By Peter Gigi
Key Themes: alcoholism, depression, paranoia, schizoid alienation, recovery
“Peter Gigi describes the inner world of Chris, isolated and dislocated, crash-landing home. And descending further and further into a world of paranoid, schizoid alienation. His only contact is with the desolate. And finding the strength to move on… he moves on. A powerful novel, poetic, inventive, experi-mental!” – The Cultural Foundation
‘When We Were Gods’ is the true story of a lost, forgotten and dispossessed generation. Fuelled with the fury, cynicism, dreams and humour of people who are bored with media deceptions and mass produced fairytales. Set in a sedated Northern seaside town at ‘the end of the line,’ it tells the story of ‘scum washed up on the tide.’ Outsiders.
A bomb explodes in Chris’ brain, blowing his bright city life apart. Everything is gone, his girl, his home, his job and his friends; all ripped away. Chris, ‘crash-lands’ back in the town he grew up in, with the wreck of his alcoholic father. Spiralling further down into a ‘place, with neither light nor darkness’, believing himself dead, Chris meets Jim who introduces himself as an angel. We are all Gods. Glorious, magical and infinite. We are here and this is our story.
About the Author
Peter Gigi was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Educated at the University of Leeds, he lives in the North of England by the deep, dark sea. As a writer and performer he is also a poet and writes for the stage. He is currently working on a second novel. His work continues to explore a fascination with disintegration and outsiders.
‘Thank the baby Jesus! Thank the f**king baby Jesus!’ Chris thought, stepping into the warm light from a naked bulb hanging vacantly from the kitchen ceiling. The kitchen was a little warmer and brighter, but certainly not any cleaner than the streets.
‘So you’re back then?’ His dad said, sitting down heavily on a chair by the kitchen table, firmly planting himself in amongst the filth and devastation. His dad looked Chris up and down. Ashtrays lay choked and overflowing, half-eaten foodstuffs, tins, boxes and bottles surrounded him. Empty bottles and full. Bottles of Scotch were the only thing on his dad’s shopping list. Chris dropped his bag onto to the slimy linoleum. ‘Yeah just for a bit,’ Chris replied, not convinced of the statement the moment it left his mouth. It was clear his dad had become very accustomed to a single life. There was a distinct lack of any female touches to the place.
Bottles and bottles were everywhere. Empty bottles full of empty dreams. Maybe dad thought he would find whatever he was looking for at the bottom of one those bottles? One bottle for every day of his life after mum had gone. Was he looking for the golden ticket? It was obvious, from the state of the kitchen that he hadn’t found it and he was still looking. Chris knew it was a futile search, like a heroic quest, with no treasure.
His dad poured a large whiskey into a stained and never-washed glass. ‘So it’s all gone wrong has it?’ His dad said coldly. It was more of a statement than a question. He said it with the kind of cutting tone reserved only for special occasions. Still in shell shock, Chris didn’t answer. There was a pause as his dad took a cigarette from a packet, lit it, but failed to offer Chris one. ‘How long are you back for?’ His dad coughed out through the smoke. It seemed he wanted Chris to leave before he’d arrived.
‘Not long. I just need a bit of time to sort things out.’ Chris said. Chris could see and feel that his dad hadn’t changed much. Older, colder and drunker, he thought. This wasn’t somewhere he should have returned to. Anywhere but here, Scotland, a deserted island somewhere, but not here. Not with him.
‘There’s no food in. If you want something there’s a shop on the corner.’ It sounded curt. There was no human warmth left in this house or his dad. At least he’d considered that Chris might be hungry after a long journey. Or was it just something to say rather than an empty silence? ‘I’m all right, I ate on the train,’ which was of course a lie. Chris had no wish to go out again.
His dad took another sup of his whiskey and coughed. A hard, dry cough. Choking on phlegm, he spat out into a dirty bin by the poorly varnished chair. ‘Dad, when were you last out?’ Not that Chris was concerned, or even that interested. It was merely a way to have some kind of conversation, rather than the empty gaps in the room. As way of reply his dad coughed again and spat out another mouth of mucus. ‘It’s not safe round here. I only go out to the corner shop. I don’t go out, not round here. I’ve got all I need without going out. Little fuckers.’ He half spat the words and indignation through another bout of coughing and smoke.
There was a pause. Neither would meet the others eyes. They both stared at the bottle, the bin, the table, the naked light bulb, into space, anywhere other than the eyes. His dad just dragged on his cigarette looking at the bottle. After a space of silence he spoke again. ‘You’ll have to sleep in the cellar,’ he said, not looking at Chris, but some far way place in the bottle. A place that Chris had never been, yet. ‘What about the living-room?’ Chris asked, sounding like a little boy asking for more sweets. He imagined the cellar. Not the cellar for f**k’s sake I’m not an animal, he thought. ‘No! I don’t use the living-room. There’s only the cellar,’ his dad coughed, taking another drag on his cigarette.
What a nightmare. Chris had escaped out of the fire into the f**king freezer. The cellar wouldn’t have heating. He had escaped from his own horror story into his dad’s delusional world. The only place in the house that was safe was the kitchen, thought Chris. ‘There’s a settee and a telly down there that you can use.’ ‘Okay. Thanks,’ Chris said quietly. He stood there in the kitchen, like a little boy trying to win his parents approval. It wasn’t coming soon. Not from his dad who seemed too interested in his vast collection of bottles. There was no more conversation that night. His dad didn’t have any interest in Chris’s life and from what Chris could see, his dad didn’t have one.