A beginner’s introduction to EVOL

That plu­gin failed again. The one that’s sup­posed to keep An Unre­li­able Wit­ness from bar­ing its flabby, scarred arse to the world. I dis­covered this annoy­ing state of affairs because I was noti­fied about spam com­ments regard­ing Bul­garian jewellery.

So as the facil­ity that has stopped me from writ­ing drivel here is clearly broken, I have to decide if and how to delete this site from the web. It’s dif­fi­cult, though I know from exper­i­ence it shouldn’t be. After all, I’ve been doing things on the web, either for work or pleas­ure, for over 17 years. I’m well aware how tran­si­ent and fleet­ing web con­tent and web­sites can (and indeed should) be, yet I don’t quite have the strength of will to pull the plug on this place. Not at the moment. And so I find myself drib­bling away aim­lessly on this clean white back­ground because it’s too hot to con­cen­trate on doing what I should be doing — try­ing to earn a mea­gre liv­ing as a dis­tinctly uncom­pet­it­ive, non-entrepreneurial, anti-capitalist freelancer.

Plus, I want (and maybe need; humour me) to talk about some­thing aloud. Well, as aloud as An Unre­li­able Wit­ness ever gets these days, which isn’t very much. But it’s more aloud than open­ing up a text file and frantic­ally typ­ing in the rav­ings of a very dis­eased mind for my own dis­pleas­ure. That soon gets out of hand, to the point where I’m ter­ri­fy­ing myself into a gib­ber­ing wreck. It feels like mas­turb­a­tion, but of a par­tic­u­larly grue­some kind where you feel even more grubby and unpleas­ant after­wards than you nor­mally would. Is there such a thing as hate-masturbation? If there is, then it’s me writ­ing in text files to myself.

So. To the topic I’d like to discuss.


For the first 34 years of my life, I had abso­lutely no concept of EVOL. I’d felt ‘close’ to people, I’d liked cer­tain people more than just simple friend­ship — con­fid­ants, maybe — but never any­thing more than that. Per­haps I just wasn’t mature enough. EVOL puzzled me. I’d look at happy couples, clearly very deeply immersed in their own unique take on EVOL, and simply not grasp the concept. When I star­ted writ­ing online in 2000, I penned a few posts about EVOL from that point of view — EVOL was a curi­ous concept and I was a ques­tion­ing, con­fused bystander. Why EVOL? Why that? Why did these people like each other to the point that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together? How does that even begin to work?

Part of it, of course, was not trust­ing in EVOL. EVOL was some­thing that had been whispered to me before, prom­ised to me before, used as an excuse before. I’d also heard it used in the heat of anger. This emo­tion, this EVOL, wasn’t some­thing in which I felt I could put any faith. There was no secur­ity in it.

Then my 35th year hit. Some­thing happened. Quickly. Sur­pris­ingly. Without sound­ing unduly dra­matic about it, I was even shocked. Because I sud­denly exper­i­enced EVOL. I said “I EVOL you” to someone and I meant it. Genu­inely. I still wasn’t quite sure what I meant or how this sen­sa­tion should feel, but I knew it was dif­fer­ent. That I felt dif­fer­ent. I just wasn’t sure how I felt different.

At about the same time, I became ser­i­ously ill. I ended up becom­ing phys­ic­ally dis­abled and los­ing a fair amount of my mobil­ity. Maybe they were con­nec­ted? Maybe EVOL was able to worm its way through my hard, pro­tec­ted, shell-like exter­ior because of that huge change in life? Maybe because I had other things to con­cen­trate on, I let down the fire­proof, bul­let­proof emo­tional guard I’d been build­ing up so strongly over three dec­ades. It’s a the­ory, anyway.

I never met this other per­son. The focus of this EVOL. The rela­tion­ship took place entirely online, though we vowed to meet one day. That may have led to me won­der­ing if what I had exper­i­enced really was EVOL. Because surely you need to see someone, be with them, feel their pres­ence with you to receive such a power­ful emo­tion? Again, I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. (If you’re read­ing this in the hope of me find­ing straight­for­ward answers for myself, you may as well stop now.)

That rela­tion­ship ended. Not my doing, not my choice. The other party didn’t tell me it had ended, but instead chose to van­ish in what I can only describe as a bru­tal fash­ion. I never got answers to the whys and the where­fores. I was back to doubt­ing the valid­ity of EVOL.

