Remember when smoking was the way to be seen?
Back when all our idols did it.
From Sean Connery to James Dean.
A cigarette hanging lazy from their lip.
So cool it made me wanna fake scream.
Or get all starry-eyed and daydream.
Then the world changed, and our bodies became temples of health.
Now I could live longer.
And perhaps play a different hand to the one I was dealt.
With quinoa and wheatgrass and gluten-free bread.
I could be better.
But a voice inside screamed to be shot in the head.
Cos I missed the days of whisky and decadence.
Where I twerked in clubs, my body all twisty and elegant.
And the way I flirted had a kind of trippy intelligence.
But now I just spend my days in health stores and coffee shops.
It wasn’t long ago when Friday night dinner was one that I double dropped.
But even back then I was burning out.
And needed a plan to stop the rot.
Cos this lifestyle couldn’t last, and before long would have to stop.
So I ditched the night-time narcotics for fitbits and yoga mats.
With weekends spent browsing for more wholesome hits.
Like curtains and cushions and toaster racks.
Knowing this was way worse than my youth.
But somehow, now, I was kinda trapped and loathe to act.
Cos my joys, it seemed, were cups of tea.
I had to grow up and face that fact.
But life is never as black and white as people say.
Sometimes, when you clear an obstacle, you still get wet like a steeplechase.
But this is the glory of the human existence.
And shouldn’t be a lethal race.
So if I’m having a good time and not hurting anyone.
Should I be punished for my ‘evil traits’?
Right now, on the table, lurks that cigarette.
Its rush of calm is in my grasp.
So where’s the harm if I go ahead and take that bet?
Look at it, laying there all seductive.
The sunlight framing its silhouette.
With witnesses around I try and ignore it.
And attempt to casually feign regret.
But in reality can’t hide my dismay.
As I put it down so it’s laid to rest.
Cos frankly, I’ve been racking up debt for decades.
So maybe now it’s time I paid that cheque?
Cos ribbons of impurity continue to unravel in my mind.
And get me thinking, should I save these threads?
Cos I need both the rebel and the sensible.
And if I don’t feed them equally.
Then I may as well be as good as dead.
So… you gotta admit.
Theresa May’s snap election is about as underwhelming as a crap erection.
Cos when it comes to picking compelling leaders.
It seems, as a country, we lack invention.
Now we’re stuck sweating over our future with apprehension.
I mean, take the farce that is brexit.
Ooh. Can we change our minds? Do we have to leave? Is there a way we can test it?
I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND!
I wasn’t fully invested.
And somehow, now, we’ve taken the red pill.
So down the rabbit hole we go.
But who leads us? Jeremy Corbyn?
Does he even understand Wonderland?
Or under him will we be stuck endlessly falling?
Either that, or in fact we’ll be trapped with a mad harridan in a dead dream.
Aka Theresa May, the Red Queen.
But wait, maybe it’s better we just stop and do pot with that caterpillar.
He’s liberal and likes to chill.
And knows how to counteract the red pill.
Plus I bet, hanging with him, we’ll realise Wonderland ain’t all that bad.
If only we had clocked earlier.
That everyone trying to influence us was no more than a passing fad.
I swear the other day I was the age of twenty.
Endless queue for some shabby club.
Chancing my crappy luck.
At the very last stage of entry.
Cos back then I was a child.
Bouncing around in a state of frenzy.
But in the last decade, I gotta say, I’ve evolved.
So to figure out my goals.
I’ve got to understand how this change affects me.
Because back in the day… I felt shackled in chains.
But now if you look, you’ll find that cage all empty.
Cos life’s weird.
Keeps throwing up ways to test me.
Plus I’ve got an expressive side that’s kind of shy.
So to lure it out, you just gotta persuade it gently.
Because… the soldiers of conformity NEVER sleep.
But work to keep my self-expression at bay like age-old sentries.
However, they sing a dangerous song.
With each note playing out a painful medley.
So we remain in a stand-off.
Both parties packing weapons that we cradle tensely.
Yet each day I listen to the soldiers less and less.
And yeah, in the past I would tend to stress.
Fixating on issues like a man possessed.
