Chapter Three - England 2008
After I had lived with my New Love’s mother and her grandson for three months, I embarked upon a flight back to England, where I had arranged to live with my mum and Brother. Time had passed by, and it seemed my infamy had blossomed. I was stared at openly when I arrived at the airport in Britain, so I went outside to wait until mum came to pick me up. I had already told mum what had happened in Holland, but I wasn’t quite sure what she made of it. She was quite used to my eccentricities, and I had the feeling she thought of it as more of the same.
When we stopped at a service station, on the way, I asked mum if she would get coffee and sandwiches while I waited in the car. As I sat waiting, a car pulled up directly opposite, which promptly reversed from the parking space like a getaway car from a bank robbery.
I had saved enough money for my children’s summer visit, but knew I wouldn’t be able to see them, so I bought an ounce of weed and a little crack when I arrived at mum’s. The crack was poor quality though, so I didn’t buy it often. I took heroin occasionally, and methadone too, but they made me so violently sick that I stopped taking opiates and mostly stuck to weed.
I spent most of my time working on the manuscript and smoking weed in my room. Mum did shopping for me. Sometimes I ventured out of the back door, but I didn’t feel comfortable because there were houses overlooking the garden. One day, my Brother opened a skylight and peered outside, to see what was going on, because someone was playing ‘Filthy Gorgeous’ by the Scissor Sisters, at full volume, in the park opposite the house.
I had become incredibly paranoid, and had developed a kind of nervous, hacking cough. Sometimes, at night, a group of people gathered outside on the street below my window and imitated it. My mother’s fence was kicked down. I was feeling pretty scared for myself, and for my mum and brother too.
Mum was worried about my apparent agoraphobia and suggested I should see a doctor, but I refused. However; one day, while I was watching television, mum walked into the sitting room and said – “there’s someone here to see you, Martin”.
She had called a doctor, who appeared behind her as she spoke. I described what had happened, and how it had affected me, but I assured him I would get over it, in time. I felt uncomfortable though, because he regarded me as though I had admitted to having a distasteful fetish, like sniffing the underwear of the elderly. Once he had left, I went upstairs to my room to smoke, write, and forget about the doctor, while listening to music on an old stereo mum had given me.
Some days later, there was a knock on my bedroom door, followed by a man’s voice saying – “Martin, would you mind coming out to speak to me?”
I assumed it was the doctor again so I said – “no! I’ve told you before, I’m fine. leave me alone! Go away!” – before throwing the lock on the door and sitting back down at the desk. The knocking and requests persisted, so I positioned my head between the loudspeakers and turned the music up, in an effort to drown it out.
Just as I thought they had given up and left, there was a loud crash at the door, as though someone was trying to kick it down. I thought it was my Brother, so I jumped from my chair and shouted – “if that’s you, I’ll fucking well knock you out!”
A different voice from the first said – “we’re taking that as a threat, Martin” – which was followed by another crash. The lock was flimsy, and I knew it wouldn’t hold, so I slid the bolt aside and opened the door. Two police officers stood in the doorway. I farted a loud fear fart. Someone standing behind the police officers laughed. Mum was there too, and my Brother. Mum looked really sad.
The police officers pushed me into the room, threw me onto the bed, and twisted my hands behind my back while someone informed me I had been sectioned under section two of the mental health act. I can’t remember who; perhaps it was the one who laughed when I farted. I really don’t know; it was a pretty intense situation. The police handcuffed me and led me to a police car parked in mum’s driveway. It was the first time I had left the house for months.
The police officers drove me to the city’s hospital, some half an hour’s drive away. I complained the handcuffs were digging into my wrists, and asked if they could take them off. They said they couldn’t, and laughed when I suggested they should have soft, pink sleeves, like those used in porn films, to make them more comfortable and look less intimidating. I supposed they were alright. Just doing their job, with rounding up lunatics one of their duties.
They led me to a ward in the hospital with my hands still cuffed behind my back. Once in the ward, and free from the uncomfortable restraints, I was taken to a consulting room where I was interviewed by a doctor.
