Sleepwalking my way through life: September 2006



First steps

Saturday, September 30, 2006
Happy Birthday Marie.

The sunlight sat happily on the high rooftops, casting a delicious shade on the streets below – a saviour to those who had to climb the steep hills of the campus. Students sifted through each other, laughing and talking in groups or smiling thoughtfully by themselves, as they crossed each other to reach their next class. I sat amongst it all, resting by the relaxing splash of the fountain and watching the world spin by. I flick the end of my pen and it spins idly round my finger as I think of something to write, looking around me for inspiration to craft and shape into what I want.

University has been riveting thus far. Walking from lecture to lecture, trying to find the right entrance and meeting new people has been nothing short of a blast. I sit back in a coffee shop and sip my cup languidly as I think of another story to write in my thick notebook. It has only been a week, and I feel as if I have found a little niche that I can work myself into.

With the astounding amount of people at university, I feel that I will have enough inspiration to last me a life time. There seems to be an entire spectrum of people and emotions contained in a square mile of concrete and grass, not to mention the variety of personalities in a single lecture hall.

There are so many new places to explore and so many new people to play with.

Joe's big day out

Monday, September 25, 2006
The train lurched forward and I tucked my leg in as another drunken man stumbled down the aisle. At the end of the carriage he tripped and fell into the group he was with, and we laughed heartily as he tried to pull himself up. I was sitting at a table with Jeff beside me and Owen with his girlfriend, Sarah, opposite. I had met Owen a few times before, but this was the first time I met Sarah. She was a stunning girl with a fantastic smile and bright eyes. They were the type of couple who went perfectly together – and it would be easy to hate them both if they weren’t so nice.

After an hour and a half of arguments on why I should go, Jeff convinced me to come with them. We were going to go to the Glasgow Union, and the plan was to become as rat arsed as possible. From the beginning I was sure that I wouldn’t drink. At most, I would have one or two JD and cokes, but I would remain sober and clear headed throughout the night.

Well, you can tell right now that that did not happen.

The bars were immensely busy, with people clamouring and nudging to get a hand on the drink soaked wood. It took us at least twenty minutes to get the first round; Owen bought us two Aftershocks each (Red and Silver) and I got a double JD and coke. We shuffled off to the side, and I downed the two Aftershocks, feeling the syrup-like drink run down the back of my throat and scorching away my taste buds. After a minute or two of coughing my lungs out, I drank down my JD merrily – not being able to taste it at all has its advantages.

We moved from bar to bar, upstairs, downstairs, the basement; holding hands to stay together through the laughing crowds. Drink after drink was consumed (Black Aftershocks are an experience in themselves) and I felt light headed, and incredibly dizzy. The ground was wet with to many spilled drinks, and I slid to and fro in a pseudo moon-walk whilst laughing at another joke Owen told. Every time I moved my head, I felt as if I was going to topple over and land on the ground with a hilarious thud; but somehow I managed to keep my balance for the entire night.

Everything was so much easier to say, and everything seemed possible. It just felt so good to be in the middle of a blue room, dancing with a stranger to Bon Jovi. It felt fun to have a discussion about how Sarah was way too attractive to take out (as evident by the constant string of guys hitting on her). It felt funny to explain how I was actually going to Strathclyde University instead, and how I was almost like a spy. I was having fun. Everything was nice and happy. I had drowned whatever sorrows I was feeling and was laughing the night away.

It was at three am that things started turning around. My legs could barely support me, and my head felt extremely heavy. I sat by the cold breeze of the window ledge and tried to compose myself, but my head felt heavier and heavier, and my eyes began to close. I fell asleep for about a minute before a fellow patron shook me awake and directed a glass of water into my hand. I drunk it down greedily, trying to wake myself up to enjoy the rest of the night. I stumbled over to where the other three were talking and tried to join in the conversation whilst hanging off the bar. I stared at them, blinking a few times, before;

“I think I might go home now.”

Jeff looked at me, her eyes wide with shock. “Why? What’s up? You can’t leave now.”

I was going to answer her, I was going to give her an epic speech of how much fun I had had, and how I was now feeling tired so I should retreat to my humble abode where I will sleep the rest of the amazing night away. But I didn’t. Instead, I lifted my finger, covered my mouth, and walked as fast as I could out of the bar.

There were no toilets on that floor. Fuck fuck fuck, get upstairs, less chance of you falling down them. Fuck, when were these so high? Shit shit shit shi- oh, nice girl with short skirt! Hello nice girl with short skirt, I was in the middle of something and now… Oh yeah. Fuck fuck fuck toilet need to get to it NOW. So many fucking doors.

