I sat, slumped, in a chair facing a wall. My belongings were spread out on the desk in front of me; jotters, English plays, pens, a philosophy notebook open on the middle page, blank and naïve and vulnerable looking, just waiting for its assassination. I was supposed to be writing an essay on Boethius.
I stared at the wall. Intricate designs were embossed on the wallpaper; cream, slightly risen. A sign screamed for no food to be consumed on the premises, while behind me its other inhabitants chatted to each other, worked, read, slept, unfolded bored tinfoil from limp sandwiches. With my arms stretched out onto the wooden desk, I lay my palms flat on the oak. I felt for every movement of my body, every sinew, every twitch of a muscle. Every sign of life. A pair of shaking hands were thrown up in my mind, folded over each other, the fingers tinged slightly purple, trembling quietly to themselves. They did different things; held a quivering cigarette between pursed lips, inhaling the smoke and letting it tumble out between white teeth. They itched the ear of a cat, the grooves of nails digging into the hole behind the ear where she arched her head, in sheer revelry. They looked strong, but the bones jutted out from under the skin. The hairs on my right hand raised as the images flooded in, and I sat perfectly still, feeling for the curve of a hand rest on top of mine. It’s weight sat heavily on my knuckles, and cold emanated from it. But I could feel it. I was scared to breathe; I could only feel it if I was dead with it too.
They say that when people drown, the last few moments are peaceful. There is no struggle for breath, no fight between the air and the water, no tug of war between death and life. As your lungs slowly fill up and your body slips into unconsciousness, your mind is at rest. The most painless paralysis is what the body is endowed in, floating just under the water. When I was younger, I used to hold my nose in the swimming pool, suspend myself under the thinnest layer of water possible, and look up. The sky would be a mesh of colours, enough to make out, but the outlines of everything wobbled. That would be what the drowning person would see – wobbly outlines, the lid of the sky suddenly uncertain and indefinite and you would be a child again, holding yourself under, anticipating the rising surge of your body as you ran out of oxygen moments later, falling unconscious before you realize it’s not going to be there. And then you die.
When Jonathan left my life, my Mother described me as a boat that had lost it’s mooring, and was drifting from pillar to post. She said that she didn’t know how to tie me back to safety, to the hold of the center that I had spun out from. I felt like I was suspended in mid air, or submerged in a vat of water, and the worst was over. I had been drowning for a while, but now the water had been forced into my lungs, violating my being, and they slowly filled as I lay motionless, staring at a wobbly and uncertain future of dark. My moments of hot, panicked frenzy - sheer mania - had passed at the moment of trauma. The final penetration of the mind, the knife pushing into the skin and drawing the first blood. Now, I was in a different moment. It was the moment after someone had hit you, or you burnt yourself with the hot tap, or your body slaps the water flat. It feels cold, then the pain registers and settles. He had taken away my vision; my foresight; my raring ambition for life. All that was left was existence.
For the first time since starting this blog, I don’t know what to write. What can I say? What can I do? It’s not easy to write the breaking of someone’s heart nicely; maybe that’s why he was so cold and disjointed on the last night. But Jonathan was gone, as fast as a gush of wind that catches you on the street along with the leaves and the shit on the gutter and you’re left reeling until you compose yourself and walk on. He was never coming back, but I waited. Every sound, every noise, every text or phone call or door slamming, every person on the street, every passenger on every bus of every road in every country in any world. He came in the room when I walked out; he left he train on the carriage I stepped on. He was reflected in every window I sat across from, every mirror I looked into, he was every man smoking on a corner and every boy in those stupid air max trainers, every group of boys in the pub, every person I talked to, every boy I found myself in a room with, the back of the mind of every girl that crossed my path. I never called, and I never texted. I wouldn’t do that myself. But I waited, for so long. In a way, I’m still waiting. And I feel like I forever will be.