Then I met someone. She intro­duced her­self to me, which was just as well as one thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have the nerve to intro­duce myself to any­one. Ever. She took the lead in that, per­suad­ing me to meet her. I was very thank­ful. But since EVOL was a curi­ous concept to me once again — or so I thought — I didn’t express my feel­ings as clearly as I should have. I was an uncom­fort­able, edgy mix of pre-EVOL me — con­fused about the entire thing, feel­ing it alien — and the me who had pre­vi­ously said “I EVOL you” and then doubted its truth, its valid­ity, and received a firm kick in the teeth some months after I said it. I remain very, very sorry to this won­der­ful per­son for the hurt I prob­ably caused with my lack of, well, I sup­pose one would call it ‘com­mit­ment’. Yes, com­mit­ment, that’s it. I felt great EVOL for her, but I simply didn’t know how to say it in any clear way.

But. The rela­tion­ship had provided me with the warmth and com­pan­ion­ship I hadn’t quite real­ised I was so lack­ing, because I’d become (in the words of the pop­u­lar idiom) some­thing of a ‘cold fish’ over the years. For a time, the per­son involved also provided me with the EVOL I didn’t know I was look­ing for. When this EVOL slowly came to an end, it took me a while to real­ise what I’d lost and how much it had meant to me.

I genu­inely thought that was it for rela­tion­ships and EVOL in my life. No more. I’d had a couple of exper­i­ences of it and been presen­ted with the evid­ence that it wasn’t for me. I resolved to re-enter the skin of the per­son I’d been for those first 34 years of life — someone who didn’t under­stand EVOL and thus didn’t much care for its absence. Yes, it might be a little lonely and leave me as a sin­gu­lar (and single) oddity, but it was at least safe.

I met someone else. She intro­duced her­self to me, which was just as well as one thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have the nerve to intro­duce myself to any­one. Ever. She took the lead in that, per­suad­ing me to meet her. I was very thank­ful. I liked her instantly and we hit it off spec­tac­u­larly. Shared humour, scur­ril­ous thoughts, out­land­ish ideas. Her com­pany was like a breath of fresh air and she was someone I felt I could talk to about any­thing and not feel ‘strange’ in doing so. But that was it. I was still par­rot­ing to myself that EVOL wasn’t for me. Not only could I not under­stand it as a concept, but I was now cer­tain bey­ond doubt that any kind of EVOL I felt for the other per­son in a rela­tion­ship would be dam­aging to them. No, I mean it — injur­i­ous, men­tally scar­ring, per­haps even dan­ger­ous. My EVOL came with health warn­ings attached. So, this latest per­son was a won­der­ful friend and con­fid­ant and that was fine, but that was the sum total of it. End of story.

Except. We did have a brief — well, I don’t know what one would call it: rela­tion­ship? fling? affair? I’m sorry, I am use­less at the kind of lan­guage one uses to describe these moments in rela­tion­ships. I need someone who knows what they’re talk­ing about.

There was no sud­den end. It drif­ted to a halt. We remained — and remain — close friends and con­fid­ants, and that was abso­lutely fine. Of course, I wondered why it had ended, but such is my low opin­ion of myself that I didn’t con­sider it my busi­ness to enquire fur­ther. I was a com­plete cow­ard, in truth, mainly because I’ve always con­sidered that I’m com­pletely unworthy of anyone’s atten­tion, appre­ci­ation or fond­ness, and espe­cially not any­thing more. I wish I had summoned up some nerve, because then I per­haps wouldn’t have driven myself into a state where I was con­stantly won­der­ing, just as events five years before had left me with ques­tions in the back of my mind.

Once again, I went in search of the 34-year-old me, aim­ing to return to his object­ive, dis­in­ter­ested, some­what con­fused mind­set. The only prob­lem was that this time, pre­sum­ably bored of me repeatedly pick­ing him up then cast­ing him aside again, he’d dis­ap­peared. Van­ished off the face of the Earth. Hadn’t even left a for­ward­ing address.

And now, three years on from con­tinu­ing to know this per­son as a very dear friend and con­fid­ant, well, I’m sure you can guess. It doesn’t take the gentle coax­ing of a TV agony aunt to fill in the con­spicu­ous blanks. Some­where in the space of those 36 months — and I can’t provide a pre­cise moment because it was pre­sum­ably while I was look­ing the other way pre­tend­ing to be inter­ested in some­thing else — EVOL came and sank its poin­ted, poisoned teeth into the back of my neck. And he (or she, I have no pref­er­ence for EVOL’s gender) clearly has a poor, per­haps delib­er­ately poor, sense of tim­ing, because on this occa­sion it’s too late, it’s inad­vis­able, it’s unwise, it wouldn’t work, it risks ruin­ing a won­der­ful friend­ship, I’m far from being worthy of any such recip­rocal emo­tions, I’m a rela­tion­ship men­tal health risk, it’s just plain wrong — and — and — and above all, the last thing I want to do is hurt the per­son who I, well, you know, all that stuff. Ahem.

