I want to make one thing clear: this is very hard for me to do. Nearly impossible. I don’t mean documenting my thoughts, laying out my feelings for all to see. That’s easy. See, I don’t really give a shit what your opinion of me is. That’s the person that my self-afflicted anger has led me to become. I mean the actual putting of pen to paper. Well, I can’t stand to put a pen on paper; the feel of the nib scratching through the fine leaf makes my bones turn to dust.
So . . . I want to take a second to introduce you to Steve. Say Hi Steve.
Hello. (I’ll put me italicised!)
Steve is writing this for me. Well, typing out my diatribe as I spill my guts.
Here to help, Mallie. If I can keep up.
Good man. Couldn’t do it without you. It might be . . . It will be an uncomfortable ride. You are going to hear some things you won’t want to hear.
I’ve heard it all before, Mal. I know what we’re doing –
No, Steve. You don’t. Yet. You’ll find out what I’m doing soon enough. And you’re helping me out more than anyone should ever be asked to. I’ll never be grateful enough.
Whatever I can do for you. You asked; I’m here.
Just make sure you get everything down. Don’t miss a heartbeat.
I got every word of that!
Good. Let’s do it . . .
People have always told me that I’m just making excuses. They tell me I’m lazy. Even saying that word causes my jaw to tighten with anger. I mean, you wouldn’t ask a physically disabled person to give your car a push, would you? Mow the lawn? Wash the dishes, even? Well I am physically disabled. I am Dis Prat. That’s what I call myself. Me brain-to-limbs strings ain’t wired right. Yep, Pinocchio had it better than me. Dis Prat, if you hadn’t guessed, has dyspraxia. And I’m judging you.
It’s not because I’m bitter at my condition. Don’t you dare ever say that. This is not a cry for help. I tried that when I was a kid and learned pretty soon that it was never going to gain me any more than a little sympathy. It’s nothing personal. And don’t you ever dare say that I’m jealous of you. The opposite is the truth actually. I’m on your side. I hope you’ll come to understand that’s why I’m doing this. I’m trying to get through to you for your sake. Though occasionally, I confess, I envy.
First: Do yourself a favour, check your tone of voice when you say you can’t or don’t want to do something. You can do anything. If you don’t want to do something then just say that you don’t want to! But don’t tell me that I’m “just lazy”. And think before you choose the words you are about to say.
Like you are now? (S)
You know when you were told when you were a kid to think before you speak? Do it. Select your words more carefully than you imagine. Erase the negative. That’s what I’m doing.
So, my condition . . . You’ll soon understand why I need Steve here. If you don’t know already, dyspraxia is a disorder that affects motor skills: the transmission of messages from the brain to the body, or “the ineffective functioning of axons through the neural tracts” if you’re thinking of studying to be a GP. Basically imagine dyslexia of the body, if you like. Except I know what I want to do, my body just won’t let me do it. I get exhausted trying. And I do try, I want to try, but I just can’t help giving up when it all goes wrong.
I have dyspraxia in its most severe form. I’m a chronic. I am so useless, as functional as a paralytic, less than a paraplegic. Imagine having your hands tied behind your back and your feet pinned to the floor and being told to climb a wall. Of course you know how to climb the wall, but there’s no way that you can. I might even get halfway up the wall, but I’d hardly ever be able to get over it. Useless. Something in me would give up. I’d end up on my arse most times. And I hurt just like you. Believe me I hurt. My weakling of a brain doesn’t give up on hurt like it gives up on most things. It seems to encourage it, the hurt.
Often when I’m walking along I just fall over halfway down the street. Yeah, it’s hilarious. It is. My feet get tangled and say to each other, “Your turn, Pal”, then they have a punch-up at my expense. If you roll a football to me I know what I’m supposed to do to kick it, but I’d just as likely fall over backwards trying, without lifting a leg. I knock things over trying to pick them up: glasses, cups, hot tea.
Yeah, you’ve even done that a couple of times since I’ve been here. (Reader: I make my own drinks in this house.)
Yeah! Useless, like I said.
