I was quickly overwhelmed in my school. Although as a youngster I had seemed to be bright, on entering secondary education I fell behind. Lost and struggling to focus, I emerged unprepared to begin adult life. My performance was reflected in how I came to see myself, and it was a long time before I felt in control, able to stand by decisions.
Socially, I'd grown apart too. I watched former friends mature whilst I chose to avoid gatherings and spent my time alone, playing video games.
Heavy metal was my refuge, and gave me a space to be weird. Aged twelve, I borrowed ‘Live After Death', the seminal live recording made by Iron Maiden at Hammersmith’s Odeon and in Long Beach. It was a double cassette depicting oceans of fans, elaborate stage sets and the spandex striped outfits worn by the band.
Most memorably, their mascot rising from his grave. Lightning struck Eddie’s forehead as I too was then struck. This would become my new realm.
Over the years I continued to involve myself with the mythos, lore and fantasy of heavy metal music. Part of that life is the image, and I grew my hair long and began to wear black. In my school was the policy that boys may not grow their hair beyond the height of their collar, though I’d push this as far as I could until there was nothing else to do but cut it. This was in a cycle through the years I spent at school.
Ms Kyle, Deputy Headmaster. Her word was law (though if you had her onside it seemed there could have been some leeway). In June, in my upper-sixth year, classes had ended for supposed A-level revision. I’d be finished with school in just two more short weeks.
My hair was past my collar, though. Ms Kyle would bring it up when she saw me. I'd been hoping to just ride out the time I had left at school, finish exams then fully adopt the lifestyle I foresaw for myself. Unfortunately, it was then that I was given an ultimatatum. Ms Kyle told me if I didnlt cut my hair I wouldn't be sitting my exams.
I don’t know if she even had that kind of power, but I couldn't risk it. So I went to the barber’s. ‘A number-one all over, please. Just keep the fringe.’
(I had seen this in a music video. Some indie band on the roof of a building.) I thought that was going to show her, and began to anticipate Ms Kyle's response.
In the end, it was nothing more than a smirk.
I felt, then, how stramge I must have looked. I went back to the barber to have him finish his work. (Wished he could have shaved off the whole of my head.)
Other than that, my cat has recently had a 'rebellious phase’. (Staying out late, away for whole days.) He'd come home late then just slink off to bed, careful to not look me in the eyes. This felt like being the father of a sixteen-year old girl. ‘Where were you?’ (Nothing forthcoming.)
There's foxes round my way, they were always about. Oscar caught fleas; was he spending time with foxes? Becoming like them? Had he gone in the den where they slept?
What was he up to? We used to be friends.
These thoughts entered my dreams. One night I awoke as Oscar entered through the window. I had been dreaming of foxes inside my home, roaming the rooms and the hallway. That they'd come to take me to their realm.
Happily, that was a phase. But I still enjoy heavy metal.