Meltdown part 2. Never Experiment on Yourself
Part 2 Never Experiment on Yourself.
On the day the Social Worker came to do An Intervention Thor stole a Stylophone from Kev’s Fabulous Keyboards and played her Land of Hope and Glory, which was the only song he knew, although he had made up his own version of the words, ‘…. Mother’s in the sea’.
He said he was going to get a monkey ‘from somewhere’ and go busking down at the station where he was sure to make a killing.
The social worker was as thin as a long skinny branch and Thor imagined her on a tree with other social workers, rustling in the wind, scaring children with their antics.
He was terrified she was going to take him away and put him in Childrens Home, ‘A Home away from Home away from Home’.
The boys there were made to work in the municipal garden and to hand out inspirational tracts around the shopping centre on weekday afternoons, the electronic tags fitted to their ankles quietly beeping.
Then on Sunday mornings while half the boys sang Pie Jesu the other half would be made to butter bread in front of the homeless and then to eat the bread themselves to show the homeless that their predicament was a lifestyle choice and not a benediction.
Pious Lord Jesus
Give them rest
Pious Lord Jesus
Despite his protestations that he could care for himself the social worker said it wasn’t typical for fourteen year old boys to be left by themselves. This was the kind of lie often repeated by a hypocritical establishment because it was common knowledge that behind the old theatre on a nightly basis many parentless boys would gather.
The most daring of them would wear backless underpants and a luminous lipstick that would shine brightly under the ultraviolet lights of their predators, rich men from the Southern Resorts, driving flash cars with many plastic toys on the dashboard and with wives who thought they were both more controlling and loved than they were.
The social worker was all ready to sign him up on the dotted line when George, the alchemist Thor still worked for after school, appeared and acted out a scene he later admitted he had stolen directly from a Brazilian soap opera he used to watch while living hand to mouth as a travelling shaman in Rio de Janeiro.
Thor was his son he claimed and he, George, had been suffering from amnesia after being struck down by a pair of gangsters in a stolen car. For the past fourteen years he had been living as a vegetable in a mental hospital. But now he was back and, here George grabbed the page with the dotted line on it and tore it into pieces, Thor would live with him and that was that.
Despite her best efforts, Thor’s mother hadn’t died when she jumped from the apex of the suspension bridge and every Sunday Thor would take the special ‘madhouse express’, as it came to be known by its regular users, from Central Bus Station out to the somber institution where his mother was housed and it was these trips which beat like a metronome, marking the time of his teenage years.
The dark long corridors of the institution, from which water always seemed to drip, filled him with a kind of dread. As did the blank faces of the hospital patients and staff alike. But he maintained the habit of going and, although there was never any response, he wound recount the facts of his life to his mother; learning the lessons of alchemy under George’s direction, their trips together to Prague, Antwerp, Flanders; the cold wet weather, or the snow, piles of it which would stack up against their hotel windows, covering whole cities, giving them a uniformity and blandness he would find tough to shake from his mind.
Once, remembering his mother’s obsession with warthogs, he had stolen a baby one from a local zoo and placed it quite carefully on his mother’s bed. He thought it might jolt something from her but she and the beast had merely stared at each other, one set of black eyes boring into the other.
Despite his heart continually breaking he persisted.
One weekend he brought pictures of his rooms, the old cellar under the alchemy shop converted into a den just for him, the posters of Kraftwerk and Yazoo on the wall, the racks of test tubes, bottles of powders and crystals, that towered above his narrow bed.
He told her of his love affairs, first the crazy dirty sex he had with Albert, the boy he had played Meltdown! with all those years before, and then with Juliette, the daughter of a road sweeper whose face was always dusty and whose clothes always smelt of discarded condoms.
Juliette, unlike Albert, had a thing for cleanliness and foreplay often consisted of caressing each other with medicinal wipes. Once they had broken into a hospital and made love on the operating table. It was the most sterile place she had ever been and tears of joy had ran down her cheeks as he entered her.
“My father,” she had said. “My father.”
At the end of each visit Thor always said the same thing, “You’re alright, aren’t you mum?”, “You’d tell me if there was something on your mind, wouldn’t you?” until one day he turned up at the institution and was taken to a side room by a doctor with a squint and rolled up shirt sleeves and was told that his mother had died.
“She wasn’t alone when it happened,” said the doctor. “Nurse Features was in there with her fan doing the bi-monthly changing of the air and she said that before your mother died she awoke and uttered a single word. Mermaids. Does that mean anything to you?”
A few years later Thor went to university in the capital. He rented a room in the attic of a fish market. It was cold in the Winter but in the Summer he could climb out onto the roof and sunbathe in the nude.
When the Nigerians who worked in the packing stations on the tops of other tall buildings surrounding the fish market came out for their regulation three and a half minute cigarette break they would spy him lying there and they would whoop and holler and he would whoop and holler back and this got to be such a highlight of his day he would even go out naked on the roof on cold Winter days when his willy would shrivel and his balls retract and little mounds of snow would collect on his chest and nose.
“This,” he said, “is solidarity. It’s not much, but nothing is.”
He said this, but deep down, he didn’t believe it.
He didn’t believe that resistance was futile.
He mixed rarely with the other students at his university. The fish market was some distance from the campus but to live closer, in one of the luxury chrome coloured tower blocks where the other students lived with their up to date sound systems, smart phones and little baggies of cocaine, was beyond his means.
