life, prosetry

Hard To Explain

I called him to say that I was just about to leave home, but that I needed to buy some smokes first and then I would meet him outside the £1 pizza shop in fifteen minutes, that I’m putting pineapple on my half of the pizza and that I didn’t give a shit about his fruit-can’t-be-a-topping argument because tomato.

I texted him to say that I wasn’t feeling too clever, that I really wasn’t feeling good at all, that I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t walk anymore, I couldn’t walk anywhere anymore, that I needed to sit down, that I wasn’t on this planet, that I wasn’t in my body, that I wasn’t anywhere, that I was nowhere.

He found me lying on the floor underneath the bus stop bench. He put his face parallel to mine on the ground. He said my name over and over and over again, each name feeling like a piece of gravel falling on me, all these little stones with my name on them crashing all about us, raining grains of grit, not hurting much but still hurting a little bit. He was there and I was there, and we were here but I’m not sure where.

My outer body was convulsing violently, my hair, my teeth, my nails, shaking, but inside I was still, I was dead still, but he couldn’t see that, he could only see that I was shaking worse than usual and that my eyes were full of cloudy tears and then we both heard my voice crack as I whispered, “I don’t know where I am.”

I was terrified but he was terrified-er. He scooped me up and carried me to his car, wherever it was, wherever we were, whoever we were. I remember that he put my seatbelt on for me and I told him not to bother: I think I said it out loud but it may have been a whisper and it may have never left my mouth. He double-checked it was secure and locked the doors. He said, “It’s my job to keep you safe.” I remember driving down roads I’d never seen before while tears fell without me moving, without me asking them to. I remember that I couldn’t move my legs, that I had set concrete in my veins instead of blood, that my shoes were anchors. I remember that I couldn’t speak, but that was fine because I didn’t know any words.

Some hours later I realised that I was at his house, tucked up on the sofa in my usual corner, wearing his big comfy clothes, with Only Fools and Horses on telly and a pint of water and my meds next to me. He was cooking Sunday dinner. I could hear him stirring gravy in the glass jug.

I dragged myself to the kitchen and stood in the doorway. He was startled when he turned around and saw me there. I quietly asked him what had happened. He said he didn’t know. I started to panic. We sat down and he told me:

that I was supposed to meet him at the £1 pizza place, that I didn’t show up, that I sent him weird texts about feeling unwell, that I wasn’t answering my phone, that he went to the shop where I buy my fags and Bossman told him that I was there earlier but that I looked drunk and that I walked down the road,

that he walked around the area looking for me, found me at the bus stop, the bus stop by my house, by Bossman’s shop, by my secondary school, by the station,

that I was really frightened because I didn’t know where I was or who I was or what was happening, that I was screaming into my wrists and couldn’t move, that it took 15 minutes for himself, two passersby and an off-duty nurse to get me to trust him enough to let him grab me from under the bench and pick me up,

that the girl under the bus stop bench wasn’t me, that it was someone else entirely, that I was like an orphaned child waking up alone in a foreign land, like a ghost of an infant, that my eyes were dead and didn’t recognise his face at all, that I didn’t seem to understand how people were existing around me, that I didn’t understand how I was existing, that I had no idea where I was,

that it was as if I was seeing for the first time the area that I walk through multiple times a day and have known like the back of my hand for 20 years, that I was scared of the buses and the people and the cars and the air and the pavement and the sounds and my heartbeat and my skin and my voice,

that he’d never seen anything like it in his entire life, that he thought I’d taken a meth overdose, that he thought I’d been smoking crack, that he thought I was possessed, that he thought I was going to die, that he thought I might kill someone, that he thought I might kill him,

that he thought he should phone an ambulance but he knew that being in hospital would terrify me more and make me even worse, that he will never forget the state he’d found me in, and that he’s quite frankly terrified of me but would do anything to get me to return to being the girl that he knows and loves.

I didn’t remember a single thing, apart from a minute in a car. I didn’t know what was real or right or wrong or true. I just didn’t know.

