A morning in the life of Patrick Boatman, a rower whose psychopathic tendencies cannot be contained by his college lycra…
I live in West House, St John’s College, in Second Court. My name is Patrick Boatman, I’m 20 years old. I believe in taking care of myself: through an absurdly high-carb diet and a rigorous exercise routine. In the morning, if my face is a little puffy, I’ll put on an ice-pack before I get onto my Erg machine. I can row 5K in under 16 minutes now.
After removing the ice-pack, I brush my teeth for exactly 3 minutes with my Panasonic Dentacare EW1031, before flossing carefully and efficiently, and then proceed to gargle my Listerine Total Care for the recommended 30 seconds. And then, in the shower, I apply Veet hair removal cream and an exfoliating gel scrub, so that I am perfectly streamlined in the boat. After talc-ing and towelling myself thoroughly, I eat 8 pieces of Weetabix with complete disdain – one of my few remaining emotions – as I remember my failure to bump at yesterday’s regatta, but then calm myself down by listening to The Wanted’s ‘Glad You Came’. The song’s rhythmic melody echoes my stroke perfectly, whilst the commerciality of its synth-fresh sound and crooning vocals, laced with gentle innuendo, comforts me.
There is an idea of a Patrick Boatman; some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me. Only a number in a boat: something illusory. Though I can hide my cold gaze and you can feel my flesh gripping yours, and maybe you can sense our lifestyles are even comparable, I simply just row. I have skin, bones and an increasingly muscular figure, however there is little in me from which to distinguish a person. All that was lost some time ago: probably when I noviced in my first crew. Now all that can truly appease my greed and disgust is the clean chop of the blade, as I stroke it through the water; that bestial, unified feeling that you gain as part of a boat; and, finally, the sheer physical pain and exhaustion that almost reminds me how it felt to feel anything else.
Anyway, it is 6:30am – my favourite time of the day. I cycle down to the boathouse, passing life alleyway where I kicked and stabbed that pathetic townie last week. I smirk a little to myself when Taylor Swift’s majestically simplistic ‘Never Ever’ reverberates through my Beats headphones and I think of my ex, Eva, whose scattered remains currently lie somewhere at the bottom of the Cam.
I arrive at the boathouse feeling faintly jubilant, but even this rare, natural buzz dissolves quickly as I notice Conway’s new lycra suit. The ultramarine blue base colour is complimented perfectly by the two off-white pin stripes that run, elegantly, down its side. Our college emblem is drawn with a level of complexity and intricacy that I have never observed before, but what infuriates me the most is that, underneath it, in Bodoni MT lettering, it says ‘Conway – Boat Club Captain’.
My Erg times dwarf Conway’s, but, in spite of this absurd injustice, I am just about able to contain my misanthropic urges and manage to resist strangling him there and then. Instead, I go to the toilet, where I snort a line of coke, and just minutes later I’m on the river, where I attempt to focus all of my immense and cruel power on delivering the perfect rhythm through my long, clean stroke.
Since I started rowing, any conception of morality that I used to have has simply disintegrated. All I want to do is stroke, forwards and backwards, again and again. When this numb, cyclical and visceral motion ends, my pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. My nightly bloodlust is only just being contained by the extra Erg and weight sessions. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.