Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Chapter 9. “For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken. It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.” ― D.H. Lawrence

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.
































Tuesday, 13 May 2014

two previews: "Two people making love are like one drowned person resuscitating the Other." - Anatole Broyard


"I had a dream about you. You were learning how to swim, and I was learning how to drown. We each studied the other's technique. Swimming and drowning and both of us doing both taught us a lot about love." 


-Jarod Kintz, We Had a Dream About You.




Sunday, 11 May 2014

a preview

an almost made up poem

I see you drinking at a fountain with tiny
blue hands, no, your hands are not tiny 
they are small, and the fountain is in France 
where you wrote me that last letter and 
I answered and never heard from you again. 
you used to write insane poems about 
ANGELS AND GOD, all in upper case, and you 
knew famous artists and most of them 
were your lovers, and i wrote back, it's all right, 
go ahead, enter their lives, i'm not jealous 
because we've never met. we got close once in 
New Orleans, one half block, but never met, never 
touched. so you went with the famous and wrote 
about the famous, and of course, what you found out 
is that the famous are worried about 
their fame - not the beautiful young girl in bed 
with them, who gives them that, and then awakens 
in the morning to write upper case poems about 
ANGELS AND GOD. we know GOD is dead, they've told 
us, but listening to you I wasn't sure. maybe 
it was the upper case. you were on of the 
best female poets and i told the publishers, 
editors, "print her, print her, she's mad but she's
magic. there's no lie in her fire." i loved you 
like a man loves a woman he never touches, only
writes to, keeps little photographs of. I would have 
loved you more if i had sat in a small room rolling a 
cigarette and listened to you piss in the bathroom, 
but that didn't happen. your letters got sadder. 
your lovers betrayed you. kid, i wrote back, all 
lovers betray. it didn't help. you said 
you had a crying bench and it was by a bridge and 
the bridge was over a river and you sat on the crying 
bench every night and wept for the lovers who had 
hurt and forgotten you. i wrote back but never 
heard again. a friend wrote me of your suicide 
3 or 4 months after it happened. if i had met you 
i would probably have been unfair to you or you 
to me. it was best like this. 

-Charles Bukowski, love is a dog from hell

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Chapter 8: 'Your Name Bruised My Neck.'

A girl with a secret - a good one, a warm one - glows. It’s usually love. You can notice it in her when she is walking down the street, when she is alone. She will smile at the pavement, or close her eyes for a second, just to herself, and when she re-opens them there will be something different in her face. Hardly noticeable, but it is there. A warm secret, bubbling like a clot, and without her even trying it emanates out through her – the small space in the eyes that holds the tear duct, the folds of her ears, through her teeth and the follicles of her hair and out her pores, her fingerprints, her nail beds; this radiance, this secret, this warmth.

I was walking out of the nursery I was volunteering in. It was my favourite time of the week, where I was let out of school to look after children – in the west end, amongst the old buildings and monuments of Glasgow, my favourite place. I would get the subway, and walk over the bridge of the river Kelvin, past the Glasgow Academy where I would see people that I knew and wave. When the weather started to get better, I anticipated that walk eagerly. Sometimes I would walk with the other volunteers, but most of the time I was late, and would walk by myself. I liked this better. I would tell Jonathan what I saw around me, the people I bumped into and how the day was going and the stories from the children – the way they would be so excited to see me, running towards me and clambering over my legs. Natalie was my little friend, so in awe of the older girl, wishing to replicate every part of me. She would sit on my lap and I would braid her hair. The purest of interactions. I would tell Jonathan about these few hours, but it was the one thing he would never understand.
Things were winding down at school; the prospect of university was emerging, inching closer and closer. People were already leaving, and it felt so final that sometimes it was unbearable. But these few hours, helping these children with their maths and spelling, was a safe haven. And as much as I loved him, it was a time without Jonathan. The only time that I didn’t feel obliged to speak to him, and he couldn’t say that I was ignoring him – although he never seemed to bother when I did. In these moments, I felt depth of clarity. I remembered there was a time without him at all. I wondered what the fuck I was doing. It was when I left that the charade would start again; and as I walked out of the school gates, we spoke again, and the walls came down. I was back to where I began: Jonathan, my all consuming everything.

