It had been 3 weeks since I had worked; I was on a train plowing through blizzard like snow throughout the journey to Violets where I arrived to a cup of tea, to warm my bare, numb hands. I was relieved to get out of my bubble of fucking insanity for even just a moment. I felt that weight lift being just being with her. I was broke, we had plans for Friday and most of Saturday and I was really feeling the weight of my circumstance. My networking leads were drying up and my depression was fucking debilitating me, making the tiniest tasks feel like mountains to climb, even while completely propped upright by Ritalin and Valium.
After tea we took a little venture out into the snow, I was happy to be dressed warm and distract myself taking photos of snow-blanketed London and having Violet pose for me with the white backdrop. While the daylight started to wane and in the failing light, the blue in the snow started to glow for those precious few moments and I caught a couple shots that reminded me that deep down inside, no matter if I am paid or not, I am an artist and nothing can take that away. I guess that was just a way to reassure myself from that the failure, doubt, hopelessness and frustration were part of the mission and process.
Violet was in high spirits, she was nearly obsessive with how much she wanted to be with me. I wasn’t as thrilled; it’s difficult to be dating someone when you’re broke. Once its gets down to it, it costs money each time you leave the house. She was used to a different class of people than me, not that I’m not the great chameleon charlatan that I am, but it was apparent that I wasn’t able to attend nor provide the levels of excitement and fanciful fun that we both were wishing for.
Violet bought supplies for dinner, and then we went over to the classic English butcher for steaks. She picked a pair of cuts that were nearly art, then packed and wrapped and handed to us and on we went.
Violet cooked dinner while opened a bottle of Chianti and tried to become my charming self again. We sat down at the table and she had lit candles and the food was incredible, steak cooked to perfection. I hadn’t had a steak in recent memory and it was all so lovely. Once dinner was finished I washed the dishes and we opened a second bottle of wine and the cards came out. A couple hours later I had cleaned her out of all her change, and like a true villain I tossed it all in my bag, as I actually needed it. After Poker we were both drunk and tired, it was past 2 and she fell asleep in my arms.
In the morning we woke, agreed that with the snow there was no real reason to head outside into the blizzard and ice and we could just watch films all day until I would have to split that evening. It sounded like the perfect snowy Saturday. She made breakfast and tea, the crumpets were worth dying for, one of my guilty little pleasures, (something I try to forget whilst in England so I’ll stop eating carbs.) I showered and climbed back into bed, a wonderful luxury of the unemployed. She climbed in shortly after and cuddles turned to fucking and multiple orgasms. We started a film and once it finished I snuck off to do more Valium and Ritalin, returning on mission to see if I could take Violet to the sacred and illusive mammary orgasm, something I picked up on my endless reading of women’s magazine sex articles. The mammary orgasm is a near impossible trick. Like most things, the conditions have to be right and you need to have a sense that it’s possible by testing breast and nipple sensitivity. I had already learned that Violet was extremely sensitive to her left side and that with some determination I think I could get her there. I started slow; light licks and kisses across her breasts and nipples, until handfuls and twists were involved. It took about an hour and right after her clitoral orgasm she cried out, “oh my fuck, something is happening!” I didn’t stop, we had arrived, and I was impressed with myself. I continued until she was howling and I was sure the people could hear on the streets below through the windows. Once she was finished, chest heaving and body completely limp; she asked what I had done to her. I explained and about ten minutes later after gathering her composure she felt it was important enough to stop the press and text her girlfriends WhatsApp group to break the news. I just laughed and laid down next to her wishing I could get paid for such things.
The day continued, the sex was hotter each time in between films, once the sun was down I finally said goodbye and headed home that Saturday under a little cloud of despair knowing I was returning to the reality of my life and unemployment. On the train, even in despair, I got back on the hustle with vengeance; networking and still holding onto the hope that something might come through. I committed myself to just fucking it all off for the week, to work at home continue answering job ads, get tattooed Wednesday and just carry on trying to finish up the million art projects and internet madness that had me figuratively duct taped to a folding chair and suffocating with a plastic bag zip tied to my neck.
