Clarence knew man lived in the shadows and that he’d lived in them for so long he didn’t even realise he lived in them. That, more to the point, man was shadow. Had become it. Had evolved to be it. That’s how disconnected man had become in our hero’s eyes. Man had castrated himself long time ago. Tore his own bollocks right off with his own bare hands. He was that stupid or scared (Clarence still wasn’t sure which was the ultimate driving force to man’s betrayal of himself) and no one, not one thing made him do it, he did it all by himself! For man, according to our hero, so far hadn’t even touched the sides of his God-given abilities. Clarence blamed man’s failure to reach his potential, his inability to step beyond his physical body on his fear to look within and that his failure to conjoin his outside and inner worlds meant there was little chance of the two worlds ever meeting let alone becoming one. That this failure of his resulted in a tendency to constrict and contort things (internally and externally) and this inevitably had led him to distort his self-importance to ridiculous proportions. And this, this fundamental act of self-conceit, this narcissistic-driven anxiety resulted in a form of self-inflicted incarceration and thus to countless acts of frustration and in extreme cases perversity and that this gave man his propensity towards behaviour that was driven by paranoia and delusion.

There was little hope for man in Clarence’s eyes. Man was fucked. Man had been fucked for a long, long time. And so fragmented, disjointed and fundamentally crippled, possibly even retarded, man had only one option and that was to blame anything and everything but himself. To project his dissatisfaction (mostly with himself) onto whatever was to hand or as preposterous as his paranoia was at that moment in time. It was as much about convenience as it was cowardly. Hence the popularity of John Wayne. For one thing The Duke was not was cowardly. It was all text book stuff really. A simple self-fulfilling prophecy that resulted in the confinement and control of man by himself, of himself, as much as the outside world, as well as a penchant for straight lines, sharp corners and dead ends.

Luckily however, our hero Clarence had learnt, by something of the hard way, that he had to take responsibility for the part he played in perpetuating man’s propensity for underachievement, and once he had taken his responsibility on, things became a whole lot easier for him to unravel. For once Clarence had learnt to stop seeing the world objectively, to stop seeing a separation between him and it, it was really quite simple. And, as he began to understand things on far deeper, richer, and broader levels he got to appreciate that if he didn’t do something to expand and develop his, and thus man’s poor lot, that he deserved to be castigated by himself as much as any of his fellow men.

Our hero had learnt how to step and move beyond man’s debilitating limitations a long time ago, how to get to and then exist outside of man’s one-dimensional world view. He’d learnt to do it from quite a young age. He hadn’t thought much of it at the time but now, looking back, he knew being able to escape had enabled him to exist, to survive. He knew that everyone did it, just not in the same way that he was able to. Most people had TV. Daytime, night-time, any-fucking-time-of-day-or-night TV. Others narcotics. Stimulants, depressants, uppers, downers, tranquillisers. A large proportion alcohol. Others a bespoke toxic concoction made by themselves (from the above) plus a few more add-ons taken from the more recent rising stars (unguarded senseless consumerism being one of the most popular). And if for any reason anyone found themselves caught short they always had each other, what was known as ‘love’ or ‘hate’, to escape into. Luckily for our hero, Clarence had more sophisticated mechanisms than most, for he had his other-worldliness and he knew that if it wasn’t for ‘it’ he’d have been gone long time ago. Gone, as in dead. Alongside the many others who’d he’d watch go by the wayside. The way, way, way too many. Witnessing so many losses first-hand had told Clarence that what he had, had saved him, had got him this far to this very day, and to this very moment, somehow.

Being on the inside he was the outsider inside of himself and now on the outside he was still an outsider who lived on the inside… He knew he had to stop pretending. Living a lie.”

