Don't say I never warned you from the start- Marilyn Manson
Self pity won't save you- Bloc Party
"Somebody doesn't like me," I say.
"White or black?" my therapist says.
"What... do you mean?"
"Milk? No milk?"
"Oh. White. One sugar. This is new."
"You didn't usually offer me coffee."
My therapist smiles. If I wasn't so paranoid right now, I'd be fantasizing about her stripping for me, breaking out the love cuffs. The therapist sex fantasy is one of extremities, either sub or dom, but nothing in between. Otherwise, what's the point?
She hands me a lukewarm plastic cup.
"Thanks," I sigh.
"I haven't seen you in a while. How was Spain?"
"Somebody doesn't like me," I say, sipping my coffee.
"Oh. Your mum and dad?"
My therapist looks mildly concerned, and, like most of her patients, I sometimes live for those maternal glances.
I swallow another mouthful.
"That's what I've been trying to work out."
It was shortly after my suicide attempt that I first attempted to cover a Nine Inch Nails song that had already been made world famous by Johnny Cash, possibly the finest cover version of all time. It was only a matter of weeks from the time I washed down a packet of Clonazepam with a bottle of Jack Daniels. I woke up after three days with the hangover from hell and muscle cramps throughout most of my body.
"Try Hurt," Phil said. He was my care-worker. I'd known Phil for about two years. My self-perception was never the same as my public-perception. It's only recently that I can see why people walked away from me. I never realized how my self-destructive tendencies had alienated so very many people. And I always thought I was more talented than I am. Phil has a nervous tic whereby he will crack the stupidest, dumbest jokes and then pop a drum roll with his fingers. At first I thought it was something he did to make people more comfortable around him, a trust thing. The fact is, he can't help himself. It's common among failed performers. The kind of shit Keith Harris does when Orville is still in the suitcase. Phil came to London from Belfast about twenty years ago, got work as a Mental Health Nurse as a way to make quick cash and meet girls. He set up a music outreach clinic in 2005, a place where psychiatric patients could meet and play together, a safe haven for those who never felt safe. It's funny that I always thought it was my final shot, that I could still make it as a singer in the brutal world of popular music. But that's manic depression for you. Only very recently, and even with an album now recorded, I can see just how insane I once was.
"Yep," I say.
"I'm not good with this kind of thing. What does it mean?"
"It means that somebody has seen my video and thinks that I'm a fool."
"Hmm. How many likes have you got?"
"Soooo..." my therapist says. "Technically that's... five sixths of the vote."
"Yeah, I guess."
"Then what's the problem?"
The idea of "seizing the culture" was always important to me. When I was holed up in my proverbial cell in supported accommodation, living on eighty pounds a week, drifting into heroin addiction, my perception of success was both delusional and everything to me. I spent twelve hour stints at my (internet-free) laptop, writing furiously the novel that I knew would make my name. Every Tuesday I would make the trek to Antenna Studios in Crystal Palace and sing for three hours with people who could barely hold a note, composing songs and struggling to vocally train myself to almost pure discordancy. It wasn't a matter of success or fail. It was just that I was single and didn't have any friends, money or purpose. I quite simply had nothing better to do with myself. Phil and I would practice Hurt obsessively, my one big number. It was a song that meant everything to me. I connected with it. I was in all sorts of pain.
"One dislike? I'm interested as to...why is that a problem?"
I adjust my glasses. It's been a wet, cold Monday, and, like always, I'm mobbed up in the height of hoody chic. I don't really have the money to spend on clothes, and, judging from my musical output, it's going to be staying that way for a while.
"Have you released anything on YouTube?" I ask.
"Not to my knowledge," she smiles.
"Well, when you do, you'll know what it feels like."
"I don't actually have any plans to, Andrew."
"Pretty sure. But let's stick with this. What did it make you feel?"
"Like an idiot. I put... I put a lot into that one. Have you seen it yet?"
She giggles, shakes her head.
In August of 2011, mere weeks after the UK Riots, I was arrested in Rodel Sound Studios midway through recording "Middle Class White Boy", a song I had written in ten minutes when I was seventeen. My care worker Tony Tang (whose claim to fame was a small role in Guy Ritchie's "Revolver") had contacted a psychiatrist after I had been refusing my medication for three weeks, a psychiatrist I wound up shoving into a wall after he told me he wasn't frightened of me. Twenty minutes later three huge policemen forced their way into the studio. The biggest one grabbed me firmly by the wrist.
"Andrew Moody, I'm arresting you for Common Assault."
"Are you...I don't...I don't believe this."
"You have to come with us to the station, I'm afraid!"
"But I didn't do anything."
"Come on Andrew, you don't have a choice."
"Can I have a cigarette first?"
The other two PCs had nailed off all the exits.
"Okay," he said, smiling warmly at me.
I lit a cigarette, and before I was taken, I turned to my producer. "What do you think?" I said sadly.
"I'm speechless," he replied.
"So you included text with this one? A story?" my therapist says, for some reason grinning broadly.
"Yeah," I sigh. "Kinda tells the tale of how I felt when I was arrested and strip searched."
"Hmm. How did you feel?"
"Horrified," I reply. "I was coked up. My uh... my..."
"I was coked up. Cocaine has a tendency to...shrink things."
"So your YouTube video is about how it feels to..." I can see she's about to start giggling again.
"I'm proportional," I reply, still feeling slightly used.
"Taught you a lesson though," she says, smiling, on the verge of laughter.
"Definitely. The next time I get arrested I'm going in sober."
"Is there going to be a next time, Andrew?"
"I didn't know there was going to be a first time."
She looks at her watch. "Hmm, time's up, I'm afraid. Shall we book for next week?"
I sigh. "If you like."
"Seizing the culture" was always important to me, and I know now that it was never about seizing the world, but turning it back to a time when I had a position within it, a time when I was a useful person, when I had some measure of control. But if you read any criminologist of note all you find is that you can't turn back the clock and you can't recapture the scene. That one dislike made me realize that even if you have survived suicide, drug addiction, false arrest and psychiatric imprisonment, some people are still going to think you're a fool.