Sunday morning I got roped into doing a photo shoot for my former boss, in Old-timey dress. On my way to the photography studio, to my surprise, waiting in the street was my old friend Eha, the former shop manager who had moved down to Bristol. I was so happy to see her familiar face; just laying eyes on her almost immediately comforted me. It was 11 am and during the shoot we were tossing back whiskeys and taking sexy photos laughing and carrying on with this lovely Scandinavian photographer and a couple others dressed to kill. The photos were banging, Eha looked better in my fucking bowler than I did, dressed like a flapper girl from the 30s and together we were really popping off. Eha and I have always had chemistry, never acted upon, unfortunately for me. She’s an Estonian and has modeled quite a bit, on the cover of magazines and shit, she taught me a lot that afternoon about posing like a “whore.” the weeks wait for post editing was going to drive me bats, I knew that she and I had killed i
Eha took a two-hour bus from Bristol so I couldn’t say no to drinks afterwards. We just went ahead and drank the rest of the day killing a couple bottles of wine and not really having a care in the world other than rapid-fire conversations to catch up on how fucked our lives had been since we had seen each other just a year ago. In short over the rambling hours of conversations and wine came two statements that we were sure the other could puzzle out.Edmond: I’m a junky still, I died, came back, and I’m currently on the run from immigration and unemployed. Eha: I tried an open relationship, ended up in 4-somes with Thai hookers and my boyfriend, didn’t like it, do too many drugs and need to find away to feel free again. We both weighed in until the conversations didn’t make sense. By 1800 I was putting Eha on a train and sent her back to Bristol with a kiss to her cheek and a cuddle, not really sure if I would see her again, unsure on the events that might take place upon my exit from the UK and all.
That evening I got home piss drunk. I sobered up and got enough Ritalin in me to continue working. I got a message from a client that night, and after some banter I was doing a cover-up in a kitchen the next day at 11 after drawing the design all night. I desperately needed the money, but it wasn’t my client, I had done work on him before at the shop, so once I was finished, I asked for forgiveness rather than permission and offered my boss the same percentage of my take as if I was at the tattoo shop. Stealing in tattooing, in any form is pretty much career suicide. I’d never betray a loyal friend. If you can’t stay honest in an industry of pirates, what the fuck can you do?, honor among thieves I suppose. That night after the abuse of being bent over in a kitchen chair most of the day tattooing, I could barely stand upright. Once I was home I did my final 20mg of Ritalin and found the courage to brave the cold again and head out to Tesco’s for dinner supplies. I took two bites of my dinner and racked straight out until the next morning, fucking exhausted.
I woke up to pounding at the font door; paranoid it could be immigration after reading way too much on the Internet. Happily though, and right in the nick of time, it was my favourite drug dealer, the postman, darknet packages in hand right as I was out of Ritalin. I wasn’t myself that morning so I really dove into the Ritalin and Valium cocktails while trying to stop the blood loss across all the ridiculous shit I maintain and do, the website, the writing, the painting, the job hunt, the exercise. After so many contacts and reaching out I finally got a job offer in west London, I replied and told the owner the whole story, I may have left out that immigration had actively “looked for me,” but I did tell him I wasn’t papered straight out of the gate. He kindly responded, nearly immediately and said that if he decided to take that risk, he would contact me. That demoralized me a bit, but I was so fucking high on Valium and Ritalin that I couldn’t really stop and feel sorry for myself or evaluate the consequences. If I didn’t keep my hands topped up with tattooing muscle memory, it was pretty close to starting my career over all together, and that was starting be a crushing weight on me with each passing hour and day while I watched the calluses on my fingers start to fade.
Violet was up north with her family for the week so my plan was to mercilessly finish as much work as I could, Monday was already spent and Tuesday I took too much Ritalin and ended up pacing and tweaking out a little. I counter balanced with Valium eventually and started in on writing and finalizing my line drawings for painting. I had nearly wasted a full sheet of watercolour paper by the time I got it right. An email had come through just before midnight the night before that I hadn’t read, from the tattoo shop I mentioned earlier, offering me the job, he said: “if you’re willing to make the journey, lets have a chat mate, when can you come up?”