The cubicles were full, so I ended up emptying myself in one of the urinals. It was horrible and black, as if I was throwing up an oil rig, and I had to step back in case I got splash back on my shoes. After roughly thirty seconds of throwing up, I felt fine. I was on top of a spinning world again and could take on anyone and anything. Owen came up to make sure I was ok, directing me to clear up and pace myself when drinking from now on. I smiled and followed him downstairs again, to rejoin the fun.

At five am we decided to leave. The original plan was to stay right through until morning, where we would get a complimentary breakfast and massage, courtesy of the union, but Sarah needed to work in the morning, and even I was going through another bout of tiredness. So we called a taxi and walked down to the Byars Road and wait for it. The wind was cold, so I donated my leather jacket to Sarah, who was only wearing a low cut top (and they say chivalry is dead). Unfortunately, the taxi didn’t arrive for another hour and, as a result, I now have quite a bad cold, but gentlemanly actions are more important than health.

The taxi ride was quite, with Sarah and Jeff sleeping in the back beside me and Owen dozing in the front. Mr Blue Sky by ELO came on and I sung along while I gazed at the dark orange sky out front. I was sober now, and already laughing at myself for what I said mere hours previously. The taxi pulled up at my house, and I sneaked in quietly before sinking into my bed – asleep before my head hit the pillow.

I had an amazing night, and it has convinced me of the merits of being one of the drunken crowds for once; instead of being the sober guy aloof them all, I was with them, laughing and drinking and dancing. Heartfelt discussions with almost strangers, with pity and jokes thrown into the mix, not to mention the constant stream of shots.

Yeah, I had fun.

Finally, cheap cinema tickets!

Saturday, September 23, 2006
And on a totally unrelated note, I am so damn jealous.

“Numbers two twenty five and under, over here!” Her voice would have echoed, but the mostly empty hall was filled to the brim with hissing chatter. The line shuffled forward a few steps and I eyed my ticket nervously before glancing over my form again. Everything was fine and in place, just like it was five second earlier. I looked at my ticket again, subconsciously biting my lip.

“Number two thirty nine!”

I strode forward and sat down on the hard backed chair, trying to smile convincingly at the lady across from me. She took my form, looked it over and typed rapidly on her keyboard. Her face was illuminated by the screen, and the light flashed several different colours in quick succession before she handed back my form with a smile. I was then shuffled off towards the other side of the hall where a long queue had formed in front of two people. I craned my neck and watched as new students exchanged details with the two people on the desk, and I saw the occasional flash of credit cards and cheques. After a life time I reached the front.

“Name and date of birth?”

I told him.

“Ok then, do you have any word back from Saas about funding your course fees?”

“Uh no, not yet. Is that a problem?”

“No no no.” he said, “not at all. Now… That’ll be seventeen hundred pounds please. You can pay it all right now or pay in three instalments of two sets of five hundred pounds and one of seven hundred. You can pay via credit card, debit card, cheque, or sexual favours.”

It took me a few moments to process the information that he had given.

“What?”

The girl beside him laughed and he smiled at me. “Don’t worry about it. Just have your Saas details for us by November and it’ll all be fine.”

I wandered away from him, bewildered.

The exit was in sight, but what stood in between was four sets of cameras and four people merrily saying “Cheese!” and sitting straight in chairs. I was directed into the first seat and squirmed uncomfortably in front of the video camera pointed between my eyes. I kept my eyes locked on the lens as I handed over my registration form; I had this horrible premonition of a photo with squinted eyes and a trickle of drool from a twisted jaw. I contemplated aiming a seductive look at the camera, but common sense kicked in and I froze my face into a generic smile.

A few minutes and a blinding flash later, I stumbled out into the daylight of Glasgow City Centre. I slipped the Bible and Psalm book – sneakily given to me in my blinded state – into my bag and pulled out the small card from my pocket. My picture sat happily in the bottom left corner with the rest of the card reading in bold “University of Strathclyde – Law Arts and Social Sciences”.

I slipped it into a recess in my wallet, smiling smugly at my achievement. Hell yes.

Regurgitating 500 year old philosophers

Friday, September 22, 2006
I know in darkness I will find you giving up inside like me.” Fletch quoted, holding his headphones ot one ear.

“How poetic.”

“Darkness; it’s a metaphor.” He said, ignoring me. “He says as the sun is born the sun shall die. Darkness is him talking about the death of the sun, which leads to the death of everything; therefore death.”

“No.” I said in mid yawn. “You’re forgetting something. He says as the sun is born the sun shall die, and every day will end as it began or something. He’s saying that darkness is the only certainty. Darkness doesn’t come and go, it’s just there. And besides, he says he finds comfort in it and I don’t think he’d find comfort in death.”

