I walked cautiously in those days, familiar with the reactions I’d always had since my teenage days, when rooms the size of football stadiums, jam packed with babble and merriment would fall silent in an instant. I tried to avoid social contact; it was as much an embarrassment for me as it was for them to be honest and the last thing I needed was attention, complete strangers with their mouths wide open, some dribbling the remains of half eaten snacks down their freshly ironed clothes.
Yes I was unusual, still am though I have found my niche now but it took a lot of searching, a lot of drinking too but that’s another story, I’m not here to get your pity, just to try to make you see it from my perspective.
It helps these days that there is not as much prejudice around and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who have helped in this respect. John Ronald, dead a long time now of course and not as revered back in the day but now, well it’s cool to like the chap.
I met him once you know, back in my middle ages (not the Middle Ages that would be silly). I can see by that look on your face; the raised eyebrow, the faint wisp of a smirk, you don’t believe me. Yes I’m quite a bit older than I look. I remember the days of streets alive with the smell of horse dung, buckets of urine that rained down on unsuspecting heads and skies dank with smog. Now I’m just about done, my days are numbered, maybe even my hours, yet another reason to tell you just what it’s like.
You may be surprised to learn that the biggest problem wasn’t the unwanted attention or the ridicule or even the bullying; I could write several books on that and a whole dictionary of derogatory names and terminology that’s been flung in my direction (along with lots of unsavoury objects). It hurt of course, I can’t deny that but I’m strong, mentally, I knew they didn’t understand, could never understand, after all I wasn’t like them, I wasn’t from here or anywhere near here.
The biggest problem was finding shoes. Even from a young age I had to improvise which just made the insults worse. I’d wrap swathes of cloth around my large long feet, only to get them tangled on sharp edges and leave a trail straight from an old Mummy movie. I’d try making my own shoes out of cardboard or planks of wood but they would always fall apart very quickly, I was not good with my hands.
Eventually I found a very kindly old shoe maker, one of the ‘old school’ who managed to produce several pairs of strong durable boots before she died. I cried so much that day, I loved her like the mother I never knew.
I don’t know exactly where I came from but my step father, a Fagin like character though with a heart of purest silver, said I appeared like a magic trick, fully formed before his eyes. He was a rogue and a vagabond; he did try to cash in on my foibles but in a way I think he loved me.
I know I’m not from here, I’m not from this world; it’s hard to explain. Let me put it this way, how many people do you know who bleed yellow blood? The doctors – and yes I did see a few of those in my early years – though I avoid them now, I’ve seen the movies, I almost believed in that Alien Autopsy spoof – said it was impossible, yet my life liquid is a nice shade somewhere between daffodil and orange. It gives my skin a fetching jaundiced look.
And so here you find me. I can see you’re a sceptical person and wise to the ways of this world. Perhaps you think I’m just another one of life’s unfortunates, just another individual with a ‘difference’, looking a little odd but still all human on the inside. It’s how things are these days; acceptance is good and the work opportunities fantastic.
But I’m afraid – almost literally – I will have to miss out on this brave new frontier. Take a closer look, can you see? I know it’s a little dark in here, just throw that switch so that the lamp light settles in this corner; I keep it off as the light hurts so much now, it burns my eyes but for you I will bare it.
Can you see, I’m almost a shadow of what I was? Please don’t be shocked, I can see from the way you step back. I’m fading fast, almost a ghost, please… remember me. And thank you for listening; I will soon be well gone.
Copyright John D. Rhodes 2011