poet. writer. imposter.
The guy next door suffered from schizophrenia. He talked about it to us often and gave us regular updates on his well-being and the state of his medication. I would often have a chat with him over a cup of tea in the community centre. From time to time, he would have an episode. Sometimes, when it got bad, he would claim that a small octopus that lived on his ceiling would give him instructions to kill himself. When the octopus was mentioned in conversation, we would know to contact his psychiatric nurse who would visit to make sure things were okay. His milder attacks would often involve him screaming about the pigeons that terrorised him on his balcony and on the walkway. We could hear him weeping and screaming because he couldn’t get rid of them.
These episodes weren’t as severe as the octopus and usually nothing to worry about. Until one morning I woke up, threw the curtains open. To my horror I saw six dead pigeons, garrotted and hanging from the above balcony by blue wool. Eight floors up, the wind made them sway in a macabre mockery of flying. We had a word with his nurse. He didn’t scream about the pigeons after that. I think he had got his revenge and that cleared up whatever demon he was fighting.
Sometimes despite warning from his health worker, he would go out, get horrendously drunk. He’d come home ‘singing’ – more rhythmic rasping that singing – then put on a record at a colossal volume and fall asleep. From what I can ascertain, he only had two records: Boris Gardener’s ‘I Want to Wake Up With You’ and ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler, the latter by far being his favourite. The problem was that in his drunkenness, he would leave the record player on auto repeat. For a period of about nine months, I was subjected to regular eight hour sessions of Total Eclipse of the Fucking Heart.
Over another milky tea and slightly stale rich tea, we talked gently about loud music and how annoying it was for everyone. He talked about how much he hated it and how it was appallingly antisocial. He failed to take the hint that we were actually referring to his drunken antics.I had hoped that might remedy the situation, but it didn’t. After a particularly loud outing, I snapped and retaliated by playing ‘Auto Da Fe’ by SPK back at him; speakers turned to the wall for maximum annoyance. The layout of the flats were such that there were three floors to each of the four walkways, so you were never sure whose wall you were up against from the outside. From the front door, some flats were upstairs some down, some maisonettes, so I don’t think he registered that it was me. Anyway, he hated the industrial noise I was playing and started to bash the radiators to express his displeasure and get me to turn it down. SPK were one of the early 80’s ‘metal bashers’; contemporaries of Einsturzende Neubaten and Test Department. The extra metallic sounds just made it sound like I was playing a remix.