Sometimes I hesitate, unsure of myself, scared to let go at all. But at others I am driven, swept like flimsy flotsam, deluged by the storm, dragged down and bundled unceremoniously through the blue door.
Often, thankfully, it is the briefest, the fleeting-est of visits; I am barely through the door when I find myself back out again. Sometimes I stay there a while too long, wondering indeed just how many hours, days indeed, I might stay this time. There have even been times when I believed that behind the blue door is where I belong; where I should stay forever.
I realised as a child where the blue door led to. My mother said I was sulking, that I just wanted my own way. No. it wasn’t that, it wasn’t that at all. It wasn’t that I wanted my own way – I had no idea where my way was; if I only knew my way, what it was that I wanted.
I was fifteen when it became clearer, when I slowly understood that I wasn’t completely alone – that many of us go behind the blue door. It was when I heard Paul singing “Eleanor Rigby puts on the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?” Well, in my case it wasn’t just for all the lonely people, it was for everyone. In fact, I felt that I was one of the lonely people myself. It became clear to me that I too had a mask; I was constantly wearing a mask, a mask of normality, of happy cheeky chappie, when inside I was raging against the darkness, I was crying and no-one could hear my howls of despair.
Another song that affected me was Smokey Robinson “Tears Of A Clown”. I knew exactly what that song meant. In fact, I learnt quite early that comedy is simply the other side, the twin mask of tragedy, and that you had very little control of which one to wear. You joked to hide the desperation you felt inside.
Because what you must know, what you must realise is that there is really nothing behind the blue door. Just a chill darkness and a terrible feeling of being alone, that nobody understands. I mean, how could they? How could they ever know how cold and dead, how bleak and desolate the nothingness is. Unless they too had been there – and as I had never met anyone there; as nobody had ever told me they too were a visitor – I thought I must be the only person going there.
Mostly, these days, I avoid the blue door, and yet even on the sunniest days, the happiest of occasions, the blue door beckons. It is always there, just in the corner of the room – and sometimes at the height of everyone else’s gaiety I slip quietly away and through that deepest of blue doors. And no-one ever notices. I hover above the crowd and look down in amazement at all these fools believing that this is a fun occasion, that life is great; if only they knew.
Over the years I have learnt to resist the blue door – though I must admit I do slip through the portal some days. And it doesn’t even have to be anything really which tips me over the edge, which brings the blue door into my field of possibilities. Oh, there were times – dreadful times – wives leaving, children leaving me too – you know those moments of ultimate betrayal, the worst of rejections when you feel that the company of others is the last thing you want, when you hate the whole human race. When all you want is solitude. And sometimes all you really want is O-bloody-blivion, the sweet sweet oblivion that lies beyond the blue door.
I have found distraction and comfort in books and music mostly, especially those sad songs of Leonard Cohen, the ‘Blood On The Tracks’ of Dylan, the soaring poetry of Joni. At those times I slowly come back through the blue door to something approaching normality. And occasionally you read a book, an author like Jean Rhys with her sad stories of lost women, that makes you realise that actually normality is both sides of the blue door; that indeed you are not alone; that this is just part of the Human Condition.
Maybe we all slip sometimes through the blue door. Most of us hide it well. Because there is still shame in admitting one’s vulnerability; ‘Man-up’ they say, ‘Look on the bright side’. But what if the light on the bright side is so blinding that all you want is to seek the strange comfort of darkness again.
It is almost impossible to understand another person, let alone yourself; we are such complex creatures. Though at times I suspect we are all made of much the same stuff, mostly wired in a similar way. Some say that going through the blue door is simply a chemical imbalance, a hormonal disturbance in the brain. I find that hard to believe. I have struggled to understand why I go there; and it is like peeling onions, there are layers and layers of hurt, you keep scrabbling layers away and all the time you can’t stop blubbing, crying like a child.
But I almost feel that the blue door is an essential part of me; without it I would be half a person, incomplete somehow. There is maybe an empathy I find there too, an understanding of this condition which helps reconcile my feelings of unworthiness and failure. Maybe those who never have ventured through the blue door are missing something in their lives. Another song, by Steve Earle, comes to mind ‘My Old Friend The Blues’. I know what he means; sometimes there is comfort to be found behind the blue door; even the isolation, the dislocation from reality (though what indeed is reality) can be reassuring.
And mostly I can control my visits to the blue door; I have strategies for coping; there are ways back. Though sometimes I fear that one day if things go badly, which a part of me always suspects, I may end up taking refuge there. For in a way the blue door is an escape from life, and secretly I suspect we are all seeking some form of refuge, our own shelter from the storm.
And there are whole days sometimes, when, like a junkie between fixes, I can manage to seem normal. I walk and talk and even laugh and joke with people – to all outward appearances a normal person – when I know that really there is a great big fat blue door looming between us.
But please do not make the mistake of pitying me. Your turn will come; one day you too may find yourself alone and cold and seeking warmth and shelter. And believe me my friends it only takes the slightest of nudges to pass through; indeed, sometimes it feels that the door is perpetually open, yawning wide and grinning, and dragging you inexorably through to the other side. And whether you hear an almighty slam or just the slightest of clicks – the door is still closed. The walls are black and seamless, the lighting is dimmed and – twist and turn as you will – you will struggle to find the handle on the other side. You just have to sit it out and wait for that little crack of light that enables you to slip back to this world again.
Actually, it might well be that the blue door is what makes us human. Animals do not seem to be affected in the same way, though they can comfort us when we have wandered there – sometimes they drag us back with their unjudgmental love. For without the darkness, the blank emptiness how can we ever know we are truly happy, how can we appreciate the colour and the light. And I see that what I have been trying to find all my life, through reading and listening to songs, is that connecting spark, the link to other people, the shared emotions, the knowledge that despite slipping occasionally there is always a way back. And I now realise that of course I am not alone, we all sometimes go through that door; maybe we should celebrate the fact rather than hiding it in our shame.
Well, I must also apologise for lifting the veil, for letting you see even a small glimpse of the truth. For one of the abiding sins of this venal world is honesty. Like the ‘Satanic Verses’ themselves, even acknowledging the blue door’s existence may bring a fatwah down on your head. We must all remain complicit in the illusion that we are happy all the time in this best of all possible worlds.