This morning was so bad. The touchers on the tube were out in force. Arms, backs, bodies. I had no corner this morning to defend me, I was in the middle of the carriage and thankfully it wasn’t so busy that we were all squashed together, but it was busy enough that I had people touching me everywhere. If I stood rigid in the right spot, my arm holding on with two fingers to the (dirty) hand rail behind my head, with my book held up, I could just manage to maintain my own space. Then The Lines were the worst ever. I was walking like a lunatic and I had to concentrate so hard it made me dizzy. I’m not good at concentrating. I stopped at Tesco to buy some stamps and stuff and I even had to stand within the small tiles, even while stationary. The vibrating became ridiculous and I thought I was going to run outside and scream. I couldn’t hear properly. I can’t go out in the street and scream because that’s what crazy people do, so I had to stay there vibrating, standing in between The Lines and I thought something might actually snap. I managed to get to work, but I was a wreck by the time I did. We went out for lunch and I’m avoiding The Lines while walking with my colleagues and walking around the office touching my fingers in 3/4 time and surely someone has noticed? What if they do? They will think I’m a freak and to be avoided and not to be trusted. I can’t have that, it would ruin my job. More coffee and stress throughout the day. Technical design almost done for today’s deadline. It’s shit, but at least they can’t say I didn’t do it. It’s likely they’ll say that I didn’t do it properly, but it will be simply a ‘misunderstanding’ and ‘I see, yes, no I agree, yeah, of course, I’ll update it and send it back over, sure.’ Why can’t I just do it when I’m supposed to and not have to go through this degrading self-flagellating humiliation?
I don’t remember when The Lines first appeared. I’m sure they were there when I was a child, but I think they are for many children. The Americans seemed to have a saying (at least, if TV is a reliable reference) which went ‘Step on a crack, break your mother’s back’. Presumably, this came about simply because of the easy rhyme and the fact that a child’s mother is important enough to at that age (for most children anyway) to feature as the party under threat. The problem is that instead of remaining a childhood game, it’s become an adulthood problem for me. And it seems to be getting worse. The problem is that there are just so many of them and most of them are invisible. At least, I know they’re there but I couldn’t show you one explicitly, though I could show you where they come from and where they go (sort of anyway - they go out of range after about 6 feet, or if they’re behind me, which makes it harder to be specific). This is beginning to make walking to work an enormous exercise in a) not stepping on the lines and b) not looking like a one-man freak show while doing it. Paving slabs and tiles are usually the least of the problem, though if they are the wrong size to accommodate my stride, I end up having to cross between rows or walk like a ballerina, or take big steps that look really stupid. However, the slabs and tiles are beginner-level lines. You can see them for a start. The other lines come out of virtually everything: fence posts and lampposts usually have one line each (well, technically two, but I can only ever be on one side of them) though sometimes two (well, four) depending on where they are and shadows also have one, but I can step into these if they’re big enough. Walls, billboards, full height windows, long rectangular flower pots (round ones are thankfully too round to have any), doors and so on have two (one at each end), though if the flower pots are not against something and are large enough, they will have more. Benches can have several lines depending on the configuration of the seats and legs. Then there are the drain covers and blocks of different coloured or shaped paving. These can all have eight lines, which start perpendicularly at each corner. Some of these things will shield me from the lines, such as standing on a drain cover (as long as it’s not knobbly on top) as the lines can’t go through the generator of other lines. Generally, at all other times, the lines criss-cross to create a navigational nightmare; cue scene from Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. Now, as I mentioned, The Lines do have a limited range. I’ve tried to gauge this, but it’s an imprecise science. I would say that the range is about two feet behind me six feet to either side and up to ten feet in front.
It’s not always like this of course. If it were, I would not be where I am today. I would have been therapied or medicated or whatever, but it does cause me a lot of mental disturbance to have to go through it every day when it’s bad. The other problem is that if I’m going somewhere, I generally have to go there as fast as possible. Walking slowly is a rare treat for me and it’s a treat because I’m very rarely able to do it. I have to be very calm (which is rare) and have no appointment/public transport/meeting/other time-specific factor as my destination or it’s hopeless.