Wednesday was tattoo appointment day, we started later than usual and I think my tattooer and I were both excited to get started on the background. While changing into my tattoo clothes, again I danced with my dear friend the Dragon. After two weeks of craving his comfort, he was very much welcomed back into the fray. I felt my eyes turn to pins and with the added Valium in my system I was so happy and free of all the troubles. On the table she started the outline on my ass and up onto my ribs. The background had finally begun. We talked logistics and if we would be able to finish in the allotted time. As best we could figure, we wouldn’t have a problem, she said I was sitting so well but and that helped, but we were both aware it could take another appointment.That at least gave me a rough idea of how much I needed to reach the finish line. If everything went as planned I was looking at another £2600 to wrap it up with the appointments on the books, I considered briefly seeing if we could fast track those so I could stop sweating the job situation and the fucking government. The fact that I may never be allowed back was starting to really weigh heavily on me. I had set a goal long ago that I wouldn’t start my back piece until I was older than 35. After that patience and planning, to not have it finished would be a brutal blow knowing it could be years before she and I would cross paths again outside the UK. Once our session was finished, I was high and happy; she didn’t charge me the full amount. I argued but she won. I had more fun each time I was at the shop and I really liked her and all the folks there. I felt like I was at home and the further I was from my last day working, the more I felt connected to the industry I was suddenly missing. I changed back into my street clothes and thought fuck it, blasted some more Ritalin and arranged a late night interview for that job offer. The tube dropped me a minute away from the shop. The trip each way daily would be an hour and 45 or more, nearly 4 hours of traveling per day. At this point I was that desperate.
I arrived in a little studio that was obviously pretty new. The owner was on the phone and I immediately pegged him as a non-tattooing owner. The idea to most tattooers is that the right to own a tattoo shop is earned through fire tempered blood, tears and anxiety. Having someone who doesn’t understand the intensity and difficulty of the job is stealing from our band of pirates. I’ve worked for a non-tattooer owned shop once before and it was a fucking disaster. They always say: “I’ve never tattooed but I’ve been around it ‘XX’ years.” Still doesn’t give them the right to put their filthy hands into an industry that is supposed to be handed down one master to apprentice only. Beyond that, during the interview, something was off; the shop had already been through a couple tattooers already. There were no designs on the wall, just American license plates and some displays for scandalous overpriced tattoo healing lotion. I considered taking the job briefly, as desperate as I was until he said “I price all the jobs and we do 8 hour sessions for £500.” I just rolled my eyes in fucking astonishment. Tattooing for a full day on a client is fucking ridiculous. I told him I’d sleep on it and politely said I was leaning another way pointing out that it wasn’t a traditional shop as an excuse. I realized if I wasn’t careful I could potentially make an enemy if I didn’t play nicely.
That same night Diamond Jacks lost a tattooer. I randomly saw it on social media and was acquaintances with the long time owner. Every time I’ve been in the UK I’ve hit the owner up for a job or guest spot, we have a lot of mutual friends. Each time he has always said he’s full up. I sent him a message straight off pretty much letting him know I had asked for work each time I had been in London since 2012. He said he needed a realism guy, which blew my fucking mind since Diamond Jacks is regarded as one of the traditional flagship shops in the UK originally founded by the Legendary Dennis Cockle. He said maybe we could do a guest spot, the same as he always had said, and like each time before, it wouldn’t work out. It was his British way of saying no, handcuffed to civility.
I stayed up that night and drew a Nefertiti for the sister of the kitchen tattoo client, hoping to milk a little more money out of them. Hoping I could sell her on the traditional style rather than the bullshit one she found on Google. By 4am I was delirious and took a few Valium and tried to rest, my week of getting work done was quickly evaporating.
Friday I was struck with the fires of Mars. I rocketed out of bed, my elderly flat mate was away at her caravan for the weekend and I was stoked to walk around in my underwear with the heat up. Laundry, yoga, shave, wrote a short paper on Crypto Currencies, called some people back home, spoke with my folks and finally sat down, finished a major line drawing that id been working on for months and then finally, fueled by 100’s of mg’s of Ritalin and Valium stayed up beyond the roosters crow calling people via speaker phone while I painted like a crazy person and nearly completed a full sheet of flash before I had to head off to sleep.