Palms clammy as I get the sweats.
But now I’m more strategic.
It’s like I’m learning to defend at chess.
So when I get carried away being creative.
And people say I should take a rest.
The first thing I do is pause for a minute and suspect a theft.
I mean, someone is trying to rob me of my life force.
Ok, I’ll admit, I’m reciting this whilst wearing a pair of tight shorts.
And yeah, they’re bad ass.
But probably better worn at the gym, pursuing a range of nice sports.
Yet they’re my magnet for wonderful queers.
Helping me attract the right sorts.
Cos it pays to surround myself with people that’ll help me flourish.
Friends that back my weirdness.
So when I start to doubt they’re the first in line to encourage.
Waving their flags and singing my praises.
Keeping those conformists at bay as I skip past their cages and dance around naked.
Ignoring their rules with insolence as I laugh in their faces.
Cos I’ve transcended their mundane existence.
And now fight compliance with defiance and consent with dissent.
No longer do I bottle up feelings.
I’m way more skilled at learning to vent.
Reacting with righteous indignation to being controlled.
Like it’s some sort of cataclysmic and disturbing event.
Cos if I stay silent.
Then I’ll just be filled with burning regret.
So I need to be stronger and make clear my intent.
To avoid these waking nightmares.
Freaking others out when they see what I’ve dreamt.
For when I’m true to myself my words are never frivolous.
So when it comes to courting creativity I’m forever chivalrous.
Encouraging those in my orbit to blossom and rebel and break out of their shells.
Leaving us at risk of being branded heretics and collosal infidels.
But I have no fear.
My mind is clear.
Cos all I’m doing is learning to excel.
As I buck the establishment with impunity and lunacy and spiral straight to hell.
But I’m OK with that.
So those soldiers can go ahead and lay their traps.
But they’ll never snare me.
Tunnel vision is how they’ve been trained to act.
Man, I wish I could jolt them into life with a major slap.
But people have to want to break free on their own.
So all I can really do is show them the way and pave the track.
And that’s that.
They drift in and out of my life each day.
Their faces adorned with stark, lurid colours.
Warpaint, as they go about their business.
Are they even real?
These automatons. These androids from outer space.
And whilst their expressions are seemingly blank and impassive, they are also revealing.
There’s a crack or two beneath their cool facade.
But what does it mean?
Are they just lost in thought or, almost imperceptibly, communicating with me?
Do they even see me?
Or am I just grey background? White noise?
Perhaps I’m the ghost and they’re the most tangible thing in this world.
Wearing their warpaint proudly, like armour.
For each day, to them, must surely be a battle against the grey ghosts of patriarchy.
The menfolk who leer and lust, all licentious and salacious with their gaze and their thoughts.
For I am one. I should know.
Maybe as men we should paint our faces, too.
For our own insecurities are buried, perhaps even more so.
Hidden behind layers of bravado and testosterone.
The knowing nod to a fellow male.
The slightest of hugs.
The tough guy handshake.
For we are men.
And we’re out of our caves now.
Our spears have been replaced with smartphones and laptops.
We’re just a few clicks from killing that woolley mammoth. That saber-tooth tiger.
Or ordering some more crap on eBay.
(assuming we can stop watching porn for more than five minutes)
So maybe colour is what we need?
Brush strokes of empathy across our face. The eyeliner of compassion.
The mascara of understanding and acceptance.
God, this is starting to sound like the weirdest fantasy game ever.
But there’s hope in these ramblings.
There must be.
For these painted ghosts and forgotten men.
All trapped in the ether between realities.
Drifting through life with abandonment.
I’m not sure when they started to get worse.
But nowadays, the sly pain of a migraine burns through me quicker than bright flames.
Leaving me looking at life.
And wondering how I might change.
Cos it’s only over the last year that it’s become a problem, you see?
Now I often find my head pounding.
Like I’m smothered, drowning and longing to breathe.
My features vexed and grotesque.
Like the poster boy for a monster retreat.
With the veins in my temples straight up stressful.
As they thump out a rhythm and foster a beat.
I wish this was more of a game, you know?
