But while it was true there were moments sitting in the livingroom with Julie and me Mum when I actually revelled in the sheer peculiarness of me thoroughly enjoying South bastarding Pacific there were also others when the noisy colourful pageant unfolding on the box over in the corner fascinated me in the way it’d fascinate a being from another reality accidentally tuning into broadcasts made by unknown life forms living in an unknown dimension under unknown physical laws.
Likewise whenever I noticed Julie swaying on the floor between switching remote controls or me Mum on the couch earnestly screwing up her brow to concentrate on dog-eared Agatha Christie there’d be moments when they’d both be the same old Julie and me Mum they always were but others when they’d become as strange and unreal as Nelly twatting Forbush trapped in the perpetual loop of washing men out her hair Julie was currently keeping her in sometimes more so because whereas Nelly’s existence was essentially that of a flickering patch of two dimensional light which could be stopped or started sped up or reversed or endlessly repeated on demand Julie and me Mum’d seem three dimensional in the static empty shelled way cheap laser generated holograms do when it’s unclear what if anything’s their point and while the check list in my head continued affirming they were exactly the same people I’d so often felt and demonstrated affection for this new dark alien Alan me felt nothing whatsoever for them to the degree if someone’d suddenly broken in and begun torturing or even dismembering them I wouldn’t’ve been in the least surprised if all I’d’ve experienced was intense scientific curiosity to observe how they were put together.
Yet instead of becoming distressed everything I’d ever thought of as me was gradually being replaced by this new cold blooded almost inhuman version of me I actually felt intensely attracted to the sense of unlimited freedom I was seemingly being offered especially my intriguing new hitherto unsuspected potential for being able to get up and go without so much as a moment’s reflection out the front door leaving behind me forever everything I’d ever known or loved nor was it exactly a deterrent I was also being perpetually bombarded by the sense if I did finally go down that particular avenue vast new vistas filled with infinite possibilities’d immediately begin opening up before me .
But that was before all these incessantly probing almost imperceptible pulsations-cum-scintillations started pounding away on the walls of the blissfully empty alien citadel which only moments before’d been the mind of the new dark me or more accurately I finally allowed myself to start noticing them because the moment I did it instantly became obvious I’d been try’n’o keep whatever the hell they represented out my head for such a long time part of me now felt intellectually intrigued enough to even ponder investigating them further though another much more belligerent and downright hysterical part of me was vehement I wouldn’t be doing any such thing.
But by this stage I still thought I was doing okay until Julie now asked “Y’alright…look like you might be having another panic attack…?” at which point I became aware my extraordinary state of inordinately deep relaxation and sheer physical quiescence’d been replaced by lower legs now crossed so tightly they were in danger of snapping each other in half quivering balled up white knuckled fists gouging moulds in my thighs even deeper than the ones my elbows were gouging in my ribs and deeply painful jaw muscles warping and spasming so much they were becoming all but detached from the bone yet somehow I still managed to express the clenched teethed response “Not panic…same ballgame…different…stadium…”
And it wasn’t a panic attack because panic attacks made you feel this distressing inexplicable thunderstruck sense you were dying right then and there on the spot only you didn’t know why or even how and ever since I’d had my first one at nineteen after reading an article in the Observer magazine about traditional African women having their clitorises hacked off and their vaginas laced up like old leather rugby balls I’d been having them virtually every day of my life ever since sometimes seemingly hundreds a day on which such occasions our Adrian’d have to accompany me on any of my book trawls to explain to staff I wasn’t rolling about on the floor doing a Norman Wisdom impression but doing my best to pick out potential purchases under extremely trying circumstances.
In some ways though whatever this pulsations-cum-scintillations business was it was far worse than panic attacks because it reminded me if anything of this stuff which used to happen to me as a kid when I’d have to take very great care whenever I found myself round cracks in walls or less frequently pavements nor was it every crack that affected me in this way only certain ones though I was never quite able to determine what it was about those particular cracks which enabled them to affect me in that way.
For instance the walls of the tiny backroom bedroom I had when I was eleven had lots of cracks in them but only four of them and one in particular seemed to exert this strange hypnotic tugging sensation on me until I couldn’t any longer avert my gaze at which point it’d seem to become this huge swirling dizzying vortex that’d hold me entranced all night and leave me feeling a burnt out nervous wreck in school the next day.
The worst crack ever though was this one in an antique tile on the wall behind my existentialist beatnik teacher Miss Stirk’s desk when I was seven because I’d keep retreating to the back of the class to get away from it and she’d keep dragging me back to the front and even when I discovered if I slightly misaligned my chair with my table this seemed to diminish the crack’s power Miss Stirk in spite of having chunky black Michael Caine style National Health glasses had eyes like a hawk and’d immediately spring from behind her desk and abruptly shove me back in line with the table sending me back to square one before gently but shrilly scolding me “What’s wrong with you Alan? I thought you understood a disciplined posture helps maintain a disciplined mind…”
“I do Miss” I’d respond almost blacking out as my head whirled like a top but how could I explain to her what only two other kids in the class seemed able to see namely whenever I sat directly opposite that tile a sort of vorticial filament’d emerge from the crack and begin sinuously working its way across the classroom gradually insinuating itself down my throat to fasten itself round one of my back teeth before yanking first my jaw then my head then my body what felt like several agonizing feet apart effectively turning me inside out to stretch what felt like my entire innards upwards and downwards across the room in an enormous arcing funnel bringing the tip to a needle sharp point which it’d then attempt to draw through the crack to the unknown world on the other side where something perpetually lay in wait for me something like a lot of other stuff I’d thought I was long over and done with until I now suddenly realised even my latest panic attacks’d been showing signs of developing along the same lines because I’d find myself imploring family members or friends gripping my hands or arms tightly “Don’t let go o’ me! Don’t let go! Whatever you do don’t let them take me!” only on coming out the attacks to wonder don’t let bleedin’ WHO take me? Take me the bleedin’ WHERE?
