Testimony – Agnostic to Christian

Testimonies often come across as mini-biographies or life stories. I am going to embrace this and start right at the beginning.

The Beginning

memumdad.jpgI was born in 1993. Both my parents are materialistic atheists, however my father did grow up in a nominally Catholic household. When I was two years old my parents had a divorce. There was fault and blame on both sides.  I currently get on just fine with Dad, even though I rarely see him as he now lives in California. When I was four Mum remarried to a Chinese Filipino guy who shares my name. Since then she has given birth to two more sons and three more daughters, so I now have quite a large family.

All of my brothers and sisters were baptised when they were babies, so as to more easily get us all into the Catholic education system. I was baptised along with my oldest younger brother when I was 10 years old. It didn’t mean anything to me for many years and it still means absolutely nothing to my brothers and sisters. They don’t understand the significance of the sacraments or believe that they have any intrinsic power. Later on – when I was transitioning back into the Catholic church from Protestantism – I was extremely thankful that my Mum had made me go through all the sacraments of initiation as it made it easier for me to rejoin the church.

My First Encounter with Powerful Drugs

Stimulant-drugs[1].jpgI was an incredibly troublesome and difficult child. Perhaps a large part of this was due to the fact that my father was entirely absent during my early years. In any case, I did not perform well at school and was always getting into trouble. When I was four years old my mother was driven to take me to a top notch psychiatrist in the city who scanned my brain and made me do all sorts of cognitive tests. The conclusion reached was that I was a super-intelligent child but my brain was dysfunctional and I suffered from ADHD. I was prescribed Methylphenidate and from that point forward I was much more well behaved and successful at school. As time went by my dose of Ritalin steadily increased. By the time I was 19 I was on the strongest dose of long acting Concerta on the market. I remember looking in the mirror and seeing the veins on my forehead visibly throbbing. This drug was incredibly powerful. It also had some incredibly negative side-effects; it completely destroyed my sense of humour; it made me feel completely blank and emotionless, like a machine or computer; it gave me intense social anxiety; I was incredibly sexually aroused to the point of hyper-sexuality much of the time (which led to an incredibly debilitating porn addiction throughout most of my teenage years and early 20s); it interfered with my sleep. Later on in life my mum would lament that I had experimented with psychedelics and experienced psychosis, trying to place all the blame on my shoulders; But I always maintain that Ritalin was my gateway drug and therefore her decision to pump me full of Methylphenidate from a young age was a significant contributing factor.

Early Years

From a young age I was pretty philosophically switched on. I remember when I was three or so asking Mum how I could know that she actually existed, or that she was conscious in the same way that I was. She had no idea what I was talking about, but it was important to me. I became a functional solipsist until right up to my teenage years, and remained that way until my flirtations with psychedelics finally gave me compelling evidence to think that other people are not mere philosophical zombies.

Matrixpill[1].jpgWhen I was seven or eight I saw the Matrix, and it quickly became a favourite film and had a profound influence on me. I very quickly became a staunch epistemological relativist who questioned the reality of everything (even my own existence) and as time went by I came to a point where I totally denied there was any such thing as objective truth. This was a defining feature of my thinking right up to my conversion to Christianity.

When I was about sixteen, I read a pulpy “Introduction to philosophy” book which presented it’s ideas in the light of science fiction films. This book quickly became my bible. One key thesis in the book is that all philosophical problems are simply expressions of the one grand philosophical problem articulated within the French philosophy of “Absurdity”. Put simply, this idea states that all big philosophical problems can be reduced to a conflict between our small, human, subjective perspective, and the big, eternal, objective perspective of God (assuming he exists). This idea of “Absurdity” became crucial to my understanding of life and reality all the way up to my conversion.

For most of my life (even my prepubescent days to a large degree) the meaning of my life revolved around girls and romance. I was always pining after some cute girl. I was never really interested in sex, and really was just searching for a loving relationship with someone of the opposite gender. Throughout my high school years I struck out as much as I could at a boys school and tried to experiment with relationships. I never quite got to the point of having a legitimate girlfriend, and I experienced many emotionally crushing set backs and failures which turned me cynical and bitter. By the time I was 18, I was completely cynical about relationships and had fallen in with the pick-up artist community. At this point I no longer cared about finding a girlfriend and my life revolved almost entirely around losing my virginity.

On my 17th birthday my Mum kicked me out of home. I had been a rebellious teenager, hanging out with girls and not coming home until late, refusing to call Mum and let her know where I am. Mum had had enough and booted me out. I went to live with my grandfather on the northern beaches of Sydney. In the end I achieved massive success in the HSC, with an ATAR of 97.15. How much this is due to me and how much this was due to Methylphenidate, I don’t know. My relationship with my Mum and immediate family was extremely strained, and it stayed that way right up until my conversion to Christianity.

Revelations of Hypocrisy

fc8[1].jpgWhen I was 18 I moved out and begun to live on campus at my university (The University of Technology, Sydney). It seemed like absolutely everyone was regularly drinking to excess and smoking weed non-stop. And yet despite that, these people seemed completely normal, great guys and girls, who were achieving significant academic success. This was a major shock to me: I had been brought up in an extremely sheltered environment in which any and all drugs were considered “Bad” and anyone who so much as smells a joint is automatically “addicted” and their life is instantly ruined forever. Suddenly the hypocrisy of the law came crashing down on me: How is it that such a powerful and soul-destroying drug such as Methylphenidate is legal and prescribed regularly, and yet something as harmless as Cannabis is illegal? I had experienced first hand the life-destroying effects of Ritalin and it absolutely baffled me that it was legal while Marijuana was not. This slow burning train of thought stuck with me for many months, and grew to encompass psychedelics, alcohol, and other substances.

Rock Bottom

From 2011 to mid 2012 I was still right into the pick up artist scene and dead-set on losing my virginity. My life revolved around this goal. In the back of my mind I still just wanted love and relationship, but the pick up artist manuals had convinced me that from an evolutionary perspective life is entirely about having as much sex as possible. I had various long term and short term targets who I was trying to get down and dirty with (which is ironically a classic rookie mistake according to the PUA community). Girls did not seem human to me. I was completely cynical about them and saw them simply as sex objects with a complicated social locking device standing between me and the poon. I enjoyed some limited social success as a pick up artist, but never quite managed to achieve what I was aiming for – the loss of my virginity.

I was not really happy or satisfied with life at this point. The only thing carrying me along was this goal of having sex with someone. The scene was set for me to hit rock bottom.

pr0nstashe.jpgI finally managed to get a girl into bed with me (twice), however my nervousness/excitement plus many years of porn addiction resulted in total erectile dysfunction. This was absolutely soul crushing and life destroying. My world was rocked and my ego was entirely shattered. I took my porn stash and physically ripped it in half (It has been stuck to my wall ever since as a reminder of my definitive decision to renounce porn). The entire purpose of my life had been thwarted – I had been in a situation where I could have easily lost my virginity and yet I was completely unable to perform. I felt like life had lost all meaning and I no longer had any purpose.

I had been flirting with the idea of taking a psychedelic drug for many months at this point. I had read much about these substances and they seemed completely fascinating. However there were still remains of my sheltered upbringing holding me back from taking the plunge and dropping tabs. After this life shattering failure to perform in bed I was finally in the mindset to give it a go. “What have I got to lose?” I thought to myself. Life really seemed meaningless all of a sudden and I was in a position where I was a wild card; I no longer cared about anything – I would potentially have even tried heroin or Methamphetamine at this point.

