When our earnest author, free from the burden of drunken associates, was finally ready to enjoy the gig, an adversary, one he’d buried years ago, manifests to test his fortitude.
Wordsworth wasn’t in Manchester when he penned The Daffodils. It’s the last place a cloud would be lonely. They’d be desperate for some solitude. I, however, yearned for some company. The overcast sky felt my pain, and wept.
My companion, JC, cause of all my woes, had been abandoned. It was time to savour my freedom. Instead, I suspected that a terrible mistake had been made. Beneath my veneer of confidence, the paranoia bubbled.
And that, is when I first heard it. A dispossessed voice, drifting across the crowd, inquiring: what a middle-aged man was doing at a pop concert?
Perplexed, I looked around. No one was talking to me. With its electronic crackles and a distinct metallic timbre, perhaps it had been a tannoy announcement? That no one else noticed it, suggested this was unlikely. Blaming an overactive imagination, I resolved to ignore it, which proved rather difficult, as, unnervingly, it continued: everyone is looking at you.
I had to steel myself. To doubt my sanity now would be foolhardy. The first aid tent would already be overrun with degenerates, and be badly equipped for a full-blown psychotic episode. Calm, must be restored.
You should be gardening old man, it advised. With a shake of the head, I dismissed this taunt doubts. I was overwrought. JC would return, or, I would encounter/stumble/hook up with/chance upon a few of the chaps from the old Madchester days. Every thing would be fine. Everything would be fine.
A semblance of composure returned, just as a diminutive, grotesque crone on a tiny tricycle, wearing ragged, black silk robes and a flowing white wig that billowed out behind her, careered through the legs of an oblivious bystander. One gnarled fist gripped the handlebars, attempting to steer, while simultaneously, furiously ringing the bell. The other claw grasped the a hailer, through which she broadcast her constant discouragement. Everybody hates you, she screamed, her yellow, decaying teeth bared.
I was terrified, unsure of what action to take. Fight or flight? Figments of imagination are notoriously hard to kill, and the world’s fastest man can’t out run his subconscious – especially if it’s riding a trike. Unless my miniscule foe didn’t have a ticket, making her security’s problem, I was helpless.
My only solace was that the bile she spat was for my ears only. Well, I assume so, nobody asked me to turn down my inner dialogue. In case, dear reader, you are perturbed, let me reassure you. I was neither insane, nor under the influence of psychotropics. There was no Lilliputian, deranged harridan. It’s merely, a hopefully humorous, narrative device to illustrate my mental anguish.
The longer I was alone, the more my insecurities increased, and feasting on these fears the louder, and bigger she grew. If I could control my anxieties, maybe this harpy would fade?
The main thrust of her attack focused on my solitude. I could counter that by blending in. If I stood near to an existing group, passers-by might assume we were together. Or, if I checked my watch, and, looked around frustrated, it would appear that I was expecting an errant friend to return. And yet, the bullhorn continued to bark, tormenting me. You don’t deserve any friends.
Twenty minutes later I still hadn’t heard from JC, and, my confidence was crumbling under the relentless barrage. He may have been bibulous and embarrassing, but I was missing him. There was nobody to banter with. Nobody to barge into the beer queue. Nobody to put down. Nobody to blame. And, he didn’t have a loud hailer.
How wrong my asinine assumptions had been. He was obviously having fantastic fun. I had been holding him back. Of course he wanted to go to the front. Who goes to a swimming pool and stays in the changing room? Me, but that is another story.
An hour past with no word from JC, and, in the meantime, the demented hag had grown to grotesque proportions. Bulging muscles strained, bursting with anger. Utterly disheartened, I could stand no more.. I had to find JC, or, failing that, some worms to eat. Forget pride, my very sanity hung in the balance. I reached for my phone, while my twisted critic’s cackling grew shrill and insistent: don’t bother ringing him, he won’t want to talk to you, he won’t answer the…
A harsh electronic beep silenced her badgering. A text had arrived! From JC. Her spindly legs stopped their furious pedalling, and frightened beady eyes gazed up at me as I read my message.
It was suitably garbled, but the gist was: “without you I am bereft, forgive me and I will return to the fold?” JC was coming to join me. She was wrong. Someone did care. Someone very intoxicated, but someone nonetheless.
Consumed with terror and shrinking, a repugnant dark miasma rising from her blistering flesh, the disintegrating homunculus wheeled around and headed frantically into the crowd. Her final words, I’m melting, I’m melting, hanging in the air as she fled.
When I had dared imagine this moment, I had determined not to answer immediately. JC would have to beg. Pay for the suffering I had endured. Now that it had happened, I was so desperate that I couldn’t tell him my location soon enough. No longer would I have to pretend to be waiting for a friend. I was waiting for a friend. Fantasy and reality had merged.
Salvation was at hand.
NEXT ISSUE: Looking for love, in all the wrong places
As always I am indebted to Dangerous Dave Nicholson