Chapter 1

Once upon a time there lived a little boy called Adam.

No, this isn't exactly a fairy tale, how about...

Marcus was dead, in the beginning.

That's not quite right either. Amber was dead too, and I don't think Marcus should get all the credit. Besides, I can't really see myself as Ebenezer Scrooge; I know too much to believe that a lump of cheese can cause a bad dream. Which is not to say it doesn't, I guess, just I know too much to believe it.

I suppose, now you're reading, I should introduce myself. My name is Adam Collier, and I'm nobody special. But, hell, if you thought that you wouldn't be reading, would you? To you I'm probably some news item, maybe a family talking point during the adverts in the Friday night film. You know the sort of thing: Dad suddenly looks up from the paper when Mum pops out to make the tea and tells you all about some nut who's killed his school-mates as though he thinks you're going to turn round and say 'Fair enough, Dad, I was going to knife some bitch that looked at me weird last week, but if you think that's a bad idea I'll just disembowel her dog instead.'

Of course, you don't say that, do you? Maybe you should, just once. See if he wakes up; see if he notices you actually reply to most of the bilious shit he spews forth as wisdom. If he doesn't, at least you'll have the opportunity to tell him you're going to fail English. If he does, thing's will get warm, but who likes snow anyway.

That didn't used to be me, by the way, and that seems like a nice place to start. Who was I? Perhaps that will bring us around to who I am. Maybe, if you give me enough time, I'll work it out myself; until then, we'll just have to muddle through this together.

How to define yourself? Lesson one: Physical descriptions. It's not as easy as it sounds, defining you in writing. Even a description is difficult, especially if you're as God-worryingly handsome as me. Honest! When you talk to people, they get hundreds and thousands of tiny little body language clues without you even having to open your mouth. Unfortunately, there isn't really a written version of it <scratch bum, flare nostril, examine fingernail, no the other one>. Well ok there is, but you want to finish this before lunch-break ends, or your flight's called, don't you?

So, how to define yourself? Lesson two: The answer is in the answer. There's a tautology to keep you occupied for a nanosecond or two. How you define yourself is pretty much the best indicator of who you are. Not what you say about yourself, but what you choose to say it about. Confused yet? Good, that makes two of us; perhaps an example would help. Or perhaps not, you're getting one anyway. If I decide, in defining myself, to tell you about my schooling you'd learn a little bit about me. Not just that I got 12 A's at GCSE (see, it's not just the stupid kids that get locked up. Hell, the most successful criminals in the world are a group of highly educated bastards known as lawyers. Don't mess with them), more importantly you'd learn that I define myself, at least in part, by my schooling. See, what we choose to talk about is as important as what we actually say.

Or maybe that's shit too, on with the show.

Amber kept telling me I was a negative person: Morgan reckons I'm just a chicken shit. Essentially, I think they both had a point. See, I tended to define myself by what, and more importantly whom, I was not. I spent most of my life running away from the parts of myself I didn't want to be or see or feel. Chicken shit! The problem with being satisfied with not being lots of bad things is that you don't have any goals. Not that I'd have achieved them anyway...

Did I mention Amber thought I was a 'glass-is-half-empty' kind of guy?

Unfortunately, of course, all those traits we don't like in ourselves really aggravate when they are in other people. If you can't handle your own small mindedness (not you personally, obviously, broad-minded person of wisdom that you are) then that's ok, you'll just avoid all the small-minded people. If you have a problem with your own curious grasp of logic, reality and the fact that you live in a distorted and hateful fantasy world, then you likely won't be in Confessional on Sunday. That, as they say, is miniscule starch-rich tubers.

My pet hate is acceptance. I can't stand those grey-souled automatons that spend their entire almost-lives nodding politely, no matter what. You hate sprouts, would you like some? Nod. I'm going to try and sell you something you don't want and doesn't work, alright? Nod. I was wondering if I could cut off your legs and steal all your money? Nod.

FUCK OFF! Take life by the ears, and shout, "Kiss my arse!" in its face. Sounds excessive? Alright then, just get yourself a nose-ring because your mother doesn't like them and Janice Twee's got two. What kind of half-arsed horseshit is that? If you're going to do it, do it. Make a choice, live with it, and don't let anyone else choose for you, even if they choose by disapproval, forcing you to 'rebel'. No one should have their life written out for them by committee.

Or even non-committee.

This ends today's sermon, all rise please for hymn 286, 'Praise the loud-mouthed bigot, his condescension well conveyed.'

Of course, most of this is a waste of time really, because you're already forming an opinion of me by what I'm writing, and how I'm writing it.

"I was horrified upon reading this work to see the gratuitous and unnecessary us of the word 'Fuck'..." You know what I mean if you've ever had to write an English essay that began with something like "Explain why the author might have chosen to use..."

Of course, your parents are probably thinking I'm typical of the generation, when they should at least recognise I am the sort of person who is giving a perfectly good generation a bad name. I figure a bad name is better than no name at all.

I said that to Morgan once, she called me a cynic. I don't really believe in all that though. As someone once said 'I'm not exactly thrilled to be living in the middle of a burned out generation. All the themes have been used up and turned into theme parks.' Its true. Even rebellion is old news really; we're a generation searching for a definition.