I have argued these facts with EVOL for at least a year or more — with EVOL dis­guised either as the unin­spir­ing magno­lia painted wall behind my desk or the cracked ceil­ing above my bed. Yet des­pite the strength and fre­quent pro­fan­ity of my lan­guage, EVOL remains unmoved and cer­tainly unwill­ing to let me out of its clutches to return to my pre­vi­ous state of rel­at­ively bliss­ful ignor­ance. As a res­ult, I want to rip EVOL’s face off with a clawham­mer, but she/he won’t appear before me so I can enact this pain­ful and bru­tal revenge.

I’ve tried escape routes. Legal med­ic­a­tion doesn’t help. Illegal med­ic­a­tion is unavail­able to me because I don’t know the right people. Alco­hol just makes me act irre­spons­ibly and scar­ily. Music car­ries too many emo­tional over­heads. Work doesn’t keep my mind quite engaged enough to avoid being dis­trac­ted by EVOL’s fiendish whis­per­ings. And, of course, EVOL keeps crop­ping up in books, because books are invari­ably awash with EVOL, slop­ping through their pages like so much pun­gent efflu­ent. I’ve even, of late, tried those extremely annoy­ing sites where people go in search of EVOL. Unfor­tu­nately, since faces genu­inely mean very little to me and ideas of beauty abso­lutely noth­ing, look­ing through rows and rows of grin­ning, gawp­ing, glar­ing or gurn­ing fizzogs reminds me of noth­ing quite so much as (warn­ing: dis­tinctly bad taste com­par­ison com­ing up) the pho­to­graphs of fatal­it­ies that flash up on news reports after dis­astrous air crashes. Even without that prob­lem, there’s the issue of hav­ing to describe myself in terms that don’t resort to my tend­ency for sick­en­ing cyn­icism and grot­esquely black humour, while also try­ing to sell the pro­spect of phys­ical, men­tal and neur­o­lo­gical impair­ment. In short: these vir­tual mar­ket­places of human flesh really aren’t suited to me.

So none of the escape routes have worked. I am in a state of com­plete and utter EVOL and the only dubi­ous bene­fit I can identify from this state of affairs is that right now, in my 43rd year on this infernal planet, I finally under­stand what EVOL is all about. But please, don’t pat me on the back, cheer loudly or offer me a copy of Roland Barthes’ A L***r’s Dis­course to browse, since this is cer­tainly not a tri­umph. I don’t want this, not a bit of it.

Yes, I now under­stand the emo­tions I’ve heard oth­ers dis­cuss at length (and yes, some­times at tedi­ous, soul-destroying length). The effects. What it does to people in terms of their think­ing. I even begin, I dread to say, to under­stand why the heart has long been asso­ci­ated with EVOL, because mine does reg­u­larly feel like it’s being dragged out of my chest to leave just a gap­ing, bruised hole — though I’m also pre­pared to con­cede that this could be the res­ult of the gen­eral men­tal health mal­aise into which I’ve gradu­ally sunk over the past year to 18 months, and in which I cur­rently find myself hov­er­ing around Dante’s Eighth Circle with all the night­mares, bruises, scars and mis­cel­laneous other injur­ies plainly evid­ent, should any­one even take one look at me. (Cur­rent out­ward sign: I cut my own hair at the week­end. Or rather, I hacked at it with a pair of craft scis­sors and now look like a thug who was attacked by a gang of viol­ent, untrained hairdressers.)

I sense EVOL has prob­ably won this battle. I should accept that I’m never going to get my pre-EVOL self back again. Some might say that I shouldn’t want him to return, that EVOL is nat­ural, that it shows we’re human, that humans are meant to be together and enjoy this par­tic­u­lar emo­tion, even go in search of it because it brings mean­ing to exist­ence. Lie back in EVOL’s arms, read romantic verse aloud to your­self, pick petals off flowers while dream­ing of the other per­son. No, I’m sorry, I don’t do that stuff. It’s just not me. But EVOL is cer­tainly mess­ing with my head, without a doubt, and I now know how real it is and at least some of how it feels. But with all the other demons leap­ing about and clam­our­ing for atten­tion in my dis­eased mind, his or her pres­ence is dis­tinctly unwelcome.

