Storying Sheffield

Laurence Cox: ‘Going Out and Hating Myself’

Laurence suffered a brain injury in a motorbike accident when he was in his early twenties. He is a member of the The Write Way, a creative writing group for the survivors of coma and brain injury. His first piece of writing, ‘Untitled’, appeared in Head-lines, an anthology that showcases the work of The Write Way and which was launched at Sheffield’s Off The Shelf Festival in 2011. ‘Going Out and Hating Myself’ is his second piece, published in 2014 in the second edition of Headlines.



Going out and hating myself god knows I don’t need to be feeling this way but I am so there’s nothing to do but to persevere and write something to try and put my mind at rest and maybe I could so something about the size of the page or the fact that the cursor keeps jumping around to random spots on the screen like it’s done at least five times since I started writing this but I swear it’s steadying out and it’s not jumped for a bit and little by little it’s calming down and I am left to concentrate on the horror that I afforded upon myself tonight because unworthy and loveless and dumb I wasn’t feeling up to going out in the evening really but as most people will tell you singing is good for you I didn’t know what was for the best I wanted needed to be energised exercised worked in the morning I thought that I’d conceded that I was ill and so I would take Molly to the Botanical gardens for a sniff and a trot on the grass and then seeing the workmen on the old chapel in the general cemetery the dumper truck on the field and I realised that work had started there’d been posters up last year telling of the imminent restoration two burly workmen busy forking a large pile of pigeons’ nests into a dumper truck suggested leaping over the side of the pile to take a look and I saw that it was a large bare room covered by an old slate roof with many holes in I came out and after a brief chat about the price of fish or so it seemed I’d wanted to leave sooner twice in fact before I actually did didn’t want to be interrupting them from their job of shovelling birds’ nests into a dumper truck they told me some stuff about the building but nothing I remember too well – no, in fact nothing…
Outside the non-comformist chapel feeling distinctly ill and with an odd sense of déjà vu. I must have been inside before at some point. I want to get moving again to try and warm myself up a bit so wading towards the steps in front of the chapel I come across the wheelbarrow-pushing lad whom I recognise but keep forgetting his name so now I don’t ask any more but he’s usually there on a Tuesday and he always seems to have a wheelbarrow. Anyway he looks a bit freaked out at the sight of me and starts closing his eyes alternately whilst telling me about the plans for the building and I’m not sure if I can remember anything at all of what he says or perhaps he is just repeating what the workmen have already told me, hard to concentrate with all that blinking going on. So off he goes with his wheelbarrow and I let him go for a moment before following and then Molly has a lot of smelling to do and that is fine, there in the peace and quiet of the old general cemetery. But already I’m feeling anxious, the image of the busy pedestrian crossing on Ecclesall Rd flashing in my mind.
Once I’m there it’s kind of exciting seeing/not seeing all the fresh faces, well dressed young ladies walking around smiling, nothing to stress about really but I don’t want to be here feeling like this so I press on and now I’m remembering how I had to stop a car driving off over Molly at the crossing on both the way there and coming back. Feeling nauseous, my head racing I look for a passage through the bustle of people crossing and, staggering a bit, see the familiar sight of the paving slabs in front of that shop (I think it’s a blind shop) and leap onto them.
I check Molly is safe and then try to get a bit of a jog on, I say try, because me, myself, I am in no mood to be jogged but that is what I do for a few feet until common sense or fear of seeing the world permanently broken into shards, with people wildly out of focus, stop me leaping up and down and I put my head to the ground or close my eyes or something and then I am looking after Molly clicking my tongue for her to follow making sure she is moving as a driver coming down the road to the side of the Botanicals has to slow down so that we can cross safely into the relative sanctuary of the gardens where Molly instinctively runs over to yap around the tall pine trees for squirrels. I watch her continue her sleepy way up the path, moving the bright young people before her, and then she runs up against a smiling girl who drops her bag as Molly comes to a halt, her head tapping on the girl’s shin. It is a little funny and she gets some fuss from the girl for the pantomime. We move on and up to a bench overlooking the green where I sit for a while trying to contemplate the cold bright day. I feel a bit uncomfortable as two girls in evening dresses traipse by, laden with shopping. The dresses have splits down the sides, the girls made up as if they were going out. Watching them flashing their stockings as they haul their shopping up the slope, I can’t help but smile. I feel cold though and I need to be moving so I walk on over to the school walls to the side of the gardens for Molly to sniff out a tennis ball or two. I briefly consider throwing them back for the poor children but then think better of it. They are good balls as well — Wilson and Head.
A little later I walked past the made-up girls sat on a bench feeding the pigeons but the moment has passed and I don’t have anything to say to them. It was still too cold to be relaxed really.
I would, or rather me and Molly, would regularly walk up to Stanage Pole but it’s been a while since I walked that far with her. It’d be good to do a big walk again.
I say it’d be good, but I don’t feel up to it. Apart from that, Molly is virtually blind and has to take lots of barbiturates to control her fitting. The vet prescribed too many tablets and she’s spent a fortnight in a semi-vegetative state. She scratches in the air above where her liver apparently is when she’s got the energy. So there’s that small problem.
This walking around slowly in the cold was making me ill. Needed to do more comforting things and feel good about myself. So I forced myself to go out singing. Told myself that it was what I needed. Warm myself from the inside. Or at least from all those bodies in the church.
In the end I was trying a bit too hard, trying not to stare at the ladies and forgetting that if I couldn’t hear myself when I was singing and just chose to sing louder, well it meant I was probably shouting and I felt awkwardness as I noticed a girl who I’d had a brief fling with so when Jay suggested leaving for the pub at tea break I was happy to go along. Until we got there and when Jay got a bit too amorous for me to cope with and I found myself telling her that I wasn’t into public displays of affection and that I’d meant to tell her earlier but that I’d never got round to it, no it wasn’t on I said… Whilst I was busy berating Jay I must have been staring at the singer in the pit because he started to look uncomfortable and then when he gave up he sped past ignoring me saying well played even though I couldn’t hear him.
Man, I felt dumb and frustrated but I wasn’t up for being nice really and I went home alone feeling that I was missing out on the world of fun.