19 May 2003
Shut up, Gates. Not only are you a gappy-toothed dickhead with no personality, you are in no way qualified to talk about the consequences of one stupid mistake. Even if it did involve shagging Jordan.
I can see where you're coming from though. When I was around your age I guess I felt pretty much the same - I'd cheat on a girl, get caught, feel like it was the biggest outrage in the world and why the hell was she blowing it out of all proportion? But now I've got a lot more perspective on things, mind you I'm paying for it in a big way.
Let me set the scene. I'm twenty one, as good as engaged to this girl I've been seeing for some time, and it's one of these up-and-down type things. I wouldn't say we'd had any great times, but she's a pretty girl and my mum likes her, and we've been through a lot (early pregnancy scare, which really put the wind up me), so I kind of feel like I owe her something, you know? Anyway, this one evening we were in the pub having a quiet drink, and some stupid argument started between us. Can't even remember what it was, but we started rowing there and then so I says 'Come on, we're going home', just ready to write the evening off as a bad one and go straight to bed.
But she's having none of it. As soon as we get through the door she's at it again, having a go at me for this and that. Should have let it drop and said we'd speak in the morning, but instead I lose my rag and tell her I'm going back to the pub and she can sort herself out. Slam the door so she knows I mean business and head right out.
I sit at the bar with a pint of export and it must be obvious to everyone in sight that I'm still fuming. Most of them saw us arguing and saw us leave anyway, so god knows what they make of me being back. So I drink real quick to block it all out, block out the stares and the gossip, and after half an hour I'm almost back to normal.
That's when I see her. Black girl, really pretty, slim, small build, and I look at her and feel a sort of connection straight away. A combination of the drink and a residual buzz from earlier gives me a drive, a sort of confidence I guess, so I head over, buy her a drink and start making stupid conversation. Even more surprisingly, she starts to laugh with me, and before I know it it's a half hour to closing time and I'm sitting even closer to her, our thighs touching. She asks me what I'm doing here, I tell her I guess I'm really trying to make my girlfriend jealous.
'That's funny,' she says. 'I'm doing the same with my man.'
'So,', I says. 'How jealous do you want to make him?' She smiles.
As we're walking out I see her glance over at a group in the corner, but we bundle out the door pretty fast and I lead her over towards the park. I take her hand and turn her body towards me, and that's when I notice the change in her expression. When I grab her and try to kiss her, she pushes me away pretty forcefully, and I start to lose my rag.
I don't want to go into too much depth about what happened next. It's something I'm being encouraged to talk about more and more, to realise exactly what it is I've done, but I do have trouble recalling it. What I will say is, I do remember everything - it's not like I'm claiming I blacked out, or it wasn't me doing it, or like I was watching myself from outside. Of course I wasn't really thinking as such, but each blow was a decision I made. Me. No excuses.
It's when you come to your senses that it really, really hits you. That sick feeling you get when you've done something and wish you could just turn the clock back five minutes - multiply that by about a million. Get this - I was sitting there, on an upturned log, head in hands, thinking 'this can't be happening to me': how selfish can you get? Not thinking about that poor girl, about her family, about how it's going to affect my folks as well, all these people who'd done nothing wrong and whose lives are going to be turned upside down. That's something I've realised since I've been inside. I was a really selfish, self-centred kid back then.
There's a lot said about upbringing in our therapy sessions. People talk about broken homes, fathers that used to beat them and their mothers, drugs in the home, but to me it's just an excuse. I'm learning that when you stop making excuses and blaming other people, you can really start to rebuild yourself and think about the future. I started off blaming my girlfriend, blaming the girl for leading me on when all she was doing was letting the message get back to her man that she'd disappeared off with some strange guy she'd been chatting to all night, blaming the drink. I thought fair enough, I've never done anything like this in my life, why should I lose my whole life for one stupid mistake? But that's not all it is. I have to face up to the fact that I took a life, I have to live with it. OK I'm paying for it, but it's not as much as her family would have wanted and it's not going to bring her back.
So what's this? An apology in the original sense of the word, I guess - not saying sorry because that's no good, not a self-defence, just my statement. I hope you can get some encouragement from the fact that there's guys like me in here, that in some way the system does work. I'm worried about going out - having to tell prospective employers what I've done and seeing the look on their face - because I've seen what people do. They're a fish out of water, like Crocodile Dundee or Mork, only without the laughs - so make that Crocodile Dundee 3. You're the best survivor on the inside, no one messes with you, then you get out and you find you can't make it. I'm trying to better myself, to guard against that. But I'm not going to take offence at people judging me on what I did, because nowadays no one's harsher on me than me.