In thirty years time, what are the nineties youth going to be remembered for, except celebrating the millennium a year early? Thousands of parents bemoan the lack of respect in us, but we can't copy them and still respect ourselves. Our grandparents had parents who stood (and fell) on the Somme for us, our parents had parents who braved the Blitz for us, and you have to respect that, it doesn't deserve it, it demands it. Us, we have parents who burnt their bras, watched Woodstock, invented the 'walk-around-slowly-holding-someone-to-a-background-of-dull-synthesiser-crap' dance and now ban us from the same recreational herbage that they themselves took for granted. There isn't really a lot for my generation to respect their parents for. Except finally realising that flares and platforms were shit-stupid, a lesson we had to learn for ourselves in any case!

Of course, the other side of the coin applies, as well. Somewhere along the line, parents decided to stop respecting their children, and I wasn't around to see that bit. Once upon a time you could do as you were told, when you were told, how you were told, and earn a little bit of respect from your elders: now they call a psychologist in and wonder what's wrong with you. Welcome to the nineties: the lose/lose generation.

I suppose in true Adam Collier style I should tell you who I'm not, and let you decide who and what you think I am as you go. I'm not my father, I'm not my mother, I'm not my brother and I'm not who I was. There, that was easy, wasn't it? About as much use as a chocolate teapot, but easy.

It's easy not to be my mother, as she gave up on any pretence of personality many years ago. There is another theory (I'm very good at those, you'll find. I don't believe we can define very much at all: I was going to breeze through Philosophy at the University of Red-Brick, and become a highly qualified unemployment statistic. It pays to have achievable goals. Well, it pays other people, we've already established that I wouldn't have made mine.) Well, there are many other theories, but this one says that we can learn a lot about ourselves by our hates, which are just translated fears. If this is so, then I am virtually defined by my mother — no, I'm not Greek - whom I despise more than anyone or anything in the history of the known world. Her entire life revolves around conformity, fitting into the little stereotypical niches that society has conveniently made for absolutely no-one to realistically fit into. You've seen the statistical breakdown that puts various groups together, and no-one actually fits into any of them. My mother does. And she thinks we all should.

I'm not the 'typical' nineties teenager, but then I don't know many people who are. I' not a fashion victim, I'm not clubber, I'm not a vandal, I'm not a sportsman, I'm not a nerd, I'm not a geek (isn't it irritating to find these Americanisms drifting into the language? Don't they realise this is 'English'? More to the point — why don't we?); In fact, I'm not much of anything recently. Until recently I was just one observer, easily ignored and unremarkable, but even that's not true anymore. Of course, none of this really helps, does it; I think most people probably think of themselves like that, most social descriptions in that vein are the produce of our peers. We can classify everyone but ourselves. It becomes quite offensive when you think of it like that, doesn't it?

Let me begin at the beginning. I was born, as most people are, of two parents; both of whom were, in this particular case, shits. My father, who had the dubious pleasure of being publicly educated, was at the time a promising young barrister (it's very easy to fall victim to Freudian slips with that particular expression) formerly of Kent where his father had been something important in the military, the army I think. I was never really bothered, I never got the opportunity to meet him. From him, my father learnt or inherited a smarmy sort of mildly good-looking charm, an ingrained belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority, and a firm grasp of the concepts of corporal punishment. Despite being a left-hander (sign of the Devil, you know) he managed to wade his way through post-war schooling and then onto University (Cambridge, of course) and finally into a successful firm of solicitors in The City; a firm with a history of sending people into politics (which of course came as a complete surprise to him when he found out!). Such acts strike me as a bad case of compounding the error. Fortunately (for the rest of us), and unfortunately (for both he and my mother), they didn't send him into the important circles, so he sits here, stagnant, stable, to all impressions remaining respectable and uninteresting.

Somewhere along this tale he met my mother, Ariadne. (At least that's her name now, her initials, however are S. F. Collier). My father likes to characterise himself as an oak tree, spreading the shelter of his strong branches over his family (isn't that cloyingly sweet, he actually said that himself!). If that's so, my mother must be ivy: parasitic, clinging, and using him to try and climb. I don't know exactly when they met, or how, but the more drunk (and perhaps honest) they get, the later it is. In complete sobriety, my mother will maintain they met at university, and my father will compound his homely image by claiming they were virtually childhood sweethearts. This is impressive, living as they did in different countries. (Wales is foreign, I checked.)

By late Christmas evening, however, my mother will start talking about trawling the firms, looking for prospects, and finding 'him' during the 'Falklands thing'. He doesn't get drunk much, so I can't really confirm it with him.

Paul's theory on parents is that there are three types: those that are your best friends, those that are teachers and mentors, and those that just don't really give a shit. I think he's read one too many issues of Reader's Digest, frankly. There are only two types of parent: abusive and not abusive. The rest is up to the kid, really. Some kids want a friend, some kids want a teacher, and some kids don't want anything at all really. By the time they've got old enough to be capable of choosing intelligently life has already settled into its pattern, and you can either conform to that pattern, or be unhappy. I wouldn't like to say which is abusive and which not, really, I think most of us get screwed over, one way or another. Those of us who think we're happy have been indoctrinated, and those of us who aren't haven't but are still unhappy. Life sucks like that when you're a kid.

