Garden of teenage delights

When a child crashes into the teenage years, it’s a rite of passage to blame everyone and anyone brave enough or stupid enough to come within spitting distance. Some, however, turn their loathing inwards.

I hated my hands – disconnected, dyspraxic.

Fingernails – I hated them too. Hated cutting them. Always one long and one black with dirt, all of them with bloody edges from biting.

I hated the skinny face squinting back at me from mirrors, shop windows and black vinyl. I was that disfigured cretin reflected in the chrome of a coffee machine.

I hated my bleeding heart. It conned me, made me believe the best of people, made me ashamed not to trust, and it fertilised my gullibility.  

Love. I hated love because it wasn’t mine.

Thirteen years old is too young for a child to know the extent of his worthlessness.

No-one had warned me life would change so completely and so catastrophically. No-one on TV, in books, the NMEViz, not even the Moody Bloody Blues, no-one, not-one-solitary-soul took me aside and gave me the low down.

I transformed from a chubby happy chappy, into a gangling and utterly miserable toe rag. I hated everything except sleeping upside down, squeezing blackheads, scraping fingernails across chalkboards, extracting snot, pissing up walls without using hands and banging my head to music cranked so loud the bass blew out candles.

Mother and Father – overworking, over-achieving, rarely seen – were abruptly re-cast as hateful and interfering megalomaniacs. Even if they had chosen to spend time with me, what lessons could they possibly teach? Nothing, absolutely nothing because I had evolved into an existential expert on everything. My grasp of hitherto unintelligible features of the human experience along with the canon of spiritual and philosophical lore was simply incredible. Because I was a full-on genius.

If only they had listened.

It was all their fault, not just my parents but every adult. Smug and condescending for the secrets they knew, belligerent, heartless and dismissive of the time they begrudged. All it would have taken to calm the storm was a hug.

So, I made idols of flawed humans because I could trust their indifference and their silence was comforting. Mahatma Gandhi was the coolest of them all because John Lennon said he was, and I desperately wanted a tee shirt with the old man’s head printed on it in fluorescent yellow. Brilliant!

Dogs too. I could get them to do things by the power of thought alone. With just one look, they would stop barking and trying to eat me. Hippies also knew dog language, being tuned to the higher forces of the universe. And Gurus, and Red Indians. Many times when I crawled from my pit, I emerged as the actual son of a Navajo Chieftain from Texas or somewhere and was adopted.

The story goes, a Catholic Agency in New York took pity on unholy savages, natives of a land of substantial natural wealth, and abducted their children for their own good, to save their mortal souls. The Agency had a book of names and addresses of English families who, for a few thousand pounds, loved the newly created orphans as their own. Eventually, the bosses were jailed for not telling the children who their birth parents were and had to pay millions in compensation so the Little Indians would never have to get a proper job.

Life was not so sweet in my garden of Teenage Delights.

Dennis Clifford, my grandmother’s gardener, complained loudly and often that he had to “sweat and graft all hours for next to nothing,” and all because he wasn’t adopted. 

The story goes, I flicked my bare knees with a rubber band until they bled, cut flesh from the wrist he had gripped while he did what he did. I ran away, walked into traffic, took up smoking, hanged myself from the bell tower.

Pictures: Hieronymus Bosch – The Garden of Earthly Delights, Museo del Prado, Madrid

© Rivenrod 2020