The fifth instalment of my story about an autistic boy starting a band in the early 90's.
Chapter 5 - 1990 - Street Fighting Man
"Everywhere I hear the sound of marching charging feet, boy.
Because the summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy."
My acting immersion plan was far from perfect and today was one of those days where it was far from that. I have created characters that can interact with most of the adults in my life. Adults were relatively easy because they were mostly consistent. They mostly want to and tried to help me. Some of my teachers were impossible but from what I could work out they were impossible for everyone. A few of the kids at school were possible to interact with, as long as I didn't make any mistakes. Girls were another story, it was going to take me an age to work out what they are all about. When I was younger I usually found girls easier to get along with but something happened.
The people I find it most difficult to interact with are the lads that hang around in gangs. Their people were weird because they never seemed to act the same and there never seemed to be any logic in the things they did. They just randomly went around doing stuff, often doing stuff to people, often doing stuff to people like me. I could never understand why someone in the group didn’t stop the others and tell them what they were doing wasn’t right. I used to think you could see it in their faces but how would I know about that? The main gang in our year was Whitey, Flints and their mates. When they are bored they entertain themselves by picking on anybody who is nearby.
Today that anyone is me and today they seemed to have stepped it up a gear. Today also Katie and Stacey were with them, although I am not sure why I have included this piece of information.
“Aww, Alien’s got his walkman” Sneers Whitey grabbing it out of my hand.
“What are you listening to?” Flints says in the same cutesy sing-song voice.
Why do they not take the mickey out of each other for using such a baby voice? They are just so inconsistent. They always laugh at Tim for his voice but find it hilarious when each other uses a similar one.
“New Kids on the Block or some shit probably” somebody adds from the back of the group.
Instinctively I try to reach and grab my walkman back but Whitey turns his back, blocked me and deftly flicked the headphones over his ears “Now let’s have a listen Alien”
As he presses the play button something happened, something that feels significant and important although I won’t be sure what until I review the incident. Dad might have to help with this one. How can this be important?
Time stands still and Whitey theatrically holds up his hands to conduct the group into silence.
“Shut up, shut up!” he commands while fiddling with the volume control on my walkman.
He pauses for a moment. “Alien is only listening to The Jam”. He turns to look at me “What’s this? When You’re Young?”
Suddenly everyone was looking at me. Astonished eyes fixed on me.
“Where did you get this?” Whitey demanded his voice full of indignation and accusation.
My heart is pounding, my head spinning. Two years ago, last year even I would have been on the floor rocking, sobbing and melting down. Totally unable to handle the situation. But here I was, handling it, sort of.
Why do they care what I am listening to? How do they know about my dad’s records? Confusion keeps me spinning but I am in control.
“Erm……” I begin, not really knowing where my words will take me “I made a tape of some of my records”
There is a sharp intake of breath from all around me, it feels like they are sucking all the air from the corridor and not leaving any for me. I don’t really know what this means but I know I am just about coping.
“Your records?” Whitey spits “What else is on here?”
I try to look up at him but my eyes are glued to the middle distance past his legs.
“Erm…” I begin again “ Talking Heads, The Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Cure, The Smiths and a few others”
They are all still looking at me with, I think, astonishment. I wonder if they knew the bands I am talking about. Perhaps they hate them and I have made a terrible mistake. My records clearly weren’t cool. Not that I should be surprised about that.
I am momentarily lost in the faces. The moment feels like it is lasting forever like no-one really knows where to go from here. I am powerless to move the situation on and it feels like Whitely has lost control. My brain is recording and scanning every detail of the moment but I cannot find the bigger picture.
Then Whitey breaks the spell by taking my tape out of my walkman. I want to stop him, I want to take it back. It's mine and it should be in its case and back on my shelf. I know I don’t have the character to challenge this gang so I just let him take it. It would take a huge amount of up-leveling for me to deal with this situation better. Whitey knows this and we both know that this is why he picks on me every chance he gets. The idea of me winning this battle elicits a wry smile from my face. Maybe one day I’ll get mine but I doubt it. That was only in the films and on the TV. Everything is looking bleak for the hero but we still have faith that he will win out in the end. Life isn’t like that. Life is more like Jude the Obscure.
As the moment fades around me I let go of the idea of getting that tape back. I focus on my bag, realising that my book is in there. I am not alone either. Whitey smiles at me as i bend over to pick it up. His perfect white teeth taunting me and getting high on the power their owner has over me. He picks up my bag and hands it to another kid called Manny. Manny is jumpy, always moving, hopping from foot to foot and constantly chewing. I don’t know him that well but his reputation is widespread around the school, He is always doing crazy stuff. The others seem to enjoy it when he does stuff.
“See what our Alien rock star has got in there Manny” Whitey commanded
My panic starts to take hold of me. My writing book! If they find that I think my life will be over. No more Alien, just Allen the alien laid bare for the world to see. I see Manny shuffling through the bag. I try not to show my feelings as I know normally people can read each other like a book. I hear my tapes being knocked together and pray that none of the boxes are broken. Manny lists off some names while he goes
“Let it Bleed, Revolver, Snap. Hey, Alien has got pretty good taste in music!” he looks at me kind of kindly “What’s The House of Love?”
“Um, it’s a bit like The Smiths, indie guitar and kind of gentle lyrics.” Then I say something that I am not prepared for, something that I have never said before. “You can borrow it if you like.”
I hated it when people had my stuff. I can’t concentrate if I know someone has something of mine. It’s like they have a vital organ or something and I cannot function without it.
“Um…. thanks,” Manny says kindly, half smiling and sliding my House of Love album into his pocket.
“Here Manny you might as well have this one too,” says Whitey slamming the tape into his chest roughly. “Can you make me a tape of it?”
Manny nods and holds the tape clasped to his chest. With his other hand, he hands me my bag back with a strange half-smile that I can not decipher.
Whitey throws my walkman in my direction but my coordination lets me down in my hour of need and it bounces off my bag and lands on the floor.
I am left standing, holding my bag as they all walk off laughing and discussing my music taste. Once I was sure they were out of range I started fishing in my bag looking for my book.
My book is not there!
My mind starts spinning, thoughts blending into one another. I closed my eyes and my body feels disconnected from my surroundings. I start to spin out, dizzy, falling until I step back and steady myself, using the wall as a brace. I don’t know where I am, but I know I am losing control.
Words start to escape from my mouth “butineverlosethingsialwaysknowwheremywtuffisdidifirgetmybook?ineverforgetanythingdidileaveitonmybedbutialwaysknowwheremystuffisialwayshavemybooknearmeineverforgetialwaysknowwherethingsare.
By the time I get home that night, I have been scratching the palms of my hands so much they are bleeding. I sit next to mum as she squeezes me tightly. Slowly I start to feel better although I cannot stop sobbing. I know that mum wants to know what happened but we both know that if she asks me now I’ll regress back into meltdown. I keep trying to speak through my sobbing but all I can manage is ‘sorry’.
It has been so long since I have “done a Jesus”
My dad once joked that with blood all over the palms of my hand it looked like stigmata.