I wasn’t quite sure how to take ‘six places’. It could be favourite places, places you’ve been.. so I’ve gone with places which mean something to me, whether positive or negative.
1. My bedroom. I have spent years in this room; living in it, sleeping in it, eating in it, crying, loving, hating in it. My walls have seen fights, heartbreak, tears, sex, drugs, breakdowns and happiness. The essence of who I am is contained in this small room; from the purple flowery duvet cover, to the Buddah. From the wicker basket of knitting yarn, to the stacks of CDs and horror films on DVD. From the pre-pubescent me, burning incense and writing bad poetry, to the present day me; still burning incense, still writing bad poetry. The carpet is stained with evidence of late-night drink and food binges and is black and grey from spilled ashtrays. My clothes, my music, my books, my knitting, my shoes, my posters… they’re in here. This one room has seen so much of my life.
2. The embankment near my house. It used to be part of the sea defences, before they were moved nearer to the coast. I live a 15-minute walk from the coastline, and you can see the beach and the lighthouses in the Irish sea from the embankment. I often go there to sit and think, to simply be alone for a short while. It’s used by dog walkers, but they tend to ignore me; I suppose they don’t often see someone just sitting there, staring at a sand dune. I’ve been going there since I was old enough to discover it, often sneaking out of the house as a young teen to watch the sun rise from behind the water treatment works. I’ve gone to sit there when my heart has been broken, when I thought I couldn’t face another day alive and breathing. I’ve gone there to escape the drama of my family. I’ve sat up there, screaming into the phone at O, begging him not to destroy me. I’ve sat there and contemplated suicide. I’ve smoked dope and stolen cigarettes up there. I’ve had sex, hidden away in the tall summer grasses which grow next to the cow field. I’ve spied on the houses of other people, watched the occupants go about their lives. I took S there, and we sat together, talking and smoking dope. We kissed. I told him how much this place means to me.
3. A local college. When my child psychiatrist failed to diagnose me with anything exciting such as schizophrenia or bipolar, he decided I had Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s taken me a long time to write about this, as it still pisses me off. At the time, Asperger’s was the diagnosis of the week; everyone had it. If you didn’t have it, you had traits of it. Now, I have nothing against anyone with AS, or any autistic disorder, so I apologise if I sound insulting. I was incensed by the diagnosis; I had hardly any traits, and those I did have could easily be accounted for by the bullying I experienced in school, my ever-loosening grip on the world, and the incredibly stifling atmosphere I grew up in. I refused to accept what I saw as a negative label; I may have problems, but I did not have a learning difficulty. I didn’t lack empathy or find patterns in things. I didn’t misunderstand sarcasm (it’s my favourite type of humour), I was terrified of numbers, and I knew exactly how to fit in with the world and society; I just didn’t want to. I was a normal, albeit fucked up teenager. Still, the diagnosis was stamped, at at the age of 17 it was decided to send me to a college for young adults with learning difficulties; everything from ADHD to Down’s Syndrome. The night before my first day, I overdosed on my antidepressants. I cried, I begged, I pleaded, but it seemed I had no choice.
The decision damaged me, without any doubt. I had nobody to talk to bar the staff, and they treated me like I was stupid. I spent my days doing very basic English skills and acting out social situations in drama with a partner who couldn’t even eat by himself. I was sexually assaulted in a hallway by another student, but it was dropped by staff because “he couldn’t help it”. He grabbed my crotch and licked my face. Still, I had to turn up.
Nowadays, I have the Asperger’s diagnosis struck off my medical records. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me was later sacked for malpractice.
4. Haydock Park. It will always hold a place in my heart for being where O proposed to me. It wasn’t the most romantic of situations (we were in a tent and had been arguing), and the relationship came to a bitter, damaged end, but at the time, I was happy. Although I look back now and realise he probably never meant to propose, and that he was always scared to tell me… at the time, it meant everything. I don’t believe in letting go of the happy times in life, no matter how much they end up hurting you in the end.
5. A local bookshop. It doesn’t just sell books, it sells crystals and comics and fossils. It’s tucked away in a little side street on the main shopping road, and I’ve been going there since I was a young child. Along the alleyway entrance there’s shelves of books; books on every topic you could imagine. Books from the 1900’s, maps, instruction manuals. Inside, it smells of old leather. Floors creak under the weight of thousands of books; from modern classics to rare first editions. You can’t touch some of them, they’re worth so much money. Leatherbound editions of Alice In Wonderland rub shoulders with pieces of meterorite and shark teeth. I love it in there.
6. I honestly can’t think of a sixth place. I’m sure one will come to me as soon as I publish this.