A rough beginning of something I've been working on recently, really inspired by reading too much by Nabokov and listening to The Smiths (;
Constructive criticism would be really welcomed (:
I suppose some might think me cruel. I suppose some may think me unkind. I, personally, think myself a nietzschean paragon, a lone hero in search of universal truth. A voyager. An artist. I don’t believe many realise is that art can be in any form, its life is not confined to pictures on dead paper. Art is fluid, flexible and addictive. It can be seen anywhere, from a Picasso painting to the arrangement of coats on a banister rail. From a view over a summer time lake to the beauty of death. Oh, I know I’m not the first to profess a love of art, I know I’m not the first to use it as a line of defence but do not call me Humbert. I know my actions were reprehensible, I know most of you would willingly condemn me without a second thought; nevertheless I implore you to listen. To keep an open mind and save your judgement until you hear my tale.
Once upon a time, there was a young lad called Matthew Horn-well, born into an affluent family he never wanted for material possessions. His father, Remus Horn-well, was a political bureaucrat of high standing within the government; His mother, Bella Horn-well nee Cromford, was the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat who specialised in socialising. Fairy tale beginning right? Money, Family and you turned out like you did? Tutt-tutt. Ah but dear reader, things are not always as they seem.
As a child I was always told I resembled an angel, soft flaxen locks, big blue eyes. The blue has gone now. With age they darkened into a steel grey. I’m sure you think that’s representative of something, the loss of innocence perhaps, the onset of insanity possibly. Don’t be naïve. Sometimes things don’t need to be read into, sometimes things just are. Besides, none of us can maintain the innocence of youth, no matter how hard we may try.
I lived in a country manor in the south of Yorkshire; I won’t bore you with details of setting as I find that kind of thing rather tedious myself. You just need to know that it was grand, opulent. I’d very much like to visit it again but I’m afraid of the memories. I know, I know to be afraid of something as tenuous and subjective as the past does appear to be pathetic. But I’m an artist you see. The soul of a poet, it makes me rather sensitive.
Anyway, back to the narrative. Nice and chronological. Reader-friendly. Who said I wasn’t accommodating? The first few years of my development progressed nicely, not that I can really remember anything but I believe that itself is indicative of a stable upbringing. I was brought up by the family nanny. What a shame you must think, oh how he must have been deprived of maternal love and warmth. Well, to be perfectly honest, it was of no bother to me, my mother was always somewhat cold. She’s always been like that as far as I’m aware. Distant. I don’t have any delusions that she harboured any maternal feelings towards me. Not the maternal type. No, not at all. And the nanny was nice enough I suppose.
I never had many friends growing up, being highborn I was never allowed to associate with the children of the town and, after being regaled with tales of their absolute vulgarity, I never much wished to. I was home-schooled up to the age of 11 by a governess. I know, I know, how terribly old-fashioned, but that’s how it is when you’re from an aristocratic family, tradition, tradition, tradition but it was effective enough.
In my free time I read. Feasting on Milton, devouring Dante and gorging myself on Shakespeare. I seldom left my retreat and, as a result became fairly thin and pale; features that are still with me at the grand old age of 22. Twenty-Two and trapped by Catch-22, well, I’ll leave that for you to decide. As a result of excessive reading I became all the more detached from my peers and began viewing them from afar, scrutinising them and looking for symbolism, searching for meaning and analysing their little lives. This did not prove to be beneficial to my transition into secondary education.
I was to begin my confinement in education at Rituale Boarding School in Scotland, a prestigious institution deemed acceptable for a boy such as myself. I remember waking on that September morning eager with anticipation, ready to begin a new adventure. This would be a chance for me to prove myself, prove myself worthy of the family name, worthy of my father’s affections which had now become so fleeting. I arose early from a disjointed sleep to button up my new uniform with trembling fingers, taking the utmost care to look presentable. It wouldn’t do to shame the family now would it? My hair that once flowed so freely around my face was now slicked back. To give an impression of strength, apparently. Authority. That sort of thing is important to an eleven year old.
The train that was to deport my fellow inmates and I was due to arrive at 9am sharp. We, of course, arrived a quarter of an hour early. It wouldn’t do for me to be late. So I stood there. I stood there watching the melee of children around me, laughing, smiling, tentatively greeting others in the first bloom of friendship. Mother, father and I stood in strict formation watching, just watching. We must have looked rather imposing, intimidating for the other families. There was no affection or warmth between us, just a cool familiarity. The ties of tradition bound us, not the ties of love. Maybe this was apparent to the other children, maybe it’s why, even on first meeting; they were always wary, always uncertain, always nervous around me.