A final thought: I’m fully aware that part of this is an ‘age thing’. I’m 43. I will be 44 in three months. Many people at my stage of life are settled down, some even in their second (or even third?) rela­tion­ships. Amongst people I know — and by that I mean mostly ghastly social net­works, since that’s regret­tably my main form of com­mu­nic­a­tion these days — I feel like some­thing of an oddity. How­ever, this is about more than just com­par­ing myself with other people — I’m not that super­fi­cial. This is per­sonal. Very per­sonal. I still enjoy my inde­pend­ence. I still enjoy my solitude and some­times I even need it (a strange thing for someone often cursed by chronic, patho­lo­gical and indeed men­tally destabil­ising loneli­ness to admit, you might think, but the desire for solitude is a com­plete sep­ar­ate exist­ence from the worst bouts of loneli­ness). But do I miss the com­pan­ion­ship, the warmth and the simple exper­i­ence of being with someone, even if that just means sit­ting along­side them on the same sofa gently hold­ing hands while watch­ing an atro­cious tele­vi­sion pro­gramme? Yes. Yes, I do. Not an easy thing to con­fess, but I miss it a lot.

How­ever, since I’ve accep­ted that this scen­ario is unlikely to hap­pen, I have a clos­ing request. If you see the 34-year-old me walk­ing around, look­ing a little lost, stop him and quietly ask about EVOL. If his reply is dis­in­ter­ested and matter-of-fact, if he dis­cusses it only as a vague concept, then please send him my way. I need him back. I miss the safety, secur­ity and reas­sur­ance he provided.

Who did this?

If I believed that a web­site could gain sen­tience, I’d say that mine — this clean white but ugly white one here — would have a devi­ous, manip­u­lat­ive one that just wanted to com­pletely fuck with my head.

There’s sup­posed to be a hold­ing page here block­ing all access and dis­play­ing that over-long “bye for now and prob­ably forever” mes­sage. The other day I dis­covered, quite by chance, that the fea­ture wasn’t work­ing and An Unre­li­able Wit­ness was once again open to the world, flash­ing its rot­ting gen­it­als to every gawper, all because my sub­scrip­tion to a par­tic­u­lar plu­gin had expired.

So why devi­ous and manip­u­lat­ive? Because it’s almost as if this site knew this really wasn’t the right time for me to be writ­ing any­where in pub­lic. Yet there it was — taunt­ing me. And because I’m a weak-willed and increas­ingly feeble-minded fool with a dis­astrous desire to com­mu­nic­ate with some­thing, someone, almost any­one, here I am giv­ing in to its mali­cious wiles. Go on then An Unre­li­able a Wit­ness, hate-fuck me until I bleed.

Where am I? At home. Where I almost always am. Where am I bey­ond that? I have no fuck­ing idea. No fuck­ing idea in the slightest.

In the past couple of months, the last twenty-five years of my life seem to have come vis­it­ing, ques­tion­ing, filling my head. Everything since that sum­mer of 1989 — the six or seven weeks I spent, alone with no com­pany save for a couple of dogs, vis­it­ing a bench beside a canal in the small rural town where I’d spent the first eight­een years of my life, say­ing good­bye (and good rid­dance) to the old place and the hor­rors that filled the walls in which I’d lived. I spent those almost bliss­ful weeks look­ing for­ward and fur­ther afield — and hoping.

I real­ise that every­one I’ve known in the years since then — from vir­tual friends to flesh and bone ones, from lov­ers and part­ners to enemies and the utterly des­pised — has left me with two endur­ing remind­ers: the ques­tion (or ques­tions) I have for them, even now, and the things I never said to them but so des­per­ately wanted to if pathetic cow­ardice hadn’t inter­vened; the things that in almost, though not quite all cases it’s now too late to con­fide to them in a whis­per; the things that if I were to reveal now could well tear them (and per­haps me) apart.

Oh, don’t be so dread­fully melodramatic.

But there’s the rub. My atti­tude to unne­ces­sary drama is telling me that’s exactly what I’m being — need­lessly melo­dra­matic. But I’m liv­ing this in all too real, graphic and ugly fash­ion — believe me, I can’t paint you pic­ture of me half-reclining on a chaise longue, look­ing pained and hold­ing the back of my left hand to my head. This is messy, dishevelled, dis­rupt­ive and bloody stuff.