Friends and Enemies

Throughout my time living at UTS I had gotten to know a certain person, who I will call Albert. Albert was already right into all the drugs and was a very manipulative and selfish character. However he also had charisma and charm, and was able to smooth over conversation such that you don’t realise when he is manipulating you. He had been grooming me for about a year, trying to get me to come around to the idea of taking drugs. He had a strategy for doing this. Once he even directly told me his strategy and I was too stupid to realise that he was using it on me at that very moment. In the end I cannot speak to his motivations or judge his internal thought processes, but in retrospect I think he wanted to use me as a guinea pig to try out new drugs and check if they are safe before he did them himself. I had smoked weed and tobacco and been drinking with him a couple of times. He was also a bit of a pick up artist himself and had managed to enjoy some actual success, unlike me.

I thought he was a friend, and in my rock bottom state I found myself at his door. I had decided that I was finally going to give psychedelics a go and he was the guy to go to seeing as he had a large stash of all sorts of drugs. He was more than happy to oblige. We blocked out that Saturday to try a new, recently synthesised psychedelic known as 25i-NBOMe. At the time almost nothing whatsoever was known about this drug, but Albert had tried it a couple of times and found it enjoyable and safe enough, so I felt confident enough to give it a go myself. Since that time, there have been many reported deaths surrounding this drug. In retrospect I am extremely lucky to have survived.

The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao

eyenowords[1].jpgOn Saturday, some time in July 2012, Albert and I met on the roof of Yura Mudang, the largest building in UTS housing. We stuck the tabs containing 25i-NBOMe to our gums and waited for the drug to kick in. During the come-up we just talked about life and shot the crap (talking about “assignments, uniwork, hot babes of housing etc” as I later described it to a friend). I was nervous and excited, wondering what was going to happen. I expected to hallucinate and see some beautiful colours and patterns, but in no way did I expect what actually took place.

The psychedelic experience is ineffable. It cannot be described with words, it can only be experienced. Once you have experienced it, you know. As such it would be futile for me to attempt to describe what happened. When you try to describe a psychedelic experience you end up saying crazy things like “I saw snakes riding cowboys” or “I saw a pink elephant dancing on the roof”. Of course you didn’t actually see anything like that, but these are the only words that you can find to describe what you saw, even though they are totally inadequate to capture the experience. I will elaborate on certain interesting aspects however, and if you have ever had a psychedelic experience you will know what I’m talking about.

When you are on psychedelics, time completely dissolves. You feel like you are in an eternal, everlasting moment. The only way to keep track of time is to have a stop watch or pocket watch which you can consult. This can be an experience of heavenly bliss, or hellish torment, depending on your state of mind. Furthermore, your identity completely evaporates. You try to locate your “I” and it is nowhere to be found. This leads to some interesting feelings; you feel like you are intimately connected to the universe and everything else. The boundary between you and the outside world breaks down and the two flow into each other and through each other. You are the universe and the universe is you. This is particularly profound when you take psychedelics with someone else; you feel as if you are intimately linked. Your empathy levels are raised to the point where you feel exactly what the other person is feeling, and you feel as if you can read their mind. They feel exactly the same way, and the result is a mingling of souls in which two people feel as if they are the same person, but sharing two bodies simultaneously. Your sense of free will completely evaporates, which can be both ecstatic and terrifying: You find yourself just going with the flow, and not exercising any agency at all. Questions of epistemology come crashing down on you: “Is any of this real? What is reality? What is real and what is not? Is there any difference?” These questions are always relevant, even when you’re not high on psychedelics, however they become particularly pronounced when you are tripping. This can be a dangerous state of mind to be in: when you spend all your time questioning reality to this extent, you might just get to a point where you find it reasonable to fly off a building or walk in front of a bus.

When you are tripping, everything is exactly the same, but everything is simultaneously totally different. It’s the same old buildings, the same old roads, the same old vehicles, the same old park, the same old sights and sounds. And yet you see them in a way in which you have never seen them before. You feel as if you fully understand everything, and yet simultaneously understand nothing at all. You come face to face with God and experience the most intimate communion, and simultaneously realise that he is impenetrably ineffable, mysterious and completely incomprehensible.

Revelations

During my first trip with Albert, he was something of a guide. While we were indeed both high, he had far more experience and was able to direct the trip and ensure that it never strayed into “bad trip” territory. I don’t know whether to be thankful or not, because in retrospect this was obviously a manifestation of his psychopathic, manipulative character. We walked from the roof of Yura Mudang to the outdoor balconies of the UTS tower. We walked from UTS to Victoria park. We walked all around Victoria park and USYD. Then we came back home and relaxed in my flat as the drug wore off. The visual effects were amazing; I recall looking up at the sky and seeing millions of shooting stars, and they were all different colours; green, red, orange, blue. The psychological revelations were profound – I felt like I had finally discovered the answers to all of life’s questions. And yet as the drug gradually wore off, my grasp of these important truths began to slip away.

23e2f2717ce8e472a676f6e08fee221c[1].jpgThe revelations were the most important part of the trip for me, whereas Albert was just in it for a good time and to see some visual patterns. I remember talking to him about the revelations and he responded with “My biggest revelation was when I realised that the revelations don’t mean anything”. Maybe he was right on some level, but I wasn’t buying it. After he went home and I was lying in bed trying (and failing) to sleep, I wondered at what I had just experienced. I felt like I had just been initiated into some secret society that has always been before my eyes but I had never seen it before. How many people knew what the psychedelic experience was like? It felt as if traffic light crossings and Victoria park had been designed especially for someone who is tripping. It was almost as if psychedelic drugs were the invisible driving force behind all of society. It became apparent that everything we do as a society boils down to making trips more pleasant. Psychedelic drugs were suddenly right at the centre of my world view.

My previous angst over being unable to get laid almost immediately dissolved. I had discovered something far more meaningful, mysterious and profound than simply striving after sex. I immediately purchased another 25 hits of 25i-NBOMe from Albert. I had decided that I was going to trip regularly and explore the psychedelic landscape further.

I also emailed one of my good old friends from high school, Fordy. In the past we had chatted about experimenting with drugs. He had never gotten further than weed, but I recall he had mentioned he was keen to try all sorts of stuff (even ice). I was gushing to him and pontificating about how amazing the experience had been. I was like “you’ve got to try this dude”. He responded with “fuck yeah let’s do it ASAP” and we scheduled another trip for the following weekend.

Descent into Hell

The following weekend, Fordy met up with me and I attempted to replicate the experience I had had the last weekend. We started on the roof of Yura Mudang, dropped tabs and begun to wait until the drug kicked in. It didn’t take long for things to go wrong and get out of hand.

Fordy was incredibly nervous about the whole thing, even though he had not admitted this to me. Furthermore at the time I was an absolute autistic idiot with no real empathy, so I couldn’t see the signs on his face and in his way of talking that he was feeling uncomfortable. The idea of a “bad trip” was not something I really understood at this point; it was a foreign concept. I just assumed that taking psychedelics was always an extremely pleasant and profound experience.

a1221146842_10[1]The situation was dire: Fordy was deep in the city, far away from home, in a building where he didn’t know anyone. This is not a good mindset to be in if you are going to drop tabs. Unfortunately from the way I was talking it was becoming more and more apparent that he didn’t really know me any more either. So from his perspective he was surrounded by a subtle darkness which was becoming more and more manifest as the drug kicked in.

