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About this blog

Lyrics, novels and occasionally I ramble about Green Day.

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Snapshots of a Broken Mind is loosely based on my own experiences and follows three characters - Austin, his brother John and girlfriend Emily - through Austin's battle with borderline personality disorder, as he tries to piece his life back together after a messy divorce and job loss.

I've posted these two chapters before, but I've completely rewritten them to reflect the English mental health system better and to generally be more interesting. I'd really appreciate any feedback, good or bad. Here are the originals, if you feel like comparing them!

Edit: I've also edited these two again to include everyone's suggestions. Thank you all for the feedback!

Trigger warning for suicide, self-harm and mental health issues

CHAPTER ONE

Austin

My alarm went off at 2:30pm, but it was a while before I came to. I remember registering the time and that I’d fallen asleep in my clothes, before the memory of my plans for the day flooded back. My legs were weak when I stumbled out of bed. I hadn’t eaten for a while.

I didn’t feel any remorse, sadness or even anxiety about what I was planning to do. I was apathetic, detached; relieved, if anything.

I did hesitate, for a second, until I caught sight of myself in the mirror. My bones were protruding everywhere; the dark circles around my green eyes were like bruises and my dark hair was a tangled mess. My arms and legs were covered in ugly scars from self-harm. Not to mention that I smelt like shit. I scowled. Disgusting, pathetic. I hated myself. If I’d needed an extra push, that was it.

I packed a few things into my rucksack and stumbled out of my flat. The world went on as I walked through the grubby suburb to the tube station; drivers shouting, horns honking, some busker singing. London doesn’t pause for anyone.

I got the tube to Victoria and then the train out to Eastbourne. People were staring at me. Some of them looked concerned, but most of them were whispering or laughing. Fuck the lot of them.

While I was on the train I clung onto a squashed photo of my kids, willing them to forgive me one day. Then I stupidly sent a text to my older brother John, asking him to forgive me too.

I used to take my kids to Newquay every year, but I’d never been out this way before. Twilight was falling as my train arrived; the sky was tinted with red, the station’s clock tower a sinister silhouette. As I left the station, I began to feel lost and frightened. It wouldn’t be long now, I told myself.

I’d looked up which bus I needed to get – the 13X – but in a panic and desperate for people to stop staring, I stumbled into a taxi. The driver glanced sharply at me when I told him my destination, but he didn’t say anything.

The quaint town dissolved into a coastal road as the taxi rolled away. I was anxious now. My heart was pounding and my shaking hands were sweating. I could hardly count out the change when I paid the driver, praying he wouldn’t say anything.

He didn’t. He thanked me and drove away, parking further up the road by a little café. I watched him disappear inside, then I stumbled blindly past the bus stop and over the grass until I was faced with the sea; the steep white cliffs stretching out to my left and right, until they disappeared into the darkening sky. A man was walking his dog in the distance. It was beautiful but there was an eerie horror about it that made me feel sick.

I fumbled to pull the photo of my kids back out of my pocket. My son, Elliott, the oldest, and my two twin girls, Whitney and Alicia. They’d be better off this way. I was doing them a favour.

I was worried I’d hesitate or be too scared when I got here, but it felt darkly welcoming. My wife had left me and taken my kids. I’d lost my job and my band had broken up. I had nothing left.

A cold wind blew off the sea, creeping through my clothes and seeping into my bones. Get it over with, Austin.

I stood back, my heart pounding. Then I ran. I ran until I reached the edge of the cliffs and all I could see was the vast ocean.

Then I jumped.

John

Austin is my little brother.

Yes, Austin Webb, the attractive, witty, successful sound technician who’s always the life of the party. I was fat, ugly and boring. Still am. People think I must be his half-brother, but no. He’s my brother, and my brother has gone missing.

He stopped texting me a couple of days ago, an abrupt end to the stream of self-pity I was receiving before. I’d been visiting him twice a week – and believe me, he hadn’t gone further than the newsagent’s downstairs in weeks – but when I went to his flat in Shepherd’s Bush he’d either gone or wouldn’t answer the door. Neither boded well, I thought.

I gave his GP a ring, but they weren’t bothered. I wasn’t sure what else to do. I’d been assured that this whole mess was just a bit of post-divorce and job loss depression, but I knew my little brother and I knew something was up. He’d always been a bit, well, unstable, for lack of a better word – hell, he threw a bloody plate at me last time I suggested seeing the doctor again – but this was getting odd.

It was getting on for thirty-six hours of no contact when I got the cryptic text. John, please forgive me. I’m sorry but I have to do this. It’s for the best. You’ll understand.

My heart was in my mouth. He’d topped himself, or he was going to. I rushed out to my van and drove to his flat.

The door was wide open and he wasn’t there. The flat was filthy as ever; pizza boxes, beer bottles and dirty clothes scattered everywhere, covered by a layer of dust. I found his poor Labrador, Bentley, all on his own in the bedroom. I filled up the dog bowl for him and then I found Austin’s laptop, so I switched it on. I didn’t like going through his things, but this was getting desperate.

In a few clicks I’d found a history of suicide pages. Most of them were about jumping, and then I found an image search full of beautiful white cliffs. Oh, bloody hell. My little brother.

I was panicking when I got home, trying to control a frightened Bentley; but Bea, my wife, had enough sense to call the police and the coastguard, then she suggested that we go to look for him ourselves.

We’re driving there now.

John, please forgive me. I’m sorry but I have to do this. It’s for the best. You’ll understand...

Please, Austin. Hang in there.

The motorways are crawling with traffic, hundreds of little ants speeding up and down the crowded lanes. Bea shouts directions from Google Maps, but every wrong turn is another minute closer to Austin jumping. If he hasn’t already...

We speed past petrol stations, through suburbs, another motorway; but I’m not paying attention to any of it. My tired Royal Mail van is beginning to struggle. It’s not used to being rushed out of London.

The A2270 is the last stretch, a painfully slow process at 30mph until we’re finally on a coastal road, two lanes winding through the endless green hills.

We need to get closer to the edge, so I park in the first space I see. Bea gets a ticket while I look around, but my heart sinks. This is hopeless. The area is huge, an endless grassy plain either leading back to the land or ending in a steep white drop into the English Channel.

Where do we start? There are people walking their dogs but no sign of Austin. I hear voices and for a second my hopes rise; but it’s just some tourists.

We agree to split up, me heading east and Bea west. Suddenly it seems ominously silent. I can’t see or hear anyone; there’s just the distant lighthouse with its red stripe, the twilit sky and the vast sea. Waiting to swallow my little brother.

I wander along feeling hopeless, until I spot a clump of little figures on the horizon, close to the edge. Is it him? I’ve no idea. I’m so unfit but I try to run. I have stitches in both legs by the time I get closer; but then I hear the voices. A London accent.

It’s him.

He’s dishevelled, unshaven, wearing a dirty Green Day t-shirt over pyjama bottoms. A copper, two coastguards and a bloke who seems to be a taxi driver are reasoning with him. Feeling a little better – they’re watching him, thank God – I stop running for a second to catch my breath. Then out the corner of my eye I see Austin clobber the policeman. He turns and jumps. My heart stops.

For one second it’s as if he’s frozen in mid-air, like a Looney Tunes character; then in another split second he’s gone.

One of the coastguards leaps forward. The other one grabs him from behind before he falls too. I rush forward with the policeman and taxi driver. The coastguard is clinging onto him by the collar; then he manages to grasp his right arm.

“Let me go!”

I feel sick as I look down and see my little brother, legs swinging and desperately struggling to break free, with the hard ground and expectant sea beneath five hundred feet beneath him; and a few men between him and death.

I explain to the others that I’m his older brother and the coastguard tells him. He looks up at me, and somehow the distraught look in his manic eyes is more terrifying than the drop below.

“John?”

I cautiously kneel at the edge of the cliff, offering my hand. A furious gust of wind blows up at me and oh, God, I’m bloody terrified. The copper grabs me just in case. I try to speak calmly, but I can hear my voice trembling.

“C’mon, mate. You don’t want to end up down there.”

“Yes I do.”

“Your brother’s come all the way from London, Austin.” the coastguard says, teeth gritted with concentration. “Look how much he cares about you.”

“Bentley’s waiting at home.” I say, trying to smile through my fear. “He’ll be so glad to see you get back safe.”

It doesn’t make any difference. He says I have to understand and I’ll be better off this way; then he becomes hysterical and fights harder to get away. I desperately cling onto his other arm, covered in sweat.

“Please, Austin.” I beg. “The kids need you. Mum and Dad will miss you. I’ll miss you and so will Bea.”

He shakes his head, still struggling; and the coastguard glances at me, worried.

“We’re going to have to pull him back up.”

I nod, hardly able to breathe. What if I drop him? What if I drop my little brother? What if I go over too?

“I’ve got a firm hold on you.” the copper says. “Don’t panic.”

The coastguard asks if I’m ready and then he counts us in. “One, two, three-”

For one horrible, stomach-churning second I fall forwards and the copper is hanging onto me by my belt. God, we’ve just made it worse...

“You’ll take your brother over with you!” the coastguard yells. “Surely you don’t want to kill John?”

Finally that seems to get through to him. He looks up, still for a moment.

“No.”

The coastguard counts me in again and this time he doesn’t struggle so much. I feel like my arms are being ripped apart as we slowly, painfully, haul my little brother back onto the firm ground. My heart is in my mouth. He looks up at me, green eyes despondent.

“I don’t want to kill you.”

Then he collapses into a trembling bundle on the damp grass. The policeman gently coaxes him up with the help of the cabbie and they carry him to his expectant car. The coastguard puts an arm around me.

“You alright? Do you want to go with him?”

I nod, shaking. He and the cabbie wish us the best of luck as I clamber into the car next to him. As the engine revs up and we leave the white cliffs behind, it feels as if I just woke from a nightmare. I type a messy text to Bea, asking her to wait in my van.

Austin is silent. He won’t look at me.

Austin

They took me to Eastbourne District General Hospital, sirens blaring. John was shaking, trying not to cry and I felt suffocated by guilt. Humiliated. Everything was wrong.

I feel like it all started that night. Of course, it had actually been going on for God knows how long, probably since I was a kid. I’d already lost my job and my wife had walked out. My band had broken up. But I’d been hiding, leaning on crutch after crutch – my marriage, parenthood, my job, my band – and then suddenly all of it was gone and I had no crutch anymore. I had to face myself; and my reaction was to jump off a cliff.

I was sick. Sitting on a hard chair in an alien A&E, wearing pyjama bottoms with a policeman watching me like a hawk; I realised that. I needed help.

They told me the psychiatric people were on their way, but I don’t know how long I sat there in that quiet waiting room, staring at the notice board in front of me. An organ donation poster stared back; next to it was a stop smoking ad and a faded number for Samaritans. The chairs were black, carefully arranged into three long rows. Nurses and paramedics rushed in and out of the toilet to my left. I felt distant, like I was watching it all through a dirty window.

The window smashed when two burly blokes eventually trooped into the waiting room. They looked like soldiers, not NHS staff. Hopefully they weren’t looking for me...

“Austin Webb?”

Oh, God, they were. John and the policeman stood up, but one of the guys shook his head.

“We need to speak to Austin on his own.”

I glanced back at John, feeling suddenly frightened as they led me off to another little room. He mouthed “good luck” before they shut the door.

“I’m Jean.” the taller one said as he offered me a seat. “And this is Chris.”

“Nice to meet you, Austin.” Chris said. “We’re just going to ask you a few questions.”

I felt like a kid lost in a bad part of town. If they had looked at my notes, they pretended not to and made me explain everything myself. They wanted to know about my marriage, my childhood, my depression and anxiety... none of which I wanted to talk about. I folded my arms and refused to talk, until Jean asked if I realised that I’d be leaving my kids without a father if I killed myself. At first I got angry, saying it was none of their business and I’d never see them again anyway; then eventually I broke down and cried, like a stupid oversized baby.

“I’m unemployed. My wife left me and took everything I worked for. Now I’m a wreck in a filthy flat who had to be pulled back up a cliff – twice. I’ll never see my kids again. What reason do I have to live?”

“Course you can see your kids again.” Chris said. “We can get in touch with Social Services. You’ll get another job. Would you accept us referring you to a team at a mental health unit back in London, so maybe you can feel better and get your life back on track? Be with your kids again?”

Part of me wanted to say yes, but another part screamed at me that I deserved to feel this way and that my kids were better off without me. When I didn’t respond, they looked at each other worriedly and said they were going to talk to John. I felt so alone in that little white room, staring at the sink and a box of latex gloves. I pulled out the crumpled photo of my kids again. They did look happy. What if it was possible to see them again? What if they did miss me?

I let them refer me to the Assessment Team in Hammersmith. They were going to lock me up if I said no, but I’d decided before then. I wanted to get help. I didn’t want to be this pathetic guy, jumping off cliffs and putting my brother through hell. I wanted to be a good father to my kids again. I wanted to fix things up with my band and get a new job.

Jean promised he’d marked my case urgent and that I’d be assessed soon. He gave me the number for my local Crisis Team in case I needed help in the meantime.

I left Eastbourne determined that I would beat this.

CHAPTER TWO

John

I toss and turn until my alarm finally rings at five in the morning. The shrill sound is almost welcome after the long silence of the sleepless night. I’ll go to work, sort my mail, deliver it, come home. I can do that on autopilot. It’s the inevitable “how was your weekend?” that I’m dreading more than my 5:30 start and the day ahead. I contemplate pulling a sickie; but what will I do at home? Torture myself with images of Austin with the sea below him? God, no. I get ready, kiss Bea goodbye and head out to my van.

I arrive at the Mail Centre with a few minutes to spare, taking a moment to calm down before I walk in. There. I don’t want to seem too flustered.

“Alright, mate?” Bill, my colleague and old mate asks as I pull the door open. I smile and manage a “yeah, thanks, you?” and pretend to be listening to the radio. Maybe my autopilot isn’t so brilliant. I soon find myself consumed by my thoughts again, wishing that my family could be normal; Bill glances sharply at me as I drop a fragile package.

“John, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t shit me, mate.”

He knows me too well. He looks at me impatiently as I try to form the words.

“...Austin tried to jump off a cliff. Nearly did.”

“The crazy sod!” he shouts. The new bloke stares at us bewilderedly and Bill lowers his voice, tutting. “Why?”

“Divorce, kids... you know the story.”

“He needs to be bloody locked up.”

I frown. “He is my brother, Bill.”

“Well, we’ve all got problems but not everyone has someone like you to run round after them. He needs to pull himself together.”

“He is trying. He’s getting help.”

“But how many times has he told you that?”

“He hasn’t. This is the first.”

Bill shakes his head and I wonder if I am making excuses. He did say he was getting help for his anxiety and depression... although how much of that blame lies with doctors ignoring the problem? They just threw pills at him and hoped he’d go away.

There’s something up with him that hasn’t been diagnosed. I rarely take my break after sorting the Special Deliveries, but today I find myself looking at Mind’s website on my phone, trying to find something that matches Austin’s symptoms. The closest thing is bipolar disorder but I don’t think it really fits him. God knows.

I go to see him when I’ve finished my round. He’s cleaned his flat – and himself, thank God – and poor old Bentley is looking much happier now. I don’t mention the previous day and neither does he; but although he’s better, he’s distant and still a little subdued. Bill’s words echo in my head. He needs to be bloody locked up. I’d never forgive myself, but is he safe on his own? Conversation becomes strained and I get sick of listening to the same depressing Green Day album on repeat... but should I be leaving him?

He promises he’ll call the Crisis Team if he gets low again and insists that album is helping him. I give him a hug and reluctantly leave. I can’t stay there all day. Bea is leaving for her next job soon, in Gibraltar – she’s a translator – and I do want to spend some time with her. I’d call Mum and Dad and ask if one of them could keep an eye on him, but then I’d have to explain and I can’t face that yet.

I’d be lost without Bea. She somehow manages to reassure me and calm me down when I get home. I don’t know how she does it or how I ended up marrying such a wonderful woman. Everyone fancied Austin when we were younger, except her; and it’s our marriage that lasted. She’s the greatest woman you’ll ever meet, my wife is.

I’m making dinner – I’m a bit of a house-husband, whereas Bea is the one who makes a real living for us – when she asks if Austin knows that the band he’s obsessed with are playing down the road from him in a few days.

“What, Green Day?”

“Yes, I thought that might cheer him up – or rather that you might stop worrying for a while if he went to that.”

I Google it after dinner, but I’m disappointed to find that it sold out immediately. Why do people so desperately want to see them? They’re depressing noise, as far as I’m concerned.

I know another mate who likes them – God knows why – so I give him a ring on the off chance he might have a spare ticket. He was going to drag his wife along but she didn’t want to go, so this is perfect. Success! I agree to give him a tenner over face value and he says he’ll meet Austin at the box office.

He claims that band helps him, for whatever reason, so hopefully this will be the perfect thing to fill the void while he’s waiting for his assessment.

Austin

I didn’t believe John when he showed up, saying he was taking me to a Green Day gig. How out of touch was I if I didn’t know my favourite band were playing down the road? I’m a sound tech and I had my own band for years. I remember looking at his big grin nestled in his bushy beard and shouting at him for taking the piss.

“That’s not funny, John. I’ve wanted to see them since ‘94.”

“I know you have, mate. That’s why I tried so hard to get you a ticket when I heard they were playing at the Empire. Come on – we need to meet my mate at the box office.”

It slowly began to sink in that maybe I really was that out of touch. John was serious. I ran to have a shower, change my clothes and comb my hair. That took a while. It was almost down to my shoulders and still all tangled from being neglected for weeks.

John offered to drive me to the venue, but I knew what parking would be like and it wasn’t far, so we just walked. For the first time in months I was excited. This was surreal and I wondered if I might remember what happiness felt like.

Well, I’ll tell you, it was an amazing gig. I do struggle a bit to remember it now, though, because I met Emily that night. I fell in love with her the first time I set eyes on her. Everyone blames that on my mental health but that’s one thing I know it wasn’t responsible for. I was leaving the venue when I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned around. I had no idea what she wanted, but she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, with red in her wild hair and matching lipstick; her brown eyes sparkled, and she was grasping a big camera in her little hands.

“Excuse me?”

“…Can I help you?”

“Would you mind if I took your portrait?”

Looking slightly nervous, she gestured to the camera. My brain had pulled the plug on logic and I’d probably have said yes to anything she asked.

“Sure.”

She set up a tripod in the middle of the street, telling me to pretend she wasn’t there and tutting at the people who barged in; fiddling with buttons on the camera that I’d never understand. Eventually she sighed and asked if I didn’t mind moving to somewhere less crowded. I said it was fine. I was thirsty and needed a drink, anyway.

Shepherd’s Bush is a strange place at night. Some guy ran up to us, holding his car keys and promising that everything he had was ours if we’d just let him use one of our phones. Emily’s eyes lit up and she handed over her phone in exchange for taking his portrait. He gave it back afterwards, but I don’t think she’d have cared if he hadn’t. I couldn’t understand why she’d want his portrait – or mine, to be honest – but I was shocked when she showed me her shots of him. She’d turned some random weirdo into an emotional image that captured all of his turmoil, whatever it was about. I looked at his crazed expression and immediately realised why she wanted to photograph me. I didn’t know whether to be worried about it or not.

“So you’re a photographer?” I asked as we carried on walking. “Your shots are great.”

“Yeah, I’m working on a project about the people of London, at the moment. What do you do?”

“That’s cool. I’m a sound technician.”

I decided not to tell her that I wasn’t really a sound tech at the moment, since I’d lost my job. We talked about the gig and she told me how excited she was to shoot her favourite band, even though music photography wasn’t usually her field. Eventually she stopped walking and almost pinned me against a wall. She was just overexcited about finding a good background for the photos, but I assumed it was a sexual gesture… so I kissed her.

I don’t know whether it was a mistake or not. She awkwardly kissed me back for a moment, then stepped away, looking confused.

“Um… you mind if I still photograph you? You’re a great subject.”

She probably meant that photographically, too, but I hoped she meant that I was attractive. I smiled and said it was fine. She snapped some shots of me against the wall, waving her arms about in excitement when she got a good one. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

We went into a nearby shop in the end and bought some drinks. I kept hearing her camera click. Everyone probably thought she was crazy, but I just thought she was beautiful. She was just a bit shorter than me, and not fat or thin.

When she eventually checked the time, she realised that she’d long missed the last tube and had no idea where to catch the bus. If my brain had pulled the plug on logic before, the socket probably blew up now.

“Stay over at mine. I live just down the road.”

I don’t know whether it was hopeful lust or desperation not to say goodbye, but she didn’t seem bothered either way. She just asked if I was sure and said that’d be great, so we walked back. It was months since I’d seen my wife and years since I’d brought a girl home. I only remembered the state of my flat when I opened the door.

Emily didn’t seem to notice or care, though. She just settled onto the floor and asked if I had a computer.

“Sure.” I shrugged, pulling my laptop down from a shelf. “It’s a limited edition Shite 100, though, I’m afraid.”

She laughed and said I was hilarious. Although she didn’t seem to care about the living room, she did look a bit ashen after using the bathroom. I’d left a smelly housecoat and some boxers lying around in there. Oops.

She sat with my laptop for hours, her pretty face lit up by the dim light of the screen; occasionally sipping her can of Fanta. I watched her in silence, the clock ticking away in the background. I began to feel like it was a bomb ticking, and that I was going to blow up. I hadn’t had sex for God knows how long and I wanted her.

“Wow, it’s so late.”

The sudden break in the silence startled me. She yawned and rubbed her eyes.

“You know, I’ve got to send these photos straight off in the morning. I really ought to go.”

Why did she suddenly want to leave? I felt like she’d stabbed me.

“I… I don’t mind if you stay. You’re welcome to.”

“It’s alright, you’ve done me enough favours today! I don’t want to keep imposing on you.”

I wanted to protest again, forgetting all about sex and just desperate for her – someone – to stay, but she’d already packed her memory stick and camera. Soon she’d put her jacket on and hurried over to the door.

“Honestly, I can’t thank you enough for the photoshoot and letting me use your laptop. It’s so nice to know there’s still good people out there.”

It’s a good thing it was dark, because I was probably gaping at her in a mixture of fury and disbelief. She handed me something and I could vaguely see her smiling.

“Here’s my business card. Drop me an email and I’ll let you know when the photos are done!”

“Right.”

“See you! Thank you so much.”

Maybe she shook my hand, or even gave me a kiss on the cheek. I wouldn’t remember. The door snapped shut and I was so furious that I snatched her Fanta can off the floor and hurled it at the wall. It was half-full and split all over some photos of my kids. I didn’t care. I stormed into the kitchen and began to smash all my dirty pots against the counter, until my hands were so bloodied that I noticed the pain.

I looked down at them, wincing when I bent my fingers, and the anger turned to despair. I slumped down on the floor and cried, like a stupid oversized baby. I don’t know if I even knew what the problem was anymore; but I felt more alone and rejected than ever.

At least she never saw any of that… or maybe it would have been better if she had.

Just realised I never posted the last video from my trilogy-inspired series in my blog, so here it is. It follows on from the previous two (Angel Blue and See You Tonight).

Initially the viewer is introduced to the (hypothetical) girl from Angel Blue and what it's like to be her, receiving the song. See You Tonight shows her going out to meet the narrator, against her better judgement, and implies it'll have negative consequences. Here in the final video, X-Kid, the characters are now in a relationship but facing the consequences of their actions. Eventually it all gets too much - the girl leaves and the man tries to kill himself. I won't spoil it by telling you how it ends.

As with the others, it was part of a project based on themes - this one was "a journey". The journey is the emotional journey of the couple. Enjoy!

Finally wrote a new song. Been working on this one for a couple of months and I'm super excited to share it now. It's about the various stages of denial when you know someone is absolutely off-bounds to you, for whatever reason, but you're just covering up a desire you can't control. And that has consequences.

Comments and constructive criticism are always appreciated, good or bad!

Lights, Camera, Lies!

An ugly world from a New York night

Everything's wrong but it feels so right

A face in the crowd on a busy street

Tomorrow I'll be a delusionist's dream

His heart's on his sleeve and lies prepared

Denial bless me for returning his stare

The millionaire curse all dressed to kill

And I can't take my eyes off him

You're just a lie to entertain

I don't want to know your name

I'll take home all my money's worth

But I don't want to breathe your curse

Goodbye, goodnight, this is the last -

I swear I won't be coming back

Dark dressing room from a New York night

Don't know why I'm here but it feels right

What's left of my sense says red alert

But maybe just one kiss won't hurt

My heart's on my sleeve and lies prepared

Denial bless me but I just don't care

The millionaire curse all dressed to kill

And I know I can't resist him

More than my eyes you entertain

My hands defy a ruined brain

I'll take home all my money's worth

But I don't want to breathe your curse

Goodbye, goodnight, this is the last

Both of us know I can't come back

I met a man on a New York night

I'll walk away for he's just a lie

I'll deny my way out of love tonight

I wish I could but that's just a lie

You're more than a lie to entertain

Tell me more than just your name

You gave me all my money's worth

And in return I breathe your curse

West 46th Street, eight at last

I promise that I'm on my way back

This follows on from my Angel Blue inspired video. It's the next part in her story, when she finally gives in and goes out to meet the narrator from her song.

