I am a “social scientist”

I wrote this following a research conversation with Thomas. With thanks to Kimberley Dark.


I am about to throw up

Officially, I am wearing my researcher hat

I. Am. A. Social Scientist.

A. PhD. Student.

I. Am. Conducting. A. Research. Interview.


This boy – I’ve known him for years – is telling me his story

We’re comfortable (kind of) on leather sofas

In good light

Tucked safely next to the window front of the café where he likes to go

Where he feels safe

Where he is known

The steam, rising from the coffee machine condenses on the glass

Kaleidoscoping people

As they drift past outside


This boy – he jumps about, physically and narratively

Twitching, shifting

His fractured life-story skips, pauses … yawns

Enlightens, entertains, tortures

Between cigarettes and coffee

Text messages and tea

A connection is forged and strengthened

Between us

Across the table

Across deaf and hearing life

Across generations


I am a Social Scientist

I have activated that file

But, sitting here

With him

I am struggling to keep hold – of him, his life

Our connection, this moment … my body

Am I fit for this? Can I really do this?

Something is giving out


Shifting, I pull at my collar

            Is it me, or is it hot in here?

My thermostat gives out

Electronic pulses surge through my brain

Short-circuiting beneath the strain of responsibility

Of being here

Doing this                        with this boy


I find myself rising slowly from my seat

Taking in the warm coffee-and-bacon air

My heart complaining

Blood in my ears

I start to weave, tunnel-visioned

Knocking against chairs

Brushing against strangers

Somehow, I reach the toilet – free, but reeking of piss and cleaning fluid

Sensory overload, I throw up into the bowl … again … and again … and again


I am a PhD student

A Social Scientist

(You’re not supposed to throw up)

Beads of sweat, the shakes and

All I can think of is the boy

I am responsible for him

For this

I left him there

I abandoned him, mid-outpouring …


I check my hair, my face, my teeth

Rinse. Flush. Pat. Smile.            And return …

He has p a u s e d – mid-air, mid sentence, mid-cigarette

I wonder what he’s thinking

Slowly, tentatively, keeping my head level

I lower myself, teeth clenched, yet forcing a smile

To the still-warm seat I left but two minutes ago

I am a Social Scientist

A PhD student

d-e-e-p b-r-e-a-t-h

Sorry about that.  So … where were we?”


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