"I have come to understand that life is composed of a series of coincidences. How we react to these- how we exercise what some refer to as free will- is everything. The choices we make within the boundaries of the twists of fate determine who we are."-
"In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences."
POPE JOHN PAUL II
On my way to Pynchon Ward all I will be able to think about is blowing up the hospital. I will have been off medication for a month, and thanks to the withdrawal symptoms from the mood stabilizer Olanzapine, I have only been able to sleep when drunk. The psychiatrist in the Secure Unit last year (I spent a month locked in with rapists, murderers and thieves) told me I had a photographic memory. He told me that people saw mood changes in me when their mood changed, that my mind moved so quickly that I could anticipate reactions in others before they had a chance to react. Within 24 hours I will have had a depot injection into my right buttock that will bleed out over my jeans (at this the nurse will giggle and say, "Oops!") two bottles of wine and half a gram of MDMA. When I will eventually wake up, the news media around the world will be speculating on the motivation for the bombs planted at the finish line of the Boston marathon. This will fall three days short of the anniversary of Waco, where 80 people were massacred by the FBI on 19th April, 1993.
Mum texts an hour before midnight with her adoring birthday message. My two quid mobile (the type favoured by drug dealers and the very poor) is now my sole means of communication with the outside world. Two days ago, whilst drunkenly streaming Barfly (Charles Bukowski's single foray into screenwriting) my screen burnt out.
"Fuck," I said. "Fuck. North Korea has just eaten my computer!"
In one hour I will be thirty. Mum has included thirty X's, which I bother to count. Now retired and living in Spain (it's midnight where she is), she was a German teacher for two decades and I've inherited her proto-rigidity. Spelling and grammatical errors make me uneasy. Tomorrow is Thursday, the 11th of April. Thirty years ago I was battling my way out of my mother's womb with my umbillical cord wrapped around my neck. Apparently I went blue.
Saving the solitary beer in my fridge for my 'official' birthday, I make a coffee and roll a cigarette. Then I sit down and listen to Soldier again, my first cross-atlantic collaboration with American rapper Rody Dailey, A.K.A Big P.R.E.M.E. We met on Twitter some months ago. I don't recall who followed who, or the circumstances of our meeting. Twitter has a strange and mysterious ability to render time (at best) irrelevant. By November of 2012 I had started making simple, one take videos of classic grunge anthems with my producer, Dan Cooper. Dan is a Brit School educated musician who set up his own recording studio in Penge, on the borders of London. Adele was a few years behind him at school. Between 2010 and 2012 I saved money from my benefits to pay for studio time, and completed my album the same day I recorded my interpretation of Neil Young's Rockin' In The Free World. Rody dug the videos, and after sampling his Soundcloud, I dug his 90s style, honest lyrics and great vocal talents. It went from there. He emailed us the ptf (Pro Tools File) of his uncompleted track Soldier, and I composed a hook (lyrically inspired by the framed poster of High Noon that I have in my living room- THE STORY OF A MAN WHO WAS TOO PROUD TO RUN). I'd been reading about the mathematics of music, how Beethoven created suspense by suggesting variations of the harmonic pattern. For example, in his String Quartet in C-Sharp Minor, he plays incomplete versions of the chord and saves the complete note (giving the audience its aural catharsis) to the very end. There ends the comparison between me and Beethoven, all I did was save the vibratto high note until the fourth line of the hook and produce a compound vocal harmony (three separate notes sung and placed on top of one another, giving a choir effect) for a recurrant sample. Pretty simple stuff. I listen to Soldier on repeat until I'm thirty, then, sated, open my beer and put on Born Villain by Marilyn Manson, the standout album of 2012.
"You don't have to see," he roars, "to know that murderers are getting prettier every day..."
It's 12.30 and I'm nursing a pint in the Hole in the Wall, a pub opposite Waterloo station, waiting to meet my sister for lunch. Opposite me, two city types are arguing fiercely over the pros and cons of Thatcherism. I zone out and put in my earphones. I've been listening to Masters of War by Bob Dylan on repeat for days. It's the next song I want to record. I'm obsessively studying it, working out tone, emphasis and inflection. On the wall above me is a framed front page of the Daily Mirror, celebrating the lunar moonwalk on July 20th 1969. The date seems oddly familar. I type it into a draft text message, saving it for later. My brother put 51 Bob Dylan albums on my iPod. I'm not sure, but I think that's all of them. My phone vibrates. It's a birthday text from Melanie, my sister, which informs me she'll be half an hour late. I send out a cautiously short reply, careful to conserve the credit that my phone swallows like a porn starlet lucky enough to work with James Deen.