Five nights a week he worked in Tom’s Bowling Alley and Fun Factory. The Fun Factory was a rusty climbing frame covered with a tarpaulin. It had been closed indefinitely after a five year old child had fallen onto the mouth of a rough sleeper. The bite marks had appeared on the front cover of the Daily Mail and a national campaign, backed by the Prime Minister, had been started to have the teeth removed from all the homeless people, which was crazy when you thought about it, because when was the last time a homeless person had been able to go to the dentist?
Thor’s job was to hand out the special bowling shoes and to clean them on their return. It was difficult to get the smell of feet out of his nose. He dreamt of big toes, verrucas, athlete’s foot. Naked, disembodied lower limbs would surround him, before slowly they would close in, suffocating him as they filled every hole, squirming and squeezing inside of him.
He told all this to his tutor, Professor Bermann, a frighteningly tall Calvinist whose great uncle, a German Jew living in Prague sometime before the Second World WarTM, had been the basis for a minor character jeered at and then knocked from his horse in an unpublished story by Franz Kafka.
“And these toes enter you from behind?” asked Professor Bermann and Thor had blushed remembering his brief affair with Albert, the taste of his cock in his mouth, his penis up his bum, how he would leave the door open when he was taking a shit, and how he liked to balance things on his erection; cassette tapes, linen handkerchiefs embroidered with his father’s initials, tins of octopus legs, sardines, sprats.
Thor had recounted these things to his mother in great detail. All of it he realised only now done in the hope he might shock her out of her coma.
At the end of the first year the university held a science fair in the former waiting room of the Central Railway Terminus. The other boys, whose parents were wealthy, had elaborate stalls with whistles on them, klaxons, hand-stitched flags displaying ferocious looking griffins or dragons. The other boys wore top hats shiny enough to reflect light, and skinny black trousers that showed off their perfectly toned calves.
Before he set up his own stall, a tea-stained tray he had stolen from the canteen and to which he had attached thin bamboo legs, Thor walked around sickened.
There was a working volcano, Krakatoa or Etna, tiny mountaineers scaling its sides, a walk-in wind tunnel, boys visible through its glass sides, their long hair streaming behind them like banners, a diorama of the town of Pripyat held in time shortly after the Chernobyl meltdown. He had only some tiny bags of powder, George’s erection giver, improved by himself although never tested.
That was George’s first rule of alchemical practice and one which Thor never broke during his whole life, except for once, dramatically, on a beach in Saltburn-by-the-sea, Never Experiment On Yourself.
But, and so it turned out, his bags were a roaring success. The price was 25p and by the end of the day he had sold out.
Two days later he was called to the principal’s office. The principal’s secretary wore pince-nez and had large gold rings on each of his fingers. He had a larger than average face and smelt like he ate a lot of garlic and cold Spanish soup.
The principal himself didn’t stand from his desk and the curtains were drawn as if he were in hiding or trying to hide something. It was rumoured the principal was afraid of cars and travelled only in a horse drawn carriage. It had never been seen but that was because, it was said, he arrived at work exceptionally early, ‘before even the worms’.
As the principal talked on Thor was taken back to that time years ago when he had been scolded by his mother over the incident with the tomato sauce and his and Albert and Reggie’s wangs and butt cheeks.
The long and short of it was that there had been a scandal and he was to blame.
On the night after the science fair police and various other emergency service personnel had been called to the chrome coloured tower block where the other students lived. An orgy or something of the kind was going on, young men naked and running along the corridor, or engaged in acts in their rooms, and even, it was said, six going at it on and under the reception desk.
An investigation had traced it back to his powder. Several boys were in hospital. There was bleeding and for decorum’s sake extra male nurses had had to be brought in from the suburbs.
Thor was now publicly, as well as privately ostracised. News of his powder had been printed in The Bottom Line, the university paper.
Having no one to hang out with he took on more hours at Tom’s Bowling Alley and Fun Factory but even that took a turn for the worse.
His one friend there left after a hold-up one night. Masked men had held them hostage before making off with half a dozen bowling balls and a good deal of the shoes. Eric, his friend, couldn’t take the pressure anymore. He was seventy and he wanted a quiet life. He had always wanted to read the works of Proust in their entirety and now he would.
Then, to add insult to injury, George died suddenly.
Thor invited Albert and Reggie to the funeral and they were only ones there under sixty years old.
Albert and Reggie were lovers now, and as a symbol of their love, they had run lengths of string between their bodies connecting them together in the fashion of Lord Ashberry of Sutton and his favourite slave girl, Mercy.
At the wake there was dancing and Thor, quite drunk from the many tiny glasses of port upended into his mouth, trying to get between Reggie and Albert, had become entangled in their strings and an argument had ensued.
Didn’t Thor know where some of these bloody strings were attached?
He did not.
All he had felt, for a moment, was comforted, supported as it were, in a cat’s cradle of his friends’ design. That it proved to be false severed his own heart’s strings.
Another year passed, a lonely time spent either at his lectures or the bowling alley, and he finished his course and was awarded his degree and he was ready for the world of work.
A man at last.
Except sometimes he still felt like a little boy. He missed George. And he missed his mum.
He had photographs of them which he kept in a leather pouch, secured by strings, over his heart.
Sometimes in his sleep he would put his hand there and he would dream. Or he believed he would dream. Because the only thing in his mind when he awoke was a single image.
Pie Jesu https://youtu.be/y8iY24I1NWQ