Today has been really bad. It may even have started last night when two forks got stuck together by the prongs when I took them out of the dishwasher. The prongs got intertwined and when I tried to separate them, they ground on each other and stuck harder. I thought I was going to be physically sick. I dropped them as if they were red hot. My teeth stood on edge. Even thinking about it now my face has contorted and I feel weak just as it/I did last night for a good few minutes. Maybe that was the tip that today was going to be bad. Today, The Lines weren’t so bad. I even felt more positive than usual on my way into work, but things are getting dirty again. It’s not the same as last month, which was the blackest time of my life. Then, I noticed the disgusting black filth that seemed to cover everything. Was it always there? I don’t know. Last month the world seemed to be steeped in its decaying embrace. Recently, it’s the things I touch. It’s not visible dirt this time, but invisible dirt. Worst of all are the black rubber handrails on the escalators. If I touch one with my hand, my hand feels disgusting. I have to wriggle it and scrunch it because the dirt is on me. I have to wash my hands when I get to work, but as soon as I have, the age old problem of the germs on the toilet door handle re-infect me. Pulling the very top with one finger is about the best I can do. Then the woman’s paperwork on the East border of my desk started encroaching further because I had moved my pad back into alignment with my laptop and her chaotic crap gradually filled the void. I tidied the paperwork on my North border again (the guy on my North border is a friend and anyway he was at the other end of the room so didn’t see me do it). My phone, two empty coffee cups, special blue decagonal water cup, earphone tin and a five pence piece were strictly maintained in a grid system throughout the day. However, the day just deteriorated. I’m under a lot of pressure to deliver a large technical design document by tomorrow and, being me, I am completely unable to Get It Done. I spent this morning on Google buying books, reading the AADD.org.uk forums and anything else which could possibly keep the huge grey stone task looming over me from overwhelming me entirely. I had two weeks to write this document and I’ve so far spent maybe two hours on it. I will come up with excuses which will be accepted as usual and somehow muddle through it, but it’s so massively depressing. It’s university all over again. Why can’t I just put 100% into something? The sense of achievement would be incredible. Sadly, just doesn’t work that way. I can think of only a handful things I’ve ever managed to put 100% into and none of them was within the past 7 years. Coffee and stress conspired together so that, by the end of the day, I was going absolutely nuts. The words on the pages of the book I was reading on the tube this evening passed by my eyes but had nowhere to go because my brain was not there to pick them up, It was racingracingracing and then there was the touching. I can’t bear strangers touching me at the moment. They do it on the tube. They lean, they brush, they invade. It sends me nuts. I tense and I’m angry and helpless and that makes me more angry. I NEED MY SPACE. I’m now completely manic, my whole body is vibrating at high frequency, tapping out these words at top speed is the only thing which is keeping be on the ground. I can’t think more than half a thought in one go and I need to calm down before I get home or I will snap at the kids and that will make me worse because I love my kids and I hate snapping at them, but I can’t operate at ‘home wavelength’ at the moment.
This is another problem: wavelength. When I get manic like this, it feels like I’m physically on a completely different wavelength, literally vibrating at a different frequency than the one I need to be on so that I’m actually kind of transparent in comparison to my family. Since I’m on a different wavelength, sending and receiving communication with them becomes harder. I become an observer and the words and emotions which are broadcast to me become simply messages like emails which come and go but they are just words.
I have run out of things to write and I am no calmer. I want to leap out of my seat and run around, but I would look like a complete loony because I’m sitting on a train. The alternative is to sit here trying to contain it and that will make me even more crazyrazycrazycrazycrazycrazycrazycrazycrazycrazycrazycrazycrazycracy.
I need help. God, I really, really need someone to stop it pleeeease. I want to be calmcalmcalmcalmcalmcalm again.
Today, I had to ask my colleague, who sits next to me, if I could tidy his paperwork. It was beginning to invade my desk space. Fortunately, he’s a good friend and I could get away with it under the guise of humorous eccentricity. The woman on the other side of me, however, I can’t ask; she not the right kind of person. All day, her ragged, untidy, unordered, out-of-alignment pile of paperwork digs and prods and nags at me out of the corner of my eye. It makes my skin crawl. I’ve had to put a carrier bag on top of my (previously) perfectly aligned notebook so I can’t see it, but I know it’s there, taunting me and I’ve had to push the notebook East, out of line with the laptop, to stop the invasion, which is rather galling but necessary. The beautiful conjunction of my earphone tin, used coffee cup, post-it pad (with accompanying pencil and pen) and phone forms my Northern (left) border, with my special blue decagonal water glass sits between the used coffee cup and my laptop. However, it’s all (argh!!! She just knocked my carrier bag when closing her notepad. NNnnngnggngngnggg) tarnished by the fact that my earphones do not have a convenient and tidy way of placing the wires on the desk and so there is visible chaos within my borders. The day wireless noise-isolating earphones (yes, I have to have noise isolating ones) are released, I will be a happy, happy person indeed.