These are part of a bigger video project I'm doing, and this was to fit the theme "word and image".

Her overdressed appearance represents how she's unwittingly taking everything out with her, and the ominious feeling hints at how destructive this could become. I tried to mirror the metaphorical "party" theme on the trilogy, with "before the party", "party from hell" and the "morning after". There's no literal party, obviously, but it's a good metaphor to describe what's going on.

The next and last of this little series will be X-Kid, the "morning after".

I'm studying photography and my current project is a video challenge. For the "Point of View" and "Mini Music Video" challenges, I recorded a video based on and inspired by Angel Blue. I relate to the song a lot and was inspired to explore how it might feel to be the (hypothetical) girl. So this video shows it from her point of view - being the "other woman" to a famous man, receiving the song and watching the chaos unfold.

This is an entirely personal take on a fictional scenario. It's not intended to imply anything about Billie or anyone else's life - just an idea I found interesting that was inspired by a Green Day song (hence why I made up song titles and a band name for the short scene where they're visible).

It's up to the viewer how to interpret the video, but if you're interested in how I intended it to be, here's more on the storyline:

Her different outfits represent the passing of time - when the song begins, she rejects the narrator and causes him a lot of pain and frustration, but as time passes she develops feeling for him. Her different expressions throughout the video represent the many emotions she must be feeling - anger, despair, confusion, apathy and maybe a bit of arrogance. The blood on her hands the second time he asks her to be his "bloody valentine" implies that he eventually gets what he wants, and the handcuffs she's wearing then represent being trapped by an ugly mess of fame and love.

Again, this is just something I was inspired by and not an implication of what the song actually means or what's going on in Billie's life. Sorry the song is edited, they're supposed to be a certain length and I already went over so yeah.

My next video based on See You Tonight follows on from this one, which I'll post soon.

This is a pretty much new song. It's about alcoholism and knowing there's nothing you can do to help. The title is a metaphor for looking back on memories with that person, both good and bad; the bad ones gnawing away at you and wishing you could bring the good ones back.

Chasing Ghosts

Sleeping off the last bottle of pills

All dressed up and ready to kill

With slurred words and a pretty blue ribbon

He doesn't know that he's his own victim

Will he go to sleep and never wake up?

He's forgotten what it's like to love

A slave to the bottle left all alone

Driving a car to crash and burn

So I'm sitting around and wasting time

Chasing ghosts in the corners of my mind

Taking his hand and clinging on tight

Wondering if this will be the last time

Poison and the kiss of death

The reek of murder on his breath

Three weeks to live and he's given up

He's still here but his eyes are shut

Will he fall down and never stand up?

He's forgotten what it's like to love

Lost to the bottle and I'm all alone

Watching forever crash and burn

And I'm sitting around and wasting time

Chasing ghosts in the corners of my mind

Taking his hand and clinging on tight

Wondering if this will be the last time

The world goes on as ours burns down

My California sunshine has gone out

Phantoms of a distant childhood

He's gonna die and he never grew up

He's gonna die and he never grew up

I'm sitting around and wasting time

Chasing ghosts in the corners of my mind

Taking his hand and clinging on tight

Because this is probably the last time

This will be the last time

This will be the last time

This will be the last time

People always ask why I'd want to see a band more than once. "Don't you get bored? Isn't it just the same thing over and over?"

It's not, somehow. It's different every time. You won't find it anywhere else. Why is that, though? Now it seems like the 99 Revolutions Tour is over, maybe it's time to rewind through the memories and try to explain.

This was an unusual tour, with no real European leg, a strange US leg and no other dates at all. Then there were the cancellations, and the trilogy disappeared as soon as it happened. It was a strange time for me as well, with my partner's health problems blacking everything out... but none of those things made this tour less special.

When the US dates were rescheduled, the Chicago show happened to be on Joy's (basketcase4933 on GDC) birthday. We decided we had to go, so I bought her the tickets as a present. How we were going to find money for flights we had no idea, but after a lot of eBay, we got there in the end.

We landed in Chicago the day before the show, and did some sightseeing. It was all surreal and looking out over Illinois from the top of the Willis Tower, I felt like I was dreaming. Even when we got up at 4am the next day, ready to get to the arena for six, it still hadn't sunk in. This was the first arena show since the cancelled tour and Billie's time off. Was I nervous, excited? I don't know. I was still in a daze. The line at the arena was short, consisting of about ten people. The first ones had been there since four.

As the sun began to rise, a school bus stopped by us. Thoroughly confused, we stared blankly at the driver who got out. He asked us what we were waiting for; we told him Green Day. He leapt back into the bus and sped off, whooping and hammering his horn. Nice to see some appreciation, I guess.

It was a very different experience to lining up in England, with everyone chatty, excited and friendly. One line cutter had the best excuse - "I'm a doctor so it doesn't matter!"

6:30pm. Doors were opening at any minute. This still hadn't sunk in... then doors were open and the line became a stampede. People were leaping over the barriers and mowing down the staff. I have to admit, I've been to a lot of Green Day shows and this was the worst I've seen.

This was the first time I'd heard Bohemian Rhapsody played before the show, and my emotions were a confused mess of sadness, excitement and nerves. It was beautiful, but I was glad the bunny came along to Blitzkrieg Bop and got us all cheered up again. At the time, I didn't think 99 Revolutions would be a good opener, but it sure as hell was! I was happier than ever to see my favourite band burst into their set.

I was hoping they'd play Stray Heart, since it's quickly become one of my all-time favourite songs... so I completely freaked out when I first heard that bassline. I squealed like a little girl and Billie laughed at me. They played Disappearing Boy, which was amazing. This was the first time I'd seen X-Kid and Brutal Love, too, and they had me snuffling. Billie was so emotional singing both of them and it was beautiful.

If you watch videos of this show, there's a lot of comments whining that Billie's not as good sober, the crowd was dead, the new songs don't sound good live... that's all bullshit. Billie seemed a bit nervous, but he was amazing - he's better sober. The band were all amazing, and seemed so happy to be back on the big stage. And believe me, that crowd wasn't dead! One of the most violent and crazy shows I've been to.

We said goodbye to new and old friends, then went back to our hotel to get some sleep. The next day we tried to get some more sightseeing done, but we ended up walking up and down the same street, which is apparently the most boring place in Chicago. Great work, ladies. Eventually we found the Greyhound station, anyway, and a ten hour ride later: Pittsburgh. We'd got a super cheap deal on a posh hotel, and Joy ended up bumping into Tre in reception. He was actually quite rude, bit mean considering that it was an accident and she wasn't stalking him, but never mind.

We got the venue the next day around 7:30, and were about 10th in line. The sky spotted the Brits and started raining. We ended up sitting on bin bags for the day, and took turns to dry off in the hotel.

It was worth it. The venue was very organised - which was one hell of a relief after Chicago - and other than someone slipping under the barriers and people running forward from behind, checking tickets and getting wristbanded was actually fair. We got on the barrier almost right in front of Billie, but enough to the side for him not to block the view of everyone else. Probably the best spot possible! Waiting was exciting and I really enjoyed Best Coast, despite not liking them so much in Chicago.

The drunk bunny came along with Easter eggs, then it was time for Green Day and they sounded so fucking good. The new songs were great and it was so much fun rocking out to them all! Letterbomb is one of my favourite songs so it's always awesome to see that. Then they played Only of You and Christie Road! I have to admit that Christie Road is one of my least favourite GD songs but it was great at this show. I really didn't mind that they hardly played any new songs despite how much I love the trilogy, because all of them were so good, exciting and like new. I could live without ever seeing Brain Stew or BOBD again but I really enjoyed both of them. The band had so much energy and seemed stronger than ever, both musically and in general. Billie and Mike remembered us which was lovely.

When Billie told the girl in Longview to stage dive, I could see that she was going to land right on top of me if she didn't jump far enough. Security were trying to get me to put my hands up so I ended up half protecting my head and half trying to catch her... and she didn't jump far enough. My head took her entire body weight, then her boots hit me in the face.

Blood everywhere. Security were fussing around me with ice and water, telling me my nose might be broken. My glasses were certainly broken. Everything was lopsided. One of the security guys gave me Mike's pick and a drumstick, saying they'd cheer me up.

I felt really dizzy, then about a minute into She everything went black. I thought I was asleep in my bed at home and couldn't understand why the dream I was having was so painful. I was hallucinating for a while, then I finally woke up and found myself being carried off. At first I thought I was dreaming again. Yeah, a dream about Green Day's US tour, that's months away... then I realised. No, I'm at the Green Day show in Pittsburgh and I just got knocked out. I still had the drumstick but I'd dropped Mike's pick.

My nose wasn't broken but I felt like shit. My head was throbbing and I never really stopped feeling faint. A paramedic asked if I was alright, and I told them I was more upset about losing my spot. Apparently the last one had said the exact same thing. Ah, Green Day fans. I always wondered if anyone ever got knocked out by stage divers... now I know.

I decided there was no point being upset or bitter, and watched the rest of the show in a daze from first aid, singing out of tune. Brutal Love is always incredible, but fortunately I was too dazed to cry this time. It was nice to see Good Riddance again even though I couldn't really appreciate it.

At the end of the show Eddie (the band's security guy) walked up to me. With a little smile he handed me something.

"Mike wanted me to give you this."

"Really?!"

"Yes, really!"

It was the vest he'd been wearing at the last few shows. I couldn't believe it. My friends said the band looked really worried when I got carried off. They are such lovely people. Mike replied to me on Instagram when I thanked him for the vest which was also super cool of him. Their security/crew are lovely people too. Definitely worth getting knocked out for that!

The scar on my nose has faded, and I've managed to force my glasses back into a less lopsided shape. It's strange how it was so real at the time but feels like it never happened now.

I'd been to the Chicago show before this one, and I'd seen them a couple of other times since 21CB, at Shepherd's Bush and Rock am See. This was the first time I really thought "now that was a Green Day show."

Don't get me wrong, all of those shows were amazing, but this time they were truly Green Day again. They'd got all their confidence back, they were back in their element and it showed. I remembered why I sold all my posessions and lost everything to follow the tour in 2010. All the songs I was sick of were exciting and different again. Not that I really saw KFAD because I was half unconscious but I even enjoyed what I saw of that, and didn't wish they'd cut it out of the set at all. I can't believe anyone would complain about the setlist because every song sounded new and amazing. It beat Costa Rica which was one of the greatest shows in GD history. I definitely had the time of my life.

The fans were also lovely at this show. The people around us were actually concerned when I got knocked out, instead of trying to get in my place. Other than one woman behind us, no-one was trying to get into our spots and it was so great to just be able to dance and have fun without constantly trying to protect our spots. I don't know if it was a fluke but still, you were awesome, Pittsburgh!

Next up, Philadelphia. We didn't have a cheap deal on a good hotel this time, and ended up in a shithole next to a homeless shelter. Everyone told us to be wary of the area. I was slightly worried when I had to get on the subway alone, but I didn't get stabbed.

Some freak weather condition was affecting the eastern US, and it was freezing. The line for the show was in the worst place for it, too. The cold wind buffeted us all day while we huddled under a blanket. At times we tried to jump or run across the pavement to stay warm. We were probably known as the crazy Europeans by the end of the day. When the venue were late opening the doors, and half the queue pushed forwards for wristbands, I think we'd forgotten we were seeing Green Day and thought we'd signed up for suicide instead. Some people were saying the show was cancelled... the lateness turned out to be because security had forgotten to set up some barriers inside. Great.

There was another stampede when the doors finally opened, but it was nothing after Chicago! We got front row and at least it was warmer in there. I still felt ill after Pittsburgh, and lining up in the wind tunnel really hadn't done me any good. I was beginning to feel faint again... but the bunny stumbled onstage and finally, my Green Day energy came back.

They were amazing, just like Pittsburgh. They truly did have all their confidence and strength back. Everything sounded good. Billie forgot the words to Holiday, and while holding the torch he told us we were all in a trance and to repeat after him: "Billie Joe did not forget the words to Holiday tonight". Letterbomb was great as usual and really touched me because it seems to mean so much to Billie. And oh God, they played J.A.R. It was incredible. The crowd was so tightly packed that you couldn't really dance, but I lost my shit as much as I physically could! I saw King for a Day properly this time, and I can honestly say that despite being one of those "PLEASE NO MORE KFAD" people, it was great and I really enjoyed it. The band were just that good. Billie grabbed a giant banana from the crowd and soon put it in the appropriate place. We caught the feather boa he put on too!

I keep going on about Brutal Love, but it's just so beautiful every time. Every word Billie sang was directly from the heart. I was thinking about how the tour was over for me, and how I'd have to go back to England and leave my fiance again. I wanted to cry but I couldn't. They switched the lights off, and it seemed like it was over then; but Billie came back, looking confused and gesturing for his guitar. He played Good Riddance and for some reason that did make me cry. Then that was it.

I was dead by then. Well, not literally, but I could hardly walk, felt sick and faint; and the guy next to me had been gradually beating me up throughout the gig, which didn't help. Still, we stumbled back to the subway and finally crashed at our shithole. It was over.

Our flight home was the next day, and we left the US behind again. I'd been on a location photography assignment while I was there, so at least I had that to keep me occupied when I got home. I thought I'd really messed it up, so it was a nice surprise when I got a high grade for it.

The European leg was next, but we didn't really have anything planned. We considered Montreux when it was announced, but weren't going to bother with Emirates, since it was such a big show. But when more tickets were released, Joy decided to buy some on an impulse; and I'm so glad she did.

We arrived at the stadium the evening before the gig. It was dark and freezing cold; we were nervous, wondering how long the queue at our gate would be. It actually turned out to be mostly deserted - there were a few people scattered around some turnstiles, but none at others. When we found ours, there were some people who'd been here since the day before, and ironically, some other people from Nottingham! We pulled all our camping out gear - well, a few blankets and a camping chair - out of our suitcase and tried to get some sleep, but none of us had much luck. No thanks to Like a Rat Does Cheese suddenly blasting out and waking the few who were nodding off...

Security promised golden circle wristbands at 8:30am for the first 2500 people, so we anxiously waited, nobody daring to leave even for a few minutes. It was about 10am when they finally gave them out, and I'm sure we were all relieved to be able to get off our (numb) asses again. It was a fun day meeting lots of people and chatting with our new friends from Nottingham. One of us went to drop our bags off at our hostel and finally, it was getting close to doors opening.

We managed to get a spot at the end of the barrier on Jason's side. Doors on the East Side were opened at least ten minutes later than the others, and the stadium were ignoring the wristbands and just letting anyone in. I wasn't impressed, but never mind! It turned out to be a good spot in the end, anyway, since we were able to dance and have fun without worrying about protecting our spots.

All Time Low were average and their sex jokes definitely fell flat! The Kaiser Chiefs were great, though. They were full of energy and pumped up the crowd like an opening act should. Then eventually, 60000 people were echoing Bohemian Rhapsody and the stadium truly came to life. Green Day tore open the set with 99 Revolutions and they were happier than I've ever seen them. The crowd was louder than I've ever heard it. The atmosphere was more amazing than I've ever known it before. From where I was stood it sounded like the whole stadium was singing. They sang the words of Boulevard of Broken Dreams back at Billie unfalteringly. I was glad to see the usual trilogy songs again and even happier to see Stray Heart! I expected Burnout next, but no. Nice Guys Finish Last and Waiting. The lyrics to Waiting seemed so appropriate and Billie was full of emotion.

And then... then Missing You happened. I couldn't believe it. I love this song so much and I thought we'd never hear it live. I completely lost my mind and it's a good thing no-one was trying to steal my spot because I stopped caring. The way the crowd echoed "first time" and "over" in the second verse gave me chills. It was amazing.

The surprises didn't stop there. After Burnout they burst into Sassafras Roots, for the first time since 1997, excluding the twice they played Dookie in full. That's my favourite song from Dookie and I lost my mind all over again. It was all unreal. They were playing every song I wanted to see, and they were better than ever. They were loving it more than ever.

It was great to hear Welcome to Paradise and Going to Pasalacqua; it was great to hear anything in this stadium where 60000 people were screaming and the band were smiling so much. Billie dedicated Longview to "all the cowboys in the house" and wandered the stage in a cowboy hat, throwing in the occasional "yee-haw!" and of course, grabbing his genitals for good measure. At the end of St. Jimmy he finally gave up on years of waiting to scream "don't you fucking wear it out" and threw the mic down, grumbling "you know my fucking name" instead.

Then there were the usuals like King for a Day, Minority, American Idiot, JOS, etc. X-Kid was pretty heart-wrenching with Billie so emotional.

Eventually the show had to come to a close, with the beautiful Brutal Love (sorry). It was halfway through the song when I looked up and saw all the seats bright with people holding their lighters. The whole stadium was alive. Billie had his eyes closed and I was willing him to open them and see it, before the song was over. Eventually, he did and he smiled, looking awestruck. The cameramen realised and started to film it; then they showed it on the screens, too. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I turned away with tears in my eyes as Billie thanked the crowd one last time and the lights finally dimmed. It was over.

I hate my country, I really do. But when I hear the crowd screaming the words, see the seats alive with lighters, I remember why Green Day love this place. There's something about seeing them in your home country, too, hearing Billie scream "London!" and praise us all. For one night I'm proud to be English and I hold my flag high in the air.

Billie Joe Armstrong said it pretty well: #bestnightEVER

(Though for me, I should probably add #otherthanpittsburgh)

Fortunately, we did decide to go to Montreux, so the tour wasn't quite over yet. We stayed in Geneva for a while before the show, since Joy had lived there for ten years; then eventually got the train out to Montreux. It was the height of summer, and the heat was stifling. This was a weird show, too, with hardly anyone arriving until midday and no proper queue. Gradually the venue began to fill up, and the staff were looking worried. They'd clearly underestimated Green Day fans, and the lack of proper queue was going to be a problem.

For the last couple of hours, everyone stood up to stop line cutters and we were all crammed in. When they eventually opened the gates, nobody could breathe or move. People were screaming, falling, passing out; security were overwhelmed. A girl dug her elbows into my chest to get rid of any breath I had left, and I lost my friends fighting her off. There were about four long flights of stairs then, and more doors at the top. A frightened young girl we'd lined up with asked me to hold her hand, but when they opened the next set of doors, the surge was so bad that I lost her. I still don't know if she ended up okay or not. It was the worst I've experienced along with Chicago.

After all that, a hundred VIPs had been let in first. At this point we'd all gone insane, and even the friendliest people were shouting and pushing. We ended up in front of the amps by Jason, thanks to some lovely Finnish ladies who moved to let me in next to Joy. When the mystery support act appeared, we finally all began to forget. It turned out to be Twin Atlantic, who said they'd travelled for two days to get there. I didn't know any of their stuff but they were pretty good, I enjoyed them. It was all worth it when it was finally time for Green Day.

"Welcome to the Montreux Jazz Festival! I have no idea what we're doing here, Green Day isn't jazzy shit!" - Billie.

In Letterbomb he talked about the plane crash at San Francisco airport, and how lucky we all were to be alive. I know his speeches can seem forced and insincere sometimes, but he was genuinely emotional and meant what he was saying then. They played Let Yourself Go for the first time on this tour, and Billie threw everything into it like his life depended on it. It was intense, he was just lost in the song. The whole band were bursting with energy, but Billie especially - lots of the songs seemed even more intense than usual. Instead of "I don't wanna say goodbye" in Stay the Night, he screamed "and I'm in love with you", giving a subtle emotional charge to a song that was becoming standard.

Later they played Who Wrote Holden Caulfield as a request, which was great! The guy they pulled onstage for Longview played guitar as well as singing. Billie pulled a face at me in When I Come Around, and their two security guys remembered us from Pittsburgh which was really nice.

The venue only allowed a few of Green Day's crew to work, but those few were heroes and did a great job. It was an amazing show despite everything, and the band were at their best.

We really did think it was over, then. But one morning I woke up at 6am to an explosion on Twitter. They'd announced a secret show in London, and tickets were onsale in three hours.

I ran to wake Joy up, praying that we somehow had the money. We didn't, but we did have a phone bill about to go out, so we ditched it. They'd have to wait.

I expected tickets to sell out in two minutes like Shepherd's Bush, and getting them was a horrible mess of anxiety and panic. It turned out that there were plenty left hours later. Oh. But we were seeing Green Day in nine days. Everything turned surreal all over again.

After Shepherd's Bush we slept on the street, so we decided to get a cheap hotel this time. We got a bit of sleep there, before we left for Brixton at 3:30am. There were rats and creepy hobos everywhere. I feared for my life until the sun rose.

It was another strange day, spent tutting at line cutters - queuing is a matter of life and death in England - catching up with a few friends, and being confused about the infamous O2 Priority line. We ended up taking out a contact for an O2 phone to make sure we were safe. The staff did their best and tried to make sure the campers got in first, but it didn't really work. Still, we managed to get the end of the barrier on Mike's side, which was good for when we arrived. I really enjoyed Frank Turner.

When I listen to Blitzkrieg Bop I still see the bunny staggering onstage and feel the excitement all over again. No matter how many times you see them, that feeling doesn't go away.

Mike proudly displayed his Brixton tattoo when Billie roared "Brixton!" and introduced him as "Brixton's dad". He told us they were playing Reading and Leeds soon, but that he liked this better. Let Yourself Go was intense again, just like Montreux. Of course, at this point nobody knew they were going to play Dookie. They'd hinted, but I still didn't expect it. It was amazing to actually hear it in full and I especially enjoyed Sassafras Roots, Emenius Sleepus and In the End. Some bands sound shit when they play their old stuff but every song sounded great. Billie "forgot" the order of the songs, and asked the crowd for help. He also commented that "everyone is still masturbating after 20 years" before Longview, raising a mumble of laughter from the crowd. He stuck his tongue out and smiled at Joy too.

Before the encore, they were gone so long that people were beginning to think they wouldn't come back. It turned out that Billie had been randomly getting changed. Ah, Billie.

On the day of Leeds Festival, we were sighing and cursing ourselves for not going, when we realised that I had the money for one person... so I paid for Joy to go. I felt like I was going myself! It was so exciting. I waited anxiously for her text updates, worrying that she'd slipped and died in the mud when she didn't reply. She hadn't, though; she texted me saying that she'd just got there in time for Know Your Enemy, and was about ten rows back on Mike's side. I knew she wouldn't text again after that, so I impatiently attacked the refresh button, watching the thread on GDC. I still kept worrying that she'd died in the mud, and hoped for her sake that they wouldn't repeat Woodstock.

People were saying they'd played all kinds of stuff, which was bullshit, but I was excited (and relieved) to get Joy's text confirming that they did cover A Quick One, and Billie played Walk Away acoustic. The show was amazing, and she eventually got home safe the next morning, covered in mud almost up to her waist. I really did feel like I'd been there myself. But that really was it. The 99 Revolutions Tour was over.

Maybe the answer to that question - "why would you want to see a band more than once?" - is that it's not just a bunch of great rock shows. It's even more than that. These experiences have made me who I am today. I have Green Day to thank for finding my way. It's trendy now to say a band saved your life... but they saved mine before it was cool.

That's why I love this band.

Loosely based on my own experiences, Snapshots of a Broken Mind follows Austin, a recently divorced Londoner, as he tries to piece his life back together after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Some scenes may be triggering for those who suffer with mental illness or sexual assault victims. Has some adult content as well.

CHAPTER ONE

John

Car horns blare, the constant roar of traffic echoes through the streets of London. Angry drivers tut at red lights, fight over parking spaces. I swerve into an empty one before someone else does, outside a grubby newsagents’ in the Shepherd’s Bush suburb. I am determined this time. I make my way to the flat above and hammer on the door.

“Open up, Austin. I know you’re in there.”

No answer; but the vague buzz of a TV suddenly cuts out. I roll my eyes.

“I just heard you switch the TV off! Don’t make me pick the lock…”

After a few more minutes of hammering, the door finally flies open. I almost don’t recognize my brother. His face is dirty, unshaven and the dark circles around his green eyes look like bruises; his dark hair is a tangled mess. He’s stick-thin and wearing dirty pyjamas that look like they’re stuck to him. Not to mention the smell coming out of the flat…

“Go away.”

I ignore him and shove past before he can shut me out again. The flat’s in as bad a state as its tenant. Pizza boxes, Pot Noodle cups and beer bottles are scattered everywhere; everything is covered by a layer of dust. There’s an ugly stain on the wall and I’m not sure who smells worse, Austin or the dog.

“Bloody hell, mate. How many rats do you have in here?”

“Leave me alone.”

He soon buries himself back under his blanket on the sofa, switching the stereo on to block me out. Jesus, he was listening to the same bloody Green Day record last time I tried to get in. At least he’s opened the door this time.

“Stop listening to this depressing crap and pull yourself together!”

I pull the plug on the stereo and the blanket off the sofa. Austin glares at me.

“Piss off!”

“Look, mate, I’m only trying to help. C’mon, why don’t you try to get changed?”

I begin to feel hopeless. I’ve never seen my little brother this bad before. He often goes in phases, though; so I give up for now and leave him alone. While Austin switches the stereo back on, I go to the bedroom – which is in a worse state than the lounge, with dirty underwear and sheets all over the place – and pull some clean clothes out of the wardrobe. I shove all of the dirty sheets into a pile and go to the bathroom in search of clean ones… and Jesus Christ! I nearly leap back out in horror. There’s vomit everywhere. I feel like I’m gonna throw up myself.

