This is the story of a man.

I am that man.

Like any other man I was first an infant and child, and it was during my childhood the robbery, or was it loss, occurred. Things went from me quietly and secretly which left me impoverished, but I was unknowing. Spells were laid upon me which took from me an authority I deserved but never claimed. So that when I reached manhood I had no awareness of my bereavement. I was a man of steel, guarded against all that might have told me. For fifty weeks a year I could rise at 6.30 to work, leave home not to return until evening. In the remaining two weeks of the year I could rest with my family and barely feel the pangs of regret and the intuition of a coloured world seen momentarily through the camera shutter, and lost when the next year of unremitting work began.

Marriage was no anxiety or burden of responsibility for me. Why should it be when I could marry a woman without the complications of emotion and feelings. There was no jealousy or hurt, there was no dependence or cares. And together we made children, beautiful straight limbed children with shining golden hair, who I robbed as I had been robbed – in the darkness.

Yes, of course there was darkness and clouds. But if you live in a country where there is little sun you accept it. We live in an age where awful ugly things are given polite names, where dark things are seen as good. When a woman leaves her baby to be cared for by someone else, and never puts her baby to her breast, it is given the polite name of economic necessity. When we build houses that are not created out of consideration for human beings, but out of how much profit can be made, we call it market forces. When a person exhibits homosexual behaviour which in an animal would be seen as signs of non-functioning, we rationalise and support it. When tens of thousands of people show massive symptoms of fear and alienation regarding their social environment, and consume saleable products such as alcohol, tobacco and sedatives to cope, we do not look at our environment and see it as a source of disease, we allay the symptoms in the sick. We are SO polite. So polite that when savages roam the streets and monsters from nightmares sit in public places we defer to them.

I was brought up to be polite. I was trained to say please and thank you, even for things I hated. I was encouraged to show pleasure in meeting people who were tainted and abhorrent. I was taught to fear too. I used to think fear was a tool of religion, in which the damnation of an eternal hell was promised unless one supported a group of men who lived in ease from the earnings of fear. But fear also sells tablets and whisky, it sells health policies and safe foods. Fear is big business. It is promoted today more than ever.

So how do you catch a thief who robs you of confidence? How do you catch the robber who steals away your ability to feel emotions? What does the criminal look like who pilfers ones ability to think for oneself and in doing so shapes the mind to have narrow boundaries and believe only in what is commonly believed? If it was just one person you might catch them and kick them in return for their brutality to ones spirit. But some things were taken which I didn’t even know were missing. Who can you blame then?

Was it the nurses who, to anaesthetise my child body despite my screams and struggles held me down, and through my battle and cries subdued me – creating in me not only a fear that, despite begging, despite craven calls for help, other human beings could continue terrible activities upon me, but also that my deepest pleas could be felt to be of no consequence, that I as a person mattered little to others of my species – was it the nurses who thieved my trust in other human beings from me?

It is difficult too, when you have a penis evident between your legs, to believe that in some way it has been ripped off, dismembered, pinched. How could it have been taken while it is still there? Some people still walk around but they are dead. When you walk past some of the elderly in clothes freshly worn from the dry cleaners, who smell of talcum powder, who’s hair is so neatly barbered, who’s body looks as if it is laundered several times a day, don’t you ever feel fear? Don’t you have a suspicion they are actually already dead? The ability to love and hate has gone from them. The living impulse that could make them snarl or defy someone, to do something outrageous or splendid has gone. So my penis – no, the full longing, the beautiful belly lusting hunger – had been crippled.

I could fuck, just like the walking dead can walk. I fathered children. But without a living penis I hated sex. It always made me feel how dead I was, and how frightened of death. There were terrible days. Being castrated and left to wander in public was a pillory I didn’t feel I deserved. It was all the more cruel because I still had the physical member which led me to hope, to try again, to meet death, and run once more. The descriptions in books about sex seemed clear enough. You kissed, you fondled, you became excited and you joined bodies until there was a climax. It all seemed straightforward, it happened just like in the book, or the film, yet death came again. Continually I was exploded into fragments. I wept. Perhaps there was something I didn’t understand, or something hidden I hadn’t seen.

