It officially began with an emotionally exhausting song, a post pregnancy money tight older sister and no BIS.
Truth be told I was always an avid writer; from the many ‘I hate you’ letters I’d pen for my, then seemingly, dysfunctional family – my sister receiving the worst of it in my formative years – to the far more frequent ‘I hate my life’ journal entries I’d fervently scribble with the most illegible handwriting known to man. To my family I was an almost mute, emotionally aloof and wildly demure little boy. However, within the sovereignty of my imagination i was a French painter being harboured as a favour to my late father – the Pope – or I was the missing link; a bridge lodged in the gap between humanoids and extraterrestrial beings from unnamed galaxies. I was once even the late great Whitney Houston’s abducted son, banished on the day of my birth and desperately searching for my long lost mother many years later.
Fast forward to November 2012 and you have an emotionally delicate twenty-one-year old who’s just begun his summer vacation after an intense third year of studying Accounting and Statistics at the University of Cape Town. Playing male-nanny for my sister and her two month old son and wondering what the…heck?…i’m going to do with my life, after she’d bluntly refused to buy me enough airtime to purchase the coming month’s Blackberry Internet Service. It was over; the sky was falling, the ground caving in and life as I knew had come to a screeching halt while I stared in the face of a hollow, internet-less, backwoods abyss.
I was, and still am, very dramatic.
Being the devoted blogger I’d convinced myself I was, I decidedly took to my blog to bring to life the unfathomable slight against my freedom and to share with the world (the very, very small part of the world that actually cared about what I had to say) my sorrow, and only to find that without my lifeline, my connection to all that is real, my precious internet, I couldn’t blog the word “jump” even if I’d wanted to.
The days stretched lethargically and after innumerable diaper changes and baby formula formulating, it was clear that I needed a well-deserved break. My sister agreed wholeheartedly and thus assigned dishwashing duty to me as a way to “let off some steam”. It wasn’t what I had in mind, I actually think it’s not what anybody has in mind when they plan on “having a break”, this was some Jedi mind-tricking of the highest order, but I was a guest. So with my headphones moulded onto my face and the water frothed and dishes stacked on either side, I let the music move through me like liquid nitrogen; touching parts of me that were on fire, calming the frantic parts and washing over frayed nerves. I let the mournful lyrics and soulful voices breathe life into my fluid dishwashing action and I allowed heartache and pain to lance through my roaring bloodstream like oxygen as it took and gave life. I allowed my mind to travel to previously suppressed thoughts of unhappiness with my choice in studies, to thoughts of crippling insecurity with regard to my post apocalyptic acne scarred face and to unhinging thoughts of loneliness.
This was as good a time as any to purge, to allow inspiration to take hold of my being, to use my limbs and to allow myself to be a conduit for an entity far greater than myself. I needed to blog something, but without any internet connection I was – metaphorically speaking – shooting blanks. With the dishes done and my resolve firmly set, I took to my internet-less laptop – it’s one of the old ones – and set to type out anything and everything that came to mind that would best express whatever the hell had infected me with the itch to say something. I sat there with the TV buzzing like white-noise in the background, with the lights out and the piercing glare from the laptop screen washing a cool white over me and I let it all out. I allowed my subconscious to bring its emotions and thoughts to the fore and watched in amazement as one page turned into two which turned into ten until I had an entire first chapter down. I saved the humble beginnings of what was then titled “Double Edge” in the early hours of the morning – 3:30 am if i’m not mistaken – and went to bed feeling sated and exorcised enough to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
Weeks jostled on by like a wayward wind and chapters were born, characters were given life and emotions were respected. January arrived all too soon and I was due to pack up, steel myself and double up on some energising prayer for my final year at UCT. Emails were sent back and forth, letters of final notice were received and sent back and residence acceptance letters were finally rejected and returned when all too soon my once filled academic calendar collapsed pathetically with flailing vestiges of my once rousing dream of completing my degree in the same year. All too soon everything changed; I was unemployed, I was a statistic and I was a university dropout. Money may not make the world “go round” but it sure does give you a chance at completing your studies and that was a luxury I couldn’t afford; no matter how smart I was or how hard I’d worked.
After having kept up journaling all throughout my third year, I took to my trusted and nonjudgmental little black book with everything. It was then that I took my writing seriously; feverishly polishing up plots and subplots, adding dimensions to characters and sub-characters and investing time, emotion and energy into my writing. I chose to escape; to ignore the ‘what’s next’ questions, to look past the pitiful stares and to immerse myself in someone else’s reality. I chose to write someone else’s happy ending and share in someone else’s joy and accomplishments. With what’s now titled “Animal Kingdom” completed I took to my laptop once again and created an entirely new world; one inhabited by sassy teenagers and forthcoming, racist housekeepers. I again submerged my emotions and energies into someone else’s life, someone else’s dreams and an alternate reality, never allowing my own bleak reality to catch up.
Some might say that i’m running, that I’ve always been running and that once I stop to catch my breath my reality would catch up with me. To them I say: if running allows me the joys of engaging with imperfect fictional beings that perfectly play out a plot I created, an alternate reality, where I have all the control, then running’s fine with me.