Men­tal health cam­paign­ers would have you believe that men­tal ill­ness is best explained by a cutesy car­toon and a plea for under­stand­ing. I say: fuck that. Get people to under­stand by show­ing them how utterly ter­ri­fy­ing and con­fus­ing it is. Show them the marks, not the wan yet still some­how beau­ti­ful, pho­to­genic faces.

I crave. I desire. I need. And yet I don’t really know any­thing of what I crave, desire, need. Peace? Maybe. Under­stand­ing? Maybe. An embrace? Maybe. Touch? Maybe. Laughter? Maybe.

Most of all I want to prise those answers from every­one who needs to give them. And I want to throw cau­tion to the pol­luted breeze and tell them all I should have spluttered forth months and years ago. I want to clear my mind of this detritus so I can either start again or end it with final­ity and an unend­ing sleep in the place where it all began.

On a bench. Beside a canal. In a rural park. As if I was eight­een years old again.

Vaguely genuine question #3,479

What hap­pens when you finally real­ise that you’ve com­pletely and utterly run out of your capa­city for being self-sufficient?

Radio on, radio off

I want to drive away. Even now, just after mid­night. Yet, tedi­ously, I can’t drive. I need someone who can con­trol a car without killing us both (not yet, any­way; I’ll seize con­trol of the accel­er­ator should I get a sud­den urge to head for a brick wall). Would you be so kind as to drive us for miles on a motor­way, then down anonym­ous streets and out onto coun­try lanes? Just tar­mac and straight lines and dan­ger­ous corners and an entirely neces­sary dis­tance? That feels like the ‘some­thing’ I need. Don’t stop driv­ing until I tell you to do so. I’ll pay you hand­somely (though I’ve no clue as to what that might involve; I’m open to sug­ges­tions or taunts or force).

Take care, mind you. Mind you, take care. Mind, care. Fill in the gaps and the preg­nant pauses with some breaths, some words, some mean­ing­less phrases.

(I couldn’t. Even if I wanted to do so, even if I had the means. Which I do on both counts. Why? Because I’m far too respons­ible and con­sid­er­ate. Which is a fool’s game bey­ond even the greatest of fools, quite frankly.)

Words I want to type here, but shouldn’t #2

I almost want to type the fol­low­ing ran­dom words onto this page:

“It’s rain­ing. The sound, the swish of tyres soften­ing the incess­ant rumble of traffic on the busy road out­side, nor­mally soothes me to sleep. But not tonight. Tonight I’m full of ugly para­noia and sick­en­ing fear. I want out from the prison of myself.

“Tonight — will you sleep with me? And yes, I do mean just sleep, I prom­ise. Beside me. Maybe an embrace. There are nights, not many (but, I will con­fess, an increas­ing num­ber), when I need to feel someone along­side me. When a rolled-up duvet is no replace­ment for skin, warmth, breath­ing. Lying together entwined at first, speak­ing in tired, hushed voices, before gently mov­ing apart and giv­ing ourselves up to sleep­ing. With each other. With that know­ledge of shar­ing our slum­ber. I need that. Tonight. Some nights. Now. Will you?”

I want to say that here, but I don’t dare.

Words I want to type here, but shouldn’t #1

I almost want to type the fol­low­ing ran­dom words onto this page:

“Let’s get shit­faced. Ser­i­ously. You, me, any­one else you want to bring. I’ll throw cau­tion to the wind and give you my address. Come over. Bring any­thing and everything to enable inebri­ation, intox­ic­a­tion, com­plete men­tal para­lysis and utter pur­ging. Purge. Yes. Let’s drink and smoke and then spout bile from our mouths. I need to do this, I need to cleanse by a pro­cess of dirty­ing, but it’s some­thing I don’t want to (and even can’t) do alone. Tell me when to expect you. P.S. My home is a mess, because my her­mit­ical state means that I haven’t cleaned or tidied in weeks, but in our state the prac­tical mat­ters of clean car­pets and dus­ted sur­faces should be the last thing we’ll care about.”

I want to say that here, but I don’t dare.

