Sunday 17th April
Cowardy coward custard. They used to shout that at me at crammer. I can remember being high up on a rope, in Gym, spinning silently round and round. Right at the top of the gym, it must have been ten metres up. And somehow I had been coerced (forced) to climb it and now I was scared to come down. I can remember being so frightened and clinging to the rope for dear life. One part of me wanted to stay up there forever, away from the bullies, away from Grice and his gang. Another part of me wanted desperately to climb down, but whenever I let myself look down for even a second a tiny spurt of pee escaped from my ten-year old bladder, and as long as I clung tight to the rope no-one could see I had pee’d my pants. ‘Cowardy coward custard’ they were all shouting, and Mr. Soames was tugging at the rope and shouting at me to come down ‘Smith, come down this instant, do you hear me boy?’ Yes sir, I can hear you, even over the chorus of Cowardy Coward Custard. But I just cling there, like a limpet to that rope, scared to look down, scared that the patch of wee would grow bigger and bigger and I wouldn’t be able to hide it anymore. I can’t remember coming down at all, just being up there. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and I am there again, a boy of ten, peeing my pants every time I look down. Swinging silently above the world, and every time I look down my willy tingles and I have to look away. So, I climb a bit higher and then the pain in my bladder gets worse and worse until I wake in fright, cold and shivering, my body covered in rivulets of sweat. This is the scariest dream in the world. And now here I am back in the gym twice a day. At least no Grice this time, and even in the g-pod, though weightless I don’t need to pee anymore.
At first I quite enjoyed getting back into some sort of shape. Amazing how flabby I had let myself get over the years; our lifestyle is so artificial, so spent ‘indoors’, so screen-oriented that we mostly neglect our bodies. We have drugs now to stop our veins clogging up, to detect and destroy cancer cells, to suppress and regulate our appetite, and yet there is no real substitute for running, for exerting your muscles, for making your heart pound. At first this was, as I say, quite enjoyable, but after a few days, the novelty has worn off, and I almost dread the three hourly intense periods of gym I have to do every day. Just as my body is beginning to recover, there I am back in that rowing machine, being dragged backwards and forwards, and having to almost fight the machine to give my aching shoulders a moment’s rest, before I am yanked backwards at full stretch again. And they say this is good for me?
Then it is straight into the weightless chamber, or ‘g-pod’ as everyone calls it. This is the very opposite of the machines in the gym; here I just float. I drift and gently glide from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. But the whole pod is gently turning, and in three directions at once, so that even when you are perfectly still, or have slowed yourself down to an almost standstill, there is still the illusion of movement as the almost featureless pod glides round and round and up and down and over and over. I am encouraged to keep my eyes open. This is to orientate myself to nothingness.
“In the con-joining, you must concentrate on nothingness, your brain must not be stimulated in any way at all.” They tell me. “It is vitally important that you master the technique of not thinking at all. All your synapses must be at rest.” They exhort me. And I willingly comply. Nothing is quite as nice as thinking nothing. The new philosophy of Janek Smith; “think nothing and nothing bad will happen, nothing good either; so, nothing to worry about at all.”
Blankness training they call this, and actually I quite like it, submerging my whole mind, my personality, my thoughts, to a blank nothingness. O-fucking-blivion, I call it and sweet it is too – this state of nothingness. In some ways I have spent my whole life secretly trying to achieve this state of oblivion. As a teenager with headphones on I would link them up to two or three different machines pumping out different heavy music and I would ramp up the sound so loud that my ears hurt, and I was listening to the purity of sheer fucking noise. No melody got through, just noise and I was so happy being blasted out of my tiny little mind. And it is the same here in the g-pod; only here there is a total absence of noise, but in essence it is the same thing; oblivion, sweet oblivion as thoughts are sandblasted out of my head altogether. Oh, and the other thing I forgot to mention is that the colours inside the pod slowly change too, imperceptibly altering, rainbowing their way through the entire spectrum. Again, this adds to the feeling of utter relaxation, the letting go of your entire self. Drifting into pure colour myself – I really like being in the weightless g- pod. At times I think I could live here, inside an immense g-pod. I wouldn’t want for anything anymore. I could even happily die in a weightless pod, slowly turning in an artificially induced outer space, where my inner space and the outer pod become one gorgeous dead thing that just is. Or is not, as the case might be.