What is wrong with Austin? He was diagnosed with depression a while ago, and the divorce and job loss have been hard on him, but bloody hell… is he even paying his rent? I tiptoe around the vomit – don’t love my brother that much – and pull the last lot of clean sheets out of the cupboard. After changing the bed I consider opening the curtains, but I don’t think I want to see the flat in the daylight. At least not until I’m over the vomit.

Eventually I sit opposite Austin, pretending I’m enjoying that record. Finally the vague shadow of a smile passes over his face.

“You’re trying hard.”

He sits up, rubbing his eyes. “Sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“It’s alright, mate. Got you some clean clothes and changed your sheets. Why don’t you go and have a shower?”

“Do I smell that bad?”

“Yes.”

He rolls his eyes. “Fine.”

To make sure he actually does it, I stay in the bathroom, trying not to look at the mess. I accidentally end up staring at him instead, and get a nasty shock.

He’s truly skeletal, his legs are covered in scars clearly from self-harm; and next time I can’t help seeing that vomit, I don’t tut at drunkenness… I remember Austin’s bulimia as a teenager.

I’m suddenly scared for my brother’s life.

I stay overnight, giving the sofa a good scrubbing before I sleep on it. In the morning I gently suggest that Austin sees a doctor.

“Why?” he snaps. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“I just thought, you know, maybe anti-depressants would help you or-”

“I’m already on anti-depressants.”

“Maybe a counsellor then-”

“I sure as hell don’t need someone else like that damn divorce counsellor in my life!”

“Well, of course you don’t have to…”

It’s too late. Austin has already flown into a rage and throws his cereal bowl at the wall. I wince as he storms out of the room. Soon I hear the front door slam.

I try to follow, but he’s already disappeared. Eventually I get sick of waiting and go down the shop to buy a drink; and the newsagent cheerfully tells me that the bloke in the pyjamas has been arrested for indecent exposure.

Has my brother gone insane?

I call Bea, my wife, to let her know I’ll be late back; and with a groan, force myself to drive to the police station. Maybe I can get Austin out of this if I can somehow get him to a doctor.

I explain to the police that I’m sure he’s sick, and he desperately needs help. It’s true, the whole thing does seem desperate.

They aren’t sympathetic and stifle laughs, but grudgingly agree to call a doctor. I just pray to God that he is sick so he can get out of this.

Austin

When that doctor walked into the room, I was embarrassed, ashamed, felt bad for John and more than anything, I felt pathetic. Thirty-five years old and arrested for flashing someone… in my pyjamas. I didn’t even know what was going through my mind at the time. I suppose I was about to find out.

“So, Austin, you were arrested for… flashing?”

No.” I snarled. “My trousers fell down. It wasn’t my fault.”

“The police disagree.”

I don’t know why I lied. It just made the doctor speak in a more patronising tone. John had obviously spoken to him already, because he knew about my divorce and losing my job. When he left, I went with him. He had me hospitalised.

John went with me, too, but they wouldn’t let him stay overnight, and I encouraged him to go home since his wife was going away soon. I was surprised that the doctors just let me sleep; but then the questioning began the next day. They examined me and of course, one of them found my scars. I didn’t want anyone to see those. When he wouldn’t leave me alone, I punched him in the face and there was blood everywhere. I’d broken his nose.

I was furious and all I could see was how much I wanted to hurt that bloody doctor for humiliating me. A nurse tried to hold me down, but I threw her off me and kicked him in the stomach. He was doubled up on the floor then, and I managed to kick him one last time before a bunch of uniformed guys came to really hold me down. The nurse soon sedated me.

When I woke up, I’d been diagnosed as bipolar. After stuffing me with medication, they said I’d have to stay in hospital until I was stable. I felt truly like a crazy person locked into a mental home.

It was this Dutch doctor, Daniel, who saved me. I wasn’t his problem, but he insisted on dealing with me anyway. I thought he just wanted to humiliate me more, but the first thing he told me was that the NHS was useless and my diagnosis was wrong. After seeing him a few times, I was finally diagnosed correctly, with the three words that were going to tear my life apart.

Borderline personality disorder.

Daniel thought that hospital wasn’t the answer, and managed to get me out of there. There’s no medicine for BPD, so the only option is to pray that therapy helps. Daniel said he’d come to see me at my flat, until I was ready to see him in his office. He was just an NHS doctor, and I didn’t understand why he was going out of his way for some asshole who’d flashed someone. Especially since he was pretty important.

Months later, I eventually found out that his mum had BPD and killed herself, which is why he’d strived to become a doctor; to help others with the disorder. Since then, he’d had a BPD patient who got better, but suddenly drove out to the coast and shot himself. I guess he’d developed an obsession with BPD… and I was bloody lucky that I’d met him.

I began to slip back into my depression again, despite his visits. I cleaned the flat when I got out of hospital, but the pizza boxes were beginning to build up again and my poor dog had fleas. I probably had them. I ended up staying in the same clothes for weeks, since John had confiscated the pyjamas.

Eventually my parents descended, gasping over Mind leaflets that they couldn’t believe they’d never realised. At least they cleaned the dog.

They began to bicker while they were cleaning the flat, and even though it was nothing so extreme, it reminded me horribly of my divorce. It was something so small, but I suddenly felt myself stifled by unbearable feelings of emptiness that I couldn’t fill. I hurried to the kitchen and stuffed my face with chocolate, Pot Noodle, everything I could find… but all it did was make me feel fat, so I made myself sick. They were right. How had they never noticed? I was realising that although I was worse than ever, I’d been like this my whole life. Then I was angry at them for not knowing, and screamed at them that they were uncaring assholes. Even though they’d read the leaflets – and knew I could be like that anyway – they obviously weren’t used to me anymore, because they took it personally, called me ungrateful and left. Maybe they got scared because they knew about me attacking the doctor. I don’t know. It still hurt and then I was sad that they’d gone. I’d stopped paying my TV licence so all I had was the stereo, and I felt so alone and terrified of facing myself that I rang John in tears, begging him to come round.

To my surprise, he happily said yes, and was beaming when he arrived. I remember looking at his big grin nestled in his bushy beard, and wondering how, why someone could possibly smile that much.

“Guess what I got for you?”

“A gun?”

“Don’t be so miserable!”

He whipped a piece of paper out of his pocket. I half-heartedly pulled it out of his hand; it was a booking confirmation for some tickets.

“What…?”

“Your favourite band just a few streets away, Austin! Green Day are playing at the Empire tonight! It sold out in two minutes but I scored a ticket for you!”

“…Are you joking?”

“No. Have a shower and get dressed – well, change your clothes. Doors are in a few hours.”

Something about being in a room full of people terrified me, and I almost said no; but thankfully, I loved the band enough to see sense for once. I had a shower, changed my clothes and even combed my hair. It was getting pretty long and combing it wasn’t a nice – or quick – experience. John offered to drive me to the venue, but I knew what parking would be like and it was only a few streets, so we just walked. My problems temporarily dissolved into excitement, for the first time in months. This was surreal and I wondered if I might remember what happiness felt like.

Well, I’ll tell you, it was an amazing gig. I do struggle a bit to remember it now, though, because it was so overshadowed by what happened afterwards.

I met Emily that night, and I fell in love with her the first time I set eyes on her. Everyone blames it on my disorder but that’s one thing I know it wasn’t responsible for. I was leaving the venue when I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned round. I had no idea what she wanted, but she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, with red in her wild hair and matching lipstick; her big brown eyes sparkled, and she was grasping a camera that looked too big for her little hands.

“Excuse me?”

“…Can I help you?”

“Would you mind if I took your portrait?”

Looking slightly nervous, she gestured to the camera. My brain had pulled the plug on logic and I’d probably have said yes to anything she asked.

“Sure.”

She took a photo of me in the middle of the street, telling me to pretend she wasn’t there and tutting at the people who barged in; fiddling with buttons on the camera that I’d never understand. Eventually she sighed and asked if I didn’t mind moving to somewhere less crowded. I said it was fine. I was thirsty and needed a drink, anyway.

Shepherd’s Bush is a strange place at night. Some guy ran up to us, holding his car keys and promising that everything he had was ours if we’d just let him use one of our phones. Emily’s eyes lit up and she handed over her phone in exchange for taking his portrait. He gave it back afterwards, but I don’t think she’d have cared if he hadn’t. I couldn’t understand why she’d want his portrait – or mine, to be honest – but I was shocked when she showed me her shots of him. She’d turned some random weirdo into an emotional image that captured all of his turmoil, whatever it was about. I looked at his crazed expression and immediately realised why she wanted to photograph me. I didn’t know whether to be happy about it or not.

“So you’re a professional photographer?” I asked as we carried on walking. “Your shots are great.”

“Yeah, I’m working on a project about the people of London, at the moment. What do you do?”

“That’s cool. I’m a sound technician.”

I decided not to tell her that I wasn’t really a sound tech at the moment, since I’d lost my job. We talked about the gig and she told me how excited she was to shoot her favourite band, even though music photography wasn’t usually her field. Eventually she stopped walking and almost pinned me against a wall. She was just overexcited about finding a good background for the photos, but my borderline personality assumed it was a sexual gesture… so I kissed her.

I don’t know whether it was a mistake or not. She awkwardly kissed me back for a moment, then stepped away, looking confused.

“Um… you mind if I still photograph you? You’re such a great subject.”

She probably meant that photographically, too, but I hoped she meant that I was attractive. I smiled and said it was fine. She snapped some shots of me against the wall, waving her arms about in excitement when she got a good one. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

We went into a nearby shop in the end and bought some drinks. I kept hearing her camera click. Everyone probably thought she was crazy, but I just thought she was beautiful. She was just a bit shorter than me, and the perfect weight; not fat or thin.

When she eventually checked the time, she realised that she’d long missed the last tube and had no idea where to catch the bus. If my brain had pulled the plug on logic before, the socket probably blew up now.

“Stay over at mine. I live just down the road.”

I don’t know whether it was hopeful lust or desperation not to say goodbye, but she didn’t seem bothered either way. She just asked if I was sure and said that’d be great, so we walked back. It was months since I’d seen my wife and years since I’d brought a girl home. I only remembered the state of my flat when I opened the door.

Emily didn’t seem to notice or care, though. She just settled onto the floor and asked if I had a computer.

“Sure.” I shrugged, pulling my laptop down from a shelf. “It’s a limited edition Shite 100, though, I’m afraid.”

She laughed and said I was hilarious. Although she didn’t seem to care about the living room, she did look a bit ashen after using the bathroom. I realised that I’d left a smelly housecoat and some boxers lying around in there. Oh well.

She sat with my laptop for hours, her pretty face lit up by the dim light of the screen; occasionally sipping her can of Fanta. I watched her in silence, the clock ticking away in the background. I began to feel like it was a bomb ticking, and that I was going to blow up. I hadn’t had sex for God knows how long and I wanted her.

“Wow, it’s so late.”

The sudden break in the silence startled me. She yawned and rubbed her eyes.

“You know, I’ve got to send these photos straight off in the morning. I really ought to go.”

Why did she suddenly want to leave? I felt like she’d stabbed me.

“I… I don’t mind if you stay. You’re welcome to.”

“It’s alright, you’ve done me enough favours today! I don’t want to keep imposing on you.”

I wanted to protest again, but she’d already packed her memory stick and camera. Soon she’d put her jacket on and hurried over to the door.

“Honestly, I can’t thank you enough for the photoshoot and letting me use your laptop. It’s so nice to know there’s still good people out there.”

It’s a good thing it was dark, because I was probably gaping at her in a mixture of fury and disbelief. She handed me something and I could vaguely see her smiling.

“Hey, here’s my business card. Drop me an email and I’ll let you know when the photos are done!”

“Right.”

“See you! Thank you so much.”

Maybe she shook my hand, or even gave me a kiss on the cheek. I wouldn’t remember. The door snapped shut and I was so furious that I snatched her Fanta can off the floor and hurled it at the wall. It was half-full and split all over some photos of my kids. I didn’t care. I stormed into the kitchen and began to smash all my dirty pots against the counter, until my hands were so bloodied that I noticed the pain.

I looked down at them, wincing when I bent my fingers, and the anger turned to despair. I slumped down on the floor and cried, like a stupid oversized baby. I don’t know if I even knew what the problem was anymore; but I felt more alone and rejected than ever.

At least she never saw any of that… or maybe it would have been better if she had.

CHAPTER TWO

Emily

Sunlight bursts through the blinds into my study. I stare groggily at my computer screen. I should’ve known I’d regret missing the last tube… I had no idea how to get back from Shepherd’s Bush, and it ended up taking me so long that I might as well have waited. At least I got the photos from the gig edited last night.

I want to go and crash into bed, but I know I should start editing the others. I half-heartedly click through some shots of the queue for the show; then I remember the ones from afterwards.

I’ve photographed a lot of people for this project, but none as imposing as that guy I met last night. I saw him wandering out of the venue, with this unfathomable whirlwind of emotion in his eyes, even in the dark. I knew I had to photograph him.

They’re good shots, too; better than my ones of the gig. There’s one of him standing against the wall, and he’s sort of gazing longingly at the camera. That wasn’t how I wanted him to look, but it’s perfect. There’s so many emotions in there… it’s like his eyes are begging the viewer to help him. I forget my tiredness and quickly begin editing them.

He made me a bit uncomfortable, the way he sat staring at me with his big cat eyes. I was hoping to write something detailed about him to go with the photos… but I never even got his name. He’ll just have to be the mystery man I met in a London suburb.

I eventually emerge from my study, remembering with a groan that I’m meeting my best friends, Tia and Kieran, for lunch. We all studied photography together, and shared a flat for years. Tia is married now, and I guess me and Kieran were able to afford our own places by then. We worried that our friendship would dissolve, but we’ve just sort of grown together. We were always the outcasts, and still are, in a way. I don’t think I could get rid of them even if I wanted to.

I arrive at the café and Kieran is lounging around in a band shirt and lopsided glasses, looking out of place with his spiky blue hair and nose ring. Tia works for a company, so she’s reduced her crazy hair to a dull purple now, and looks vaguely normal next to Kieran.

“Photos from last night!” he demands as I sit down, before even saying hello. He’s probably still a bit sore about it, since he’s a music photographer and I’m not.

I click through them all, then I’m telling them about the night when Tia suddenly interrupts.

“Emily! What is it about this guy?”

“What?”

“You shot your favourite band, but you can’t stop talking about a guy you met afterwards!”

“Well, he was a great subject.”

Kieran tuts. “Sounds like you’ll be cheating on Pentax soon, Em.”

“No thanks. His flat smelt like shit.”

Was I really going on about him that much? We all laugh and forget about it; but when I go out to take photos later, I find every subject dull and end up photographing some bickering pigeons instead.

Austin

My mood swing lasted a few days, and I’m not sure it ever would have passed if it hadn’t been for Daniel. He took me to hospital to have my hands bandaged up, and came to see me every day for a week. Once I’d calmed down, I felt a lot better and more than anything, couldn’t stop thinking about Emily. I was going to see her again, no matter what it took. I managed to dig her business card out of the recycling bin, and looked at her website. She’d done a lot of work with self-portraits, and I must have spent hours gazing at them all. I also found out that her full name was Emily Jemima Germain, and she was quarter-Swiss. She was twenty-six years old at the time, and it seemed that she was single. As soon as I figured that, I picked up the phone and dialled her number.

“Hello?”

I took a deep breath. “Hi, Emily, I don’t know if you remember me…”

“I recognize your voice! You’re the guy from Shepherd’s Bush.”

“Oh!”

Well, I took that as a positive sign. She’d only met me once but she recognized my voice…

“The photos are all done. I’ve actually just finished this project, so the book’ll be out in a few months.”

“I’d love to see them!”

“What’s your email address? I’ll send them.”

“Uh…”

My email address is asshole76@gmail.com, so I’m sure you can understand why I wasn’t rushing to tell her that. It was like she could read my mind, though.

“Come on, I won’t laugh. I’ve used the toilet amongst your smelly boxers, so we’re already intimate.”

I wasn’t sure whether she was criticising the smell of my underwear or hitting on me, so I just sighed and told her my email address. She couldn’t help giggling.

“Alright, I’ll send you the pics.”

I wanted to talk to her for longer but the conversation died and then we were saying goodbye. By the time my Shite 100 had accessed Gmail, she’d already sent the photos through. The email read Here you go. I hope I’ve got your asshole number right or someone else could run off with your photos. Enjoy!

The photos were imposing images in black and white. They were great, but I certainly wasn’t. I realised for the first time in weeks how awful I really looked. My cheeks were hollow and even though I’d combed my hair, it was a mess; my clothes were all crumpled and I was wearing my t-shirt inside out. I looked like a crazy tramp.

I wanted another excuse to contact Emily, but I couldn’t find one. I was considering calling her and just asking her on a date, but I got distracted. The solicitor I had for my divorce was completely useless, and not only did my wife take everything – the house, my money, most of my possessions – she took my kids, too. I hadn’t seen them since she walked out.

Daniel was in the process of trying to contact her, so I could see my kids again. I missed them and I felt like the worst father in the world, even though it was her who shagged a footballer and walked out. It turned out she’d been fucking him for months, but she left when I lost my job and was diagnosed with depression. I still get so furious when I think about that… I’ll knock that bastard’s teeth out one day, I swear to God.

John

Back when me and Austin were young, he was the popular one. After all, he was attractive, funny and always the life of the party. I was fat, ugly and boring. Still am. But now it’s his thirty-sixth birthday and he’s divorced, unemployed and branded with BPD, I’m not sure what to expect of this timid party at Mum’s house.

A lot of old friends show up, along with clumps of cousins and a few pairs of aunts and uncles. Austin has changed his clothes and actually washed his hair – I can tell from the smell – and somehow, he’s still that witty guy who’s the life of the party. I’m still a tad jealous… but hey, it’s me whose marriage has worked and has a wife who actually loves me. Why would I want to be him, with his toxic ex-wife and rampant kids? Shudder. A sound tech is certainly more exciting than a postman, but I’m just naturally boring. My wife is exciting enough for the two of us.

Eventually Austin is handed a stash of birthday cards. He laughs at the funny ones, smiles at the sweet ones; then suddenly he frowns, his eyes darting over to a cousin like daggers.

“Why did you put my age on the card? I don’t need reminders that I’m middle-aged.”

A few people laugh, but I know immediately that this situation is not funny. I try to take Austin’s hand reassuringly, but I soon get elbowed off. Don’t snap, I think, feeling a little hurt. Don’t snap, Austin.

There’s an awkward silence; but he opens the next card and smiles again. Relief. Soon Mum scurries over to the table with a big cake, and everyone sings Happy Birthday. Austin is hugging some friend when my eyes suddenly fall on the candles. Number candles.

I quickly try to pull them out, but Mum tuts and bats me away. “Don’t ruin your brother’s cake, Johnny. I know you’ve always liked your food, but at least wait until you get your own piece.”

I bite my lip, almost ready to get up and walk out. I can’t abandon my little brother, though…

“You clearly don’t get it.” I hiss at Mum. “He doesn’t like the candles. For some reason it triggers him.”

“Nonsense. Don’t be silly-”

“I told you not to put numbers on the cake.”

Too late. Austin is scowling at Mum. Silence. A few people look bewildered; I’m cringing inside. If she’d just let me get rid of the bloody candles… please let this pass like it did with the card. Don’t get angry, Austin…

Mum smiles sweetly. “I think they’re cute, but if you really don’t like them, we won’t have them again next year.”

It might have been left at that… but the same cousin who put his age on the card, Callum, just has to bellow across the table about it.

“Oh, come on, Austin! Don’t be a miseryguts. Being old ain’t all bad!”

The scowl turns to utter hatred. Austin gets up and kicks his chair over, spits at Callum. A few people are beginning to look frightened.

“Oh, dear.” Mum says. “Don’t take it personally, he has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder-”

“Shut the fuck up!” Austin roars. “Tell them all I’m crazy, why don’t you? Bunch of cunts. You all want a free meal on my birthday, but where were you all when Hannah walked out? Eh? Eh?!”

Oh, good Lord … silence, again. It just provokes him even more.

“So where the fuck are my kids? All alone on their dad’s birthday, while their excuse for a mother shags some footballer, in their dad’s house! But oh, no, not one of you gives a shit! Go to hell!”

His voice echoes in the neat dining room. Everyone is silent… everyone except Callum.

“Sounds like he needs to be back in hospital!”

There’s a hint of muffled laughter and that’s the final straw. Austin hurls his glass at Callum and then he stands up too.

“You wanna fucking fight me?” Austin screams. “Bring it on, motherfucker!”

“Austin, no!” I shout. Callum is far bigger than he is. He’ll crush his little body in seconds… but it’s too late. All Austin can see is fury. Mum screams as blood is suddenly splashed across the plaid tablecloth.

It’s Callum’s blood. His blue football shirt is dyed an ugly red. He looks hurt and for a second I think he’ll give up… but then he pushes Austin and smashes his face into the table.

There’s more screams now, more distant cousins stagger away in shock and fear. I spring up and with a few of Austin’s old friends, haul Callum off him. Once he’s free, he pushes them off and tries to get Callum in a headlock, but he’s much too little. He ends up on the floor. In the background, Mum is stammering on the phone to the police. Callum hears and worriedly steps away.

“I’ll take pity on you, nut job, and leave you down there. Where you belong. No wonder your wife left you.”

Austin sits up, blood pouring from his nose and face still contorted with rage.

“Suck my dick, asshole!”

Callum sniggers. “No thanks, mate.”

“Get out.” I spit, holding a cloth to Austin’s nose. “Or I’ll deal with you, and believe me, I’m fat enough.”

Eventually he sneers and leaves; Mum wishes quick goodbyes to everyone, then hurries over to her son.

“I wasn’t really calling the police. Just trying to scare him. Oh, Austin, are you alright?”

He looks up at her, dazed. “That bastard’s a pussy. I’ll fucking finish him off…”

He’s getting weak now, and we manage to hold him down. I call Daniel, and eventually he whisks Austin off to hospital. Although I’m filled with concern for my brother, I can’t help wishing that Mum might apologise for what happened with the cake; what she said to me.

She doesn’t. My wife is miles away in Bulgaria with work, and I lay alone in the cold sheets tonight, feeling 100% the fat and ugly old man that I’ve always been. Always will be.

Austin

My wife actually tried to protest when Daniel finally got hold of her, saying it’d upset the kids too much to see me. Fortunately, though, Daniel is not that useless solicitor; and Bitcho didn’t have any chance against him. He tutted “bullshit!” down the phone in his Dutch accent, and read from a law book all the reasons why I had a perfect right to see my kids. A few days later, I got a message from Hannah – my wife – mumbling in a defeated tone that she’d bring the kids round soon. Victory! Bitch.

I had a lot of dark moments in those few weeks, especially when she was protesting. There was my birthday, which I feel hideously embarrassed about now. I’d have repeated my “indecent exposure” if it hadn’t been for a dog wandering into the road. I was on the verge of suicide when I got an unexpected phone call.

I didn’t recognise the number, and I almost didn’t pick up, but it could have somehow been one of my kids. I forced my mind away from suicide and answered it.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Asshole76. I hope you don’t mind that I saved your number…”

Emily.

“Of course I don’t! How are you?”

“I’m good, thanks. You’re going to be on the front cover of my book!”

“Really? Well, they were great pictures. I looked awful, though.” I said, laughing. “I was a mess that night.”

“You didn’t look awful, you were obviously just emotional. That’s what makes them outstanding shots. Images without emotion are just snapshots.”

She said that so beautifully, like a poet or something. We’d been talking for less than a minute and I’d forgotten about suicide; I felt like I was talking to a goddess. I didn’t really know what to say after that, though, so I told her that I’d looked at her website and was impressed with her self-portraits. She laughed and thanked me, saying that she got a lot of criticism for them because a photographer is supposed to be behind the camera… and eventually, I found out why she’d called me.

“So, I was wondering… would you consider being my model again? I keep trying to take photos of other people but they just aren’t cutting it. Of course, if you don’t want to it’s fine…”

“No, I’d love to!”

I look back now and wonder how desperate I sounded. If I did, she never told me; she just said that was great, and we agreed to meet up next week in Westminster. I didn’t even think about what I’d agreed to do – model for someone, ha! At thirty-six! – I just wanted to see her again, and find the chance to make her mine.

Emily

It’s windy; the sky is threatening rain. I stand outside a café near Big Ben, my clothes and hair blown in all directions by the wind; hanging onto my baby, AKA my camera. I hope this guy actually recognises me. It’s been a while since we met. The craziest thing is that I still don’t even know his name… he’s on the front cover of my book, I’m meeting up with him for a photoshoot and I kind of can’t stop thinking about him; yet he’s just a face without a name.

Tia and Kieran just wouldn’t shut up when they found out who I was meeting. I can live without hearing “Emily and Asshole sitting on a log, they fell off and had a snog” ever again.

