In Edinburgh I finally returned to my webspace. You didn’t think I learned to write such stunning prose in school, did you? Nah, I had a nice space on Yahoo, the old 360 that they eventually got rid of, where I had virtual friends, and where I could write the stuff nobody in my real life could give a flying fuck about. In fact, a lot of what I’m telling you hear first appeared on Y360 and, when that was gone, on multiply.
I had established my online presence in early ’07, mostly putting up Neil Gaiman quotes, taking the piss in the comments on other blokes’s pages, and chatting with dirty old men.
Amongst my regulars were JD, an Asian-Australian Christian, who had begun by wanting pics of my naked chest but ended talking with me mainly about literature and films, “Uncle Ed”, the obese, insecure shoe salesman from New Jersey, who wanked while telling me to mend my ways, Jim, the retired analyst living in a cabin in the Michigan wilderness and tending his vegetable patch, who couldn’t for the life of him admit that he was into young blokes, and who believed that we were all “God’s DNA”. And then there was Master Daddy Matt, the black father of two teenage daughters, who dreamed of having a white boy slave.
Not all of the were naughty, mind you. Queer, positive, ex-speedhead Shawn, for example, busily working on his budding career as playwrite and off-broadway director, made it clear that he wouldn’t talk with me about anything sexual until at least my 18th birthday. We had begun chatting when I was 14, so if that had been his aim, he certainly had been in it for the long haul. We were just pen pals and mutual blog commentators, and a great source of advice both on the seedy and the artistic side of life.
I hadn’t blogged, mailed, or chatted with anyone for over a month when I went back online from the ESCape Internet Café on London Road in the New Town of Edinburgh on August 13, four days after I had left Leeds. My online friends were suitably impressed about my daring, or dutifully admonished me to be sensible and return to my mum, though I suspect most of them didn’t believe a word of what I told them. Only Jim actually figured out a way to follow my IP addresses and reluctantly agreed that I wasn’t fibbing after all. He also became an increasing pain in the arse about me stopping this nonsense.
The other thing I returned to in Edinburgh was regular training. When I had been nine years old my unacceptably frequent and violent fights got me sent to a kiddie shrink and to Ergotherapy. After I had made it absolutely clear that I’d rather die a thousand death than suffer through rhythmic dancing, the therapist proposed Aikido. And once I started going to the Dojo my fights really did seem to abate. Of course, then my dad up and left, and two years later after a fashion so did ‘Nette. That was when things became really bad, rozzers and all.
But ever since then I trained martial arts almost religiously. I always liked how it complemented football. Football was about interacting with the external world, about strategy, and friendship, and fighting the enemy. Martial arts was about the internal enemy, about discipline.
Some people have raised eyebrows and commented that it was really stupid to teach a troubled, violent kid how to dish out hurt more efficiently. But I am certain, if it hadn’t been for Aikido and for my sensei, I would have become a killer a long time ago. It really helped, you know.
Anyway, a while ago my sensei had kicked me out of the Dojo for dishonourable behaviour. But I continued to train on my own, mostly up on the roofs above Berlin. I even did it while locked up in juvie. It helped calm my nerves. But when I got back out, I stopped. The internal enemy had won, so it seemed. What was the point of continuing to fight?
In Edinburgh I returned to training. I went for regular runs in Holyrood Park. Those two weeks in spent in Edinburgh it was raining almost constantly. Seriously. Even by British standards it must have been the wettest August in ages. Once it got so ba the sewers backed up all the way into the flat where I was crashing. I woke to screams of disgust and the stink of sewage soaking into the carpets.
I learned to love running up and down Arthur’s Seat in the pouring rain. The sweat and rain and mud all would become one and I would almost succeed in dissolving myself in all the grey, brown, and green.
Mostly I ran so I wouldn’t lie awake on the couch, chasing sleep that kept eluding me. There was too much I didn’t want to think about as I lay there and stared up at the ceiling. To avoid that my choices were exhausting myself to the point of collapse or drinking myself into a stupor. On some nights I resorted to the latter, but even I knew I’d feel much better the next day when I did the former.
Of course, after a week of this Charley introduced me to Ponyboy. I continued training, but by then I had other things to distract me during the nights.