One with an end-of-level boss to defeat.
Cos battling headaches are a mystery, like smoke and mirrors.
And fighting tends to leave me broke and bitter.
Am I being punished?
I mean, granted, I’m no token sinner.
But to me, this game feels rigged.
So if we changed the rules, I wonder how these votes might differ?
Cos the white noise in my head is just a deluge of distraction.
Honestly, as a headline its caption would be ‘mostly filler’.
So I gotta fight back, Tiger style.
You know, like Wu-Tang and Ghostface Killah.
But first I must breathe.
Lest this pain suffocate me, and then I’m liable to choke way bigger.
But it’s dawn now, and the sun is piercing warm clouds like broken grey glitter.
So if I can be more mindful and avoid my moments that trigger.
Then I’ll stand a chance at this dance.
As I navigate fast down this potent, dark river.
Lately, something’s been bugging me.
Why won’t the Lord of Dreams just come and take me lovingly?
Has he forsaken me suddenly?
Cos I just want a sleep that’s trouble-free.
I mean, he should just let me slip into his warm embrace.
So we can intertwine and fornicate.
Until I all but collapse like a fallen state.
Cos our union needs to happen.
And we need to accept our foolish traits.
So if he wants, he can be shy and coy.
And tease me slow with that lying voice.
But an open mind is all it takes.
And sleep WILL claim me.
But I’m not gonna force this race.
Because a slow seduction is what works best.
I mean, everyone knows it’s what good form dictates.
But right now, insomnia beckons.
As I grudgingly turn my back on the Heavens and stare each night at Hell’s rapidly falling gates.
Cos I know if I beat this, I’ll probably be dubbed one of the lauded greats.
But tonight, I’d love my mind to get just a few seconds swimming in a sea of calm darkness.
Drifting serene in a simple dream.
Through space and time like the Doctor’s Tardis.
Instead, my boat of thought is getting battered by this storm.
So I’m kept awake by whatever wave rocks it largest.
And lying here, in the early hours, I’m amazed at how the mind drifts.
Thoughts pinging like an arcade machine.
Bouncing around in fractured time shifts.
Striking at will, like an assassin set to kill.
Destroying me softly with hundreds of fine hits.
But this rough patch won’t break me.
Mentally, I’m cold fire lately.
Cooking dishes better than those Rick Stein gives.
Cos this is war.
So watch me attack in a power stance with a primed fist.
Until I obliterate unwanted thoughts with positivity.
Hell, I’m going to kill my mind with kindness.
For years I’ve harboured a dark secret.
That I’m an extroverted introvert.
This is my confession.
I know it’s a daft weakness.
But I need a good way to convey this to people.
Maybe with a smart leaflet?
Nah, scratch that, I need more passion.
Someone get me a charmed priestess.
One for casting spells and raising hell.
And setting out my manifesto like she’s writing her stark thesis.
I mean, I need something radical.
Because when people say I’m confident I panic.
And find my mind racing but hidden behind calm features.
Maybe it’s because I’m like an IT nerd, focusing on the detail.
Coding my life in a vast sequence.
But for the most part I avoid my flaws.
In general for a host of large reasons.
But none are valid.
Which means this approach I just can’t give credence.
But in reality, the main problem I have is that I wrestle a dichotomy.
My mind torn between outgoing and withdrawn has my head a ripe vessel for lobotomy.
Am I normal, or the next Jekyll and Hyde?
Walling off emotions because my gut heckles inside.
Bending under duress as I’m put to the test.
Like a blacksmith beating at metal that’s fried.
Which is debilitating, and kind of makes it tempting to hide.
Cos even though my mental state is under threat, I’m not done yet inventing these lies.
Using the introvert as an excuse to keep saying I’m shy.
But when I do get out there.
The extrovert gets swollen with pride.
So maybe I should take a step back.
And be at peace with both sides.
Because my mind is a blessing.
One I should really grow and invest in.
I mean we only get one.
And mine’s a treat in disguise.
So you’re on a night out and things are going swimmingly.
But something splits your thoughts like divorce.
And so you’re ill at ease.
Are these people really your friends?