Well, here he is. He sees me and waves. I smile, unsure what I’m feeling, and wave back. He’s all wrapped up in a big coat, hat and scarf; he certainly looks like he’s had a bath in the last month, this time. He’s actually pretty attractive, with his dark hair and perfect features. He has beautiful eyes, almost unnaturally green. Wow.

“Hi, sorry I’m late. You been waiting long?”

“No, it’s fine.”

He’s giving me that same look he had on that photo from Shepherd’s Bush; the one where he’s gazing longingly at the camera. He’s not like everyone else… I can tell he feels emotion very differently from most of the people crowding this street. I hardly know him, but I guess you develop a sense of that as a photographer.

And, well, that’s exactly why I want to photograph him! He seems to be pretty relaxed, so I just click the shutter and I’ve captured that look. Awesome.

“Sorry. Hope you don’t mind!”

“Sure. You’ll have to pose me, though. I’m not a natural model!”

I roll my eyes. “Just be yourself. This isn’t a Calvin Klein shoot… I want to capture you, not some obnoxious twat.”

“Alright. I’ll try not to be obnoxious.”

I eventually get some amazing shots of him looking all lost, a speck in front of London landmarks; I tell him to just walk, and although he begins to look awkward, I get some more great ones of him standing out in the crowded street, too. Then some chav starts jumping into all the photos, so we wander down into an underground station to get rid of him. I take a few more shots of him down there, then I offer to buy him dinner since he’s been a star. He insists on buying me dinner instead. Wow.

I show him the photos, then we get to the ones with the photobomber and we can’t stop laughing. There’s a guy in a proper chav kit, with a hoodie and gold chain, jumping around in the background of all these serious photos. Everyone is staring at us but it takes us a few minutes to stop spluttering.

I’m sure he isn’t a particularly successful sound tech, since he wouldn’t live in that shithole if he was, but he takes me to this ridiculously expensive restaurant overlooking the city lights. I still don’t even know his name. I feel like it’d almost be a shame to ask now… but I suppose I’d better find out.

“I don’t even know your name, you know.”

“Really? Ha. I won’t tell you, then.”

“Don’t blame me if I call you Asshole76 for the rest of your life.”

“I won’t.”

Oh well. I tried.

I ask him about his work, but he rolls his eyes and says we won’t talk about that. He asks about my work so we chat about photography for a while; I show him some of my older work on my phone. When dinner arrives, he suddenly turns a little subdued. I try to make him laugh, but he’s just staring at his plate as if it’s full of poison.

“Hey, are you alright? Have you seen someone?”

“Sorry. I just spaced out. I’m fine.”

He starts chatting to me again, but something has shaken him. I look around but the restaurant is kind of empty. He isn’t eating much, so I try to encourage him; he’s going to pay enough for it! He does, as well. The waiter comes to give us the bill and it’s £165! Bloody hell. Most expensive dinner I’ve ever eaten.

We sit there for a while longer, then eventually he says he has to go to the bathroom. Ah, maybe that’s the problem. He’s in there for ages… and when he comes back, he looks awful. He smells awful.

“Are you okay?”

He smiles wearily. “Yeah, I’m fine. I think I’ve got food poisoning.”

“Oh, shit. Sorry to hear that.”

Maybe I’m just assuming things because it’s too close to home, but I see flashes of my teenage self and wonder if he’s bulimic. None of my business, I suppose.

He’s cheered up, anyway, and it’s a bit stuffy in there so we go back outside. I guess it’s finally time to go home now. I sigh and turn to the underground station.

“Well, this was my favourite photoshoot, you know.”

“It’s my first photoshoot, excluding the last one, but I’m sure it’ll be my favourite too.”

“I hope we can meet up again. Maybe just for coffee or something.”

“Sure. I’d love to.”

After awkward goodbyes we finally go our separate ways. The thought of the underground and my flat seems so dull… I almost expect something weird to happen, but the underground’s not even that busy. The doors are closing when there’s a thud behind me. Ouch. Someone trapped in the door. I should get a photo of that… so I switch my camera on, turn round and realise that it’s Asshole76.

“What are you doing?”

I grab his arm and help him out of the doors. A few people grumble as they slide shut. Poor bloke, this isn’t even the right train! I look at him apologetically.

“I don’t think you can get to Shepherd’s Bush on this line.”

“I’m not going to Shepherd’s Bush.”

Oh well. I don’t bother to question him. More people pile on at the next stop, and we’re crammed into some seats with someone’s bum in our faces. I turn to him to comment on the bum, and he’s staring at me intently with those cat eyes again. We both sort of twitch awkwardly; then he pulls my face close to his and kisses me.

For a moment I don’t notice that my camera’s getting squashed or that the whole train is staring. It empties out at the next stop and then we’ve fallen across the seats. He’s still kissing me, insistently running his hands through my hair. I can vaguely hear that automated voice announcing the stop after mine… oops.

“Hey, hey, I’ve missed my stop…”

We break apart and I sit up. An old lady is staring at us in disbelief. I shrug apologetically.

“Sorry.” he mumbles. “I got carried away.”

“I think we both did. Better get off here and walk.”

We manage to hurry onto the platform before anyone gets stuck in the doors, and make our way out onto the street. I smile wryly at him.

“So you got on my train because…?”

He shrugs and laughs. “No excuse. I think I’m obsessed with you, Emily.”

“I can deal with that.”

Wow. I begin to realise that I like this guy and I’m sort of thrilled. I guess he maybe just wants sex… but when we finally get to my flat, tired from the walk, he doesn’t even hint at that. He just kisses me again and says goodnight. I feel like I’d better invite him in for a cuppa or something.

“You want a coffee or anything?”

“I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

He winks. “Since you don’t even know my name.”

Bastard!

“Tell me your name and I’ll make you a nice coffee, not the Tesco shit I give to visitors.”

“Alright then.”

He tells me that his name is Cornelius. I don’t believe him, but I give him the nice coffee anyway.

It’s been a long time since I broke up with my ex. We were together for about four years, but he was a reasonably famous photographer and eventually it went to his head. He became all pompous and thought he had a right to treat me like crap… so I broke up with him.

Now here I am, in my flat with a guy whose name I don’t know. It’s, well, different, but sort of exciting at the same time. Imagine a photoshoot based around this… that’s soon the last thing on my mind, though.

After debating his name for a little longer, he looks at me intently and kisses me again. I ask if he has a condom and he grunts something that sounds like yes… it had better be a yes, because his touch ignites a long-forgotten fire in me and soon we’re a sweaty mess of ecstasy under my sheets. I laugh when he says he loves me – liar – but God, I haven’t felt like this for so long. I like this stranger.

When I’m bundled up against his sweaty body later, he mumbles something before he falls fast asleep. His eyes are half-closed, tired arm slung around my waist.

“My name is Austin.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Please feel free to give constructive criticism, if you have any! I do want to publish so I need to know if there's anything that needs fixing up.

We arrived at Emirates Stadium the evening before the gig. It was dark and freezing cold; we were nervous, wondering how long the queue at our gate would be. It actually turned out to be mostly deserted - there were a few people scattered around some turnstiles, but none at others. When we found ours, there were some people who'd been here since the day before, and ironically, some other people from Nottingham! We pulled all our camping out gear - well, a few blankets and a camping chair - out of our suitcase and tried to get some sleep, but none of us had much luck. No thanks to Like a Rat Does Cheese suddenly blasting out and waking the few who were nodding off...

Security promised golden circle wristbands at 8:30am for the first 2500 people, so we anxiously waited, nobody daring to leave even for a few minutes. It was about 10am when they finally gave them out, and I'm sure we were all relieved to be able to get off our (numb) asses again. It was a fun day meeting lots of people and chatting with our new friends from Nottingham. One of us went to drop our bags off at our hostel and finally, it was getting close to doors opening.

We managed to get a spot at the end of the barrier on Jason's side. Apparently doors on the East Side were opened at least ten minutes later than the others, and the stadium were ignoring the wristbands and just letting anyone in. I wasn't impressed, but never mind! It turned out to be a good spot in the end, anyway, since we were able to dance and have fun without worrying about protecting our spots.

All Time Low were average and their sex jokes definitely fell flat! The Kaiser Chiefs were great, though. They were full of energy and pumped up the crowd like an opening act should. Then eventually, 60000 people were echoing Bohemian Rhapsody and the stadium truly came to life. Green Day tore open the set with 99 Revolutions and they were happier than I've ever seen them. The crowd was louder than I've ever heard it. The atmosphere was more amazing than I've ever known it before. From where I was stood, it sounded like the whole stadium was singing. I was glad to see the usual trilogy songs again and even happier to see Stray Heart! I expected Burnout next, but no. Nice Guys Finish Last and Waiting. The lyrics to Waiting seemed so appropriate and Billie was full of emotion.

And then... then Missing You happened. I couldn't believe it. I love this song so much and I thought we'd never hear it live. I completely lost my mind and it's a good thing no-one was trying to steal my spot because I stopped caring. The way the crowd echoed "first time" and "over" in the second verse gave me chills. It was amazing.

The surprises didn't stop there. After Burnout they burst into Sassafras Roots, for the first time since 1997, excluding the twice they played Dookie in full. That's my favourite song from Dookie and I lost my mind all over again. It was all unreal. They were playing every song I wanted to see, and they were better than ever.

It was great to hear Welcome to Paradise and Going to Pasalacqua; it was great to hear anything in this stadium where 60000 people were screaming and the band were smiling so much. Billie dedicated Longview to "all the cowboys in the house" and wandered the stage in a cowboy hat, throwing in the occasional "yee-haw!" and of course, grabbing his dick for good measure. At the end of St. Jimmy he finally gave up on years of waiting to scream "don't you fucking wear it out" and threw the mic down, grumbling "you know my fucking name" instead.

Then there were the usuals like King for a Day, Minority, American Idiot, JOS, etc. X-Kid was pretty heart-wrenching when Billie's voice nearly cracked at the end. It's beautiful that his heart is really in his writing like that.

Eventually the show had to come to a close, with the beautiful Brutal Love. It was halfway through the song when I looked up and saw all the seats bright with people holding their lighters. The whole stadium was alive. Billie had his eyes closed and I was willing him to open them and see it, before the song was over. Eventually, he did and he smiled, looking awestruck. The cameramen realised and started to film it; then they showed it on the screens, too. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I turned away with tears in my eyes as Billie thanked the crowd one last time and the lights finally dimmed. It was over.

We snapped back to reality and began to make our way back to our hostel, with Liam who we were staying with. Eventually, after a lot of wandering around we found out that Arsenal underground station was open after all, and got a free trip, which was nice. We were glad to crash but the hostel was rubbish, don't stay at the Generator.

Then the next morning it really was over; we said our goodbyes and headed back to the bus station. I'd rather be back at Emirates Stadium in the freezing cold now, but I know I was bloody glad to see my own bed that night!

I hate my country, I really do. But when I hear the crowd screaming the words, see the seats alive with lighters, I remember why Green Day love this place. There's something about seeing them in your home country, too, hearing Billie scream "London!" and praise us all. For one night I'm proud to be English and I hold my flag high in the air.

Billie Joe Armstrong said it pretty well: #bestnightEVER

Decided I might as well post this here. If you have five minutes to read a sample of a story and answer a few questions about it, that'd be awesome!

You'll be able to answer them after reading this part:

John

Car horns blare, the constant roar of traffic echoes through the streets of Greater London. Angry drivers tut at red lights, fight over parking spaces. Eventually a black car draws to a stop outside a grubby newsagents’ in the Shepherd’s Bush suburb. John, a chubby man with dark hair, clambers out of the car, looking determined. He makes his way to the flat above and hammers on the door.

“Open up, Austin. I know you’re in there.”

No answer; but the vague buzz of a TV suddenly cuts out. John rolls his eyes.

“I just heard you switch the TV off! Don’t make me pick the lock…”

After a few more minutes of hammering, the door finally flies open. John almost doesn’t recognize his brother. His face is dirty, unshaven and the dark circles around his green eyes look like bruises; his dark hair is a tangled mess. He’s stick-thin and wearing dirty pyjamas that look like they’re stuck to him. Not to mention the smell coming out of the flat…

“Go away.”

John ignores him and pushes past before he can shut the door again. The flat’s in as bad a state as its tenant. Pizza boxes, Pot Noodle cups and beer bottles are scattered everywhere; everything is covered by a thin layer of dust. There’s an ugly stain on the wall and John isn’t sure who smells worse, Austin or the dog.

“Bloody hell, mate. How many rats do you have in here?”

“Leave me alone.”

He soon buries himself back under his blanket on the sofa, switching the stereo on to block John out. John groans. Austin was listening to the same bloody Green Day record last time he tried to get in. At least he’s opened the door this time.

“Stop listening to this depressing crap and pull yourself together!”

He pulls the plug on the stereo and the blanket off the sofa. Austin glares at him.

“Piss off!”

“Look, mate, I’m only trying to help. C’mon, why don’t you try to get changed?”

John begins to feel hopeless. He’s never seen his little brother this bad before. He often goes in phases, though; so John gives up for now and leaves him alone. While Austin switches the stereo back on, he goes to the bedroom – which is in a worse state than the living room, with dirty underwear and sheets all over the place – and pulls some clean clothes out of the wardrobe. He shoves all of the dirty sheets into a pile and goes to the bathroom in search of clean ones… and nearly leaps back out in horror. There’s vomit everywhere. He feels like he’s going to throw up himself.

What is wrong with Austin? He was diagnosed with depression a while ago, and the divorce and job loss have been hard on him, but bloody hell… is he even paying his rent? John tiptoes around the vomit – he doesn’t love his brother that much – and pulls the last lot of clean sheets out of the cupboard. After changing the bed he considers opening the curtains, but decides he doesn’t want to see the flat in the daylight. At least not until he’s got over the vomit.

Eventually he sits opposite Austin, pretending he’s enjoying that record. Finally the vague shadow of a smile passes over Austin’s face.

“You’re trying hard.”

He sits up, rubbing his eyes. “Sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“It’s alright, mate. Got you some clean clothes and changed your sheets. Why don’t you go and have a shower?”

“Do I smell that bad?”

“Yes.”

He rolls his eyes. “Fine.”

To make sure he actually does it, John stays in the bathroom, trying not to look at the vomit. He accidentally ends up staring at his brother instead, and gets a nasty shock.

He’s truly skeletal, his legs are covered in scars clearly from self-harm; and this time when John looks down at that vomit, he doesn’t tut at drunkenness… he remembers Austin’s bulimia as a teenager.

He’s suddenly filled with fear for his brother’s life.

He stays overnight, giving the sofa a thorough scrubbing before he sleeps on it. In the morning he gently suggests that Austin sees a doctor.

“Why?” he snaps. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“I just thought, you know, maybe anti-depressants would help you or-”

“I don’t want anti-depressants.”

“Maybe just a counsellor then-”

“I sure as hell don’t need someone else like that damn divorce counsellor in my life!”

“Well, of course you don’t have to…”

It’s too late. Austin has already flown into a rage and throws his cereal bowl at the wall. John winces as his brother storms out of the room. Soon he hears the front door slam.

He tries to follow, but Austin has already disappeared. Eventually John gets sick of waiting and goes down to the newsagents’ to buy a drink; and the newsagent tells him that the guy in the pyjamas has been arrested for indecent exposure.

Has his brother gone insane?

John groans and forces himself to drive to the police station. Maybe he can get Austin out of this if he can somehow get him to a doctor.

He explains to the police that he’s sure his brother is sick, and that he desperately needs help. It’s true… the situation does seem desperate.

They aren’t sympathetic and stifle laughs, but grudgingly agree to call a doctor. John just prays that he is actually sick so he can get out of it.

Austin

When that doctor walked into the room, I was embarrassed, ashamed, felt bad for John and more than anything, I felt pathetic. Thirty-five years old and arrested for flashing someone… in my pyjamas. I didn’t even know what was going through my mind at the time. I suppose I was about to find out.

“So, Austin, you were arrested for… flashing?”

No.” I snarled. “My trousers fell down. It wasn’t my fault.”

“The police disagree.”

I don’t know why I lied. It just made that doctor speak in a more patronising tone. John had obviously spoken to him already, because he knew about my divorce and losing my job. When he left, I went with him. He had me hospitalised.

John went with me, too, but they wouldn’t let him stay overnight. I was surprised that they just let me sleep; but then the questioning began the next day. They examined me and told me that I had a bruised throat; concluded that I’m anorexic and bulimic. Then of course, one of them found my scars. I didn’t want anyone to see those. When he wouldn’t leave me alone, I punched him in the face and then there was blood everywhere. I’d broken his nose.

I was furious and all I could see was how much I wanted to hurt that bloody doctor for humiliating me. A nurse tried to hold me down, but I threw her off me and kicked him in the stomach. He was doubled up on the floor then, and I managed to kick him one last time before a bunch of uniformed guys came to really hold me down. The nurse soon sedated me.

When I woke up, I’d been diagnosed as bipolar. After stuffing me with medication, they said I’d have to stay in hospital until I was “stable” again. I felt truly like a crazy person locked into a mental home.

It was this Dutch doctor, Daniel, who saved me. I wasn’t his problem, but he insisted on dealing with me anyway. I thought he just wanted to humiliate me more, but the first thing he told me was that the others were useless and my diagnosis was wrong. After seeing him a few times, I was finally diagnosed correctly, with the three words that were going to tear my life apart.

Borderline personality disorder.

But if not or you don't mind taking a bit of extra time, here's the rest:

Austin

Daniel thought that hospital wasn’t the answer, and managed to get me out of there. Medicine doesn’t help BPD patients, so the only option is to pray that therapy will. Daniel said he’d come to see me at my flat, until I was ready to see him in his office. He was just an NHS doctor, and I didn’t understand why he was going out of his way for some asshole who’d flashed someone. Especially since he was pretty important.

Months later, I eventually found out that his mum had BPD and killed herself, which is why he’d strived to become a doctor; to help others with the condition. Since then, he’d had a BPD patient who got better, but suddenly drove out to the coast and shot himself. I guess he’d developed an obsession with BPD… and I was bloody lucky that I’d met him.

I began to slip back into my depression again, despite his visits. I cleaned the flat when I got out of hospital, but the pizza boxes were beginning to build up again and my poor dog had fleas. I probably had them. I ended up staying in the same clothes for weeks, since John had confiscated the pyjamas.

Eventually my parents descended, gasping over Mind leaflets about BPD that they couldn’t believe they’d never realised. At least they cleaned the dog.

They began to bicker while they were cleaning the flat, and even though it was nothing so extreme, it reminded me horribly of my divorce. It was something so small, but I suddenly felt myself stifled by unbearable feelings of emptiness that I couldn’t fill. I hurried to the kitchen and stuffed my face with chocolate, Pot Noodle, everything I could find… but all it did was make me feel fat, so I made myself sick. They were right. How had they never noticed? I was realising that although I was worse than ever, I’d been like this my whole life. Then I was angry at them for never realising, and screamed at them that they were uncaring assholes. Even though they’d read the leaflets – and knew I could be like that anyway – they obviously weren’t used to me anymore, because they took it personally, called me ungrateful and left. Maybe they got scared because they knew about me attacking the doctor. I don’t know. It still hurt and then I was sad that they’d gone. I’d stopped paying my TV licence so all I had was the stereo, and I felt so alone and terrified of facing myself that I rang John in tears, begging him to come round.

To my surprise, he happily said yes, and was beaming when he arrived. I remember looking at his big grin nestled in his bushy beard, and wondering how, why someone could possibly smile that much.

“Guess what I got for you?”

“A gun?”

“Don’t be so bloody miserable!”

He whipped a piece of paper out of his pocket. I half-heartedly pulled it out of his hand; it was a booking confirmation for some tickets.

“What…?”

“Your favourite band just a few streets away, Austin! Green Day are playing at the Empire tonight! It sold out in two minutes but I scored a ticket for you!”

“…Are you joking?”

“No. Have a shower and get dressed – well, change your clothes. Doors open in a few hours.”

Something about being in a room full of people terrified me, and I almost said no; but thankfully, I loved the band enough to see sense for once. I had a shower, changed my clothes and even combed my hair. It was getting pretty long and combing it wasn’t a nice – or quick – experience. John offered to drive me to the venue, but I knew what parking would be like and it was only a few streets, so we just walked. My problems temporarily dissolved into excitement, for the first time in months. This was surreal and I wondered if I might remember what happiness felt like.

Well, I’ll tell you, it was an amazing gig. I do struggle a bit to remember it now, though, because it was so overshadowed by what happened afterwards.

I met Emily that night, and I fell in love with her the first time I set eyes on her. Everyone blames it on my disorder but that’s one thing I’m sure it had nothing to do with. I was leaving the venue when I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned round. I had no idea what she wanted, but she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, with bright red in her wild hair and matching lipstick; her big brown eyes sparkled, and she was grasping a camera that looked far too big for her little hands.

“Excuse me?”

“…Can I help you?”

“Would you mind if I took your portrait?”

Looking slightly nervous, she gestured to the camera. My brain had pulled the plug on logic and I’d probably have said yes to anything she asked.

“Sure.”

She took a photo of me in the middle of the street, telling me to pretend she wasn’t there and tutting at the people who barged in; fiddling with buttons on the camera that I’d never understand. Eventually she sighed and asked if I didn’t mind moving to somewhere less crowded. I said it was fine. I was thirsty and needed a drink, anyway.

Shepherd’s Bush is a strange place at night. Some guy ran up to us, holding his car keys and promising that everything he had was ours if we’d just let him use one of our phones. Emily’s eyes lit up and she handed over her phone in exchange for taking his portrait. He gave it back afterwards, but I don’t think she’d have cared if he hadn’t. I couldn’t understand why she’d want his portrait – or mine, to be honest – but I was shocked when she showed me her shots of him. She’d turned some random weirdo into an emotional image that captured all of his turmoil, whatever it was about. I looked at his crazed expression and immediately realised why she wanted to photograph me. I didn’t know whether to be happy about it or not.

“So you’re a professional photographer?” I asked as we carried on walking. “Your shots are great.”

“Yeah, I’m working on a project about the people of London, at the moment.”

“That’s cool. I’m a sound technician.”

I decided not to tell her that I wasn’t really a sound tech at the moment, since I’d lost my job. We talked about the gig and she told me how excited she was to shoot her favourite band, even though music photography wasn’t usually her field. Eventually she stopped walking and almost pinned me against a wall. She was just overexcited about finding a good background for the photos, but my borderline personality assumed it was a sexual gesture… so I kissed her.

I don’t know whether it was a mistake or not. She awkwardly kissed me back for a moment, then stepped away, looking confused.

“Um… you mind if I still photograph you? You’re such a great subject.”

She probably meant that photographically, too, but I hoped she meant that I was attractive. I smiled and said it was fine. She snapped some shots of me against the wall, waving her arms about in excitement when she got a good one. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

We went into a nearby shop in the end and bought some drinks. I kept hearing her camera click. Everyone probably thought she was crazy, but I just thought she was beautiful.

When she eventually checked the time, she realised that she’d long missed the last tube and had no idea where to catch the bus. If my brain had pulled the plug on logic before, the socket probably blew up now.

“Stay over at mine. I live just down the road.”

I don’t know whether it was hopeful lust or desperation not to say goodbye, but she didn’t seem bothered either way. She just asked if I was sure and said that’d be great, so we walked back. It was months since I’d seen my wife and years since I’d brought a girl home. I only remembered the state of my flat when I opened the door.

Emily didn’t seem to notice or care, though. She just settled onto the floor and asked if she could use my laptop.

“Sure.” I shrugged, pulling it down from a shelf. “It’s a limited edition Shite 100, though, I’m afraid.”

She hooted with laughter and said I was hilarious. Although she didn’t seem to care about the living room, she did look a bit ashen after using the bathroom. I realised that I’d left a smelly housecoat and some boxers lying around in there. Oh well.

She sat with my laptop for hours, her pretty face lit up by the dim light of the screen; occasionally sipping her can of Fanta. I watched her in silence, the clock ticking away in the background. I began to feel like it was a bomb ticking, and that I was going to blow up. I hadn’t had sex for God knows how long and I wanted her.

“Wow, it’s so late.”

The sudden break in the silence startled me. She yawned and rubbed her eyes.

“You know, I’ve got to send these photos straight off in the morning. I really ought to go.”

Why did she suddenly want to leave? I felt like she’d stabbed me.

“I… I don’t mind if you stay. You’re welcome to.”

“It’s alright, you’ve done me enough favours today! I don’t want to keep imposing on you.”

I wanted to protest again, but she’d already packed her memory stick and camera. Soon she’d put her jacket on and hurried over to the door.

“Honestly, I can’t thank you enough for the photoshoot and letting me use your laptop. It’s so nice to know there’s still good people out there.”

It’s a good thing it was dark, because I was probably gaping at her in a mixture of fury and disbelief. She handed me something and I could vaguely see her smiling.

“Hey, here’s my business card. Drop me an email and I’ll let you know when the photos are done!”

“Right.”

“See you! Thank you so much.”

Maybe she shook my hand, or even gave me a kiss on the cheek. I wouldn’t remember. The door snapped shut and I was so furious that I snatched her Fanta can off the floor and hurled it at the wall. It was half-full and split all over some photos of my kids. I didn’t care. I stormed into the kitchen and began to smash all my dirty pots against the counter, until my hands were so bloodied that I noticed the pain.

