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Copyright © 2012 Dominic Eagle

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Obsession lies at the heart of everyone. It walks in joyous harmony with envy, greed and vengeance - all of which are emotions I possessed as a hormonal teenage boy. All of which are emotions that consumed and destroyed me.

You see, a past girlfriend once said to me: “You’re everything you hate, James Smith, and the worst part is you already know it.”

To put it bluntly, I hadn’t expected those words to come from the lips of the very girl who’d told me, only a day earlier: “I love you, and nothing will ever change that.”

But unfortunately, just about anything can change everything.

You see, change is a funny thing. It relentlessly pines away at our hopes and dreams until it has consumed us entirely. Like a snake, it slithers up to vulnerable insects and engulfs them with a greedy mercilessness. Fortunately, I’m not a cynical man, and I won’t be so profoundly dreary for the rest of my story.

I do find, however, that my perception of reality has always stretched to a point far beyond the cognition of anyone other than myself. Perhaps it’s because my childishness and frequent womanizing give me a shallow appearance, though every aspect of me - well, my former self - is false. But ignorance and carelessness are traits much worthier than intelligence. I learned that from my father.

Anyhow, even after having my heart ‘broken’ by the girl I supposedly ‘loved’, I was still in an ecstatic spirit. If I’m honest, I found the whole situation quite hilarious. And that’s just the heartless scum of a man that I am. That would be, evidently, the reason she left me. But she’s not important, hence why I see no reason for naming her.

The day she left me was a Friday morning, sometime in March - I can’t remember the exact date. But I do remember my reaction being a mere shrug of the shoulders, as I slumped off towards college. And with that movement, I physically lifted six months of a dull, committed relationship from my cluttered mind. I wonder how many dumpees wish they could skip the prolonged endurance of heartbreak like I did.

Heartbreak allowed me to go to a party later with my best friend, which sounded much more enjoyable than curling awkwardly on a sofa and watching films with sparkly, questionably-queer vampires - with a girl I only liked because she was redheaded. Heartbreak for me was relieving, I was almost too glad to be free of love’s unwavering clutch.

Oh yes, that brings me to the main point I must discuss. I have - or had - a disorder I like to call CGO. You’ll want to know what that means, no doubt. I could be one of those awful narrators who only reveals the meaning right at the end of the novel, or perhaps never at all. Though I’ve always wondered why writers really keep secrets from readers. Sure, cliff-hangers keep us hungry for more information, like the mindless, animalistic bookworms we’re evidently believed to be, but I reckon it’s more likely that writers are simply hilarious people who revel in a reader’s misery. I used to love people like that. Not caring was fantastic - if you knew how to.

Back to the point, CGO is a simple phenomenon. I was diagnosed with this rare and catastrophic disorder by a highly-qualified doctor named Adam Greeves. Well, not quite qualified, but my best friend, nonetheless. CGO stands for Compulsive Ginger Obsession. I know, I’m weeping as I write this. I don’t know quite how I get through the day. I’m so incapacitated that I have to be spoon-fed every meal by a nurse… A ginger-haired nurse, that is.

Sorry, I got a little sidetracked by one of my old fantasies there. Ah, the vivid dreams of a seventeen year old boy… Then again, those dreams were forged fifty-three years ago and old men like me shouldn’t still be possessed by the thoughts of youth. But I suppose none of us ever grow up… Not really.

In any case, there you have it. I revealed my terrible condition only several pages into the novel, so I hope the wait wasn’t too agonising. But what does my disorder entail, I hear you cry? Well, it means I can’t resist redheaded women, of course. I could tell you why, but that would spoil the surprise. For now I shall leave you with the ludicrously false conception that I am - or I was - a lousy bloke. The kind of man who finds thrills from playing girls' hearts like broken guitar strings. But the truth is I just needed something exciting to happen. You see, nothing ever happens around here.

Moving swiftly on, however you have chosen to judge me, it’s time to delve into the confusing tale of my affairs. I’m sorry that I have an irritating habit of rambling about jumbled segments of the picture. You probably think my story is about some crazed boy obsessed with ginger-haired girls, don’t you? But that wouldn’t be enough, my dear, sadistic readers. This is a grand tale and I’m aching to release the secrets which plague my tightened, coiled chest.

But I mean ‘grand’ in the sense that I don’t dart around the simple truths of people. I don’t add a glossy cover to every nook and cranny of the world. We are what we are. We are all open to our own hearts, and though some see this as quite petrifying, I see it as a beautiful form of living art; the breathing painting of mankind; the living embodiment of imperfect perfection. Why should anybody hide behind a mask? Perhaps that’s hypocritical coming from me, when you discover the sort of person I was, but I stay true nowadays.

Don’t be fooled by the title, this is not a romantic tale, and I shall make a confession to you: I’m rather ignorant to the world, even for such an old, tender, supposedly-wise age. I know little of history, politics, war, science and all other worldly aspects that seem to indefinitely indulge the masses of this media-obsessed planet, but there is one persistent thing that I have been unable to avoid in all my years. People. I am irreversibly compelled by people, and aren’t they the most fascinating thing in this world, after all? Without humanity, there would be no unpredictability - only peaceful tranquillity, as the animals lived their instinctual, pre-programmed lives.

This is a tale about the hurt and conflictions among the different people I have met in my years. This is a story about my ultimate goal to reach perfection, despite my initially coarse shell, and my rejection of any attempt to change my ways.

It takes place in the North of England, where I grew up. Read with care, as I am merely recounting events from my perspective; and at the time I was blind to what was happening around me.

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