No matter how you choose to look at him, and not many would, my father is dull. He practically oozes 'accountant' or 'lawyer' or one of the multitude of other grey lifestyles you can think of. When he isn't wearing his suit at work, he is at home wearing brown chords and a woollen tank-top, you know the sort. He is a lawyer, of sorts, though not in the bombastic, truth or die, 'A Few Good Men' vein: more in the 'I can take anything you say and twist it to mean forty things you didn't' sort of a way. You can tell he's clever, though totally devoid of excitement, and you can't imagine him ever having been any different. I have weird visions of some poor woman peering into his cot and asking who the beautiful little boy is, and getting the reply "Do you often have thoughts like that about little children?"

He is, in the very worst sense of the word, a complete tosser. He told me once, in one of our deep and meaningful moments when I was about twelve and at least one of us was still pretending to care, that he knew what it was like to have no friends at school, and I thought But you deserved it!

Maybe that makes me the tosser?

He spends his free time playing squash (which he hates) with people (whom he hates) he thinks can boost his career (which he hates) and doing charitable work (which he hates) and generous appearances (which he hates) on behalf of his local Conservative Association (which he loves with an ardour usually reserved for God by bomb-carrying fanatics). They, of course, lap it up, smile benignly, make non-committal promises and assurances and then take all the credit.

He must see it for what it is, he does it himself for a living. Reassigning due credit; or legal defence, as he puts it, its all bullshit really. It's strange really, how parents have so much trouble letting us live in the same world they do. My father lies in court every day for a living, using facetious arguments and trivialities to achieve miscarriages of justice, and yet if I ever expect him to prove one of his assertions at home he blows a gasket. Disregarding circumstancial evidence makes him rich, hearsay and unsubstantiated rumours and accusations get me slippered.

But then, double standards are par for the course with a lawyer, arent' they? My mother has ridiculously high standards and Tim, well Tim had no standards at all. But we'll get to Tim.

My mother tells everyone she can, especially at all the 'dinner for the boss' events and charity parties, that her parents were wealthy landowners in North Wales. I've heard it said that you never get a poor farmer, but farmers are what they were. That sort of thing typifies my mother's attitude, living on the grey and hazy border between extreme exaggeration and outright lie: it gives my parents something in common, and every couple needs that.

Which brings us to Tim. Tim was my elder brother, by birth, and the spawn of every one of the six-hundred and sixty-six layers of hell by attitude. He was a bully, a thug, a vandal, a thief and a drug-dealer. My father managed to get him off the other charges. My mother still maintains that he was blamed unfairly, and that he was an angel put on this earth to serve. She has always maintained her own personal idea of the truth. I don't want to speak too much ill of the dead, and make it appear that Tim had no good points at all, he did. In four concerted attempts he never actually managed to break my arm (but credit for sticking to the trying) and I never knew him to prolong the suffering of any of the animals he tortured — he might keep them alive while he saw how long a cat could survive under water, but once he was finished he would let it go.

It sank.

Of course, without the problem of complaining parents knocking on the front door to remonstrate, I became his favourite human target. My mother believed none of it, not of Tim. My father was too busy with by-elections and the like to worry about it, and so I spent a succession of long, lonely evenings hiding away with a book until he got bored and went out to find some other Neanderthals intent on having a good hour's harmful fun at someone else's expense.

In order to get away with such as this for as long as he did, he had to have something going for him. He was the undisputed King of the school, and those teachers he hadn't charmed into disbelief of his nefarious exploits he instead either extorted or simply threatened. Coupled to that was the fact that, despite the initial impressions, Tim wasn't actually stupid. He could do a convincing impression, when it was required, and he wasn't actually capable of much in the way of academic excellence, but there was an undeniable animal cunning to him that more than accounted for it. Sort of the same thing that allows dumb animals to tear apart intelligent people who despite the signs get too close to the cage, you know?

He was, in short, the worst sort of social parasite: he raised his own image by walking up a hill of those he cast before him. Almost biblical, really, isn't it? So, that leaves me as the holy angel, doesn't it, marching forward to glory slowly and inexorably? Well, perhaps, and perhaps not. We all think that what we do is right and justified, and I'm no different to that, I don't suppose my parents are. Even Tim, if you could have got him to take the question seriously, would likely have agreed, so it all becomes a personal perspective, and this is mine. You'll have to decide for yourself by the end of it if you think I was right: I warn you, though, twelve good men and true didn't.

So, given that sort of background you'd expect me to want to be a family-guidance councillor, no? I didn't really have any plans, in that sense: I always felt that was looking too far ahead, planning too much. Nothing's going to go as you plan it at the next stage, so why look beyond that. My life extended as far, perhaps, as A-level choices, on a good day, and that was it. Everything after that was a vast grey expanse. Unfortunately, the various options I could see didn't seem to promise that the grey expanse would change much by the time I got there.

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Story tagged with:
Teenagers / Romantic / Heterosexual / School /