As our mindsets began to change, he became increasingly terrified at the fact that he wasn’t thinking straight. Paradoxes were proliferating and things simply did not seem how they should seem. It was hard to follow a logical train of thought to it’s conclusion without getting distracted and muddled. Our free will disintegrated.

I went into crisis management mode: I was still in a familiar, comfortable environment so I was not feeling particularly bad in myself. However as described above, when you take a psychedelic the barriers between you and other people are washed away – you feel what they feel and they feel what you feel. As such, Fordy’s panic and paranoia began to seep into my own consciousness and I began to panic too. I decided that the safest place to be was back in my flat.

At one point the idea came to me that Fordy would be more comfortable if we could get him back to his own bed in Normanhurst. He agreed and we headed to the elevator. Right as the elevator had reached the bottom floor and the doors had opened, we looked at each other and I knew we were thinking exactly the same thing: “If we leave the building, we’re both going to be in trouble”. Sydney trains were not the place to be during a bad trip. We immediately retreated back to my room and tried to do damage control on a bad situation. “I can’t believe we almost left the building” Fordy would later say.

hqdefault[1]We trekked back to my flat as fast as we could and Fordy hid in my room. I tried to do everything I could to make him as comfortable as possible. I gave him my bed and he immediately rugged up and hid under the covers. I opened my window so that he could watch the stars move and the sun rise. I turned on the heater in order to keep the room cozy and snug. I offered to play whatever music he wanted through my speakers. He chose “Vivaldi – Concerto No. 6 Op. 3 in A minor RV356 for violin, strings & b.c. – 1. Allegro”. We listened to this piece of music on repeat through his phone for the entire night, right up until dawn and morning. The song was stuck in my head for many months after and I have been able to easily recall the tune at any time in the years since. It was truly burned into my brain during this traumatic night in Hell.

At one point Fordy asked if there was a way to make it all stop. I recalled that Albert had said taking Xanax could calm you down during a bad trip and I made motions to contact him. Fordy immediately became incredibly uncomfortable: he was not keen to take further unknown substances and meet more untrustworthy and unknown people. I took the hint and put my phone away.

Fordy’s bad trip affected my trip, and I became hyper-aware of my heart beating. This was my mortality passing right before my eyes and it was terrifying. Time had completely dissolved and I felt as if I was in an eternal moment that consisted entirely of fear, pain, terror, suffering. I have since come to believe that this is what Hell and Purgatory feel like: pure, timeless terror. An interesting side point here is that while the suffering was subjectively everlasting, objectively it did indeed come to an end. I apply this principle to my universalist theology: Hell/Purgatory feels subjectively everlasting, but objectively it comes to an end.

The Journey Home

Eventually it got to a point where a basic level of trust had been re-established between me and Fordy. He communicated to me that he was happy that we were “back on the same wavelength” and we began to somewhat enjoy the trip again, from the safety of my room. He told me about how he could see “snakes riding cowboys” and attempted to draw a graph of how he was feeling. I knew exactly what he was saying and talking about as I could see it too and I felt the same way.

The night carried on and eventually the sun rose, and the drug wore off. Now we were into the hangover, or “afterglow” period (psychedelic hangovers are usually incredibly pleasant). I cooked some sausages for breakfast (it felt like they took forever to cook). Fordy emerged from my bedroom, still seeming entirely fragile and shaky. We ate and then ventured out into the world that had just awoken and started to go about it’s daily business. I took Fordy on a walk up Broadway, through Victoria Park and around the University of Sydney, showing him what I had planned to show him during the trip, had it not gone entirely wrong.

1478572278926[1].jpgAfterwards I accompanied him on an express train to Normanhurst. We tried to rest and move on from what had just happened. I accompanied him almost the entire way to his front door. I remember telling him “Just say when you need me to leave”, and as we approached his house he turned to me and said “Now would probably be a good time to exeunt”. He went home and attempted to avoid his parents while I began the trek back to my apartment in the city, feeling a bit paranoid and vulnerable the entire time. I later found out that Fordy descended into a deep and extended depression following our trip, whereas I entered into an extremely pleasant mania, which I will describe shortly.

The Great Awakening

Once I arrived back home, a deep seated, unconscious pride began to bubble to the surface. I thought to myself “I’m such a good guy, I managed to handle that situation like a pro. I got Fordy home safely. I’m so amazing”. This pride stuck with me and grew more and more pronounced as the following week went by.

Pride like this is incredibly powerful, often coming with inflated self-confidence and self-importance. I had entered into a Manic state that was getting more and more intense as the days went by. Delusions of grandeur were blossoming in my mind. Towards the end, I actually thought that I was God; I don’t think pride can get any worse than this.

82163912-back-view-of-young-businessman-drawing-abstract-glowing-digital-business-hologram-on-concrete-roofro-Stock-Photo[1].jpgFollowing my bad trip, I entered into what has become the most amazing week of my life to that point and since. Armed with my newfound self-confidence, as well as the heightened sense of empathy which psychedelics bring about, all of a sudden I was the man. I knew everything about everything. I was able to command any conversation and predict what my interlocutor was going to say next. I felt as if I could read peoples minds. All of a sudden girls made sense. This was absolutely massive for me. I realised that girls are human too. It sounds so obvious now, but for 19 years of my life I really had no idea. Suddenly I was enjoying success with all the women in my life. All the information from my pick up artist manuals suddenly flooded my consciousness and I was able to analyse every social situation in the blink of an eye and remain in total control the entire time. I was thinking at top speed, like a super computer, and empathising to the point where I knew exactly how people were thinking and feeling. This was power. I felt omnipotent, as if I could manipulate my way into achieving whatever goals I desired. I was all of a sudden super-productive at work, getting far more done than I had ever before in the 12 months prior to this manic state. It was incredibly exciting.

I came to the delusional conclusion that I was God, and therefore did not need to sleep. I stayed awake for seven days straight, and begun to take much more Ritalin than I would have taken otherwise, to attempt to focus my mania and remain productive at work. In the evenings I would stay up all night thinking, philosophising, writing poetry and feeling amazing. This could not continue forever. At some point, I was going to crash.

“Pride Comes Before a Fall”

There is a biblical quote that is appropriate here:

Proverbs 16:18 RSV-CE

Pride goes before destruction,
    and a haughty spirit before a fall.

I was so completely full of pride, thinking that I was amazing, godlike, God himself. I thought I had discovered all the secrets of the universe: everything made sense to me. The French philosophy of Absurdity which was so dear to my heart seemed spot on and I could see it in action everywhere in life and reality.

However after 7 days straight of not sleeping and experiencing a severe and growing mania, I transitioned into a state of psychosis. Suddenly nothing made sense any more. Suddenly Absurdity seemed entirely contradictory. Suddenly my entire world-view was falling apart: I was grasping for something to hold on to and nothing came to my aid. I was not God; I was just some schmuck. My sanity was slipping between my fingers.

maxresdefault[1].jpg I was thinking to myself “I need help, who can I go to?” but no one was coming to mind. It was at this time that I became highly aware that I was completely surrounded by evil. I sent my thoughts out of my room and probed my flatmates. It seemed completely clear to me that all of my flatmates were evil, depraved and fundamentally untrustworthy. I extended my thoughts to the rest of my floor in UTS housing and came to the same conclusion: all of them were manipulative and selfish drug and sex addicts. Panicking, I extended my thoughts to the entire building: again, all I could find were evil, selfish people who would gladly sell me out if it meant they could get more sex and weed.

