Gone When I’m Dead

Gripping the edge of mountains and looking down: Masada when I was 13, belly-crawling to the edge to see a disappointing stretch of sand; Scafell, in a snowstorm, huddling in a lee with friends before the clouds broke; Striding Edge, in the snow, where the hunter and his horse fell; the Roaches, in the snow, alone; Mt Olympus, slipping on shingles, sent off-course by colourblindness and staring down, down, down a drop of 1500 feet; Teenage me in Flims, lost on a mountaintop in a blizzard, happy to curl up and sleep. (I will die in a snowstorm.)

Five years old, I think, screaming at my parents and stepdad to stop arguing, telling my biodad to leave.

My children being born; Vicky screaming into the wall as her waters broke onto the bedroom carpet (and were still there a week later when we got back from the hospital); Ari emerging blackhaired and brown as a nut from the meconium; the rush to the hospital for the miscarriage; Harpo screaming and fighting the new world. My sister, 18 years before, a quiet bundle in my arms as I carried her from the hospital. (They must outlive me.)

A room packed with Tory students jeering me, President of the Oxford University Lib Dems, as I sacrificed a speaker to their bile and wondered why no-one else had turned up. A GDC room of game developers listen to me babble through a panic attack as Herman put his hand on my leg and calmed me. A live radio interview where my voice delayed back into my ears drowned out my own internal voice and left me speechless. (You must face your fears.)

Being one of a handful of fans watching John Cale perform Hallelujah live at Glastonbury (everyone else was watching Radiohead) and him singing “you don’t really like music do you” and chestpain making me realise that the two litres of vodka and coke I’d drunk had kept me going through the woods with the man in the bear suit who’d guided me when I was lost but weren’t going to stop me dying of exposure. (I didn’t).

A girlfriend lying screaming on the floor, self-rapt in her tantrum, holding her tight so she’d stop hitting me and throwing things. Beneath a ruined Byzantine castle, another girlfriend hitting wild dogs with a stick to protect a feral kitten. Another sobbing at me in a pub, confronting me about not calling, not texting. Another sucking a lollipop as I met her in the street. (We all deserved better.)

Falling asleep in the sun. In a grassy field on the pilgrim’s way. In Dubai at Christmas, the only one on the beach. In a windy cove in Spain, my toddler daughter sweatrolling into me. On a bed in an always sunny Islington bedsit. Stoned, on an Oxford college lawn, two hours after my finals. (A lifetime spent at desks)

Captive stories in misfiring brain cells, disappearing by the day. Gone when I’m dead.

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About GriddleOctopus

There are few harder things in life than introducing yourself, especially in print where mellifluous nuance can turn to indulgent wankery. So. I am definitely a 'writer'. You could also call me an 'artist'. I could probably put the words 'designer' and 'consultant' here too, but they feel crass.