Monday, 28 April 2014

Chapter 7: 'The Best Way to Leave is Very Quickly, and Don't Look Back.' - JBCP.

Bright white smiles; two of them. Rows of perfect pearls lined up on a red bed. Gleaming black hair, high and cascading downwards, recklessly, with no fear of abandon. Stiff and upwards, sprayed, set into place. Dark lined eyes, broken into wide being, laughing up at a camera. Another set of eyes, aimed deep down into the depths of the sister pair beside them. Hands, entwined, wound around and around, knotted and unintelligible, long and thin and painted, sharp nails. Elvis. Priscilla. A wedding dress; a suit. Happiness, bubbling from the bowels of approval, and respect, and togetherness. A wedding photo.


The day came, the big one. I had been waiting, and trying so hard, for so long. It would determine everything, this day, this morning, this one letter in the post. I felt like my whole life had been hurtling towards this moment – everything I’d ever done, all streaking past me, running as fast as its legs could carry to this one morning. Someone had shaken a snow-globe, and in hearty abandonment the pieces had been thrown up into the air, and today was the day that they would settle, slowly falling into place, revealing the secret inside.
The post was late. Excitement surmounted. 11.10 AM, a mother closes her eyes and watches the folds of her daughter’s future blossom out, heart bursting, for it was everything that she was waiting for also. I opened it.

            ‘Whilst you managed to successfully answer many questions sufficiently, we are disappointed to inform you…’
                                                                        ***
‘Am I ever going to see you? Is this even ever going to work?’
I promise you. We’re going to be like Elvis and Priscilla.
‘Elvis and Priscilla that got divorced?
No, Elvis and Priscilla who got married and were together despite being hundreds of miles and years apart from each other. I promise you. Things are going to get better and we are going to be together, because I love you. They are fools, and they might not want you but I always will.
                                                                        ***
I lay in my unlit bedroom. The sea wind wrestled against the windowpanes in a fight to see who would break first. My sleeping little baby child cousin lay next to me, determined that she would sleep in with the big girls; 3 AM and we lay together, big and small, curled in and around each other – one delighting in the company of another so big and mature and fascinating, and the other embracing the protectiveness and sisterhood that the same blood running through veins will bring, both in peaceful slumber.
A buzz ripped down the side table, shattering the numinous silence of night. My phone ringing, with his name flashing up on the screen. Four words. Jonathan. Blair. Charles. Pullar. Answer or decline? I grab, and my hand reaches out on the empty air as I pull myself out of the depth of sleep. Call back! Pick up! Answer and speak to me! Speak to me!
Something is wrong. There are strangulated sounds on the other side of the phone, choking and breathing and spluttering, and then the line is cut dead. I look on the screen, and see smatterings of broken texts, unreadable words, what I assume as things like ‘help’ ‘call the police’ ‘too much’. When I text back, frantically, hands shaking and heart pounding and tears suddenly cascading, the texts do not send. The other side is motionless. I know what he has done. He has done It. He has finally killed himself. He’s pulled the noose, or swallowed the pills or drawn the razor blade but either way, whichever way, the life that ran through those unknown and far away but so well imagined limbs has been ripped out and torn to shreds. My hands are tied.

            ‘You’re doing this and I have no idea of knowing if you’re ok or not, I love you so much I absolutely adore you and to loose you makes me want to die and I don’t even know if your there or not… if something happened, I love you Jonathan. I love you so much, I do, I adore you. Irrevocably, inconceivably. You mean everything to me. We have such a future together – Elvis and Priscilla but with the happy ending. Never be scared with me, don’t be scared of it – you could loose every limb you had and it wouldn’t change the way I felt for you.’
                                                                        ***
Things were breaking. The days of unintelligible conversation stretched themselves into weeks. Fights were getting worse and more frequent, the depression pulling both of us in until our texts were marred with my long streaming lines and his one word replies. The harder I pushed towards, the further he held back. Sometimes, I caught glimpses of the before. Before the letter, and the necklace, and the sonnet. Before November. Before everything had sunken into a mire of endless nothingness.