This was incredibly scary. I felt as if I were utterly surrounded by evil and there was nowhere I could run. Being an introvert, I decided to do what comes naturally to me: lock my door and hide in my room. Suddenly I thought back to all my interactions with Albert and I gasped as I realised that he had been playing me like a pipe. I had been his pawn as he manipulated me into doing drugs and used me as an unwitting wingman in his quest for sex. This was also incredibly scary – I felt as if I was caught in a giant spiders web spun by Albert and I felt as if he still had significant power over me. He started to seem like some sort of demonic incarnation in my mind. However things only got even more terrifying: I realised that I myself am also totally depraved, manipulative and selfish. I thought back to the previous 7 days of mania and assessed my behaviour: I had been manipulating people left, right and centre for personal gain and selfish reasons. I was just as evil as everyone else!

This was utterly traumatic and terrifying: there was nowhere I could run or hide – everyone was completely drenched to the core with evil, even me. I couldn’t run to my room, I couldn’t hide in my mind. No matter where I looked; no matter where I turned; all I could find was pure evil.

The Man in the Desert

2016024411desert_22_300[1]At this point of pure panic and terror, a strange idea suddenly lodged itself in my mind and would not go away: The story of Jesus in the desert, being tempted by the Devil. I had never seriously read the bible before, and I could barely remember the details of this story. However for some strange reason, it was firmly lodged in my mind and I knew with all my being that it was important: I needed to understand this story right now. I knew that it was somehow relevant to my current situation, but I was not sure in what way.

Still in a panic, I went to my bookshelf and found the NIV bible which my Christian mates had given me back in high school. I had a crude, basic knowledge of the structure of the biblical canon: I knew that the stories about Jesus are to be found in the New Testament, in the four Gospels. With this in mind I frantically flipped to the gospel of Matthew and began rapidly scanning the headings of the sections looking for the story about Jesus’ temptations in the desert. Thankfully, this story occurs early in the Gospel of Matthew and I was able to find it quickly. I ravenously read the story from beginning to end, and it made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I didn’t know how to apply it to my current situation. It may as well have been written in another language.

At this point I completely and utterly freaked out and broke down: It was absolutely essential that I understand this story right damn now, and yet it was completely impenetrable to me. There were tears in my eyes and I was shaking. I thought to myself, “I need someone to help me understand this”. This logically lead to the question “who would understand the bible?” The answer that came to me was “Christians! They wrote the book so of course they should understand it!”

I cast my mind towards all the friendships of my past, searching for someone who was Christian that I could go to for help. This was not easy; I had met many Christians during my life, but all of them were total hypocrites, just as evil as me and Albert and everyone else. I was searching for the light on the hill: A Christian who is worthy of the name. There was only a single person who came to mind; the only true and faithful Christian I had ever met, my good friend from high school: Alex Macdonald.

The Only Saint I Know

I sent a text message to Alex, trying to keep it together and not let him know that I’m totally falling apart. I no longer saw him regularly, but I had caught up with him some time in the previous two weeks. Still thinking of how he really is a good Christian and so is his entire family, I sent something along the lines of “Hey man, how are you? You’ve got a pretty cool family don’t you?” He responded with “Yeah, I’ve been heaps blessed with family. I’ve gotta run to a soccer game now, catch up soon!” I immediately freaked out and begun to send him a barrage of messages thinking to myself “NO! I need to talk to you right now! Don’t abandon me to this isolation”

1531658_1For 45 minutes I sent him message after message, pouring out my heart and talking about how I was in a really bad state. I was lamenting about the relationship with my mother and extended family, my failures with girls, and all sorts of other things. I was telling him what a wreck I was and how my life was totally messed up. I told him about how I was searching for meaning in life and couldn’t find it anywhere. I mentioned that I want to read the bible but I have no idea how to do it: I had an intuition that it contained the answers to all my problems but it was an entirely cryptic and mysterious book which I had no idea how to approach. I said to him “I don’t know how to pray, so please can you do it for me?”

Eventually the soccer game came to the half-time break and Alex checked his phone. I can only imagine what he was thinking as he looked at the barrage of messages I had just sent him. He responded succinctly, assuring me that he would indeed be praying for me and that I needed to come and meet him ASAP for a face-to-face chat. He also made it clear that I needed to meet with my Mum and tell her everything that has happened.

At this point I was at the end of my rope and willing to entrust myself entirely to whatever Alex recommended with no complaint, argument or resistance. He really embodied the “light on the hill” mandate of the bible; he was like a light shining in the darkness that surrounded me. I wanted to do nothing but latch on and trust him to take me to a better place, dragging me out of the pit of evil and the lake of darkness that I had found myself in.

Coming of Age

family-730320_960_720[1].jpgI boarded the train from central to Hornsby. By this time it was late afternoon. Being out in the world, surrounded by other, sane people put me back into a relatively composed state of mind. You become the company you keep, so I was no longer completely freaking out. This was a lull in my psychosis.

I arrived at my Mum’s house and knocked on the door. The effects of the various drugs I had taken in the week prior were still present: I was high on empathy and thinking incredibly quickly. I knew in half a second that mum had been crying and was trying to hold it together. Obviously Alex Macdonald had gotten in contact with her before I had arrived to let her know that I was coming and to expect me to be in a bad state. I was happy that he had done so. He had also gotten in contact with many of my other high school friends to let them know I was having a rough time and encourage them to reach out and make contact. On the way to the house I had received a variety of text messages from old friends asking how I was doing and saying that we should catch up.

Me and Mum sat down at the dinner table and I poured out everything. For the first time in my life I was completely honest and open with my Mother. We were both crying, and it was a beautiful reconciliation between us that has largely persisted to the present day. Ever since that evening I have had a massively improved relationship with Mum.

During my late teenage years, and the first few years in UTS housing I had wanted to distance myself from my family and set off on my own. However it was suddenly incredibly obvious that you can never escape family, and you really shouldn’t even try. They will always be there for you and are the most important relationships in your entire life. Family is everything. This has been a significant change in my thinking that has persisted to the present day.

It was at this point that the pride came back. I thought to myself “I just fixed my relationship with my mother: I am the shit.”

The whole family went to our local Japanese restaurant for dinner. It was packed. Once again I was manic and the man of the moment. I was telling jokes, stories, flirting with the waitresses and generally manipulating everyone into forgetting that I was technically in the middle of a psychotic episode.

At the end of the dinner I received a text from Alex Macdonald on my phone saying “Hey man, how are you doing? I still want to talk to you face to face; are you able to meet up?” I convinced my step father to drive me to Pennant Hills where I could meet Alex and have a chat. When I saw him I said “Thanks for meeting me man, I hope I’m not imposing too much” and he said “Don’t worry dude, I can talk all night!”

Thus began the most important hours of my life.

The Long Walk

2[1].jpgThe next 11 hours were spent walking and talking late into the night and early into the morning. We roamed around all the north shore suburbs, having an intense debate about all the most meaningful questions in life. It was quite surreal: at no point did we ever encounter any other people during our long walk. It was just me and him.

I had never before been honest with what I actually believed and thought about life with anyone, but I figured “If honesty could so easily fix my relationship with Mum, perhaps if I keep it up good things will happen here too”: for the first time I was completely honest and open about what I believed and how I thought.

The pride had returned and entrenched itself in my mind. I was convinced that Alex Macdonald was just a stupid Christian who doesn’t know how to think for himself and just believes whatever nonsense his church, family and bible tell him. I was convinced that Absurdity was the answer to all of life’s questions. Nevertheless I had this openness and honesty about me for the first time, so I was willing to put my world-view up for scrutiny and engage in open debate.

