This is an extract from Life Knocks. You can buy Life Knocks here: amzn.to/LifeKnocks
I don’t know Tony Parsons, we have never met, he doesn’t know me and this chapter has nothing to do with him directly.
Though, as you will read, his book Man and Boy did save my life. So I thank him for that.
You can buy Man and Boy here: http://bit.ly/ManAndBoy
from heroine to heroin…
He wasn’t like some of the hippies in England, where the qualification to rebel is planted by the guilt raised from being a spoilt child with a good education; he was a real hippy born from being forced to kill for his army until he was twenty one.
He had long hair because the army made him shave his head.
The army made him shave every day too.
Now he had a beard.
His face for a long time was not his own.
When this guy said he was all about peace he wasn’t talking about peace because his mum never got him the horse he wanted for his eighteenth birthday, he was talking about peace because he’d seen war.
He talked about love because he knew hate; hate for those above him, hate for those he had served with, hate for enemies not born his but who became so and, lastly, hate for himself for how his mind was controlled.
He talked about life and living because he had seen death, and been the cause of it.
I liked my new bearded friend; his life until then had not been of his own making, but he was taking it back.
Life is what you fake it.
Night fell; Lily and I danced and drank.
I met a tall old hippy from America dressed like a cowboy and he offered me acid, warned me I should only take one, so I thanked him and took both.
I was sitting on a bench talking to a Thai guy and he put his arm around my neck. The Thai guy wasn’t drinking alcohol, and when I felt his hand on my neck I thought it strange, because we hadn’t been talking for long, and I wasn’t getting a friendly vibe from him.
Behind him on another table he had four other Thai friends, also not drinking; the friends were not dressed for a party in a jungle, they leered across the bar throwing judgemental daggers at inebriated partying revellers.
They looked like they were trying to act like they hoped they were perceived, so they stood out to me in a jungle full of hippies whose basic philosophy is be yourself.
The guy with his hand on my neck laughed and I smiled, but I kept my mind on the sensation of my neck, and felt his fingers moving.
I stared into his eyes and looked into darkness, his eyes were completely black; no pupils at all.
His face was flat, punched by a steamroller, his teeth stained yellow and his moustache thin and wispy.
Eight black chunks of hair rested on the top of his face creating a greasy dark thatch on his head, a spider feasting on his brain, gripping his forehead for composure.
My necklace fell from around my neck; it wasn’t worth stealing because it was just a piece of string with a dark blue stone that looked like a heart.
The value was minimal; there was no point in trying to steal it.
I caught my necklace in my hands between my lap, which, situation aside, made me feel pretty cool.
I gave the guy my why are you trying to steal my chain look and he immediately stopped talking English. I told him I knew he tried to steal my necklace. He said something in Thai, then stood up and walked away to join his friends.
I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it, and he had four friends with him, so easy come easy go.
After the acid kicked in, events became challenging.
An hour later I was pleasantly drunk, on acid, Lily and I danced.
My lips smiled into her eyes as we moved to the rhythm of the music. I stared up into trees at fluorescent man-made butterflies, giant mushrooms glowing against large leaves, and felt connected to the night sky above, hugging the edges of belief.
I stared into the stars with a large smile on my face and a sense Lily and I had made it, I could relax, we were dancing in a jungle on acid on New Year’s Eve, we had been apart and reunited, been divided by ocean and land, and overcome the laws of man to be one again.
Nothing could stop us, nobody could take away our bliss; one more year behind us, and a lifetime of years ahead.
The stars were so beautiful above me, so bright and glimmering; I wanted to show them to Lily so I moved my grinning face away from the galaxy, away from the stars and directed my gaze back to her, so I could explain with words what my eyes were describing, but Lily was already standing close and staring back, visibly upset.
I knew instinctively this look was out of the ordinary and something serious had happened because Lily looked vulnerable, and in all our years together I had never seen her look vulnerable.
“The man, the one who tried to take your necklace. He touched me.”
It was raining on her face but the sky was dry.
Lily looked down and indicated the area violated was her lady kingdom.
Lily looked up; I heard her words loud and clear:
My mind raced a hundred thoughts in half a second before I gave Lily my response. To Lily, there was no pause, but in my mind I took five years to answer her words, and in that time I had trained naked up a snow covered mountain to become a warrior.
What am I going to do?
I have to do something but, I can’t fight the guy. I mean, shit. Maybe I will have to fight the guy but he’s with at least four tough looking friends and I’m wasted on acid.
What if he knows Thai fighting?
What if he knows any kind of fighting?
You have to do something or your girlfriend is going to think you less of a man, but you also don’t want to get killed.
You are on acid, you idiot. What are you going to do? Hug them all to death?
Talk philosophical nonsense about the nature of violence?
You need to answer Lily before her look turns into her storming off and New Years Eve is ruined.
Speak Colossus, say words:
I took Lily’s hand and we walked from the dance floor up to the bar.
As we walked I had no idea what I was going to do; this was my John Wayne moment only I wasn’t a cowboy, a fighter or anything like John Wayne.
I was about to take on five men in what could become a violent altercation on acid knowing if I got punched once in the face I would cry.
As we entered the clearing and the bar area my last thought was I had been beaten up before, and, from what I remembered, it wasn’t that bad.
The bar was busy with chatter, but typically there was a clear and unobstructed view from where Lily and I stood all the way to the bench where this guy sat and laughed with four friends.
There was no escaping this moment.
I had to do something.
I walked toward the men and they stared back; the man who touched Lily pointed at me, they all laughed; a clear declaration of war.
The men beckoned me to keep walking toward them.