I walked out of the nursery. Engrossed in the screen of my phone, headphones in, I walked through Glasgow back to Hill Street. It was cloudy, Jonathan had stayed at home rather than going to university, I was fighting the loosing battle of trying to get him to go back. He had me laughing, as he told me a story about him and his little sister, Amberley, and he was embarrassing her on the subway.  I typed back as I walked, making up for the lost time of the nursery. I told him a story about a little boy who wasn’t well, and who was crying until I picked him up and he clung onto me like a life raft. When I spoke to him, it was like reading a book. I imagined the scenarios he told me, I was beside him as he sang to Amberley, as he held his baby brother. Imagined myself doing the things that were forbidden from me.

Coming to a cross road, I looked left and right, and saw nothing coming. I dropped my arm by my side, thinking to myself about how I could get him to come to Glasgow if he wasn’t going to university, what I was going to get him for his birthday, how I would send it off. I was looking straight ahead as I stepped out into the road, my mind in my own world. As my foot touched the tarmac I was savagely pulled out, yanked away from my thoughts by a force unknown to me. Puppet strings were pulling my hands and leaning them against the bumper of the moving maroon car I had walked straight in front of. There was a face in the window – two bulging eyes and an ‘O’ shaped mouth, twisted into a mask of horror that faced me through opaque and smudged glass. I watched tendrils of blonde hair puff out and draw their tips along the cars side, and then registered that they spun out from my very own head. It was an act of the ghost in the machine, except I was the ghost and my body the machine. I, trapped inside my body as it decided that enough was enough, and if my mind couldn’t see clearly enough to preserve my own life, then it would take matters into its own hands, literally.

My body had acted of its own accord to stop me from getting hit by a moving car. I contained myself as I ran across the road, away from the car before the driver could get out and ask me what the hell I was doing, but when I got around the corner I crumpled. Knees and hands everywhere, splayed on the pavement. In that moment, weeks of frustration eloped out of me, and the heavy weight of my secret started flowing out of me in ugly, thick sobs and gasps. I realized that to anyone who had watched me, I looked like I was trying to kill myself. Suicide wasn’t my thing, it was Jonathan’s. We were becoming one in all the wrong ways.

My secret wasn’t the same as other peoples. That was what my secret did to me; it didn’t have me glowing or smiling or radiating. It turned me white, like a ghost. It made me stop eating to be thinner, like him. It made me stop volunteering, stop working, stop thinking. It made me walk into cars, it made my eyes glazed, it made my hand unable to detach itself from my phone. I no longer saw people; I looked straight through them. I would kiss people and feel nothing, only getting emotional when I was drunk and it was dragged out of me. It came out in disgusting, lacerated breaths, and ugly noises, globules of salted water pouring from my eyes and splashing on a cold, hard, dimly lit surface. It wasn’t a release and it wasn’t an escape, it was a purgatory. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t speak to anyone because I was exhausted with the story. We were going to make a book of poems, and I couldn't even hold a pen. 

I loved a ghost, unseen to anyone but me. Unreal to anyone but myself. I understood the symptoms of Jonathan’s illness better than he could have anticipated; it was feeling them myself. Insomnia, mania, panic, paranoia, exhaustion, sadness. No matter how much I laughed with him, or smiled at his stories, or felt his presence, at the end of the night I was alone, tired, sad. I had started out full of life and vitality, and at the end, I was drained. A carcass of myself. A ghost.


                                                                                                            ***
It was a miserable night, and the rain battered down on the windows of my room. I sat and stared blankly out the window for an hour before I asked him. ‘Have you met someone else?’ it was a feeling I had had. He said yes. I asked who, and he said just a friend. ‘If it was just a friend you would have said no when I asked if you had met someone.’ He said that they had been friends for while. He said that she understood him. The twist of the knife. She understood him. She understood him. She, who hadn’t sat up till the early hours of the morning arguing, talking, pleading. She, who had him wholly. She, who could reach out and find her hand coming into contact with a hard body, something warm and solid and indefinitely real. She, who hadn’t lay in her bed and wanted to feel him next to her so badly that she couldn’t speak. She, who understood him.

The end of my time with Jonathan is coming; next week it will be sitting in your laps, ready for you to devour like the previous chapters before it. But the thing is, Jonathan became more alive than he had ever been once he was gone. A treasure hunt left by the dead. A mystery. It took me a year and a half to unravel it, as fully as I can up till now. It’s only going to take you, my readers, a week. If only we all had that luxury.


                                                                               ***
‘My Dear 
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling
Onto your back and weigh you down
Into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your
Remains.
For all things will kill you, both slowly
And fastly, but it’s much better to be
Killed by a lover.
                  -Falsely yours.’

-Charles Bukowski