He said, “Look,” and pulled my sleeves up. Bloody great bite marks on my wrists, the back of my right hand, my forearms. All red and purple and violent and frantic, punctures in my flesh where my teeth fit.

I looked up at him and his eyes were soft and safe, like golden syrup. I knew then that I would always be able to find a safe place in the irides of his eyes.

“I’m scared of me too,” I said.

He hugged me, being careful not to hurt me, and then mumbled into my hair, “Do you want one Yorkshire pudding or two?” and I laughed and cried into his chest, unable and unwilling to make sense of anything in that moment, other than that one question.

“One and a half, please,” I said.


Original version of ‘Hard To Explain’ posted on 13/07/17 at The Magic Black Book. Revised version above for Hijacked Amygdala.

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poetry, prosetry

Parapraxis

I worry that you lie awake beside me
Listening to me breathe
Wondering with whom and where I’ve been

And I am afraid that it’s his name that I speak
Aloud in the dark
When my brain is steeped in drunken reverie.

He features so regularly now
That the odds of his name escaping from my mouth
Are stacked against us on the nightstand

With the unread books,
The stolen looks
And the conversations you don’t know we have.

*

Does his name hang above our bed,
A mosquito net with human-sized holes in it?
Have my drug-induced murmurs hurt your heart,
His name a subconscious stab in the dark?

*

When I wake from my drug-addled sleep
Your side is empty, you have already gone.
I don’t know what damage has or hasn’t been done,
But I send you a message saying,

I had horrible dreams last night 😦

Hoping that if indeed I did say his name aloud
You’ll think that it’s all okay
Because I meant it in a bad, bad, nightmarish way.
But really,

I think my dreams about him are horrible
Because they’re not reality
And I really want them to be.
(I’m so sorry).

