Where did it all begin?
Well, if you want my life story and how I got to where I am then you will need a pot of coffee or tea…maybe even a few pints of lager for later, some tissues throughout and an open mind. It is not that this story is all that different from other peoples. However, as any psychologist or philosopher might tell you. Your hell will always be your hell! And someone else’s hell, will always be theirs! It is impossible to share the same hell as subjectively our interpretation and sense of self will always be personal. Although we may share the same situational experience, I would never claim that my own was any better or worse than yours, only that, for me, my understanding of it has been hell! Now that I am an adult I can infer from the past that many things were not my fault. However, with that same breath I must confess, there are many things that are! Writing this now is for me a way to release or find peace, I am undecided yet as to the truth behind my own writing. Only that, for a long time I have had this sense of longing to write, to express my life in a way that only I can. I will not say that this is going to be the most articulated story or even the most interesting. However, if you make it to the end, I would implore you to take a minute and truly process what I have said as my life, my story…might be your story too.
I try to remember the childhood that I never had. Every time I do that though, my head hurts, it is almost like there is a barrier preventing me from getting to the other side. I know there is information there that will in some way help me make sense of some of the turbulence in my life. However, I just cannot seem to unlock that door. It is my hope that through writing I will find the answers to my own questions, maybe answer some of yours and ultimately, find the courage to be honest to myself and everyone else that I have wronged or been wronged by. So, it is about time we get started on what will be a confusing and somewhat contradictory journey…
I guess my earliest memories are sporadic at best. This probably makes sense as childhood memories are often overlooked and forgotten with time. However, my vaguest of memories which I will convey to you may not portrayed in chronological order, but I trust that you will come to understand why this is so when you read what I have to say. Let’s start with my first brush with death, I want to say it was when I was around seven-years-old but to be honest I am not convinced that is accurate, I mean I cannot recall dates or specifics for most things, however, let me tell you about it anyway.
The memory I am trying to piece together is set on a sunny day, honestly, beautiful by anyone’s standards, especially considering I come from a country that is renowned for its rain and lack of sunshine. Located in Dalmuir, just outside Glasgow, the highlights being a golf course, old style driving range and bowls field, a park, football field, a couple of tennis courts, pond and a small river running through it. Sounds idyllic I know. However, that only holds true if the landscape was maintained and had any sense of serenity surrounding it. To the contrary, it was more of a place where the youth congregated to drink and escape, it was after all, the only green and open spaced area within the local commune; everything else way grey residential buildings with a scattering of local shops and rundown buildings in dire need of attention. the hills were not best suited to property or any form of commercialisation and the sporting aspects were at best a reminder of the diminishing appeal of outdoor activities. Yet for a seven-year-old boy it served as a training ground for things to come. So, the day is beautiful, and I am doing my own thing. From the window of our second-floor family flat I watched a man practising his golfing swing, this excited me as I was convinced I could do it to and it looked like fun. I ran out the flat and headed down the concreted stairs and out into the narrow alleyway which lead to the main road and the bowls area which kids were not really allowed in but because I lived there, the old people knew who I was so they I guess tolerated me running through their plush green field jumping over their balls and disappearing off behind the bush before they could scold me for almost ruining their version of a heated competitive game. Anyway, I got to the golf driving range and the man I saw was about to leave when he looked at me and said there are some balls in the other driving range, but they were under the metal stand which had been used to tee off of. So happily, I said thanks and ran over to the stand, however, the stand was not lying flat as it should have been. The solid steel framework of the tee range was stood upright with the legs sticking out toward me and the sky, but I did not think anything of it and went over to get the balls that were promised to me. Now, this is the part where I lose track of the details. I know I picked the balls up, but I must have hit, touched or somehow disrupted the carefully balanced lid that was about to be slammed shut over my body. I recall seeing the shadow around me and trying to escape but I was not that big, and this near tomb appeared to encompass not only the physical space around me but from an upward glance it appeared to dilute the sky with metal and darkness. So much so, I was now under this frame…my head sticking out of the end, maybe I looked like a square pancake!? I do not actually know. However, I do know, I was in pain and there was nobody around me. The man had long gone, and the bowling people were too far and obscured by the bush and buildings surrounding me. The windows to my home were shut and I, for all my seven-year-old might, could barely breath. I have no recollection of how long I was under there, nor do I know exactly how It was that I came to be lying flat on my back with my head sticking out from the only square of death I have ever come across. However, I was there and there seemed to be no hope, no life, nothing. As this world appeared to be ending I as a child naturally screamed for all that my crushed lungs would allow. Although it just never appeared to be enough, tilting my head backward I could just about make out some bodies moving through one of the windows to the local cafe and golf shop, but they did not see me which is not surprising. I mean, who is looking for a small child running around on his own trying to play a big boys game…surely, I should be running around in a park or a field with a ball? Hanging around with friends or doing anything, anywhere else, with other kids. No, it was not surprising, and it was normal for me to be alone. Although, my isolation was not something I chose it was forced upon me. It was this isolation which meant I could have been lost to the world for ever, lost to my family, lost to my future and lost to the friends that I never had. There in the bleakest of situations I tried my chances at being the world’s strongest seven-year-old. However, I was not. No amount of strength in my crushed body could be mustered to remove this solid block of steel from my tiny body. So, I continued to yelp like a distressed dog stranded in the wilderness with nowhere to go and no-one to hear…I continued in pain. Ironically, it was not a physical pain that I felt, I think that the shock of it all superseded the physical and the realisation that I was always alone, and nobody was ever there to play with me or care for me took over and I just screamed to let my life’s pain out. Now, I am lying there with everything in my head wishing someone loved me, wishing I had a friend, praying that I would be saved but at the same time, wishing I had not escaped the full wrath of sufferance that could have been upon me. It was not because I wanted to feel more pain, it was because I wanted it all to end: the pain, the suffering, the loneliness. As my breath began to fail me and my tears turned to nothingness I thought about my father.