Saturday I started to wonder if I should move into London and find a way to hustle tattoos somehow. I found a place called the Collective, a giant community centered apartment building with bars, shared kitchens, theatre rooms, work areas and so forth. I toured the site; it wasn’t far from Violets flat. The rooms were small and very difficult to secure as they were in high demand. The place was fun, lots of people bustling around like a Silicon Valley tech campus where you paid to live. Workspaces and libraries spread over 7 floors, a restaurant on site and a bar with “free drink” Fridays even. It would cost me £1000 per month to be closer to the action and have the possibility into turning my room into a make shift studio while keeping on the job hunt was starting to feel attractive. The only lease available was a take over, and without credit in the UK I would have to pay off the remainder of her 9 month lease, meaning I would have to shell out around £6000 and cash some more of my crypto. I was leaning towards yes until we arrived at the room that was available. There on her door, like an omen delivered by baseball bat were three foot metal numbers that read twenty7. It was the same as all the doors in the building, but the chances of the only room available was unlucky to me had me turning about face without a second thought. I knew it was the wrong move as proven by my OCD and the unlucky numbers according to Edmond. That evening I went over to Violets and by late evening found myself in a little argument with her about fuck knows what. It was all starting to wear me down, the lack of purpose and work. I did complete a painting, my first sheet in ages. It was my only saving grace as the thinning funds; desperation, doubt and depression started taking a deep-rooted hold on my soul.
I found myself incapable of feeling, Violet was so intensely enthralled and aggressive that while I was dying inside, wishing I could drown my worries in drugs or the Thames she was in love, and I was nothing but a shell. I found myself fighting tears more than once, wondering if the mighty dream giant was dead, if Edmond was dying. I wanted my old friend, the always true, always kind, always reassuring dragon to lift me back up. I was exhausted from years on the road and circumstance and could find a million reasons to give up, cash it all in, quit tattooing and let my broken body finally rest. The anxiety of it all was so overwhelming at times I was nauseous from the tension which was exacerbated by my hand going numb again as my anxiety and age manifested itself in my shoulder. Little hope was left in me. Where was the gladiator? Where was the warrior Prince of Apollo? Where had all my inspiration, gall and determination gone? I was meant to be a beacon; in my hubris I didn’t realize I might be the another fool in my own quixotic tale.
Time passed, I went out to another shop for an interview, it was a brand new shop and I was offered the job. It was within sight of the government council office in a town just outside central London and I passed the police station on my walk there. The owner offered me a generous split. It was in one of those box parks made of old shipping containers and bustling with activity even during the mid afternoon. The kid had only been tattooing for a few years and didn’t really have everything needed to support a second guy, but all the same I took the job and we agreed to have me work Thursday through Friday, which was fine by me. I got home; energized by the idea I could work again yet gripped with panic wondering if he had even had his health inspection yet. The week slipped by and I reached out to confirm that I would be there Thursday, to which he replied, “oh, this weekend I’m trying another guy, I’ll get back to you.” His mother did the books on Mondays and kept the shop open to set up appointments and I can only assume she dropped the axe on my employment there after learning of my status. With that response I found new levels of demoralization and hopelessness.
My Internet sleuthing finally showed fruit and I discovered the man who snitched. I was struck with vengeance at first, then pity, then anger. The old me would have been calling for fire and brimstone, seeking revenge until it consumed us both. I know their identity but could never understand what this person wanted to accomplish by hurting me, other than to get back at someone else I happen to be friends with. This person really didn’t understand the ramifications I would face, or maybe they did and has that much hate in their heart. Maybe this person completely understood how sick I would be with debilitating depression and anxiety. Perhaps they truly understood how their hate has put me, a person that has done nothing to them, never met or spoke ill of them in any way that I am aware. Still they went out of their way, separated by oceans and time zones to try and hurt me. The negativity I’ve faced since, not only from this person, but also within myself has been monumental. I’ve been questioning my goals to bring people closer together. I try to understand others, their actions regardless of color or creed or class and I’m acutely aware this is a test of my resolve. I can only assume this person is in a pain that I cannot fathom or understand, and while the gladiator in me truly wants to bathe in showers of blood, to heed the Machiavellian wisdom to “hurt them so badly that they can never hurt you back.” I’m choosing to offer this person my condolences and forgiveness, which is difficult to do while I feel like Edmond is slipping away and becoming a ghost or some lost memory. Still I am choosing to forgive. A world without forgiveness and empathy is one that won’t ever meet my expectations. I’ll take it a step further: as I hope this person is reading this, I will address you directly: I know when you’re reading my scribbles, how often and from where and I would like to apologize. My father told me that in his life he has never set out to hurt another person, and I try so very hard to live up to his standard. If there was any perceived slight against you that I’ve made, I hope the pain you’ve caused me is enough appease you. We have a lot in common from what I’ve learned, I even trained at a school under the same family as yours. I sincerely hope you find peace, that you find something in this fucking dark maze of life to make you feel happy and whole. If you would like to reach out to me to talk, just shoot me an email, no strings attached, on my word.