The two institutions tied around my neck, the Church and the State, were at war with each other. As the crucifix my mother had placed on my 16th birthday slowly entwined itself around the heart that Jonathan placed on my 17th, the two slowly squeezed the air out of the warm throat they both claimed. My mother started poking holes into the bubble of perception I had placed around my head:
The Edinburgh postal stamp, the mixed up addresses and forgetting names and the endless unanswered pleads to simply hear his voice. That’s what she saw. What she didn’t? That my pictures of family and friends and life were met with pictures of bloody wet wipes, basins of bloody water, pictures of waves and the edges of cliffs, drug paraphernalia, dark smoky rooms with nothing but alcohol bottles lying about, pictures of his warrant for arrest, ‘grievous bodily harm’ – it was me, and only me, that saw all that. You know all this. You know it all. You know where it leads. It wasn’t right. Surely by now, you know that. So did I. So did my mother.

What is it we are always told? Your mother knows best. My mother, so beautifully, always knows best. I just didn’t want to hear it, when I really should have. Especially when she phoned his university. They told her to phone the police. There was no record of his being a student at the Plymouth Peninsula University.
If that is what love is supposed to be, then I don’t want it. Ill take it back to the shop and accept anything else in return; loneliness, emptiness, depression. I’d keep the tags on that baby and fold it back in on itself with a first class stamp.


































It was all going to end very shortly. Abruptly. Almost death-like, you could say. If only I could read like you all will, tomorrow, what I wished I had read so very long ago.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Chapter 6: Electric Oxonian Bell Jars.


I was led up a wooden spiral staircase. As I climbed the steps, my mother’s shoes kept slipping off the back of my heels. I could hardly walk straight. I was annoyed; it was the perfect outfit that was formal yet still reflective of my personality, and I couldn’t walk in the shoes. I couldn’t walk in the feet that defined my being. The woman ahead of me was friendly as she chattered in her ascent, yet, as she was well aware, there was no net big enough to catch those butterflies that swarmed in their thousands in the pit of my stomach.

‘Could you sign here for me please?’ Shaking fingers grasped a pen and signed the top of the bold line. Slowly. Each curl around a ‘J’ and a ‘p’ counted a second that was in true thought. The final full stop. “I believe that everything else is in order… if you could come down this way, please, Mr. Pullar, and the Doctor will be ready to see you shortly.”
White shoes squeaking down a white corridor. On either side, white locked doors. Occasional thumps, moans, laughter, elude from behind them. But they remain shut, and we are led on through, down to the bottom of the corridor, where one door lies ajar.

At the top of the spiral staircase, in a folded alcove, was a heavy oak door encased in stone arms. A tiny arched window was beside it, the diamond panes looking out onto a small quad of grass, an icy walkway and an ancient looking building. The woman led me into a cosy, simple looking room, and sat me down at an oak table in the middle. There was another man with long hair tied back in dreadlocks standing by the door, and as I passed him, we maintained eye contact for a short moment. The same look passed between us; one of competitiveness, yet encouragement. We were on the same life-boat, but one of us had to jump off, and neither of us were willing. At the table was a piece of paper, a paragraph. ‘You have 10 minutes, and I’ll come back in for you when they’re ready.’

He pushed open the door, and the bodyguards that had flanked his either side had dispersed. A white room, with one window, firmly shut over. There was a white bed at the far side, pushed back against the wall. Behind the headboard was a small box on a table, and a nurse stood beside it.
‘Alright, Jonathan, you know the procedure. If you could just take off all metallic items and pass them to the nurse, we can get started. There’s no need to look like that, Son, it’ll be over in less than 10 minutes. That’s a boy.’

The fateful knock. ‘They’re ready to see you Carla. Ok to go?’ I walked forward, clutching onto the heavily annotated sheet in sweaty hands. One foot in front of the other.  Heels slipping out. ‘You have just as much right as everyone else to be here. They chose you, and you’re just as smart as everyone else that’s been in this room before you. We’re all at the same level until now.’

A metal bit; chewing the cud, a horse in a race.
Climbing up onto the crackling white sheet. The temples clipped in.
Sounds of electricity lines, a pylon, police cars heading down a road at breakneck pace.
What was it Plath called it?
What was it he was here for? What was his name? Why was he unhappy again?
The hook loops and doesn’t latch, the lights grow stronger, the crackling lulling him to sleep.
Slumber amidst an ocean, upon a wave.
Blue.
Blue.
Blue.
He cannot fish. It does not latch.