Dated evidence, some barely remembered

  • Octo­ber 1984, hid­den behind a rural church
  • July 1986, a scrubbed bed­room, writ­ing on the walls
  • August 1989, a few scath­ing goodbyes
  • Janu­ary 1990, we all have our secret identities
  • March 1993, ela­tion and a deaf­en­ing audience
  • Janu­ary 1998, now go and do something
  • Septem­ber 2002, car­pet, candles and for­get­table songs
  • June 2005, too late to avoid being dragged back
  • Novem­ber 2006, transat­lantic declarations
  • Decem­ber 2006, a sense of belong­ing, how­ever naive
  • April 2007, the only fool on this side of the world
  • August 2007, dis­ap­pear­ing some­where above the city
  • Janu­ary 2008, put­ting myself in your place
  • July 2009, all over, save for this single purpose
  • Septem­ber 2009, a few words shed­ding light on eight years
  • Septem­ber 2011, a restored belief in like minds
  • March 2012, tak­ing the hid­den exit off the overpass
  • July 2012, inde­pend­ence but a mis­laid compass

2013, yet to be mapped.

I’m sure I’m for­get­ting some moments, a cru­cial epis­ode or two.

In fact, I’m almost cer­tain there should be more of them. Almost.

Reason tells me there aren’t.


Do you check your­self daily for evid­ence? For signs? Fin­ger­nail scrap­ings, a single stray hair, a micro­scopic drop of blood?

I do.

Pencil marks

Should I be miss­ing people who are closer, real­istic, tan­gible, exist­ent? Rather than those whose indefin­able shape still leaves a very def­in­ite void?

I can clearly ima­gine my hands on your skin, in places I shouldn’t ima­gine. I don’t dare to think more, fur­ther, deeper.

And breathe in.

Movable equation

a little lost a lot lost more than equals some­thing if that then this then what’s what maybe lost over still vaguely remin­is­cent of forgotten


Why this should be of the slight­est interest to any­one but me, I have no idea. But this is the inter­net, the home of inan­ity, so the need for expres­sions of interest is entirely unnecessary.

Fact: I’m try­ing to kill this web­site. This blog. This whatever. This six years or so of ridicu­lous prose (not to men­tion the five years before that at another URL, which I placed back online out of sheer van­ity). This Unre­li­able Wit­ness. I’ve been try­ing to do so for a while, in truth, and have put even more con­cen­trated men­tal effort into the task in the five days that have elapsed since the pre­vi­ous entry. Yet, as you’ll have noticed, it’s still here.

The reason why I want to end this site is, quite simply, because I think it should have ceased to exist some months ago. If I’d been sens­ible, wise, with an eye for my own repu­ta­tion, I should have dragged it off the web a couple of years back. These clean white pages have become a weep­ing sore on the face of the web, an open scar on my flesh and per­sonal dignity.

The reas­ons why I haven’t? They’re not the ones you’re most likely ima­gin­ing. Not because of van­ity, nor self-importance, nor some mis­taken belief in any of the con­tent held in the archives. Neither has there been a sud­den desire to write else­where and turn over a new vir­tual page (since I have no ori­ginal words or thoughts that war­rant such a clean slate). This site con­tin­ues to exist, its con­tent added to fur­ther with the aim­less words you’re read­ing now, for reas­ons that are far, far too per­son­ally embar­rass­ing and shame­ful to divulge.

So. A few para­graphs of mean­ing­less, empty blather and no answers. Now, as my fin­ger hov­ers over the Pub­lish but­ton, I’m not even sure why I wrote these words. Does that stop me mak­ing a fool of myself by post­ing this entry? No, of course not. Con­fused much? Yes, definitely.

Foot­note: A rel­at­ively incon­sequen­tial per­sonal detail that I feel moved to share (and will doubt­less regret at some point in the middle of the night). In the centre-left of my back, just where it becomes dif­fi­cult to reach, I have a small area of dry, rough skin. It’s been there for years. Once a day for the past twelve months or so, I’ve found myself com­pelled to uncom­fort­ably stretch my left arm so that I can run my fin­ger­tips over it. I can’t touch the area gently due to the exten­ded pos­ture needed to reach it, so my fin­gers glance across the tex­tured, slightly ridged sur­face once or twice, before I pull back my arm and carry on with whatever I was doing. At first, I thought it was a means of check­ing myself, con­firm­ing my exist­ence. Maybe it is. But it’s also a memento.

Lack of clarity

Just because every­one appar­ently has their own very per­sonal and deeply intim­ate exper­i­ence of the emo­tion, their own defin­i­tion of the term, that doesn’t mean I don’t still wish someone would sit before me, open that worn book with its scuffed pages, and explain it all to me in simple terms that even this fool could under­stand. At this point in my life, I’m tired of try­ing to work it out in my own mind. I would be con­tent to live vicari­ously through the know­ledge you’ve gained of such intim­acy. I would be quite happy to wear your second­hand clothes.

Mumbo jumbo hippy bullshit alert

(Look, don’t say the title didn’t give you fair warning.)