Or just here to witness your social life implode and slowly descend?
Cos nights alone at home got you here.
And now you’re just making amends.
And yeah, maybe fair enough and it’s all too little too late.
But you’re a problem solver.
Experienced now, you’re wiser and older.
No way will you let life dictate your slide from grace like a fallen soldier.
Cos now’s the time for that plan for battle.
Put together all casual like you’re planning your travel.
Cos you’re gonna nail this friend game with moves utter genius.
No chance you’ll be an outcast.
Doomed to insanity like mad King Oedipus.
If there’s anything that an old legend like that teaches us.
You just need stay calm and ensure your next moves are subtle and devious.
But there’s a fair chance people will say you were a sociopath.
Ego inflated… pure calculated doing the math.
Cos sometimes you stumble.
And get left thinking you’ll never get through this intact.
Stuck making small talk in some bar.
Proudly reciting dubious facts.
Or like you’ve met your girlfriend’s family.
And you’re hyper aware of impressing her dad.
But maybe this is just a phase?
And you’re trying it out and testing this fad.
Cos as you lay down the law and keep score you can’t help a smile.
Then slowly you return to arresting the damned.
So you’ve heard of S.A.D.s right?
That seasonal winter disorder.
You know… the one where your social skills take flight like a ship in the night and you can’t get aboard her.
And any activity outside the house is only going to exhaust ya.
Cos you just wanna hibernate.
Well I get it bad each year.
And its tendrils settle on me like blanket fear.
But I gotta fight this trait.
Assuming that it’s a flaw in my character.
Cos maybe I’m looking at life through the wrong lens?
And I need a new kind of aperture.
But I lack skill and feel ill; chasing these good vibes.
This ain’t what the doctor prescribed.
I’m such an emotional amateur.
Trying to squeeze positivity out of every beat.
So effectively, I stave off defeat like a social scavenger.
And yeah, maybe I need a CT scan presented in a nice little 3D plan.
If that’s the case, then someone better call an examiner.
Get me signed off work for a month or two.
And yeah I can put on a positive front, it’s true.
But I need to up my game to fool my manager.
And people keep telling me to chill.
Go run a bath for my ills.
To help soothe my troubles while I drown in lavender.
But all I can do is count down the dark days on my threadbare calendar.
Looking ahead to when my mood lifts.
And I stop taking these rude hits.
And then maybe life will feel less like I’m a coasting passenger.
Toasting my demise with haunted eyes as I witness my own exquisite massacre.
I swear she came to me in a surreal and lucid dream.
On a mission, this little vision.
Keeping me topped up with a hot cup of elusive tea.
Cos she was my hero, this jazzy and beautiful weirdo.
Grinning at me as she plotted to cause an amusing scene.
And of course, yes, she was a potent force.
But one infused with inclusive glee.
Allowing me into her personal space and turning up after a right battle.
There she was with mad hair and a gentle stare.
She greeted me sweetly, this wonderful little Pineapple.
And yeah, as far as first meets go with a DiscoLeopard.
This one simply could not have been bettered.
Cos as I stood there all spacey, battered and weathered.
And dispossessed of thought with my mind in tatters and severed.
It was clear, this had been a night of surprises.
And if I thought I had nothing left to give I was dead wrong.
Cos from the start we didn’t shoot from the hip, but the heart.
Going back and forth like ping-pong.
Background of the club fading away as we danced to the beat of our own theme song.
Cos our chemistry was evident.
And the people round us irrelevant.
Hell, we were headstrong.
And if you thought our encounter would be short-lived.
Then damn, you’d have guessed wrong.
Cos since that first night we’ve been a little unit with a thirst to fight.
Defiantly singing our best song.
So don’t just stand there on some sort of lyrical ceremony.
Cos this is none other than our physical testimony.
As we’ve got each other’s backs in a tag team rocking tracks.
Outperforming you at karaoke.
Basically we’re the Bandit.
Running rings round you as Smokey.
So look, I’ll be candid and draw it big for you in the form of a huge emoji.
As she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
And honestly, life has never looked as rosy.
And out of all the guys out there.
I have to say, I’m still in awe she chose me.