I looked down at them, wincing when I bent my fingers, and the anger turned to despair. I slumped down on the floor and cried, like a stupid oversized baby. I don’t know if I even knew what the problem was anymore; but I felt more alone and rejected than ever.

At least she never saw any of that… or maybe it would have been better if she had.

Emily

Sunlight bursts through the blinds into my study. I stare groggily at my computer screen. I should’ve known I’d regret missing the last tube… I had no idea how to get back from Shepherd’s Bush, and it ended up taking me so long that I might as well have waited. At least I got the photos from the gig edited last night.

I want to go and crash into bed, but I know I should start editing the others. I half-heartedly click through some shots of the queue for the show; then I remember the ones from afterwards.

I’ve photographed a lot of people for this project, but none as imposing as that guy I met last night. I saw him wandering out of the venue, with this unfathomable whirlwind of emotion in his eyes, even in the dark. I knew I had to photograph him.

They’re good shots, too; better than my ones of the gig. There’s one of him standing against the wall, and he’s sort of gazing longingly at the camera. That wasn’t how I wanted him to look, but it’s perfect. There’s so many emotions in there… it’s like his eyes are begging the viewer to help him. I forget my tiredness and quickly get to work editing them.

He made me a bit uncomfortable, the way he sat staring at me with his big cat eyes. I was hoping to write something detailed about him to go with the photos… but I never even got his name. He’ll just have to be the mystery man I met in a London suburb.

I eventually emerge from my study, remembering with a groan that I’m meeting my best friends, Tia and Kieran, for lunch. We all studied photography together, and shared a flat for years. Tia is married now, and I guess me and Kieran were able to afford our own places by then. We worried that our friendship would dissolve, but we’ve just sort of grown together. We were always the outcasts, and still are, in a way. I don’t think I could get rid of them even if I wanted to.

I arrive at the café and Kieran is lounging around in a band shirt and lopsided glasses, looking out of place with his spiky blue hair and nose ring. Tia works for a company, so she’s reduced her crazy hair to a dull purple now, and looks vaguely normal next to Kieran.

“Photos from last night!” he demands as I sit down, before even saying hello. He’s probably still a bit sore about it, since he’s actually a music photographer and I’m not.

I click through them all, then I’m telling them about the night when Tia suddenly interrupts.

“Emily! What is it about this guy?”

“What?”

“You shot your favourite band, but you can’t stop talking about a guy you met afterwards!”

“Well, he was a great subject.”

Kieran tuts. “Sounds like you might be cheating on Pentax soon, Em.”

“No thanks. His flat smelt like Satan’s anus.”

Was I really going on about him that much? We all laugh and forget about it; but when I go out to take photos later, I find every subject dull and end up photographing some bickering pigeons instead.

Austin

My mood swing lasted a few days, and I’m not sure it ever would have passed if it hadn’t been for Daniel. He took me to hospital to have my hands bandaged up, and came to see me every day for a week. Once I’d calmed down, I felt a lot better and more than anything, couldn’t stop thinking about Emily. I was going to see her again, no matter what it took. I managed to dig her business card out of the recycling bin, and looked at her website. She’d done a lot of work with self-portraits, and I must have spent hours gazing at them all. I also found out that her full name is Emily Jemima Schwarzkopf, and she’s quarter-German. She was twenty-six years old at the time, and it seemed that she was single. As soon as I read that, I picked up the phone and dialled her number.

“Hello?”

I took a deep breath. “Hi, Emily, I don’t know if you remember me…”

“I recognize your voice! You’re the guy from Shepherd’s Bush.”

“Oh!”

Well, I took that as a positive sign. She’d only met me once but she recognized my voice…

“The photos are all done. I’ve actually just finished this project, so the book’ll be out in a few months.”

“I’d love to see them!”

“What’s your email address? I’ll send them.”

“Uh…”

My email address is asshole76@gmail.com, so I’m sure you can understand why I wasn’t rushing to tell her that. It was like she could read my mind, though.

“Come on, I won’t laugh, I promise. I’ve used the toilet amongst your smelly boxers, so we’re already intimate.”

I wasn’t sure whether she was criticising the smell of my underwear or hitting on me, so I just sighed and told her my email address. She couldn’t help giggling.

“Alright, I’ll send you the pics.”

I wanted to talk to her for longer but the conversation died and then we were saying goodbye. By the time my Shite 100 had accessed Gmail, she’d already sent the photos through. The email said Here you go. I hope I’ve got your asshole number right or someone else could run off with your photos. Enjoy!

The photos were great, but I certainly wasn’t. I realised for the first time in weeks how awful I really looked. My cheeks were hollow and even though I’d combed my hair, it was a mess; my clothes were all crumpled and I was wearing my t-shirt inside out. I looked like a crazy tramp.

I wanted another excuse to contact Emily, but I just couldn’t find one. I was considering calling her and just asking her out on a date, but I got distracted. The solicitor I had for my divorce was completely useless, and not only did my wife take everything – the house, my money, most of my possessions – she took my kids, too. I hadn’t seen them since she walked out.

Daniel was in the process of getting someone to locate her, so I could see my kids again. I missed them and I felt like the worst father in the world, even though it was their mum who shagged a footballer and walked out. It turned out she’d been fucking him for months, but she walked out because I lost my job and was diagnosed with depression. I still get so furious when I think about that… I’ll knock that bastard’s teeth out one day, I swear to God.

John

Back when John and Austin were teenagers, Austin was the popular one. After all, he was attractive, funny and always the life of the party. Now it’s his thirty-sixth birthday and he’s divorced, unemployed and branded with BPD, John isn’t sure what to expect of this timid celebration.

A lot of old friends show up, along with clumps of cousins and a few pairs of aunts and uncles. Austin has changed his clothes and actually washed his hair – John can tell from the smell – and somehow, he’s still that witty guy who’s the life of the party. John is still a little jealous… but he realises for the first time that it isn’t really like that at all. Austin laughs and tells jokes, everyone crowds around him; but there’s something behind the laughter that hints at the truth. His eyes are sort of glazed over, like there’s a wall between him and the people around him. The heart and soul of the party feeds everyone else; and rots away himself. No-one else notices, but his big brother does.

Eventually he’s handed a stash of birthday cards. He laughs at the funny ones, smiles at the sweet ones; then suddenly he frowns, his eyes darting over to a cousin like daggers.

“Why did you put my age on the card? I don’t need more reminders that I’m middle-aged.”

A few people laugh, but John knows immediately that this situation is not funny. He tries to take Austin’s hand reassuringly, but he soon gets elbowed off. Don’t snap, he thinks, feeling a little hurt. Don’t snap, Austin.

There’s an awkward silence; but he opens the next card and smiles again. Relief. Soon Mum scurries over to the table with a big cake, and everyone sings Happy Birthday. Austin is hugging some other cousin when John’s eyes suddenly fall on the candles. Number candles.

He quickly tries to pull them out, but Mum tuts and bats him away. “Don’t ruin your brother’s cake, Johnny. I know you’ve always liked your food, but at least wait until you get your own piece.”

John feels like giving up and walking out. He can’t abandon his little brother, though…

“You clearly don’t get it.” he hisses at Mum. “He doesn’t like the candles. For some reason it triggers him.”

“Nonsense. Don’t be silly-”

“I told you not to put numbers on the cake.”

Austin is scowling at Mum. Silence. A few people look bewildered; John is cringing inside. If she’d just let him get rid of the bloody candles… please let this pass like it did with the card. Don’t get angry, Austin…

“They’re cute, Austin!” Mum smiles sweetly. “But if you really don’t like them, we won’t have them again next year.”

It might have been left at that… but the same cousin who put his age on the card, Callum, just has to bellow across the table about it.

“Oh, come on, Austin! Don’t be a miseryguts. Being old ain’t all bad!”

The scowl turns to utter hatred. Austin gets up and kicks his chair over, spits at the cousin. A few people are beginning to look frightened.

“Oh, dear.” Mum says. “Don’t take it personally, he has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder-”

“Shut the fuck up!” Austin roars. “Tell them all I’m crazy, why don’t you? Bunch of cunts. You all want a free meal on my birthday, but where were you all when I got divorced? Eh? Eh?!”

Silence, again. It just provokes him even more.

“So where the fuck are my kids? All alone on their dad’s birthday, while their excuse for a mother shags some footballer, in their dad’s house! But oh, no, not one of you gives a shit! Go to hell!”

His voice echoes in the neat dining room. Everyone is silent… everyone except Callum.

“Sounds like he needs to be back in hospital!”

There’s a hint of muffled laughter and that’s the final straw. Austin hurls his glass at Callum and then he stands up too.

“You wanna fucking fight me?” Austin screams. “Bring it on, motherfucker!”

“Austin, no!” John shouts. Callum is far bigger than he is. He’ll crush his anorexic little body in seconds… but it’s too late. All Austin can see is fury. Mum screams as blood is suddenly splashed across the plaid tablecloth.

It’s Callum’s blood. His blue football shirt is dyed an ugly red. He looks hurt and for a second John thinks he’ll give up… but then he pushes Austin and smashes his face into the table.

There’s more screams now, more distant cousins stagger away in shock and fear. John and a few of Austin’s old friends haul Callum off him. Once he’s free, he pushes them off and tries to get Callum in a headlock, but he’s much too little. He ends up on the floor. In the background, Mum is stammering on the phone to the police. Callum hears and worriedly steps away.

“I’ll take pity on you, nut job, and leave you down there. Where you belong. No wonder your wife left you.”

Austin sits up, blood pouring from his nose and face still contorted with rage.

“Suck my dick, bastard!”

Callum sniggers. “No thanks, mate.”

“Get out.” John spits, holding a cloth to Austin’s nose. “Or I’ll deal with you, and believe me, I’m fat enough.”

Eventually he sneers and leaves; Mum wishes quick goodbyes to everyone, then hurries over to her son.

“I wasn’t really calling the police. Just trying to scare him. Oh, Austin, are you alright?”

He looks up at her, dazed. “That bastard’s a pussy. I’ll fucking finish him off…”

He’s getting weak now, and they manage to hold him down. John calls Daniel, and eventually he whisks Austin off to hospital. Although John is filled with concern for his brother, he can’t help wishing that Mum might apologise for what happened with the cake; what she said to him.

She doesn’t.

Austin

My wife actually tried to protest when Daniel finally got hold of her, saying it’d upset the kids too much to see me. Fortunately, though, Daniel is not that useless solicitor; and Bitcho didn’t have any chance against him. He tutted “bullshit!” down the phone in his Dutch accent, and read from a law book all the reasons why I had a perfect right to see my kids. A few days later, I got a message from my wife, mumbling in a defeated tone that she’d bring the kids round soon. Victory! Bitch.

I had a lot of dark moments in those few weeks, especially when she was protesting. There was my birthday, which I feel hideously embarrassed about now. I’d have repeated my “indecent exposure” if it hadn’t been for a dog wandering into the road. I was on the verge of suicide when I got an unexpected phone call.

I didn’t recognize the number, and I almost didn’t pick up, but it could have somehow been one of my kids. I forced my mind away from suicide and answered it.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Asshole76. I hope you don’t mind that I saved your number…”

Emily.

“Of course I don’t! How are you?”

“I’m good, thanks. You’re going to be on the front cover of my book!”

“Really? Well, they were great shots. I thought I looked awful, though.” I laughed. “I was a mess that night.”

“You didn’t look awful, you were just full of emotion. That’s what makes them outstanding shots, and what makes you a photographer. Images without emotion are just snapshots.”

She said that so beautifully, like a poet or something. We’d been talking for less than a minute and I’d forgotten about suicide; I felt like I was talking to a goddess. I didn’t really know what to say after that, though, so I told her that I’d looked at her website and was impressed with her self-portraits. She laughed and thanked me, saying that she got a lot of criticism for them because a photographer is supposed to be behind the camera… and eventually, I found out why she’d called me.

“So, I was wondering… would you consider being my model again? I keep trying to take photos of other people but they just aren’t cutting it. Of course, if you don’t want to it’s fine…”

“No, I’d love to!”

I look back now and wonder how desperate I sounded. If I did, she never told me; she just said that was great, and we agreed to meet up next week in central London. I didn’t even think about what I’d agreed to do – model for someone, ha! At thirty-six! – I just wanted to see her again, and find the chance to make her mine.

Emily

It’s windy; the sky is threatening rain. I stand outside a café near London Bridge, my clothes and hair blown in all directions by the wind; hanging onto my baby, AKA my camera. I hope this guy actually recognises me. It’s been a while since we met. The craziest thing is that I still don’t even know his name… he’s on the front cover of my book, I’m meeting up with him for a photoshoot and I kind of can’t stop thinking about him; yet he’s just a face without a name.

Tia and Kieran just wouldn’t shut up when they found out who I was meeting. I can live without hearing “Emily and Asshole sitting on a log, they fell off and had a snog” ever again.

Well, here he is. He sees me and waves. I smile, unsure what I’m feeling, and wave back. He’s all wrapped up in a big coat, hat and scarf; he certainly looks like he’s had a bath in the last month, this time. He’s actually pretty attractive, with his dark hair, perfect features and green eyes. Wow.

“Hi, sorry I’m late. You been waiting long?”

“No, it’s fine.”

He’s giving me that same look he has on that photo from Shepherd’s Bush; the one where he’s gazing longingly at the camera. He’s not like everyone else… I can tell he feels emotion very differently from most of the people crowding this street. I hardly know him, but I guess you develop a sense of that as a photographer.

And, well, that’s exactly why I want to photograph him! He seems to be pretty relaxed, so I just click the shutter and I’ve captured that look. Awesome.

“Sorry. Hope you don’t mind!”

“Sure. That’s why we’re here, right? You’ll have to pose me, though, since I’m definitely not a natural model!”

I roll my eyes. “Just be yourself. This isn’t a Calvin Klein shoot… I want to capture you, not some obnoxious twat.”

“Alright. I’ll try not to be obnoxious.”

I eventually get some amazing shots of him looking all lost, a speck in front of London landmarks; I tell him to just walk, and although he begins to look awkward, I get some more great ones of him standing out in the crowded street, too. Then some guy starts jumping into all the photos, so we wander down into an underground station to get rid of him. I take a few more shots of him down there, then I offer to buy him dinner since he’s been a star. He insists on buying me dinner instead. Wow.

I show him the photos, then we get to the ones with the photobomber and we can’t stop laughing. There’s a guy in a proper gangster kit, with a hoodie and gold chain, jumping around in the background of all these serious photos. Everyone is staring at us but it takes us a few minutes to stop spluttering.

I’m sure he isn’t a particularly successful sound tech, since he wouldn’t live in that shithole if he was, but he takes me to this ridiculously expensive restaurant overlooking the city lights. I still don’t even know his name. I feel like it’d almost be a shame to ask now… but I suppose I’d better find out.

“I don’t even know your name, you know.”

“Really? Ha. I won’t tell you, then.”

“Don’t blame me if I call you Asshole76 for the rest of your life.”

“I won’t.”

Oh well. I tried.

I ask him about his work, but he rolls his eyes and says we won’t talk about that. He asks about my work so we chat about photography for a while; then dinner arrives and he suddenly turns a little subdued. I try to make him laugh, but he’s just staring at his plate as if it’s full of poison.

“Hey, are you alright? Have you seen someone?”

“…Sorry. I just spaced out for a moment.”

He starts chatting to me again, but something has shaken him. I look around but the restaurant is kind of empty. He isn’t eating much, so I try to encourage him; he’s going to pay enough for it! He does, as well. The waiter comes to give us the bill and it’s £95! Bloody hell. Most expensive dinner I’ve ever eaten.

We sit there for a while longer, then eventually he says he has to go to the bathroom. Ah, maybe that’s the problem. He’s in there for ages… and when he comes back, he looks awful. He smells awful.

“Are you okay?”

He smiles wearily. “Yeah, I’m fine. I think I’ve got food poisoning.”

“Oh, shit. Sorry to hear that.”

Maybe I’m just assuming things because it’s too close to home, but I see flashes of my teenage self and wonder if he’s bulimic. None of my business, I suppose.

He’s cheered up, anyway, and it’s a bit stuffy in there so we go back outside. I guess it’s finally time to go home now. I sigh and turn to the underground station.

“Well, this was my favourite photoshoot, you know.”

“It’s my first photoshoot, excluding the last one, but I’m sure it’s my favourite too.”

“I hope we can meet up again. Maybe just for coffee or something.”

“Sure. I’d love to.”

After awkward goodbyes we finally go our separate ways. The thought of the underground and my flat seems so dull… I almost expect something weird to happen, but the underground’s not even that busy. The doors are closing when there’s a thud behind me. Ouch. Someone trapped in the door. I should get a photo of that… so I switch my camera on, turn round and realise that it’s Asshole76.

“What are you doing?”

I grab his arm and help him out of the doors. A few people grumble as they slide shut. Poor bloke, this isn’t even the right train! I look at him apologetically.

“I don’t think you can get to Shepherd’s Bush from this line.”

“I’m not going to Shepherd’s Bush.”

I don’t bother to question him.

And finally, the questions:

1. How do you feel about Austin?

2. Do you judge him for any of his actions?

3. Do you understand what's actually going on and why he acts the way he does?

Please feel free to answer negatively if that's how you feel! Any other thoughts are welcome as well. Of course, you get a free Internet hug for taking the time. ;)

There's a lot out there about some mental health issues, but so little about borderline personality disorder. It's often misdiagnosed as bipolar. People even think BPD stands for bipolar disorder. What little is out there is directed at sufferers, not family or friends. That's why I've decided to write this - to share my experience as someone close to a sufferer, for both others like me and those who don't know anything about BPD.

About a year ago, my fiance was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. We'd been on the verge of splitting up for a long time. I'd begun to wonder if he was sick, because his behaviour could be so awful for no reason, but it took him totally breaking down and hitting rock bottom to seek help. He was initially diagnosed as bipolar but since that seemed inaccurate, we suggested BPD. The doctor had never heard of it. Eventually he was referred to a specialist who diagnosed him correctly.

You begin to wonder if you're the problem - a common fight with BPD sufferers is "it's not me, it's you!" after all! - so I felt so relieved that there was finally a reason for his behaviour. Whilst there's treatment for BPD, there's no immediate fix and actually no guarantee that it'll work. He did get a great doctor in the end, and improved a lot. It doesn't just go away, though.

After the diagnosis, I suddenly felt that I had to stifle my emotions and accept his behaviour as "just his BPD", in case I triggered him. He used to be triggered by the smallest things, or even nothing at all, and that could lead to a suicide attempt. His emotions were so unpredictable that sometimes he could be screaming that I deserve to die, then the next minute I meant everything to him. Walking on eggshells sometimes didn't even help, because he could have a mood swing for no reason. He came across as deceptive because he began to lie, either in fear of me leaving him or to cover up things he felt guilty about, like self-harm or suicide attempts; when really he didn't intend to be deceptive at all. Sometimes I felt he had to be lying because he didn't remember what he'd said or done. He had a lot of confusion over his sexuality; one day he was bisexual, the next day he wasn't. He's going through a very stressful separation with an abusive ex, and every now and then he suddenly loved her again. That was what I found most difficult of all. He had a strange perception of what he thought I'd find upsetting and it was often pointless arguing with him, because he didn't get that he'd done something wrong.

Fortunately a lot of this has got better with his treatment. He knows what his main triggers are and can even stop himself sometimes. He hasn't lied to me in months and the ex isn't a problem anymore. I can usually approach him about things now, and not only is he aware what he's done wrong, he doesn't react aggressively as often. I don't know if that makes it even worse when he can't stop himself, though, because I expect it less. A couple of days ago I was pissed off about something but even though I voiced it gently, he still flew off the wall and I got the "I hope you die" treatment the next day. Then he loved me again and felt overwhelmed with guilt later. A phrase I've seen a lot in reference to BPD is "I hate you, don't leave me" - I definitely identify with this one!

Hallucinations aren't that common in BPD sufferers, but it's happened, especially when he's been on a lot of medication. Watching him be tormented by a person or people that I can't even see makes me feel so useless. Then there's impulsiveness; the main things in his case are self-harm and suicidal behaviour. He does recognize some of his impulses now and sometimes thinks before he acts, but I've lost count of how many times he's tried to kill himself. I sort of became numb to it, but I still get upset and worry constantly. I would give anything to wake up one morning and not wonder if the man I love is dead. Sometimes when he's happy he says he can't imagine why he'd want to die, but more often than not he thinks that the only way his suffering will end is to be dead. Since his treatment has gone well so far, it'll hopefully get better with time.

I've talked about all the negatives, but don't get the impression that BPD sufferers have to be a nightmare. My fiance is actually wonderful to be around most of the time - he's funny, sweet and a great father to his kids. People who aren't close to him have no idea that he's sick because he can be so much fun. I knew what I was taking on when he asked me to marry him, and his positive qualities more than make up for his illness.

If you want to learn more about BPD in general, I found these websites really helpful:

Mind (general summary of BPD)

bpdcentral.com (has a great page on why relationships can be complicated)

Or if you just want to talk about BPD, please feel free to PM me. I hope this helped or at least educated someone! If you've heard the name emotionally unstable personality disorder, they're both the same thing.

These are two songs from a while back that I thought needed a lot of improvement, so I decided to clear them up and repost them together, since they go hand-in-hand. God Forbid is about a "sinful" affair between a young girl and a married man, who are "punished" with miscarriage. Plastic Kiss is about the forced end of the affair and how the "other woman" might feel.

God Forbid

The holy wife's high on bleeding you dry

God forbid the sin of saying goodbye

Disgust at your lust that reeks of love

I don't think Jesus will heal your cuts

So the devil must live in us

Does our pure love make us sinners?

Fuck that filthy ring on his finger and

Send me to hell, I don't want to be forgiven

Love is dirty forbidden emotion

A sinful storm over the Pacific Ocean

I'll be your sacrifice tonight,

Tie me up in black and white

You're the only God and I'm ready to die

Shock, I'm begging time to fly

Unholy so crucify me at midnight

My only saviour is a mortal man

He'll bring me back to life with his bare hands

No devil does live in us

Lord, are we truly sinners?

Cast away that filth on his finger

Burn the vows and fuck forgiveness

Love is dirty forbidden emotion

A sinful storm over the Pacific Ocean

I'll be your sacrifice tonight,

Tie me up in black and white

You're the only God and I'm ready to die

We've sinned and now we'll bleed

What a shame, rest in peace

For this sin there's no funeral bells

All our pure love can go to hell

Love is dirty forbidden emotion

A sinful storm to drown in the ocean

A sick unfair sacrifice tonight,

Bled away in black and white

We're unholy, someone had to die

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Plastic Kiss

The Pacific gutter's choking glitter

Painted blood red and dyed so bitter

A heap of bones to lie forever all alone

The perfect couple join hands and return home

You've had revenge and you can have him

Stab him in the back sealed with a plastic kiss

Tear back open the scars and hand him the blade

Don't forget a pretty photo of the blood he drains

Oh, dear saint don't you ever mind poor me

There's your welcome home complete with free disease

Serenades for her to stamp me forever insane

All that's left is warped wanderings of the brain

What a beautiful family! Ignore his scars and the gun,

Threatening suicide and a job so nearly done

Dreams of the widow with so much plastic pain,

Maybe when you're bored, put the bullet through his brain?

You've had revenge and you can have him

Count the dollar signs and leech off with a kiss

Forgotten glitter in the gutter with just a razor blade,

Please share a photo of all the blood he drains

Oh, dear saint don't you ever mind poor me

There's your welcome home complete with free disease

Serenades for her to stamp me forever insane

All that's left is warped wanderings of the brain

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Comments and constructive criticism are always appreciated! Especially since these are two I'm trying to improve. :) Don't be scared of telling me my lyrics suck, I don't bite or anything weird like that (even though the girl in these songs sounds like she does!).

I'm late but here's my recap of the Pittsburgh show. I already posted it in the thread but it was pretty much the best Green Day show ever so may as well post it here too!

We got to the venue around 7:30-8 and and were about 10th in line. It rained nearly all day and we had to go and dry off in the hotel a few times, but it was so worth it. The venue was super organized (which was a massive relief after Chicago) and we got on the barrier right in front of Billie. Waiting was exciting and I really enjoyed Best Coast. I recommend The Only Place and When I'm With You if you want to check them out.

The drunk bunny came along with Easter eggs, then it was time for Green Day and they sounded so fucking good. I'd seen the guy who got onstage in KYE in line, so it was nice to see him get up there even though I didn't speak to him. The new songs were great and it was so much fun rocking out to them all! Letterbomb is one of my favourite songs so it's always awesome to see that. Then they played Only of You and Christie Road! I have to admit that Christie Road is one of my least favourite GD songs but it was so good at this show. I really didn't mind that they hardly played any new songs despite how much I love the trilogy, because all of them were so good, exciting and like new. I could live without ever seeing Brain Stew or BOBD again but I really enjoyed both of them. Some people thought St. Jimmy would be no fun now Billie's sober, but not at all - it's probably even better. The band had so much energy and seemed stronger than ever, both musically and in general. Billie and Mike remembered us which was awesome too.

