The Dating Police: An Ongoing Procedural. Episode Two.

Please don’t panic, mister.  Or scream.  I’m here to help you.  Nod if you understand.

[shows badge; man nods frantically]

Look at my face.  Quiet now.  We met back in June, do you remember?  The lady out of the bad marriage?  With the briefs?  And the universe lady with the actor grind?

[man nods more slowly]

Okay.  I’m going to slowly remove my hand from your mouth, and release my grip.

And you will stay very quiet, and not run.  Understood?  Steady now.  No sudden movements.

[grip is gently released; badge is calmly put away; deep breaths on both sides]

Okay Sir.  I’ve been watching you for about a week.

No, no!  Stay calm.  Please.

[gets out notebook]

Between the dates of the 25th of August and last night, the 15th of September, you have consistently not been sleeping.

[man goes still]

For five out of the last eleven working days, women have been approaching you on the train home from work, and asking if you’re alright.  And you’ve responded, “it’s just hayfever”. Yes?

Sir?

SIR?

… son?

[man looks at floor, and nods]

You’re tired, aren’t you?

[silence]

I need to hear it.  You’re tired and upset, aren’t you?

[beat]

It’s okay son.

[beat]

[beat]

[man whispers, “yes.  yes I am”]

I know you are.  Look at you.  Sore throat.  Exhaustion.  Tears.  Feelings of disgrace and unattractiveness.  It’s textbook.  Straight from the Academy.

Look.  I’m off duty tonight.  But your case has got to me.  This is off the record, friend.

You really fell for her, didn’t you?  I know son.  It’s okay.  But I don’t like what I’m seeing.

I have a Police Station Producer here.  I want you in the station by the weekend with proof that you’ve bought some new clothes.  And shoes.  Especially shoes.  God, man, your shoe collection is fucking awful.  You’re going to need better.

And I want you reading on the train.  Not just weeping.  Richard Ford, perhaps.  Or Elena Ferrante.  Or even Hemingway if you need some guns in it.  Except for ‘A Moveable Feast’.  That’ll just about finish you off.  I need you thinking about your emotions.  So no more Sci-Fi.  Or Grimdark.

[man looks perturbed]

it'll work out, son.
it’ll work out, son.

You miss her, don’t you?

[man looks up, nods]

You feel so stupid.  And shamed.  And beyond fixing.

You’ve had some bad thoughts, haven’t you?

[man grimaces; returns gaze to floor]

WELL FUCKING STOP THAT SHIT, DO YOU HEAR?

[man jumps]

YOU’RE KIND!

YOU’RE PATIENT!

YOU’RE NOT UGLY!

… AND YOU’RE OKAY IN THE SACK!!

[man stares, open mouthed]

YOU SAY IT.  I’M KIND.

I’m ki …

YOU’RE PATIENT

I’m pati …

YOU’RE FUCKING GREAT

I’m …

LOUDER

I’m fucki …

LOUDER, MAN!

I’M FUCKING GREAT!  I’M KIND!  I’M PATIENT AND ATTENTIVE!  I CAN DO SEX!  I CAN DO KISSING!  I’LL GET NEW SHOES!  I’M FUNNY! … AND CLEVER!  YES! YES!! YES!!!

Yes, well alright.  Don’t get carried away.

Good.  Anyway.  I’ll be watching.

I’ll be watching all of you.

[turns to camera]

Especially you, sweetheart.

And I want to see those shoes.

x

The Knuckle. And the Shit.

A small bone.  Weighs half a gram.  Located at the base of your third finger.  Smaller than a one-pence piece.

But it can do extraordinary damage.  And when accurately placed it can hurt like fuck.  And it leaves a mark.  And can break something that has stayed unbroken until the evening that has your name on it.  Like a socket.  Or a nose.  Or a heart.

Look.  I dramatically failed my Physics ‘O’ Level (yes, I’m of a peculiar vintage), but I do know that the knuckle is just the point of delivery.  It’s not actually the cause of the pain.

knuckle

No.  What causes the damage is the turn of the hips, the weight of the shoulders, the full body weight that comes before it and behind it.  Inertia.  Momentum.  Intent.

When a relationship ends, very nasty things can be said.  Or emailed.  Or texted.  Or tweeted.  Sometimes so vile that you actually wonder if their ex has somehow got hold of their phone, and has the wonderful person you fell in love with tied up in the shed.  Actually, I would love to tie up my recent ex in the shed, but only for her own pleasure.  Ahem.

Anyway.

What I’m saying is, is that when that genuinely offensive note has been vomited in your direction, it’s like the knuckle.  It’s pretty much the last thing you see before your eye swells shut.  And it’s easy to associate the knuckle with your pain.  Just the knuckle.  Just the message.