15 minutes. 5 questions.
Red lace trousers. Blonde sprayed hair. Hollowed eyes in sunken cheeks.
Answer.
Answer.
Answer.
Woolf. It was Woolf.
Suicide. Stones in pocket.
Clarification of answer. Can’t understand the accent. Slow down.
Over.
Over.
Over.
The shoes slip off as I stand up to leave.
A handshake – unexpected, but necessary; one should always treat their assessors with respect.
The oak door falls loudly behind me; a downward spiral staircase I descend alone. 

Over.
He is woken.
Off the bed.
Like a drug: peace, in a mind shrouded in white.
He has become the walls around him.
He leaves the corridor.
He picks up his belongings.
He opens the text.
 ‘It went ok.’
A reply. ‘I’m so proud of you. You’ll have done brilliant.’

                                                            ******

I’m sitting on a train. It’s not the usual Scotrail number either, with the junkies and the itchy seats and the plugs that don’t work (if you’re lucky, that is.) No. This number is a plush number: real china cups, metal cutlery, little soft lights above all the windows that made the carriage glow as it fired through city after city. As I sat on the softly muted capsule on the way back from Oxford, clutching Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, I basked in what were to be my last few hours of my first experience of true freedom and independence. I had just ventured down South myself – an excited 5’3 bag of nerves; I braved two missed connection trains, my first rush hour London travel experience, and an interview that would determine the fate of my future. I was exhausted and excited and nervous all in one.

Looking back, I relish in the details of the memory of that train journey. The cutlery. The carpets. The soft lights, the silver teapots, the wise old man. Details that were lost on me in the moment.
I think what I loved so much about the soft lighting was the fact that I spent the whole journey in floods of tears, and the lights hid that better than my hair. I used the free wifi to define the term ‘ECT’; something I had never heard of before. If you haven’t either, you can read what I did on that train journey:

“Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), formerly known as electroshock, is a standard psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in patients to provide relief from psychiatric illnesses. ECT is usually used as a last line of intervention for major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, mania and catatonia. A usual course of ECT involves multiple administrations, typically given two or three times per week until the patient is no longer depressed.”

This was the weekend that Jonathan, unbeknownst to me, had received – for his 8th time – Electroconvulsive therapy.

I bet you didn’t bargain on that, did you? No. Neither did I. I’ll skip forward to three weeks after my birthday, with those two necklaces fighting around my neck.
What do you do when you know that someone is lying to you, but you know that you’d rather hear anything other than the truth? When God send those Ten Commandments, I bet he didn’t anticipate this dilemma.  Sometimes lies are much, much better than the reality they spring from.

The cracks were beginning to show, and we both knew it. In order to cement them up, Jonathan and I filled them with his mental health issues, the stickiest type of grout. The pictures, that I so painstakingly revisited tonight (the reason for the lateness of this post) tell the story of a whole new kettle of fish (pardon the pun) I see edges of cliffs. Waves. Bloody tissues and basins full of red water. Are you not following? I wish I hadn’t either. I wish someone could have offered me the clarification you all, my readers, will be receiving…in next week’s post. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Chapter 5: Catfishing: A Cautionary Tale

Hi Guys. Here is what i'm hoping will be the first of many published articles on the thinking behind Catfishing - please find the link to it attached!

http://www.thesaint-online.com/2014/04/carla-jenkins-catfishing-my-cautionary-tale/

Carla Jenkins: catfishing, my cautionary tale

A St Andrews student explains her experience with catfishing and her relationship that wasn’t quite what she originally thought
APRIL 13, 2014 6:01 PM 3 COMMENTS 