I have come to the con­clu­sion that I badly need to believe in some­thing. I now lack any sense of cre­dence in any­one, any­thing, any feel­ing, any emotion.

God? No, he and I stopped see­ing eye to eye twenty-five years ago. I occa­sion­ally used to visit churches to try and feel some­thing spir­itual, an awaken­ing, but there was noth­ing there other than cold walls and hard benches.

People? For­get it. Exper­i­ence tells me that any­one who believes in people seems to be set­ting him or her­self up for per­haps the most dis­astrous of falls.

Love? That’s the one to which many return, I sup­pose, with their misty-eyed declar­a­tion that if you believe in love then you don’t need any­thing else. As much as I would, well, love to sink back into such lux­uri­ous sen­sa­tions, I have my doubts — some borne out of harsh exper­i­ence, oth­ers just part of my nat­ural char­ac­ter. To me, love too often seems to equate with selfish­ness when it should, of course, equate with entirely the opposite.

Exist­ence? I doubt that, too. I have an increas­ingly tenu­ous grip on the real­ity of my exist­ence. Your mileage will vary, but I offer my most sin­cere con­grat­u­la­tions if you’re con­fid­ent of your own existence.

One­self? Tried that and failed — in both under­stand­ings of the word ‘belief’. It’s not just little or no faith in myself that I pos­sess, but little or no belief that I actu­ally exist. This sup­posedly bright, shiny and fab­ulous vir­tual world to which I was intro­duced some fif­teen years ago may have brought me much, that i can’t deny, but I can’t help think­ing that it slowly robbed me of some of my found­a­tions, too.

So here I sit, won­der­ing what I should believe in. I wear the guise of a hard-faced mis­an­thrope, because, well, it’s easier that way. It’s a form of pro­tec­tion to sneer at the world, to dis­miss it with deri­sion and loath­ing. The truth is, how­ever, that I tire of that per­son and I’d like to revisit an earlier ver­sion of myself — someone who could occa­sion­ally reveal genu­ine human feelings.

But I’m blank, spent, used. I’m all out. Weary, worn and exhausted. Belief is clearly for other people, not me.

If I knew where to start the search for it, I would begin with a simple ges­ture: hold­ing a tender, caring hand (prefer­ably one that is still alive, not stuffed or an orna­mental item atop my desk). That might spark a glim­mer or two of belief some­where deep within me. Maybe. Maybe enough to push the cynic to the floor and kick him in the stom­ach until he bled.

This morning, I only arose out of habit

There’s drilling. And sirens. And the air is sickly putrid. And none of it will stop. And I have no idea why I’m here, even though ‘here’ is where I invari­ably and inev­it­ably reside. And I won­der if the human race has finally lost its abil­ity to remem­ber exist­ence out­side the vir­tual con­fines of social net­works. Are they still kid­ding them­selves that it’s fel­low feel­ing, com­munity, con­sol­a­tion for real life, a replace­ment for flesh and bone? Most of all, though, I wish that I could croak out the ulti­mate “oh, fuck it all, fuck it all to hell” whenever I find myself on that (l)edge. Give me the power to speak decis­ively, damn you.


Hello, you. It feels like the yearn­ing in my mind is cur­rently reach­ing for­ward to try to tear out my right eye with a pair of heated pli­ers. I could, as the say­ing goes, do without it. Both the yearn­ing and the shred­ding. Mean­while, I’ve writ­ten a list of names — people who, at one time or other, meant some­thing to me. I have no idea what I’ll do with it.

Disconnected diary notes #42

  1. As a long-time fol­lower of the genius of Douglas Adams, I’m hop­ing that forty-two really is the answer to Life, the Uni­verse and Everything. Though in truth, I’m less con­cerned about the lat­ter two as I com­mence my forty-second year on this planet. Just know­ing what the hell my life is about would be a blessed relief.
  2. I’m tired of hear­ing the same old stor­ies on this day every year.
  3. I don’t espe­cially care for birth­days — other people’s, yes, but mine, no — yet this is the first year in a long while where the thought of get­ting older scares me. And scares me more than I’d per­haps like to admit.
  4. I’ve sent two vicious, vitu­per­at­ive emails today. I should regret them, even if only briefly. I don’t, not for a moment. The recip­i­ents deserved those words, and far worse besides.
  5. Des­pite the swel­ter­ing, sick­en­ing heat cur­rently sit­ting over this coun­try, and des­pite the mucus that I’m cur­rently leak­ing from just about every ori­fice due to the first attack of hay­fever I’ve exper­i­enced in my life… [con­fes­sion cen­sored due to excess­ive self-pity and neediness]

23:01 sweltering confession

I miss the words.