A month had passed by now since the day the shop was raided and I ended up feeding my paranoia by reading immigration articles and laws under the shield of my VPN, I was second guessing whether or not I should work at all. UK border agency has the right to confiscate all your digital devices, copy and save all of it. Further, the final say is always up to the individual immigration officer. I was now aware after reading these horror stories that I was fucked when I was leaving. I also found out that I could be arrested where I was living too. That made my need for Benzodiazepines rocket even more. I worried about dependency becoming a serious issue. I’ve been able to go on and off without much trouble and even when I did have withdrawals nothing could compare to coming off the Dragon, so I continued on with 60-70mg per day.
Violet was being supportive about work, not fully understanding the risks. She was all too focused on her and I becoming a permanent thing and that was starting to wear me thin, she just couldn’t understand the scope of my life’s mission and the weight of my travels and past. I enjoyed her company, would probably have some pretty deep feelings for her but I was an emotional void since I lost my job, anxious and worried constantly. I wasn’t heeding Yoda’s star wars wisdom: “fear of loss, a pathway to the darkside is.” I found myself frenzied with the fear of losing more of what id built here, including but not limited to my girlfriend, potentially my back piece becoming another unfinished project, the fact that I may lose the solace and joy I find in the UK, and above all, the idea that my future is so clouded and unsure, without money to continue traveling I began to wonder if all this would change who I was?
Those thoughts were making me live outside myself and I was losing my will to continue. My exercise fell to nothing. The thoughts of suicide and the sweet relief it held circled my thinking constantly. This fucking ridiculous planet, existence and rules, the more I wallowed in my self pity the more I was ready to make a change of the outlaw kind, to really do some dangerous shit. The months had been falling off the calendar it seemed, until I realized I had been in country for less than 3 months and the dreaded 91st day was coming. The day that I usually start to go stir crazy and lose my mind, the day when the people I’m surrounded with start to wear thin while my luster starts to wear off.
I took dozens of Valium that day in bed and could only indulge in a tomato and butter sandwich that I stole from my poor elderly flat-mate for dinner. When midnight finally struck I added cheap Pinotage to the cocktail that I got for £5 at the petrol station around the corner. I’d been in bed all day, there was no point to any of it, and I couldn’t bring myself to burden my girlfriend or my family or friends with it all. I felt like continuing to network was just begging for coins at this point. The Doc knew I was fucked up, she could sense it and was offering help though I refused. I was lost somewhere falling through space and time without purpose. The well was infinitely deep and dark, as I continued further into despair. I was ready to just let the darkness swallow me and never reappear. My gladiator self was lost in the fray somehow. “Death to this coward who’s replaced Edmond” I kept thinking, a shade of my former resilience shining through but only for a moment. I had been reduced to drinking wine and taking Valium in bed, sleeping all day and in the night just trying to escape reality.
Over the next couple days I used up the rest of the 200 Valium I had. That weekend I planned to stay with Violet, which was troubling, I didn’t want to be stuck with her and trippin due to lack of benzos. I stayed the first night and Saturday morning we woke up to snow and jumped in the car for a little day trip up to Bletchley Park. I had always wanted to go and visited the place that altered our reality, responsible for the most important invention in human history. I was nearly giddy to stand in the same places where Alan Turing, Welchman and Harold Keen worked and under enormous stress and pressure created the foundations of devices that occupy every part of nearly every human’s existence. While we were at Bletchley I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness that Turing never got to witness his universal machine come to fruition and the tragedy of his life, all while marveling at his vision of the future. It further solidified my thinking that only through suffering can one truly achieve greatness.
