I grew up in a detached house by the sea, I did okay at school, my parents didn’t divorce. When I was nine, I got sea monkeys for Christmas. I was so happy I cried. I spent hours watching them through my magnifying glass with a sort of disgusted fascination. Sometimes I’d scoop one out with a teaspoon and watch it twitching about in its little globe of water. Soon they got disconcertingly large and started eating each other. The big ones grew bigger, the little ones grew fewer and before long there were just three big beefy ones left, eyeing each other hungrily above a compost of sea-monkey carcasses.
I watched them until the bitter end.
When I was twelve I surprised myself by leaping out of my bedroom window. I’d been listening to one of Tom Petty’s sadder tracks, thinking how futile life was. It was pouring with rain, the moment felt right. I pushed the window open as far as it would go and hoisted myself out onto the ledge. I crouched there for a while, letting the rain drench my hair thinking about how sad they’d all be. When I moved to adjust my feet, I lost my footing and slipped. I landed on the pitched roof of the porch a few feet below and skidded down the side and into the shrubbery. I lay there for a while on my back, wondering if I’d paralysed myself. I stared up at the dull white sky, and thought how good it felt to have my heart hammering against my chest, and my blood pounding in my ears.
After a while I rolled onto my front and stood up. There was no one around. I walked around the side of the house, let myself in through the back door and went back up to my room.