“Oh snap.” He got up and walked to the window. “I forgot, you’re an English major.”

I laughed. “Damn straight. Never mess with a guy who has a pass in Advanced English behind him.” I stretched out and suppressed another yawn. It was late, and I should have really been in bed. Fletch remained by the window; the yellow streetlamps reflecting off his unmoving glasses. “But anyway, it's still open for discussion.”

“I used to fail at metaphors and their meanings. But to be honest, how I see it is how it is for me. It’s the truth as I see it, so for me it is the truth and my individual conception of the song.”

I clicked on to a different page on my Lapdancer. “Like I said earlier, to each his own.”

“Yeah, but it’s probably the reason that I was no good in English.”

I looked up at him, still staring out the window. “Apparently there are no wring answers in English. My English teacher told me that.” I paused for a moment, looking at the screen, “You know, right before she failed my essay. I don’t know, maybe some answers are righter than others.”

“I don’t like that they teach a definitive answer to a question which itself really has no definitive answer. A definitive answer has no question, that’s subjective. And if you think about human existence, then there is no right answer to everything; only whichever answer is decided by the most people or by the people with the most power.”

“Two plus two, there's a definitive answer to that.”

“Kind of, but not really. Only because mathematicians at first said two shall represent one and one of the same together and 4 shall represent one and one of these two's.” He began walking around the room, his hands and face becoming more animated as he continued. “Two doesn't really exist; you cant hold it, touch it, smell it, hear it-”

“But you can represent it.” I say, but he doesn’t hear me.”

“So if it doesn’t exist, how can it 2 of it exist to make 4, which also doesn’t exist?”

“But you can represent it.” I repeat.

“It still doesn’t exist. It is a representation, you’re right about that. But it doesn’t exist. A thought, on the other hand, is the only thing you can say exists, because no matter if everything around you is fake, you need to exist to experience that thought, even if the thought is put there by someone else.”

“Fletch, it’s one o’clock in the morning!”

“Shh,” he said as he stopped and turned to me, arms open as if welcoming the sudden realisation. “So the existence of anything else is insignificant, only the property of the thought is insignificant. Say it being a number, there is no proof that what you are thinking is real or not; just that you are thinking it.”

He stopped, a smile on his face and his eyes gleaming with the light of an epiphany. I looked up at him with bewildered wonderment.

“And you have just convinced me of the merit of "I think, therefore I am"”

He set off round the room again, waving his arms happily, “The subject of a thought is insignificant, but in order to have this thought you must exist. The thought itself can be false, it can be an illusion but its existence cannot be an illusion, because if the thought did not exist, then you would not exist to have it. A thought needs to exist somewhere, thus it exists within your mind; your mind is you. Thus you must exist. Right?”

“Fletch, it’s one o’clock in the fucking morning!”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, spurred a three hour long philosophical debate that climaxed at the conclusion that non-existence exists, and that 1a+0=1a.

One foot out the door

Sunday, September 17, 2006
And so it has begun.

The argument has stretched out for over a week now; with each day starting in calm peacefulness and ending in vehement anger. Things would be fine at first, we share a joke over a cooked breakfast, before things become unsettled, someone snaps at someone else, and before anyone realises what’s happening, we’re in a full scale argument. Things have become progressively worse over the past week, until they reached the climax that has brought me to a shuddering halt.

I am moving out of the house.

Or, more accurately, I am getting kicked out of the house. Mum has had enough, and she feels that it is necessary to throw me and my brother out on our rear ends. Soon.

We had been discussing something similar to this for a while though. The original plan was to sell our house and have mum buy two flats in its place (one for her and one for me and Chris). We’d sell the house soon after the New Year and move into the flats for spring. Mum would help us finance and manage our flat, and we’d pay rent to her. This plan has since gone out the window.

She hasn’t given us a date yet, but I assume it will be pretty soon. Websites are already being scoured, and budgets are already being worked out in my head. I may have a slight scowl on my face as I scan page after page, but that is due to the shock of the situation. Inside, however, I am almost elated.

Ever since I considered moving out, this is what I imagined. I wanted to have my own place and live on my own two feet. I want to work to pay the bills, I want to come and go as I please, I want to live my own life. The offer from mum was the closest thing I could get to it; our own place, but with a little help. Freedom with strings attached. The current situation, no matter how sudden, is much more appealing.