Beckoning me into my beating.
They were going to enjoy this.
A scene like in some action hero movie; without the guns, or hero.
I lifted my hand above my head, and screamed:
“I have something I need to say to everyone here and it’s very important!”
A crowd of over three hundred people, at various levels of inebriation, stopped what they were doing and stared at me, waiting for me to speak.
That was easy.
I walked up to the man sitting with his group of friends and I pointed straight at him:
“This man does not belong here. He is not part of the party. This man has just sexually assaulted my girlfriend on the dance-floor. This man is not one of us. This man does not belong here, this man is negative energy. If you see him be on guard!”
The Thai guys stopped laughing, their smiles turned to looks of horror.
They looked to the floor.
Tried to hide their faces.
They stormed toward me.
I was going to get hit in the face, probably lots.
The crowd, remarkably, jeered them.
The Thai men stopped, now surrounded by many; not so sure what to do.
The fight was no longer five on one; this was five against hundreds.
The few people who hadn’t noticed the commotion now watched, not just the bar full of people, but the chill-out area, the people working behind the shops, and the people buying bracelets to remember the night with; they all watched.
A girl moved forward and yelled at the men to get out of here.
Another stepped forward and booed.
The booing grew louder.
Then louder still.
Everyone booed the men.
The men stared at the crowd, then back at me with wild cuckoo clock eyes.
A man screamed at the men, told them they had better run.
Another shouted they weren’t wanted.
A girl screamed you have no place!
Another guy shouted leave the jungle!
I had created an angry mob, made from hippies yielding glow sticks.
The men ran.
The circle parted, the men ran out of the circle, down the path, away from the bar, the shops, and the chill out area; into the jungle like cowards.
The man who touched Lily stumbled, as he did the crowd cheered.
Lily squeezed my hand.
“That’s why I love you.”
The crowd cheered.
I was a hero, I was brave, I used fists of peace to beat the Thai guys around the heads without using my hands.
We stopped kissing and the crowd applauded us, Lily squeezed my hand and, for a moment, I was king of a little jungle somewhere in Thailand.
Men and women asked Lily if she was okay and congratulated me on how I handled the situation, though the truth was the situation handled me.
Sometimes taking the only option we have, makes us appear to have chosen the right option.
I was glad to not be unconscious on the jungle floor with blood pouring from my ears, but five Thai guys still roamed the jungle, five men waiting for the right time to punch me in the face.
There was no way I could relax.
Not on acid, certainly.
Security guys asked if Lily was okay, she said she was fine; the people who ran the festival checked she was okay, said I handled the situation in the best possible way.
Little did anyone know my brain was a twitching paranoid mess, fearful of retribution for publically embarrassing the festivals equivalent to Biff from Back to The Future.
I was the heel of Achilles. A general; but of the Light Brigade. Samson’s hair removed.
The burnt wings of Icarus.
A fat fish in a thin barrel leaking water, my time running out.
The music turned back on, I realised the DJ had stopped playing music so my words could be heard.
People separated into their own fractions; the party began again.
A beer was handed to me and I relaxed.
On the stroke of midnight I kissed Lily and hugged random people.
Thai Biff had gone, my fears had not come true.
I was free to celebrate.
One year ending, another beginning; delirium.
A guy smiled at me to the backdrop of wild midnight cheers; we hugged and shouted Happy New Year.
He was smoking and asked if I wanted some.
I gave him some beer and shared some of his spliff.
This was it; peace, midnight bliss.
The second I breathed in I knew what I smoked wasn’t a spliff; whatever I smoked tasted of death.
Cold, dead, nothingness. The edges of space.
A child waiting too long outside school gates, unable to see the car crash around the corner.
A dog washed up on shore, thrown in by children bored of Playstations.
A bitter taste, flat darkness.
The waves taken from the sea, sand on beaches replaced with crabs.
I handed it back and asked him if he was sure it was weed and he laughed and pointed out of the dance floor, to the start of the jungle, to a tree where Thai Biff waved and smiled at me.
I fought an urge to be sick; the jungle span like I was witnessing the party from inside a washing machine, the joy of the acid overpowered; my first steps into unknown footprints.
The guy grabbed my shoulder, his face suddenly right in mine, so close.
My head fell onto Lily’s shoulder and I muttered weakly take me back to the tent, told her I smoked a spliff and was spinning out; Lily laughed, got me back to our tent, unaware of the incident.
There was little point in worrying her; I just needed to collapse and ride the journey out.
I sat down inside the tent, my brain rushed faster than I could understand what thought to follow, Lily wanted to go back and dance so she returned to the jungle; I was alone inside our tent staring up at the ceiling, convincing myself I wasn’t a rabbit.
I had a book and thought if I read the words they might distract my mind from breaking, by putting a dam composed of someone else’s words between my brain and the torrent of rabbits desperately trying to turn me into one of them.
The book was Man and Wife by Tony Parsons and the read saved my life, I read from half past midnight right through till five in the morning, and as each hour past my mind filtered back into my brain, and the rabbits withdrew to some place they’ve stayed ever since.
I was so messed up on heroin, but able to focus on one thing exceptionally; once I read the book for the first time I had no memory of what I had read, but I knew I enjoyed the experience immensely and the words kept my mind on beautiful things.
Lily came back to the tent to sleep and as she rested on a pillow a rabbit popped its head over the dam, I stared at the cover of the book and thought I should read it again.
Lily slept for six hours, I read the book again, and by the time I finished I was almost feeling normal.
The rabbits subsided, my mental dam plugged, with hopefully enough carrots to get me well into old age.