If I told you that last March I was sitting in my darkened hallway with tear-stained cheeks, clutching onto a box of Kleenex in one hand and a mobile in the other, what logical explanation would first pop into your head? Young girl has received phone call containing bad news. Bad news – bereavement? Loss? ill health? Disappointment? It’s February and she’s in a school uniform, staring blankly into a dull screen. OK. Young girl has been rejected from Oxford and is now faced with the crippling decision between St Andrews and Durham? That’s more like it. Am I being too adventurous for a feature? Is it time for the truth? Young girl is waiting on the phone call from the ex-boyfriend. We’ve all sat in the hallway and waited on that call. We all also knew that it was never to come.
Disappointed? I’ll bet you are. So let’s spice it up a bit. What if I told you that when I said there was no phone call, I truly meant that there was no phone call? Never any phone call throughout the year-long relationship – never any face-to-face communication, nor speaking, nor seeing, nor meeting. And I’ll tell you why – because the person that I loved does not exist.
Never any phone call throughout the year long relationship – never any face to face communication, nor speaking, nor seeing, nor meeting. And I’ll tell you why – because the person that I loved does not exist.
I had unwittingly fallen victim to a new internet trend that is fast becoming one of the most popular types of virtual exploitation the 21st century has ever seen. This fad is called ‘catfishing’, and is defined, by Urban Dictionary standards, as  “… Someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.”
Catfishing was first introduced to the world in 2010, when US photographer Nev Schulman released a self-produced documentary featuring his own catfishing experience, where he fell in love with a girl called Megan. ‘Megan’ turned out to be a middle-aged and married woman who was looking for excitement in her otherwise stagnant and challenging life. Her husband described her as a ‘catfish’ – when live cod was shipped from Asia to North America, the fish died owing to inactivity, but when catfish were put in the tanks, they were forced to stay alert and active, and ultimately it kept them alive. Since then, the documentary has been turned into a TV show exclusive to MTV, where Nev introduces couples who have fallen in love with each other but have never met. That’s right – the fad has so infiltrated popular culture that MTV jumped on it.
But catfishing is not just found on one side of the Atlantic: virtually everyone with access to the internet has the capacity to be a catfish – or a victim. DailyInfrographic.com recently undertook research surrounding catfishing and the dangers of internet dating, and the results are astounding. While one in every four couples meet online and the online dating industry’s yearly revenues are $1.049 billion, they urge every user to background check their romantic online pursuits. The statistics on why are shocking – 10 per cent of sex offenders have used online dating; three per cent of men online can be classified as psychopaths; 51 per cent of all online dating users are already in a relationship; and an estimated 25 per cent of rapists that were convicted in 2005 used online dating sites to find and communicate with victims.
Virtually everyone with access to the internet has the capacity to be a catfish – or a victim
Even the most popular and secure sites can have fake profiles. Facebook estimates that 8.7 per cent of their accounts are fake. But people don’t have to be constructing alter-egos to be lying to you. If you could change something about yourself that you hate before you spoke to someone you fancied, you would, wouldn’t you? The answer is here already. A massive 80 per cent of online daters lie in their profile. 17 per cent of women lie about their age and 42 per cent of men admit to lying in some form about their job. The majority of users lie about their appearance no matter what gender; 50 per cent are dishonest about their height, men list their weight at an average of 1.5 pounds less, and women list theirs at 8.5 pounds less.
What is more shocking is that catfishing isn’t explicitly illegal. I spoke to Tom Carty of Police Scotland, and if the catfish doesn’t explicitly ask for indecent images or money, then the emotional exploitation is not punishable by law. Sad, lonely people, who are outwith society, at times leading nomadic lifestyles, usually enact catfishing. They feel rejected by society and so retreat from it – but not before they bring others back with them. Mr Carty stressed that catfishes are smart yet lacking in self-confidence, so they target the vulnerable, such as young girls. They can cover almost all internet demographics in many different forms. There is no downside for the catfish. But all is not lost; Mr Carty confirmed that while the police can’t prosecute catfishes, they can find out who they are.
What is more shocking is that Catfishing isn’t explicitly illegal
Are you shocked? I was too. But simultaneously, I know how easily catfishes can fool you, no matter how clever, vigilant or sensible you are.
The question is, how safe do you feel? We know that a little lighthearted flipping through Tinder doesn’t harm anyone. But we can never truly know who it is on the end of that screen – and you shouldn’t trust anyone until you do. So please; know that if you’re in the same position that I was a year ago, protect yourself. If they won’t speak to you on Skype, they probably won’t speak to you at all. Love yourself before you love another, and get those privacy settings under lock and key.
For the rest of my story, go to www.ifuleave.blogspot.co.uk.
http://www.nevschulman.com/catfish/

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Chapter 4: 'Thoughts Become Relics Every day."


