I went to Norway.
For over 2 weeks.
A friend, my writing partner, gave me a place to exist in his world, and a population of friends to make. We spent the time watching films and TV, talking about life, and culture, and plotting stories. And things happened that were very necessary, breaking so much of my rigid pandemic cycle.
This will be a triggering entry.
After nearly 2 years non-stop the resident of the one place I’ve lived all my life, I had to escape, I had to break, I had to breathe. It was scary to go from 0 to 100 in terms of traveling across a city, a country, just to find sanctuary, but sometimes needs must. Other people seemed to have found ways to return to life, accepting the new normal or kinda forgetting it, but my broken anxious brain would never allow that, and the idea of getting out of dodge was tough. I spent all September and October going through all the worst possible outcomes just to make it, and thankfully besides a little last-minute hiccup on the way home, things worked out. I escaped. I embraced a dear friend. I spent time finding myself, an adult now in his 30s, for the first time in a LONG time.
Part of the experience was spending time with people open to the creative process, who love stories, structrue, cinema and TV, and how to craft characters and plots that can be interesting, rewarding and accepting of what works already, and what needs to be said about the world we live in, and the people living in it. With that, we had an evening where my partner and I got to hear a script we wrote in October read aloud for the first time (Read at all for the first time, we didn’t even proof it before, so one character was masturbating through an entire scene because we sometimes lay jokes in to see if the other notices as we write). I’ve only heard my words said aloud a few times, and never in such a warm, loving environment, we made an evening of it and everyone was happy to hang out and be together. To quote Jimmy Eat World’s The World You Love, I’m gonna call this home.
Being a 31-year-old, I was far and away the oldest person around, and yet I always feel so underdeveloped, emotionally and mentally. I lost out on so many opportunities, I never had the connections in my youth to push me from my personal prison and enter a world where peers would lean on me and I them as we grow, expand and explore the world, so to see people 21-27 so comfortable in their own skin, aware of how their world works and how to handle everything just threw me in a spiral of ‘what the fuck happened, and how did I never find a path to forge?’ Of course a key problem is that the entire world has continually crushed our generation from youth onwards, but people my age have fought through, just… not me.
I’ve had to really face up to things. I struggled for years getting paid for my talents, and when I finally did it ended up being a difficult situation that broke me. Trying to come back from that was nigh-on-impossible, since I still haven’t. I don’t come face-to-face with myself often, that’s what writing is for, to examine some of oneself through a funhouse mirror, but here I will be honest, and it’s gonna be weird for all of us, so bear with me.
I decided when to take my virginity, there was no sense of ‘destiny, fate’ or ‘fortuitive meetings’, I had something happen and took the moment. I decided when to pull myself out of society as things got worse, not when the lockdowns came, it was me in control of that. I decided when to take control of the art I make, not when it was best for the world or when anyone wanted it, all me. And, I almost decided when to take my life.
I’m asexual, I’ve tried but I find so much about the physical intimacy of that uncomfortable, it’s not what I love about humans. Within sex it becomes very instinctive, animalistic, even if you hold a conversation there’s a real sense of physical over emotional and intellectual connection, and I’ve never been comfortable with that. I need to feel good with people, where I can say something and they can say something and nothing is lost in some dazed or desired focus. The few times I’ve been in intimate situations like that, it’s never seemed right, not for me. I’m a thinker, a talker, a broken person best left afar from others physically but close emotionally.
In Oslo it was the first time I was with more than a few people since just before lockdown, and when I went to a mix of party and just pub thing, hanging out with some friends whilst the Corona cloud was wafting in, but in a public place where people I didn’t know were also having a good time.
This is the point where I need to accept something I kinda repressed and almost successfully pushed out of my mind, but in doing so have hurt myself and imprisoned my mind more. And it’s not easy.
The last time I was with a group of people, I went to the bar of the place, waited for a drink, and someone started talking to me. I thought ‘oh, weird, in London, people don’t talk’ but it felt like a good energy, maybe a connection?
Within a minute, she had sidled up to me, given me a little ‘hey’ eye contact (A thing I’m real bad at anyway), and then… put her hand down my trousers, and started touching me, rubbing me. It took a little time to get her away from me, then having to find a way to escape and not seem like I was in a bad way, I’m not good at things and I don’t want people to worry, but by the time I managed to get home, I just collapsed and laid in silence for a night, unable to sleep, unsure what happened, and why. It plagued me, and as the world collapsed I managed to focus on that instead, and kinda forgot it happened. Although every time I’d try to masturbate, I’d feel sick. In Oslo I finally felt ok to tell someone, it was hanging over me and I felt ashamed, disgusted, like I was at fault somehow, or it would make me seem lesser or hang over me, people might go ‘That’s Andrew, he was molested’.
I’ve had sex 2 times and been molested, but never kissed someone.
The world is a fucked up place.
I utilised my time away and got pretty high most days, sometimes it would make things calmer, nicer, happier, but there were times before I could speak my truth that I was surrounded by happy, healthy, comfortable people and felt othered, felt like being surrounded by people was triggering the memories of the night, it took me to dark places. One night I walked Oslo, I wanted to see the fjord, I love night walking, city walking, and seeing water is always my calming method. But I spent a good 20 minutes sitting by the water, wishing people would stop walking by so I could just jump in (10-15 minutes survival max at the temperature, I checked), then when I couldn’t, I sat on a bench and tried to cry. I’ve managed to cry once in the last few years, when a good friend died in May. I couldn’t cry, so I hit myself. I’ve taken to hitting myself again, something I would do to stop feeling bad inside, I feel bad outside.
I made it back and struggled for a while, but found my way back, still othered but when I finally told my writing partner, he didn’t make a big deal, he accepted it and loved me and kindly looked after me in a peer-to-peer friend-to-friend kind way. It is a part of my life, but it is not who I am. And I think I can accept that.
Back in London again, and preparing to change my routines, break back out into the world, see friends again, record comedy, write drama, I’m 3 chapters into Encampment as a novel, as I devour book after book reading-wise (I’ve ordered Infinite Jest, so that’s 2022’s plan), but I don’t know what’s next for me. Will I start being an adult? Will the world find more ways to destroy us? Can love exist outside of physical intimacy? Some people seem confused when I tell them what I am, and it feels so broken, everyone apparently has to love sex, and that’s just weird. Some of us want connection beyond connection, not just the physical, but we’ll find out where we are and who we are as we go on. I just wish I wasn’t so alone on this side of the North Sea.