FIONN OAKES – NORTH EAST
It was no use pretending I was OK because I wasn’t. It was no use pretending you still loved me because you didn’t. And it certainly was no use pretending the bread which had been lying on the counter for two weeks was OK to eat because it wasn’t.
It was mouldy. Hard, dead, mouldy.
Coffee it was. Coffee is how it always is; wherever I go, whomever I’m with, coffee is always there.
In Paris, on the canal, I had coffee in one hand and your hand in the other. You wrote me a love song but refused to sing it because you had a bad voice. I used to love your laugh, I did. Your voice could never be bad when your laugh was so sweet.
It was no use pretending it’d go back to the way it was on that canal in Paris, because you know what, no matter how much I wanted it to, it wouldn’t.
So I poured myself the coffee and sat down at my desk. My sketch-pad lay open from some shit I started yesterday and I could hear my laptop playing Radiohead’s Pablo Honey.
My Dad comes in the loft and shouts a ‘Hello!’ I let him talk for a while, pretending to take it all in. He tells me him and Melanie are going out tonight and do I want pizza when he comes back?
I shrug. I don’t care. I’ll probably be asleep by the time he gets home anyway so why should I care?
Although some pizza tomorrow morning might be good. Yes, I tell him, I would like a pizza when he gets home.
My Dad left my room and I turned back to my sketch-pad, turning my thoughts into pencil strokes, and those made genius.
I didn’t believe this, clearly. It was just something I was supposed to believe to keep on drawing.
Drawing is my outlet. Drawing is how I cope. Drawing is how I stay alive.
Don’t screw it up.
My phone buzzes as I see a call from Teddy.
‘Don’t call me Ted. I sound fifty.’
‘What do you want?’
‘What you doing?’
‘Fancy grabbing some food somewhere?’
‘Dad’s bringing pizza later. Wanna come over?’
‘Thought you’d never ask.’
Ten minutes later, in walks Teddy with a dopey grin on his face. He throws me a beer and flops onto the sofa.
‘So who’d you get to steal this for you?’
‘What makes you think they would steal it? Maybe I do have friends over twenty-one, what do you know?’
I shake my head at him and open my beer. I might have mocked him but I could really do with a drink.
‘Have you seen Freya recently?’
‘Where the hell did that come from?’
I shrugged and went back to my sketch-pad. Teddy really was annoying sometimes.
Scratchy jumpers are the worst of all things.
The cuffs are too tight and the jumper too large and I can’t move around without it irritating me immensely. The knaw of the fabric scathes across my bony wrists and I can feel a sharp pain whenever I take a drink.
The numbness of the beer takes its hold as the jumper begins to grow. It stretches, it fits. And I keep drinking. Sips turn into gulps as I down each glass heartily. Teddy disappears and Stella becomes my new best friend as a comfortable companion.
It’s too much. It shrinks again. Numb, numb, numb. Too much. Release. Sick.
It was no use pretending that I could handle my drink because I couldn’t.
And in a way, I didn’t want to. I drank to escape.
See, there was this thing. A thing I couldn’t control. It had been creeping and lurking and for a while I thought I had beaten it. I thought it’d ran away but it hadn’t; it was back.
And this thing, well, it’s not the thing I had a problem with. No, no, it was the people. The people didn’t like the thing. Didn’t approve of it. And yet there it was, clear as day. Clear as day and in the way. If you looked for it, you would find it, but it was a good hider. It was sneaky. And quiet. Til you noticed it. Then it was loud, in your face, scary.
It was annoying. So annoying, I’m actually pissed off writing about it because to me, it was just a part of me, but to others, it was foreign. And it was too much.
And the thing shouldn’t be a thing at all.
Because the thing, it was… it was just me.
There was no use pretending that pain was artistic because it wasn’t. It was just pain.
The next day Teddy went home at eleven. I had made plans with Ellie to meet at George’s for dinner so I left as soon as he went.
Complete calm. A still and sweet shower of serenity washed over my crippled shoulders as I hunched over whatever notepad I was using that day as I sketched at my table in the coffee shop.
I ordered my Americano in a take-away mug because I knew I could be there a while and the man with the feather tattoos recognised my face so he didn’t need to ask if I required room for milk.
In thirty seconds, I was there, I was drawing, and I was OK. The darkness didn’t bother me and the hustle and the bustle of people working 10-8 didn’t bother me now I knew their names. The hustle and the bustle of the public didn’t bother me either as conversations seeped in and out of my trained ears; trained to hear what I wanted to and tune out what I didn’t.
They had some great conversations in there. Feminism, and the Magic Roundabout. And it all got me thinking; what was that dog’s name anyway and did it even matter?
I thought about my sister and how much she’d hate it there. I thought about my friends and the talks we had had there. But most of all, I thought about how bizarre it was that some quaint coffee shop on such a busy street could be so bloody sacred to a boy like me.
In walked Ellie with her free drinks vouchers sticking out of her oversized parka. She gets hers then I get mine (one per transaction, in case you were wondering) and she scarpers off to find the toilet.
This is shit. The pencil strokes all wrong, maybe I should use pen, why can’t I ever draw what is in my head.
I laughed because the ladies’ toilets were out of order and my flake fell from my completely out-of-character Hot Chocolate Supreme. Well, it was cold and I was ill and Americanos are such normal bevs in my system that they no longer gave me any effect other than that which oxygen would give me. Life-giving fuel as opposed to pleasure-giving fuel.
She left me to go to the gents with a giggle that I should be the one in that situation. And I should. And I was.
But there was no denying the foam in my hot chocolate and the fake mustache it had left on my completely bald top lip. And the way I wanted to leave it there for one second more just like a child in the bath; pretending to be Santa Claus in the middle of April.
I licked the remnants of the drink and allowed the calories to drip down, one after the other but I pretended not to care as I concentrated on other things: my notebook; my lighter without any cigarettes; the book in my bag I was supposed to be reading; the pennies in my pocket from the order I just placed and the weight they bore on my lungs and my chest.
If it was my chest at all. Was it mine? It felt uncomfortable, baggy, like it belonged to someone else. I felt like I needed to grow into it, but I didn’t want to.
It wasn’t mine.
And you know what? The nearer I get to the edge, the more I don’t want to be here anymore. The closer I go, the more in control I feel and the more I can convince myself that I don’t want to be here. I want to be out. I can imagine the plunge and the cold ice hit my ribs and engulf me in submission never to return and what use would that be really when all I ever wanted was ownership?
To be something, someone, anyone. I can’t do that down there but I can’t do it up here either and I don’t know if I can handle being around much longer.
How ironic that the river reflects the light when all down there is dark. Bleak. Death.
I am more than this.
I am more than the end.