Me and Alex had a very intense back-and-forth dialogue. I would try to attack his position and Christian world-view, but no matter what I tried he was able to successfully defend his beliefs against my assault. His world-view was tight, consistent, coherent. I was completely unable to put a dent in his faith, even after throwing the most difficult apologetics issues at him. Whenever I brought up something he didn’t have an answer for he simply said “I don’t know the answer man, but I’m sure that there is an answer out there somewhere and I’m happy to go and find it for you”. This was completely infuriating for me.

At the same time as I was attacking Alex’s position, he was criticising mine. Unlike my attack on him, his attack on me was entirely successful. On point after point he was able to reveal inconsistencies in my understanding and highlight incoherence in my belief system. On issue after issue he was able to demonstrate how illogical my world-view actually is. This hurt. When someone is tearing apart everything you believe before your eyes it is incredibly painful. Even though he was doing it in the most loving and “Christian” way possible, it was still a very unnerving and psychologically painful experience. The foundations of my understanding of life and reality were being slowly pulled out from under me and I had nothing left to stand on. As he progressively tore apart my world view, I reflexively lashed back and attempted to do the same to him, but I was simply unable to put a dent in his faith.

By the end of the eleventh hour of this, I only had one idea left: the concept of Absurdity. I had never before told anyone about this belief of mine. I said to Alex Macdonald, “So far you have been able to show me why everything I believe is wrong. I only have one thing left, and if you show why it is wrong I will have nothing left. If you do this, I don’t know what is going to happen.” He responded calmly with “No dramas man, I trust God, let’s do it.” So I told Alex what I believed about absurdity, and it wasn’t long before he was able to find a significant hole in the theory, thus pulling that out from under me too. (If I remember correctly, the hole in the theory that he identified is that it claims to know what God’s perspective is, but no one can know what God’s perspective is except for God himself)

All of a sudden I had nothing left, and things got incredibly weird.

The Twelfth Hour

My life flashed before my eyes. I saw every little thing I had ever done and the guilt of all my sins came crashing down upon me all at once. The significance of every action I had ever performed was laid out before me: all the good things I had done as well as all the bad things I had done. I could see clearly how my actions had affected those around me. I was lost for words and gasping for air. I became unable to speak in complete sentences. I was like an animal.

nov16-10-hbr-marion-barraud-emotional-intel[1].jpgAt this point I also experienced something that the Cantonese have a succinct expression for: “A thousand emotions at once”. I was simultaneously happy and sad, full of love and full of hate; I both wanted to hug Alex and choke him to death. I was simultaneously laughing with happiness and crying tears of sadness. I felt completely calm and composed, and yet I also felt totally and utterly terrified. I felt jealousy and contentment, joy and despair all at the same time. I was experiencing the entire emotional spectrum all at once.

The Uncreated Light of Tabor

At this point I looked at Alex Macdonald for support and I could tell that he had no idea how to handle this. I recalled his promise at the beginning of the night: “Don’t worry man, I can talk all night!” but it was obvious that this situation was beyond his capacity. He had a scared and concerned look on his face which said “I really don’t know what to do”. He said to me “You’re not giving me much to work with here man” and I said back to him through my tears “Words! I need good words!”

He began to list off a whole bunch of Christian jargon: “Gospel, Love, Faith, Worship, Beauty.” Every time he said a word, it was as if I had been struck by lightning. It was just so plainly obvious to me that yes, these are good words! I gestured to him with my hands and cried “More! Give me more!” He continued listing off words: “Justification, Sanctification, Divinity, Holiness, Sacrifice.”

As he continued to say these good words, suddenly my mind’s eye was flooded with a brilliant mental light. Once again I was lost for words and gasping for air. For the first time I clearly perceived the love of God. John 3:16 came to me and I fully appreciated it. Jesus loved me. He died on that cross for me. He didn’t just die for “the world” in some generic collective sense; he actually died for me personally. He still would have gone to the cross even if I were the only other person who had ever existed. He loved me that much. I didn’t fully understand how it all worked; all the theology and doctrines of redemption and atonement. But what I did understand, and what was incredibly clear to me at this point, is that Jesus really and truly loved me. I realised that I couldn’t just shrug this off: love demands a response. How was I going to respond to this man who had died for me?

346c3aacbb35f3c0c639c72fb91f6f6e--jesus-pictures-jesus-on-the-cross-pictures[1].jpgAs I considered the love of Christ, suddenly the true nature of the mystical church came crashing down upon me. I realised that the church is not merely a building or group of people: the church is everyone throughout history who has devoted their life to following Christ and submitting to his leadership. A mental image clearly materialised in my mind’s eye, with Jesus as the centre and head of the church and billions of his followers surrounding him, trying to follow his leadership. I saw that in this way, Christians are the body of Christ; his hands and his feet in the world. Jesus is alive in the world today through his followers.

Again I was gasping for breath and completely stunned by what I was beholding. I was face to face with a supreme, incomprehensible love, and before my eyes it was as if I could see this love working through history via the church – the mystical body of Jesus Christ. I turned to look at Alex Macdonald and once again was completely blown away: As I looked at him, I could clearly perceive God. It was as if he was glowing with an invisible light. I have since come to learn that this was the uncreated light of Tabor that is so dear to Eastern Christians, as well as the image of God that all humanity bears; usually it is hard to detect, but on this night it was clear and obvious. I felt as if I was staring directly at the face of Jesus Christ himself, permeated and glowing with the fullness of divinity.

I turned my attention back to my interior state of mind, which was still experiencing the full force of a life review and a thousand emotions simultaneously, and it suddenly became incredibly obvious what was going on: This was the Holy Spirit wrestling with sins and demons for possession of my heart. The hatred and sadness were my sins while the love and joy were the Spirit. When I realised this, I instantly knew who I wanted to win the fight. I was praying “Come Holy Spirit!” as this epic struggle continued to unfold in my heart and mind.

Conversion

At this point of the early morning, when it was still dark we were walking back to my house along Pennant Hills road. For those who are unaware, Pennant Hills road is incredibly busy at all hours of the day and night, however in a surreal twist of fate, this night it was completely empty. Just me and Alex walking along the road alone with each other. I was still completely freaking out and experiencing the interior struggle between the Holy Spirit and my demons, and Alex was still doing his best to manage the walk home.

By the end of the night, it seemed that the demons and sins had won the fight: I was full only with negativity; All the positive emotions had gone away. I wanted to slaughter Alex there and then. I wanted to pounce on him and rip out his throat with my fingers, I wanted to pound him into a bloody pulp. I was verbally lashing out at him in the most immature, condescending way. I felt as if I were possessed by demons. Perhaps I was.

Louisville%20creative%20driveway%20and%20path%20lighting[1].jpgFinally we arrived out the front of my mum’s house. Both of us were completely exhausted. Alex said “Man, I’m wasted and I’ve really gotta sleep, but before I go I want to pray for you”. He stood underneath a street light, closed his eyes and prayed. I paced around him at the edge of the light, wanting with all my being to pounce on him and destroy him then and there. Something stopped me from doing so however. I remember thinking “Who does he think he’s talking to? Does he really believe in this God? What a fool!” Quickly after the prayer his father arrived in the family car and picked him up, taking him back home for sleep and rest.