When I began to describe what had happened in Holland, I could tell from her expression and manner of questioning that she disbelieved me, so I agreed with her when she suggested I was just imagining the whole scenario; that I had been under a great deal of stress and smoking a lot of weed, which had led to a breakdown. I agreed with her because I was afraid of being locked up for good. I hoped I would soon be released, because I had been told I could only be held for a maximum of twenty eight days under section two of the mental health act, whereas I could be held indefinitely under section three, and forced to take medication, which was one of my greatest fears.
After the visit with the doctor, I began to mingle with the patients on the spacious mental-health ward. The staff, of whom there were about six or seven, spent the greatest part of their day inside a tiny office with a coded lock on the door. They sat around on chairs and a desk, while observing the patients through a window, reinforced with a gridwork of wire-mesh; it almost seemed as though the staff were patients and the patients, staff. A complaints box hung on a wall within the ward, crammed to overflowing.
I spent most of my time with two girls. One was around twenty, and the other twenty-five. They had terrible cuts on their arms, but the eldest’s were by far the worst – there were about fifty cuts, held together with butterfly stitches, running from her wrist to shoulder. A patient sitting next to her retched when she showed them to us. Despite the bleakness, we spent a lot of time laughing at the daily absurdities of life in the ward, or sometimes expressing sorrow for those among us.
A short, wild-eyed man in his fifties seemed delighted when he told us a newspaper had written an article about his suicide attempt, since the police had closed the bridge he was going to jump off, while they convinced him to live another day.
I spoke daily to a huge Pakistani fellow, who mostly sat alone in a corner of the ward looking thoroughly depressed. He reminded me of the chief from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. His father had died some months before, and he had been unable to cope with the grief. One day, he sat on the floor in a great puddle of milk, with his head thrown back, bawling like a baby. It was one of the saddest sights I had ever seen.
I was allowed outside, after a few days, and walked to a local shop with the girls, but a teenage boy hanging out with his mates shouted – “do you know who you are?!” – so I didn’t go again.
I was released after a week or so of observation. Although I understood their concern, I was furious at my mum and Brother for their conspiracy. I suppose it was the point I realised my life was totally ruined, and sensed there was only one possible way out. Yet; I believed PAM had the power to change the world, so I finished editing the manuscript with the thought of promoting it through my suicide; knowing it would receive media coverage because of my Internet infamy and painting the mural.
My New Love’s mother knew I was writing a book, and had suggested I should publish it on a blog. So, I decided I would create one on mum’s home computer, load PAM onto it, and paint the URL in black paint on the white garage door, late at night, before I took a train to my old home town, some thirty miles away, where I planned to end my life on a railway line that ran close to my childhood home.
Listening to the distant rumble of trains, breaking the silence of morning, was one of my earliest childhood memories. I had always found the sound comforting, and felt I would sense the same at the end of life as I did at the beginning.
I planned the event carefully. I even thought of taking a pillow in a rucksack, so I could rest my head on it, instead of directly on the cold steel rail of the track. I wrote a letter of apology to the train driver first, and began the letters to my children with my son’s, but I cried so much I couldn’t see what I was writing. I knew I couldn’t go through with it, so I gave up on the idea.
While I was considering an alternative to death, I remembered my New Love’s mother had told me of an organisation that found work for people on organic farms, with the host farms offering food and accommodation in return for work. She said she had done it, and had found the experience entirely rejuvenating, so I thought I would join the organisation and look for work in Hungary. I reasoned it would be unlikely that anyone would recognise me, since I would be working on a farm in the countryside, and the Internet wasn’t so widespread in Hungary.
Just after I had registered with the organisation, and began to half-heartedly dream of spending the rest of my life as a farm worker, my ex-wife phoned to tell me she had split up with her husband, and there may be a chance we could get back together. So, even though I was concerned about dragging my family into the scorn I faced, I hoped we would be able to pull through it together, as a family, and booked a flight to Finland instead.