Mad City

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I remember living back home just over a year ago. Out in countryside with all the cows, the sheep, the shit on the road and the occasional stench of death. Closest shop was a mile up hill, closest petrol station three miles in the opposite direction. Closest pub was three hundred yards away- but it was filled with old ones and culchies and it really wasn’t my scene.

I remember feeling so…bored. But not just bored. I felt angry. Like, really fucking angry all of the time. The slightest thing could set me off. My parents were getting on my nerves. I’d finished up at tech and was on the dole, a gruelling process where I spent half the money on travel and food for the family.

Then I got a job, didn’t have to go to the dole office anymore. Which was good. Then I instantly realised that the job is shit and I wasn’t good at it, because people kept telling me that the job was shit and that I wasn’t good at it. So instead of feeling angry I felt depressed. Depleted. Exhausted. Even had some thoughts about throwing in the towel permanently.

But it was better, I guess. Cause instead of spending half my money on food and travel I was only spending a third of it on food and travel. Progress, I guess.

Then I moved to Belfast. Now I was very excited for this. I got a flat with my friend, got my University course sorted out- I was certain things were gonna be looking up because then I’d have nothing be angry about. I was angry cause I was missing out, like I was a race car driver making a pit stop and it was just taking too long and I was starting to fear that I’d never catch up. But I got out and I started driving again.

The move to Belfast was just…awful. Night before my parents told me they were going away somewhere, so they couldn’t help me move in. I get up at seven o’clock in the morning, nobodies home to say goodbye as I drag all my shit down the road so I can catch a bus to town. It’s late September, mist rises from the fields, the birds swoop over head and it is cold as hell. I’m angry, wondering how me and my family’s ability to communicate fell apart like this. I wondered if it was my fault.

The bus is late and people keep driving by. In a city when people drive by nobody cares, cause there’s so much to look at. But in the country there’s nothing for miles but trees and fields, so when you see a person you genuinely can’t look away. You can feel the people in the car staring at you and it’s so irksome. You can’t see them but you can feel them.

I get another bus in town and I get to the city within an hour and a half. I realise that I’m not suitable to be carrying all this shite across town so I get a taxi. I hate taxis, they’re so awkward. I get to the flat and wait out there, in this street on the outskirts of the Holylands for like an hour and a half.

Eventually my friend shows up. I tell him I quit my job cause it was too far away and he gave me a lot of shit for it. Which hurt, cause I though he was sympathetic to my situation. Keeps going on about “how are you going to pay rent?” and I swear to god I wanted to end it right there. But then the landlord gets there, we get our keys and now we officially have a place.

It took two weeks to sort out wifi, heating and then fixing the boiler. Took two months to get a job and about three months to realise this damp little flat had a serious mould problem. I’d de-mould the flat every two weeks but I think this is one of the many reasons why my then flatmate decided to move out at the end of the lease.

That and, y’know, living with me isn’t easy. I have a tendency to get on peoples nerves and I may have crossed a line here and there. Scratch that, definitely crossed a line here and there.

So the last five months of my tenancy I was stressed out. Struggling to find a replacement, I opted to move. Landlord was sound enough with it, He had an easier time finding a replacement for us in a week than I did in five months. When I left, apparently they removed the carpet from my room- the entire floorboard was covered with mould.

So there I was, I thought I was fine. Until I wasn’t and then I had to move again. Trying to find a flat in early October with Uni going on and work, caused a great deal of unnecessary stress. This concern about whether or not you’re going to have somewhere to live at the end of the month, having this weight resting on your chest and you can’t just ignore it.

I found myself having these regular moments of sheer and utter panic. Like this train of thought that descended into a downward spiral. First concern would be money, then your job security, then your education- whole thing freaked me out. I started worrying about how this’d fuck up the rest of my life.

I kept reminding myself of the worst case scenario; I’d have to move home, seventy odd miles away from this city. I could still go to Uni, but I couldn’t stay long. I could still work, but money and travel- I think they’d rather cut me off. I’d be fine. No stress with bills or dealing with landlords and WiFi people. Hell, I’d even get to see my dog again.

But I’d be thrown back into that pool of corrosive anger that I tried so desperately to claw my way out of. It was a choice between taking another pit stop or keep on driving, hoping you don’t spiral out of control and crash into something.

A lot of people have problems. People have kids to feed and people to take care of. Most people are just living paycheck to paycheck and they don’t have any opportunity to lift that weight off their chest. My troubles aren’t unique but tragically mundane and commonplace. The stress kills you before the hunger or the thirst ever will.

I went for a viewing, out in the Holylands. Nice little, yet expensive, flat with a live in landlord. Viewings are weird. You’re treading through someone else’s home. But it’s not really a home, is it? Just a place to sleep.

I sit and talk with the landlord for a while. Talk about this mad city. Man’s from Canada, nice little seaside town with a bunch of surfers and fishermen. Everyone’s chill there, mellowed out. But here? He says that everyone here is so angry. A tension plastered over with happy smiles and politeness. But there’s this rage that lies under the surface of everyone here.

He says in the Holylands you can see it. Drunk ones wandering the streets, shouting throughout the night. Not like screams of pleasure but just…screaming for the sake of screaming. The drink reveals the man and the men out there are awfully angry at something.