What I did do was I packed up a package for his 20th birthday, and wrote his address on the front. I kept composed until then, acknowledging the days as they went by, my last hope. 41 Harrington Gardens, Chelsea. E8 Bang Bang. I was the biggest cliché you will every come across in your life; a packet of limp balloons, a bag of shells, baby crab claws and of sand from the beach across from me – just so he knew it was me – and a cd with our five songs. I was picky. Every one had to be exact. I went through three envelopes just writing his name, reveling in the curlicues of the J, the C, the P. I didn’t sign it, and I didn’t leave a return address – the poor residents of 41 must have been very confused. At least they have a free Tom Waits sitting on disc for them. I never heard anything.
I can’t remember the months after Jonathan. I just can’t. I wish I could convey what I was like after them, instead of the fragments of memories I have so precariously typed out, but you would probably want to slit your wrists (or at least I would) so if you want a quick getaway from life, you’ll have to ask someone who knew me. I just don’t know them. The months blurred and rolled over each other, oiled in the exquisite pain that comes with loving a dead person. Loving someone who is not there – who was never there – and knowing that they don’t want you to be there either. So I sat still, slumped, and stared at blank walls.
Sadness is the worst of emotions, but the most protective, as is the human body. When the brain suffers trauma, emotional memory works alongside cognitive memory; if the trauma is too much, it will switch off, and that’s why we get amnesia. I sit here thanking that brain of mine for saving me once again, because I think that to feel the pain of betrayal, that sharp sting of utter loss – the emotional rape inflicted upon me - would kill me. Instead it left the deepest of wounds.
I would imagine it as a slit that went from my neck, down my spine, all the way to my hips, leaving a zip that tore me in half. You could pull back the sides and reach inwards and rip the innards out to hold in your hands. Jonathan had torn out the consciousness already; the personality, the capacity for emotion and humanity. All that was left was blood and guts and remains. I would press down on them again and again to remind myself of the person who placed them there.
I would remind myself of them because that’s all he left; 10,000 text messages, a necklace, a letter, and memories – memories that I had constructed. Without them, had it existed? Did I imagine it all? Did he ever love me? I almost believe myself - and then I see the letter. Which he held, and pressed down on, and it washes all over again. It was the most dangerous of relationships; when I didn’t think of the reality of the situation, it was perfect. Perfection is lethal, and the constructive mind of someone who devours the idea of it is its best ammunition. But it was there all along, the signs. Even in Daughter, our woman. I read a review of ‘If You Leave’ and felt like someone had described mine and Jonathan’s sad waltz of the last few months; the resemblance was uncanny.
“It’s made of those swarms of sadness that must hurt quite a lot. They must poke and reiterate. They must keep lapping up against her heart, splashing and breaking. It might be soothing to sleep to or perhaps it's so loud that such an activity isn't possible. Tonra has made a sound that reminds us of all the dead ends that we run into and can find no other ways around. We fall down to our knees and just let it out. She likes to imagine that she's not here any longer - that she's been gotten rid of. She likes to pretend that she's been dismissed, that her time is up. It's all that she gets and there's an overwhelming sense that she might have blown what little she had, that she might just sink to the bottom of the ocean like a hulking rock. Here she was, doing what she could to be gentle and to move sweetly, to keep to herself, to bring her own kind of happiness into whatever she touched and it all came up short. There was not enough time or not enough happiness."
Perhaps he had thought it all out, giving me nudges along the way, inklings into our future, to see if I would catch on. I never did. Maybe he killed teenage girls for fun: I am never, ever going to know.
What I do know is what I know now. I know that someone was there on the end of that phone, and it wasn’t the same man in the pictures. It might not even have been a man. Nonetheless, there was a living, breathing human at the other end. I know that person broke my heart. I know that they have the capacity to walk into my life, walk into my home, and kill everyone there. And I know that that is all my doing, completely my own fault. I know all that I can find about Jonathan – but I need to know more. My journey with Jonathan isn’t over yet, and neither is my story. I can only hope that you will stay with me until the end.