Learning was a pleasure, school a nightmare.
This new world was just too large. Every scrap of information was absorbed. Every lesson a chore to be gotten through.
Now not only were my memories being filed but every new contact with kids and their hyperbolic fantasies were simply passing in, my head a broken gauze unable to filter anything.
It wasn’t long before I was expelled.
I was fortunate. There were still ‘special schools’ – sin bins – for the ‘emotionally & behaviourally disturbed.
We were all in there: the truants, the abused – sexually, physically and bullied wrecks – and the ‘dis’abled like me. Autistics, Asperger’s, deaf, blind, Down’s. We were all there, lumped together.
And because it was a boarding school we were out of sight, and out of mind.
My inner explorations were now rich embroidered tapestries. Where once they had been simply patterns, now a complex interlinked web allowed me to surf through my past as a perpetual now pounded me like waves on a beach.
But instead of drowning in thought, I had found a way to keep my head above the ceaseless swill of information – music.
Sufficiently complex music acted like a carburettor in a car. The patterns and rhytms became the backbeat to stabilising the overwhelming influx. It brought order. It brought MORE isolation.
I was rarely seen without earphones, self-medicating with beats.
But with stability the addiction grew. I was still haunted by the voices in the womb. How much more could I remember. If there was no off switch, when did memory start?
School, college, university. Minor distractions as information was retrievable as fast as the brain read the questions. My internal library was as vast as the university’s own collection. The internet’s arrival only made recall more satisfying. Google v Me in the college bar kept me in free drinks.
And then one day – it stopped.
The dream was always the same.
Standing in a forest, it’s snowing. Large flakes that sting the eyes. But instead of the bitter cold that the soft white blanket usually brings, it’s warm; hot even, and breathing is like sucking syrup. In the distance, wailing. Three white berries fall from the mighty boughs of an oak.
And in the distance, wailing grows.
The day I stopped remembering was a wet Midsummer’s.
The sun had barely made any encouraging noises when I woke and it hadn’t bothered it’s arse since lunch either. If it was going to be the longest day, the sun had clearly not bothered to check its inbox for the invite.
I’d stayed in bed for the morning. My student house had gradually emptied as the anchor of the exams finally let loose its grip. Himalayas, kibbutz and other post-exam rewards were finally being enacted.
My housemates needed to go and find themselves before life would reward them with a mortgage and a necktie.
I’d spent my morning wandering through some of my favourite landscapes. The Finals had held little terror for me. Writing as fast as my brain could splurge out the information was the only problem I’d had. It had caused some friction in the house in those final months as I’d continued to hit the bars and the gigs to keep my brain from looking too far in.
The interior world was increasingly seductive and the lack of structure to a college course meant my inner journeys had grown long, trancelike.
More than once, I’d gone under for 12 hours or more. I was convinced I could get beyond the womb voices; that I could somehow access memories of others. I kept getting deeper, blacker, but I was faced with an abyss beyond those first words. No matter how long I tried to navigate, to scale my way down, I could never reach the bottom. Each journey down the foreboding became greater and greater as if the journey itself could snap a link back to my waking self.
‘I think they made it in a lab in Leeds,’ Jim had said to me.
‘Yeah, but WHAT is it?’ I said again. Jim never let a Midsummer’s Day go by without partying from the first light to dawn the following day. I’d usually take a pass on his offer but I was all alone in the house, surrounded by half-filled boxes and a fridge covered in redundant ‘Do Not My Sausages!’ Post-it notes. There was only half a wine box and a can of White Lightning in there. I’d have killed for a sausage. I should have got up for breakfast instead of mooching about in my mind.
‘Groovy? Groovy, how? I don’t do any of that crap, Jim. My head’s too fucked up as it is. You know that.’ The sky resembled a Dulux catalogue of inoffensive off-whites. The kind of colours that suggest cream, cake, full fat milk. They should really get an award, the guys that write those things. Cream Cake White – Will Make You Feel Hungry; Full-Fat Beige – Like Magnolia But Tastier!
It looked like the sun slept in, watched Neighbours, Going for Gold and had then decided to get up for a pint of milk from the corner shop.
‘I think some of them sweated in the bag,’ Jim complained. ‘They’re stuck together.’
‘They’re just pieces of paper, Jim.’
‘No, they’re blotters. They put the stuff on them and then Bingo! Ready to go!’
Fuck it, I thought. What’s the worst that could happen. The day was a dead loss anyway. ‘Just one, then Jim.’
He grinned like a madman. Which was disconcerting as he had a gold tooth and whenever he grinned like that I imagined him in a tricorn hat with a parrot on his shoulder. He’d have made a great pirate, would Jim.
He was a blur. Out of his rucksack came boxes of orange juice, bars of chocolate, porn mags, and four massive spliffs, nine paper monsters.
‘What the fuck is that for?’ I asked.
‘Comedown,’ shrugged Jim. ‘In case it gets messy. Vit C, chocolate and a wank. If you lose your shit, this is the way back.’
‘Tried and tested.’ Jim nodded sagely, as if handing down some ancient lore.
He handed me a tiny square with a Hindu symbol on it.
‘That’s it?’ I asked.
‘Yep, bottom’s up.’ He grinned. And down the hatch went both our tabs.
Categories: The Last Seanachie