Earlier today I sat at the bus stop reading a book. The rain was coming down and people ducked low under umbrellas and bus shelters to stay dry. A bus pulled up in front of me and a few people jumped on, shaking their wet heads as they stepped onto it, and I felt the sudden urge to join them. I had a hankering for adventure, and I wanted to ride that bus to the last stop and get out. I wanted to wander and explore unknown areas and to say that I conquered them.

It seems that I didn’t have to stray far from home to find an adventure.

Big decisions

Saturday, September 16, 2006
The reflection of the light ran along the silver blade, splitting in two near the end to demonstrate its sharpness. She held it aloft, spinning it effortlessly round her nimble finger as she used her other hand to examine my head. Her eyes – an electric blue – darted over my head and she brought down the scissors with a decisive snip. A lock of my fringe floated down before my eyes, drifting away in the breeze before it landed softly on the floor. Before I knew it, hair was falling from the sky and all I could hear was clipping in my ears.

My regular hairdresser was away on holiday, so her protégé was cutting my hair. Although this would normally lead to panic at her ability to cut my hair in the exact way I want it, I was actually quite glad. I wanted something new, something completely different from what I had before. So I sat down, shut my eyes tightly and let her do her work. Luckily my crossed fingers were kept hidden under the cover.

An hour later I walked out of the hairdresser with a quirky little smile. The wind was blowing hard and I felt slightly elated that I no longer had to worry about the state of my hair. I glanced at a reflection of myself in a shop window and had to do a double take. It was so… short.

University begins in just over a week. A whole new life awaits me; new classes, new people, new experiences. I thought I might as well find myself a new identity to go along with it; one with short hair and a leather jacket. And (eventually) his own place. And killer abs.

World; make way for Joe.

When we don't talk about sex...

Originally written last night.

The office is warm, and I wake up with the pang from my can of coke. The talk between my team has died down and I try not to lose my mind in the monotony of work. Click click read click read click type type type click and print; before I know it, I’m lost in a forest of unreturned letters and national insurance numbers. I work a few cases – or more, time ceases to exist in the tax credits forest – and I am brought back to reality, my ears perked at the sound of my name.

My manager and the girl who sits beside me are laughing and talking enthusiastically. I sit between the two, so any discussion they have usually involves me ducking down low, but this time I sit up straight. They were talking about my blog.

Within ten minutes of their discussion, my website was emailed around the team. At the meeting that followed I was forced to explain myself in front of the congregation, how I had not (repeat, not) mentioned any names at all and had only made two references to my manager. I also had to confirm that I do not (repeat, NOT) stalk my manager and write fantasies about her wearing kinky underwear.

Welcome to the calibre of conversation at the tax office.

Not the good kind of wasted

Sunday, September 10, 2006
Check out my new story; Justice served.

And another wasted weekend has passed. Soon the clock will roll over to Monday where I will sleep the day away until I feel bad enough and decide to do something. I will trudge downstairs and sit with my Lapdancer and listening to the TV chorusing in the background. Eventually I will make an effort and get something to eat, where I decide between a thirty minute wait for chicken or a two minute wait for Pot Noodle.

Pot Noodle wins hands down and I slump into my couch and convince myself that my day isn’t being wasted while I stare mindlessly at Two and a Half Men. Time ticks on and I stare at my languidly as I decide whether to walk to work or call up a taxi. This, I am sad to say, is the most difficult decision of my day.

I arrive at work early and sit at a table by myself. My pen scribbles away some notes on a small notebook; taking down ideas and events that I could write about later. At five we all stand up and shuffle to our desks where I spend the next four and a half hours being bored, being insulted, insulting people and laughing at mindless chatter. At half past nine I pack up my bag and walk home in the cold dark. I hurry, but I don’t know why.

Back home I retreat upstairs with a glass of coke and a snack. I sit on my bed and browse the internet in the hopes to find something entertaining. I have hollow conversations with people on MSN and stay up to the wee hours of the morning just because I can. I refresh pages, read random sites and, eventually, go to sleep. The next day I wake up, and the cycle starts over again.

When did this happen? When I did I become this meaningless slob? I hear the summer exploits of some of my former best friends and my gut rumbles with jealously. While some people were out with friends and having a good time, I was doing nothing. I was on my fucking computer.

It has been worse ever since Marie left; now even my Saturdays have succumbed to the depressive lack of movement. I wistfully neglect my bookmarked cinema listings and hastily click on webcomics and blogs instead. Since I am now in a very ambiguous friendship with Marie, I hardly ever go out with her. I hardly talk with her, and when I do it’s usually filled with pleasantries and general conversation. I feel like I’ve been placed on the back shelf in her life and plastered with the label “occasional annoyance” as she lives her own life, without me in sight. I, however, am still trying to climb out of my hole of wallowing and self pity.

