Against the odds, the better judgement of society and the collective will of my financial captors, I’ve survived another birthday.
The main event itself proved to be a rather hellish, godless experience in which I came to realise how far behind in the great race of life I’ve wilfully fallen. For my 24th birthday I acquired the body of a malnourished teenager with the face of Dorian Gray’s portrait glued on to the top bit that scientists refer to as the head. My facial hair is scoffed at by unnaturally haughty unborn foetuses as they stroke their mutton chops and eat out of tubes.
Meanwhile the sole of my shoe flaps in the wind, I’ve had to put crucifixes on the door to keep the bank at bay and then plaster Nun-porn all over the front door to ward off the Christian sales reps. The majority of household pets eat better than I do and my job is as stimulating as a mild static shock to a phantom limb. This has been my shambolic attempt at ageing and it feels as though the world has been trying to kill me for 24 years, yet I’m still trying to bite the invisible hand that feeds.
This same invisible hand reaches up your sphincter and ass-hooks you out of bed in the morning. It’s the invisible hand that sits you down and coerces you into forcing out a shit at a time when you’d rather be unconscious and horizontal. It’s this same invisible hand that dresses you like a well-groomed performing guppy each day, before the cage comes down for another round of gainful employment.
When you’re younger this hand has less influence and is easier to resist, thanks to that voracious appetite for life that later seems reserved for puppies and charity muggers. That energetic passion that seems to dwell in tiny humans before they establish how futile their life will become is what allowed us to stray the path and escape the clutches of the invisible hand. The hand wants you to go to school and wash after every visit to the little boys’ room, but the hand’s desires are overcome by the single-minded determination to scoop the mushy stool from the toilet bowl and hurl it at girls (who are decidedly yucky) and teachers (who are mere pawns for the hand) in an event that will later see you dubbed a coprophiliac by a state-appointed psychologist.
But as the elastin and collagen starts to sag and decay under the weight of our accumulated years, the hand becomes more potent, more ruthless and exponentially more domineering. In many ways life is like a very glitchy video game, with the first 10 to 14 years being the equivalent of the crap tutorial level where everything is spoon-fed to you to avoid premature expiration or a home visit from social services. Years later the hand decides to abort you from the comfortable womb of higher education, you’re flushed out into the sewage of the real world and all that was pure, beautiful and true in life suddenly reveals itself to have been a fleeting wet dream, but instead of a sticky wad of gunk in your bed sheets, it’s a crippling anchor of debt, a total loss of purpose and the promise of unending drudgery that you wake up to.
It is here at your most educated and vulnerable that the hand grabs you by the scrotum and pulls you this way and that until, under threat of castration, you hop aboard the unicycle and play your role in the tired old carnival of life. From this testicular stranglehold it can control your every move; before you know it you’re caring about spreadsheets, working at home in the evenings to get that big presentation just right or laughing at the jokes made by the other inmates in your workplace.
A colleague recently confessed to me that he was only at work for the money. I was baffled because I could think of no other coherent rationale for turning up every day. I don’t spend 10 hours a day inside a colossal phallic obelisk in the middle of a diseased London haggling on the phone with people who say with all sincerity “let’s do brunch” out of a chronic addiction to the company of gutless buffoons. There’s no part of my soul that yearns to be crowned with a plastic microphone headset, nor do key performance indicators induce a Ron Jeremy-worthy erection and there’s not a thing about synergistic management solutions that I even want to understand. This is all the hand’s doing.
The hand stretches out a big dumb smile on my face to mask the crushing despair that settles in every time I’m reminded that Made in Chelsea is produced in a country that possesses nuclear weapons. When you want to stand up on your desk and kick the monitor into the face of the person opposite for being such a callous money-grubbing consumer-whore, or enter into mortal combat with middle management personnel, you don’t – the hand keeps you seated, reminding you of the powerful urge to eat some time this month. It reminds you of the bills, the rent, the need for further employment beyond this particular moment of disgusted fury. And what’s worse, it paints this exercise in restraint as sanity.
Like a general of an army of one, you sit enraged in the cage to which the hand holds the key forever out of reach, and survey the battle; sustained losses on all fronts. The hand pushes you past all those dreams, ambitions and things that you once deemed important in order to further its own twisted goals, which seemingly involve reducing humanity, the world’s deadliest predator, into a collection of cash-worshipping, screen-fed mega-monkeys.
So it goes on beyond the workplace and out into the vast belching, scoffing void of life. Before you know it you’re drooling over an IKEA catalogue, perusing the turtle-neck rack in GAP in a bid to emulate notoriously celebrated child-enslaver Steve Jobs or getting an early night for the sake of a village fete cake stall that you offered to run in aid of a religious charity. The hand will push you down the aisle, will tickle your bum during the procreation that allows the minibus of life to chug on and ultimately lays you to rest atop your queen-size deathbed in your moderately priced home with the southern-facing garden and double garage.
It may occur to you at this point that you’re unsure exactly how you got here or how you ever exerted so little control in your own life, and now too in death. But by then it’ll be too late and your grieving loved ones will be greeted with the stench of shit when your bowels empty as you pass from this world.
The hand wins in the end, no matter how many fingers you think you’re chewing on.