Alien Murmuration - Chapter 2 (1988)
If I carefully consider my life so far I can confidently say that it is firmly and clearly split in two. Everything that happened before we moved to Brighton was like some horrendous practice drill, the training or rehearsal. All the humiliation I felt, the meltdowns I experienced, the astonishing disorientating bewilderment about the world I inhabited made doing even the simplest things an incredible challenge.
It felt like I was meant for another place, but I was delivered there through some terrible mix up.
The best training g I had were the acting classes my parents insistent on sending me to. How they got me there some days, I will never know. Often bribery was the order of the day. Sometimes physically dragging me was also necessary, kicking and screaming was an understatement. The thing about acting class was that they taught me that you can be someone else, you can become totally absorbed in a different character. In fact, you need to do this, you must do this. Otherwise, you can’t play roles effectively. At acting class, we learned about studying other people. We learned to take on their physical affections and to portray their personalities. We heard stories of actors spending days with people or studying video footage of people just to get their mannerisms totally correct. We heard stories about actors staying in character off stage or when the camera stopped rolling. Sometimes never breaking character for entire days, weeks or whole film shoots. I remember thinking, why not just stay in character? Why not just play a character who doesn’t feel like an alien on the wrong planet? Just play someone who fits in.
So during the pre-Brighton dress rehearsal, this is exactly what I tried to do. I watched and studied my schoolmates. . . schoolmates? That’s a laugh, as I understand it now, mates should at the very least know you exist. The problem of course was that like most people who try something for the firs time I was terrible at it. I was going to need plenty of practice for this.
The trouble was outside of school, my choices for characters to study were very limited. I am an only child. I tried playing my dad for a while but taking on the mannerisms of a middle-aged man was not much better than being myself in terms of social acceptance. However, the most effective source of characters was the TV. Television was full of characters and full of lessons on how to negotiate different social situations. Neighbours and Home and Away were packed full of young subject matter that would prove useful to me in finding a workable persona. On occasion I must be careful not to blow cover and slip into an Australian accent. I also noticed at this time that memorising and regurgitating lines of TV comedies comes in handy when wishing to appear like an earthling. Everyone seems to do this, much to the amusement of everyone else. My particular talent for memorising things perfectly has become something of a party piece. I am quite a novelty at school at the moment and kids find it hilarious to quote bits of TV shows at me to hear me reply with the next line, I am even learning to hold my tongue and not correct their lines when they get them wrong.
I remember as clear as day when walking down the corridor at my new school in Brighton. Hove Park Lower School is like, I would guess, so many other schools around the country. A grey rectangular building built some time in god knows when, the seventies would be my guess. The corridors are adorned with colourful examples of children’s work and pictures of impressive looking ex students posing proudly for some achievement or other. This sparse and underwhelming decoration trying in vain to make the place look less grey and bland. Trying to convince its students that the world they were being prepared for offered something more than the ominous grey of lower middle class suburban Hove. As I walked down that corridor with my mum on one side and Mr Bratten the headmaster on the other I realised something that changed my life. I realised that I can be anyone I want to be. All the training I had been doing before we moved to Brighton could now come to fruition. I had a blank slate, a clean start. Literally no-one knew who this kid that was about to walk through the door was. It didn’t quite work out like that but at least I suppose I started life at Hove Park a few rungs higher than before.
The problem of course is what happens to the real me? The alien me? Well, I kinda know how Peter Parker feels when switching between himself and Spiderman. Let’s get something straight here though. I am not suggesting that my character is as good as Spiderman, or any other superhero come to that. He is still a bit weird, largely a loner and on the bottom rung of the social ladder. We don’t live in an American high school movie but you know what I mean. If the truth be told, I am barely clinging on to this fantasy that I am a character that belongs here but I have experienced the alternative and this is my best chance of joining the human race. My parents are the only ones who know me and the thought of them discovering my chosen character is as terrifying as my peers uncovering the real me. One of the many problems with living your life like this is that keeping my personas separate is becoming harder and harder. Couple this with the exhaustion of trying to keep myself level and avoiding overloading, freaking out or melting down and it is getting harder and harder to make it through the day. I guess it will be worth it if I make it through school alive. This is an example of hyperbole that I have used for comic effect. I learnt that in English, I hope you enjoy it.
One of the shining beacons of hopefulness in my life, and I mean this is shining like a red giant burning bright in the far reaches of the galaxy. Infinite potential but also seemimg way too far off to make any real difference. It turns out my parents are not the only ones who know the real me, I am constantly discovering people who know me and I am starting to believe they understand me as well to varying degrees. Each day I am discovering more by working through my dad’s record collection. John Lennon, Roger Daltrey, Ray Davies especially Ray Davies they seem to be writing about me and the way I feel. Listening to their songs makes me feel like I am not alone. I don’t just mean the lyrics but the music too. How do these bands explain the way I feel through their music. Could it be that I am not the only visitor to this planet? I love listening to his music with dad and I love listening to him telling me how it speaks to him. There is so much depth to the relationship dad has with his records. He understands it differently to me and it says something different to him. He tells me that this is not only okay it is the whole point of music and other art forms. You take what you want from it in your own way.
He says that tomorrow he is going to take me into town to buy me some records of my own. He told me to ask the kids at school what they are listening to and what I should get. I really have no idea who I should ask or how I should do it.