Oh, how I longed for my dad. I wanted him to save me, to protect me and make me feel loved. To feel his warmth and strong hands remove the assailant and prevail against the ever-closing night. Yet, I knew, he would not come. He would not protect me, he would not be my saviour, my protector from harm. I knew that despite my longing for him that my situation, my choice to run down to that place and try to imitate what I had saw him do so many times was fruitless. He would not bear witness to his only son as a father should. I knew that through my actions, there would be further consequences. Yet, as a boy should, I longed for my father’s embrace. I longed for his approval, his appraisal and recognition. I just wanted to be a boy who was loved by his dad. Why is that so damn bad, why does that bring this overwhelming feeling of sadness. It is twenty plus years later and I still feel my body shake, my heart ache and my eyes swell. Why didn’t you love me dad? Did I really bring so much shame to you? did I disgust you that much? Was I a burden to you? Please, I don’t understand what I done wrong or why you hurt me so much! I tried so hard to make you proud of me, everything I ever done, everything I still do…I wanted you to be proud of me, I needed you to be proud of me to keep me from falling, to lift me up, to be my rock, my foundation. I needed you to come and save me from my dying breath not with resentment but with love.
As the stranger came, that heard the whimpering of a child, the seeing of a bobbing head writhing near its last I did not wish to be saved…not by them, they ran for help! I did not wish to be saved by them! They got my mother, I did not wish to be saved by her! Yet, I got, as I always got ‘he is at work, he won’t come’. That was fine with me, I would lie there and die for all I cared, there was no amount physical pain that could replace my hearts suffering. I screamed! I refused to be touched, if I moved it would make it worse but I did not care. I wanted him, I wanted my dad to come, it had to be him, it just had to be. She rang him, I don’t know how many times, or how long it took…but I remember those words as clear as the sky was that day, ‘he wants you, he won’t let anybody near him’, ‘you need to come’. The phone went down. He wasn’t coming. So, I was not moving, I would make myself worse long before I let anyone else save me. She rang him again ‘YOU BETTER COME HE IS SCREAMING HIS HEAD OFF FOR YOU’. The phone went down. The phone rang, ‘I’M ON MY WAY’. With all this confusion and screaming there appeared a crowd of people all deliberating what to do. Ambulance, wait, car, police…. what do we do? I knew that answer…I had won, as much as there was so much pain, so much suffering, I still won. As much as he hurt me, he came, he must have loved me, right? That is what I tell myself, that is what I hold onto from that day.
I did not hear the car pull up, I do not remember who lifted my new-found friend from my preteen body, but I do remember that rush of pain, that physical reality had poured into every crevice every nook in my being and exploded with no reverence for my young bodies pain tolerance. I have vague recollection of being bundled into the back of a car and hearing ‘be careful’. I am sure, it was him, not saying be careful, but I am sure it was him whose arms I had been in. His arms took me from deaths embrace and kept me in this life, he was my saviour, my hero! So, why then am I hearing ‘be careful’. I will tell you why! He did not come to me out of love, or fear for his sons’ life, he did not come as a father longing to save his son from harm or to eliminate the dangers that lurked in the shadows. He came because, there were people! The gathering, that smouldering gossip that would reap the realities he had carefully constructed. He came to ensure they did not know what he was. He came to save face, to keep his demon a secret. He came to take his stupid son to the bloody hospital where he could be dumped and become someone else’s problem. The car journey eludes me, the body is crumpled, the brain is throbbing, the twisting of the roads mulched into a perpetual blow after blow of pain and tears. I likely fell unconscious, the bumps, the potholes of the un polished roads of Glasgow reminding me I am alive. My capture has been vanquished and my victory has been muted by the realities of the situation. I am seven-years-old and near deaths door about to be abandoned again.
