• I Wanna Be Adored - Chapter 10 - 1991 - Ask

    “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you.
    From doing all the things in life you'd like to”



    No-one has given me a hard time for weeks. School feels totally different to me now.A few weeks ago I would worry about being picked on by Kim and her friends, Whitey, Flints and that lot or any other random group from almost any year in the school. Well maybe not third years, even I am not quite pathetic enough to be bullied by third years. I suppose it still being early in the year they are all terrified of school too. Anyway, I used to fear it happening and often it would. There is nothing like telling yourself that something won’t happen when you know full well that you are lying. Now though I am beginning to believe myself when I say it probably won’t.

    Maybe Manny was right, maybe all I needed was some mates.

    I get to the end of my road and look at my watch. It’s eight twenty-five. He is usually here by now. Should I wait? Does that make me look desperate? Should I go? Is that rude? I look up and watch the sun climbing above the houses. It might not be a red giant but just for a fleeting moment I feel like the sun is rising just for me, I pull my coat up tight around my neck and suppress a smile. Even if it really were for me, today is taking its time warming up.

    “AAaalllieeEENN” I turn around and see Manny walking towards me with his usual baggy energy. Each movement seems to take him twice as many muscles as anybody else. They are a strange mix of exaggerated over the top movement and relaxed effortless motion. Somehow it is graceful in its madness. I smile as he greets me, always so loud. I used to hate loud people especially those like Manny with such weird hectic movements. Somehow though, Manny makes it okay.
    “Hey, Manny” I reply, not attempting to by noticeably failing to match his enthusiasm. I take a hand out of my warm pocket and offer it to him for a handshake. He pauses, gives me a confusing look and offers me a fist to bump.
    As I reach out, we start to walk to school and I gently bump his fist.
    He smiles. “How good was last night? That Jam was immense. I still can’t get over your guitar riff on Just Like Heaven.
    “I still can’t get it quite right,” I say, suppressing that smile again, enjoying the compliment. Dropping my mouth and nose into the collar of my coat so he can’t see. “I think I need some effects…..”
    “Man you were rocking it last night, you are so ****ing good”
    “Yeah!? Thanks, Manny” I say still trying to keep my cool “I keep missing notes and losing time. I find it hard to play with other people and keep in time with them.
    “Alien, mate! None of that matters what we are doing in that basement is hitting some grooves. It ain't always exactly right but it's always bang on. Know what I mean?”
    I don’t know what he means, how can it be bang on if it's not exactly right. One thing is for sure though, he is right in the 6 weeks we’ve been jamming we are getting better.
    “You see Alien, my friend, We live in a period of shambolic perfection. The Roses are the best band around and have a singer that can’t sing properly. The Mondays are off their ****ing heads all the time. Sometimes both are shambolic and sometimes they are perfect. It's like yin and yang or something. Then we have an array of bands, some good some shit. Who have been carried along by this baggy shambolic groove stolen from funk and dance music and turned into something different. The point is that although these bands aren’t perfect they are producing grooves that simply cannot and will not be ignored.”

    I nod in a somewhat confused state of agreement. I love Manny’s enthusiasm and am, whilst often struggling to locate a coherent point, happy to be carried along with it.

    “ Anyway my alien friend. What I am saying is that we need our band to do two things” He is looking straight at me now. I wonder if I am supposed to interject. I don’t. I don’t know what the two things are. I just keep looking at him.

    Eventually, I venture “What?”

    “We need to write some songs of our own my friend, We need to come up with our own grooves”

    I nod in agreement. No idea how this should be achieved.

    “You’ve got a book of brilliant lyrics” he smiles, thinking he has sealed the deal “ and a guitar full of tunes”

    “Yeah but…. I don’t know how to write a song” I am falling over my words, terrified of the idea of sharing my words with the world…. Well, the band at least. “I don’t know how to write a song,” I repeat.

    “No-one knew how to write a song before they knew how to” Manny was beaming at me. Eyes sparkling like he had just expressed the meaning of life.