It’s the words I miss.

Not mine, though. Not this time. Not right now, at this moment. I miss those too, of course — and I’ve expounded on that thought at length, like a stuck record.

No, right now I miss the words of oth­ers. Even, per­haps, of an other. Oth­ers whose words have come my way and been seen by only my eyes over the past ten, fif­teen, twenty years. Con­fid­ants. Shar­ing ideas, secrets, intimacies. Stretch­ing right back to the long hand­writ­ten let­ters sent between the East End of Lon­don and rural south-west Eng­land, through shorter let­ters to vari­ous corners of the world, long con­ver­sa­tional emails to near and far, online chats late into the early morning.

Every day I’m sur­roun­ded by words — work email threads, the empty ges­tures of status updates, tweets and responses. These, how­ever, mean next to noth­ing. Just semi-public hot air.

I miss the private words. Selfishly, per­haps, I miss the words that were just for me and the replies that, in turn, were only for that other.

I’m not entirely sure, these days, what con­sti­tutes private com­mu­nic­a­tion. I do, how­ever, remem­ber the details of indi­vidual hand­writ­ing, or the typefaces they chose for emails and mes­saging. A strange kind of yearn­ing nos­tal­gia for more com­plic­ated, yet sim­pler days.

The cold call of Lady Lazarus

Whilst it’s undoubtedly true that I was (and still am) look­ing for ways to dis­tract myself from the dis­tinctly unwel­come anniversary of my birth forty-two years ago, which cur­rently looms some ten days away on the cal­en­dar, I would prefer that such dis­trac­tions didn’t arrive via the com­pletely unex­pec­ted appear­ance of an appar­ently once-dead per­son at my front door on a swel­ter­ing Fri­day even­ing. From one side: mum­bling about under­stand­ing, clos­ure, clear­ing the mind, for­get­ting the past, mov­ing for­ward, farewells. From the other: heat­stroke, shell­shock and the con­vic­tion that this must be an epis­ode of lucid dreaming.

Uneasy hush

Most right-minded people would prob­ably regard it as a pos­it­ive devel­op­ment that I don’t seem to have talked to myself for about a week. Apart from work phone calls and the occa­sional deliv­ery, I’ve been almost silent.

Nat­ur­ally, then, I con­sider this to be a very bad sign indeed.

“Surely you either do or you don’t?”

In ask­ing myself ques­tions — every day, every single bloody day — I’m dis­cov­er­ing that I’ve attained a state of abso­lute clar­ity about my inher­ent vague­ness. A state of abso­lute vague­ness about my inher­ent clar­ity. I am one hun­dred per cent cer­tain of what I want and what I need. I have no idea what I want or what I need.

Nor­mal­ity ter­ri­fies me, yet also cap­tiv­ates me. The accoutre­ments — that’s the wrong word, but I can’t think of a bet­ter one right now due to drink­ing too much caf­feine today; sig­ni­fi­ers, maybe? — that soci­ety tells me daily, in every which way pos­sible, should be part of my life as a man in his early forties simply aren’t there and, in many cases, have never been part of my day-to-day exist­ence so have no found­a­tions on which to be built or rebuilt.

There are moments — mostly when I’m alarmed into wak­ing action on a week­day morn­ing and, barely paus­ing to wipe the dust from the corners of my eyes, move from bed and sleep to desk and work — when I tell myself that I should fit the bill, tick the boxes, that I shouldn’t be where I am but where they are, he is or she is. It’s not about com­pet­i­tion: I don’t com­pete because I don’t have the nerve, the neces­sary con­fid­ence or, as increas­ingly seems to be the case, the sheer bloody effrontery. For me, it’s just about fit­ting in, being a part instead of being apart.

There are other moments when, over­taken by my inab­il­ity to even slightly com­pre­hend the appar­ently nor­mal­ity that I wit­ness hap­pen­ing around me, I want noth­ing to do with it. Neg­at­ive reac­tion, almost an allergy. I flee, throw myself into the darkest corner and hug myself in affirm­a­tion. I’m on the right track just where I am, and even though I don’t under­stand your life or these lives that’s not the reason I’m pulling in the oppos­ite dir­ec­tion. No, it’s a con­scious decision. This is my path and it’s the only one I know.

And the truth? Veer­ing wildly, giddy with nausea, spewing.