I sat on an evening train. A loaded bag was beside me, and I was armed with a barrage of red; red lipstick, red high heels, red nails. Around my neck were two necklaces: one, a small diamond heart hanging from a bronze chain; the other, a catholic cross, one blue sapphire missing, but otherwise intact. The two were knotted around my neck, the chains twisted and furled around each other in a cold, unrelenting metal embrace.

The train reached my stop, and as I gathered my weapons to face the onslaught of the party ahead of me, where couples would seek each other out and shoot with their own arrows of lustful wantonness, I armed myself to face the night with many, but most definitely alone. Rather than have a human hand encasing mine, I had a phone. I stood up to alight from the train – but as I tugged on my jacket, there was an attack from the back, at the nape of my neck. The two necklaces were caught on each other and on the back of my jacket. Terrified to break either of them, and also terrified to be caught looking ridiculous on public transport (where one must keep one’s wits about them, especially on that Ayrshire line) I slid out the arms of the jacket and pulled it to my front. Sure enough, the clip of the heart had caught the clip of the cross, and the two were caught on the small metal hook at the back. I pulled them free, careful, as not to snap either of the chains. Later, when I looked in the mirror of the bathroom that night, there was a long and slim lilac line forming on the side of my neck. My own artillery had burned me.

I’ll stop being so vague now. Surely you’re wondering what happened the fateful night of the Oran Mor, where I melted at the thought of Jonathan being through the wall from me. All I will tell you is that whilst I can’t explain the level of excitement that pulsated through me as I walked through to the other side, I also cannot explain the deflation and confusion when I saw a stranger on the spot I’d imagined Jonathan stood, yet heard him as if he was standing right in front of me.

Strike one. And I was struck; I was those ten skittles, reeling uncontrollably across the floor. He told me he didn’t know why he did it; he wanted to have something in common with me; he wanted me to admire him; the condition acted for him and he was being dictated by his depression to lie; he wanted to impress me, it went on too far, he couldn’t go back.

And so what did I do? Run away, your shouting at my words. What are you doing! He’s clearly lying – what else has he lied about? Come on, Carla! You’re supposed to be a clever girl!

I can hear you! I shout it back at myself too! But I couldn’t hear then. Like a person running into oncoming traffic, I found myself, after serious chastising, telling him that I wished I could stop talking to him, but I couldn’t, because I loved him.

And so it began. Two months on, and Jonathan and I had already spoken about marriage. Our conversations were so full of private jokes that it looked like a foreign language. Every day, every night, getting later and later till it seemed that the concept of sleep was and had always been a dream. I couldn’t get enough; as long as I didn’t question his disregard for face-to-face communication, things were blissful. He understood me, but most of all, he loved me. We were two of the same thing; we had become one.

My 17th birthday arrived. I woke up with the thought burning my brain; the morning's post. And sure enough, it came. His handwriting, on a simple white envelope. His pen curving around the letters of my name. I felt it was the first time my presence was solidified on this Earth. He had touched this; and it was trembling on my lap. Our Shakespeare sonnet; declarations in French; apologies for not being there; promises for the future. Promises; solid, hard promises.  I tipped it upside-down, afraid to seek out it’s innards, and out fell a small, cold, hard and most indefinitely real heart on a chain. Jonathan had sent me his heart to wear around my neck, and if that wasn’t calling your ownership as a cat pisses on its territory, I don’t know what is. Sheer delight; utter love.
I tied it immediately, and it began it’s long intercourse with my cross, a gift from my mother.

It was my mother that pointed out that the envelope was stamped in Edinburgh sorting office. The letter was supposed to be sent from Plymouth, and so that’s where the sorting office would have been located – in or around it’s county. I was angry at her for being so negative about my beautiful part of Jonathan, and determined to prove her wrong, I phoned the Plymouth royal mail office.


“Hello, I’m wondering if you could help me. I have a letter here that was supposed to be sent from Plymouth, and I live in Scotland. But the letter is stamped Edinburgh sorting office. I’m wondering if you could tell me whether  letters that get posted to Scotland get sorted in Edinburgh, or the place of posting?’

A monotonous, bored voice. ‘Letters are sorted in their place of posting. If the letter you received is stamped Edinburgh, that is where it is sent from.”

I hung up. My fingers found the heart and I twisted it round and round until my finger slowly started turning purple. At least there was life in that.