I see you aged ten, growing up amid a stretch of tame suburbs on the edge of Southport. (So the English accent I first heard in Paradise is identified.) You walked in the night past quiet suburban houses, where the window options numbered five in total: a few uncurtained windows blazed openly with gaudy life; other ones afforded only glimpses of this, through twee net curtains or between solid curtains; a third kind showed solid curtains pulled across, lit around the sides; a fourth, solid curtains too, but unlit round the edges; and the fifth kind, darkened rooms with curtains wide open. Such were the permutations, and onto any one of these, bluish television flickers might be added. Occasionally, from blocks away, a shout would come, or the slamming of a door, then an engine and a dog’s bark, then nothing but the humming of the white street-lights. Every window stood removed, beyond an empty garden; but nowhere was a window that enticed you anyway. No one on your street was the same age as you, at all; but even if they had been, you’d probably not have clicked with them. Those of your age whom you knew from school, who lived elsewhere: you didn’t truly want to be with those either. You didn’t quite connect with them in any solid way—well sort of, one or two. But no one whom you knew had a life that attracted you. Throughout those years you wanted many things, but only some of these could you have named, if you’d tried. Much time would be needed, so it seemed, and much boredom, till you found individuals who excited you. For years until you found them, though, suburbia would yawn at you, with solitude and waiting games and emptiness and comfort, while at night your feet stepped through a thousand white pools of light, the dogs barked a block away and bluish flickers played around the curtains in the windows.
I see you aged twelve, first realising the word gay applied to you, and feeling simple pleasure that the attraction you’d felt since age six, though seemingly natural, in fact belonged to something as alternative and interesting as this.
Next, there you sat upon the carpet, aged sixteen, smoking hash with the others. All were under threat from one another; yet fun was had, with music and videos, here in the living room of someone’s absent parents. You were cooler, in many ways, than anybody else here, and yet in other ways you lagged behind in this respect. Often you were unsure which score applied. For you there were stabs of tension, sudden mirth, and even bits of friendship—but always at the headache-making price of fitting in and guessing how not to veer beyond “unusual” into “wrong”. How little of yourself could you have shared with the others here. How different you felt—and how glad you were that you had not been any one of them. Your sexuality was merely one part of this, for there was so much more, too, that would have been alien to most of them, if you had just been your natural self and spoken your intelligent mind. So of course you tended not to speak. How exhausting and how limiting they were, with their mediocre cluelessness that pushed you into such quietness, then. What a waste of time. (No, not all of them—just most.) Drunk or stoned, you and they went through the kitchen to the back garden terrace, each of you making jaggedly politicised tracks among the others, trapped tiringly together; while you, saying nothing, just drank in the clean, cool, clear, black, non-human sky like a draught of freshest water.
I see you in that nightclub in the suburbs, on that nameless faceless shuttered shopping street, just one time, where “Suburbia” was playing. A fight between emotionally retarded yobs began, at which you smiled to see them both really damaging each other, drawing blood and breaking bones and both deserving every stab of pain and much more besides. Then you left the club, caught a bus and gazed out through the window at the terraced houses’ sad sitting rooms and sad bedrooms, glimpsed behind squalid curtains.
Somewhere the electric stuff was waiting for you—wanted by you—hunted by you, Kim! But it wasn’t quite here yet. Never quite here yet. Not ready yet, Kim. Please wait and want and hunt for very much longer, Kim. Please wait for boring years of stupid, putrid school, Kim…
But while you wait, what fun it was, back there in the club, to see those macho morons hurt and stab and slash each other’s hateful backward faces, and if only they had died of it!
For more about "The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine, see
For some great reviews of it, see
And to pick it up from whichever retailer you may prefer, the retailers’ links for the paperback are at
and for the ebook at