You can excuse some of the stuff away. Like how three months ago you had to ask some asshole if you could go take a piss and now you have to pay rent. You’re given freedom. Or at least you think it’s freedom, it’ll take you a few years to find the glass ceiling. There’s nothing stopping you from going out drinking every night. Or having a bag of chips for breakfast every morning or even just not showing up to class. It’s freedom. You can do whatever you want and you’re packed together with a bunch of people who have also realised they can do whatever the fuck they want. That mob mentality kicks in with this newly realised freedom, so you can do whatever you want but you also don’t know what the fuck you want to do. So you do the first stupid thing that pops in your head.

A stupid thing that causes a lot of damage. Swear to fuck I came home from work one night and found these three boys just hurling cans of Strongbow onto the pavement. Like these three boys had this twelve pack of Strongbow and instead of drinking it they opted to hurl it onto the ground. Momentum cracking it open. They were doing this at two o’clock on a Saturday morning.

It’d be fine if it was just some dumb and stupidly aggressive shit like this, but there’s always at least three dozen cunts who get expelled at the start of the year for doing stupid shit. Hell, this year three people died for christ sake.

It’s crazy out there” the landlord says “I’ve never seen anything like it“. But I see it every day. Like every city you have spheres overlapping each other, different communities with different cultures orbiting one another.

In Queen’s you always suffocating feeling of politeness. Everyone’s always on alert to be nice and awkward and agreeable. You step one foot in the Holyland’s all that fades away. Nobody gives a shit.

You step out of the University area, head to the city centre, interact with the main people of this city and it just dawns on you how much nobody gives a shit. You’ll find people overdosing outside of city hall now and again. In the nice part of town. Nobody gives a shit and everyone’s angry but they ignore the anger.

It’s the people who can’t ignore the anger that are the real problem. Anger can result from a lot of places, but the most dangerous one is isolation. There’s always a reason someone’s alone, walking the streets at night or drinking in a pub alone. They might have fucked up, gotten fucked over, or maybe too fucked up to get opportunities to fuck up. There’s always a reason.

I mind the other day at work we had some cunt come in. Went up to a group of girls and started talking to them for like, a really long time. Then he did something to piss them off and they pushed over his pint, smashing it on the ground. Guy gets angry, says he wouldn’t pay for it. Get’s in this whole misunderstanding between the server.

Row is getting out of hand and he comes up to me at the main bar, says “Sorry, can I speak to a man! Cause y’know these women are too unreasonable” I mind thinking to myself “am…am I in a Tumblr post? What the actual fuck is going on here?” Seriously, it’s one of the worst things anybody has ever said to me- and people have said a lot of fucked up shit to me.

Bouncer comes up and kicks him out. Group of women are thankful but feared that he’s out there waiting on them. Wanting to follow them home. Way that mad cunt went on, I feel they were right to be concerned.

I head home that night, whole thing playing back and forth in my mind as I pass the drunks as they’re kicked out of the pubs and clubs. Wandering the streets aimlessly, shouts and jeers polluting the soundscape. Even the wind is silenced. I think how mad this city can be and wonder whether or not I’m mad for even wanting to live here.

I listened to the landlord complain about the students going about setting fires, the eternal screaming throughout the night and I stayed silent. Because I missed it. I missed laying in bed in a mouldy apartment, wondering if that squeal coming down the street was a dog dying or a drunk girl falling down a fire exit. I miss the riotous roars, the breaking of glass, doorbell going off at four o’clock in the morning cause the upstairs neighbours forgot their keys- I miss all that shit.

The only thing I can listen to now laying in bed is a car alarm going off. I wake up to the sound of dogs barking, garden sprinklers going off and children playing in the street. It’s sickening.

I’m finishing up talking to the landlord, questioning whether or not I want the flat for money and personal reasons. I leave and I keep thinking about this thing he said to me. How Northern Ireland has the highest levels of mental illness in the UK and Ireland. Worsened by the fact that it has the least government intervention.

More people kill themselves today than they did back in the Troubles. Mostly men. Almost half of young people in the province have dealt with mental illness. Young people are more likely to suffer from some form of depression or anxiety and if you’re part of the LGBT community you’re 25% more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.

Beginning to think there’s a reason this mad city is so mad.

At the end of the night at work I’ll often go up to the bouncers to talk the shit. Every night they go on about this mad city. About the creeps and the weirdos that they don’t let in. All the shit they see, after a while they start sounding like Travis from Taxi Driver. None of them drink, shit they see puts them off it.

I walk home at night while everyone else gets taxis. I tell myself I’m doing it to save money or that I have to see this shit, see the city when all the lights are out and nobodies watching. But the real reason is that I like it. I like watching all these drunks and losers wandering the street, talking shite, worrying about how they’re gonna get home.

I like watching the fights break out. The cops get called in, the running about, the screaming. I laugh at the people who go up to the homeless people on the street and start talking to them in their drunken state, knowing that the following morning they’ll cross the street to avoid them. Then I get to the end of the Dublin Road and walk past the SOS bus with Christians handing out tea and blankets. Trying to save the soul of this mad city,

It’s so loud, so different from where I’m from. How the hell could I ever go back now?

 

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