After an eternity of frozen formality the train was prepared to depart and after a swift kiss on the cheek from mother (more in keeping with social convention than any maternal feelings I’m sure) and curt nod from my father I set out on my journey. I quickly found myself a cabin and settled down for what I knew would be a long ride. A few others occasionally peeked into the cabin, timidly opening the door before hastily releasing it. It seemed my family’s reputation had preceded me, once again; I was in the shadow of relatives, a shadow I wasn’t confident I would ever be able to emerge from.
The trip passed in relative peace, aside from boisterous shouts from neighbouring cabins and the thundering of excited feet down the aisle I was entirely alone. That was until I felt the shuddering jolt signalling the end of my journey. I marked my place in the novel I was currently indulging in (I cannot recall what it was, time makes such details hazy), placed it in my satchel and made for the door, hesitantly gripping the handle and, after much deliberation (oh how nice it would have been to have simply remained curled up in that cabin!) making the movement which would open the door and end my blessed isolation.
Oh reader, you cannot imagine the anticipation I felt, how excited I was! I was to make my first friend! The feeling was almost tangible, for surely I would not be alone for long with so many people around! With eager eyes I surveyed the surroundings, the people. There just seemed to be such an amiable atmosphere that I couldn’t help but be filled with childish hope; the air was thick with the beginning of new friendships.
Then I saw him. Back then he was just a scruffy little lad; unruly dark hair and oversized blue eyes, I always wondered why he was able to keep the blue while I wasn’t.
When I saw him, I knew, I just knew we would be friends. He just had this aura. He seemed so innocent, so full of wonder, so different to myself. Reflected in his baby blues I saw the future clearly, he would be my foil and I his, we could compliment each other, complete each other. But how each hero must have his flaw, I had mine. You see, I have this demeanour, this particular way of walking, this particular way of talking that just announces arrogance, superiority without my consent. Don’t blame the child, blame the parents! I approached you with all the quivering fallibility of childhood,
“Hello” (nerves, thankfully hidden)
He turned and bestowed your attention on me,
At this point I faltered. What to say? How to say it? How to appear interesting and exciting? Oh capricious interactions!
I fear this delay cost me greatly; his attention was soon diverted. A boy I knew vaguely engaged him in conversation; he was the son of a low ranking government official, a very low ranking government official. The type I was bred to despise. Nevertheless, in the true spirit of altruism (well, because he was obviously familiar with the boy I so desperately wanted to be friends with) I attempted to engage him in conversation also,
He turned, the slight narrowing of his eyes indicating his recognition of me.
“You’re a Horn-well". The suspicion and dislike was evident, oh you cannot blame me for my reaction, my pride, my ego, my family!
“What of it?” (Haughty, aggressive) “Horn-well is a respected name and you’d do well show proper courtesy if you know what’s good for you!!”
Surprisingly, this sort of behaviour does not endear you to people.
I could this low-life about to retaliate, about to make some comment or possibly throw a punch or two but then he interfered, my almost friend stilled him with a firm hand at his elbow,
“Don’t, he’s not worth it."
Then he just walked away. He walked away.
To be dismissed in such a way! Oh, I was never worthy of his attention. Never good enough, I’ll never be good enough. Not for him, not for anyone. I was only a child! He destroyed my hope, he destroyed me. I was prepared to make a change that day. Prepared to subvert my family conventions; to mingle, to be frivolous, and to be outgoing and optimistic. After that I couldn’t, I couldn’t. I was too proud. I still am. Some things don’t change.
The rest of that day is a blur to me now. The memories show running colours and merging shapes, vague whispers of forgotten rules ghost across the plane of the past. I suppose it paled in comparison next to you. Most things did. I barely spoke. The odd maverick attempted to make conversation that I studiously ignored. Better for them to think me cold than desperate. I had no desire to talk to them, not anymore and besides, I had perfected cold, studied it for years. In terms of cold I was practically freezing. I know I’m flippant now but it’s easy to trivialise when being retrospective, you’re no longer in the grip of the furious tumult of emotions that wracked your childish mind. The past creates distance and distance breeds indifference. I went to bed cold that night, practically freezing.
Six years later. 17. I suppose you’ll want a brief recap, rude of me to leave you guessing I suppose. Well, what can I say? Nothing of any notable interest I’m afraid. I spent the majority of my teenage years alone. No change there. I operate best alone, away from idle chatter, inane babble. In solitude is where my thoughts become clarity, no interruptions. Just calm, serene. The sound of silence was the sound of bliss. I applied myself to my schoolwork; it was something I could lose myself in. While I was writing I wasn’t an outcast, I wasn’t even me. My mind was clear; I felt like a channel for words, my mind was free. I wasn’t constricted by the thoughts that consumed me in my waking hours, but instead I was at peace, it all flowed through me. Unsurprisingly, my grades benefited, although that was not my particular intention.