Isn’t that a part of the stealing? What has been taken is hidden. How it was taken is invisible, lost in the mists. Who took it a fleeting shadow, a sniggering face running dark alleys in dreams. Yet the invisible, the hidden, the dark alleys of dreams, were all described to me as lunacy, the abnormality of those who want an opium to smooth away the reality of life. God is an ancient valium tablet. Dreams are phantasms of disordered mind and the excreta of the brain. Introversion a form of self loving narcissism. Seeking the hidden produces the same facial expression on a beholder as if one had poked ones finger up ones rectum and then pulled it out to examine it.

Finding the unknown lost; looking at what is hidden; finding understanding for what one wishes to avoid knowledge of. Senseless. Meaningless. So a journey to nonsense – an ache for something one has no ambition to acquire. 


It was my children who so deftly touched the empty spaces in my life. There they touched, there and there, like knives blading me. Yet their touch was gentle and their faces with no malice. They were asking me for something I didn’t own to give. Were the stabs of anguish the ache of realising I had been robbed? Partly. They were also the hurts from being called. “Daddy! Daddy!” the calls went. “Daddy I want….!” I couldn’t catch the last words. Somewhere I struggled. A me that had lain long bound and restless heard them call and fought to respond. The knots tying me bit back fiercely. The gag twisted my mouth, confused the words I was trying to form. Not just words in my throat, but things which wanted to be spoken by an older me alive in my organs. A me I did not yet know. “I am alive. I am alive. I am life. I am alive. I hear you,” that bound me was trying to say. Who was it? who was I, that something else living in my body, writhing in my innards, was trying to talk?

But I had not at that time understood how deep calls to deep, and who my children were, and that the voice they called me with spoke elsewhere.

I met a friend, Susan. I thought her beautiful. Seeing her each week during the mid day break our walks and talks led me to intense disquiet. With Susan I was calm, but almost from the moment of parting I knew there was something we had not talked of, something we had not done – there was something. I didn’t know what the something was. It was still a part of the stolen, a feature of my disinheritance. I knew that she called me because I could not be free of her, but must see her again and once more, without satisfaction. As with my children, some of what she called I could not quite catch. She was saying, “Dare to …. me. Dare to …. me. Please …. me!”

In the eyes of the bound me tears formed. There was torment, and awful effort. He could hear what Susan was saying. He was trying to answer, to touch and assure her, but was trapped and interned in my body. Maybe I hadn’t been robbed. Perhaps my assets had been bricked up. Had I chained them with my purity, jailed them with being so bloody GOOD? Being married I never held Susan. I never kissed the lips which were so full. As I said, I was SO polite. And inside there was something writhing.

On the underground riding to work one day, a day I was to see Susan, one of the ropes sundered on the writhing form inside me. He burst out into my body so roughly my chest was suddenly in pain. To breathe was difficult. I was frightened.

When I waited for Susan that day the fight within raged so near the surface I could witness its revolt underneath my skin. There was pain driving through from front to back of my chest as a spear thrust might have done entering from the rear. My heart frenzied enough to see its surging through my clothes. We walked from The Haymarket where she worked, to St. James’s Park, where we fed the ducks. It was sunny and people were lying on the grass dozing in their lunchbreak. Inside me blood was trickling out of hurts. Something was writhing. It yearned to speak. I threw breadcrumbs to the ducks and spoke quiet entertaining things to Susan. When Susan returned to work the thing inside me threw itself against the walls of my chest again. It had not said goodbye to her. It hadn’t even said hallo! I was roaming around with something piercing my chest and only one person had noticed. A woman had stopped me as I was passing the National Portrait Gallery near Trafalgar Square and asked me what was wrong with me. I told her it was my normal appearance. Was there any other way to appear?