But actually what’s driving it home is often months of exasperation.  Or slow-boiling anxiety.  Or the collection of very small things that has patiently accreted into one fucking big toxic compound balls-up.

Don’t judge people by their one-off loss of decency and grace.  Try to think about how your long-term behaviour has put all that weight behind the knuckle.  The knuckle is, to be honest, not worth much examination.  It just happens to be the prism through which focuses all the shit into one hot fucking beam.

Practise this and change the world.  Always find the best in people, even if it results in your own black eye.  Empathise.  Find it impossible to hate.  They might hate you, but remember it’s costing them a fucking phenomenal amount of energy.  Energy that could actually be employed in something useful.  Or beneficial.  Or forgiving.

The personal revolution is the only viable one left.

I’m off to meet Buddha for a jar.

x

Tomorrow ain’t Shit

Slipper-like supermarket sneakers are popular here.  Thick socks; overlarge hoodies and sweatshirts.  On the whole, the Relapse Prevention Group on a Tuesday afternoon is not the place for couture.  Comfort is in fashion on this catwalk.  I’m sure if Primark sported a full-body cotton-wool onesie, recovering addicts would queue round the corner.

Everyone takes their seat, and sort of hugs themselves up.  For the boys, hands disappear into overlong sleeves.  For the girls, knees disappear up the front of big baggy jumpers.  Lips are chewed.  Fringes are deployed.

You could probably measure recovery here by number of layers.  Two duvets down to one.  Giant cardigan, to large cardigan; and eventually to one that fits.

An addict develops an armour-like coating.  He lies to the people he loves.  He lies to himself.  He does it consistently, and professionally.  A full-blown functioning addict could become guest lecturer at the Mossad school of deception.  He could walk George Smiley up and down the garden path until he needed a sit-down.

He needs plate mail to survive this.  Enough to let him think he can sort it out tomorrow, or next week.  To take control.  I mean it’s not really a crisis yet, is it?  Enough to let him avoid the self-loathing for long enough to get to the end of the day.  Just today.  He’ll feel strong tomorrow.  Tomorrow everything happens.

In the Relapse Prevention Group, Jane is anxious.  She’s a former events organiser for the music industry.  She started independently, organising her own events.  Negotiating her way onto the scene with the balls of a seven-foot Viking.

Now living at home, her parents have trusted her with fifty quid.  She’s 39.  She quakes.

Jon is from the City.  An ex-hedge fund manager.  He is literally shaking at the idea he may have gotten angry with his new girlfriend.  No, he didn’t shout at her.  Just got terse; but he’s convinced he upset her, and it’s burning him up.

David is a classical musician.  He once self-medicated to deal with his anxiety prior to performance.  Now his problem comes after the concert.  How it makes him FEEL.

Once that armour comes off, it leaves a bare and untouched surface.  Everything is so HOT or so COLD.  Every touch from somebody else is either velvet, or sandpaper.  Every emotion shunts back online like a Japanese maglev train.

And love is like the bolt of lightning that rockets through the Frankenstein set at RKO.  The monster heaves, and opens his eyes.  He’s come from a very, very cold place.  Touch is transcendent.  Holding hands is the graze of God.  There is infinity in a kiss.

let me carry that for you.
do you want a boyfriend?

The battle these people have fought has been epic.  In the true literary sense of the word.  They are a hard and resourceful group.  They are good in a tight spot.  They will attach themselves to you and stand at your side for the merest of affirmation.  They will love you, and always remind you of what is most important.  They will see your flaws and find you beautiful.  And they are wise.  You just need to give them the chance.  They need you to think about what ‘virtue’ is, in a compromised world.

They have been addicts.  Then they were recovering addicts.  Now they’ve been recovered addicts for a while, and are tired of telling their story.

They are now potential.  Glorious, glorious potential.  Bless them all.

You’ll find one, if you’re lucky.

x

Pppffffffffftttt

Things I have learned this week.

  • The British electorate is fickle and capricious.  And lacks empathy.

I saw some of them today, in the park.  With their sunglasses, and Jack Wills sweatshirts.  Their expensive pushchairs, and their stupid tight trousers, and their beards they’ll shave off as soon as someone asks them to.

  • Erotic emails can be intensely sweet*.

Which one would you like me to talk about?

Ha ha!  No chance.  Sorry.

Although I’ll say this.  Check your spelling.

And they do need to happen spontaneously and unexpectedly; out of the blue, and with a ‘how did this happen?’ moment.  Like a Conservative majority.  OH NO now I’ve spoiled it.  Cameron and his shiny face.  Bah.