I trudged down the driveway to Mum’s house, full of negativity. I knocked on the door and was let in and led to the bottom bunk in my brothers room. I lay there, rolling around in bed. I thought to myself “If I do not sleep now, I am going to die”. The negative part of me thought “Why don’t you just do it? Go ahead and die.” But thankfully it was not meant to be. My step father is a doctor. Something within me said “Go and ask your step dad for help”. I went downstairs and woke my step dad. In many words I conveyed that I was having a panic attack. He could tell in any case. He rummaged through his filing cabinet and found a Valium.

1b4c7887790f565a92287901a34cb77e--sheep-the-lord[1].jpgWe went back upstairs and I took the Valium. As I did so, the negativity all quickly vanished and I suddenly felt safe, protected, blissful, encompassed in a cloud of pure love. I was extremely excited, but this was different to the mania I had experienced in the prior week: it was more “pure” and “innocent”. There was not a hint of pride. I was full of humble energy. I chatted away to my exhausted step-father, who sat in the doorway playing on his iPhone while he waited for the Valium to take full effect. Every few minutes he would consult the Valium cheat sheet and ask me questions to see if the drug was working. “Do you feel a metallic taste on your tongue?” “Yep”. I looked at myself in the mirror and it was as if I was glowing and all my signs of fatigue were receding away. I felt completely at peace and enveloped in love. I was safe at last. Most importantly, I finally believed! Even though I didn’t know what it all meant and how it all fit together, I finally trusted Jesus. I remember the last thing I said before I fell into the first deep sleep I had had in eight days: “Ah, so this is what they are talking about when they say ‘born again’!”

When I woke up the next morning I was a Christian, and I have never looked back since.

(Go to “Testimony – Christian to Catholic”)

Loyalty

2016-01-04-1451947020-1057181-Betrayal4edde75f206fe-thumb[1].jpgI will fight for you
Because you are my friend
If anyone tries to hurt you
I’ll be there to defend

It sickens me to see how sad you are
Come into my world, be brave, don’t fret.
They defame you while we watch from afar
But I’ll stand up for you, never forget.

Why did I bother?

I will not fight you
I value you more than that

Why do you fight me
I thought you were a friend
After all my trust and loyalty
Is this how it’s going to end?

It sickens me to hear how happy you are
You show no signs of guilt or regret
and defame me while I watch from afar
So am I a friend, or did you forget?

Or maybe you never cared anyway

get out of my life
get out of my life
get out of my life
get out of my head
I want you dead.

Alex Herlihy – 2010

Cold Nostalgia

6f78e67723857a7a3446ac9d99a3414c[1].jpgI step out the door into the frost
Walk once more to the fountain of loss.
Memories haunt every corner on the way
Hiding in these trees that the wind would sway

Against the grey clouds and white sky
I can’t help but let my imagination sigh.
I’m walking through an Autumn tunnel
And standing in a wet winter puddle

To the left is my third school
Desolation brings a breeze cold; not cool.
The grounds; abandoned. The gates; locked.
But my memories would have this scene mocked

I see children, wearing the blue of the day
Laughing and running their childhood away
A rather stark contrast to this black I wear now
I still smile to see a uniform as I glance down

I’m at a cross in the road covered by leaves
On the right is a place for someone who believes
To my left leads another tunnel of trees
But the evergreen conceals darker memories;

An image of friendship confronts my eyes
Friendship caught in a walking web of lies
It disappears into the darkness and distance
Leaving behind loyalty, trust and innocence.

I bend to pick up these pieces of past
Why is it that these virtues never last?
Why did friendship have to walk behind
Lust embracing a love of my mind?

I drop the naive back on the pavement
Ignorance shatters and secures my only repayment
I’m walking on without looking behind
For if I did… I wonder what I would find.

I lived in that house. I know this road.
Still the same lawn; ever un-mowed.
There’s the park where I used to fly
On swings so high you could touch the sky.

I look to the other side of the street
To see three who “by coincidence” did meet
Smiles, laughter and completely alive
I blink and let the image die

Onwards, to the fountain, I’m almost there
This is the big one for which I prepared.
A circle of significance, clock of no time
This hunk of metal hides meaning behind grime

The image is so strong this time around
That my whole body lifts itself off the ground
And I find myself walking through twilight rain
To the overflowing fountain from a train.

The path is deserted; Everyone has found cover
Alone I am walking, but wait, there’s another
A beautiful girl radiating red sunshine
Confronted with her, the weather seems fine

She smiles, walking towards me with arms extended
I walk towards her feeling as if time had just ended
We fall into each other and on the spot embrace
While the freezing rain falls; soaking her smiling face

But we don’t mind. Just stand still, holding on
Once over this moment will be forever gone
I close my eyes and enter a void of bliss
The world’s best kiss doesn’t compare with this

I can feel a cold wind licking my cheek
The amazing feeling begins to grow weak.
I wake up to find the sky still grey
Still that same dreary winters-mid-day

Memories can bend a chain but not break one
To break a chain requires something more of a gun.
With that in mind I turn, walk and climb
Find the glass bridge and recall a crime.

Lust’s lying spider smiles as he holds close a close friend
I wish to ignore what I saw, but can’t even pretend.
She stood still while with most gentle caress
The damned deadly Demon her beautiful body did undress.

I’m watching my memory be murdered once more
The past includes images that strike at my core.
Trust turned to lust while loyalty and love were just lies;
Nothing of this nostalgia retains purity to my eyes.

Time to learn, turn and leave this place
Walk back, wipe the rain from my face
Back through Hornsby, Normanhurst and Wahroonga;
Through the lies and lost love. What cold nostalgia.

Alex Herlihy – 2010

I Hate You

seven-last-words-church-of-god-in-christ-jesus-vNBnzj-clipart[1]I opened up my heart to you
I opened up my mind to you
I revealed all my weaknesses to you

Then you went and fell in love with me
But I your best friend? It wasn’t to be
Through my rejections you came to hurt me

And then I turned my back on you
So now I “present” my back to you
But what are you going to do?

Do what damage you will as I know
This is to be the final blow
And I am prepared to take it

Once more I reveal my memories to you
One final time I show my heart to you
Again I open my windows of weakness to you

So hit me.
And then I can finally be free of you.

Alex Herlihy – 2010

Winter Formal

wintermemorie-6592[1].jpgWe were standing there one winters day
Me and Ba and Shank and Ray
“The seats are wet”, “I know hey”
Oh look there’s Scott, “His hair is so gay”

There was a time where I would have defended
Raised up my arms and cried most offended
Scott is a friend “Hey stop it you guys”
“Give it up with the slander and lies”

But no not today oh no no no way
Scott is the reason the sky is so grey.
I look left to déjà vu this dreary day;
For fate I have a debt to repay.

Ironic, how he’s no longer my friend
There’s no doubt how this is going to end.
Should I try to correct the fault?
Let my hard feelings out of that vault?

Yet I can no longer trust Scott, so I refuse.
Andrew Semler has been naught but bad news.
He has hit my moral event horizon on
the side which sends our friendship long gone

He’s made the mistake you don’t make twice
The kind of promise I won’t take thrice
He’s entered the game and stolen the dice
My poker face now is a cold mask of ice.

He knows I’ve played this game before
And I’ll not lose again; this time it’s war!
I have confidence either way for once
Security in my success against this dunce

I’m married. I simply can’t lose
My loving wife will join me on the cruise
So I’m not competing for a partner
Not searching for a happily ever after.

