I hope you are well.
I have just returned from what was probably one of the worst weekends of my life. I have a laceration on top of my right eye, injured my shoulder, pulled a muscle on my rib cage, and my tongue, lips and inside cheeks are close to deformed. I also lost my laptop (now recovered) and my wallet.
I spent the weekend Madrid. It was my first time visiting. I was so excited about it. I think Madrid is such a beautiful city, even though I only got to see Chueca and the airport.
I flew to Madrid from London on Friday morning. Two days before I was casually walking in Jermyn Street near work in Central London and decided to go inside Waterstones (I am addicted to reading and buying books) and I saw a copy of Fire From All Sides because it was about a pianist and depression: I love piano (I don’t play very well); recently had the most depressing experience with my piano teacher (I was in love in him); I suffer from depression; and I love sad stories because it gives me the impression that my sad depressed life is a bit normal. So, I thought: piano + depression/sad story + book = perfect!
Before I started reading the book I did a brief research about you, and realised that, well before I bought the book, you were already my favourite pianist! I listened to your music on Apple Music but never looked up the artist behind it. What I coincidence that I bought the book wrote by my favourite pianist without knowing that it was him!
So back to Friday morning, as I am leaving to the airport, I look for a book to read on the trip. I am in a hurry but I spent at least five minutes trying to decide which one. I look at the 20+ unread books that are spread over the dining table and pick Homo Deus and leave. As I was about to shut the door, I open it again, extend my arm from outside to drop Homo Deus back on the table and pick Fire From All Sides. I start reading the book on the train to Gatwick, and what a surprise to find that the events in the first chapter take place in Madrid!
The weekend in Madrid was terrible because I snorted cocaine and took GHB for most of it. What was supposed to be a relaxing weekend ended up a nightmare. I literally locked myself in the flat I rented in Chueca from Friday until Monday morning, when I had to return to London.
I began my adventure on Friday late afternoon when after trying the whole afternoon (I was feeling a bit tipsy) I managed to find a drug dealer. I took huge quantities of cocaine and GHB until Sunday morning when I finally decided that I should try to get some sleep. But there was so much cocaine and GHB in my blood stream that there was no way my body could relax. I was also very paranoid – The whole time I was having the impression (at the time I was sure this was really happening) that there were people standing outside the front door trying to listen to what I was doing, or that someone was going to get in the flat from the flat next door through the huge windows of my flat and attack me, or that the people living on the opposite buildings could see that I was taking drugs and bringing random men to the flat for sex (and they would call the policy and call all the neighbourhood to let them know), or that the people in the flat next door were just about to call the police and that would be my end, and many other crazy paranoid shit going through my head, even though I was making no noise and all the windows and curtains were closed. This whole paranoia lasted 10 fucking hours! This has happened before, and I knew that I needed something else in my bloodstream and my brain to replace the drugs.
I ate 2 tubs of haagen dazs, a massive portion of spaghetti carbonara (what would I have done without Deliveroo?) and downed 2 bottles of red wine in the hope that the food and alcohol would make me feel heavy, drunk and sleepy.
Whilst I was downing the bottles, I started playing the album Fire From All Sides (I downloaded after I started reading the book and just before I boarded the plane in London). I had an amazing experience, it worked, I’ll never forget. 62hrs after I had last slept + all that alcohol + massive amounts of cocaine and GHB in my system, this did some shit to my body that made me enter into a really deep connection with your music, and helped me sleep. I slept 12hrs! 12 peaceful hrs! I usually sleep 4-5hrs max (that is when I manage to sleep). Despite my body being trashed, all those bruises and the pain, I slept so good and I had amazing dreams with your music in the background. I woke up a few times during the night, a couple of times laughing because I was having funny dreams (which is rare, I have nightmares and night-terrors). When the tracks were not playing because the album was finished, I’d play it from the beginning and go back to sleep again. This all happened on the sofa, I was too comfortable to move to the bedroom.
But during this crazy weekend I also kept thinking about what I read in the first few pages of your book. I can’t remember what page I am on right now. I haven’t got very far, but far sufficient to make me think about it. Reading those first few pages was like reading about myself – I was raped, almost daily, from the ages of 6 until I was around 14. Three men did it, separately and in different occasions. Once, when I was 14, a taxi driver forced me to give him a blow job otherwise he would tell my mum that I was gay.
The result – severe depression and anxiety, lack of confidence, sex addiction, drug addiction psychiatric treatment (not until I had turned 33), tablets to sleep and tablets to make me feel less depressed. For a long time I thought I was a strong person, but I was actually trying to hide the real me who I didn’t know existed.
Recently within the last year, some events caused an emotional storm inside me that I could not cope with and it made me fell into drug addiction again, but this time it made me realise how fucked my head is, which is probably a result of the thousand times I was raped.
I don’t like talking to people, I want to be left alone most of the time, my mind is constantly living a fantasy of the perfect world I wish existed, which means that my mind is never present when I am talking to someone. I have nightmares every day, which usually consists of someone trying to kill me or someone that I am emotionally attached to showing how much they despise me. I can only sleep if a run through my head the routine of the second act of the ballet Giselle (I used to be a ballet dancer and Giselle was the first ballet I danced when I was 16). If I go to bed and I am too anxious or agitated, I start going through the steps of the ballet in my mind and I then I slow down the pace of the music to help my body calm down. Even then I only manage a 4-5hr sleep, a very disturbed one.
Anyway, I want to say thank you for being so brave and open about yourself. I am writing to you because people don’t seem to understand me, and I feel that maybe because I connected with your story, your music, and we’ve been through the same experience, you could understand how I feel.
I tried to get tickets to your concert in London but it was sold out. If you ever respond to me I would like to know when you’ll be playing in London again so I can book early (don’t worry I won’t be waiting for you at the stage door after the show).
I first drafted this letter to James Rhodes on 30th January 2018. I sent it to his Instagram account and to Denis, who I think is his manager and I asked him to pass the letter to James. However James never read the message on Instagram (the “seen” note never appeared) and I never heard back from Denis. But who cares?)
It was in Madrid that I first contemplated about ending my life and was being serious about it. The flat had a mezzanine level and I planned how I could hung myself from there. For the first time in my life I was scared of myself, because I was being brave enough to commit suicide and i was just about to make it happen. I thought about Chester Bennington from Linkin Park, who has a similar story, I thought about how he felt and how it must have been liberating in some way that only him knows.
It was by reading his book that I realised that today I feel and act the way I do because I was raped almost daily when I was a child and only managed to talk about it almost 20 years after it last happened.