I don’t remember much from the hospital during the initial stages. Hell, I do
not even remember much of the latter, it comes as vague sketches, images, flashes of a time that appears to be locked away behind that door! Behind that wall of shame and pain. However, I can give you a vague account of my time at hospital. I know that lying in the hospital bed one day, I had decided I needed to use the bathroom and no! I was not going to use one of these hospital potty’s that they give you to pee in. I might have been a kid, but I was stubborn as hell. I did not want anyone to see me either because I was embarrassed. So, as a headstrong young boy I tried to sit up! My body surprisingly was not nearly as damaged as everyone initially thought. Although I had been crushed, my slender body had ensured that minimal damage was done. I had a fractured pelvic bone, and in case you do not know what that is, take your hand, put it on your hip, now go diagonal towards your groin…yeah, that whole bit! I did have a lot of cuts, bruises and swelling but not major damage. The struggling to breath and the fleeting life was accurate enough due to my body trying to manage the pain and prevent me from falling unconscious as well as my chest being crushed by something that clearly outweighed myself. Ironically, at that time, had I been a chubbier kid I most likely would have had my chest crushed causing internal bleeding and subsequent death. According to the medical professionals, ‘another couple of inches and you would have been dead’ not that I truly understood the significance of that at the time. Now, back to the bed, I am half way up and my body clearly indicated that it was not a good idea to go any further, but my bladder said otherwise, my eyes wandering to that bedpan with disappointment. I picked it up and launched it across the room. Now, I was getting angry at myself because I felt incapable and weak and I needed to be strong. I was a boy, I was my father’s son. I should be able to take the pain, right? I could not sit upright but I refused to lie back down. I would not succumb to this pain. My stubbornness refused it. I know, I will roll off the bed and walk there, it was no big deal. I am strong enough, I do not need help! Here I go, leaning on my right elbow I gradually ease myself off the bed, right leg first, it flops to the floor. Easy! Left leg…I cannot move it. Using my left arm, I grab it and drag that leg to the edge, the waves of pain coming and going, finding the gaps in the tide of my medication and pain relief. I can, I will do this. I am not weak. The leg is at the edge, another push and were ready to go. I manage to push myself further upright, sliding the leg off the bed I gently tried to place it on the ground. I am sitting up, easy! I do not need help! A minute goes by, another minute goes by, I can feel my legs I can feel the need to pee grow. I am going, ready? One, two, three, heave!!! I am up! Easy! I put the weight on my right leg, grabbing at the shelf on my right side, left hand on the bed. I move to take the weight on my left leg, I let go of everything to take the step…what is all the fuss. THUD!!! I am on the ground, I scream in pain. I know they heard it, they will come. I do not need them, I do not need anyone (I want my dad). I need to move, they will catch me, I will do this myself…I grasp at the dry, shiny hospital floor. Incapable of walking, incapable of escaping, useless but stubborn. I put the weight on my hands, I drag myself, one hand at a time, my legs trailing behind me, grasping, panting, screaming in my head, throbbing all over my body, the pain is real but not the worst pain I have felt. This pain would pass. I get closer to the door, the door to the bathroom in the room that was allocated to me in the children’s ward of York hill hospital. I can hear them now, they are getting closer, I must hurry, there is a step, I reach for it and using a child’s strength I pull myself toward it, grabbing for the door handle, I caught it with my right hand, I am exhausted. I am struggling to stay awake, but they are coming, I must escape, they cannot see my boy parts. I am ashamed. I force my limp, broken body through the barely open-door way just in time, they were at my door. I locked the bathroom. They could not get me now! They were talking now, in the room. I was lying on the floor, I think I passed out at this point. I heard shouting, they were calling my name, screaming for security or someone else to come and force the door open, I would not let them in, I desperately wanted them to go away (I wanted him, I wanted my dad). The walls, were white, the toilet was white, everything was white. The smell was dank! It made me think of death, it made me think of weakness, of people that needed to be looked after, I was not one of them. I was strong, I was not weak, I would never be weak again. I would never want anyone to help me again (the demon approached). I screamed ‘I can do it myself go away! I don’t want you here’ they reply, ‘unlock the door Alexander, let us in, it is ok. We just want to make sure you are ok.’