When Billie told the girl in Longview to stage dive, I could see that she was going to land right on top of me if she didn't jump far enough. Security were trying to get me to put my hands up so I ended up half protecting my head and half trying to catch her... and she didn't jump far enough. My head took her entire body weight, then her feet hit me in the face.

Blood everywhere. Security were fussing around me with ice and water, telling me my nose might be broken. My glasses were certainly broken. Everything was lopsided. One of the security guys gave me Mike's pick and a drumstick, saying they'd cheer me up.

I felt really dizzy, then about a minute into She everything went black. I thought I was asleep in my bed at home and couldn't understand why the dream I was having was so painful. After hallucinating for a while I finally woke up and found myself being carried off. At first I thought I was dreaming again and then I realised, um no I'm at a Green Day show in Pittsburgh and I just got knocked out. I still had the drumstick but I'd dropped Mike's pick.

My nose wasn't broken but I felt seriously shitty. My head was throbbing and I never really stopped feeling faint. I always wondered if anyone ever got knocked out by stage divers... now I know.

I watched the rest of the show in a daze, singing out of tune. It was nice to see Good Riddance again even though I couldn't really appreciate it. Brutal Love was incredible too! Then at the end of the show the band's security guy walked up to me with something and said "Mike wanted me to give you this."

"Really?!"

"Yes, really!"

It was the vest he'd been wearing at the last few shows. I couldn't believe it. They're such lovely people. Best souvenir ever!

This show really reminded me why I sold all my posessions and lost everything to follow the tour in 2010. All the songs I was sick of were exciting and different again. Not that I really saw KFAD because I was half unconscious but I even enjoyed what I saw of that, and didn't wish they'd cut it out of the set at all. I can't believe anyone would complain about the setlist because every song sounded fresh and amazing. I definitely had the time of my life.

528550_166197706872389_601264564_n.jpg

The waves gently lapped against the stone walls of the port, the endless blue ocean stretching out until it touched the tip of the horizon. A light sea breeze swept through the harbour. The cries of seagulls filled the air, and there was the echo of a loud horn as a train chugged to a stop at the station.

As people piled out the station began to fill with chatter; but the sound of the calm waves and the wind blowing in from the sea made the harbour seem as peaceful as ever.

A teenage girl was the last to step off the train. Her black hair was brushed back in a ponytail, curious blue eyes glowing. She was pretty, tall, thin; ordinary in her baggy black hoodie and jeans, yet unmissable; her atmosphere seemed to suffocate and contradict itself, she radiated confidence yet seemed an anxious figure shrunk behind inadequacy at the same time. She was travelling alone. Uncertainly she made her way through the station and out into the harbour. She looked around as she stepped down onto the steady stone pavement. An electric blue sky and bright sun blazed above. In the distance, past the famous bridge shining in the sunlight, a plane rumbled down to the airport. She took a deep breath and pulled out her map, wandering up stone steps into the city. The streets buzzed with voices and the din of everyday life; merchants bellowed from their colourful stalls, seagulls shrieked above, exhausts roared in the distance. She rubbed her eyes, exhausted; she’d travelled through the night. Comparing the bus stop in front of her to her map, she joined the long line of people waiting. She sighed. More travelling, more rumbling wheels. It felt like it’d never end, and didn’t help her nerves, either.

The bus that rolled up to the stop wasn’t what she was used to. It was clean, roomy and it didn’t even smell like takeouts. Remembering the buses back home and raising her eyebrows at the shiny leather seats, she sat down and spread out the map properly. She was here, at the harbour. As the bus rumbled back into life and rolled away, she traced her finger over from the harbour to the big X that marked her final destination. Western Secret Service Base.

Her nervous mouth spread finally into a big smile, anxiety jumbling itself with excitement and happiness. It was really happening. She was here, in Ocean Bay. She had been picked from her hundreds of fellow students at the National College of Defence, to join the selective western team of agents. She was going to meet her idol face-to-face, the man who would soon be her boss: Jason Gunn. Thinking about that made her stomach feel like it had done a backflip.

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Hi, I'm still alive. This is something I started to write years ago, but this is the first time I've shared it because although I like what I've written, I just don't know if the idea itself is stupid - with the character being a secret service agent, etc. It feels like it is, but I don't know if that's because it actually is, or just because we're taught that this kind of thing is "uncool". So, opinions if you have one, please! You don't need to write a big crit or anything, it'd just be great to know whether the idea seems stupid or not. Here's the rest of the first part.

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The doors of the Western Secret Service Base slid open. In stepped a startlingly young girl, nineteen years old at the most. She had a heavy western working-class accent.

“Um… hi. I’m Tara. Tara Blackmon.”

The friendly receptionist smiled, pressing a button on her phone.

“Jason, Tara’s here.”

Tara bit her lip. This would be like meeting a rock star – yet having to stay calm, because he was her boss. She felt sick with nerves, her heart pounding.

The lobby was spotless, tall navy blue walls stretching around the tiled floor. The gold WSS logo stared down at her from above the receptionist’s desk, green potted plants giving character to the serious room. There was a lift, a staircase, fire exit; and two more doors. She didn’t know where they led, but one must have been to the office.

She put her hands in her pockets, beginning to feel awkward; then there was a beep and the office door swung open. Out stepped a tall man, imposing yet not intimidating in his black uniform. His ruffled dark hair fell over his forehead, his bright blue eyes piercing but reassuring. He smiled, holding out his hand.

“Hey, Tara. I’m Jason Gunn. Great to finally meet you.”

She shook his hand, hoping that in the heat he wouldn’t notice how sweaty her palms were.

“Great to meet you too.” she managed to blurt out. “I must admit, I’m nervous. I, um, really admire you.”

She was embarrassed, but he just laughed and shook his head.

“Oh, God, don’t be nervous. No need. I admire anyone with the courage to take up these jobs.”

He was so modest. He spoke to her as if there was no reason she’d know who he was; not like he was a famous hero. She’d heard him speak on the TV, amplified by microphones and speakers, but in reality he sounded just like a regular man. He gestured to the office door.

“You wanna come through?”

She followed nervously as he swiped his ID and followed him through. She didn’t know what to expect, and felt a little thrill when she wandered in.

There were about twenty desks, surrounded by glass screens in two rows of five, then one big desk at the end. Behind it was a massive screen showing a map of the country; underneath, keyboards and buttons that she had hastily been taught to understand. She grinned. Her workplace. The Western Secret Service Base.

Hands in pockets and humming, Jason led her over to the big desk. She’d thought the office was empty, but at the end of the left row someone was tapping away on their computer. One of her colleagues. As she walked past, he looked up.

He had a mop of blond hair, green eyes ambitious and glowing. He smiled, handsome face maybe a little nervous.

“Hey. You must be Tara.”

He got up and shook her hand.

“I’m Riley.”

Wearing the black uniform, he had a shirt, jumper, trousers and big boots, all in black. Clipped to his jumper was a pair of sunglasses. He stood with his hands in his pocket.

“Welcome. We’re gonna be working together. I’ll be your partner when you’re not working alone.”

“Oh! Well, great to meet you, Riley. You already know I’m Tara.”

Jason patted them both on the back. In his hand he now held a package, and a shiny new uniform.

“Well, Tara. You’re now a part of the team. I’m entrusting you with this.”

He placed the package and uniform in her arms. She stared, her head spinning.

“That’s the summer female uniform. In that packet you’ll find your new ID card and a phone. It’s nothing that snazzy anymore in this modern age, but it’s tailored specifically for this job. You’ll also find keys, which are for your shiny new car. Now, you’ve only just arrived in Ocean Bay, so I’m not going to make you work immediately. Go check out your flat. Riley will go with you for directions.”

Riley nodded.

“I even get the morning off, see. Great.”

Tara laughed, feeling overwhelmed. Jason pulled a document from the desk drawer and passed her a pen.

“You’ve already filled this out, but before you go – just sign here, please.”

She scribbled down her confused signature. It was her initials, but they were distorted, as if trying to become something else, break away from the chains that tied her to her muddled identity. Jason took her passport, qualification certificates and other documents to photocopy while she was out.

As she strolled out to the garages with Riley, she opened the package and slid on her shiny new ID. It was really happening.

The flat smelled heavily of fresh paint. Tara stepped in, footsteps echoing on the wooden floorboards. She stared around at the bright white walls. It was small, with an adjacent kitchen and two little rooms leading off to a bedroom and bathroom, but it was better than anything that she’d known – and she’d paid for it herself. There would be no more borrowing from her twisted foster parents… no more of the man she’d once called her fiancé.

Her cheap new furniture was scattered everywhere; all she had of her old possessions was a suitcase and a small box. Riley smiled to himself.

“God, you’ve got a lot less junk than me. I had millions of boxes. Took me weeks to unpack it all.”

Tara didn’t really know what to say. She was already beginning to feel that she could trust Riley, but she knew only distrust and hostility. He’d just made a friendly comment, but it dug up the reasons for her lack of possessions and made her flinch. She didn’t really want to talk about it… then something occurred to her. She turned to him, feeling suddenly intrigued.

“You’re not from here?”

He shook his head.

“No, I’m from way down south, a little town in the middle of nowhere. You melt in the summer and freeze in the winter.”

Well, that explained his accent. She wanted to ask why, then, hadn’t he joined the southern service… but she realised that question could unwittingly make him uncomfortable, like his had with her.

She shut herself in the bathroom to get changed into her new uniform; then finally she turned to the mirror and looked at her new self.

It wasn’t a perfect fit, but she smiled. She looked taller, somehow, in her black blouse and shorts, with the shiny ID around her neck and the utility belt at her waist.

She looked different.

She wasn’t the working-class nobody from the slums anymore.

This was a new beginning.

The office was buzzing with chatter when they returned. Five of the other agents were clustered around Jason’s big desk. Tara felt the full force of their stares when voices trailed off and they all turned to look at her.

Most of them were smiling, looking friendly… but she knew that they were all surveying her, processing their first impressions of her. Flinching at how young she looked. Riley was only twenty-three… but Tara was nineteen and the first person under twenty-one to ever make it here. She was more than aware that she might not be accepted quite so easily.

“Alright, guys.” Jason announced. “This is our newest agent that you’ve heard so much about – Tara Blackmon.”

They all introduced themselves and shook her hand. There was Summer, with fiery red hair and hazel eyes; tall, chubby Vincent from a little village she’d never heard of; Aaron, who had short dark hair; short little Lily with her long brown hair, who was actually the oldest.

And then there was the blonde girl still leaning against the desk, staring out of the window and ignoring Tara. They hadn’t even spoken… but the tension between them was already clear.

“Who’s that?” Tara asked Riley. “The one over there.”

Riley shook his head, looking a little awkward.

“Oh, that’s Sapphire. She’s not always… the easiest person to get on with. You’ll get used to her, I guess, but… I don’t think her attitude right now is a particularly good sign for your relationship.”

Eventually Jason nudged her and she stood up, turning to Tara. She was tall and striking, her wavy blonde hair falling past her shoulders and blue eyes unfathomable. Her expression neutral but for the indifference she seemed to wear permanently, she trudged over to Tara, hands in her pockets.

“You’re Tara. I see. My name is Sapphire. Good to meet you, I suppose.”

Her accent was heavily upper-class; overall she seemed elegant and self-conscious. Tara felt suddenly scruffy and insignificant, a scrawny vagrant next to a perfect rich girl.

“Well, nice to meet you too.”

As she sat down at her desk, her past suddenly seemed all too real again; she felt out of place here, like she could never fulfil anybody’s expectations. But as Sapphire waltzed back to her desk, radiating confidence, one little part of Tara screamed the opposite.

She could do better. She would do better. She’d show everyone that a poor kid from the slums was worth just as much as any rich girl from the big city.

That was why she was here… because she was worth something.

California Sunshine

Sitting on the shore

Where the ocean's never bored

Confused mind criss-crossed with border lines

He's my California sunshine

Awake at West Coast midnight

A little boy with frightened eyes

Red lipstick kiss for scarred wrists

That's my California sunshine

From Birmingham suburbs to Irvine

He's my California sunshine

Now he knows it's not too late

Broken serenades and razor blades

Confused mind criss-crossed with border lines

That's my California sunshine

Waiting for me in New York

We used to sit up all night and talk

Then he'd cuddle me so tight

That's my California sunshine

From Birmingham suburbs to Irvine

He's my California sunshine

My California sunshine,

Where do you think he's going?

He needs someone to save him

Let me be the one who saves him

I'm the only one left to save him

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I love comments and especially constructive criticism! Don't be scared of telling me you don't like something, I don't bite or anything.

It's finally time for Matt to go on tour and leave Azura behind. Amidst a naive decision to stop drinking, an unexpected visit and a party from hell, Matt becomes a recluse whilst his sparkling public image rockets higher and higher into fame. Can he still handle the profession that once meant everything to him?

So yep, here's chapter four. Enjoy!

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Packing at eight in the morning with a hangover was not a good idea.

He has wardrobe staff to deal with his stage clothes. His manager sorts out things like toothpaste and hair products. But unless he wants to smell like sweat all the time, he does actually need something to wear when he isn’t onstage. He’s in such a head-throbbing and vomiting slumber that he’s probably put some of Alison’s clothes in there. Bah, why didn’t he do this days ago?

Finally he zips up his bag and staggers into the elevator, but he’s forgotten his phone charger. Does he really need it…? Probably. He’d better go back…

“You look terrible.” his chauffer comments when he collapses into the car. “I’ve been waiting for over an hour, you know.”

“Sorry.”

“Let’s just get you to the airport before your manager takes it out on me.”

He’s greeted by at the airport by a long line of glaring band members and crew… and masses of rabid fans screaming and whipping their cameras out.

His bodyguard Liam rushes over to him, keeping the fans away until they’re blocked off by a barrier. A few really crazy ones try to crawl under it, and a bra flies at him from somewhere, but the airport security deal with them.

It’s eight hours to Berlin… this is going to be a long journey.

Matt tries to sleep on the plane, but they’re flying through a storm and the turbulence is bad. There’s a press conference a few hours after he lands and he’s going to be a horrible mess. This is not a good start to the tour. Does he need to stop drinking?

Right, he’s decided. He’s not going to drink for the rest of it. This isn’t the person he wants to be.

When they finally land in Berlin there’s fans and paparazzi waiting there too. He’s quickly whisked to a small room so they don’t even get close to him, but plenty of them have taken photos and he knows he looks like shit. Blah…

Then there’s a problem with his passport, and his bassist is dragged off to be searched. Poor guy, it’s only his second tour with Matt. He’ll be walking like he’s just got off a horse for a while.

There’s only time to brush his hair when he gets to the hotel. It doesn’t make much difference. He puts on sunglasses and a hat in the hope that they’ll cover up quite how awful he looks.

Now it’s time for the press conference. Cameras are flashing everywhere, people are screaming and throwing things. Matt wants to yell “fuck off!” and go to sleep… he struggles to even initiate robot mode today.

He just wants to go to bed when it’s over, but his promotional people are still bustling around everywhere, asking him to do things…

“Matt, could you post something on Facebook about arriving in Germany? We’re also thinking about getting you to create an Instagram-”

Instagram? What am I supposed to post on there, dick photos?”

“Anything, man, everyone’s doing it these days and fans love it. You’re reaching a bigger audience that way.”

When he turns his back Matt scowls and gives him the finger. What are they going to do if he refuses? End his contract? He wouldn’t mind that so much.

Even so, he goes to bed and posts on Facebook that he loves Germany. Tweets that he’s so excited to be in Europe. He makes an Instagram, finds an ugly photo of Alison and posts it, saying that he misses her already.

Blah.

The next day is different, though. There’s still something about rehearsing, half-dead with jetlag, knowing he’s going to go on stage later… Matt still loves that. He’s got past the first day of unrelated bullshit, and it feels like the tour is actually starting now.

The first show is incredible, too. He does genuinely love German crowds, they have so much energy. It’s that feeling of being reunited with a long-lost lover all over again, tenfold. This reminds him exactly why he endures all the bullshit. He tells the crowd ich liebe dich and danke shoen over and over. They sing and scream and dance, and he strolls offstage a happy man.

He feels a little pathetic about his attitude the day before.

Somehow he manages to drag himself away from the afterparty before he can get drunk. He signs autographs for the few fans still waiting outside, goes back to his hotel room and watches a bad movie; he falls asleep halfway through.

There’s no early start the next day – their flight to Barcelona is in the afternoon and there’s no press shit until they get there, thank God – so he finally manages to sleep off some of the jetlag. The interviews when they get to Spain aren’t that bad. He’s actually finding Instagram strangely addictive, and snaps a few photos of the city to post on there.

There’s some celebrity party he’s been invited to, but he’s still determined not to drink the tour away into misery. Not worth the risk and he hates those damn things, anyway. He wanders out to the beach when it gets dark instead.

The tourists have mostly disappeared and he’s one of the only people around. He looks up at the moon and glittering stars, listens to the gentle rocking of the waves. Once upon a time this scene would have meant something to him… now he’s indifferent to it, really. It’s just another place. Another shore, another starry night.

He sits there for a while, though, suddenly finding himself questioning his life, his past, where he is now. Is this really what he wanted? Should he have tried harder with his biological mother? Would he be happier if he’d married someone else? He wants kids…

He realises that he feels old and worn out, and that his life has been a pointless series of mistakes. Like Alison always says… he’s a mistake, one his parents have forgotten they even made.

At least there’s another show tomorrow.

Lisbon. Rome. Prague. Stockholm. The tour crashes through Europe like a travelling circus. The first signs of bickering between the band and crew begin to show their ugly faces. They all get on well – they’re not like those bands who all hate each other – but lots of men constantly on buses, planes and in hotels together rarely goes smoothly.

Matt turns away from it all, lurking in his room and writing songs when he isn’t busy; pretending to be asleep when he shares his bus with Blake. He’s got excuses for when they want to go out and party. He talks more bullshit than ever in the interviews, puts his heart and soul into the shows; even the TV appearances. At least he means the crap he’s posting on Facebook and Twitter.

The headlines are all praising him. Matt Grant’s at the peak of his career. Matt Grant is better than ever. Matt Grant is reviving rock music…

He’s in London when things begin to fall apart. Every English accent sounds like Azura… suddenly her face is haunting him more than ever. Lazy dreaming morphs into unbearable sexual frustration and the feeling that his heart has gone missing.

Then he gets to his hotel room and finds Alison sitting on the bed, shopping bags scattered everywhere.

“Surprise!”

The shopping bags perfectly express why she’s here. That and him being more famous than ever. He always finds that he becomes more attractive to her when he’s doing well. Ugh…

“What are you doing here?”

“I miss you, what do you think? I know I don’t appreciate you enough when you’re there. I’m sorry. There’s a piece of me missing without you.”

“What exactly do you want, Alison?”

“I want to be with my husband.”

What does she have to gain from this? He stopped loving her years ago. She’s never going to change…

“It’s never too late to try again, Matt. Why don’t we try to fix things? I’m getting older and all I want is my husband back. The man I fell in love with. I still love him… I wish I’d realised that sooner.”

She snuffles and a tear rolls down her face. It seems genuine… he’s beginning to wonder if she is telling the truth. He sits down beside her, passing her a tissue.

“Look, Al… we’ve already tried. You married the wrong guy, there’s nothing else to say. I’ll always be that dumb adopted kid you had beaten up in high school… the dude the prom queen only dated because her ex dumped her.”

“No. The prom queen dated you because she loved you. She married you because she loved you. You’re more than the dumb adopted kid to me – the whole world knows you’re more than that.”

Matt’s strength is waning. He hasn’t had sex for months…

“Well, love isn’t enough, then. We’ve been married for nearly twenty-one years. If it was going to work, it would have done already.”

“Give me another chance, Matt.”

He should never have sat next to her… she can reach him from there. She kisses him and that’s it, another damn mistake to add to the long list.

Afterwards she convinces him to go sightseeing with her, grinning and burbling about how happy she is. She takes countless photos of them together, posts them on every social networking site she has an account on. Fans recognize them and ask for photos with both of them, even Alison separately. She stands stageside and cheers, takes photos of him at the show that night; she even wants to have sex again when they get back to the hotel.

He forces himself to refuse, though. Even if Alison does suddenly mean all of this… he doesn’t love her anymore. She’s hurt him one too many times. He loves another woman and fuck, he feels like he’s cheated on her.

The worst part is that Azura probably couldn’t care less… and it still feels like shit when he realises that Alison was lying.

Once they’ve been to Paris and she’s been shopping and sightseeing, she says she’s going home.

“Why?”

“I’m not really interested in seeing Glasgow or Dublin. And my friends are still in London.”

“I thought you wanted to be with your husband?”

“I did… but you always disappoint me, Matt. You’re a shadow of your former self. I always think I’ll try again with you, but I’m silly, aren’t I? I’m sick of hearing your new songs, anyway. They’re shit.”

“At least I’m not surprised that you’re a vile bitch at this point.”

“Ugh. You’re abusive, too. And so ungrateful. I offered to have sex with you – yes, you so damn fat with your cigarette breath – three times and you refused.”

Fat. He’s twenty pounds underweight.

She rams the last Chanel bag into her suitcase, zips it up and storms out of the room. The press and all the social networking sites are soon flooded with praise for Alison, fans wailing at how perfect they are, setting up Alison fansites. She’s suddenly drowning in attention; and ugh, he knows she’s loving it. That explains why she took so many photos of them together.

Some paparazzi caught her when she arrived back in New York, and he sees her stupid distressed face glaring from the TV and sobbing that she misses Matt so much already.

The tour he was enjoying has turned into the tour from hell.

They were supposed to have a day off in Glasgow, but there’s suddenly a call from some Portuguese festival begging him to fill in for a band who’ve cancelled.

“C’mon, Matt.” his tour manager pleads. “They’re saying they’ll pay us extra. You only need to play a couple of hours.”

Is a show better than a day doing nothing in Glasgow, where he’ll sit around missing Azura and hating Alison? Yes.

He’s back on the plane to Lisbon, on a bus to some remote Portuguese town that smells of fish. It’s only a few hours until they’re supposed to be onstage. They rehearse all the singles a few times; the crowd might not know the rest.

Someone once told Matt that playing a show is like having sex. Both people have to give as much as they take – in whatever way that is – or it’s shit for one of them. That definitely comes back to him tonight. He’s trying to play his heart out but the crowd won’t give anything back. They’re all just standing there. Some of them aren’t even watching, they’re just looking at their phones. He tries telling them to dance but they won’t even sing, let alone actually move.

It isn’t just him, he chats with another band at the afterparty and they say the crowd was like that all day. Then he finds out that Blake has injured his arm, he might not be able to play tomorrow. Blah. He needs alcohol or whatever else is on offer, fuck his health.

The afterparty stretches into the early hours of the morning. At one point Matt looks around, stoned out of his mind; he vaguely registers a bunch of naked girls and a straggle of musicians in a corner. Some other guy – he thinks it’s one of his crew – lurches in. A girl in just panties beckons to him, pulls at his arm when he doesn’t move. …Does he really want to have an orgy? Eventually he stumbles off in his cocaine-induced haze, drinks another beer and passes out.

He wakes up with a bra on his head. Hopefully the owner has left already because he immediately vomits on it. Eventually a voice floats down to him.

“Come on, Matt.”

Entire body aching, he weakly glances up. It’s his bodyguard. He feels pathetic but he lets him pick him up, carry him off to an expectant car. At least he’s not the only one… except that other guy is being dragged instead.

Matt, and his wasted crew who are possibly still involved in some orgy from hell, have a flight to Glasgow and a show to play in less than twenty-four hours.

There’s nothing desirable about the life of a rock star.

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Thank you for reading! Please let me know if you enjoyed it - or if you thought it was shit! Constructive criticism is awesome, especially because this is pretty much a first draft. I won't shout at you for thinking I suck.

This is a song that's been stuck at verse two for a while, and I just finished it today. It's not actually about a real person but a character started to develop, so I tried to make her come across as human rather than a distant metaphor.

Anorexia Nervosa

Don't you wanna be like the girl on the TV?

Like a third-world baby going hungry

A magazine spread at a perfect size

A feast of bones for the reader's eyes

The catwalk's swallowing her up

Rotting bones in diamond studs

A lost soul that no-one really knows

She's lost the fire in her eyes,

Now she's the perfect size

Pretty dresses hid a broken home

Daddy called her fat and left mama alone

Running from sirens before they save her fall

Secrets between her and the bathroom stall

Her beauty's in a box with a tragic curse

Stumbling to her death in the tiniest skirt

The catwalk's swallowing her up

Rotting bones in diamond studs

A lost soul that no-one really knows

She's lost the fire in her eyes,

Now she's the perfect size

Five foot seven, eighty-five pounds

Designer clothes fall to the ground

Did you hear about that model who starved herself?

Maybe she won't be so hungry in hell

The catwalk swallowed her up,

Complete with diamond studs

A lost soul no-one could really know

She gave her life

To be the perfect size

Another girl gave her life

To be the perfect size

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Constructive criticism and comments are awesome if you have any! I can't improve if I don't know that I suck. ;)

I'd just like to add as well that I know men (and other genders) also suffer with anorexia. Originally the second verse was about a male character and the song was more about anorexia in general, but I went with getting "closer" to just one character instead.

Had this sitting around on my computer for a while so I thought I might as well post it! You can read the previous chapters here.