I decided to leave Violet that evening after returning from Bletchley. When I tried to explain that I wasn’t feeling well, being overly anxious since not taking the Valium. She couldn’t understand as I tried desperately to explain. Her response haunts me even now, she started crying nearly hysterically and saying things that led me to believe that she was the only one in the room. I realized in that moment that I was dating a privileged girl from England that was used to having her way. I got upset at her tears yet tried to remain kind and understanding, this went on for over an hour, tears over me leaving a day earlier than we had planned. The whole scenario was ridiculous and was making me wish I didn’t have to communicate with humans and their constant self absorbed thinking. Tears turned into an argument and I made it clear that I wasn’t remotely in any emotional shape to deal with outbursts as dramatic as if someone had died. I guess that’s to be expected dating an actress.
On the way home I realized what a horrible misstep it was traveling on a Saturday night on the trains through London. I sat there with my headphones in but not on and listening to all the drunk speak and the thick chav accents of train passengers made me a little nuts, I was already on edge and losing my patience. The more it annoyed me the louder it seemed to get. It felt like realizing suddenly you’re in a foreign land and didn’t know how you arrived. I was steaming, I felt like I was running into ignorance everywhere while I listened to a slurring East London accent go on about the Muslims until I felt like throat punching him. This shit disgusts me, always so much prejudice and hate blatantly tossed around and always excused as: “I'm not racist, but…” even the elderly in England are not immune to the plague of it all. By the time I got home I had had enough, the world was closing in and the darkness was overwhelming, I walked into my room, closed the door, set down my bag and there was the Dragons Den staring at me. I paused for less than a moment and I couldn’t think of any reason not to try and crack the safes 3-digit code, to get to the dope, so I started to try.
Twenty minutes later I had the safe cracked, impressed with the speed I was able to defeat the mechanics of it, there really aren’t that many combinations to try when its only 3 spinning numbers. Fact is there isn’t much that can keep an addict from getting high. Out poured the Dragon and into his loving arms I dove with abandon. That night, wired and on fire, I painted until dawn, I wrote and rejoiced not being hammered with needles and actually enjoying the numb-minded rejection of all my cares and anxieties. The Dragons sweet synthetic milk of the poppy swept me away that evening until the sleep was forming in my eyes while I was still awake. Finally I ate some sleeping pills and crashed until the late afternoon.
A couple days later I was readying myself for my tattoo appointment. I opened the Dragons keep, took out my prescribed amount and enjoyed the hour and a half on the train looking forward to inviting the Dragon back in, this time the session was every bit of 4 hours, maybe more. Most of the tattoo was on my ass and ribs. I did much better than I predicted I was, but in the end, on the way home I was so loopy I was having trouble sending texts off and after nearly two hours on the train, dinner and a bath I don’t even remember crashing out. I woke up late the next morning to plasma and blood imprinted sheets. I peeled them off and took another bath. I shook off my stupor and the post tattoo fog when, finally a darknet package arrived 200 more Valium, it was almost a week late but I was happy to receive it. Armed with the ability to sleep on cue, I cracked into painting like a crazy person and spent the next few nights really focused, blasting Ritalin and Valium cocktails into the dawn hoping I might be able to hustle the paintings to make enough money to cover my next appointment in two weeks.
I was down to change in my bank account after pulling out my last £100 and a trip to Marks and Spencer’s for food rations. Something had to give, I couldn’t continue like this, the cycle of depression and defeatism. The suicidal thoughts were becoming more and more obscure, I’m usually suicidal but when the thoughts fail to make sense I start to recognize changes need to be made or I need to just fucking dive to the bottom of every bottle of liquor and pills I can find until I’ve got the nerve to finally self immolate and condemn myself to not reach my Elysian Fields. What I was going through felt so much like failure, I was firing off applications to 5 or 6 emails a day to different shops looking for tattooers and was coming up empty even after a nearly two months. I was running head first into the horrible realization that traditional tattooing was being suffocated by realism garbage tattooers who’s stuff wouldn’t stand the next ten years let alone a lifetime. With these thoughts of failure I could hear every voice that doubted me, echoing like in a marble canyon. All those that wanted me to fail, laughing in my head 24 hours a day. They haunted me. I was so close to cashing it all in, ending the misery. So tired, so confused, so bored with life, so lost for purpose and losing my connection to my career and therefore my identity and ability to continue traveling.
