by Anton Wills-Eve

<a href=””>From You to You</a>

 a letter to myself at 14


Look, I know it’s an important game at the weekend, and I know how much you want to do well but you’ll make yourself ill if you carry on like this. No, seriously you really will. I’m sure you’re playing a Lizst rhapsody or something equally calming for your whole body. I’m sure it’s beautiful, but can’t you just stick with that? Your music at least doesn’t bring on your agoraphobia, at least not when you’re alone at home.

You know, mate, there are four days to go to that match. In that  time you’ll have had to somehow walk or get a lift to the Abbey and school, there and back, eight times which half kills you. I know once inside the buildings, well only some of the abbey, you calm down, but you often miss breakfast and then lunch because you can’t swallow at a table with a lot of people without choking. Then, like the idiot you are, you throw your homemade sandwiches away so you can play football or cricket and get in some piano practice before afternoon school. You really are stupid.

But it’s the game that worries me. Look you can’t cross a large open space without hyperventilating and sometimes even fainting. You make excuses if people see you, but it’s taxing your mental and physical resources dreadfully. I know you find the phobia dies down if you join in a kick about with other boys, or practice in the cricket nets right next to the pavillion, but your lessons are starting to suffer given the state you’re in by the time you return to learning. Okay when you’re with your mother or sister or a close female relative you know you can hang onto them if you have to, and some understand your problem. But you’re fourteen and a quarter now so you can’t hang on to another boy, can you? Well maybe David, he knows how ill you are and often walks home with you so he can put his arm round your shoulder if he has to, but there’s no one else.

Okay, it’s 1956 and most people would think you’re far too young for a girlfriend, but couldn’t your sister ask Sandy or Theresa or someone your age at her school to help? They’ve known you for a long time now and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind helping you, even if it embarrassed you to tell them what was wrong with you. Yes, Yes, everyone at school would notice and rib you rotten, but isn’t that better than doing what you do? And don’t worry about getting over fond of them, all that sort of thing will worry the pants off you, well probably not literally, in a couple of years, so why not start early and help yourself?

I know the doctors can’t give any stronger tranquilisers to somebody your age, but they don’t work anyway, so why even take them? Well allright they help a bit but not that much. But what I’m really afraid of is what you’re going to do when you’re picked for the team on Saturday, and you’ve been doing it too long now. Four years isn’t it, at an average of once or twice in the same week for twenty odd weeks in the year? You know what I mean. In order to control your nerves enough to stay on that cricket field for as much as you have to, especially fielding miles from anyone, you drink about two thirds of a bottle of neat spirits – gin, whisky, brandy whatever you can find or even mix! –  about fifteen minutes before the game.

Fine, it works, even if your almost alcoholic parents are starting to notice, but how long can you keep it up? Maybe until your twenty if you’re lucky and then you’ll be both addicted to drink and suffering from an incurable anxiety neurosis which is driving you round the bend as it is! So look mate, cut out the booze and if it means no more golf or cricket well so be it. There are people far more physically handicapped than you who have to do without lots of things they want. Anyway, just take my advice and behave sensibly. You never know you might fall in love and that would teach you a lesson. Seriously, though, do stop the booze. I mean, imagine what will happen when you have to pay for it yourself!