Choice headlines from the day’s papers reliably inform me that a group called the Cure Issues Trust are campaigning to advertise ‘anti-gay therapy’ on the buses, that this is either ironic, prescient or macabre given that today is the 60th anniversary of the death of Alan Turing, and that Anders Breivik is, is almost definitely, or is definitely not schizophrenic (Caffè Nero supplies copies of the Sun, Mail and Guardian).
I sit, sipping my overpriced tea on the faceless catwalk that is Lordship Lane, and stare into the wide, Aryan eyes of the Norwegian killer. They stare back, pixelated, from the page. The scene at News International must have been unreal. Months of sod all news, then not only do they get landed with a psycho killer, he’s also a white supremacist. A potential SCHIZO NAZI, as the red-top on the table has it. Journalistic manna.
Out of habit, I calculate the date. 19 + 7 years, 1 month, a week and three days. Of all the ideas my brain has produced, the assumption of death aged 19 has – unsurprisingly I suppose – stuck with me the longest. A seemingly arbitrary figure (I’ve never worked out why my brain landed on it anyway, although theories abound) towards which I careered with nihilistic gusto, the tick of the time-bomb labelled 19 was the rhythm to which I lived my life. Since not dying – in spite of my best efforts – at the prescribed age, I have found that it has become my temporal line in the sand: my very own Anno Domini.
The letters pages reveal that a surprising number of people still confuse schizophrenia with multiple-personality disorder, or simply think of it as bad, scary and definitely Proper Mental (which makes it a handy term to chuck about if you want to make someone sound bad, scary and Proper Mental). You wouldn’t think it were necessary to embellish the badness or scariness of a man who has just coolly shot dead a bunch of innocent teenagers in the name of the master race, but it’s surprising how terrified people are of humanity. Inconceivable that he should be sane – take that thought to its logical conclusion and pretty soon you’re suggesting that anyone, any one of us, possesses the same dormant capability. Irrelevant the name given to his presumed disorder, or the fact that in this case it is woefully misinformed: what people need is comfort, the sort of comfort you get from a good old-fashioned purge.
A name was given to me today, one which instantly situated me deep in the territory of Proper Mental and from which my younger self would have turned and fled. When I asked J what I could do to purge myself, he smiled his lopsided smile and told me: ‘This isn’t something we cure. It’s a part of you.’ This I had not expected. ‘Can you cure your hair colour?’ he asked, ‘your sexuality?’