I took those fucking tears, all that pain, the voices the laughter, the guilt I felt and the paranoia. I took all that negative energy and put it into painting, I painted all night, every night. Taking Ritalin in doses that had to have been dangerous, hundreds of MG’s per night, mixed with Valium and left over wine. When I wasn’t painting I was sleeping until I could paint again, when I wasn’t sleeping I was wishing I was back at the house painting. It was my only real connection to my career and I felt it fading with the muscle memory of my hands.
I was down to nothing, I had $1.90 in my account, my tattoo gift certificate reserves were nearly depleted to and I had less than £30 to my name in cash.I was caught in an impossible position. I started to research some poker games to see if I could gamble my way out of my hardships, my mind was scheming, every old hustle I would do back in the days was popping up and I was putting modern twists on them and contemplating on how to use them, it would be so much more difficult with an American accent in Britain.
On the train to town an old friend messaged me and said there was a possibility they could have a few days for me to guest at their shop, nothing certain, but he would look into it. That gave me a little hope, but I wasn’t holding my breath. That evening I spent a lovely night at Violets, a bit sad and ashamed I didn’t have money to take us out on the town. I needed a proper cocktail and a tie on again, not to mention a fucking haircut. I could hardly use my Oyster card and had to let her know I was on my last legs financially and the outside world costs money. I cooked us a cheap and filling meal, drank too much wine, watching her kneecap me playing poker. Which frightened me a bit, losing so dramatically, if my heart isn’t into cards, something is usually horribly wrong with me. She beat me with two pair while I waited for a river card miracle to land a straight. What a poignant metaphor for my life right now, waiting for the fucking river card miracle while it all passes me by. Poor choices and dumb luck, but I don’t usually subscribe to that thinking with cards, there is always a way to win, always. I was off and the shadow on the wall didn’t even resemble Edmond.
In bed that night I got her off a couple times but had no interest in any sexual gratification for myself. As I took a small handful of Valium and a last gulp of wine, I lay there in her bed, Violet’s naked body warm and pressed against me. “What a wonderful life” I thought, just as I indexed all the reasons I should kill myself until finally the Valium knocked me into oblivion, the first time I actually slept while the sun was down. We spent the next morning drinking tea in bed and watching the first and second episodes of star wars, talking about the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker and what a dark, wonderful, irreplaceable character in cinematic history and even mythology. Mr. Lucas really changed the game with such a complex look into the human psyche. Say what you will about the second trilogy, but if you watch them just to recognize the relationships that all ultimately end with ally killing ally and so on, its quite an incredible thing development and holds so much symbolism.
After what felt like decades of despair and self-doubt, through the clouds, finally a beam of light reached me from the Gods. I’m aware that the more drugs I do the less connection I have with my Gods, that small beam of light rekindled my hope, if only momentarily. I got an email from the agency “are you available for an end of April shoot, for X product, in X location?” I couldn’t help but let the dreamer in me run; at this point I would have been in a woman’s hygienic commercial. For some reason this one felt differently, it was worded with more excitement and a different prose than the last emails. Specifically it sounded like I was the type of candidate the client was looking for. It was for a film commercial, in which I would have to be topless and kissing a lady, “Jesus” I thought, “people get fucking paid for this shit?” I didn’t want to get overly excited, this was the 3rd notice like this and the other times I never heard back. I am a believer in Tesla’s theory that the Universe is built in 3’s, and well, 3rd times the charm isn’t it? I’m also a believer that if you put the right energy out into the Universe, it always comes back and although feeling sorry for myself, I have been ultimately working in the service of others. All that aside, after seeing the amount they would pay me, thousands of pounds, it could literally reverse my fortunes and turn my world bright side up again and let me run fucking free. The icing? The shoot was in Cape Town. It would be a risk to try and leave the Uk and return, but the pay was too fucking good. Way too fucking good and I’m a fucking gambler in the end any way. I had good reason to dream, the idea of seeing Ashlee again, as awkward as that might be for the love triangle I was currently in didn’t even matter, the boys at the tattoo shop, it felt like a chance to reset and go home. I was already making rebuttals to poor Violets reaction if she knew my darling Ashlee and I would be in the same city again.