Which’s probably why when some of these pulsations-cum-scintillations spooking the living crap out me finally started accessing the periphery of my field of attention but only turned out to be innocuous seeming ‘stills’ of various scenes and places extracted from the video of this morning’s events I was initially almost disappointed making it only all the more mystifying why even the briefest momentary glimpses of such theoretically anodyne images should fill some part of me with such raging dread I’d immediately begin hysterically try’n’o wall them back out my mind by deploying any and every apparently random video I could dredge up until I gradually began noticing they weren’t quite so random as I’d initially supposed having in common as they did the fact they’d all been recorded at any time and in any part of Liverpool I’d ever visited which seemingly had absolutely no connection whatsoever with whatever I’d been doing this morning wherever I’d been doing it.
And at first using these other videos in this way actually seemed to work until innumerable tiny unsuspected indirect connections inevitably started triggering off chains of other videos ultimately resulting in me now being confronted not just by stills but actual footage from this morning’s video a development so strangely alarming I now started incorporating in my overall avoidance and distraction strategy the parallel activity of manically fastening my attention on such fascinating little South bastarding Pacific speculations as which contemporary brands of shampoo Nelly twatting Forbush might’ve preferred if she taken up time travel or whether a modern remake of the film’d now have her washing men out her hair because she’d turned lesbian or who’d play Nelly in a contemporary all guy version.
But of course that didn’t work for very long either hence the spasm of anguish I now experienced at realising any last vestige of the wonderful unearthly sense of serenity and detachment which remained to me was now being eaten up before my very eyes by such peculiarly panic inducing chains of videos as me in my pram being wheeled past the huge pair of ‘living breathing’ stone lions outside Saint George’s Hall triggering off a video of me as an eighteen year old arriving at Lime Street Station in the early hours of the morning long after the station’d closed as a result of being trapped in the middle of nowhere on a snowbound train with my Art Teacher Pip for several hunger and thirst filled hours during a day when her face’d suddenly seemed to explode and become the entire light filled universe triggering off yet another video of me aged four making remarkably sophisticated drawings on the pavement with a piece of plaster when something arriving from somewhere very very far away hurtled into me with the force of an exploding bomb filling me with the sense I somehow knew and understood EVERYTHING causing me to stagger to my feet and collapse through the door of the newly opened overwhelmingly hot spicy soup smelling Asian corner shop I’d been inexplicably avoiding investigating only for my hearing to be hurt by this enormously loud brassy sounding K-TCHING and me to find myself not only incapable of crossing its strangely shocking but hypnotically compelling swirling black and white tessellated floor but entranced by the sight of a wringing wet clearly deeply distressed highly neurotic adult on the somehow very remote far side of the shop who something seemed to warn me I was either doomed to become or grow up to be like triggering off in turn a terrifying flash of another such shop from this morning’s video immediately making me switch my attention back to Julie and me Mum in the livingroom and the now not quite so charming warbling of Nelly twatting Forbush leaving me even more intensely aware than ever my near airless lungs were rattling against my ribs like empty paper bags copious quantities of stress induced chemicals were gushing down my front and back restoring me to my former wringing wet state and my elbows and heels were digging into the arms of the chair and the fabric of the carpet in a desperate attempt to resist being overwhelmed by the relentlessly rising tsunami of indescribable energy I felt was determined to sweep me to my doom in the room next door.
But as Julie lay there on her stomach as near the fire as possible indulging her fetish for heat while transcribing Nelly Forbush in her writing pad and me Mum’s eyelids and bobbing head and tilting book filled hands grew heavier and heavier it now became all too clear in my mind the earlier doorstep revelation business and the ever increasing army of pulsations-cum-scintillations pounding at the walls of my mind with the destructiveness now of sledgehammers were designed to force me to acknowledge something extremely specific about this morning’s events which of course not only infuriated me but made me only all the more equally determined I’d be doing no such thing explaining to myself though this wasn’t about me avoiding anything because there wasn’t anything to avoid but about me refusing to be bullied into weakly surrendering any last vestige of my blissfully superhuman serenity remaining to me before finally reverting to my normal everyday nerdy neurotic self.
Yet because something if not a veritable legion of somethings was equally determined I WAS go’n’o remember I felt obliged to continue pretending the snow globe flurries of snapshots snatches and full blown sections of video assailing me from every direction were entirely random and meaningless strenuously disregarding the fact I was doing my dismal best to suppress anything even remotely related to the supposedly irrelevant events of this morning.
But as the opposing pressures both within and without me mounted ever higher making me feel as if both my mind and my body might burst apart and every video I’d ever recorded was now seemingly conspiring to make my heart both jump and stop while simultaneously berating me with the information every event in my entire life’d supposedly come about solely as part of a design to ensure I didn’t miss an appointment I’d apparently made before I was born with something which’d apparently been waiting both a third of a century and all of Eternity for me to finally rendezvous with it I found myself mentally shrieking this’s insane as Nellie learned the Jap Zeros’d killed Joe and she might’ve lost Emile too because what’d really been killed was the wall I’d erected to keep the Leaning Tower of London Road out my head and what really might’ve been lost was my fucking sanity.