After, what seems like years of
soul-searching, I need to tell someone my story and I have chosen you.
It has taken me a long time to come to terms and
accept the situation; I have magic eyes. No, don't leave. I need to
I was the middle child in my family, the
one who, they say, brings himself up, and while the others where
outgoing, I chose books and an inner journey. I devoured folklore and
fairy tales from around the world and epic poetry like Beowulf or
Homer, always looking for answers to tell me about my place on the
They gave me much, but no answers.
I fiddle-faddled through school and left home at
sixteen, sharing a flat in Streatham with one older brother and a stray
girl who had fallen into our sphere.
I went into
insurance as an office boy but after 3 months went back to my retail
"home" in the shop I had worked in as a Saturday boy, this time
returning as a management trainee.
restless. I shall explain. It was here that I first became aware of my
eyes. My special area was provisions; hacking up sides of Beef, Pork
and bacon day after day for six months and then filling in at other
stores. I was very good at what I did. One Christmas, two of us
rendered four tons of bacon into joints and rashers - we could hardly
keep up with the demand. We are talking about imperial tons here,
2240llbs per ton, 56lbs give or take per side of bacon; 40 sides per
ton, 80 pigs boned, rolled, and trimmed for human consumption.
It was during this period it started. I would be
standing on a train station or in a bus queue and, gazing across the
street or platform, start to dissect the people there. I could see how
their joints held together and where I needed to put my knife to get
the best cuts.
First, I said nothing. I was quietly
amazed. Then one day I started to talk to some mates about it over a
drink. I presumed everyone could see as I did. They laughed, but their
faces told a different story. They were scared.
talked to my workmates about what I saw and they suggested I took some
time off. But surely, they of all people could see like I did. Well, no
they couldn't and they were worried. I understand that now so, I
shouldn't have been surprised when the Manager called me in for a chat.
He enquired after my health and, after a bit of
good-natured banter, asked me about what I could see. I thought he
understood, so I told him everything about the dissections, hooks and
knives. He listened impassively and, when I'd finished, he told me I
was overdue for some leave,'need to take some time to straighten out'.
I didn't want to; after all, I had just found my gift and wanted to
Well, to cut a long story short, he
insisted and I insisted until, I was told to go home and escorted off
the premise by a security guy. He said I needed help. He even phoned my
Anyway, I was 'mothballed' for three weeks
and in that time I talked to many people. On the phone, in the park, in
the pub even in the Library. But nobody could see things as I did. I
had an amazing gift; just me.
On the Friday before
I was due to return to work, I got a call from my Boss who told me that
I had to see the Company doctor for an 'all clear' before I returned.
He gave me the number and I arranged an appointment for the following
Tuesday. Tuesday came and I reported to Marylebone Road, where our Head
Office was at the time, to see the doctor. He gave me a brief
examination and asked me to tell him about what I saw. I told him the
lot; carcasses, hooks, joints, the lot. He took notes and asked for
clarification occasionally like, 'these people on hooks, do you put
them there?' Stupid or what, of course I didn't, I just could see them
He then gave me a letter for my family
doctor, I had to see him next before I could return to work. I couldn't
get an appointment with my doctor before Friday morning so I bided my
time. I could stare out of the window for hours, just looking at the
human carcasses parading by. Got a few strange looks but, that's what
you get for living in Streatham.
Anyway, down the
doctor's on Friday morning. He reads the letter to an accompaniment of
throat clearing and the odd furtive peer above his spectacles. He then
asks me the same questions and I talk about what I can see. The Doc.
scribbled fiercely the whole time. At the end, he has my story joints,
carcasses, hooks etc. He asks me to go home and rest, 'lie down' while
he arranges for someone to visit me later. Right now, I'm none the
wiser on when I can return to work but I go home, have a late breakfast
and read the paper.
I must have dozed off because
the next thing I know my brother is shaking me and my mum's in the
room, crying. Through the doorway, I can see two Coppers and two other
blokes who look like they could be from a hospital or ambulance. Then,
in walks my doctor with a piece of paper which my mum signs, followed
by the 'ambulance men' and the coppers. I'm spluttering, 'What's going
on?' and so forth, but nobody is listening. I can hear my mother crying
somewhere in the room but I can't see her through the scrum of bodies.
My brother is telling her, 'Everything will be fine'. But nobody is
telling me a thing. What is going on, what is going to be ok? Tell me!
I was bundled down stairs to the ambulance, mum
crying, brother soothing, me screaming. We must have looked quite a
circus. A few neighbours peered around their curtains at the spectacle,
the more brazen ones stood on the doorstep, some even applauded. I
remember thinking even in the middle of all this chaos, 'How peculiar?
What is it that they think they are seeing?'
driven, screaming, to Springfield Hospital, where I was told that I
would be kept for 'observation' as I might be a danger to the public or
myself. I am really screaming now. 'What, why, how?' You name it I
screamed it, I just wanted to know what was going on. I was
experiencing a sense of 'invisibility' or the 'does he take sugar?'
syndrome. People were discussing me but nobody was talking or
explaining things to me. I try to rise and two pairs of strong hands
hold me down in my seat from behind. I am assured that it is all for my
own good and then taken away, past crying Mum and soothing brother to
my new accommodation. I remember my brother looking at me with disdain
as if I had done something nasty, that 'smell on the landing' look.
