November 10th 2020. Day 240 of the pandemic. Trouble sleeping, tried bed, and the recliner, but the the scar on my back is hurting too much. The situation is not being helped by the two guys outside the window arguing about how much Heroin you should take to kill off COVID. I’m moving to the middle room, get away from the shouting. The burning sensation in my scar reminds me of when I was a kid, and I’d get sand in my plaster-cast, playing at the beach.
Welcome to sunny Seaton Sluice. I’m on holiday with mam and dad. We are at Seaton Sluice sands. I’m seven years old. A young girl about my age dances past and waves shouting ‘hi’. She has scars on her back like me. ‘She should cover those up’ dad snarls. ‘You haven’t told me to cover my scars up’. ‘Scars make boys look tough, and girls look ugly.’ He snarls again I grab my walking sticks and go after the girl. ‘Where are you off to?’ ‘To play with the pretty girl.’ I reply, smiling. I catch up with her at the groyness beyond the dunes. She tells me her name is Mahealani. She has an American accent, and a gentle voice. She comments on how mean my dad is. ‘Yeah he’s the bogie man.’
She tells me that her dad’s the bogie man as well, and that he gave her the scars. ‘Mine are from surgery, except one. He stabbed me with a Rhinoceros.’ Looking bemused, she asks how. I prop my walking sticks up against the wooden post and with Mahealani’s help I climb up to join her. ‘It was a carved one a surgeon gave me.’ She tells me hers are from a machete and a hot iron, and that my scar looks like a caterpillar. ‘Yours, the big one, looks like a unicorn!’ She’s surprised, but happy that I see it the same way she does.
‘She shares some crayons and paper she has stashed at the groyns. We start to draw a comic with us as a caterpillar and a unicorn. ‘Are you still with your dad? I ask. She tells me he is in prison after he hurt her and her Mam, her mam died. ‘Good.’ She tells me she has new parents now and that they are really nice. ‘I wish I could get a new dad. Hey you drew me with a t-shirt! She smiles and says she thought I looked cold.
‘I’m used to it. Your scar is really pretty, nice colours.’ Mahealani tells me she likes the scar on my back. ‘Yeah I can’t see it except in the mirror. The ones on my legs are good, I can see faces and creatures.’ She wrote a story about her scar being a unicorn, but her teacher told her off. Her mom made the teacher apologise. ‘I got detention for saying that I got my scars fighting a giant skeleton monster. ‘RAY HARRYHAUSEN!’ We both shouted in unison. ‘They called me a liar, as if anyone would believe it in the first place, adults can be stupid!’ Mahealani wanted to know if my scars hurt. ‘Sometimes, if my clothes rub on them or I get sweaty.’ She had the same problem and tells me it makes her sad sometimes. ‘I’m going to draw you happy, watch.’ She asks me why my dad stabbed me. ‘Dad thinks me having funny legs is a sign that I’m possessed by a demon. He was trying to kill me. He doesn’t try now ‘cos I’m too strong. Mam says he went a bit mad ‘cos of fighting in world war 2.’ Mahealani was horrified and told me how her Father was a soldier who fought in Vietnam, he was injured like my dad. Her mom said he was still fighting the war when he got home, but that he thought that they were the enemy, he got drunk a lot and called them bad names like he did the people in Vietnam. Her mom tried to protect her, but he hurt her really bad.
Mahealani asks me where the scar from the Rhinoceros is. ‘It’s in my lisk.’ She asks what that is and asks if she can see. ‘The lisk is in the groin, here.’ She tells me I don’t have to show her if it’s too embarrassing. ‘It’s ok’, I pull my swimming trunks down just enough so she can see the scar. She tells me the the scar is pretty and looks like a carnation. ‘Yes, ha! you can see that as well?’ She says I’m lucky that it missed my ‘pee-pee’. ‘My? Oh yes Ha! Ha! We laugh so loud the seagulls gathered on the groyns take flight.
Mahealani’s new parents turn up and she tells them all about our conversation, and how I recognised her unicorn without her telling me. ‘Only one scar from my dad, the others are from surgery for my Spina Bifida. He doesn’t hurt me no more, not since I pretended to be the devil and bit him.’ They are really kind and understanding. We arrange to meet the following day and say goodbye.
April 1988, Chillingham Road, Heston, Newcastle. I woke up with my spinal scar hurting and a Rash on my back, chest, and hands. I went straight to my GP, who took some blood, gave me a prescription for some cream, and advised me to avoid contact with people, as I might have Glandular fever. Things didn’t go quite as planned. Two skinheads were hanging out by the traffic lights, and were looking for trouble. ‘Hey Spastic!’ He came at me, and tried to grab my shoulder when I didn’t respond. I managed to apply a finger lock on him before he could take a swing, I punched him in the gut as he tried to hit me. He went down hard, retching. I was feeling dizzy with the exertion.
My legs were shaking as the other skinhead approached He was smirking as he shouted ‘Going t’ fuck ye up!’ He pulled a wrench from his jacket and came at me, just as my legs gave way, and I dropped to my knees. He assumed he’d already won as he stood over me and raised the wrench above his head. I punched up into his solar plexus as hard as I could, as he doubled over dropping the wrench, I was able to catch him with a left hook, knocking him out. I struggled to my feet.
My vision's all blurry, Fuck! I can barely see my hand in front of me. I manage to grab on to the wall. I managed to get home without falling over, had to crawl up the stairs though. Fell straight into a feverish sleep. My brain was on fire. And when I woke up… I was completely blind. The first bout of Blindness lasted close to three months. The paralysis in my lower legs increased, meaning I couldn’t stand up. Even crawling was an effort. I was to discover later that this was the onset of M.E. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. I soon discovered that my visual memory was fading, making it difficult to visualise my family’s faces, or even basic shapes or familiar objects... I started to draw self-portraits in an effort to keep my memory working.
My sight returns
The pain in my scar and legs got worse. My skin was on fire… And I was hallucinating. When my sight did start to return It was anything but normal.
Eventually my eyesight returned to normal. Except for one anomaly. If I was under threat, my sight reverted to the previous state. With increased intensity! This lasted for months. I had a second bout of blindness later that year. And the same pattern repeated itself. But hasn’t returned since.