The confusion I felt on that day continued into the evening. The night floated by like a dream, and I felt a sense of dislocation from my body, as if I was newly fitted into this flesh, and didn’t quite know how it worked yet.
And so it was, in this little dream that I found myself meeting up with friends in a little restaurant in Chinatown, and sitting having a meal. I was off my head, it seems. The evening floated by and I struggled to engage with my pals. It was as if, as the old phrase goes, the lights were on but noone was home. The thing is, it was as if I wasn’t even in my own home. I felt as if I had woken up and I was in a house that someone else had been living in for a long time. I wandered around, wondering who had moved the furniture round, who had been using the place for so long. The sense of alienation was quite strange. Metaphorically, it felt like my body was heavier than I remembered it when I last used it, and whoever had been in here had not really looked after it. I had muscles that I hadn’t used for ages, that I didn’t even know how to work any more. Potential lurking. A swirl of uncertainties, as the old story I had told about myself for so long had gone.
Again, I felt how I imagine a prisoner might feel when released on to the streets after a long stretch inside. The hometown is the same, but that house has been knocked down, this one has been extended, another one has a tree in the garden that has grown and grown. It was familiar territory, but all new at the same time.
And the same was true of my friends. For a while I felt as if I wasn’t really connecting with them. My mind was filled with the trainings I had had with Paul, Richard and Michael – and I seemed to not really “get” what these guys were telling me. We sat and had our food, and the evening drifted by before I said goodbye to these dear friends and made my way home. It was my first journey out in public after the hypnosis, and it felt weird.
I slept at Nicola’s house that night, who had been acting as my host for the week. And I slept lightly, with my mind overwhelmed. And I woke up troubled and highly sensitive and went back into the training across London, bemused. Moving in a dream. Confused.
Back in the training room on the Thursday morning, people came up to me and asked how I was doing. I felt shaky and uneasy. People speaking to me was a kind of a pain, and I told them in no uncertain terms that I needed to be left alone. Someone even, bizarrely, asked me for an autograph, saying that their kids loved “The Bill” and they wanted to give them a little keepsake.
A friend in the room, George, came and sat next to me. He looked at me in concern and I answered his questions in a desultory and staccato manner. After a few minutes, as the lesson started, I realised that I couldn’t go on.
I slipped out of the room and disappeared into the streets of Earl’s Court, down through the market on a bright sunny spring day, the air bright and fresh and cold around me. The sounds on the streets, the rumble of the buses, the squeak of the taxis’ brakes, the press of people with their beating hearts and the patt-patter of their feet on the concrete, the reflection of early morning sunlight off the deep red edifices of London buses, swinging by in a golden arc on the walls, the cracks in the paving slabs, the succulent flesh of brightly glowing oranges like balls of flame on the market stalls, the soft yellow of bananas, the mangos with rich and sweet pungent smells, the people all around me: Lebanese, English, Arab, African, European – moving like ants, like the swirl of water, like air, touched with fire, alive, shining, bright. I was overwhelmed with a torrent of impressions and sensations, as if someone had torn off the filters of perception into my mind and the whole, rich world was pouring in one single, sensuous, crazy hit. I was going mad. The world was brighter, and brighter still, and the sharp edges of buildings, of cars, of people’s faces seemed to have been drawn with the finest pen, or engraved in the air – hard – sharp – clear – more real than I had ever experienced before. The world was pushing in on my senses, moving closer and closer, and I felt myself struggling to breathe.
I pushed on down the streets, my movements jerky as if I was a machine. The soft machine, the blood-filled, heartbeating, airbreathing, lifetasting machine with a driver at its top. It was a dream and hyper-real. It was everywhere and nowhere.
I walked the streets a while longer and then returned to the Ibis Hotel. I remembered that I had tried to write a letter to Paul McKenna that morning, telling him that something had gone wrong with what he had done. Telling him that I felt weepy and weird. But I had not been able to string a sentence together. I was sure, so sure, that something had gone terribly wrong.
I was pale and drawn in the mirror as I got back into the hotel. I then went and spoke to one of the assistants – a guy called Roy.
“Something’s gone wrong,” I told him as I sat in a chair and snivelled. “It’s gone wrong. I feel weird. Really weird.”
Roy looked at me with kindly eyes, but maintaining a calm sense of detachment. “Nothing’s gone wrong,” he said. “You were on stage yesterday with two of the greatest hypnotists in the world. These things don’t happen for no reason.”
“But my head. My head. I can hardly think.”
Roy blinked at me from behind his glasses. He wasn’t warm or overly kind, but just straightforward matter-of-fact. “This happens with clients from time to time,” he said. “I get people call me up after they have seen me. They tell me their life is all messed up and they’ve been hit really hard. Then it all calms down after a day or two and they are so much better. You need to understand that your unconscious mind has been given a task to do by Paul. It’s telling your conscious mind to shut the fuck up while it gets on with it.”
Somehow, that helped. He looked at me with intention as he said it, and somehow it helped. My mind quietened down a little, and I felt myself submitting to the process going on inside me. It was strange. A little piece of reassurance was growing, right there in the heart of me. Like a little star coming out at night.
The first one. One to wish on.