Paradoxical. That’s the word that springs to mind when I think back to that time and how far I’ve come. My diary for the week is full, business is good. Staring at the Gandhi poster on the wall facing my desk, I laugh as I recall what my friends and family euphemistically call ‘the episode.’ The first love of my life had dumped me. I didn’t see it coming. A week later, suffering from cabin fever, I left the house and walked into the city. Enjoying the sensation of my feet pounding the pavements as I settled into a rhythmic stride. I felt like I was marching my pain away.

My interest was piqued by a chapel I saw a hundred yards or so away. To this day, I haven’t a clue why I was overcome with the sudden desire to light a candle. I negotiated the chapel steps, opened the door, passed the basin of holy water that sat inside the hexagon shaped stone. 

Into the bosom of a chapel for the first time in years, I took a seat in the front row familiarising myself with the sights and smells. I pictured the chapel I used to attend with my parents. A feeling of disgust enveloped me at the thought of the charade of them still attending mass together every Sunday. Presenting a public display of unity despite hating each other’s guts.  I approached the antique black wrought iron candle stand. The candles themselves were in a little crib like the kind you saw in a nativity play. Stretching down to pick one I spotted a life-sized Baby Jesus statue up to his neck in candles. His sad wee face pleaded with me. ‘C’mon, help me out of here pal.’ I stared at his wee face, then said to him, ‘No Baby Jesus, you’ve never answered any of my prayers, you’ve made your bed, so you can damn well lie in it.’ Like I said, this was the start of the ‘episode’.

I lit the candle and placed it in its holder. Fascinated by the blue inner core resting within the larger yellow part of the flame. I was acting like some Tibetan Master of the Karma Kagyu lineage stretching back to 10th century Tibet. Time seemed to grind to a halt. I was confused. Bending down, I took a handful of candles stuffing them into my jacket pocket while trying to ignore Baby Jesus who shook his head in disgust as he mouthed, ‘Commandment number five in a series of seven.’

I walked up the aisle feeling a bit better about the world as if  I’d cultivated some loving kindness through my meditating. Looking back now, what was I thinking of? Stealing from God’s House. I’ve heard of stealing candy fae a wean, but never stealing candles fae a wean’s manger.

Arriving on Union Street I decided to have a wander in a book shop. Perhaps a bit of reading, a bit of escapism will take my mind off my problems, I thought. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a pub that I enjoyed many a good night in. And this is where ‘The Voice’ first appeared. A sneaky little fucker. Like when you haven’t tuned the radio in properly. It’s just slightly off. All you hear is static. Suddenly, a voice takes over for a few seconds then disappears as quickly as it arrived. THAT was his party trick. Go on have a few pints, you deserve it. That’s a good three-mile walk and a visit to chapel into the bargain. In you get. That was it. That was the moment I became his slave. If he told me to get naked right there in the middle of Union Street, ordered me to start busking, to do a song and dance routine to the Thong Song using my discarded underwear for any coinage that got thrown my way, I would have done it.

So, I ordered a pint, headed to the jukebox. I’m deliberating over six songs like it was the last six songs I’ll ever hear. I’ve downed my pint before I’ve even selected three songs. I shout to the barman, ‘get me a pint pal, I’ve still three songs to pick and I don’t want some opportunist stealing them whilst I’m at the bar.’  An affirmative grunt shot back at me. When I see my pint up at the bar I go to get it but I’m constantly checking the jukebox like I’m the lookout for someone on the steal. Anyway, I picked the rest of the tunes and sat back. A bit of people-watching. I was getting irritated. Agitated beyond belief. Fists clenched. Grinding my teeth.

Boom.

Darkness.

That’s the last I can remember. Apparently, I flipped my table over before I tried to rip the jukebox off the wall, then curled up on the floor in the foetus position.

*

It must have been tough for my mum to take that call. Seeing her son lying in a pub like that. But when I think of the first thing she said to me. You couldn’t make it up. I’m regaining consciousness, I see her face an inch or so from mine. What does she say? ‘Are you OK son? What happened son? Don’t worry, we’ll get you help son.’ No, she says, ‘Thomas, please, please don’t tell me that… your father and I would never be able to live it down… the stain on the family. Please don’t tell me that those candles that were in your jacket pocket were stolen from a chapel.’

But I’ve had the last laugh. There’s the buzzer, that’s my five thirty. I better buzz him in. I’ve seen this guy three times, he’s doing well, considering he’s receiving counselling from someone like me. I tell them my story, that I’ve been there, I know what they’re going through. I think they respect that. Or maybe they just think of one word.

Paradoxical.

Martin Geraghty is a forty-something writer from Glasgow. His first novel, A Mind Polluted, will be published by Crooked Cat Books in 2018.

He has performed his short stories at various spoken word events and at a 404ink book launch, and his work has been featured in Glove Litzine and Razur Cuts Litzine.

You can follow him on Twitter @MartinG140611.