I also just found a spirit level app for my phone (I had one on my iPhone, but I’ve moved to Android) which means either when no-one is looking, or I can disguise it in comedy, I can straighten my monitor. Again. But properly this time. Again.
Sometimes I have to touch each finger to my thumbs as I walk, synchronously. Sometimes it’s just a 3/4 time signature metered out by my footsteps like a waltz (1-2-3, 1-2-3, etc.) and sometimes I have to do it to a song (in my head), which means the time signature varies, but the timing is still metered by my footsteps. Sometimes it’s difficult to open doors in time with the beat and I wonder if I look odd when I have to open them, or if no-one notices. I wonder how abnormal this is and whether it falls into the same category as something more socially acceptable like biting my nails. My wife says I look pretty special when I bite my nails, so who knows.
I got on the tube this morning, my first day back after a week off. The control room repeatedly announced that the Jubilee line was suffering severe delays. Again. I went and stood on the platform anyway and a half empty train pulled up before I’d even stopped walking. Liars. There was a man leaning on the pole. Like it was his own to occupy as he liked. Idiot. I had to hold the overhead rail instead. Arsehole. He got off at the next stop so I moved over and held the pole instead. The way it should have been in the first place. Wanker. Another man got on and leaned on the pole. The one I’m holding. He’s leaning his back, with his scratchy wool coat, on my hand. My hand. I am speechless. Not that I would have said anything if I hadn’t been. I push my knuckles into his back. Only slightly though. I want him to be uncomfortable enough to realise he’s a selfish fuckwit, but without actually appearing to be confrontational or God forbid actually have to speak to him. He doesn’t move. The journey takes ten minutes. I push my knuckles into his back (slightly), he doesn’t move. I’m really angry. I move my hand around more than necessary as the train rocks. Every muscle in my hand is clenched hard. I can’t concentrate. I’m reading a book, but the words aren’t going in. My whole focus is occupied by this cock, who is leaning on my hand on a pole intended for everybody, not just for him. We get off at the same station. I cut in front of him at the escalator, which gives me some small but tainted sense of justice. I have to keep my fist clenched throughout the fifteen minute walk to the office as the back of my hand still feels like the scratchy wool of his coat. I go straight to the toilets to wash it and I can now unclench my fist, but it still feels weird. I hate that guy.
I didn’t sleep well last night. I had another mental freak where I felt like I was going to scream. This is the second Sunday in a row. I don’t think it has anything to do with Sundays. I don’t know why it happens or how to deal with it when it does. I don’t even know if I fall asleep first, or if it happens when I’m still awake. This time I had just put my book down and turned off my light. Normally, at this point I go straight to sleep. No messing around, no waiting. As long as my head is perfectly positioned on the pillow, which in itself is an art involving very specific angles, folding and balancing, or under the pillow, as long as I have exactly the right amount of breathing space and ear coverage, I’m out within 30 seconds. This wasn’t one of those times. Sometimes my mind just races. It’s probably anxiety or some other simple explanation which makes it sounds trivial. It doesn’t help. I couldn’t make that final drop into sleep which normally comes so easily. Then The Panic hit me. My eyes snapped open and it took every ounce of will power not to leap out of bed and start hopping around the room. I don’t want to look like a mental case in front of my wife. She already thinks I’m nuts.
We took the kids to Disneyland Paris last week. I really needed a holiday. After the gradual but complete breakdown of my much anticipated relaxing Christmas holiday I hoped this would be the cartoon train track lever which sent me careening onto the right track. As it turned out, it helped a lot. Just not straight away. The first night there was the first night I had the falling-asleep-panic thing. I’d been driving all day, I was tired, I wanted to go to sleep. The kids had been sitting in the car all day, they weren’t and they didn’t. Over the course of two hours I threatened, punished, shouted and lashed out. They didn’t stop. I lay there in bed, seething at the noises, my own anger fuelling itself, getting redder and blacker. I thought horribly cruel thoughts. I felt like the guy from The Shining. I wondered if something had snapped and I was already actually mad. I wondered if I would come to in a cell somewhere with a big gap in my memory and my face all over the national papers. Then the panic thing hit. I didn’t sleep very well at all that night, but I stayed in bed. I wasn’t at all sure what I’d do if I didn’t.
Life is an endless, relentless series of grinding disappointments.
Curse of Mortality, cast by an unseen foe. Crushing Prison, constant spirit damage.
Healer! Where is my healer? Down. No-one can help me. I have no mana to Revive my companions.
No Heroic Aura to help me fight, no Cleanse Area or Rejuvenate. My companions gone.
Death Cloud. My journey ends here.