J.D uses weird, poetic metaphor to juxtapose the innocence he had as a young child to the hard-bitten cynicism of and darkness of drug addiction.
But it ends on hope, so chill y’all.
I remembered the room. Small room. I think. Hard to remember. Some chiming tune. Swirling elephant shapes. A horse too. They were singularly coloured. Swirling on a device above my head. If I recall correctly, it was blue. I was engrossed in that chime.
A silhouette of woman kept opening the door. Peering in. I have no recollection beyond that. Not being brought to breast, not suckling, no cuddling. Just the woman. Peering in.
Such an odd memory. So detached. I remember flailing about. Comforted on all sides, enclosed. Perhaps that was truly the embrace.
That tune. Like a piano. But tinnier. Brahms’ Lulluby.
If there’s any hue to my earliest memory, it’s mauve, smoky almost, and I was being. That was all.
As the spark-like sound of the mobile rotated, I was happy.
Boxes. Large cardboard boxes.
Pulled myself into them, flipped them, was inside, giggling with my cousin, in a small room, a lounge, with windows that overlooked a coast. Giants spoke, they made noise, they were our friends, we were safe, while we played in our own space.
A box. Like a womb built magically into a room.
We were safe.
The older boys ran ahead. They were twice a head taller than me. Sprinting down the concrete path surrounded by trees, we made our way to the arcades. Machines, so tall, I could barely see the screen, hands-on controls, after slotting in a small 20c coin there was a chime – then I pressed the single player button and took to the air as Airwolf – the sonic-barrier breaking helicopter.
We were in a land of tall green trees, with the smell of salt in the air, where our parents were just out of sight, but never out of mind.
My earliest memories. I was so full of innocent joy then. The world was an exciting place, but boundaried by a loving mom and a loving dad.
Snake parks, with spitting cobras coiling up with slithering forked tongues, peering at me through the glass. Joyful, unlike the fork-tongued snakes in office parks, political beasts with knives in sleeves – as if aces to play against you in a game you weren’t aware you were playing.
Water slides, with my cousin sailing ahead of me, as we twisted and turned down the tunnel – yelping with delight to alight at the splash pool at the bottom. Fun, unlike the twisted turns and slippery slopes of life leads to drug addiction – where the excitement slowly turns to entrapped fear. What way out of the enclosing darkness? Can’t ask for help, asked for help too many times. No one will forgive me this time. What about a steak knife? Maybe too many pills and a letter blaming no one, hoping no one will blame themselves?
Trips to the mountain, the entire family – dad driving, mom talking to us, head turned, while sister and I giggle as we pass my cousins in their old Volkswagen combi. We’ll soon be running around the acre of land chasing chickens, or playing the hunting game stalking each other, or in the late evenings the nine of us will all be watching Star Wars (five years after Return of the Jedi came out!) on a magnificently minute TV. Lazy afternoons watching my uncle stand in his water-proof fisherman’s pants as he whipped a fly-fishing rod’s line overhead before flinging its hook into the vast reaches of the river. Tonight, we dine on rainbow trout!
A gentler trip than I would later take, one involving dropping acid and experiencing a world meld into madness – at first, euphoric. Later, angst. Despair. The intense nature of life’s inner wirings exposed for me to see, the underpinning a skeleton ghastly as it stared back. I’m changed forever. Whoah. Bad trip, man. So, just the body drugs for me. Till I can’t stop, till I have to phone the dealer, at any time of night. Mission off to see him, a journey of misshapen creatures of midnight.
Life is a journey. Mine took me through bat country. I feel this sort of sweet sorrow when I reminisce about an innocent boy.
One who didn’t know where his feet would take him.
One time, my cousin and I, at San Lameer, the resort by the salted air, seas, and large trees, were returning from the arcade games in the central district where guest check-ins and admin offices were located. We were supposed to have left earlier, but, as boys do, ended up too engrossed in the games, and were too good at them too. Our 50c coins (now we were a bit older, the machines kept up with inflation) lasted past sunset. We were nine, and walked back through the concrete paths, labyrinth-like, surrounded by shadows of the multitude of trees. We both felt that primal feeling, from those nightmares where you’re being stalked by something… we ran, and ran, trying to find our way back, terrified a strange adult would come upon us… we knew enough then, had it drummed into us, what could happen.
Trying not to panic, we suddenly saw a dark shape ahead of us. A torch shone in our faces.
Relief. It was Dad.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t on the path when I stumbled onto the wrong one and found myself in the oppressively heavy woods of drug addiction. His son, who he had such hopes for. Dreams. Discovered himself lost, scared, unable to find his way out.
Years, I spent in those dark woods.
Many years, high on the strange things I found in there. Happy, I thought.
“I’m away with the fairies! Hahhaha!”
But they weren’t really there. They weren’t really my friends.
Everything hollows out with drug addiction. Every colour turns into greyscale.
“There’s no way out,” I thought. “This is my world now.
“This the rest of my life.”
So I sat down amongst the twisted oaks that had become my tomb.
One of my earliest memories was of a nightmare I had. In the dream, gargantuan statues of malformed faces lined up along a path like perverted sentinels. My mother was in the dream. A Force was coming for me. A Force of such great power, it could rend reality.
My mother told me to run, and then she ran herself, but towards it. I was sure she was finished.
Perhaps it was a harbinger of what was to come.
I was three at the time.
But my mother kept running, in that dream, and through it and through the fabric of Time – until she stood before the haunted woods I was lost in, and waved a flashlight furiously into the dense wall of trees.
That light saved me.
For it was the light that finally showed me the way back home.
Back to the room with the hanging mobile and its tinny, lulling chime.