The name of god on the tip of my tongue

Came to Leeds, day out. It’s my old stomping ground, where I came to waste away my uni days.

I was off my fucking rocker in Leeds.

I mean, not constantly. There were weeks I’m sure when I was fine.

But I got ill here, and I didn’t appreciate how ill; a lot of my time in Leeds was barb wire and static and me trying to convince myself it was silk and cool water. Still; time dulls edges and smooths wrinkles, soothes stinging memories. Now Leeds is a city of fond nostalgia, the ghosts of friends I wish I’d kept up with, and lifetime and a half away there’s a thin memory of me; less heavy with regret, although maybe just as wound up with uncertainty. And wilder, so much wilder than the man I am now.

At times, I was off my fucking rocker in Leeds. Continue reading




Dashed out the house to make a half nine appointment at Dean Street and ended up taking the wrong branch of the Northern Line, finding myself at Bank. Schoolboy error, and too late to reroute. They’ll have to take my blood another day.



Walked around for a bit – Christ, I’m useless when hungover. Doddered about, mostly lost, ricocheted inside Liverpool Station for twenty minutes. No, I’ve no idea either. Eventually found a Pret to charge my phone.

Flat white. Bacon roll. Overpriced bacon roll. Organic focaccia bread, seriously, who wants that kind of shit mucking up a bacon roll?

Still. Bacon. Hangover bacon. Yum.

Christ I hate the square mile. I always get lost, turned about, and the place reeks of money, the stench makes me gag, makes me sicker than cheap lager. Give me Walworth Road any day of the week, with its vom streaked paving and bleach stripped alleys. Give me gospel and preachers and good old honest thieves. Keep your pinstripe suits and boutiques, the only way anyone ever got rich was by taking other people’s money.

I escape, eventually, heading out to St Paul’s and past. Religion, religion I can deal with better than I used to, it’s not for me but then neither is CBT; and there’s comfort and beauty, and more than a little love, in religion. Bigotry and greed just shout louder, the way the selfish often do. And atheist as I am, I can’t be sure of anything, the only thing I know is no one gets out of here alive.

I walk.

Down the Strand; past the alley that houses Retro, stained with old memories. Homing in to Trafalgar Square, by St Martins. That amazing greasy spoon that manages, somehow, still to hang on. Bet they do better bacon rolls than Pret.

Better coffee, too. Got a thing for cheap coffee and cheap chips, cheap food in cheap cafés.

Past Halfway to Heaven. Fuck it, into Halfway to Heaven, hair of the dog. Friendly staff and that shit music the gays like.

No, not that shit music; the other shit music.

The rim of my glass tastes like washing up liquid. I assume it’s washing up liquid anyway, I don’t make a habit of sucking the teat of the Fairy bottle, unless it’s euphemistically. The lager tastes like water, but it’s cheap lager and if it tasted of lager I’d be suspicious. Old queens talking about Viagra and nipple clamps and the lottery. “Don’t go to GAY, it’s rank” they say. A revelation.

Plug my phone in. Write.

Get over the hangover.

Your choice

This is also available at BeyondPositive

I was born in 1981.
I’m now 33.
A lot has changed in those 33 years.

So I’m taking these at the moment.
PEP medication
For all the Matrix like excitement of taking a red pill and a blue pill, they’re actually fairly boring. Tales abound about how you’ll be laid out for weeks with symptoms akin to a persistent norovirus, or flu, or foul food poisoning. Alas, for me at least, they’re not even that exciting.

I get a bit nauseous the first few days. Then again, they give you anti-nausea pills, too. So I’m sorted.

I’m told they’re very powerful drugs but then, they tell me the mood stabilisers and antidepressants are also very powerful drugs. Frankly, unless I’m tripping balls within half an hour of swallowing them I have difficulty believing that claim.

They do clever and intricate things to do with DNA replication and integration. For all their apparent innocence, they are both absolute, undisputed marvels of 20th and 21st century biology, biotechnology, pharmacology and medical research.

