Wales. I’m in Wales. I’m deep in dark and quiet Wales, holed up in a vast and beautiful ancient stone hall, about to play loads of different parts in Julius Caesar with The Factory.

These incredible thoughtful compassionate people have been in my life for decades now. A rolling company. We have made things quickly and often. Sometimes they’ve been wonderful. Sometimes they haven’t. But always they’ve been alive. There must have been over a hundred actors through The Factory over the years and there isn’t one that I wouldn’t call a friend and mean it. We are forged in and united by a peculiar kind of pressured fellowship around the work. I’m so happy to be with them here and now. Great humans.

Last night I met the people in my house and year group at school. An odd lot too, but not MY odd lot. I wanted to see what they were like as adults. “Why the fuck did you put yourself through that?” I was asked by multiple friends who have known me long enough to have full context on it. Girlfriends in the past have opened conversations about the scars on my back. Other scars are less visible.

For two years I was growing up in a little building with one psychotic bully and a bunch of people either too sociopathic or too scared to intervene. Mostly they didn’t have the tools. None of us did. We were children. It was a really shit two years. I rarely think on it now. But it’s a part of my life and maybe it’s worth reconciling these things.

A reunion dinner? I just needed to see them. To see if they had developed. I shouldn’t have gone but it’s my past. I was curious.

“You know that time when Harry was whipping you and I was the only other person in the room and I didn’t do anything?” “Yeah, I think you were laughing?” “Well no I don’t know if I was laughing that time, that was another time. But I’ve been talking with my wife about it and I don’t know but maybe there’s something I should have done?” “Are you apologising?” “Well, I mean, when you think about it, you could have done something too though really. Maybe I could have done something, but why didn’t you stop it yourself?”

What’s most fascinating is, it felt like an attempt at something positive. It felt like an honest try at some sort of apology. I tried to stick a bit of challenge into it, and maybe using the word “coward” was overly provocative as it led to a surprising “So why are you still talking about it?” when I have barely given it the time of day for decades and he brought it up. I slammed this stuff out of myself in my twenties. I don’t give very many fucks now.

But I haven’t looked at it fully… I texted him today to just acknowledge that he’s started some sort of process. Spot the Dog does Compassion! He’s a parent now. Perspective comes with work. I told him I respected his thinking. I do, even though he very quickly tried to absent himself from any responsibility.

I went to the dinner because I was curious and there I found that there’s still stuff that will never be finished because it makes no sense to any of us. We were all just children and there was a psychopath in the room.

I know now that I have no hard feelings to any of them. I was happy to see them. They looked well. I was perhaps a bit disappointed to feel how separate they all felt to me – they’ve clearly all stayed in touch and I’m just this weirdo. My world is not theirs though. One of them who was capable of empathy and kindness almost refused to accept that I still liked him. “No, I was a dick to you.” he insisted. With full context I had to ask: “Were you?” I suspect it’s still not “cool” for them to be nice to me.

But I had a big chunk of my formative years where their “majority” set what I thought of as the benchmark for normal. I felt I didn’t fit, because … because I didn’t fit.

I’m sure they’ve all framed things like I have. I was an awkward little fucker and I knew I was clever. Maybe I should’ve helped myself like the man said. But the kid I was then couldn’t make sense of why it was happening and hadn’t learnt how cruel and arbitrary life can be.

Me now? I would have either broken both his fucking arms or died trying. But me now is a very very different beast to that happy broken open hearted clever protected trusting confused little boy who couldn’t understand why he was being bullied unless it was because he deserved it somehow.

And now I’m in Wales with these incredible hearts, and wonderful Lou. And I know what it is to have true friends and people in my life who think and care.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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