"I'm not in love, but I'm gonna fuck you, til somebody better, comes along"- USER FRIENDLY, Marilyn Manson
So I'm in Waterstones in Bromley killing an hour before therapy. I'm dressed how I usually dress, fashionable in a grunge meets hoody chic meets one step up from homeless way. iPod soundtrack? On the bus I was listening to a remix album by Infected Mushroom and now I'm vibing to "Things Done Changed" by Notorious B.I.G lazily browsing the True Crime section for something that leaps out at me. As is my wont I flick through the Charlie Bronson books, reading ten or so pages of a guide to surviving prison, a Michelin Guide for the darkest dungeons in Blighty. I was obsessive about Australian prison writer Mark Brandon Read's "Chopper" books until "Chopper 7: Empire of the Gun" which just seemed like he'd written it drunk in an hour. It disappointed me enough to write him a snarky (and exceptionally elaborate) email. His next book was called "A Fool and His Toes Are Soon Parted". I was paranoid for a while thinking he'd taken my message to heart. Fuckit. At least I'd be famous for something, huh? Anyway. I love Waterstones in Bromley. They've smartened it up, more space for the platter of information, giving credence to the inevitability of the digital age with its Kindle store nestled smartly in a booth of its own. I glide to the Philosophy section, flick through the new Jon Ronson since he investigates in this new epic a school shooting plot in Alaska, and I can only salivate over the awkward questions he'll pose. Nobody died, we can laugh. I hate having no money when I'm in a book shop. I head up the escalator, saunter through The Glades checking out a few girls and buy a Relentless with the change from my cigarettes. The Glades opened in 1990. It made the town. Family trips to Bromley would end with a Rainbow Cookie from the Cookie Jar, a Bon Jovi album on tape and if I was lucky, a trip to Game. I fondly remember the days of narrative computer puzzles, of floppy discs and point and click classics like "Space Quest", "Monkey Island" and "Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis". I whacked up my parent's phone bill secretly calling up the helplines at two fifty per minute. These games defined Easters, Birthdays, Christmases, Weekends, My Dreams, defined my sense of narrative and my obsession with artistic immersion. I remember a "Space Quest" guidebook written sometime in the early nineties and taking my battered copy into school, reading aloud in the playground and denoting it a 'bible of the future'. I got some stick for that. A few dead arms. Didn't matter. I knew I was right.
On the 354 to Penge I flick to Magic FM to hear the news. As the newscaster wryly explains that ReThink are calling for an overhaul of psychiatric institutions regarding the savage and deadening treatment of schizophrenics, I feel like some kind of benevolent prophecy has been fulfilled. I put "Things Done Changed" back on, trying to stop myself from giggling.
Bromley segues into Beckenham and cruises down to the dirty, effervescently unhappy streets of Penge. Memories of getting ripped off by bolshy coke dealers, almost beaten senseless by coked up lords of the manor, I switch to Bloc Party's "Song for Clay (Disappear Here)" as I step off at the top of Maple Road (site of a botched shooting on Friday, February 13th 2009, the day "Bronson" launched Tom Hardy to superstardom). This is where I saw her last. She was walking down from the house I lived in for four years with the dregs of the area, sex offenders and sex abuse victims and young offenders and supervised medication and eighty quid a week with no way of getting out except to learn to embrace the patience of isolation. Her weight fluctuated on a loop. She dressed like a boy and wore her hood up. Fresh scars were a constant. She simply ran out of space to cut.
"Oh, I didn't realize it was so warm in here," my therapist says as we enter the conference room. They say it is spaces and familiar smells, not the places themselves that bring deja vu. I feel like I am in the science block of my secondary school, the new buildings they erected after a grant from the government. That fresh paint and cheap carpet smell. She opens the tiny windows, offers me a seat.
"Arms, no arms, do you care?"
I take an armless seat and smile as an answer. Unlike previous botched attempts at therapy, there is no awkward silence.
"Have you seen "Ill Manors"?" I ask. "The Plan B film?"
She removes her pad. "I almost forgot," I say, "you've been taking notes."
"I haven't seen it. Is he good in it?"
"The young buck wrote and directed it."
I assume my therapy pose, arms behind my head, no eye contact, legs apart but crossed at the ankle.
"You know those stop motion, is it stop motion? You know, shots of London sped up so it becomes dark and the lights stream within about ten seconds?"
"Yes, they do that a lot, don't they?"
"I think it's the first thing they teach you at film school."
"Was it a good film?"
I clench my fists, unclench. "Nope. The dude watched "Pulp Fiction" and thought he was a Godardian auteur based on hype and hyperbole. He raps throughout, just to let us understand for damn sure this is his movie. That he directed it. And wrote it. And presented it. And did all the songs. Which," I reconsider, "does actually make him an auteur."
"Have you seen David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis"?"
"Hmm, he did "Naked Lunch". We talked about Burroughs."
"Insect dreams, yes. Like in "Oldboy". They occur when dissociation has occurred. When you no longer feel a position of any status within society. But I'm a little obsessed with "Cosmopolis". It's made me realize the appeal of R-Pax."
She notes this down, and then stops and says: "Who?"
"Robert Pattinson. You know, English pretty boy, the vampire tabloid fetish of unhappy thirteen year old girls."
"The "Twilight" guy?"
"The bastard mistress of E.L James. Stephanie Myers gave birth to a monster. "Fifty Shades of Grey" has just been nominated for the National Book Award. Fun never stops."
She puts her hand up gently. "Okay, so how are you? Maybe we could backtrack a little. It's a bit of show and tell again, isn't it? Empire? Post-Empire? That was...Empire."
I smile. I like how she tracks my past sessions. All the other therapists just wanted me to tell them how big/small my penis was.
"I self-harmed yesterday."
"Oh dear. How bad?"
"It's a control thing. Ritualized, superficial cuts. To offset suicidal thoughts." I roll up my sleeve. "I like how red they are."
"They look like somebody's scratched you. They're quite...artistic? That might not be the right word."
"That's what happens when you attempt to break the form of language. The study of linguistic semantics. Slicing words. Slicing and breaking structure. The quantum mathematics of poetry. It's...dangerous."
"Post-Empire. Which isn't much comfort."
"Okay, let's backtrack again. We were talking about suicidal thoughts. What kind of thoughts?"
My eyes meet hers for the briefest of instants.
"I was going to hang myself on Christmas Day."
If this were a Plan B movie we'd cut to a shot of London all sped up and lights shimmering and then some girl would get shot after whoring herself for crack and he'd be rapping about the problems of all girl gangs beating each other up for their Blackberrys and then shotting weed for guns and wideboy Nazis would be slicing up the faces of the dead girl and then Plan B would pop up and rap, "Oi, dis is real life bra, respect the hoody, I'll chib ya get me rich boy blah blah uh, cunt!" and then I'd be back in my parent's house aged 17 wearing black nail varnish and a Bloodhound Gang Hates You T-shirt and Kate would be looking nubile and hot with sex and my Dad would be ignoring me to offset his sexual angst and then Plan B would cap Kate, jerk off over the body and say "Word up, get off my estate! I'll release the hounds," and it will then be Friday the 13th of April 2001 where I say to Kate "I love you, I just don't like you," and she'd run out crying and Plan B would pop up and say, "who needs actions when you got words, sponsored by Plan B Productions," and I'll be too numb to notice he's patented a line from suicide icon Kurt Cobain. LOL. I love therapy...