Gerard Pointon also wrote difficult Joycian essays that for the most part went unpublished. His story "The Quested Beast", which echoes Achilles in that it transposes his own times upon a more mythical age to startling effect, is a terrifying and honest account of various times during his life. Lost loves, abuse, drugs and school colide in this chalenging stream of consciousness work.
THE QUESTED BEAST
The forth time I met myself I was sitting on a bench outside the Derby Assembly rooms in a sharp suit, waiting for a friend to show up. At the far end of the bench an elderly lady smoked and muttered obscenities. Presently a bearded man with thick dark curly hair in a pink-grey T-shirt, stretched tight across his belly, sat down, a little too close, beside me, smelling of sweat, cigarettes and alcohol. Alright? He asked. Not bad I said. He rolled a cigarette between strong dirty fingers, asked for a light. I obliged. Then he started talking, gently. To himself, I thought, but it wasn't.
Too brave not to try, too shy to be brave – and of a mould entirely lacking in exhibitionist tendencies – I fall, intentionally and with willed blindness, into the place I may unfold and reveal, and there hope to learn and to teach. Why, my deepest concern, I balk from what would normally require attack, and yet still willingly expose myself to the critics, thin skin and all, is the question set forth by my life -it's the path I tread, awake.
Down, where the teens often brood, and where little beatniks, who think their emotional growth complete, while away hours attempting to explain why nobody could explain them to themselves, I started this – bruised by lack of will and never gaining enough fury or momentum to punch the bastards that inflicted it upon me. Trying in earnest myself to sort the rhythm of it from the slap-happy beat, the monotony of being too scared. Starting here, thirteen, lank-haired, and self-loathing (to the degree that art might have bloomed like the pompous self-regulating Artelligentia would wish it, but sulked among wish-fulfilment fantasies instead) procrastinating and intent on masturbating the rest of my school-life away, lusting after girls apparently out of my league and three years my senior. Why, when the power play fell to little wrangles of self-aggrandisement, pepper-tongues wagged a bitter punch that slapped, whipped, bruised and rendered inadequate still further, rather than built bulwarks of either gold for the victors or steel the victim? It hurt, endlessly, and always, through too-deep, too-fast nights, driving me underground. I roamed above, a shadow through veils of grey – like panes of rain. And all the while, faith slipped, dripped and ebbed away as no still small voice of calm reassured me, and facts, Homer, Socrates (that little messiah) and sense, drove a hole through the warm-heart-fallacy that formerly lent me a little placebo-strength.
I remember it still, and too well to be healthy, too whole to have survived unscathed.
There was an incident I don't like to recall at Victoria station – or rather a little bolthole nearby. A grubby flat.
There's rumbling like an underground river in my head, and I can feel the pump of blood, the halting in-and-out of breath, my body compensating, dealing with it. I'm feeling shaky and sick, but trying not to show it to the oblivious gatherers watching the times, and waiting. Those times also echo around the vaulted filthiness of the smokey station, and I'm feeling older than thirteen, waiting for a man to pay me ten bob for the abuse he just visited on me.
And I'm an idiot because it takes me maybe half an hour to realise he's fucked off.
I'll pay you a bob and inch. He said, fumbling at my flies, laughing to make it seem harmless – it's a game! Don't feel bad! I'm no pervert! I'm all right Jack, trust me! It's fine! A man you would like to see again and again! Trust me! It's just a bit of - fuck my fucking life up a bit why don't you, you fucker? (I can say that now, too fucking late. I'm always too fucking late.) The door was locked. I was trapped. Shutting down. I watch like a disembodied spirit, omnipotent, somehow above it all. It didn't happen, wasn't happening to me, isn't fucking happening to me.
The train pulls noisily away from the station, and the pornographic material he gave me - some kind of recompense, something to tell me neither he nor I were gay – is there, in my portfolio. I need to see it. I need to look at it. And I sneak off guiltily to a piss-drenched toilet to masturbate away the memory over cheaply printed sad-eyed girls desperate for something. And I'm one of them now, sad-eyed and exposed, exploited, desperate for something too.
It didn't happen to me. It never happened.
Wank rags, lads! Look at my nudie mags! I'm a jack the lad, aren't I? Where'd I get it? I bought it yer bastard! Yes, no problem – thought I was old enough, see? I like this one, see? The brunette. Axe that gash. I don't fancy yours much! Ha ha!