They’re anti HIV pills.

I don’t even think I have HIV.

PEP, for those of you who don’t know, stands for Post Exposure Prophylaxis. They’re handed out after suspected HIV exposure and consist of standard anti HIV medication – the exact drugs vary depending on what other medication you’re taking and any pre-existing conditions. The idea is to slam the virus down before it takes hold, before it inserts itself into your own DNA and becomes a permanent resident within your immune system.

Treatments for HIV these days are, like I say, a marvel of modern medical research. HIV first came to attention around the time I was born; now, in my thirties, an individual living with HIV can generally expect a normal lifespan. There are exceptions, and there is variability in response; but from talking to most (heterosexual) people, the impression I get is that their perception of HIV is over fifteen years out of date. For many in the UK the tombstone adverts of the ’80s still loom large in their minds. Most, let’s be fair, never think of it at all.

HIV never went away. It just became old news, and old news is no news. But in the gay community, such as it is, it remains; a permanent resident. For gay men in London, if you’ve had unprotected sex with anyone at all whose status you’re unaware of, then you’re usually offered PEP. You’re presumed to have been exposed.

Sexual health counsellors are amazing.

OK, I only saw one, the one time, but she was amazing. Half her hair cropped tight, the other half waved wild, streaked green; torn jeans and flannel shirt and big, big boots.

She laughed lots.

“It’s your choice. You’re a smart guy; you know exactly the risks you’re taking. Even when you go out, get pissed, get high, you know the risks you will take. You keep on like this, you probably will get HIV.

“Your call”

Ever since 2008, my libido’s been fucked. And really, honestly, I don’t know why any more. Maybe the psychiatric meds. Maybe the depression. Maybe my own neurosis about sex, built up during the episode and now difficult to tear down again; am I any good, will they be disappointed, will they think I’m too fat, too thin, too boring, too kinky? Rejection hurts, it’s easier to say no. Or ensure no one ever even asks.

Unless I’m wasted.

When you’re wasted, everything’s easy, except thinking and talking and life. But pleasure, but desire, but lust… these things are easy. And when you’re wasted, who cares about the rest?

Fucking is easy when you’re wasted.

Lust is fierce when you’re wasted.

Who wants to use condoms, when you’re wasted?

I only have sex when I’m wasted.

Amongst gay men, there’s a degree of prejudice around barebacking (sex without a condom). To a degree, this is understandable; the safer sex message was naturally targeted intensely at our community, and of course there are those who remember the decimation of the ’80s. For a long while, the message was condoms or not at all. This prejudice is unfortunate, because gay guys – an increasing number of gay guys – bareback. We do it for many, often complex reasons. Often it’s just the one time; we’re drunk, we’re high. We always use condoms but we might slip up. Or maybe we’re with a partner and we both last tested negative. Or maybe we only fuck when high or otherwise disinhibited, meaning we never, or rarely, use protection. Or maybe, maybe just fuck it, because sex without condoms just feels better, and we’re fucking horny, and it’s fucking horny, fucking like that, cumming like that.

Turning around to that vast, varied swathe and saying, “what’s wrong with condoms” – well we’ve been doing that for decades, and still we have HIV, inserted into our lives. It’s as absurd as telling people to ‘just say no’ to drugs. It’s tone deaf, idealistic to the point of idiocy, and presumes a perfect, predictable world. Sorry sugar – the world isn’t like that. People aren’t like that.

The messages of moral superiority, ‘just say no’, that barebacking is stupid, hurts. It hurts the individuals who do it, and it hurts the community it’s supposedly aimed at protecting. It results in the people who bareback  – for whatever reason – not talking about it, not understanding the options now available, picking up hearsay and horror stories about the medications available. It plays a part in fuelling anti HIV prejudice, which is still all to prevalent not only in the wider world but in our community. You’d think that we of all people would understand that this never solves anything; that communication is better than silence, understanding better than judgement.

Your call.

Fuck it

Fuck it.

