“The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates”
He recalled living in public housing not being all that bad – not the neighbor’s bloodshot stare between the gap in the garden fence.
He recalled not knowing the difference between having a mortgage and renting – not his family’s contempt for property TV shows.
He recalled being entertained by crappy comedies – not losing the remote in the duvet.
He recalled not being sure which things ran on gas and which on electricity – not his mother sobbing over the paper shredder.
He recalled thinking there wasn’t much point in getting insurance – not having designated pockets so he knew where things were.
He recalled not thinking twice about heating the house when he felt cold – not the condensation that stuck to the windows like warts.
He recalled being more dirty and sweaty, but not it not seeming to matter – not “No I haven’t showered. Have you?”
He recalled wearing odd socks a lot – not the smell.
He recalled thinking combat shorts and band T-shirts were a good combination – not the laughter he heard that day at the festival.
He recalled having an afro haircut – not stealing his sister’s straighteners.
He recalled thinking he had a beard – not buying black dye to make it more obvious.
He recalled believing everyone looked better with longer hair – not wearing hats in the summer.
He recalled not being able to tell how people’s noses are different – not his late uncle’s bent septum.
He recalled not caring what strangers thought of him – not waiting for the gang to disappear from the bottom of the street before he walked into town.
He recalled sitting around a couple of crappy disposable barbecues and overhearing a German accent, then a friend of his singing their national anthem and laughing – not the heated political debate afterwards.
He recalled dozens of people just hanging out together simply because there was nothing better to do and it was fun – not sometimes feeling like an easy target around other people.
He recalled buying eight beers for $5 and taking them up to that barn in the pitch black with people he cared about – not “I heard they put razor blades around here to scare us off.”
He recalled going wild with a disposable camera one afternoon, and generally not being able to document his experiences as easily as kids these days do – not losing it with people who struck stupid poses.
He recalled walking through a forest in the dark with his friends, and telling ghost stories to scare each other – not holding onto someone’s coat then pretending it was an accident.
He recalled no-one having any hang-ups about going camping – not the prank involving food and leaves.
He recalled going to Mass on Christmas Eve with some friends, just to piss off a few Christians – not catching the eye of his science tutor, who’d lost a son.
He recalled not really making a lot of money, but feeling good about himself because he had lots of friends he could see at any time – not really, really wanting money for menthol cigarettes.
He recalled walking home from a friend’s party, with the blue dawn reminding him that there was only a few hours before he’d have to get up for college, and smiling when he remembered that some people were still in bed – not crouching in the rain with sore eyes and sleeping skin.
He recalled staying up all night at parties in the summer – not the comedown shivers next to her.
He recalled having parties in his parents’ house and knowing people would throw up but just accepting that he’d have to clean up in the morning and that it would be OK – not the bathroom that flooded.
He recalled rushing to finish an essay so that he could make the bus leaving for the next town for a party – not his knee repeatedly colliding with the bagged bottles as he ran.
He recalled sticking photographs from parties and days out on his bedroom wall, knowing that they’d leave behind greasy stains – not the daily visual reminders of her.
He recalled falling in love with every new girl he met – not being embarrassed that each of this one girl’s loud sneezes sounded like she was trying to improve upon the last.
He recalled going sledging and drinking at the same time on a first date – not how the girl totally reminded him of her.
He recalled getting on just fine with ex-girlfriends – not sitting with her in the smoking room at work, frozen in fear and a bit of humiliation; silently bound by past, silently divided by present, as the clock’s tick was slow.
He recalled people his age from different towns coming to the bar his friends and he hung out in, because they’d heard it was a pretty fun place to be – not seeing a guy on the next table with sagging jowls, a receding hairline, and nervous mannerisms that were eerie embellishments of his own.
He recalled not understanding what calories were – not those weird red blotches on his face.
He recalled coming home from the bar and melting some cheese to put in a sandwich with some fried eggs – not waking up painfully full.
He recalled not having to remember to drink lots of water before going to bed after drinking alcohol – not sometimes peeing the bed.
He recalled not needing to buy decent alcohol to enjoy getting drunk in the bar – not bartender Stan, who was only nice because it was more effort to be mean.
He recalled sniffing poppers with friends one sunny afternoon – not the sudden headaches.
He recalled going to the bar and casually consuming alcohol prior to starting work on an evening – not the pool table’s sticky coin slots.
He recalled getting stoned on his lunch break before going back to finish his shift, and a customer asking him something like “Does this ‘orange juice with bits’ actually have bits in it?” and him having to flee down the next aisle to hide his adolescent giggles – not how the blurry unnatural light unsettled him.
He recalled his boss giving him an extra few shifts and then his boss being surprised to learn that he didn’t actually want to work that much – not regularly asking “Is there a bus that goes there?”
He recalled calling in sick for work while still at a party, with a fucking llama bleating in next door’s field – not the moment he’d started to get hangovers.
He recalled not being bothered about having a career and just wanting to devote himself to writing – not, in the end, listening to people rather than books.
He recalled having conversations with people’s cool mothers and fathers, who admired his spirit and determination – not the young woman who said “He keeps me out of trouble and off the streets!” while she held her baby son and a bag containing a plastic sword.
He recalled no-one really talking about jobs all that much – not a cashier saying “I’m always here,” and smiling, but not really.
He recalled quitting his weekend job and feeling fucking great – not that chat with his mother.
He recalled going to bed excited about tomorrow, and not really knowing a lot about anything, in the good old days, back when he had no worries in the world. With the nurse, his mother, his sister, and her at his side, he thought to himself “That was my best time. That was my best time.”
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