Anyway, I thought I should say something about the election.  I was thinking of buoying myself up with thoughts of the appalling five years ahead for the Tories.  Within three years they could be facing an internal backbench collapse over Europe, a constitutional crisis in Scotland, and a worsening global economic downturn.  All this with some young rising Labour star tearing the guts out of a tiny, tiny majority in the house.  Yes.  That sounds good.

So here it is.  My informed comment.

Pppffffffffttttt.

I’m glad that’s dealt with.  Back to the rebalancing of my internal chemicals.  I’m going to lie down and chew my pillow.

Drastic action needed.  Wordsworth, possibly.

Normal service resumed shortly.

x

*Send all erotic messages on a ten-pound note.  Care of me.

A Story for the Eve of the Election

It is election eve.  Tomorrow a lot of people put a lot of paper into a lot of boxes, and then we get to spend the next two weeks wondering who’s in whose gang, and who isn’t.  Marvellous.

So anyway.  Who wants to hear a story?  It’s an improving one.  With a stout moral core.  And it’s got drugs in it.

All of you?  Good.  Bring your chairs around.  And your drinks.  And someone turn that thing off.

Right.  Ahem.

Imagine a man.  An addict.  He no longer takes his fix to feel good; that stopped a long time ago.  He now takes it to not feel awful.  If you look in any thesaurus, one of the synonyms for addiction is ‘enslavement’.  This man is no longer his own master.  He is miserable to the core.  He knows that these days, after every fix, there’s a chance he might not wake up.  And he knows something is very wrong, because he doesn’t care.  And he loathes himself for it.

He has tried to stop by himself.  He would rather die than let anyone else know he has a problem.  But within 36 hours of stopping, he feels so physically fucking awful that he can’t get out of bed.  Or shower.  Or get his kid to the nursery.  Or work.

And he knows that one tiny fix will prop him up for a bit longer.  So he weakens, and fails.  And then he fucking hates himself more, and is out to punish.

If he’s lucky, he will at some point realise that he can no longer stop this by himself.  He needs other people.  He needs someone to believe that he wants to get better more than anything else he’s ever wanted.  And he starts looking around.

This man finds a website, which talks calmly about treatment options for parents.  He discovers a walk-in centre, that is in the heart of his community.  He doesn’t even have to make an appointment.

He walks past the door for two straight days in a row.  The third time he walks in.

The guy who met me was Johnny.  He was a short Scotsman, thickly built, and with tattoos on his arms that showed he had been a Guardsman.  Yes, he told me, the army had taken him all over the world.  Brunei, and Germany.  And in 1982 it had dropped him on the side of a shallow mountain (“more of a hill, really, sir”) called Tumbledown in the South Atlantic.

There, at night, he had slithered up that rocky incline on his belly, watching the tracer fly far above his head.  Until the sun came up, and then they were all sitting there in plain sight, under the Argentinian guns, like some sort of appalling duck shoot.

Johnny had done okay, though.  He’d done alright.  Came out without a scratch, or so he thought.

But he took that battle out with him when he left the army.  He’d taken it on to the streets when his wife had kicked him out.  He’d taken it to men’s shelters.  And ultimately to community rehab.

And now he was looking after me.  Efficiently.  With clipboard in hand.

When Johnny put his hand on my shoulder, and told me it would all be alright, I wept.

He quickly put me through triage, then explained the titration process.

Within 48 hours I had my script, my plan, and Johnny’s number.

And now I work, voluntarily, as a drugs and alcohol counsellor.  It’s my turn.

But here’s the punchline.

The website that directed me home was closed in March due to ‘cuts’.

That walk-in centre was closed last year, in an effort to ‘centralise’.  There are no walk-in centres at all now.

Proper, qualified people like Johnny have been let go.  It’s now all agencies and volunteers.

If I were to ask for help today, I would be told to fill in a form and wait three weeks for an appointment letter.  If I ask what I am supposed to do for the next three weeks, I’ll be implicitly told to go back to my dealer.  Or website.  Or whatever shit-awful place I had decided that morning to never go back to again in my life.

Look.  Here’s the point.  These changes have only happened in the last SIX YEARS.  There is a plethora of independent research that says these kind of cuts aren’t necessary.  They just feed an ideology.

So I have to tell people to fill in a form.  Crying is okay, because I understand.  Trying to punch me in the face is even better; at least I know that you’re motivated.

It’s the quiet ones that haunt me.  The ones that nod, and look at the floor.  And walk right out of the door.

Please vote.

x

[update]  save some lives, Corbyn.  Work at the middle ground.  For all those dead people I met.  The dead weather.