The promotion seems to drag on forever. Questions buzz around like angry flies in Matt’s head, whether someone is actually talking to him or not. He goes to events and people thrust microphones at him from all directions. He operates like a robot, signing autographs and letting his bodyguard keep the press – well, the uninvited ones – away from him. With his touring band, he rehearses every other day in preparation for the tour.

The amount of attention makes it a lot harder for him to just go to the store, but that’s the one thing that keeps him going right now.

He’s figured it out, the only days Azura doesn’t work – as long as she doesn’t disappear again – are Friday and Saturday. Even if he doesn’t buy anything he hangs around outside, just stares at her for a while. He can fantasize, at least.

Tonight it’s finally time for the first show, at a tiny venue where scalpers buy tickets and sell them for $800 each. He does feel excited about it; although a little nervous, too. Alison chats away to a group of fans who won all-access passes, flirts with his guitar tech. The fans ask for autographs and photos. His band are all going through their pre-show rituals, rehearsing one last time. Soundcheck. Ah. All the signs of a show about to begin.

It’s a great show, too. His new album was very well-received by the critics and the fans seem to love the new songs as well. The voices all crammed into the four hundred-capacity room sound as loud as the stadium crowds. Playing again is like being reunited with a lost lover.

If only Alison would smile at him at home like she does when he’s onstage.

“You guys think my wife is really admiring me or is it actually Tony, my guitar tech?”

He says it in good humour and the crowd don’t think anything of it… but he’s just bought a guarantee for a night on the couch.

A more uncomfortable night on the couch than ever. He’s not as young as he used to be. His throat is sore, his legs hurt from running around; his whole damn body hurts and he smells like shit, but he doesn’t have the energy to shower. Not if he can’t get into a warm and comfortable bed afterwards.

Well, he’s flying to Europe in a few days. Far away from Alison… far away from Azura.

Matt feels like all his bones are broken the next morning. This really doesn’t bode well for the tour. Fuck, does he have to start going to the gym or something like that? He used to jog to stay in shape but he’s at the peak of fame right now, he can hardly run two blocks without getting stopped for an autograph. The thought of paparazzi shots of him looking smelly in a tracksuit doesn’t appeal to him much, either. He considers finally leaving NYC, but it’s never been this bad before; maybe things will settle down when the tour is over.

The tour. He’s always so desperate to get back on the road, no matter how much home appeals to him by the end, but for the first time there’s something holding him back. His heart is in New York, in some damn drug store with a girl who doesn’t even seem to like him.

She probably won’t even notice that he’s gone.

Ugh. He should do something about it, before he leaves. Imagine if he could dream of a girlfriend back home, not just a fantasy… he needs to speak to her privately, but how the hell is he going to do that?

Well, the current image can go for a start. He goes to his hair stylist and asks her to dye his hair black and blue. There. He looks nothing like the Matt Grant on the billboard outside now.

Nobody seems to recognize him but still, he doesn’t really feel he can start talking to Azura on the street. He waits for her to leave work and tries to figure out which way she goes; she gets on a bus. Damn. Oh well, here goes nothing…

It’s so long since he last caught a bus. The driver looks curious but doesn’t say anything, thank God. He immediately darts to a seat far from Azura and hides his face behind a newspaper.

It just has to fill up at the next stop, doesn’t it?

A young girl with bright green hair sits next to him. She stares at him for a while and he’s sure she’s going to say…

“Nice hair.”

“…Oh. Thanks. Yours looks good, too.”

“Thanks!”

She folds her arms and stares out of the window for a while; then suddenly she turns back to him.

“You look just like Matt Grant when he was younger. I bet you get that all the time.”

“Oh… yeah. Yeah, I do. Ha ha.”

“Have you heard his new album? It’s really good.”

“It’s not bad.”

“You can’t beat his old stuff, though. I love Adopted Lullaby. One of the best albums of all time.”

Well, next time some journalist asks about his strange experiences, he can now say that he’s chatted about his own music – pretending he’s a fan – on a smelly public bus.

The girl actually gives him her number and address. She’s very pretty and he’s flattered that she seems to like him despite his age, without knowing he’s a rock star. He isn’t interested, though, so it’s not as if it really matters; but he wonders how quickly that attitude would shift if the girl realised who he is. He’d suddenly be this alien God and she’d become the unreachable worshipper at his feet.

Well, he still sort of enjoyed talking to her. It was nice to feel detached from the sparkly image of Matt Grant for the first time in years. He makes a note to send her some tickets to his Madison Square Garden show when he gets back home.

Soon his mind is elsewhere.

Azura gets off the bus outside a dirty apartment block; squat and unwelcoming, unlike the soaring skyscraper he calls home. A second-floor window flies open and a man sticks his head out, holding a cigarette.

“Oi, Azura. Can you get some beer before you come up?”

She rolls her eyes. “I’ve been at work all day, get it yourself.”

Suddenly the man gasps, dropping his cigarette.

“Bloody hell, it’s Matt Grant!”

Fuck my life, fuck it over and over and over again. Fuck God and Satan and everything in between. I hate everything.

Azura slowly turns round to look at him, pretty face bewildered. Matt desperately wills the earth to open and swallow him up.

“Oh… Matt.”

Oh, hi Azura, I just followed you home. Is that your boyfriend? Because if it is, please wait a moment while I rip off his head. For various reasons.

“Hello, I was just on my way to the club.”

Well, first time I didn’t sound convincing saying that.

“Look, mate, I am an absolutely massive fan,” the man at the window shouts – just yell it loud enough for the whole state to hear, why don’t you? – “Any chance you could wait for a minute while I run down there? Love the new hair.”

For a moment Matt glares at him, realising from the accent that he probably is Azura’s boyfriend; but damn, he can’t embarrass himself any more than he already has. He puts on his fakest smile and says that’s fine.

Azura uncertainly unlocks the door, and a moment later the skinny English man bursts out in a vest and boxers.

“Sorry about the attire, mate. Got this for you to sign! Here’s a pen.”

This smelly English guy in his damn underwear clearly has no idea how hard I’m fighting with the urge to snatch his damn vinyl record, sharpen the edge and slice his head off with it.

Matt takes his sharpie. “What’s your name?”

“Ali, mate.”

“Alright. Here you go, Ali. Thank you for being such a big fan.”

“Aw, you’re welcome! Thank you, mate.”

Unsure where he’s even going, Matt quickly scurries away; partly because he’s horribly embarrassed and partly because of what he wrote on the record…

“Guess who we just met!”

Ali bursts back into the apartment, followed by an uncomfortable Azura. Amy and Sharon, her other roommates, glance up at them, looking intrigued.

“Who?”

“Matt Grant!”

“Oh my God!” Amy squeals. “Oh my God, you’re kidding me! Azura, come here, tell me all about it.”

She grabs her arm and pulls her down onto the couch, her eyes wide. If they knew that she’d danced with Matt Grant at that club… it’s a miracle that it didn’t somehow end up on the Internet, but thank God for that.

“What was he like?”

“He signed my record!” Ali bellows, giving it to Azura to hold. “He thanked me for being such a big fan!”

She sighs. “He’s just a guy. Normal like us.”

“No way. He’s so hot.” Sharon drawls, rolling her heavily outlined eyes. “You know I hate rock music but his looks make up for that. He is so not just normal.

“Wonder what he was doing round ’ere?” Ali says, grabbing a beer from the fridge and sitting down. “Bit shitty for a bloody millionaire like him, eh? I wish I was him, he’s loaded. All the girls love him.”

Feeling awkward, Azura is about to go to bed early when her eyes suddenly fall on the record… and what Matt wrote.

Dear Ali,

Fuck you, mate.

“Erm… Ali, have you realised what this actually says?”

“What?” he grunts, snatching it out of her hands. He looks at it and blinks bewilderedly. “Uh? What’s that all about?”

Amy sees it and hoots with laughter. “He obviously didn’t like you very much!”

“It can’t have been him. I knew his hair wasn’t like that. It was just some bloody lookalike and now he’s ruined my record!”

Even Azura can’t help sniggering at that, although when she goes to bed she’s left alone with knowing exactly why he was here. Her.

Why?

Eventually Ali crashes into bed and falls fast asleep. He’s going back to England tomorrow and he can’t even be bothered to make the most of tonight. He was more interested in talking to Sharon.

He’s just become a distant memory, four thousand miles away. Even when he’s here, he’s still just a memory; the old Ali seems forever left in England. Going nowhere, just like living in New York was. She’d been forced to move far from her crazy brother, rather than it being a choice, but she was still excited about it. She had family here who said they’d help her, but they dropped her once she got her Green Card. Thankfully she’d made friends with Amy, who was happy to leave home and share the apartment with her; but they couldn’t afford the bills alone. They didn’t really know Sharon, but they were desperate and she was willing, so they invited her.

Now Azura’s dreams have gone no further than the drug store, grounded in a dirty apartment with one roommate she actually hates.

At least I’m not famous like Matt Grant.

Embarrassed or not, Matt has to see her one last time before he leaves. Just one last time. He doesn’t have to speak to her…

He hears the door open again behind him as he heads for the elevator. Fuck, what does Alison want?

“What?”

“Better go out with you, hadn’t I? It’ll look bad if we’re not together the day before you leave.”

Well, she’s sort of got a point, and a year ago Matt might have been grateful for it. But when she slips her hand into his as they step into the elevator, he feels like accidentally pushing her into the road.

It’s not just about Azura. Alison has forced her hair into her stupid unmistakeable beehive – or put a fake one on, whatever it is she does – and she’s wearing a baggy bright yellow dress. Everything about her screams “it’s Matt Grant’s wife if you haven’t noticed!” which completely counters his efforts to not look like Matt Grant. He questions how he ever found this person attractive.

“Look, Alison, can you get rid of the beehive thing? We’re only going to the store. I don’t want to sign autographs.”

“Why?” she exclaims, looking wounded. “I’m only expressing myself.”

“It’s just that your hair really draws attention to-”

“That’s not my fault.”

It’s all hopeless, as usual. Well, it’s alright for her, isn’t it? She laps up all the attention and then she doesn’t have to deal with the rest of it. Story of their lives.

He’s sure he’ll be able to get away from her once they get to the store but no, she won’t let go of him. Shit. Stupid overdressed wife on his arm is not what he wants Azura to see.

“Oh, they don’t have what I want. Let’s just go back home.”

“Alright.” Alison says, looking around. “I’m just going to get a drink.”

Fuck.

It’s too late. Matt prays they get that other assistant, Charlie or whatever his name is, but what difference does it make? She’ll still see them.

Of course, it’s not even him, they just have to get Azura.

She frowns at Alison’s hair and doesn’t say a word to either of them. Matt wants to speak to her but Alison immediately strides away, dragging him with her. She tuts and raises her voice more than loud enough for Azura to hear.

“That girl was so rude, little slut.”

Matt stops walking, grabs Alison’s arm. “Shut up.”

She glares at him, her face finally contorting into a scowl.

“What did you just say?”

“I said shut up, you jealous old bitch. That girl’s ten times what you’ll ever be.”

Her eyes widen in disbelief. Someone is staring at them.

“We’re in public.” she hisses. “What do you think you’re doing?!”

“We’ll talk outside, then.”

“We’ll talk when we get home.”

At least Alison walks off without him when they get outside. Pfft, he’ll just stay out and get drunk later, he can pack in the morning. Fuck everything.

“Matt!”

He glances over his shoulder. Oh God, it’s Azura. He wants to hug her and take her home, never go back to stupid Alison and her damn beehive…

“Azura, I’m really s-”

“Thank you for standing up for me. That was really considerate of you.”

He smiles awkwardly, sort of feels relieved. “Sure.”

“See you around.”

“Well-”

She’s about to go back into the store but she freezes, looking at him expectantly. He takes a deep breath.

“I’m going on tour tomorrow. So, well, I won’t really… see you around. For a while.”

“Oh, okay. See you when you come back, then.”

I’ll miss you, I hardly know you but I love you, hell, I want you to come with me on the damn tour

He doesn’t say any of the things his heart is screaming. He just smiles and says he’ll look forward to it. Then she does walk away, disappears for what might be the hardest six months of his life.

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I've only proof-read and tweaked this chapter once so far, so it might not be entirely perfect. Comments and especially constructive criticism are always welcome! I won't freak out if you point out what's wrong with it, I promise. That's exactly what a writer needs :)

British English tends to creep in there when Matt is supposed to be American (you can see why I made Azura English! No confusion that way...) so please feel free to point that out too, if you notice it anywhere.

¡Dos!

By Maria Gloria,

Here's my ¡Dos! "visual review" like the ¡Uno! one I made, basically just my interpretation of each song as a picture.

See You Tonight

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Fuck Time

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Stop When the Red Lights Flash

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Lazy Bones

RioRs.jpg

Wild One

ti1Jm.jpg

Makeout Party

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Stray Heart

t8RHk.jpg

Ashley

UE4Wx.jpg

Baby Eyes

AdBqF.jpg

Lady Cobra

2pAap.jpg

Nightlife

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Wow! That's Loud

LueQl.jpg

Amy

eSq24.jpg

Again I wanted to use all my own work but had to use Billie for Lazy Bones and Baby Eyes as I didn't have a male model (willing to show his face). The razor blades on Wild One and bullet holes on Baby Eyes came off Google. Thanks Google.

Sorry for the totally hideous watermarks, there's always someone out there who reposts them without credit otherwise.

All interpretation is personal of course. Here's my written review if you're interested in that: http://www.greendaycommunity.org/blog/127/entry-1083-uno-and-dos-reviews/

Ageism

By Maria Gloria,

"You're white and your boyfriend is black, that's gross."

Saying that isn't okay, because it's racist, insulting and downright stupid. Homophobia, transphobia, all of those things are disgusting too. Gender, race, sexual orientation... this stuff has nothing to do with love. Insulting or seeing a couple differently because of any of those things is wrong.

Yet it's perfectly acceptable say "eww, he's old enough to be your dad!"

You probably didn't even think anything when you read that. But it's actually just as insulting as saying "eww, your boyfriend is black".

There's an argument that ageism is okay because you grow out of it. You don't, though. You grow up and still brand that middle-aged guy's 19 year-old girlfriend a golddigger. You still judge the guy himself, joke that he's a pedo, or that he's taking advantage of the girl. A lot of people still don't consider standing up for elderly people on the bus. Even if some people do grow out of it, how does that make it okay? If you grew out of racism it'd still be ridiculous and unacceptable.

Just because you think an age gap in a relationship is gross or wrong doesn't mean that it is. Maybe your friend's niece was immature, her older boyfriend took advantage of her. Maybe a lot of young people making those decisions were naive, they didn't know what they wanted. It doesn't mean that's true for everyone. It certainly doesn't mean that everyone else should have to suffer ageism just because there's some dickheads out there.

There's a lot of young girls marrying older guys for money, but there's also a lot of older girls marrying guys for money. It's equally common, just not seen in the same way. As with all stereotypes, most of the ageism ones aren't even true when you shrug off your prejudices and look at it realistically.

Of course ageism isn't just about relationships. It's about anyone who's affected by it, how old people are thrown into care homes and ignored, how young people are treated with less respect just because of their age. It works in reverse in relationships, when someone really does cast off their partner because they're old or young.

None of this is acceptable. It's as bad as any other prejudice.

It's human nature to judge people, we all do it. But you don't walk up to someone and tell them how ugly they are (unless you're a complete twat). So nor do you judge someone for anything age-related - at least not out loud.

A lot of you probably know that I'm 18 and engaged to a guy who, yes, is more than old enough to be my dad. I've been a money-grabber, whore, husband-seducer, naive kid, you name it. He's had it too; pedo, kiddie-fiddler, too old for that, throwing away his wife for a younger model... we've heard all of them and none of them are actually true. I couldn't care less about his money, his ex-wife's taking it all anyway. I certainly didn't seduce him and unless there's something he's not telling me, he's not a pedo. We're just two normal people in love. This isn't about us, though, it's about everyone. There are lots of couples like us and we all have to put up with that. We shouldn't have to be insulted like that. We shouldn't have to listen to snarky people telling us our marriages will fail. Nor does anyone deserve to be treated differently because of anything age-related.

We can't stop racism, homophobia, transphobia. We can't stop ageism either. But we can stop treating it as something totally acceptable. Please think next time you say "old enough to be your dad" in a negative way, or you joke that someone's a pedo. Stand up for an elderly lady on the bus. Make someone on GDC aware that they're being ageist if they make one of those comments. You might think those things are nothing but they aren't. Just like you can (and should) help people who have to deal with other prejudices, consider helping people who have to deal with ageism, too.

Here's my Tré review/commentary. You can find my Uno and Dos ones here, if you want to follow my interpretation of the "story". As usual I'm not trying to imply anything about Billie himself, unless I mention him - these interpretations are all personal. :)

Tré opens with Brutal Love. The song is everything the title promises; it's brutal, it tears your heart out like you're feeling what Billie's feeling. I love it.

In context of the story, the metaphorical "party" of Dos is over and the couple are left with the wreckage; the consequences of their lust-driven actions, and the uninvited evolution of their relationship. The narrator doesn't seem to have had much luck with love in the past, and he's almost scared to continue chasing the one he still "can't have"; but he accepts that he's brutally in love with this new woman, despite the pain it's causing him.

He stresses that again in Missing You, realising that something is missing now she's gone and he's not complete without her. He's remembering, and asking her to remember too, the first time he said he loved her at the bus station; and promising her that it's not over yet. Although it might seem a little average on a first listen, with a killer bass solo and some simple but sweet lyrics, there's not much to dislike about this song.

8th Avenue Serenade is one of my two favourite songs from the album. The lyrics are beautiful and there's something so sweet about it. It's called a serenade and it really feels like one.

It seems that the narrator and his new love are reunited again. There's something that almost feels frantic and desperate about it, too, as if there's something to prove by meeting at the bathroom stall or Whispering Wall (which is a space at Grand Central Terminal where two people can stand at opposite sides of the room, and still hear what they're whispering). Maybe this is the stepping stone to the next stage of their relationship, evolving into far more than the lust of Dos.

Drama Queen has evolved from a simple song that was meant for 21st Century Breakdown, into a beautiful ballad with piano and electric guitar. They suit it perfectly. Billie has mentioned it's about celebrity life, but it could also fit into the story here, as a simple reference to the female character; stressing her young age again.

The album swerves away from love and into other aspects of life in X-Kid. Billie has explained this one too, as being about a friend who committed suicide. This is a brilliant song that wouldn't have been out of place on an older Green Day album. A song doesn't have to be slow and emotional to pull at your heartstrings; this one is proof of that.

Sex, Drugs & Violence and Little Boy Named Train see the narrator looking at himself, seeming insistent that he's lost and a mess; regretting his life choices; musing over the hard lessons he's learned and how he feels he did it all wrong. This is the doorway to the rash of "leaving the past behind" songs that litter this album. Little Boy Named Train also has a very deep story behind it, but musically it's my least favourite song on the album.

In Amanda, Billie has finally decided to "name the girl" who's haunted him for so many years; he seems to have answered the question of Is this the kind of love that hate would understand? that has nagged at him for so long. It's a great addition to the story, stressing the theme of leaving the past behind even more. This one had to grow on me, but it's a decent song that you could dance to.

Walk Away is another song that grew on me after a few listens, with its haunting vocals and questioning lyrics. The narrator decides that it's not too late to finally stand up to the memories, and truly walk away from his life for the new love he's found. Now he's faced with the confusion and mess of that, and back to battles with his inner demons in Dirty Rotten Bastards. This definitely comes across as a unique and great song after a few listens, and it portrays perfectly the confusion and self-loathing that the narrator is feeling.

99 Revolutions turns the focus away from the narrator's personal life and into the streets, an echo of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown's politics; but more lighthearted, despite the seriousness of the lyrics. My favourite song from Tré! A great closer for a live show and a brilliant, uplifting song that sparks an urge to dance.

The Forgotten is another beautiful ballad, and just like Uno and Dos, they've chosen the perfect closer to end the album... except this one ends the entire trilogy. It's the perfect closer for that too.

The narrator is finally able to embrace his past as what it was, saying that he hasn't forgotten it despite starting a new life now. He doesn't know what the future will hold, and he knows they're living in a bad dream now, but assures his new love not to look away from the arms of tomorrow... or the arms of love.

Here's a song I wrote a while ago. It's about feeling like you blew your last chance in a relationship.

London City Fantasy

Pull on my shoes and no sleep tonight

Dressed up and in love and it's all alright

On a dirty coach ready to go nowhere

I should have known but I didn't dare

Last chance or this is our last dance

Last kiss and insanity could be bliss

We can't get it right but this is it

We're just each other's toxic fantasy

Lost cause in ruins in London City

Red sky in the morning, lovers' warning,

Set to destroy so pass me the poison

You had me love at first denial

Making me such a lovestruck liar

Sticks and stones and broken bones

We were stupid and we weren't to know

But last chance and now it's too late

No last kiss and now you're far away

We'll never get it right, not the war we fight

We're just each other's toxic fantasy

Lost cause in ruins in London City

Red sky in the morning, lovers' warning,

Set to destroy and we are the poison

Here's my entry from the Halloween contest. Comments and constructive criticism are always appreciated! :)

“They won’t catch us.”

Mandy smirks, carefully placing devil horns on her straight blonde hair. Dan pulls on an old tracksuit over his skeleton costume. I’m the only one who isn’t getting dressed up.

I’m already terrified and this hasn’t even started yet.

“All ready?”

No. No, I’m not. I’ll never be ready. I just don’t have the balls to stand up to you, Mandy…

She wouldn’t even hear me. She stands up, red dress glittering and white teeth shining mischievously;

the others all roar approval back at her. I ask myself what I’m doing here but I know, really. If I chickened out, she’d sure as hell make sure I was never accepted in this town again.

I wish I was Mandy sometimes, with all that confidence and pretty face. Everyone loves her. There’s not much to like about plain, chubby old me… I know I’m only in this group because of Jake, my old elementary school friend.

We all pile out of her room and down the stairs. The lounge reeks of pot. Her parents wouldn’t notice anything even if she wasn’t allowed to do this.

I shiver, the first one out of the door. It’s so cold, so dark already… and immediately my eyes fall on the poster. There’s at least two on every street.

Join us in the square for the October Carnival!

I wish that was all it said… but that’s just the small print at the top.

Disrespecting this date by celebrating Halloween is strictly forbidden. All offenders will be prosecuted.

As if nobody knows. This tiny town was only alerted to this damn Halloween thing because of the nearest city. It’s never been acceptable here, and I’ve never even considered getting involved. The posters were only put up because of what happened last year. Some drunk guys in costumes who stumbled into the carnival were shot on sight. Everyone knows what happens to the offenders, but that was the first time it was so public.

I was there. We were there. I can still hear the gunshots ringing in my ears. Oh God, what are we doing? The poster glares at me and I can’t help blurting out my thoughts.

“This is ridiculous. Think of those guys. We’re asking to get killed.”

Mandy sniggers. “Don’t be such a pussy. Unless we were stupid enough to show up at the carnival like this, we’re not going to get caught. Do the posters scare poor baby Emily?”

Everyone hoots with laughter. I want to scream at them that they’re all stupid and go home… but she’s right, I’m a pussy. I don’t have the courage.

We scurry through the dark streets, down to the shacks that make up the small town’s outskirts. We’re headed for the Halloween party. Mandy’s talked about this for years… and now we’re finally old enough to attend. I should have known she meant it.

Everything about this reeks of danger. Music is blasting out from the shack; the lights are blazing. Mandy’s grinning. I guess this is just a thrill for her.

The sweaty room is crammed full of people in costumes, the air stuffy from the lit Jack-o-Lanterns. Everyone seems to be drunk already. I’m completely out of place.

Mandy heads straight for the dancefloor. It’s not long before she’s intoxicated too, making out with some guy in a corner.

“Emily? What are you doing over there?”

It’s Jake. He’s holding two glasses; he thrusts one in my face. I can’t… but can I really say no? Maybe it’ll relax me. My hands trembling a little, I take it and knock it back.

Ugh. It tastes disgusting. Jake drunkenly drags me onto the dancefloor, but there’s hardly any room to dance even if I could. We’re just two more people crammed into a suffocating mass of sweaty bodies.

I end up with another glass… then a third. This awful room, the deafening music is better when it’s a blur.

In a drunken haze I’m beginning to realise that I hardly know Jake anymore. When we stumble into the bathroom, he hands me something worse than alcohol. Cocaine. The little blond boy from elementary school doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t belong here… at all.

Yet I am here. I could run away from Jake but I’d be too scared out there without him, let alone too drunk to run. It’s the last time I ask myself what I’m doing… before I throw all my senses away to some grains of white powder.

The party’s over. My head is spinning and my legs are reduced to pathetically stumbling. I feel sick. All I’ve got to do now is get home… then this nightmare will be over.

Or so I thought.

Mandy’s giggling, clinging onto the guy she made out with. Is it the same one or a different one? Can’t tell.

“Don’t worry.” she slurs. “Party’s not over yet.”

No. No… I try to run but I trip and fall. I think it’s Jake who hauls me back onto my feet. I can’t walk properly anymore… he says he’ll take care of me. Thank God. He’ll take me home.