All I want is to ruin Scott’s dreams
And do it all with my smile like a beam.
Yes I’m a bastard, a horrible fiend
I will no longer tolerate Scott on the scene

I write it all with a touch of guilt
But that’s good, it’s how I’m built
There will be no regret by the time I am done
Only plenty of guilt with which to have fun

Already the emails have found themselves sent
The third vertex already finds herself bent
It seems like an early success
But I am not so easy to impress

My power on the internet has only grown stronger
My stalking resumé grows longer and longer
I can see all that has exchanged between
My favourite nerd and my Redheaded Queen

At the slightest hint of love and wonder
I will ruthlessly tear their hearts asunder
And it’s none of this from Jealousy, yet.
It’s the nerve of this shadow in every respect

I’ve fought against him for a whole year
It’s time for the right words to enter his ear.
This happens to be the most fitting way
To get across what I’ve wanted to say:

You are not you; you are stubbornly me
And I’m sorry to destroy your heart, honestly
But if it takes such murder to make you see
Then I have no regrets; Let it be.

Alex Herlihy – 2010

Seven Words

It was quite an absurd occurrencedownload.jpg
which gave rise to reason for
seven words of swift deterrence
Which I’ll now relate through more

The first word can be used to shout
and identify who is who
The word we would be lost without
It allows me to talk to you

The second word was my weapon of choice
Inverse osmosis, so give a bored blink
But it’s meaning should be given voice
What worth is the the chance to think

The third word was the same as the first
And this time with less glee
The subject couldn’t be any worse
If I know you’re talking about me.

The fourth word was almost a pet hate
To me it’s all a show
So throw me maths and throw me fate
I’ll believe, but never know

The fifth word was a name actually
The glowing opposite of death
Someone who I love to see
She is addressed as Beth

The sixth word was the same as the third
But following the other five
Apprehension flies high with the birds
Pointing my heart toward knives

The seventh word was a final blow
Of what I want and won’t
See it only went to show
What you can do but don’t

Alex Herlihy – 2010

The Ace of Hearts

I have before me a card. It is Jumbo sized Art. ace-of-heartsmassive
It has a story, this card. It is the Ace of Hearts.
I found it, or stole it, one black day
With the sky from the clouds raining grey.
“Missions” he called it, laughing with glee
and flickering eyes that betrayed his honesty.
I had naught to juggle, and nothing to squeeze
but then someone out there warmed to my pleas;
Two jumbo sized packs, one of red, one of blue.
I silently start shuffling, and watch as I do.
He bounces up and down all around the room,
Cramped as it is, there’s not the slightest boom
The cards I am shuffling are now being sorted.
The blue pack is missing the cards most important.
This fiend before me protects his best
Breaking the rules? nothing to contest
The four aces he keeps close to his heart,
But I know where they are, at least in part.
I look up from my royal flush,
My poker face doesn’t betray as much
and see this monster calling for help
But with a mad grin, not a loud yelp.
“Missions” he calls it, laughing viciously
The angel in the room jumps up immediately.
Well there you go, that seals my fate
Again into darkness to head a clean plate
I stand up and prepare to brave the rain
and I laugh at the other’s looks of pain.
As the cards go smack down upon the table,
The demon rushes out the door with my angel
I’m ready to run, pursue, protect and die
But something has stopped me, caught my eye
His four aces are there and so heavily exposed
lust for an angel; As a hole in defence, it shows.
There is only one card that I care to take
One of four aspects that I intend to break
The club is his skills, his practice and trade
The genius to which that combines is his Spade
The diamond is his luck and face but in part,
it is his amazing ability to abuse the heart.
I grabbed the card, the organ throbbing in fright
I Stuffed it in my pocket and clenched it tight.
Run out the door into the rain,
past the overflowing storm drain.
The water coming down as a wall
I run and slip and avoid a fall
There’s always the light of the angel before
Beautiful hair showing me through the downpour
All the while I clenched the card, I never let go
Despite it’s burning black blood ruining the show
But I got through to the end of the night
When I got home I knew I had won the fight
The demon failed again, as the angel survived
His heart is disfigured and no longer alive
It’ll grow back, such an ungodly sight
To him the loss of a heart is slight.
But it will never be the same one, and that’s fine
Because this is no longer his heart, it’s mine.
This is a symbol for the angel; I have her not him
But I vow I will not abuse her under light dim.
I’ll not rip it in half, I’ll never set it on fire
But I’ll never ever use it like that horrible liar.
And now I sit here, with Heart’s Ace before me
The crease through the middle should tell you its’ story.

Alex Herlihy – 2010

You must specialise in broken hearts

eyesarewonderful6.png“You must specialise in broken hearts”
That’s a line I’ve always had in mind
Knowing where to put it is a fine art
Skill and mastery to which I was blind

Ever since the last word was said
These words have lingered behind
For I failed to hold a redhead
Those words were not mine to find

No one spoke them, they were not written
These words are the product of silence;
Delicious, but not my words to be eaten
Beautiful, and yet for me far too tense

So whom is the elusive subject of my quote?
At first I thought it was my Ranga rejector
The one who left two broken boys on a boat
The memory that will never shut it’s door

But no matter how hard I tried
Sixty stanzas couldn’t fit it in
To force any phrase I would have died
Because I knew it wasn’t her within

After a few months of regression
I decided to learn from a mistake
Very soon it came to my attention
That I had a uni course to take

Who should happen to be attending?
Another redhead, another chance
A few long weeks of pretending
Previous mistake made my luck enhance

But all of a sudden again it’s occurred
I don’t want to lose another friend
Another audition for my great words
Let’s see this through to the end

Irony, I managed to win this time
But not before falling apart anyway
It was almost like the perfect crime
That quote I almost had cause to say

Once again, the words don’t work
Why on earth can’t I fit them in?
It makes me cringe and smirk
All those guys hearts are her epic win

If anyone were to receive the phrase
It would absolutely have to be her
But no, even after hours and days
How to use the words is a blur.

I have tried and tried and tried
And many have stepped up to fill the spot
My efforts are nothing, I’ve only cried
It’s only recently that the answer was caught

Someone lusts and rages and wants
I stopped him quite immediately
Another heart broken behind the taunts
And so it hit me almost evilly

There could only be one who fills the mould
Could shred that organ into a million parts
With a grin and glinting eye, I’ve been told
“You must specialise in broken hearts”

Alex Herlihy – 2010

Formal

Normanhurst-Boys-High-School[1].jpgWe were Sitting down at lunch one day,
Me and Ba, and Scott and Ray,
Being Happy and merry (But never gay)
Until Shank decided to come our way.

The conversation quickly turns,
To that which makes the stomach churn;
Hot chicks, porno, renticle tape
To make shank stop it, we give him a shake.

“Profanities Shank” loudly proclaims Ba,
“Give it a rest” I say, “You’ve gone too far”
“bIsAmused equals false” guffaws semlar,
And Ray just pretends to play a guitar.

Ba scratches his head and thinks of a topic,
one that is safe and will make shank stop it.
Up until then, everything was normal…
“So who are you guys taking to the formal?”

This quickly got everyone’s attention,
I stayed quiet, as if on detention.
I was interested but it did not show,
Everyone became edgy, ready to blow.

Semlar coughed “Sarah”, we whacked him hard,
“She’s in France, are you a retard?”
Ba says that he wants to ask Alanna
This gets met with “Ba’s gonna be a father!”

Ba hides his face and talks to shank
What did they say? I drew a blank.
I became apprehensive as of then
“Who did you say you are asking again?”

