The ghosts of Christmas past: comfort and joy.

This was just a few years ago….

I broke the rules…

I went out in the evening, I went to a private view I had work in and now here I am in the doctors surgery, struggling to sit with all the bruising in the waiting room as Christmas songs fill the air. 

I got badgered into going out,  a couple of days before Christmas, the cold still biting into me despite layers of clothing. Standing outside the kave gallery as the crowd buzzed, getting tanked up on free booze. And here I stand, stone cold sober, away from the crowd wishing I was back home in the relative warmth of my flat. I gave up drinking many years before, I gave up everything, all those props that buffer you from the world and effect your judgement, stop you noticing important details. My sanity is hard won after years of therapy and I will no longer let bad stuff into my body or bad people into my life. I know the drill here and now, be nice enough to all the people here but be careful not to let anyone too close, not unless I know damn sure they deserve it. My work has a marmite quality, people either love it or hate it. I can see the odd person who hates it here this evening, I even get the odd person who assumes I’m some kind of idiot and patronise me accordingly, I happily tied their brains in knots and pulled their assumptions out from under them. My work is Socratic irony personified, a spiked baseball bat hidden inside a cute sock puppet, a nasty trap for people who think they know it all to walk straight into. 

I soon get tired of the constant babble and made my way home, slipping into the night, my departure unnoticed and unmissed. Outside the bubble of generally pleasant people near the gallery, there is a road full of bad vibes, people drunk enough for the bitterness to come out but not drunk enough to be incapacitated. There are so many expectation around Christmas and, in a poverty stricken town like St Leonards, so few are ever fulfilled.  I make the decision to go the long way round, along the well lit street, avoiding the feral teenagers and the hoards of bitter drunkards. Bad move!

As I walk up the hill along the main road, I passed the mencap building where I volunteered every Wednesday, doing art with the adults with learning difficulties. My attention is distracted as there is a buzz of activity inside, a party is going on in there. I am distracted enough not to notice the human nightmare lurching down the street, dressed in only a thin jumper on a cold winter night, strutting down the road with ill purpose in every step. I side stepped him but it did no good. “Oi! You bumped into me.” (No I didn’t) I ignored him and carried on up the hill. He went into full reverse and got ahead of me again, “ere! I’m talking to you! You bumped into me!” I realised that this was a variation of the “you spilled my pint” scenario, this angry creature wanted to hit someone and today it was me. Distracted for a second by whatever else he saw in his drunk or drugged up brain I made a run for it but he grabbed hold off my scarf and threw me accross the bonnet of a car. I lay face up as cars whizzed past as, obviously with much practice, this guy pinned me down with one hand and repeatedly punched me in the stomach with the other. As I lay there I thought “so this is it, I’m going to die” it wasn’t a terrible thought, it had to happen one day, it might as well be today in this rather pathetic incident. 

As suddenly as it started, it stopped, scared off by the shouts from two femail care workers leaving the mencap party. They asked if I wanted to call the police but, still in shock , I didn’t want the police turning up and frightening the clients. The reality of it hit home when I got in and I called the police who suggested I go down the police station the next day and formaly report the incident.

And now here I am, lying on a surgery bed on Christmas Eve being poked and prodded as the doctor checks me for signs of internal bleeding and spinal damage, getting a vital paper trail in case the attacker is actually found amidst the glut of drunken assaults and domestic abuse carried out on one of the most violent nights of the year. It all kicks off at Christmas it seems.

Christmas Day I lie bruised and battered, hobbling about my flat alone, lying to my family so the news of my assault doesn’t worry them too much and spoil their day all they get are good tidings, good tidings of comfort and joy.

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