I hunkered down in Marseille for the winter, a worker bee in the Ivory Tower, a place entirely devoid of individuality, where grey-faced middle-mangers clad in suits and ties vie in their game of corporate feudalism. Having given up all my worldly possession in a wild bid for freedom, and now finding myself back in the same serfdom, coupled with the lack of sunlight, got me feeling mighty depressed, and I thought often about going for a long swim in the Med until the waves took me.
I wandered into The Embobineuse, a particularly eccentric night venue in Marseille. A rock band was playing out of time, each member seemingly on his own unique acid trip, there were people wrapped in sheets crawling across the floor, projections of girls in bathtubs on the ceiling, I had a conversation with a punk chick covered in tattoos and piercings who was doing her thesis on the aesthetics of road traffic accidents. Upstairs I met Poussy Draama, playing the role of a sexologist. We smoked a joint together in her intimate fabric cocoon and she shared with me her views on sex-positive feminism and her pro-porn stance. It got me thinking about my relationship with sex, the layers of guilt and shame, the adversarial roles of men and women that I had been indoctrinated into, my appreciation of pornography that is not to be mentioned in polite company. Poussy said “Fuck that shit, I live life my way,” and I thought bravo, you go girl! She told me that she’d been paid for sex and that she was ok with that. Why, exactly, do we look down on prostitution? Poussy is raising funds to buy a camping car so she can drive around Europe and raise sexual awareness, which I think is a great idea. I would kinda like to do the same.
I close my eyes and I dream of women, their limber bodies, their wonderful smooth skin, their delightfully inviting wet vaginas, and I want to touch them, kiss them, penetrate them, be surrounded and overwhelmed by them. Then come the knives, the cleavers, the blades, they slice through the young innocent flesh, cutting to the bone, rending limbs apart, the pieces flying everywhere, blood spurting in profusion. I look on in terror, the sheer horror of it, tinged with dismay, for the Fear has taken me, he is here, that Darkness that lives somewhere deep within, who rises up to disrupt my moments of reckless fancy. I try to stop him, to take back the control, but the dream looses integrity, falls apart. I open my eyes and wail in frustration, robbed of my fantasy by a cruel demon lurking in the depths of my soul.
I don’t know how long he has been doing this to me, but I’ve become familiar with his presence. Anat Funis, a spirit healer of great renown, first brought me awareness of his existence in my early twenties when she bade me lie upon a bed and laid stones upon my forehead and chest and then put me to sleep. I can only imagine it was a form of hypnosis, for I fell into sleep upon command and I began to dream the dreams of the child I used to be. I walked down the long corridors of my primary school, up the staircases to the third-floor library, where I would peruse books of my favourite authors. But came a moment when a storm would brew outside, the winds rattling the windows in their frames, and the very masonry from the walls began to tear free brick-by-brick and be dragged out into the dark eye of the storm, an evil gaping maw, looking straight at me. I clung to a bookcase for survival as books flew from the shelves, out through the rift, followed by chairs, desks, even my classmates screaming as they went.
And for the first time I had the courage to raise my eyes and look back. What a surprise to realize that I was stronger than he, that I need not flee, waking up in sweats as I want to do, crying in in my bed, too afraid to move, desperate to pee, alone in the world, just one more sad little boy. No, I drew up to my full height, lifted my hands, and the books and the desks and children flew back to their positions, and it was the Darkness who fled, blotted out in the light of day, a fragment of distant memory, long forgotten, who would not come to bother me again.
Or so I thought. For though Anat had given me the strength to banish my demons, and be free of the worst of the nightmares, they still came to haunt me during my fantasies. Ever since my encounter with the prostitution scene in Budapest, I’ve been haunted by the sight of those two young girls, so glib and coy, who looked at me mockingly, and proposed to pass the night with me for a pittance. Were they there by their own choice? Is this really feminist sexual freedom? The cleavers fall, that Christian guilt-complex arising, and I walk away, tempted, troubled, unbalanced.
I told my client I needed to spend some time with my family. They ground their teeth, and then, much to my surprise, they agreed to let me work remotely, on condition that I come back to serve time after two months parole. Quite the miracle, really.
I flew to Dublin. I got drunk with colleagues of yore, pint after pint, pub after pub, as they are want to do. I love their charming accent, their quick wit, their easy confidence, I laughed and laughed, although it did also serve to remind me how Irish I was not, despite my name and passport. I played with my niece and nephew, they’re both little and blond-haired and blue-eyed and perfectly beautiful and quite wild but I loved them all the same, and held them when I could and stroked the hair of their head for they were too young to recoil and say “No, don’t touch me!” I would touch everyone if they would let me. Why don’t we touch each other more? Are we all so afraid of the consequences?
My sister screamed at me, I screamed at her, I got out of the passenger seat at a red light and walked off in the middle of nowhere, tears burning my face. Why can’t we get on better with our siblings? We want to love each other, but everything we say and do just hurts the other. I saw my mother lying in a hospital bed, never a good place to be, I held her hand and told her to breathe. I met my aunt, who lives in Cape Town and I hadn’t seen for 10 years, who had meta-morphed into a beautiful spiritual healer. She performed a healing upon me, dousing with a pendant, laid me down and made me recite simple affirmations, “I am a good person”, and I believed it, “I deserve to be loved,” and I believed it. We went into town for the St Patrick’s Day festival, there were many scantily-clad teenage girls, ill-dressed for the icy cold. “Looking for husbands,” smirked my aunt, and it was true really, although I don’t think they really knew what they were doing. I set myself the objective of chatting up five women before the last bus home, which I managed, although it’s not easy for me to speak to strangers, I mean where is the context anyway? I met Francesca, a beautiful Italian women, we became Facebook friends, who knows, perhaps she’s even reading this right now, I wonder what she thinks of me?
