I'm writing this by the light of a new day, with a pen on paper, the old way.
No seamless corrections possible here. I want to see my first thoughts, and the
words I cross out, and the words I choose to replace them. First thoughts are
usually lies. Vicino says, Write something about yourself, then write the
opposite. Then open your mind to the possibility that the second statement is
I'm not a bad person. I'm a bad person.
I didn't mean to kill the
man in the reading room. I did mean to kill the man in the reading room.
happened afterwards wasn't my fault, don't blame me. It was my fault. Blame
So this is the story of how everything changed. I'm not going to tell you my
name. If you want a name, use your own.
Begin with a day picked at random,
recalled without hindsight. I must do my best to make you understand what I was,
because only then will you understand what I have become. The operation has been
a complete success, but, as they say, the patient died.
On this random day
from all that time ago, longer ago than yesterday, I'm sitting alone in my room,
the blind down over the window and the door locked. There's music playing to
which I am not listening. The television is on, with no sound. I'm not watching.
It's just there like the crack of light on the windowsill and the pressure in my
bladder that tells me I need to piss. Maybe I'll go soon. I'm doing nothing in
particular. I do nothing most days. You could say it's what I do, like it's my
occupation. This is not a problem. I don't want anything. I have the animal
needs like you do, to eat and excrete, to mate and to sleep, but as soon as the
needs are met they go away, and everything's the way it was before. That stuff
is necessary. We're not talking desire.
I don't even want money. What's the
point? You see something you want to buy, you get excited about having it, you
buy it, the excitement fades. Everything's the way it was before. I've seen
through that game. They make you want things so they get your money. Then they
take your money and then they've got it, and what do they do? They use it to buy
things someone else has made them want. For a few moments they think they're
happy, and then it all fades and everything's the way it was before. How stupid
can you get? It's like fish. Fish swim about all day finding food to give them
energy to swim about all day. It makes me laugh. These people who hurry about
all day making money to sell each other things. Anyone with eyes to see could
tell them their lives are meaningless and they aren't getting any happier.
life is meaningless. I'm not getting any happier.
My late father says, "Your
mother tells me you spend all day shut up in your room."
I say, "She does not
He says, "There's a big wide world out there. You're not going anywhere
so long as you stay shut up in your room."
I say, "There's nowhere to
He hates that. My negative attitude. I could tell him he's not going
anywhere either. But why pop his balloon?
I like my room. I said before I
don't want anything, but this isn't entirely true. I want my own room. I don't
much care what's in it so long as it has a door I can shut and lock so people
don't come asking me to do things. I expect maybe I'll spend the rest of my life
in my room, and at the end I'll just die here and no one will find me and that's
just fine with me.
This big wide world: first of all, it's not so big and
wide. Really the world is only as big as your experience of it, which is not big
at all. And what sort of world is it? I would characterise it as remote,
uninterested, unpredictable, dangerous, and unjust. When I was small I thought
the world was like my parents, only bigger. I thought it watched me and clapped
when I danced. This is not so. The world is not watching and will never clap. My
father doesn't get this, he's still dancing. It makes me quite sad to see
Cat says my world view lacks depth and is merely bitterness. I dispute
this. I feel no bitterness. I see things as they are. Nature is selfish. All
creatures kill to survive. Love is a mechanism to propagate the species. Beauty
is a trick that fades. Friendship is an arrangement for mutual advantage.
Goodness is not rewarded, and evil is not punished. Religion is superstition.
Death is annihilation. And as for God, if he exists at all he stopped caring for
humankind centuries ago. Wouldn't you?
So why leave my room?
My education, such as it was, has ended. I have graduated. I'm supposed to be
excited about his. My late father has put aside some money for me, quite a lot,
a thousand pounds, so that I can have one last great adventure before real life
begins. What kind of sales pitch is that? I mean, real life, bonjour tristesse.
Appreciate the gesture, but truthfully there's nowhere I want to go and nothing
I want to do.
For as long as I can remember I've been at some kind of school.
I don't believe I learned anything at all. It was like half-listening to the
safety announcement, the kind they give you on planes before take-off. The voice
says this is really important, and to please listen carefully, but you still
don't listen because it's not going to happen, and if it does you're dead
anyway. However I admit now when I look back that the class system gave life a
shape. One year followed the next, and without any decisions having to be made
on my part I moved up from one class to the next, as if I was climbing a giant
staircase. Now here I am at the top, and before me lies what is laughingly
called the real world.
I am in the process of not applying for jobs. I'm
thinking of becoming a journalist, or possibly a film director. It's hard to
decide. Journalists meet a lot of interesting people and get to travel and do
their work in short bursts, which means they don't get bored. Film directors
spend years on one project and have a seriously bad time if it fails but they
get to meet attractive young women and eat location catering. So it's hard to
I'm joking of course. I have a not impressive degree from a not
famous college in a not useful subject which I have already entirely
"There are any number of jobs out there you could do," says my
father, looking at me with faux-sprightly eyes. Despite or perhaps because of
the fact that he left us, he knows it's vital that he does nothing to undermine
my self-confidence. If you believe in yourself you can do anything. That's what
my father believes. It's the post-Christian faith that has replaced faith in the
resurrection. Now each of us is supplied with our own personal resurrection. We
get to pump ourselves up out of the tomb.