We stumble through pitch black roads, Jake supporting me. He reeks of alcohol and sweat… or is that me? All I know right now is that I’m so relieved this is over.

I look up and blink wearily at my surroundings. I don’t recognize these streets at all.

Jake isn’t taking me home.

Of course he’s not. Mandy and the others are still here, staggering along in front of us. He’s just following them, supporting his pathetic little friend.

My senses are all dulled yet my heart is pounding so hard I feel like it’ll explode. I trip again, landing on my stomach… I didn’t see the steps. I think Jake is going to leave me until he carelessly drags me up the steps after him. Where are we going? The next thing I know, I’m on the floor in some other cramped room. The fire lit in the middle is burning up all the oxygen. I can hardly breathe.

It’s that guy’s flat, the one Mandy’s with. Not that it matters. It’s a nightmare wherever it is. Eventually I sit up, curl up in a corner. Nobody notices. The stone floor here is so cold…

There’s a commotion outside. A door slams. I realise that I must have sobered up a bit; I look around. Jake has passed out, a heap on the floor with Dan. Mandy is making out with that guy again. All she’s still wearing is her underwear.

The commotion seems to be getting louder and louder. I suppose this area is probably full of crime and stuff…

Suddenly the door bursts open. A group of uniformed men pile in.

It’s the police.

One of them glances down at the floor. Under his foot is Mandy’s discarded red dress, her devil horns.

There’s no excuse, no escape.

It’s Mandy who goes first. Jake leaps to his feet and tries to run, but another gunshot echoes and he’s just a slumped body on the floor. I watch my “friends” fall, one by one. Then the one who stood on the dress turns to me.

Stupid me, drunk and stoned, glasses lopsided and clothes ripped in some filthy flat. For some cocaine, vodka and Mandy’s approval, I’m going to lose my life. Happy Halloween.

He pulls the trigger.

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Even if you think my writing's shit, I want to know! I can't improve if I don't know what I'm doing wrong. So if you have any thoughts, please don't be afraid to share them.

Here's the next chapter. If you haven't read chapter one yet, you can find it here. If you have any thoughts then please share them, constructive criticism is always great!

CHAPTER TWO

The clock’s ticking. Outside the wind is roaring. On the opposite side of the bed, Alison is snoring. Matt can’t sleep.

He sits up and switches on his bedside lamp, unsure what to do other than shoot Alison to shut her up. Not an option. He wanders over to the window and peers through the curtains, looking out onto the city.

Their flat is at the very top of this building, with a beautiful balcony garden; nestled in between skyscrapers. He can see so many of the famous New York landmarks, thrilling to him at the age of twenty but meaningless now. He remembers the days when he dreamed of meeting some wonderful girl at the top of the Empire State Building. Pfft. When he took Alison up there, the day they came back from their honeymoon, all she cared about was having her photo taken. Being there with Matt was irrelevant, despite how hard he tried to make it romantic.

Still, he wonders if he was the reason for the marriage going nowhere. He’s not sure what he did wrong, but she blames it on him so often that he’s almost convinced.

He picks up the lyrics he’d been writing, the words blurring on the page in the dim light. So full of sadness, too close to the harsh reality of his empty life. Does he even want to sing those to the world? Sometimes that’s the only way he can escape from it, though.

People still think he’s content. On their last anniversary, his Facebook was flooded with messages telling him how cute he and Alison are together, how lucky he is to have a woman like her, how amazing it is that they’re still happy. Is that really what they see? Well, of course it is. They’ve perfected the portrayal of that to the public. Often he wants to bang all their heads together and scream at them that they’re wrong, they’re so hideously wrong. They don’t know how many times he’s gazed at the pills in the cupboard as if they’re his saviour. Do they know how it tears him apart sometimes, just when someone grabs him in the shop when all he wants is to buy his beer, and they beg him for a photograph? They don’t know anything. But he’s not allowed to complain. He’s famous. That’s what he gets.

He picks up his pen. Two more lines and the song will be finished. He knows what they are now.

But I’d trade the lights and my money, baby,

If it wasn’t too late for someone to save me.

One more month of dire promotion before the new album is released. Three more until he goes on tour again. He’s looking forward to that. The travel is harsh, and by the end all the nights blur into one and all he wants is to go home, collapse in his own bed. Seeing new places lost its charm a few tours ago. Whether his liver will still be in working order after a year on the road is a different story, but never mind. Touring, playing his music is what he endures the fame for. He still loves his fans, even if he gets exasperated with them sometimes. It’s not long, he shouldn’t kill himself or anything when it’s so close.

Already, though, his mind is jumping to when the tour is over, when there’ll be nothing left to look forward to. What then? He desperately writes and writes with his aching hand, hoping that maybe he’ll have enough songs to go straight back into the studio.

He’s given up on Azura or whatever her name was. It’s been a month, he’s not going to see her again.

Or so he thought.

He still wanders into that Duane Reade store every now and then, although he’s stopped bothering to look at the assistants. There’s nobody here, today, though; and when he shouts “hey, is anybody home?” the girl who peers around one of the shelves, looking bored and annoyed, is Azura. She rolls her eyes and trudges over to the checkout.

“It’s you!”

She doesn’t even hear him. He picks up a bag of Doritos – hell, he doesn’t even remember what he actually wanted, he doesn’t care anymore – and pointedly places it down in front of her, fixing his eyes on her pretty face.

“Where were you?”

She frowns bewilderedly, locking eyes with him for the first time.

“What? When?”

“That week. The week I first came in here, looking for aspirin. Where were you?”

“Erm… when was that? I think I was in Rochester. Why?”

“I… don’t know, I… sorry. I don’t know. Just ignore me.”

She shrugs. “Alright. Here’s your change.”

He holds the one dollar bill tightly in his hand, wracking his brain for a reason to stay here. He can’t think of one. She looks at him expectantly, not ignoring him for the first time, even though he told her to. How can she stand there, so calm and composed, when he’s screaming inside? Doesn’t she realise? Eventually he decides he has to leave and trips over his own foot. Oh, God. What the hell is he doing, acting like an infatuated teenager? He ought to go back and say something, like the fully grown man that he is. He doesn’t, though. He hangs around outside for a while, still clinging onto the one dollar bill that she touched; then he goes back home, carefully placing it on his bedside table. There’s some Polish magazine interviewing him later, and when he gets home from that, Alison has taken the one dollar bill. He feels like killing her. Ugh. Instead he just yells at her when she gets home. For once she doesn’t sneer and snap some bitchy comeback at him. She just frowns, baffled as to why her husband is so worked up over a one dollar bill. It’s a Tuesday so she switches the TV on, puts her headphones in and says they can have sex if he wants, as long as he shuts up. He shouts that he doesn’t want to and storms out of the flat. God, what has he just done? He’s not going to get any for another week now.

Some vague remain of his ruined sense tells him that alcohol is not the answer. Instead he drives to his parents’ house, to spend the night there. He needs to calm down. The writhing streets of Manhattan are not the place to do that.

He stops the car on their drive as a light flickers on in the hallway. Everything is quiet and he stares at the wheel, frowning.

Did he really just storm out of his flat, refuse sex and drive out here over a one dollar bill? Jesus Christ.

He gets up early the next morning, sneaking out of the door before anybody sees him. His parents were out and he ended up walking in on Elisa and her boyfriend… hell, he didn’t even know she had a boyfriend. Has he drifted so far apart from them that updating him isn’t relevant anymore? Well, right now he’s just glad that he’s leaving.

“Fucking idiot.” he mutters to himself as he starts his car up. “All because of a fucking one dollar bill.”

At least Bobby wasn’t there. That could have been a disaster.

Alison isn’t anywhere to be found. That’s probably a good thing. He goes out again as soon as it gets dark; just in case she’s decided she wants to argue it out with him.

He doesn’t go to a bar, this time. Or at least not immediately. Hiding behind a scarf and sunglasses, he hangs around the Duane Reade store, trying to find a reason to talk to Azura. She’s there, he’s checked. He was convinced that this disguise was perfect… but his peroxide-blond hair is unmissable. It’s not long before a group of excitable fans in t-shirts appear out of nowhere.

“Oh my God, it’s really you!”

“This is the best day of my life! Oh my God! Look, look, look – we’re all your biggest fans. I can’t believe this!”

“This isn’t happening to me!”

Biting back a sigh of exasperation, he just pulls off his scarf and smiles a forced smile, listening to them babble about how excited and lucky they are. Eventually they stop and all pile into a photo, before realising that they haven’t got anybody to take it. One of them groans and grabs the next person to walk out of the store, begging them to take the camera.

“What? What the hell is this?”

English accent. Oh, God, it’s her! It’s actually Azura. Shit, how pissed off is she going to be about this?! He peers over one of the girls’ shoulder, trying to look apologetic.

“Don’t worry about it…”

She’s already taken the camera, looking irritated but actually a little sympathetic towards him. Once they’ve got the photo and an autograph each, they seem to lose interest and scurry off without even saying thanks. He looks at Azura, feeling mortified.

“Uh… sorry. I had no idea. I didn’t tell them to do that.”

She shrugs. “Whatever. I kind of feel sorry for you. You don’t get any privacy.”

“…No. I guess not.”

Could he have said anything less interesting? He’s forgotten how to talk to a girl. Especially one who couldn’t care less that he’s a rock star. She’s already turned to leave.

“Bye.”

“Hey, uh…”

Another bumbling burble. She doesn’t even hear, this time, but one of the other assistants from the store catches up with her. For a moment they stop and he catches their conversation. They’re going to some club tonight. He’s never heard of it… but that’s what taxis are for.

He tries to gather a few of his friends so it looks less like he’s following her, but when he tells them where they’re going they just laugh.

“Are you serious? You’ll get mobbed in there.”

“Don’t tell me this is about that girl.” Blake groans, rolling his eyes. “You’re mad, Matt. Told ya that a month ago.”

“Shut up,” Matt snaps. “Just be a friend and come with me. I don’t see how it can be any worse than our usual hangouts.”

“Well, don’t blame me when you’re all over the papers tomorrow.”

It’s only when they actually get there that he sees what they mean. It’s full of people clad in the kind of clothes he sees when he looks out into his own crowds. The second song they hear in there is his.

“Bad idea.” Blake tuts, shaking his head. “Let’s get out before it’s too late.”

“No. Not till I’ve found her.”

“You’ve gone nuts, man.”

Matt ignores him, eyes scanning the room. He’s even out of place in here because of his age. They all look so young, barely old enough to drink. If Blake was right he’ll never hear the last of it…

He narrowly avoids a wide-eyed fan making a beeline for him, by ducking behind a kissing couple near the bar. Has she gone? Yes, she’s back on the dancefloor now. It’s not that he doesn’t want to please his fans… but if one finds him, the whole club will probably want his autograph. He’s not up for that.

Sighing, he buys a drink and sits down at the bar. Blake rolls his eyes and sits next to him.

“Did you shave this morning? Because you look like a hobo.”

“Fuck off, Blake.”

The rest of their group have disappeared… Blake thinks they’re in the bathroom. Why the hell are they in the bathroom? Pfft. This is a disaster.

The kissing couple they hid behind stumble away. Great, now he’s on display to everyone. At least only half of the lights work so the bar area is reasonably dark.

He entertains himself by staring at a girl in a pink dress, admiring her legs. They’re perfect, not fat but not thin either. Maybe he’ll go and talk to her.

She turns to speak to one of her friends and he suddenly realises who it is. She is here! He’s finally found Azura. Oh, and it’s her with the perfect legs… time to make an asshole of himself.

“Hey! Azura!”

Frowning, she glances over her shoulder. Her pretty eyes widen in disbelief. One of her friends squeals, but a firm glare from Azura stops her doing anything else. Eventually she wanders over to him, looking embarrassed, baffled and a little worried. She looks even more beautiful in her bright pink party dress, an exotic flower in the dull room.

“Erm… this doesn’t seem like… somewhere you’d hang out.”

He shrugs, summoning all of his courage and firmly locking eyes with her.

“Will you dance with me?”

What?”

“Please? That’s why I’m here.”

She’s hesitant, but he keeps his dark eyes steadily fixed on her. One of his friends, finally back from the bathroom or wherever they went, sniggers.

“Does she know who he is?”

“Yes, I’m aware who he is.”

She brushes off the snide comment with unfazed dignity, one hand on her hip and expression dry. Is she going to walk away? Matt grabs her arm, scowling at his friends. Why did they have to reappear now?

“Ignore them, they’re dicks. I just wanna dance with you.”

Eventually, without a word she takes his hand and he leads her onto the dancefloor. A few people are whispering, clearly aware who he is; but he doesn’t care. He just stares at her. She doesn’t really seem to know where to look, but she still dances with such grace.

He knows he’s pushing his luck when he still hangs onto her for a second song, and her face says that politely. Still, she doesn’t try to get away, so he decides to push his luck as far as it’ll go. He gazes at her pretty face and smiles. When was the last time he was this happy? He’d give anything to take her home tonight… and that wish has – mostly – nothing to do with sex.

Am I crazy? I don’t think I care.

He knows it’s time for him to leave when the second song ends. She isn’t annoyed with him, though.

“I’ll see you again.” he says. “I hope.”

“I’m sure you will.”

“Thank you. You made me very happy.”

She just smiles, waves goodbye and disappears back into the crowd. He doesn’t even bother to find Blake and the others. He just leaves. When a fan begs him for a photo, he smiles a completely genuine smile and says of course. They both grin into the camera and the young man goes home happy.

Matt can even remain happy when he’s thrown out of the bedroom onto the couch tonight.

I have something to feel for. I have something to chase. I’m in love again… I think I have a reason to live for the first time since my wedding day.

Here's my written reviews/commentaries of Uno and Dos. They're just interpretations and comments on each song, really. Everything about the vague "story" is totally personal, I just want to stress that I'm not implying anything about Billie himself at any point unless I say that. Enjoy!

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Gonna ride the world like a merry-go round...

The perfect opener, Nuclear Family sets the scene for the entire trilogy. Although I know none of them are deliberately concept albums, I do see a vague story, so that's what my interpretation is. The narrator is a man stuck in his stagnant nuclear family life, realising that he's sick of it; he needs something new. A nuclear bomb about to detonate.

I've probably heard Stay the Night too many times since we first got that live version from Dublin, but it's still an anthem. It's a song about not being able to forget someone, needing to know if they're the one that got away; even though it feels like it was never meant to be. With lines like I wanna break your heart until it makes your stomach churn you could wonder if the narrator wants to hurt the person he's speaking to, but in the second verse you realise that all he really wants is to watch the stars until the sun begins to rise; he's just trying to hide his tender feelings because maybe he's afraid of getting hurt.

Does the future have enough time to live in the moment?

That's the note on Carpe Diem in the Uno book, and I think it describes the song perfectly. The narrator, still stuck in his miserable everyday life, is trying to decide whether to turn his back on it and seize the day while he still can.

I do like this song, but it seems more average than some of the other songs on Uno. It has a great message, though.

I remember being so excited to hear the studio version of Let Yourself Go because it sounded so damn good live... and one of the things that makes Uno so special is that as much as it's possible in the studio, the songs still have a live feel. It works so well with this one, I love it. The perfect fuck you song, the narrator has found the courage to tell the people around him what he really thinks, and is finally trying to let it all go. I'm sick to death of your every last breath and I don't give a fuck anyway...

The last thing you'd expect from Green Day, Kill the DJ is probably the most adventurous song on Uno. It works, too. It makes you want to dance, it's sexy, it's interesting.

A lot of DJs probably expected Billie to show up and stab them in the night, but the DJ is just a metaphor. It's the noise, the shit we're fed from so many different places in the first world. It's about drinking yourself into oblivion, the voices in your head. I couldn't work out whether I loved or disliked this song, but I decided that I love it.

Fell for You is my favourite song on Uno. It captures perfectly that moment of "oh shit" when you realise that you've fallen head over heels in love; trying to be "big" and deny it, but you can't. The girl the narrator's fallen for might be out of sight now but she's not out of mind. He's dreaming of only her; he's not supposed to be in love with her, it's almost frightening, but he is. It's beautiful, and it shows that brutally honest side of love that has nothing to do with sex... which is probably why it's so touching and easy to relate to.

Filled with anger, Loss of Control is the harsh realisation that you hate everyone around you; they've all changed and you start to think you never liked them in the first place. It might be well hidden, but there's a real sadness in there too. Life's a cruel crushing bastard crime probably translates to "life's not fair". It's not, and maybe that sparks the narrator's decision to turn his back on it and pursue the girl in Fell for You.

It took me a while to appreciate Troublemaker properly, but I got there eventually. It's as brutally honest as Fell for You but completely different. The narrator wants more than the dream of kissing her lips now. It's a song about being a guy, lusting after the girl he wants so much that thinking of her is giving me a cardiac arrest when I'm sitting at the traffic light.

I say Fell for You is my favourite, but it's a really hard decision between that and Angel Blue. They're both totally outstanding songs for me, and this one is full of energy with some seriously awesome guitar riffs.

Now the narrator has truly decided to pursue this girl, but she obviously hasn't committed to it yet. I can't help hearing won't you be my bloody Valentine? as we'd say it in England, but it's probably a metaphor for wanting to take the girl's virginity. The lust is as evident as it is in Troublemaker, but there's still hints that it's more than that; Stab my heart like a stick in the mud / Cut my chest just to see the blood / Now I'm singing out the alphabet / As the tears are putting out my cigarette. It's filled with desperation, knowing that she wants to but she won't, and wanting to hurt her in return because she's tearing him apart. There's also the battle with commitment, knowing that this is "wrong" not just because he's married, but a lot of the phrases in the song stress her young age; bloody Valentine / senorita / you're just a fucking kid / teenage traces.

Sweet 16 is the only song I found disappointing. It's probably my fault for listening to a bad live recording where it sounded better, but it's dull and just doesn't have the energy that the rest of Uno has. The emotion in Billie's voice is beautiful, though, and it does perfectly represent the nostalgia of being in love with a memory, despite the bittersweet haze that surrounds the present. Definitely my least favourite trilogy song so far.

Billie has pretty much explained Rusty James perfectly. It's a "fuck you" to the old scene that the band were once a part of, filled with bitterness. The title is a reference to the book Rumble Fish. In the context of the "story", I think it adds to the general "goodbye to the past" vibe that's lurking in the latter songs of Uno.

I did overplay Oh Love when it was released, and I wasn't a fan of Sam Bayer's video (not because of the content, but because it was so badly done), but that doesn't stop it from being the perfect closer.

It finally moves solely onto the new love - and sexual tension - that's been haunting the narrator since Stay the Night. Everything else has been left behind. After the, er, Sam Bayer incident, a lot of people saw this song as being about cheap one night stands and sex with no strings attatched. I still don't see it that way. It's full of lust and desire, but love is a part of it too. Oh love, won't you rain on me tonight? / Won't you take me close to you? - please, can he finally have this girl? I'm wearing my heart on a noose / Talk myself out of feeling / Talk myself out of falling in love; he's still trying to hold himself back, but in the end he gives in. Tonight my heart's on the loose...

After getting over how much I overplayed this song, it's actually one of my favourites from Uno. It's an anthem that's exactly what it's supposed to be. Love it.

Favourite songs: Fell For You, Angel Blue, Kill the DJ and Oh Love.

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Dos opens with the sweet and simple See You Tonight, with the narrator innocently musing over whether he'll see someone tonight or not. He evidently does, because the hazy innocence is suddenly interrupted by the thud of Fuck Time. The title speaks for itself, but although this song's just simple fun, the silliness has been muted enough for it to not sound completely ridiculous.

It doesn't stop there. If we're talking about this in terms of a story, let's go back to Uno for a moment; it closes with Oh Love, promising that tonight my heart's on the loose. The narrator is finally getting the girl from Angel Blue to surrender. You don't have to analyze anything to realise what's going on here.

After Stop When the Red Lights Flash, Dos suddenly lurches away from sex into the darkness of Lazy Bones. When this new girl isn't there, the narrator's life and his underlying sadness comes back to haunt him. A lot of people are linking this song to Billie's recent problems, but there's no reason why it has to relate to that at all. It's a song about desperation, sadness, frustration; being drunk is only one of the many symptoms that comes with all of the above. Musically, this song is literally breathtaking. The only problem is that it's so ridiculously good, it's probably easy to overplay.

In Wild One, the relationship the narrator sought is flowering now. Despite the lust and desire that overshadow most of this album, he's obviously falling more in love with this girl the more he gets to know her; even though he's not supposed to and it's putting his heart in danger. I don't think She gave up on Jesus / For living on Venus is literal, but more of a metaphor for the girl abandoning her "normal" life for love and lust. They both know it's wrong but they don't care. I jumped on the grenade... but ...Now that my mind's gonna blow, hello anyway.

This song is beautiful. I love the heavy guitars, the backing vocals, the lyrics.

There's not much to say about Makeout Party. It's dirty, open, with the same fun vibe as Fuck Time and an awesome bass solo. I think the lyrics speak for themselves! Afterwards comes the beautiful, catchy Stray Heart. This is my favourite song from the trilogy. It's so sweet and innocent, with the bittersweet happiness of being in love clashing with the fact that this girl's forbidden. There's a sad desperation too, masked by the happy bassline and fun vibe. We'll never part yet I just can't have you is a contradiction that confused a lot of people, but I see that as they'll never part, yet he can't really have her because he already belongs to someone else. The heart which is now stray went to another a long time ago... but she's the only one he's dreaming of. This relationship has torn her precious heart apart.

Slightly reminiscent of The Jam's Town Called Malice (which is in turn another rip off of another song) or not, this song is perfect.

Ashley is an anger-filled fuck you to the narrator's past, maybe a metaphor for all of his previous relationships. He's finally grown up and realised what they really were; and now with this new love, he's able to move on and let go. Are you crying on my cold shoulder? is one of my favourite lines from Dos, and proof that Billie is still capable of writing incredible metaphors. With an intro that seems slightly clumsy after Stray Heart, I warmed up to this song after a few listens. It seems very strange now that I felt it was filler at first!

Baby Eyes sees the out-of-control narrator insistently spitting out all his faults, warning the girl how he really is; maybe going back to that line Your precious heart was torn apart by me and you, aware of how he's now tearing apart her life. This is another one that's appreciated more after a few listens, and is probably my favourite song on Dos after Stray Heart. It has so much energy and is lyrically my favourite trilogy song so far. Some of the lines/metaphors are just incredible - Year of the rat, last of the litter / Somebody shot the babysitter / ... / I pull the trigger from the shooting stars / I am the motor in your crashing car / ... / I am the bullet in your magazine. Billie's songwriting is truly at its best in this song.

The album takes another turn with Lady Cobra. A great song, not repetitive at all; openly dark and dirty. It talks about seduction and inner demons, implying a romantic attachment, but I don't think it actually means that at all. The seduction probably refers to encouraging the narrator into things like alcohol, drugs, self-harm, etc; and even daring him to do crazy things. The note on the song in the boxset edition is "Drive up this road, hang a left, then go down, down, down, blackout & take your hands off the wheel" - that's a perfect example of one of those crazy things. Maybe she even encourages him to go further with this forbidden girl... either way, she seems the perfect companion for the narrator in his current state.

Lady Cobra almost like an introduction to what comes next... the dreaded Nightlife. Green Day and rap? Disaster? I don't think so, actually. On my first listen I thought they could really have left Lady Cobra out at her second part, but with each listen it grew on me more and more. It's inevitable that many fans are going to hate it, but if you can get past your dislike for rap, it's actually a really great song. The sleazy beat fits the lyrics perfectly, digging further into the dark and dirty theme of Dos. Lady Cobra gives it the sexy feel that it needed. Never thought I'd be listening to rap on the train, but there you go.

Back to the relationship that's plagued this album, Wow! That's Loud lives up to its name. The title and the line Wow! That dirty dress is so loud are slightly cringey, but when it's lost in great lines like You're such a beautiful mess tonight you hardly notice it. This song has some amazing guitar riffs and harmonies, and sees the narrator obsessed even with this girl's bright clothing; it could be literal and it could also be considered a metaphor that reflects her personality, or their chaotic relationship. The (metaphorical) party's coming to an end.

I know that there's no literal party happening anywhere in the trilogy, but I think that's a reasonably good metaphor for what's going on; giving in to temptation, getting involved in shit you shouldn't, just losing control... and then it's over. Amy, the beautiful and tender tribute to Amy Winehouse, is the perfect closer. Maybe it fits into the story; maybe the couple are coming to terms with reality, realising that life's not a party... what have they done? Tre will apparently be the self-reflection and (metaphorical) morning after.

Favourite songs: Stray Heart, Baby Eyes and Wild One. Although I do love Lazy Bones and Ashley... this picking favourites shit is too hard.

Overall, both of these albums exceeded my expectations completely. I'm not the kind of person who loves something just because it's Green Day, so I'm seriously impressed that I love almost every one of these songs. There's probably more that I'm not as bothered about on Uno, but I still don't prefer Dos. They're both completely different and equally amazing. There's some songs where Billie is as much at his best lyrically as he was with 21st Century Breakdown. If Tre is better than these two then I have no idea what to expect.

Edit - here's Tre: http://www.greendaycommunity.org/blog/127/entry-1192-tr-reviewcommentary/