Featured art by L.H. Grey.
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Nine Inch Nails “The Frail”
It’s not easy being seen, you know. I mean, truly seen. Do you ever feel like a ghost in plain sight? I do. Indeed, these hauntings have become more and more commonplace as I’ve revealed my true plume of feathers. For four years, more if you check the records as far back as my father’s death a decade ago, I’ve been imprisoned in a rusty cage, starved of natural light and nutrients. Daylight has come and passed during that time, but it has only ever been fleeting. Instead I’ve existed primarily in darkness, shrouded by culpability for the decision that earned me this sentence. To be honest, it was looking suspiciously like a lifer, but good behavior finally paid off to the tune of an early parole. All shackles were loosened, deadbolts released, and I was enabled to walk free of this infernal palace of sorrow.
I stepped out of my shadows as naked as the day I was born; nay even more so. You see, floods upon floods of chained up teardrops had washed away the seaweed of my bones and left me frightfully exposed to the elements I could now discern before me. I could fucking brain Robert Smith for suggesting Boys Don’t Cry; although I’m more than aware he was probably being all ironic. I naturally presumed there was no cure for these arid ducts of mine; but little did I know the flood gates were about to open wide. Suddenly I wept and I wept, uncontrollably I might add, and wondered if anyone else had actually observed this near silent tsunami. Let it be known that I was very much alone; left to own every last tear that I shed. Breaking bread with oneself minus clean bill of health is ordinarily ill-advised in such scenarios. But I felt it prime time for the come, the what and the may.
What was there left to lose? Deconstruction was complete the very moment I reached the foot of my chasm. Stripped right down to the most incendiary of pain, all nerve endings had now been decommissioned. This isn’t to suggest the dull ache in my heart didn’t court discomfort. But it’s not every day you make the executive decision to walk the short plank into parenthood limbo. Had I dreamt this divine conception? Perhaps Jacob Nathaniel Stevens was nothing more than an implanted memory. Hells ablaze, was I being harvested beneath the blinkers? No pressure Morpheus but this thirteenth story ledge ain’t getting any fatter. Hook me up with some meds, will you bruv? And while you’re at it, make ’em reds. Not altogether sure I could handle any more “truth”.
After all, it was truth that got me into this mess in the first place, truth that furnished my home, truth that held me captive. And one final nugget of the very harshest of truth for the encore. Couldn’t someone just lie and tell me I’d see my sweet little boy again the following weekend like things used to be? No? He’s gone then? Yes, I know he’ll be alright, better than in fact, as childlike innocence is still very much in tact at this point. Good job daddy, mommy too. We may not have agreed on much towards the end but our son’s charmed passage was always priority 1/1. It still is. Nothing’s changed. It just so happens this was the only course of action left for me to take.
My body was tired, dog tired, vulnerable to the elements like never before, and perishing at an alarming rate as my organs conferred over terminal shut down. What do you reckon lads? Shall we spare him? Oh, I know. Let’s make him suffer some more. Anyone know how to work the rack? With encore looming, final curtain teetering with intent, and band about to pack up – options were slimming with Jim. Live or die appeared the general crux of my predicament and the saddest thing was that I’ve spent the majority of the past fifty months veering increasingly towards the latter. Until recently, I believed it was I who’d placed the manacles on myself. Now I know better. Losing your one and only son smarts like no other low blow I’ve ever been dealt during my time in the ring. Losing him across a four-year period, one calm cuddle at a time, was downright unkind. I’d resigned to this way back in 2013, when the treaty was signed blind. So nobody could say I hadn’t served my time.
Beauty in the breakdown. Beauty in the breakdown. Think happy thoughts Richard. No need. You see, I’d been entertaining a whole host of these the whole time I’d been locked in my endgame. Somehow and with more than a slither of the inexplicable, my subconscious had thrown me a recovery vial. Its suggestion had been to reach for all the light you can, enable it to mesh with your darkness, let them tangle in the trellis and get familiarized. Last man standing? Hopefully me. After a full four stretch on my knees, it seemed only fair and just that I let the blood circulate. What do you mean what blood? Oh yes, the hemorrhaging. Tell you what, you two fight to the death and I’ll cover mop up duties. May want to get a wriggle on though as I’m beginning to come over a little woozy.
I trust, in my heart of hearts, that happy thoughts were the reason I woke up on December 26th, 2017. And all it took to defibrillate was to be seen. Plain in its simplicity, angel eyes were my sword and my shield as I laid my weary head down to sleep after my very own all-too-personal battle of Trafalgar. Multiple pairs then began to cluster; piercing through the cold dark like fierce lasers of protection. How could this be when every last person in my proximity remained blind to the effect this “clean break” was having on me? Not a solitary one of my “nearest and dearest” had nursed this fracture of mine. So what was with the whole distant eyes prize? Why ever were they expressing an interest in a sniveling subject like me? And how long does it take to leave Las Vegas anyroad? Must I seriously endure any more hardship? In a word, no.
I am love. I get that now. I’m here to love. It’s my purpose in life. My mission. My very transmission. And a number of souls loved me enough at the right time to ensure my safe passage through the bleakest of hours. Had I sustained damage? Hell yes and significant enough to forego a fair few pints of my life water in one forceful gusher. But my honest heart had been seen. My soul had been seen. Every last goblet of kindness I’ve guzzled from over the past month has quenched my thirst for continuation. A number of souls glanced mine with critical mass threatening and each reminded me why I matter. Why I fight. Why I don’t quit. How to scream the pain out through my art. Where the truth lies. How to grasp it. And last but by no means least – what I mean to them.
Scars heal over time but I’m in no rush right now as they’re seeping out the most exquisite darkness. Better yet, I can now access the blackness within me at any given moment, regardless of how chipper I feel each day, post-first shot of caffeine of course. There’s a freedom to my writing now that wasn’t possible while locking horns with my archdemons. No longer restrained by slow-burn misery; shouldered with ever-increasing burden. Free to roam, free to smile, free to care, free to share, free to love, free to be loved, free to be counted on, free to count on others, free to speak my mind, free to do so from the heart, free to search my soul at will. Free. To. Live. There’s a faint pulse. It’s still weak but getting stronger every day. For I fear the icy grip of death no more. I fear the hot mess of life no more. Kindness has cured the blindness. And all it took was to be seen.