I feel that, with the expulsion of this little rant here, I should jump into action and call up some friends to organise a get-together where we can talk and laugh and I’m not alone; but I’m not going to. I am going to nurse this god awful feeling in my gut as I choke down another ten second meal, watch That 70’s Show and wonder when university will start.

Gyme? What's a Gyme?

Friday, September 08, 2006
Three flights of stairs. I looked up at them with a feeling of hopelessness. After tackling the two miles from my house at a fast paced walk, I was expected to climb three flights of stairs on top of that? I grimaced and began my weary journey up the steps, lugging my bag along with my shoulder. I pushed through the door in front of me and walked into the gym, brushing a bead of sweat from my brow.

The first time I stepped into the gym I had found it so… sterile. The treadmills were lined up uniformly in front of a mirror, as were the stepping machines, and an assortment of strength building machines were dotted in between. Everything was so new and modern; a computer system kept track of my exercise regime while a special key activated each machine. A personalised message flashes up on the screen, welcoming me to my workout and asking me for allotted times. You would jog on the treadmill for the set time of eight minutes before the screen cheerily directed you to the next machine for a workout.

This all came as a shock to me. I expected a dirty place, the machines greasy and covered in grime. The mats would be stained to match the walls, which themselves would be yellowing with age and damp. The machines would be old, bolts and screws visible and rusted weights. In one corner there would be a cracked mirror and some scales, and in another there would be a lone punching bag, swinging ominously from a rusted chain. A middle-aged fat man would run it; unsightly stains down the front of his once white vest and a few dark chest hairs poking over the neckline. The regulars would be huge; lifting large weights silently in deep contemplation. There would be one who was different, who jumped from machine to machine with loud gusto; a Brad Pitt lookalike who was quick on his feet with cunning in every step.

But my imagination, spoiled with seedy and violent films, could not prepare me for a broad smiled greeting with sparkling braces. She led me happily round every machine, showing me how it all works, and left with a skip in her step. I was awestruck. There were no hulking men, no oddly stained mats, no gruff-but-friendly owner; the place was filled with overweight business men and bored housewives. They moved from one machine to another, never breaking the air-conditioned silence between them. I nervously kept my head down and started up the treadmill, ignoring them as they were ignoring me.

When I stepped into the gym I also had the preconception that after one session I would be done. My stomach would have tightened and my arms widened, meaning I could walk down the street with little insecurities about myself. There would be some jogging involved, of course, with a songs about tigers and eyes playing triumphantly in the background as I climbed those three flights of stairs.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

Time for some closure

Sunday, September 03, 2006
Happy Five Hundred posts Little Research Monkey Boy.

I look at my watch and let out a sigh. My eyes follow the second hand as it twitches round the clock face, counting the day away. It strikes me as odd that I can remember exactly what I was doing a year ago at this time. I was walking up to the cinema in Glasgow. There were so many people in town that day; the sun was shining warmly despite it being early September. I laughed at another joke, and turn to look at-

Fuck, ah fuck it hurts. My mind snaps back into action and I busy myself with my game, trying my best to become absorbed in saving the Earth. I need to concentrate and focus on the game; otherwise I’ll find myself plummeting to certain darkness. I jump into a room and fire off a few rounds, but my reaction time is slow and the screen jitters before turning red.

We had walked for an hour, but it seemed like ten minutes. My legs hurt like hell, so we wandered over to George Square and sat down on the edge. Busses and cars roared by, but I could barely hear them over the thudding in my chest. A breeze blew by and she shivered. I smiled and inched closer to her, wrapping my arms around her shoulder. I’m not very good at this, I whispered. And I kis-

Mum decided to take me out and look around flats in the area of the train station, to see if there was anywhere in particular that Chris and I would like to live. The sun was warm but the breeze was cold. It put my hands in my pockets and blew leaves about my feet. The flats were not really my taste. I look at my watch again.

The train was there, right there and I did not want to leave. It was still warm and people walked here and there as they moved on and off trains. I was smiling. I was smiling a smile that I meant for the first time in months. She was smiling too.


Strangely enough, it is only now that I realise that it is over. A year after it all began; it hits me with a deadly blow. I called her earlier tonight. We sat and talked for the best part of an hour, but we ended up with nothing to say. I hung up the phone, and I was so angry with her. I was furious at her inability to say anything at all on this day. But I stopped, I laughed, and I threw up. I could not say anything either. I wanted to say something, but everything had already been said.

And so I laugh and wave goodbye to another chapter of my life. The best fucking chapter so far, if I don’t say so myself.