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.