And for five minutes I'm one of the fucking boys, until I remember who I am, and the victim in me begs for another brow-beating because, you know, it's too fucking easy isn't it?
Week ending Saturday lunchtime: I'm given sanctuary, of sorts. Reluctant sanctuary, my being faintly repellent, the faint whiff of despair mixing too readily with teenage hormonal dirtiness and general self-hatred (we talked about that before, right?)
He can come, of course. No problem. If he's unhappy. We are busy though. We have plans, things to do.
The house is big, and dark. Big enough to get lost in, and to safely brush shaking fingers over flesh (I'm just tickling, don't laugh! - See? Comfort me, pure un-rippled lake, seedling, not even a bloom yet, so sweet, but I'm blind and you're soft, and I feel so very fucking lonely. Don't say. Don't say anything. Shhh.)
And always after that the bitterness of regret for cowardice and longing, melting into a thing no less deserving of contempt, and just as likely to leave long invisible scars. (So fucking sorry. So fucking stupid. So soft. I never hurt anybody, fucking couldn't – fucking could I?)
Pea-shooters target the bronzed floppy mams next door, bathing out of sight high up, but not out of our sight – we're higher! Ptu! Ptu! Duck, laughing, crotch fucking bulging but nobody saw, and you've a hole in the pocket. Save it, find sanctuary.
Sex is the whole fucking world, and here I am some ugly git at a boy's boarding school who hates himself. Better get used to it, eh? Life a fucking lone and every softness a fucking temptation.
Don't touch it! Impure! Yeah, right. Fuck that for a laugh. Load of bollocks, load of fucking bollocks. I'll wank all I fucking like, it's no sin. It's natural.
And the beds they squeak, and the boys they boast.
You ever play soggy buscuit? Ha ha!
I did it in Chemistry, hole in the pocket. Dr. Knowles. Fucking boring bastard.
You dirty fucking bastard! Ha ha!
Slips, wet digs deep, drags and pulls, and slips the hillside, slips the interest, slips the boy to less front-and-center stance. Don't look at me. And the French grows harder. The Maths grows harder. The science, as we piss about, grows less bloody interesting. Delivered by a boy dressed in his qualifications to a class that knows it and picks up on other impediments: Shit down and shut up! Shit down!
I'm doodling in Maths:
This is the age of Cullain, I write. The train, Cullain, the train. (Beaky McClure, poor man, poor god-fearing kindly man. You deserve this rude awakening, as much as I, punishing yourself for not turning on the hot water, you jump wholly nude into a bath of cold water, and we all discuss the size of your knob, giggling, for days.) One bollock squared equals?
Slips, sliding away, my comprehension and interest.
He doesn't like me. Why doesn't my English master like me? Teachers like me, what's not to? (Quiet fucking maverick, don't rock the fucking boat.) His son plays ragtime, the ugly bastard. The other, older, dead of a brain tumour or something, and nobody else fits the bill, don't you ever forget it! Fat-legged baldy bastard.
Slips, sliding away my coin diminishing, my bargaining chip – my genius – getting left behind. Slip. Slip sliding a fucking way.
And here, where promise lies her gentle head - and I weep for her favour, which I know fades – art turns her lying back and my little battle lingers strongest, but not so strong. Strong enough to be narrow, but then art ever was fucking narrow – and blind! I'll still swear by that! I paint my heroic pieces. I draw my alter-ego, and the teachers don't even fucking get it, baby! The art-room oohs and ahhhs at the craft, the verve, the talent, yes, but the content, the tits and arse and muscles, the killing, they don't get it at all, and I'm far too slow spoken and northern to get it myself for that matter. Why draw fucking sheep and hills? Surely painting something that doesn't exist into existence is our human adventure, from the caves through mighty Gilgamesh to Frankenstein, we write our path to godhood through the saga of wish-fulfilment and the longing of the weak to be brave?
I'm not wise enough to want to be Henry Moore. Too young and northern, in love with my iconography, then, that just reinforces everything I'm not – is that it?
Who didn't tell me? Who never gave me the time? Which of you missed that little trick, you ignorant fucking bastards? They paid more than they could afford for your teachings, my parents, my flawed fucking darling parents. You let us all down.
They lost houses for their sad, lofty lost boy, you cunts
My grandmother lies dying of cancer, but I've got work to do.
I'm twenty years old and back home, paying off my debts, working under a generous guiding love I take for granted that is flawed and perfect in equal measure. I can't go, got to work, got to paint. Priorities, right? I can go next time.