Dan Cooper, my producer, is 27 today. Through some strange twist of providence, we share the same birthday. I call him, leave slightly slurred message pledging my eternal gratitude and unconditional love. Five minutes later he calls back.
"Happy birthday," I grin.
"Happy birthday, mate!"
"What are you going to say to Adele when you next see her?"
"Hmm. Got a cigarette, love?"
"Nice," I say. "Understated."
"By the way, your rapper emailed me. They loved the track."
I feel a huge sense of achievement. "Awesome," I say. "How's the site coming?"
"You'll be live tomorrow," Dan says.
"Amongst his many, many other talents, he also designs websites.
"You're the hardest working man in the business," I say.
"I try my best," he replies.
It's 1.23PM and I'm sitting opposite my sister in Wacaca's overlooking the South Bank. Sipping from a cold Corona, and trying to eat my burrito with as much grace as possible, I'm explaining to my sister the rudimentaries of the occult.
"It's the careful documentation of energy," I say, swallowing, "how energy, both positive and negative is at the core of the human experience. Occultists believe there is a code interweaved into history, that with the right esoteric study will reveal the mysteries of the universe. Essentially," I conclude, "there is no such thing as a coincidence."
Melanie smiles. Next to us, a gay couple with a seat staring over the Thames share a kiss.
"What do you believe?" She asks.
"That there may very well be a way of piecing together the puzzles of the cosmos, but humans will never work it out. The moment we go to study something, we alter its habitat and change it."
"Oh. Oh dear, that's a shame. Do you believe in time?"
I grin, see that she's serious.
"Short answer yes, long answer...no."
"I think time is a construct developed to withstand the horrors of eternity," she says.
"So you're a post-modernist, then?" I ask.
"Wow, cool!" She says. "Am I?"
It's half eight. I'm drunk.
"The minimum is nineteen pounds, if you're paying by card," the barman says. I'm with my younger brother Chris in Brazil, a bar opposite the Electric Ballroom in Camden, killing time before the Fratelli's gig. He bought me ticket as a surprise, even though neither of us really know who they are. Chris orders another two Corona's to hit the card limit. A Spanish Blues band is working through a very passable rendition of My Funny Valentine. We take our drinks to a table just as the lights start to dim.
"Romantic," my brother says.
"Definitely," I reply, sipping my drink. "Did I tell you my computer blew up? I'm writing by hand at the moment. It's exhausting."
"It was either North Korea, a militant militia group, a sexually frustrated computer hacker, or my screen burnt out from overuse."
Chris smiles. "North Korea?"
"Don't joke, man," I say. "Next you'll be telling me J.F.K was shot my a lone nutter. What about the grassy knoll? What about the magic bullet?"
He sips his beer. "I start paediatrics next week."
"Wow," I say. Chris is in his final year of medical school. In little over a year (if he keeps his head down) we'll have another doctor in the family. My sister is a board certified clinical psychologist.
"Just remember though," I whisper. "if you become a psychiatrist I'll have to kill you."
"I finished that Jon Ronson book you gave me," he says.
"I tweeted Jon Ronson," I say. "We had a little banter."
"You already told me."
"So I'm telling you again!"
Jon Ronson is an investigative journalist who interviews people on the fringes of society and sanity, cult leaders, paranoid conspiracy theorists, shamed celebrities. he disguises his razor sharp intelligence with a nerdy, bumbling manner, that he deploys with practiced cunning to illicit information, providing his prey with just enough rope to hang themselves.
"How's the new book going?" Chris asks.
"I'm collecting coincidences," I reply.
"Uh huh, okay... why?"
"I'm an Occult writer. It's what we like to do." The blues singer holds a great note and I catch his eye, smile, give him a thumbs up. He smiles, nods, lost in the song.
"Coincidences. Tell me one."
"On July 20th 1969, man walked on the moon. Allegedly."
"On July 20th 2012," I continue, "James Holmes walked into a screening of The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire into the audience. Oh yeah, and did you know Jimmy Savile was born on Halloween?"
"No way," Chris says.
"Yes way. He was born on 31st October, 1926. The same day escape artist Harry Houdini died in a hospital in Detroit."
"You're making that up," Chris grins.
"You've got an iPhone, man. Google it."
He does. "Coincidence," he says, slightly less confidently. "That's all it is." The band segues into a clever interpretation of Rolling In The Deep. I drain my glass.
Chris takes a long swig of his. We sit for a few moments in silence, then I say:
"Do you want a cigarette?"