At first my almost-friend tried to ignore me. He had such an attitude of indifference during those first few weeks. He barely recognised my name. I couldn’t handle that. Surely anything is better than being ignored. When you are ignored it’s almost like you don’t exist, you’re cast into the background, into the shadows. I f no one acknowledges your presence how do you know you are even there? It makes me feel transparent. I felt myself dissolving, particle by particle being slowly erased from the landscape of human existence. Oh, I couldn’t stand it! So I set about making him loathe me, at least when you are loathed you are noticed. It was the closest I could get to making him love me. I wanted his thoughts to be centred on me like the eye of a hurricane; the winds of his passionate hatred would whip around me, while I stood serenely at the centre, basking in the intensity of his emotions.
I am pleased to say it worked. I began to bait him. Constantly and incessantly. In the beginning you could almost see him willing himself to rise above it, years of primary school anti bullying campaigns ingrained in his mind just in case of situations like these. Then he began telling me to stop, ever so politely. He was never really the confrontational type. The he got a bit more demanding, a bit more irritated. You could see the gritting of his teeth and the slowly rising flush of frustration. He even tried threatening me after a while, said he’d tell a teacher. Obviously I laughed. It kept progressing, day after day he would loose a little more of his control, day after day his composure would slip a little more. And then he hit me. It was at that moment I knew I had him, I knew he was mine. No longer could he ignore me, I made him angry, furious. I had never seen him lash out at anyone before and now here he was, beating the shit out of me. I lay back and took it. Savouring my victory and the tang of blood on my lips that almost tasted sweet.
Once his hatred of me was inspired, I strove to maintain it. Everyday I would make it my mission to find him, to provoke him into response. I needed him to notice me. Not for one minute could he forget me, I was always there. Always ready with the next biting retort on the tip of my tongue to remind him of my existence. This is how I spent the majority of my school years until I was 17. I know, I know, from an outsiders perspective it must seem pathetic, to be that desperate for one persons attention that you would do almost anything to gain it. But that’s just what you are, reader, an observer, you don’t need to understand.
During this time, my father was pushing me towards a career in politics. He believed this would be a suitable occupation for me, mostly, I believe, because he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. Create a legacy. My father was never one for creativity. To be quite honest, I couldn’t see myself sitting in a room full of bureaucrats, debating issues of no real relevance to me. What did I care about the economy? I was wealthy enough. Social reform never bothered me; the upper classes are always treated well. No, not for me at all. I wanted to do something more creative. Maybe it was self-indulgence or maybe it was just an attempt at escapism, but I wanted to be a writer. I used to lock myself up in my room composing novellas, scripts and poems and it was my sincerest desire for these to one day to be published. But not yet. I’ve never gotten to a final draft, whenever I wasn’t satisfied I would tear the page out and start again, I couldn’t bear to look at the imperfections. My father never knew of my aspirations of course, he wouldn’t approve. He thought writing a spurious career choice and not one where I would be likely to win respect. Surely his peers would sneer at his son, the writer. Public awareness, it's a curse. It certainly made my life difficult during these beginning years of budding authorship.
Unlike I had first suspected at the naïve age of 11, I did not succeed in making any new friends during my time at Rituale. I had a few minions who did my bidding and generally followed wherever I led, but they were just dim sycophants, brutish and boorish. They functioned more as bodyguards than friends. The ideals of friendship I had fostered since youth did not come into fruition. I desired an intellectual companion, someone who would engage me in passionate discussions and challenge my firmly rooted opinions. I did not find this at school. I barely found anyone who tolerated my presence. People didn’t think me pleasant. I was often cruel and taunted those who I deemed to be inferior. I pushed people away out of a fear of being rejected; I see that now although at the time I did not.
People feared to be in my presence, my peers parted like the red sea to let me pass (don’t let the biblical simile pass you by, you can draw your own conclusions from that I’m sure). Nervous bodies pressed up against cool walls. Never underestimate the power of intimidation; it gives you all the privacy you could ever wish for. 300 students in that building and yet most of the time I felt completely alone, pure mastery. During classes I always sat alone, if anyone tried to approach me, making eyes at the unoccupied chair on my left, a cool glance would be enough to send them scuttling back in the hope of finding a less hostile seat. Gradually, over the course of my study, I seemed to fade away. I melted into the walls and dissolved into the furniture. It was almost as if people refused to notice me. I had matured and now only felt a weighing weariness at the thought of trying desperately to gain their attention as I had done in my younger years. Paradoxically the one who I had strived to make hate me was the closest thing I had to a friend. He was the only one who seemed to acknowledge my existence, when his eyes turned on me, blazing with the fury of six years torment, I suddenly felt real again, I was no longer a shadow, I blazed too. I couldn’t help it, he always inspired passion me.