I don't disagree with this. I just
ask: why bother?
Anyway my father points out to me all the great
opportunities there are out there for me, but neglects to name them. I fill in
the gaps. I could join a corporation and sell things I don't want to have myself
to people who don't need them. I could be a teacher and tell things I don't want
to know to people who don't want to hear. I could be a soldier and kill people.
That would be alright if it weren't dangerous.
My friend Mac is going to be
an aid worker in Nepal. This is hilarious because all the aid they need in Nepal
is getting out from under all the people like Mac who've gone there to find
meaning in their lives. They've sucked all the available meaning up and now
there's none left for the Nepalese, who have nothing to do except carry
explorers' bags up mountains and sell them drugs. Mac says he doesn't care, at
least he'll see the mountains. I tell him the thing about a mountain is when
you're on it you don't see it. You need to be far away to see a mountain. Like
at home, looking at a postcard. Mac says you stand on one mountain and look at
the next mountain. I say, Then what? Mac says, You're a real wanker, you know
that? Yes, Mac, I'm a real wanker. The genuine article. A simple pleasure that
does no harm to man or beast. Be grateful.
So here I am in the process of not
applying for jobs because the only jobs that would take me are the jobs I do not
wish to take. It's exactly like sex. The women you really want are the ones who
don't really want you. This is not a coincidence. Things that are out of reach
are desirable precisely because there's no chance you'll get what you want.
Getting what you want is to be avoided at all costs. Ask for the moon.
may be wondering how I propose to live, given that I have no means of earning my
living. I propose to be a parasite. To be precise, I propose to live in
symbiotic parasitism. My host and provider is of course my father. My father
makes a lot of money, he can afford it. I'm not expensive to run. And if you're
thinking, Why should he keep you? I reply, Because he asked.
Think about it.
I wouldn't be at this party if he and my mother hadn't invited me. Between them
they hauled me off some cloud where I was peacefully bothering nobody, and fixed
me up with a helpless needy baby body, and made me dependent on them. They never
said, Here's the deal, we look after you till you're not cute any more, then
you're on your own. If they had I would have said thanks but no thanks. I'll
stay incorporeal on my cloud. It was all their idea. So now they've got
Don't get me wrong, this isn't about what happened between the two of
them. That's their business. My mother's totally cool about it apart from
calling my father "the late" which is relatively modest in the retaliation
stakes. You won't hear me sadding on about broken homes either because
absolutely nothing is broken and everyone's good friends with everyone and my
mother and Gemma are like sisters, particularly now that Gemma is pregnant,
though with a considerable age gap. So I come from an expanded home. I like
Gemma too, despite not knowing what relation she is to me, maybe step-partner?
Also I admit it kind of throws me that she's so attractive, especially when I
catch myself looking longer than is strictly polite at her mouth.
of course is guilty which is not my problem, and if it makes him more inclined
to go on supporting me, why should I complain? It's not such a bad deal for him.
A small financial outlay buys him the comforting sense that he's doing his duty.
So don't give me a hard time about not getting a job.
This morning, on the day before it begins, I have a premonition. This is not
as significant as it sounds. I'm always having premonitions. Like when I see a
nice-looking girl coming up an escalator towards me, say, I'll have this
premonition that she'll smile at me and I'll get off at the bottom and go up her
side and she'll be waiting. Or I get a message to ring home and I have this
premonition that a jumbo jet has crashed on our house and all my family are dead
and I'm alone in the world and a homeless wanderer. None of these things ever
happen but the premonition happens, so maybe the wonders and disasters are still
to come, stacked up somewhere in my future. Maybe some time soon they'll all
happen at once, in a sequence of rapid-fire explosions like a firework.
particular premonition is that someone is calling me. I listen, and hear
nothing. So then it seems to me not that someone is calling me, but that someone
is wanting me. I think about it some more, and realise there isn't a someone,
only the wanting. So this is my premonition: I am wanted. This is a new one on
me. There's nothing to get excited about in it, so I forget about it. But it
doesn't forget about me. It comes back, from time to time, like something I'm
supposed to do but have forgotten. It annoys me.
My mother's upset because I
don't come down for meals any more. It's not the food I mind, it's her face
watching me as if it hurts her just to see me eat. Or not eat. I'm not much of
an eater. I prefer to sort it out for myself, without all the fuss and
conversation. So long as there's bread and cheese or a bowl of cereal I'm okay.
It turns out to be easier to eat at night, when they're all asleep. I don't even
switch on the kitchen lights. I just leave the fridge door open and eat by the
light that comes out from behind the eggs.