Our hero also had the grace and humility to know that he wasn’t unique in any particular way or in any way for that matter (his ego had been destroyed long before it had had time to develop). He knew he wasn’t special. In fact, he didn’t believe in being special or being proud or deserving, for if there was one thing our hero knew for sure it was that everybody was essentially like him, IF ONLY THEY SAW IT! But then he knew he’d only gotten to know about it through near-on losing himself time after time after time. And looking back, he still wasn’t sure even with his other-worldliness how on earth he was still alive! It was a double-edged sword for Clarence, his other-worldliness. For although it enabled him to survive, it had merely kept him locked in a world where he knew he didn’t belong. A world he could make no sense of, couldn’t understand. A world that made it clear that it didn’t understand him and didn’t want to try and understand him either. A world that clearly didn’t think there was much in him to understand. So feeling so much the outsider, experiencing that depth of alienation inevitably made him an alien to himself. Made him doubt his truth and ultimately his very own being. Clarence therefore existed in nothing less than an extreme state of anomie. He’d read Durkheim. He liked the word anomie. It sounded very alien (French-French rather than English-French) and fitted purpose. It could also stop most uniforms and officials and gatekeepers in their tracks.

Time and time again while he was on the inside he had promised himself that once he was on the outside again he would take his inside as far out of himself as he could, for he had come to understand that it was his duty to make everything he had inside him matter more than it had ever mattered previously. For what was on his inside needed to come out. It had to. He knew he had to stop pretending. Living a lie. For he knew if he didn’t that the pretence would kill him, and sooner rather than later. Hell!—it nearly had already! And if there was one thing he knew for sure it was that he wouldn’t get another chance again. He weren’t no cat with nine lives! And if he continued to live untruly, not accept his responsibility for the mess made by men, then there could only be one outcome. And at that very moment what heightened his state of emergency, as he stood on the outside looking in, was that he knew that if he was to proceed down any of the streets that lay ahead of him, as he had done many times previously, that he would not just meet another dead end, but his end.

It was a tautology. Being on the inside he was the outsider inside of himself and now on the outside he was still an outsider who lived on the inside. Essentially, fundamentally it didn’t really matter where he was. In there or outside. It was all the same fucking boundaries and landscape. The same fucking bullshit and a whole heap of bullshit that he’d bought and eaten and served up to others. He amused himself, musing on the subjective and objective implications of being on the outside, in an effort to not be too hard on himself so soon since he’d been released. And as his mind leapt on to consider the differing perspectives to be had, depending on whether he thought he was on the inside or outside, he felt his stomach turn somersault. He fumbled with his belly-button to try and stop it which only made it worse. He giggled uncomfortably to himself, troubled by the sensation he now felt. His flesh felt all pink and raw and pithy, like a turned-out fig, as if he wore his skin on the inside now. It was a strange sensation not to just imagine but to feel. To feel that his insides were now outside. That he was raw, opening up, exposing himself on a level that reached far beyond those regarded as human, although they were the most human they could be. It felt weird. He felt weirder. As if he was part of the picture he was observing. It was a bit like having fur, Clarence thought. He thought on. Maybe that’s why we’d lost ours. For no other reason than our failure to simply be who we truly were.

Feeling so disarmed, our hero reached out further. And as his shadow stretched beyond his physical form, he realised the absolute pointlessness of his careful positing on the street where he stood right then, or wherever he might stand at any time from then on. It didn’t mean a thing cos it ultimately made no difference. What mattered was what was on the inside of him, not on the outside. What mattered was his hidden inner fur. He smiled, beguiled by the magnificence of the infinite inside of him. Here on the outside inside, looking out from within yet at the same time looking in from without! It sure as hell beat looking out from inside outside and finding nothing but more motherfucking walls! He cried aloud within. Without he didn’t make a sound. It was an epiphany. It wasn’t him that needed to find a way to fit in the world, nor was it the world that needed to find a way to contain him! He’d always been a part of it. He just hadn’t seen or understood that until now.

From Candy Rising: Book One (Lambeth Books, £13)

 

Candy Rising: Book One, a witty, hard-boiled exploration of black identity and freedom, is the launch title in the Pulp Brixton series from Lambeth Books – an innovative new publishing venture that has been set up to showcase all types of imaginative writing relating to the inner-London borough, and to champion talented authors regardless of their religion, gender, orientations, colour or class. Candy Rising will be published in three volumes, with parts two and three to follow in 2021. The author has decided to remain anonymous – for now. Candy Rising: Book One is published in a limited edition of 200 numbered copies.
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