I’m gonna sit here, drinking, fuck it. Fuck the world and past promises to future me, fuck the future. The future I can’t even see. Fuck it. Fuck it all.

And this is me on a good day, these days.

The boys behind the bar in Ku are tight, fresh faced and fashionable. Bulges in all the right places, nice. That curve, where the shoulder meets the arm; creases longing to be licked. Shadows and highlights, biceps, triceps, taut.

Fuck them and their youth. I’m gonna sit here, drinking, getting older. Unshaven, wild hair, unkempt. Trainers falling off my feet and falling apart. Me, falling off my feet; falling apart. Today I’ve been to the gym, worked out my chest, worked up a sweat on the cross trainer. Sat now in a bar, downing pints. This sums up my life, pretty much, right now. Fucking metaphors.

I never did get this world, you know? I wonder who does, if anyone does. I’ve thought I understood it, like truths understood in dreams. Fairy gold only lasts until the dawn. I never did get this world, not really.

Work, buy, consume, die. Identity constructed through purchasing power, your clothes your music your hair your food, your choice of beverage, iPhone or Android, express your individuality through Habitat prints or posters from the market. We’re all fucking individuals.

I never got it.

Christ I’ve tried. I’ve tried to join in, but you know, I just don’t care. Fuck it. Scruffy hair and scratty trainers; I’m not making a statement I just honestly don’t notice, can’t be arsed. I don’t get this dumb fucking world we’ve built.

The boys behind the bar are firm and hard; fashionable. Clean cut and unblemished and you can imagine fucking them and it being a kind of perfection. And I want them and rage that I was never like them and now the moment’s passed, and I just sit here drinking, getting older.

And the guys in the clubs are all pumped and pumping, perfect and laughing. Jeans hanging just so, showing just enough arse to make you ache and hate yourself. Fuck them. Fuck them and their lives, I want them and I’m never going to be like them and i wish I didn’t care but fuck it, I do. But I never got this world.

Christ I’ve tried.

Loose boundaries

The psychiatrist eyes me over his glasses, notepad in hand. The day is too bright, the room too noisy, even in silence. Me, a social worker, a trainee clinical psychologist, and the psychiatrist. He seems affable; in my memory he has a short beard, a stereotypical shrink. But memories are unreliable, and my memory of this time more unreliable than most.

“You’re right”, he comments, “SSRIs have, in general, only slight efficacy. It depends on the person and their situation, obviously. We don’t really understand it.

But it seems, from what you’ve said, that they affect you a great deal more than most”

Generally, I take this to be a good thing.


My alcohol consumption has rocketed.

Normally I drink only at weekends, a few glasses (OK, bottles) of wine with a meal, with friends. If we’re going out, obviously I drink more, but again this is a weekends thing.

And I have a curious relationship with alcohol, in that it reliably makes me feel good. Yes, I can get maudlin, but warmly so. Even in my depression, it can lift me. Fact is, I enjoy being drunk. And I thank whatever guardian angels I have that, for some reason, this has never quite twigged with my subconscious. When I’m depressed, I don’t drink – I drink socially, I drink randomly, but I never drink to get happy. I never self medicate.

Which is why it’s curious that my consumption has rocketed. And I’ve got to put it down to the meds. SSRIs actually make most people more sensitive to alcohol, so you’d expect they’d drink less; but while I do get more sensitive, I end up drinking more. Lunchtime pints, nipping in to the pub after lab, staying for one more, one more, another more, more.

And it’s impulse control. I somehow lose impulse control on these drugs. I get some of it back after a few weeks, but initially there’s this loosening of my behavioural boundaries. Curiously, this is one of the mechanisms by which SSRI medication is presumed to trigger suicide behaviour (don’t worry, that’s not going to happen). It’s also something which alcohol itself disrupts – which is why drunk people can be so, well, impulsive. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of it (and I doubt anyone does), but it’s strange to watch yourself from the outside, behaviour staggering more than you’d anticipated, willpower veering, only half in control. Sober, acting drunk.