Cat found me eating like this the
other night. She was out late with her boyfriend doing I hate to think what and
she came creeping in and saw me and said, "You are so sad." I just looked at her
and went on eating. I could have said, Oh yes, and you're having such a great
life? I know that so-called boyfriend of hers. He's famous for going out with
plain girls because they fuck on the first date. He's an animal. Cat says she
doesn't care and anyway all men are the same including me. This is true. I have
a so-called girlfriend who I only want to see for sex, though I go along with
the rest of it for the sake of appearances. She doesn't know this. That is, she
knows it very well, but I never say it and she never asks and I suppose she must
be getting something out of it or she wouldn't go on seeing me. Her name is Am.
I think she's disappointed in me.
Actually I'm a disappointment to everyone
who cares about me. Both my parents are disappointed in me. My grandfather is
disappointed in me. My godmother Sheila who never forgets my birthday and keeps
photographs of me as a baby is disappointed in me. They used to want me to have
hobbies and ambitions and a great object in life. Now they just want me to get a
job. What can I say? It hasn't happened. I quite liked films for a while, and
they all thought this would give me a direction in life. But my interest
My mother says, "All I want is for you to be happy. I can't believe
you're happy living like this."
What I want to say to her, and to my father
and my grandfather and Sheila, is: Why must I be happy for you? It's like a
weight they've tied onto my back, this requirement that I be happy. It's not for
me, it's for them. They want to stop feeling they've failed with me.
actually say is, "I'm alright."
They have failed with me. Looking at me in
that wounded worried way won't change anything. It just makes me not want to
make eye contact. I'm so tired of being a disappointment to everybody. Why can't
they all go and care about someone else, and leave me alone?
So now you hate me. That's alright with me. Only, ask yourself, what do you
care? I mean, think about it. You don't hate me really, you're just afraid
you'll turn out like me. Maybe you have already.
Actually I could be worse.
I'm not aggressive or rude. I spend very little money. I keep myself clean. I'm
polite to my mother's friends. I don't come home drunk, or take hard drugs, or
smoke cigarettes. Naturally I smoke a little dope from time to time, but not as
much as you might think. My inertia is nothing to do with drugs. It springs from
the true source, the mother lode, a clear-eyed awareness of the nature of
Life is hard and then you die.
I sprayed it on the glass of my window using a spray can. Like graffiti. I
used to lie on my bed looking at the wobbly letters dark against the dull white
sky thinking, That's just about it. That's how it is. That won't change. This is
the closest I get to satisfaction.
The thing about the thousand pounds is my father has given it to me in cash.
Fifty-pound notes and twenty-pound notes. There's nothing I want to spend it on
but I like having it.
"Don't do something sensible with it," he said, giving
me that crinkly smile he does. "Do something crazy. Something magnificent and
I get a pack of Blu-Tack and stick the notes onto the walls of my
room like a frieze. He'll never know. He never comes into my room even when he's
round here. This is supposed to be giving me respect and my own space and so
forth but really it's about not seeing how he's failed me. When Am sees the row
of fifty-pound notes she's impressed. She says I'm not like anyone else she
knows and this is why she's attracted to me. She says I'm strange and moody and
she's sure I'll be famous some day. I say I don't want to be famous, I just want
to be real. That impresses her too. So I say why not do it now, but she says
it's the wrong time for her and we can always just talk. So she talks and I look
out of the window where there are pigeons fooling about and then it turns out
"What's the matter?" I say.
"I feel like I can't reach you,"
"No one can reach anyone," I say.
So she kisses me really
passionately and then says, "Did I reach you?"
What can I say? Everyone lies,
out of kindness and pity and cowardice.
She looks at me with her
big blue eyes all wet round the edges for what seems like several
"What would you say if I told you I wanted to end it?"
"What would you say if I did?"
"I am what I am, Am."
"Yes." Long sigh. "I know it." Longer
sigh. "I should get out, but I can't."
If we're not going to do it, I'm
thinking, you might as well go. I don't say it. People never say those things.
I say, "I'm kind of tired, Am."
"You're always tired. What is
it you do that makes you always tired?"
"Nothing. I'm tired by nothing.
Nothing exhausts me."
She thinks it's a joke but it isn't.
Then as she's
looking at me she slips into this parallel universe or something because for a
moment she seems quite different. It's like seeing a small child hiding in her
face, peeping out, not knowing I can see her. This small child is so lovely and
so unaware that the sight of her makes me catch my breath in surprise. I've
forgotten that people can be so without guile. She's so fragile, so bound to be
hurt. I almost cry out loud.
"What?" says Am.
"You," I say.
For me beauty isn't just a look, it's a feel. I
expect it's like that for everybody. Marilyn Monroe isn't the most beautiful
woman ever, actually she's got quite a pudgy face if you look at unposed
photographs, but she's got this feel to her that says, I want to please you more
than anything. That's what does it. And actually I personally believe that's the
lost child in her reaching out to be hugged, but because she's a grown woman it
comes out as sex. But then I have a thing about lost children. There was a
documentary once on TV about state orphanages in China where tiny children are
abandoned to die. I only watched about five minutes of it and then switched over
to the news, where people were being blown up in some faraway war. I can handle
adults destroying each other. But those babies in unvisited cots.
"It's not fair," she says. "I'd just decided not
to love you."