    I let his wisdom hang in the air a little and sneak a peek behind me at my ascending sun.
    What is the other thing? Hoping this will give me a little time to process my newfound songwriting responsibilities.

    It takes Manny a moment to remember there was another thing. “Oh yes,” he smiles broadly “and the god of music has blessed us with this one my friend.” His excitement is palpable, visible even as he hops from one foot to the other. “We need practice, right? Together? So we can understand each other.”

    “Can’t argue with that” I say matter of factly “So how have the music god blessed us?”

    “Well my friend, Dutch Rod’s parents have decided in their wisdom to go on holiday at half term. This gives us unfettered and uninterrupted access to our underground rehearsal space.”

    I start to panic, my breathing quickens. Does this mean I spend the whole week with the band? Will they expect me to spend all day with them? Stay over? The complexities of our relationship will go into overdrive. Like putting our relationship in a pressure cooker. It's hard enough as it is.

    “We can jam all day every day. We can stay over. Really find each others’ groove. And he is going to have a party. Maybe we can play… our first gig. Band meeting on the field at lunchtime”

    **************************

    “So we can stay at mine, drinking, smoking and jamming all night”
    Subtly I circularly breathe. Trying to take long deep breaths so no one notices.

    “We all need to be at my place as much as possible”

    Breathe, in… hold, out… slowly

    “Most important thing, we will perform at the party on the second Saturday night.”

    Breathe, breathe, breathe , breathe. I try to nod my appreciation. I lose control. I think I end up like the nodding dog my granddad had in the car.

    Manny keeps looking at me while we talk. Dutch rod is too wrapped up in his plans and ideas to notice. They share ideas and plan the week in detail.

    **************************

    On our way home from school, Manny asks if I am okay to make it Rod’s place. He is calmer than usual, way calmer than he was on the field at lunch. He is looking at me funny. I wonder if there is something wrong with my face. He asks me again. It is obvious that I cannot hide how I am feeling. Mum always tells me that some days I look more autistic than others. I guess this must be one of those times. I suppose this is true because sometimes I feel more autistic than others and right now….

    Dad used to tell me that sometimes I need time to process things, we all do of course but for me, sometimes, I need a really long time. I always thought this was interesting as he also told me that I was tested for processing speeds when i was young and came out in the top two percent of people in the world, Something like that anyway.

    “I am going to need some time to process this” I turn and try to look at Manny, like mum and dad taught me. Then when I am sure that I have looked him in the eye I turn and walk down my quietly comfortable street telling myself that this is all too much and perhaps I should stay at home, alone.

    I wish dad was still here.

    **************************

    “You look like you’ve seen a ghost honey” mum smiles as I walk into the clean and tidy kitchen and unpack my bag.
    “How are you, mum?” I clip “How has your day been?”
    My mum snorts a dry cold laugh “Hold on, is this my nearly sixteen-year-old autistic son asking how my day was? Am I dying?”
    I feel a rage erupting from deep in my gut. I hate it when she uses sarcasm at me, especially about my autism. It's so.... I try to hold my anger inside… but I think some creeps out of my eyes.
    “Oh honey,” she smiles kindly “I’m sorry, I was having a joke. I can see that this is the wrong time.” She puts down her tea and holds out her fist. I bump her fist and then sit at the table. My thoughts and feelings are tumbling over and over one another. My body is jolting as they collide and bounce off one another.
    “I am still processing” I clip again “Squeeze please”. I have never really liked hugs but occasionally I need to be squeezed to get myself back in order.
    Mum leans over behind me and wraps her arms around me. She squeezes me tenderly and firmly. Soon I notice my breathing again and start to ride the tumbling thoughts and feelings. Eventually, I come back round and gain control of my world.
    “Can we go to Tiger music tomorrow and see what songbooks they have in? I need to learn how to write songs.”
    “Sure honey” mum hesitates then kisses my ear “Maybe we can get a hot chocolate in the Laines while we are out?
    I stand and walk towards my room. Turning back I see the confusion on mums faces as she watches me leave. I smile weakly and then head up to my room… and my guitar.
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