. No, you do not, you do not care, I am just a stupid boy who done a stupid thing and now I am here alone again! Honestly, I do not even remember if I did use the toilet in the end, ha! Eventually, I did open the door and from my heap on the floor I watched them watching me. They asked if they could come in and I said no, I wanted them to go away, I could do it myself. They did not move. Where was my mother? Where was my father, where was anyone? Why was I alone in the hospital, a child unloved? I gathered my strength, they would not leave. I heaved, and I groaned and dragged my carcass across the marbleised floor, looking at my disgusting reflection in the mirror that the floor portrayed. I was useless, I did not win, I lost, I am here, I got to the bed. I could not pull myself up and, so I laid on the floor. The smoothness and coldness of the recently polished mirrored floor served as a coolant to my ever-inflamed battered body. I needed to rest, I drifted out of this world and came back just as quick when they approached. I roared at them to get away, but they would not. ‘your mum will be here soon’. I do not care. I grab the bed and with the only strength I had left, managed to drag myself up onto the bed face first. They came, and I could not stop them. I was defeated, I lost again. I tried to be strong, to prove I can do it: to be brave and not weak. I could not finish the job. It was just like that other time. That time where I could not stand up quick enough. I failed again. Lying in the hospital bed I am not sure what was going through my head. I do not know what I was thinking about or feeling beyond that time. My memory of the events after are only of me trying to escape but to no avail and then myself and a young girl both in wheelchairs and both racing around the children’s ward eating wotsits. I wish I could recall whether my parents spent much time with me or not. I think my mother did stay through the night, but I do not know how many times, nor do I know if that is accurate. I can say with certainty though that my father was absent as he was so much of the time.
You see, when I look back, I do not remember much of a time when my childhood was good. I do not recall many happy memories or moments that I felt loved, wanted and part of a family. I mean, I am sure there were some, right? I would not want this story to simply be about the pain or the suffering I felt because I know that as bad as I felt it was for me throughout, there are people, adults and children who have experienced pains far greater than I could ever hope to comprehend, far greater than my own. But why can I not escape my own past? why can I not truly move forward with my life? why am I stuck in this perpetual cycle of self-loathing and disappointment?
Continuing from the first, my second primary memory of early childhood comes from within the confines of that same apartment block that I lived in. From the same location as that first near-death experience I am going to share with you a time that I would argue caused me to have this complete memory block.
So, we are once again in Dalmuir, in the apartment where I, my father, mother and sister reside. I have no knowledge of the day nor the time. Only that the events although brief, have stayed with me forever and perpetuated my life of fear. My sister and I were instructed to clean the bookshelf which sat in our small T shaped hallway. The book shelf adjacent to my bedroom and the bathroom was lined with books and dust. I am not actually sure why we were told to clean it, but we were and, so we set about the task given to us. We both sat on the floor, I with my legs crossed. I am not sure whether we finished cleaning the bookshelf before my father instructed us to stand up. However, he instructed and as the fearful children that we were we obeyed. Well, I tried to obey, I tried to stand as quickly as I could but my legs, they would not move, they would not support any weight because they were numb, or as many of you might be familiar with ‘pins and needles’. That tingling sensation where you have been sat in one position for too long and the blood circulation has been cut off. This feeling had me scared, not because I had not experienced it before but because he was towering over me. His massive frame demonising the air around me, the space in which I sat. It felt like there was a force pinning me to the ground, as though trying to avoid the darkness that loomed overhead. There was no escape, not even in my mind, which screamed out “you know what’s coming” and I did. I knew all too well what was coming for his face was contorted with anger, with disapproval. His tone was brisk and furious. Though, I could not move my glued body from that monsters’ shadow which had me trapped. I tried to get up, I knew what was coming, but I tried yet I kept falling. His voice getting louder and scarier he lunged at me with his great hands and grabbed me by the arm I think, or the scruff of my neck, I really don’t know but I had bruises on both. From the darkness my whole body was pulled into the light. My tiny frame flailed like a contortionist performing in one of London’s west end theatres. With no control I was dragged up, screamed at, I think we missed a spot! Though I can’t say for sure whether he was angry because of that or whether it was something else…he was angry a lot.
He squeezed, and he dragged, screaming STAND UP, STAND UP. I replied “I am trying, my legs are dead. I can’t stand up, I can’t. However, it was no use, there was nothing I could do. He was as always, refusing to listen to me. Maybe, it was because I was a child and knew nothing of the world or maybe it was because that was just who he was. I think, now that I am an adult and reflecting on behaviours in adulthood that it was and is just who he is.