on your work and show it off to the world. When you can inspire a generation of people, even when you are cold in the ground, your words never gather dust and your spirit never dissolves. There is nothing to envy about being a writer. The process of writing a book is not fast, its not catchy and when its done it cannot be fully appreciated in a matter of moments like a song, a painting or a speech can be.

The written words demands the life of the author, but with that, it also demands your life as a reader. A book cannot reach you as fast as a song, as spectacularly as a painting or as hard as a speech. It asks for some of the time it took to write it in return for a much longer lasting relationship. If you ask someone who their favourite musician is you will get a thousand bands and artists. If you ask someone who their favourite painter is you will get random descriptions of images and lets say twenty names. If you ask someone who inspires them with their words you will again find quite a few names dropping at your feet.

However were you to ask someone who their favourite author is you will see their face change slightly. Behind their eyes you will see them recanting the first book they read, the way it felt in their hands virgin and new, and then simultaneously the way its pillaged spine felt in those very same hands when it was finished. You will see them recalling to memory for that briefest of moments what was happening to them when that author came into their life and what that authors words helped them face or forget. A million memories will flood through their iris’ in that moment and if you have the resilience to search for that moment you will not be disappointed.

Whether you would accept it or not writers do not like you because they rely on you. You can hear a song without choosing to put it on, in a car or a supermarket and slowly fall in love with it. You can see a painting in the lobby of a hotel or in the corridor at your school and begin to unpick in your mind. You can overhear someone speaking and form your opinions without ever having to engage with that person. You cannot accidentally read a book. A song can catch your attention with one drop in the bass, a painting with one flare of colour and a speech with one key phrase you cannot shake from your mind. Writers have to put their faith in you to carry on reading the book until it captures you, which could be on the first page, the thousandth page or never at all.

So when writers tell you to fuck off because they need to concentrate or ignore you when you are speaking to them, intentionally or not, when they frustrate the living shit out of you because their minds are a million miles away from the water bill or what she said to him – remember that they hate you. They hate you without wanting to or even fully knowing the extent to which the hatred filters down through them. But my friends take solace in the fact that you are not the only people they hate – writers hate the world.

Writers hate the world because it gets in the way of the one in their mind. The one that lives behind their eyes that they are duty bound to make so perfect, that when you eventually do get an invitation to join them inside of it – you will never want to leave.

If you leave – we fail.

“A Political Act.” (2015)

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So I had a chalk board in my living room, the quote written on which would change week to week.

When I moved and thus the chalkboard (that had seen better days) was abandoned, the quote read – “Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory…it had been a political act.”

Loosely paraphrased from Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.