To digress for a moment, do you know where the term
'funky' comes from? Everything they want to sell these days is 'funky'
, every new band, and every magazine. Well my Dad told me that 'funky'
means, sort of 'not quite right' or offbeat, like that bad, musty smell
on the landing you can't find. So every time I hear about 'funky'
nightclubs, clothes or bands I think of that hidden dog turd that you
can smell but can't find or that surreptitious pee that next doors
tomcat took behind the sofa.
To return to my tale;
I was taken toward the back of the building and shown into my new
'home'. The door was closed and locked behind me. The room had few 'mod
cons' and most of those where nailed to the floor; the walls looked
plumped up like duvets and the bed had the option of restraining
straps. At first, I paced, ranted and raved and when I was tired, I
climbed on my bed, curled up tightly in a ball and cried myself to
sleep. It was as if I had entered a game and everyone knew the rules
except me. Now I knew how Alice in Wonderland felt.
When I awoke, I don't know what time, I started to
survey my surroundings. Pale blue walls. No sharp corners in the room,
no sticky out, trippy-over things. Big mirror on sidewall; check
myself, look like shit on a stick. Wander over to window and peer
through the grille, two or three people walking in the garden or
grounds with nurses, high walls in the distance and the leaves on the
trees beginning to turn brown and waiting to fall.
After a while a man walked in, white coat and
clipboard. I immediately forgot his name and missed most of what he
initially said, as I was too full of my own questions to listen to his.
Apparently, he was my Doctor, 'Call me Andrew'. He and his team would
make sure my stay was as short and comfortable as possible. They would,
however, need my cooperation. Oh, and could I just possibly sign this
form. I signed. Didn't bother to read it. Anything that got me home was
fine by me. Then, the questions, the same old questions and the same
answers. 'Yes, I can see how to cut some one into joints. Yes, they are
like carcasses on legs, No, I don't want to hurt anyone. No, I don't
want to put people on meat hooks, I can see them there but I don't put
them there. They're just there'. I don't know how long we keep this up
but I am exasperated at the end. Andrew has taken copious notes and
says, he will get me something to help me sleep. I tell him that I
don't want to sleep, just to go home. He smiles, slick and unctuous
like a used car salesman, 'We'll see'.
I am given
pills and drinks at regular intervals that make me feel really tired
and lazy, and I do sleep; there is nothing else to do. Andrew visits me
everyday, sometimes with other people, and asks the same questions in
different ways until I start to become bored and uncooperative. They
take notes and nod, but they don't really seem to understand. For a
while we have new questions and then back to the old ones.
Occasionally, they try to bribe me with food or 'privileges', 'Maybe we
can arrange for you to watch TV for an hour tonight?' I am unimpressed.
After however long, [I have long lost my sense of
time and they have taken away my watch] I felt I was going crazy. I
watched the seasons change and the garden grow but knew little of the
outside world. My girlfriend stopped writing before all the leaves had
fallen. I had long since asked my mother not to visit, as I couldn't
bear to see the look of fear and hurt on her face when she visited. She
was scared and ashamed of me but came to visit me out of 'Christian
duty'. Stuff that! Visits from my brother tailed off because we had
nothing to say to each other. He talked to of a world that I had ceased
to be a part of and asked me 'what I'd been up to'. What could I say?
Got up, paced room, took drugs, paced room a bit more, ate, wished I
hadn't, talked to 'nice' doctor, more drugs and more pacing and staring
out the window until lights out. The only things that changed, from day
to day were what I ate and the consistency and regularity of my bowel
actions. How's that for small talk?
I knew I was in
a 'nut house', I also knew I wasn't nuts so I decided that the only way
to 'win' in this game was to learn how to play.
asked for books, which they took as a good sign and, after a few false
starts, [they wouldn't let me have a pen to make notes] I got a pencil
and writing paper and started to work out the 'rules'.
I read from 'Aviation to Zoology' but my main
interests were psychiatry and psychology. However, I couldn't come
right out and say, 'Have you got anything on the diagnoses and
treatment of paranoid schizophrenia?' So I read 'around' it a few times
and started to zero in on the theory of normalcy.
was in here because someone or some people had decided I was not
normal. I read three trashy books for every 'nugget' that I mined and
slowly worked out what they wanted to hear. I worked out how to get the
'key to the door'.
You see not everyone has 'magic
eyes'. I didn't know that, and my talking about it just frightened
people. Think of it this way, if you're a vicar and you hear voices,
that's ok because it's probably just God. If you live in the Old Kent
Road and hear voices, you're a nutter. Basically, people thought I was
one step away from doing a mad axe-man impersonation and hacking people
up. Daft buggers! How silly! I can laugh about it now but I was
seriously pissed off then. If normal is so bloody subjective why aren't
all those sad bastards who send Birthday cards to TV characters locked
up. For Gods sake, it's TV it's not real!!
sorry. I'm shouting. It's just that I get really steamed up about it.