These six things happen:
1. The train pulls away taking my weakened mother to her mother's in Sheffield - her darkest days, neglected by all of us.
2. The water tank in the attic, directly above my drawing board, bursts, dripping through the ceiling onto my artwork.
3. Clouds roll in from nowhere. It grows dark.
4. It starts to hail – but the hail is disk-shaped, the size of old fifty pence pieces. You can see the layers, how they formed – but why are they flat?
5. Lightening strikes the garden, feet in front of me and all around me, not the highest things at all, but anywhere. And it's straight shafts of lightening in single bolts with no forks.
6. Minutes before my mother returns it stops after a whole day in which I've been unable to draw a thing. I should have gone, I know I should have gone.
She dies, and I never see her alive again. That was the last chance. Later, in Sheffeild, in the house I buy from my grandfather, she visits one night. I awake to a prodding in my side, and by the bed she's standing, shrouded in black – a cliché head to hidden toes – disappointed in me. Angry, but saying nothing. Gran, I say, it's me! It's me! Don't worry! And she slides away, backwards, down some unseen passage, diminishing but somehow not through the same space I was in; sideways out of time.
I'm helpless. There are six of us, three girls three boys, and we're camping. And I've fallen in love for the first time, and I'm just finding out what it really feels like. I'm in the woods, pissing in the dark, trying to understand the sensation. I've left her in a tent, and I'm feeling sick and shaky. Then I grin. Oh Crikey, I'm in love! Who'd have thought it would be this damn physical?
Bitch. Spoilt little selfish bitch. I gave her everything, not that it was much. She diminished me. Slowly the house fell to ruin, and I with it. Beers and bad company.
Sheffeild becomes a waiting room, a dead end destination. I left with a back full of knives and a broken heart having pissed away a year.
We're moving to Derby.
We build tunnels in sand piles, sleep in dens in the old Salt Warehouse. I'm infatuated with Winifred, dark and so pretty.
They pegged the boy as being cute, a friend. We'll cry on that big soft shoulder about our shit-head boyfriends, with their money and cars and fucking big southern fuck-off houses, and big southern fuck-off attitudes. Who the fuck are you? Yeah, you're so sweet, not like them, you're one of us, one of the girls.
Fuck you I am! I want to fuck you all so very badly it's not true. If you only knew…
So the boy gets his break, and the breaks keep coming. He drifts through girls like wheat, threshing. Looking for the sunshine that glimmers between the stalks, but you know his sister, she says he aims too high. Well, he says, fuck her. And he carries on looking.
Drugs and philosophy.
I miss you both, you bastard.
And here, the Quested Beast raises a distant head in my peripheral awareness, and the quest passes to me. Faltering on ill-made stilts, I lumber after it into the city, the country, into my delusional world-view mindscape of angry self-abuse and wise beyond my years preternatural awareness of death and entropy – I chase, but the beast just builds up steam, laughing. The ghost of Jung informs my arguments, and I glean the myth of symbolism, strengthen my ritual wish fulfilment desires with pseudo-intellectual reasoning, dancing along a bright happening of spirit and racial memory that is most likely a conjuring trick; a mirage.
And you tell me you think I'm a genius because you love me, and because just maybe you think I am.
We spill into the night, inventing a language for the love of it, as though a night spent making nothings into somethings would lend us unseen, unglimpsed power. Make us new beings of a new age.
Achumnabaa! Iqu thias tutu na mombek.
The night is thick and warm, and your face, sloped and old, Neanderthal, reaches me in ways no other did. I sit inside that face, part of it. I embrace your form and dance within your voice. You're my brother, my soul space hope teacher who loved me best that wasn't family. We're broken together.
She roles another joint, and the smoke mixes with her own voice so posh it seems false, so broken it needs my affection. We're crazies, and I relish the boho, the maverick, the fuck you of it. I'm free, now, dull and blunted, afraid, but growing and hearing and loving still. And I miss you crazy fucking bastards together. I miss you. The long warm comfort. Talk, now, and I'll sleep well. Tell me about myself, you bloody lying bastard, and make me whole again. Fool philosopher, patron of a better me than I had been, or ever will be.
The man went quiet. Looked about at the throng of small city dwellers. Sighed. Right, he said, and stood. And slipping into another mode he yelled at some old ladies who were passing: Not even got the brains they were born with! And stumbled off, swaying as if drunk, into a place I once rested briefly, but thankfully escaped twenty years ago.