And I bump into people, which isn’t bad for a free grope but is quite inconvenient, not to mention embarrassing, if me and some old dear are rolling round on the floor in the supermarket. Why would the selfless hero who comes to help her up feel any pity for me? I mean, from the outside I look just like you! No, they want to smash my head in. You probably would too, if you’re not one of the ones doubled-over from laughing at me. And sometimes I can’t even help myself back up, like a turtle flipped over onto his shell. I am a hazard to myself. I’m a hazard to you and yours. And I’m most definitely a hazard to traffic. A car travelling at 40 miles-per-hour looks parked at the side of the road to me. My spatial awareness . . . I mean, who would step out in front of a moving car on purpose?
Mallie sighs heavily (Steve)
I know that many people out in the big, bright, fucked-up world are worse off than I am. I know that. I do. But you are probably not one of them. If you are I hope you understand what I’m trying to illustrate to Mr John Healthy-Public. But if you are a member of the Healthy-Public family then I hope that you will really spend some time to stop and think about what I’m saying here. Take a chance on life is basically what I’m trying to say. Take a chance because you can. The sun shines through the rain for you. Open your curtains and you’ll see that I’m right.
I just want to put here that I understand what you’re saying, man.
You whining, miserable bastard.
Thanks, Steve. Make sure you leave that in. I meant it when I said leave everything. You’re a part of this, man. And I’m not a cry baby.
Erm . . . Jokes? I know, I know, Mallie. Take that murderous look off your face. I’m just kidding. I’ll do anything you want, man, you should know that by now.
Steve, having you help copy my message is the only thing I’ll ever need. Man, where we’re we? My messed-up mind can’t keep a grip on the rope of thought, just like my messed-up body.
Take your time. Take it easy on yourself. (Malcom laughs. His face is thoughtful, almost away from here, someplace else. Reader: I wish you could see what I can see. Imagine an exhausted child pondering how he might possibly commence climbing a tall rock face to make his way home, alone . . .)
I understand that most dyspraxics are able to learn to cope with this affliction. You will come to judge me, like I am judging you, but please don’t consider all dyspraxics to be like me. I am of my own mind. Dyspraxics, by and large, I’m sure lead a full and healthy life. I’ve learned to laugh at myself like they probably do. But my laugh is bitter. So I’m not even like dyspraxics. I’m not like anyone. I am Dis Prat.
But you’re all right, you know?
Yeah, all my friends tell me that. Well, all my friends just told me that.
Maybe if you took a chance to take it easier on yourself then everyone else would take it easier on you!
Maybe if a fish flapped its fins really hard it would fly right out of the water.
Some do . . .
Shut up. Ok. More.
So I’ve started shaving now. Now that I have to. But sometimes I’m looking at myself in the mirror after my hand has given up trying and I just want to cut my head off like in that mad Monty Python sketch, cover my whole head with foam and slice. I am an accident waiting to happen. No. I’m an accident that does happen. Frequently. The bathroom is my Moriarty. One of them, anyway. Getting stoned is pretty cool for me. Yeah Steve?
Most of the time, anyway. I mean, it’s not cool when I’m sitting there feeling the constant need to piss, knowing that I don’t really need to piss but can’t stop thinking that I’m about to wet myself, but I’m too paranoid and wasted to stand up. You know that feeling? Well I don’t have to be stoned to get that feeling. I haven’t ever actually wet myself yet. But what about when I get older? Head-butt the coffee table trying? This isn’t going to get any easier for me. And I have to say again, I’m not moaning, just telling you what it’s like for me, why I’ve become the way I am. Why I’m intolerable to spend any length of time with. Steve?
I am the way I am because of the constantly bubbling cauldron of boiling anger that gives heat to my blood. More importantly, I’m trying to tell you why you might want to take a second to remind yourself to be thankful that you are not so impaired.
When I’m high – well, not just when I’m high – I like to paint. I make pictures, as good as I can. I like what I do. It’s quite an effort but I love to do it. It’s just about the one thing that I can do. So I like what I do. It’s never going to be critically acclaimed in a grand exhibition. The final piece is never what I imagine my hand to do. But it is a result; one that I can look upon. Don’t believe the arseholes and freaks who say that a piece is never fucking finished. You can’t live like that. Except as a metaphor for life. Imagine what you can do . . .
Did you ever play musical chairs when you were a child, Steve?
Of course you did. Can you ever remember being the first without a chair when the music stopped?
Ummm? Remember that I’m a fair bit older than you, Mal!
Probably you can. Or at least remember that feeling when you’re out of the game. Do you remember every game you ever played, when you were five, seven, ten years old, as being frustrating and embarrassing, so much that you wished you were alone, anywhere else as long as there was no one else there, left to wonder why you couldn’t do what everyone else did, even the littler kids, never able to work out why you’re so different? Why you’re not like them? Like everyone else? Of course you didn’t. Unless you were sulking at losing. Or not really wanting to be involved in the first place. Unless you were like me and couldn’t. Well, I would have loved to have been involved. Still would. And do you still sulk when things don’t go your way? Or do you do something about it, something positive? I’d bet that you could, you know, if you’d give yourself a chance. Ha, and as for follow the leader, I wouldn’t follow Dis Prat. He’s always a spasticated step behind . . .
Another heavy sigh.
Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t a shy kid. But I’ve always been moody. Do you need to ask why? I’ve always been the loser. Not a bad loser: the always loser.
Mallie, man, you’re making me feel sad.
Because you’re listening, Steveo. That’s why we’re doing this, remember? Why I have to do this.
Yeah, I finally really do get it. I thought I did before but . . . Sorry, man.
Shut the fuck up. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me; I want them to feel good about themselves. And make sure you leave that in, too. That’s the most important thing. One of . . .
Whilst I’m on it, a quick note for all you holy-rollers. Going to church to make you feel better about yourself does not give you a divine
(nice choice of word, Mallie. I’ve italicised it!)
right to say that God’s will on earth is why some must suffer so that you can go forth and prosper, making the world better by converting the impressionable or needy to become condescending pricks like you. That’s the same as saying that you can’t have good without having evil, so anyone with a disability, anyone who isn’t like you, is evil. That’s being a little Hitler. Don’t pray down on people. If your judgement is willing, however, go worship!
Please pray for me, because I can’t pray. Not anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to. I try. Used to. But every time I’m offering myself up to Him, asking for forgiveness or thanking God for giving me an able mind in a brain that is intent on crucifying my life, that same brain always, without any encouragement from my mind, starts calling Him a ____.
Are you sure you want me to put that word in there, Malcom? I mean –
Well that’s the word that my brain starts screaming!
But a lot of people don’t like that word though, do they? You might just end up ostracising readers from your . . . you know, from this, whatever it is you want to call it. Story? But, you know, girls especially don’t like that word, you know.
Well they’re all ____ then
(I’m laughing but) I’m not doing it, man. I think you’ll thank me in the long run. Instead I’ve put an underscore.
Nice! Thanks. I’m one of the flock!
So, what was I saying?
You were saying ____!
Disability. I’m like an old woman riddled by arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. At the best of times! Ha-ha.
Steve, you are not putting a LOL in my . . . in this. You’re not putting it in. It’s important.
No mate, I won’t. (Ha-ha, sucker. LOL LOL LOL)
If I was able to do everything . . . No, I think I’ve made my point on that. And no one can. But die trying, not by wishing you had or regretting that you hadn’t. That’s the last comment I want to pass on that.
No one really likes me.
No. I know that. No boo-hoo me. Shut up. That’s not my intention. This is not a plea, it’s an appeal. I am one moody bastard. I’m cussed and easily angered. But what? I’m frustrated, like, all the time. All. Of. The. Time. What were you doing with your life when you were seventeen years old? How many times a day did you knock into something or drop things? Were your bruises from having fun or constantly being reminded of your misery? You won’t find me complaining. Not any more. And this is not a complaint. Understand that now. Not now that I’m judging every one of you able readers. Believe me, I’d rather be judged in your shoes. You don’t know what you’ve got. Even if you think you do, you don’t. You can’t. Because you can. This appeal
That’s your word to describe this now, is it? Appeal?
It’ll do. Erm . . . Steve, you dammed my meandering stream. Read back what I was just saying . . .
You don’t know what you’ve got. Even if you think you do, you don’t. You can’t. Because you can. This appeal . . .
Yeah . . . it’s to make you consider your contribution to life on earth, your life on earth, on a more regular basis. Understand that. Perhaps I haven’t really given myself an even chance. The one girl that’s kissed me, I’m sure she kissed me as a joke, or a dare. And she wasn’t even beautiful. And I’m not ugly. I guess I just have that bad vibe; a book with an unappealing cover. A house that from the outside looks like it does what it should do by being a house, but inside is putrid swampland.
It’s kind of funny to hear you . . . you, Mallie . . . being so open with your emotions. It’s almost impossible to lay tracks down in front of your train of thought.
It’s time to. Everyone wants a chance to change the world. I’m not thinking of myself anymore.
I think you’re doing well, whatever you are going to end up doing with this appeal of yours, how it’s going to change the world. It’s deep and I want everyone to know that it’s touched me. It might need a little editing . . . Sorry, I should just shut up interfering and let you get on with it. I just had to say that.
No. Thanks. And I just hope it can make a difference. Even to one person’s life. I have to make a difference in this lifetime for other people to see that they can too. I know now that that’s what my life is for. Not just a sick, wasted joke. Does that make any kind of sense?
I think so. Yeah, it does. Definitely.
I think it will when it’s all done and over with. Just make sure you get it out there.
Well, you can do that yourself, can’t you? You could call it ‘An Appeal for Inspiration and Betterment.’ Might be a Channel 5 show in it for you.
Hang on, whilst we’re on this get this down . . .
I don’t want your compassion. But I didn’t expect, in the fruity dish called retrospect that I’m munching bitterly through, that my own mother could have so little to share. With me. Her only child. I understand why your patience has all but worn away, mum. And I’m sorry. I can only imagine the dreams you had for me when you first held me in your arms. All the hope and possibilities. The love. Every mother wants the perfect blue-eyed boy. All I got was the blue eyes. But that doesn’t make me even half of the way there. I need you to know that I forgive you everything. Every quick and thoughtless word, all of the comments you spat through your despair. I’m truly sorry that I only ever disappointed you, could never make you proud. But I . . . I tried as hard . . . as . . . tried as hard as . . .
Yeah, yeah. Sorry. I just need to . . . to imagine you’re not here right now. Because . . . this is the hardest part.
Take a deep breath. I’m in no hurry. You want this in the appeal too?
Just get it down.
Mum . . . You have to know that I did try as hard as I possibly could at all the things that come naturally to normal people. But I could have tried harder at showing that I love you. Ha . . .
Mal? You want to take a break?
No. Sorry, Steve . . .
Mum, at least you didn’t have to live a second in my head after each argument that we had. You never did convince me when you denied that dad left because of me. You never had to say it out loud. I always knew. Basically, I’ve ruined your life. You’ve never done anything to ruin mine. Life conspired with me to do that. I have to tell you now, every time I overheard you tell one of your friends what a good boy I am in spite of yadda yadda yadda, even though it was just for show and I know that you didn’t mean a word that you said, I appreciated that. I really did, mum. But you can learn from this more than anyone what a word can do, how powerful every single one that passes your lips really is. There’s a quote I always remembered – I can’t remember it exactly: a kind word can last for ten years but a harsh word lasts a lifetime. Something like that. I am doing this to make you proud. I hope that one day you can realise that.
I remember one too. May I . . . ?
Oh mate, yeah. The page is yours, mine scribe.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
Oh mate, you’ve got to put that in. Where’s that from? I mean, who said that?
That’s beautiful. Cheers, mate. You know, for everything.
What? Are we done?
Yeah. I think so. Thanks again. I love you, man.
Woah! I think my job definitely is done here. I don’t want to stick around if it’s turning into a love story.
But it is a love story. It’s like Kurt Cobain said in his suicide note: “I think I simply love people too much, so much that it makes me feel too fucking sad.”
Quoting from a suicide note, is that not a negative ending to your appeal?
It’s perfect. It’s beautiful. For me it’s the perfectly beautiful ending . . .
Steve, before I finish writing this on my own, thanks mate, for helping me. You can never know how much you’ve helped me.
Well, you’ll know now that this note is found.
Whoever does find this – and I’m so sorry you had to; I only did it here to ensure that it won’t be my mum who finds me – you need to know that Steve was not at any juncture complicit in helping me kill myself. I never breathed a word to him of my intention. He is in no way to be held accountable.
If you’ve read this far I hope that you understand that I just cannot go on any more. This is not a life. I do not intend to be a martyr. I just want to be understood.
Of all the people I’ve ever . . . What’s the word? See, I’m lost without your help, assistant Steve! See, Steve is exactly one of these people that I’ve been telling you that you can be, if you want to. He never says anything bad about anyone – unless they deserve it, of course. He didn’t need to spend time with me to feel better about himself. He did it to make me feel better about my life. He always did, whenever I asked him, whenever I just needed someone to talk to, someone to listen. Basically, his attitude is why I wanted to get this down before I go, and why I needed him to help. It’s a horrific, terrible thing to ask anyone to help with – don’t say it hasn’t crossed your mind. But Steve is strong enough to accept the good from me leaving this life. In a way . . . in a positive way . . . he’ll be pleased to have helped me. I hope. I needed him; he was there. He knows how to erase the negatives. I still need him in my final hours. The pace I’m typing at – then going back and correcting! – is like watching a fly move without wings. It’s Dis Prat I must kill off. I’ll just be a casualty. Judge Dis Prat, who I became.
I hate the word ‘judged’ actually, even though that’s what I said I’ve been doing to you, whoever you might be reading this note. This appeal. Jesus, I’m not going back through this again and editing the fucking thing, ha-ha. I’ve got the patience of a wind-blown leaf, remember?
What I’m trying to say is that I just feel sorry for these people who won’t get up and do something with their lives, only ever happy to bleat and moan about how useless everyone else is. Yeah, I feel so fucking sad. I pity them. If you’re reading this and knowing that it’s you, then you! I understand that everything is easier said than done. I know this better than anyone! But always remember that when you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you. Love the world and it will love you back, so they say. I guess that must be sort of true because I hate myself. I’ll say again that not a lot of people really like me, I know that. And that’s mostly my fault. Please don’t make it yours. Don’t come home and the first thing you say is that you’ve had a shitty day. Tell your girlfriend she’s beautiful. Tell your housemate that he’s looking good. Tell your mum that you love her.
I love you mum.
If you are reading this and you are genuinely worse off than me, please don’t think me selfish. If you are dyspraxic I hope that it brings you no offence. Have strength brothers and sisters. Having strength was never one of my strengths! I guess that you could be thinking that my determination has fallen away, that I’ve given up. But that’s not it. Not at all. No one has ever really listened when I’ve said it: that I’d love to be involved; that I dreamed of getting up first thing in the morning and running towards the sunrise. Everyone expects the clown to keep the children laughing, even when he has to beat himself up for everyone’s entertainment. Plenty of people laugh at me but no one has ever really listened. And I’ve really wanted to be heard. Because I knew that no one ever would listen I’ve never really even . . . ha . . . you know, I’ve never even really tried. That’s the truth of it. Yes, I’m a hypocrite. I gave up too soon, just like my limbs do.
It’s taken everything I’ve ever had, good and bad, to put my message down, to try and make you listen, to actually hear me. This really is the only way anyone will ever understand. I couldn’t go without saying it. This message, this appeal has to get out there. Pass it on to someone that you think might need to hear it too. Pass it on to ten people. Pass it on to people like Steve, because they’ll know how to use it. I think that it’s worth saying it again: this is the only way that anyone will ever understand how good they have it . . .
I’m not going to tell you how I’m going to do it. Or have done it by now. You are reading this, right? Read about me in the papers. I’d even fuck up using a gun if I was a romantic. But be sure that I won’t fuck this up. It will be a perfectly beautiful ending . . .
So . . .
My Final Will and Testament.
Get up and do something with your life, you fucking moron. If you are, or even if you truly, truly think that you are, then I respect you with all of my frail being. I’ve tried to be happy. I’ve tried so hard, you don’t know. Happiness is just not for me, it seems.
One last quote before I’m done. “Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry all alone.” You know what philosophers said that? Chas and Dave. True words.
P.S. Would actually have really liked to the opportunity to be ya
2 thoughts on “Dis Prat”
It is really beautiful and meaningful and the writing is really lovely. I love the use of language, it is heart breaking. Probably more people feel this way than you would believe
Really great Phill. Made me think about my own situation. Some things in there are so true. I’ve had my low moments and moments that break my heart, like when my 6 yr old puts a blanket over me and tells me she will look after me! There are so many hidden disabilities out there and it’s so hard to put across to people how you feel.
Well done mate.