That same day, the skies parted a bit more, Violet got a really fantastic opportunity to be a Personal Assistant for a worldly acclaimed actor on a Disney film, that was being directed by another (tabloid) household name. She was over the moon about it, and I was just as happy, it seemed like the winds were changing…all I had to do now was catch up.
The tides were turning, shifting rather; I was on the crest and needed to use every single bit of this fiery energy and motivation to crush the last of my lingering projects and get back into Gladiator mode. My weight was fine, but I had to tone the fuck out if I was going to potentially be topless on camera in a month’s time. There would be no mercy for Edmond, the fires of Mars ignited and my eyes transformed into disks of fury. I slowly restarted my exercise campaign, at this point I had been awake all but 3 or 4 hours in the last 48, painting all night in an attempt to polish off the projects I had started and hopefully sell prints and make enough to feed myself.
I took the last of my sterling and bought the healthiest food I could afford and stocked up for as many days as the few bills and pocket full of change would allow. I did all 200 of the 10mg Ritalin and was banging away at the Valium, my 48 hours with little sleep turned to over a week as I toiled into the mornings brush in hand until I had finished products ready to go. Over a few days I put them out on social media, and got a great response, I was able to sell all of the originals within the first minutes of them being posted. I had them scanned for prints and shipped them off to their new owners and before long had enough in my Paypal account to afford my next appointment with the help of my final gift certificates.
The weekend arrived and I hadn’t heard from my agent, and found myself feeling defeated after such a large push, I shouldn’t have let my heart wander so freely with the idea of it. Just say the word Cape Town to me and my head starts to spin. Let alone a magical way to solve my financial crisis. It was Easter weekend and Violet and I had her flat to ourselves. The weekend slipped by easily, I slept a lot being away from all my work, she cooked a traditional Easter Sunday roast and we went out to see Spielberg’s spectacular “Ready Player One.” The escapism I found in that film would carry me through the next week, classic innovative and fun film making from the master.
I had another tattoo appointment where the Dragon and I again danced, my tattooer started on the other cheek of my ass, some of my bitterness unfortunately came through while we spoke and I later had regrets for being negative. She confided in me a few things, again, common insecurities one has being a tattooer that I was happy to reassure her that no matter what the cool kids might say, especially at her level, if it what she was doing was something she thought right, then fuck em. I don’t know if she valued my opinion but I did see a bit of relief looking over my shoulder. I was growing to really love the people at that shop, the other famous tattooer was now greeting me by name and that made me feel special. I got home and collapsed that evening; the frequency of tattoo appointments was starting to wear me thin. Thinner still was the idea that I had no clue where the money would come from for my next four-hour appointment in just 14 days time.
By midweek I went into town to interview with a shop through the friend I mentioned earlier. I arrived and it was a shop that towered above the shitholes I had been to thus far, but still below par in my opinion. The owner was late coming in and the first thing out of his mouth was “so you worked for my ex-ole lady, I'm the boys father” he was referring to my former bosses son, who’s mother I was living with, “the boy” being the kid I’ve watched grow up since 2012. I knew immediately I morally couldn’t take the job, especially after he asked if I would return for a second interview with his partner, which lead me to believe his partner didn’t tattoo and further he told me to bring my identification when I came back, meaning he didn’t really understand the words that came from my mouth when I explained the whole “we got raided” scenario.
That was a crushing blow, the few emails I had got in response to my job inquiries were that my portfolio link didn’t work or photos didn’t come through. I was searching far and wide now, from the Jersey Island to Bristol, even Inverness, I was desperate and aware the dragon had hijacked my ability to defend against my depression. Tears formed, I fought them off and shook my head, “all or nothing” I thought.
As I put the thoughts of all the inconvenient things from my mind I let plans form in my head. Again I asked myself the sacred question: what did I want most before I would die?The answer had been there all along, to cross the Indian Ocean via Mauritius and onward to glory. There may be blood in the fucking water, but I was determined to make the changes necessary to be the black-eyed demon-shark that formerly occupied this body.