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My doctor found no wound, no internal pounding. There appeared to him no fountainhead for the pain gnawing at my breasts. He told me I was perfectly healthy. “Maybe you have been working too hard” he said. He offered me a piece of paper with orders for pills on it. If he had failed to palpate whatever was piercing my back, how could he know what pill would fumigate it? I carried the paper around in a limp hand for a few days. Perhaps I dropped it somewhere. I cannot remember. I know I sat a lot of evenings at home, bent, holding my chest to comfort it. The secret was still locked in my chest.

It was thereabouts I found myself at a wedding. The bride was dark haired, rounded, intelligent, with her natural feelings intact. Her name was June. How I had got involved I do not know. It had the feeling of rightness for the bizarre found in dreams. June took my arm and we went into The Friends Meeting House in Euston Road where the wedding was to take place. Apparently I had known June for a long time, wanted her for just such a duration. I could feel my belly stirring and hungering for her as I looked into her face. I wanted to touch and feast on the pleasure of the soft places of her body. More than anything I wanted to make the hopes she had become real by living them with her.

We got to the door leading to the quiet room in the Meeting House and June produced a ticket to get in. I had half a ticket but it was not good enough. June went in and I stood dazed. It didn’t seem right that a piece of paper was required to be wed. Did this matter more than what we felt for each other? With the right piece of paper could I have wed June, diminished of my longing for her, barren of the connection I felt with her needs and the woman she was?

Wondering how to get the missing half of the ticket I wandered out of the building and into the Euston Road. A battle was taking place. The sort one often gets on warm afternoons when people haven’t got enough to occupy them and tension grows. I had grown up around the corner from the age of nine so I had seen it before. Frustrated men with hands in pockets firing off rounds of lascivious anger at passing women in short skirts. One could hear the ricochets zipping off corseted arses making a whining drawn out “Fuck you! Fuck you!” sound. The battle I stumbled into was between the Should’s and the Should Not’s – the Have’s and the Have not’s. The Should’s were brazenly putting hands on their genital guitars and playing a cord or two. The Should Not’s meanwhile were restricting any genital music, and attacking the Should’s with heavy rifle fire. They in turn were firing back.

I immediately fell onto the road trying to look very dead and hoping, as the bullets wailed over me, that I looked convincing. I had signed the Peace Pledge years ago. I wouldn’t hurt anybody. Why would anyone attempt to hurt me?

My head was sideways on the road and I saw a tall man in army uniform walking toward me. It was difficult for me to believe what I was seeing. The bullets were still being fired, but he was moving along the road without even crouching. He didn’t even look mad. He appeared to be without fear of the battle. I had never watched a man like this before.

When he reached me I recognised how big he was. There was no massive chest or weight. He simply stood straight and was built like a man who used his body. Despite my pose of death he came to me and knelt next to me on the road, putting a hand on my back. I felt his fingers pushing into my flesh. Then he pulled hard at something, putting his other hand on my shoulder for leverage, and tore a big shelled creature off my back. He held it so I could see it, and the remains of tentacles dangling from it which obviously had pierced my chest from the rear. “The rest of those are still inside you,” he said. He actually smiled. The bullets were still seeking bodies. There was no sign of concern for them on his face. “Rub peanut butter on your back daily,” he went on, “and that will clear them out.” Then he stood and walked off carrying the shell. It was about a foot across. Like a large low-profile limpet.

I was scared. Things are out of control when, already married with three kids you can’t marry again because you haven’t got the ticket. They are definitely threatening when a tall wonderful man walks fearless through a battleground that has already terrified you, and pulls a limpet shell from your back which your own doctor said didn’t exist. When the things which are usually kept neatly in your mind become real and experienced, then we are taught to feel afflicted. Whatever door had opened I must shut it. The battle in the Euston Road was stuff for heroes, not for me. It had escaped out of me, and it must be kept incarcerated.

Copyright ©2001 Tony Crisp

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved