by Tony X Stanton
I walked along with my son, the sun’s rays beating down on my head, somewhat of a rare occurrence in my home town. It often seemed to me that the little town of Consett not far from Durham in England was quite similar to the Adams family house in that it seemed to have a perpetual cloud hanging over it. But on this rare (some may even say freak) occasion, the day was clear as a mountain spring and a warm sun beat down. The sort of day that you wake up to and it makes you feel alive. I however didn’t feel happy or even in the same galaxy as happy, due to a strange combination of circumstance, bad luck and some epic miscalculations of my own, I was flat broke.
Previously I told you how I went to Montreal to spend a year working and experiencing a different culture at the same time. But all did not go according to plan. When I was informed that someone back home had a serious health problem the very last place I wanted to be was stuck the other side of the damn planet. I couldn’t think, let alone work. I needed to get back home ASAP. Yesterday if possible. In one way I am thankful that the firm I was working for was prepared to let me leave only 3 months into my contract. However, what I wasn’t aware of was that I’d be liable for all the expenses incurred by them to relocate me to Montreal, and not just the current month but three further months of the rent on the apartment I was renting.
So after they deducted what they claimed I owed them, it meant working the last month and a half for nothing. So when my girlfriend came over to help me move all my crap back to England, I wasn’t just broke. I had minus money. The very idea of having less than zero is bizarre. I wasn’t just broke, I was less than broke in a mirror universe where suddenly every single penny seemed to be worth double its value.
Money I used to piss up against a wall on a Friday or Saturday night suddenly would be being enough to keep me for weeks. Not just my current decisions but every single one I ever made came back to haunt me with a vengeance. All the times I had thousands in my wallet and wasted most of it as I ‘could afford it easily’ are now the stuff of my darkest nightmares. Logically, I know there is no way I could have ever known what was going to occur. Logically, I was in the clear. However, emotionally and psychologically I wasn’t. I’m no stranger to either failure or great achievements, however this time every single decision I ever made sparked off an endless stream of ‘could haves’, ‘should Haves’ and ‘might have beens’.
Suddenly everything feels like my fault, even things that patently are not and cannot be. This is the curse of being so broke your into theoretical minuses. Every single time you pass a mirror you don’t see yourself, you see an abject failure of a human being. So I avoid looking in mirrors now. The one in our bedroom has an old t-shirt over it. I tell my girlfriend that’s due to it being rather sweaty and needing to dry off a bit before going in the wash. But the reality is, it’s often painful to look at myself.
So while walking around town to bum a cup of coffee from my parents in the cafe that day with 50p in my pocket, in fact in my whole world, the universe saw fit to make that less.
“Dad! I need a wee!” said my son. Young lads of his age often need a piss. It’s sort of part of their makeup. They eat their own weight in food, grow too fast and piss their own weight each day. In a normal world, a world without theoretical minus money, this isn’t a problem. But in town, the only public toilet is in the bus station, which held a collection of various people at the bottom of life, some of whom are actually trying to get a bus. The thing is…the toilet costs 20p.
For virtually every other person 20p is nothing, it’s not worth even thinking about. However, when your entire world consists of 50p suddenly it feels like someone is about to repossess your house. Sure, I could have snuck him around a corner in a backstreet, and he could have taken a piss for nothing, but that is not the behaviour of a dad, that is not the behaviour of someone I want my son to have fond memories of when he is an old man. So I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out the change, all I had in the world. Three Ten pences and a single Twenty pence piece and I handed the twenty pence to him.
No doubt someone is wondering why I don’t just go and claim some sort of dole money? The simple answer is tbecause I left my job of my own accord, albeit for very, very good reasons, I can’t get a single god damned penny. So my days are spent at the moment trying to work out how to keep my kids eating and provided for, looking after my son, who is a 24 hour a day job on his own, and trying not to go nuts and run round with a rocket launcher and 46 pipe bombs in the centre of town.
I’ve been on the bottom before when I was far younger and spent 6 months living on the streets in a cardboard box. So I know exactly what poor and having nothing feels like, although in this case it’s worse as I’m not just poor, I have minus money. The most heartbreaking moment for me was when my kids came back from my parents and decided that they would give daddy some pocket money. To a child the solution is simple: if someone is down because they have no money, then you simply give that person money and they they’ll be happy. It was the one time I almost cried.
But here’s the kicker I’ve learned from being less than flat broke. People you often think of as friends run like the wind, fairweather friends indeed. People who you lent money to on many occasions find reasons not to pay it back. People try to take advantage of you every single hour of the day. Others suddenly see you as a guy that once cost a fair bit of money to hire, but now they think they can get the same work for nothing or very close to it. I may be financially in a subterranean vault, but I am no one’s mug. Some seem quite perturbed by this fact that I won’t work for nothing or do anything for such low fees again. I ended up having to write a book on slimming for the princely sum of £20 just to be able to afford food one week. it never crosses their mind that one day the tables may be turned. The old adage of ‘be nice to people on the way up as you’ll sure as hell meet them on the way down’ is very very accurate.
But I don’t want charity. I don’t need a break. I’ve had plenty of them in my life. I just feel like I need life to stop shitting on me long enough to find a way out. I’m a 3D artist, have worked on triple A hollywood films, I’ve worked for the biggest computer games company in the world as a senior artist, I’ve lectured all over the world (usually at a loss to pass on my skills to others), I play about 16 different instruments, I compose classical music, electronic music and just about every other type of music, I’m an experienced programmer, I’ve been writing and published since the age of 14, I’m a painter, I’ve been a world record holding escape artist and much more. But none of that means a thing anymore…20 plus years of it and I have less than nothing to show expect a pretty nice demo reel, a mind full of awesome stories and the memory of the times when I had something and felt like something other than a failure.
These days I have about 15 mins a day to do my emails, the rest of the time is taken up just trying to survive. I cannot give up any ‘surviving time’ on a speculative venture that may or may not make money. When you have nothing, everything is a risk with very great consequences. If you pay one penny more for something than you need to you’re fucked. Maybe I should put all my articles and other experiences into a book and self publish it? It’d be one helluva read as I’ve not had the most normal of lives. But right now it’s going to be a fight to keep from drowning and to keep positive enough to keep putting one foot in front of another. But I’ll keep fighting because I’m a big believer in Karma and although my depression is biting hard right now, one day it’ll ease and then Karma will look after me. So don’t count me out just yet, there is still a little fight and a fair few good ideas left in the old dog yet. The Great Magnet looks after its own.
“Dont mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, But when someone is unkind to me,weak is not what you’re going to remember about me” – Alphonse Capone