I flew to London. My birthplace. I wandered the streets of Soho looking at tea shops with Francis, a Hong Kong girl and a dreamer like me. I stayed with her husband Mike, an old friend, who has a body ripped like no-one’s business. I want his body, but I’m not willing to put in the hours. “Put some meat on those bones!” exclaimed Stephanie to me once in Berlin, grasping me firmly by the shoulder, and I can understand where she’s coming from, I’m a bit of a stick, but fuck man, lifting weights sucks. Mike’s burnt out though, he’s pushed himself too hard for too long, so perhaps I’m doing alright after all. London is so high-paced and expensive, I constantly felt like time was ticking and money was bleeding out my wallet. I hung out with the nerds at the Google campus, tapping away frantically at their Macbooks, it’s all very startup-trendy, but I had to get out of there. I got drunk multiple times with Felix in various blues bars where I frolicked with lovely young lasses but failed to bring any of them home. Mike’s surname is Cave and he lives underground which got me wondering about our nomenclatural predispositions: people often think Patrick is Irish, but actually St Patrick was Roman, he only went to Ireland to sow the poison seeds of Catholicism. Patrick actually comes from Patrician, which means noble, which probably explains some of my delusions of grandeur.
Spring was in the air, and the girls were in skirts in Regent’s Park, where I took many a walk. I really wanted to talk to them, but instead I looked on in agonizing silence as they wafted past, the gentle breeze toying with their hems. Mike told me to read The Game, although I read the reviews and came across this gem:
“Instead of models in bikinis lounging by the Project Hollywood pool all day, we had pimply teenagers, bespectacled businessmen, tubby students, lonely millionaires, struggling actors, frustrated taxi drivers, and computer programmers – lots of computer programmers.”
And I thought to myself, oh my god, I’m a computer programmer. There is nothing wrong after all with writing computer programmes for a living, but it does tend to attract a rather uber-geeky male crowd, quite the opposite of who I’d like to be as a person. Shit, I don’t want to become a creepy pick-up artist.
I got on a ferry and sailed to St Malo. I stayed with Samenta, who paints paintings in her little stone cottage by the sea. We went walking along the cliffs together to a ruined 14th century abbey. I got rained on a lot in Brittany, which is par for the course. Then I scampered to Paris, crashed with Sophie and Lucile, who are both babes, smoked joints and drank beers and listened to music. Lucile is trying to make it as a singer, she has the voice but it’s stifled by fear. I got her to lie down and tell me everything running through her head which I copied down onto a mind-map. It’s the kind of exercise that is incredibly hard to do on your own. Sophie asked me the three animals question, a fun little test, she does it with everyone and I’ve started doing it too. You get to choose three animals in order that you would like to be, with the reasons why. Turns out I’m a turtle, because they have a difficult start in life and carry their homes on their backs. Figures.
I returned to the ivory tower in Marseille, told them I didn’t want to stay, and miracle-of-miracles, they agreed to let me work remotely indefinitely. Swanning around the globe, working a mere 4 hours a day, hard cash in my bank account at the end of the month, this is almost too good to be true. What was I doing all those years slaving away in offices?
I took off to Montpellier and helped Nathalie move to the tiny village of St Jean de Buèges, population 300, tucked in a valley at the foot of the Cevennes. I’m actually a bit jealous, it is a very beautiful place indeed, with the river and the old stone bridge and the ruined medieval castle and the centuries-old sycamore trees, there is a certain magic in the air. I could do with a bit of peace and quiet after all this mad bouncing about.
I went to see Hélène, she’s a professor at the university and in her free time she goes to stay in Tibetan monasteries for a month at a time and listens to the teachings of the sages and meditates and searches for inner peace. She performed a Yoga Nidra therapy on me. She bade me lie down, then gradually eased me into a state of total relaxation, and then guided me with her voice down into my subconscious. I guess it’s a bit like lucid dreaming, except you’re actually awake. I had some pretty wild visions down there. I met a terrifying giant, clad in armour and a helmet, with horns and flames for eyes and bearing a great sword, and when I asked him why he was there, he led me to understand that I should don the armour myself, for the battle lay ahead. There I was, armoured up, facing a horde of brutes, bracing for the fight to come. Hélène asked me if I wanted to wear the armour, and I realized that I didn’t, so I took it off, dug a hole in the ground and cast into the depths of the Earth. Gripped by sudden fear, I dove after the armour, into the inky void. It was there, in the dark depths, that I saw again the great gaping eye, larger than the universe itself, staring at me, pulling me in, the primal fear of snakes and spiders and claws and teeth and night and battle and all that lurks beyond the edge of comprehension. Holy shit, I got the fuck out of there!
A few days later, with great trepidation, I returned to see Hélène a second time, determined to meet the eye and let him know who was boss, but it turns out my subconscious had other ideas. In a particularly Italian renaissance-themed dream, I was presented with the fountain of life, unequivocally the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I plunged my hands into the waters and they glowed, I cupped my hands and drank and my whole body glowed. I met the tree of wisdom, a great ancient tree with many roots and the thickest trunk I have ever seen, with a canopy rising up to the skies. It radiated a feeling of of interconnectedness, of universal understanding. I met a clay man who gave me a book to read. I turned the aged yellow pages, read the beautiful slanting handwriting, and certain words jumped out at me: forgiveness, father, sister, courage, justice. He told me that we would meet again, that he had many more messages for me.
I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I decided to move to Barcelona for the summer.