It's so unfair. So anyway, I resolved to learn the rules of 'normal'
and be able to say what they wanted to hear. I started to have access
to the TV room [always escorted there and back] and newspapers [a few
days late, usually]. I started to build a picture of what 'normal' is
about. Let me tell you, that is so frightening. Investigating the
lowest common denominator; football, tits in tabloids, soaps on TV, boy
and girl bands, 'Blind Date', 'Top 20' music; all the 'normal' things
Moving on, Andrew is long gone now.
Probably got a promotion after writing numerous papers on how well my
'case' was going. The new 'regular' was Dave a tall Northern bloke,
with a sense of humour. He let me read almost anything I wanted and
started to reduce my medication so I didn't feel like a zombie and out
of control. I started to be allowed supervised walks in the garden and
was moved, eventually, to a dormitory with seven other blokes. Same
d?cor, but some moveable furniture. This felt like progress. Books,
radio, exercise and some fresh air a wonderful change. They said it was
to help me get acclimatised to being with other people as part of my
pre-release programme. Think about this for a minute will you. They say
I'm not quite OK, so to teach me how to adapt to the outside world I
have to share space with seven crazies. What exactly do they expect me
to learn? I already have screaming and pacing down to a fine art.
At least in the dorms, the nurses treated you
better and in some cases were quite understanding and helpful. I talked
soaps, football, low-level general knowledge and news and they lapped
it up. It was almost as if they were patting a dog on the head for
performing a new trick.
I started to try and get
fit and exercise in my new space. Generally, not a problem but
sometimes one of the blokes would have a fit of the screamers and set a
couple of the others off. That usually meant that security was
tightened for a while, the food got very bland for a few days and TV
and walks were restricted for a while. Otherwise, it was sort of OK. At
the end of what must have been my third year they told me I could go
home. That I no longer presented a risk to myself and society but that
I should carry on taking the tablets and call a special number if I
felt like things where getting too much for me.
few days later, my mother and my brother came to collect me and take me
home. Mum's place now seemed both small and alarmingly big at he same
time. At first, it felt strange, just being able to come and go as I
pleased, to have different and varied views. My family seemed distant,
apologetic and a bit scared. They where so polite I wanted to scream
'It's OK, I'm normal now. Even the doctors say so'. It was only my
young cousin who broke the spell when he asked, straight out in front
of his mother, at a family function, 'What's it like in a nut house?'
His mother was mortified and the room divided into three camps: nervous
laughter, looking for the door and hushed silence. I just sat and told
him, [I was going to say everything but that's not true], I told him
what it was like but not about how to be normal. I had, after all,
learned to keep my mouth shut.
After that, the
'normal' people welcomed me and, apart, from the occasional whisper
about being 'in hospital', there were no problems. Well, except one,
what to do with my life now that I had it back. I knew I couldn't stay
at my Mum's too long or I would really be a mental case and besides the
effect that the whole thing was having on her was just too sad to
watch. Praying and crying sums it up. She was going to look after me
even if I didn't want or need it. My state benefits were soon to run
out so had to get a job and so I searched the papers.
I ended up working on the reception of a Recreation
Centre far enough from home for nobody to know me and I really enjoyed
the work. It was nice to be among so many active people and to have the
opportunity to be active myself. I remember reading about self-esteem
and body image as part of my 'normal' studies so I could talk the talk.
When a position became available for a trainee Gym Instructor, I went
after it. I said all the right things at the interview and got the job.
The pay was not as good as reception but it was much more fun and I got
to learn a lot about how bodies work and how to make changes to peoples
Please don't be impatient, there is a point
to this. You'll see.
I became very popular in the
Gym and people were always asking me to help them. At first, the
Manager wasn't happy but, after a while, he started to think it was
good to have someone the punters liked on site and said that I could
train people in my own time after my shifts for a fee agreed with the
Centre and I could keep 75\\\%. As soon as the clients found out, I was
rushed off my feet. I more than doubled my income and still found time
to study. I took all the Personal Trainer exams and passed them. I
joined all the relevant associations and ended up getting so many high
paying clients that I could leave the gym and strike out on my own.
I bet you're curious. How did I do it? Well, I
could see their muscles and bones. I could visualise them in motion
and, with the training I was given, I could correct imbalances and
postural problems really easily. I was a natural. My clients loved the
fact that I was so well read and could discourse knowledgably on most
subjects while whipping them into shape. It was great fun. I've even
managed to buy my own home. Now my mum's happy, my family is proud and
we don't talk about my stay in hospital anymore. You see, they don't
realize that without my magic eyes and my stay in hospital none of this
would have been possible. That's how I can tell what my clients need
because I can see 'through' their clothes down to their real shapes.
But that's something I never talk about; after all, it's not normal, is
I get along well with most of my clients but on
the bad days, when I'm working with some rich, lazy, slob I look at
them and see nothing but dead meat on a hook.
am I telling you this? I suppose I'm telling you because I can, because
you don't know me and because nobody would ever believe you. You can't
even be sure if my story is true, can you? Got to go now, it's been
lovely talking to you might see you around sometime.