His one word answer, as it sunk into my mind
Sent my heart crazy and put shivers down my spine
The one name that I did not want to hear
“Nicole” said shank, confirming my worst fear.

She was the only girl that I wanted to take
And now she’s about to be stolen by Shank.
The gears in my head started to revolve
A plan was formed and I was resolved.

Shank will NOT be stealing my redhead;
He will be taking someone else instead.
This occupied me for the rest of the day
Shank had become my enemy in a way.

As I looked at my options I exclaimed “damn”
I didn’t know whether it would go to plan
But I was possesed and my fingers would shake
In such a frenzy I made a fatal mistake

One email that I don’t want to recall
I was putting too much faith in it all.
With butterflies in stomach, excitement, nervous,
I pushed “send” and the words did their service

I had no idea that I was already dead,
So I felt better then ever as I climbed into bed.
I had to make certain that shank didn’t ask,
His real words are superior to an email from my arse.

The next day was friday, both a blessing and a curse.
After school was youth group at Ba’s Christian church.
This meant I could ask her for real
Shank could too; so it was not ideal

I had a sense of “Carpe Diem”, Sieze the day!
On top of the world? I was feeling this way.
But behind it all there was a sense of betrayal:
No matter what, one of us is going to fail.

For the first time I could see what paths lay before me
Extreme jealousy or sweet victory, which was it to be?
I was determined to see this through
“Damn you Shank, this is all because of you!”

And so there we we’re on friday night
Soccer in the park; it was a vicious fight.
Does shank suspect why I am here?
If he does then I must fear:

If Shank Knows my thoughts then he’ll be using all speed
He will pounce on Nicole like one full of greed.
But if he doesn’t know my plan he will take his time,
Wondering how to word himself, while I make a beeline.

Either way the race is on, for I will not be waiting long.
Besides I’m wearing sneakers, I can’t lose to his thongs.
For Nicole I begin to search around,
I covered quite a lot of ground.

But what is this? I can not find,
the thing that has plagued my mind.
Where on earth could Nicole be?
Surely she can’t be hiding from me.

The night dragged on and it became clear:
Nicole was not going to be coming here.
I was disappointed until I saw the truth
More time to practice not sounding like a goof.

I withdrew from my thoughts and looked around
There was Ba and at Shank he frowned.
Shank had no idea that he was spoiling Ba’s chance
For Ba to man up and ask Alanna to this dance.

I laughed and let the night take me away
The stress was gone until another day.
And so I had a lot of fun
Before I knew it, the night was done.

I woke up and it was saturday
I felt good but the sky was grey
This was a bad omen that I ignored
I had slept so well! I never even yawned

I turn on the computer, I let it load
I waited and waited until the windows logo showed.
I decided to check email but I had totally forgot,
That email of doom that I should have let rot.

I had new messages but none from Nicole
But I didn’t worry. Today won’t be droll.
So I let the morning go flying away,
Before I knew it, it was the end of the day.

Once again I returned to my email
To find a reply from a certain female.
And there it was waiting for me;
The reply of success, surely.

My heart was beating, I didn’t dare
To read that which was written there.
My hand hesitated for I could not bare,
A reply that causes me to tear out my hair.

But then I decide to take the plunge
This sweat making me as wet as a sponge.
I opened the email that decided fate
No more delay. I could not wait.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t go”
This can not be! No no NO!
“I’m sorry, but I can’t go…with you”
No…After what I’ve been through…

The world had ended, Shank had won
I had failed, the game was done.
Silent tears flowed as I retreated to bed
Sadness was swept up into dreams instead

I woke up feeling depressed the next day
I couldn’t believe that it had happened this way.
But I would not go down like this,
I must stop Shank, make him miss.

I come to school, Shank says “Wassup!”
“What a bummer that she didn’t turn up!”
At recess I find Ba talking to Shank
The subject, “Revenge” and some stuff about tanks.

Ba says that the Bible condones vengence
“How ironic, that means I won’t pay repentance”
“Only if the punishment fits the crime”
“Perfect. You know, that sounds just fine”

So I vowed to stay close to Shank, never give him a chance
To ask Nicole to the formal, they would never dance.
To me it seemed an eye for an eye
I couldn’t forsee how this plan died

And so it was Friday night once more.
We were in a church with leaky walls.
This time Nicole did indeed show
What Shank was thinking we could only know.

An awkward triangle we three made
In a river of emotion I did wade
While Shank stood silent trying to think
And eventually, Nicole ran off to get a drink.

Shank stayed away from her for most of the night
I relaxed and watched some bogans fight.
The next thing I know Shank has disappeared
But before I could swear I saw what I feared.

Shank had a look of confidence on his face
As he turned round the corner I was frozen in place
But what came next was not expected
Shank looked strangely affected

He rounded the corner looking resolved
but as he came back the look had dissolved
From within came an exclamation of glee:
“She didn’t pick him and she didn’t pick me!”

To me it came as a great victory
Shank tried to take it happily
His poker face hid what emotion he felt
He eyed me off till my face almost melt.

He was thinking the same as me
“My ranga was stolen by Herlihy”
I laughed and told him of my fail
He seemed to be turning pale.

My thoughts turned inward, as they do
And I got thinking about things undue
This was not a victory at all,
Oh boy did I just drop the ball

Revenge is a dish best served cold.
That’s what I have always been told.
So of course it came as no suprise
When all of a sudden, I realised:

Nicole would not be at our formal
With me or Shank or someone normal.
I couldn’t help feeling that it was all my fault
I should have locked my hard feelings in a vault

I was blind. Look what I’ve done.
Oh sad consequences of my fun.
As I dealt with reality
It finally sunk into me

This formal is more trouble then it’s worth
Time to get more down to earth.
And so I chose to forget these incidents
I did not want to remember, the memory was rinsed

And so I forgot, I could not recall
Until another email brought me back to it all.
Ba gives the facts as blunt as a plank
“Nicole wanted to say yes to Shank.”

Ba haven’t you heard that ignorance is bliss?
Why oh why did you have to tell me this?
I demand that you now let me know
From where this information flows

But Ba is silent, he does not say
Why these tidings came my way
So I leave the mystery unsolved
And once again the memories dissolved

The formal it did come and go
And I did not toss to and fro
I just came and had some fun
Before I knew it, the night was done.

On the bus I sat with Shank
We talked of all things rank
Hot chicks, porno, renticle tape
But I didn’t stop it, It was too late.

Shank was not an enemy then
“I still wish you asked Nicole again,
Even though we had such fun,
I still wish that she had come”

I hear a sigh, he gathers breath
I’m so tired I feel like death
“We’re still learners” is the last thing he said
But I still wish that I had my redhead.

I haven’t seen Shank since then,
And I have taken to the pen
“We’re still learners” lingers in sight
With that in mind I kiss the Formal good night

I finally can let it go
No more of this horrible show
Months have passed since I last cried.
To the formal, a big “Good bye!”

But no, I had a dream last night
You see, it gave me quite a fright
Not because it was a nightmare
But for what was contained in there:

The formal again, I’m back on the boat
With Ba, Alanna and a red goat.
But there is one I was not expecting to see
Nicole! And she is coming towards me.

But before I can say “This must be a dream”
There appears Shank, his smile like a beam.
Hands clasped firmly with Nicoles, I was enraged at the sight
Such a fury that I woke myself up in the middle of the night.

I do not know what this dream meant
But one thing I know as hard as cement:
This formal will not close it’s door
It will plague my mind forever more.

Alex Herlihy – 2008