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poetry, prosetry

The Great Escape

Accidentally OD’d.
Honestly, it was an accident.
Remember going downstairs.
Remember going out the door.
Remember speaking to a man at the side of the road.
Woke up in a hospital.
Bed. Ward. Harsh lights. Ugly gown. IV drip. The usual.
Two nurses counting the silver rings on my fingers.
What is happening?
Ah, helloooo! She’s waking up now, good, good.
What the fuck is this?
You’ve been unconscious for some time, darling, but you’re in the hospital and we’ve been looking after you.
What?
You just stay still and I’ll call the doctor.
No, what? No.
Hey, hey, hey, this mask stays on and just keep your arms there for me. Are you hungry? You should eat something, little lady.
No, no, I need to go now.
Blackout.
Woke up to a nurse trying to spoon-feed me custard.
What is happening?
Just try to stay still.
No, no, no, no.
You have to wait for someone from the mental health team to see you but it’s going to take a while and you need to stay conscious long enough to sit and talk to them, okay?
No, thanks, no, I’m fine, really, I’d like to go home now please.
You have to stay here. You’ve hurt your head and your body is very poorly right now.
No, I’m fine, thank you, I need to phone my dad and check he’s okay, where’s my phone?
I don’t know, darling, is this your bag?
Yes, that is my bag, where’s my phone?
Ummm… there’s no phone in here.
Where’s my stuff?
This is all you turned up with.
What? How did I get here?
Ambulance I guess, darling, you were on a different ward before you came here.
Oh, what? Fuck. Is it very early morning? Or just morning?
No it’s dinnertime, coming up to 8pm.
On… Wednesday?
Nooo, it’s Friday night!
You’re fucking joking me.
Hey! There’s no need for that language.
I’m so confused. I don’t like this. Oh my God.
Just try to relax, please, come on.
I need my meds now if it’s dinnertime.
No, no more medication for you.
No, you don’t understand, I need my meds. I need my lithium, venlafaxine, quetiapine, propranolol, I have to take them now otherwise I’ll have a breakdown, withdrawal symptoms start straight away if I don’t take them on time and it’s so horrible, please, I have to take them at the same time every day, please, I’ll get so ill if I don’t have them, you don’t understand.
No, we can’t do that.
But I need them.
Well, you’ll have to wait until you’re stable and you’ve seen the psychiatrist and we’ll see what the doctors decide.
No, please. I need them now.
Just stay there, I’ll try to find a doctor. Keep the mask on.
10 minutes drifting in and out.
I have to leave.
I have to go home and get my meds.
Where is my phone?
The security guards finish their shift at 8.
Must leave before the new guards arrive.
Limited time frame.
I’m on a mission from God.
Mask off.
Disconnect wires.
Gown off.
T-shirt on.
Shoes on.
Sunglasses on.
Grab bag.
Try to walk in straight line past nurses station.
Run.
Hide in the toilets.
Wash face.
Peel off all plasters, bandages, visible ECG electrodes.
Rip off I.D band with my teeth, wash off blood and make-up, try to look like a passable human being.
Run.
Realise that I’ve successfully absconded without being chased by security or stopped by police:
normally I get caught at the bus stop.
Blackout.
Wake up on my kitchen floor.
Grab my meds.
Find a note in my letterbox saying “Feel better x” in unfamiliar handwriting.
Panic.
Get to a bus stop.
Wake up on his doorstep all confused.
Do you have my phone?
Oh my God, you’re alive! No I don’t have your phone, what the hell happened, we were so worried?!
I don’t know what happened.
Come here.
Hug.
Please can you help me?
Of course, you’re safe now.
Can you please get all these fucking ECG stickers off me? I think I missed some.
Yeah, let me have a look at you.
Just get it all off me, I don’t want it.
Cry.
You’re safe now, babes.
Thank you.
I’ll put the kettle on.
Thank you.
Hang on, what’s all this?
Oh, shit. Another cannula.
Wires and tubes dangling out of my arms.
Rip it all out.
Shower.
I’m so tired.
What happened?
I don’t know.
You don’t have your phone?
No, I thought you had it.
No, I don’t.
Fuck. That was my dad’s phone as well, it had all his photos and contacts and old text messages on it.
Shit, don’t worry, we’ll look for it, baby. Maybe the hospital has it?
Doubt it.
Wait, so you ran away whilst on psych watch and you’ve lost your phone… they’re going to go to your house, you know. They’ll be looking for you.
I just want to sleep, I’m so tired, baby.
Sleep.
Something bad happened in Barcelona, didn’t it?
I don’t think I should tell you about that right now.
Sleep.
Brucie’s dead.
I thought he died ages ago.
Nah, you’re thinking of Terry Wogan.
Sleep.
My favourite pizza.
Meds.
My favourite person.
Try to stay awake.
I don’t think I should drink champagne.
You don’t have to, I’m just celebrating the fact that you’re alive.
Just about.
Just about.
And it is Friday night after all.
Sleep.
I need to sleep for a while.
I need to sleep for a week.
I’m sorry.
I love you too.
Sleep.

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poetry

Definition

THE DEFINITION OF
DRUNK IN LOVE:

I know you remember my
laughter as we drunkenly
cartwheeled down the silent
corridor of another nameless hotel.
You remember how my happiness echoed
all along the hallways. You remember
telling me to jump down that flight of
stairs, telling me to trust you, that
you’d catch me. And I did, and I did, and
you did. You remember how you promised me
you’d make me happy. And you did. You remember
how you promised me that you’d never let me go.
And you did.

4


Originally published on The Magic Black Book, April 2016

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life, poetry, prosetry

ventilator to the good darkness

And then there were those open spaces of my youth, stretched out between memory and oblivion like a birthmark. The mitochondrial spaces of summer, lush with hazy green vitality releasing isoprene that like magic mixing beauty and pain braided here and there to make the hills blue when you looked like we all did through air thick with sunshine and easy unknowns.

Spaces of forests explored and persistently wild with thick undergrowth cut through by streams and fauna and man, spaces of battlefields where we’d passively imagine finding traces of those who only a simple span of time before emerged from the stoic treelines to fight less for the glossed-over ideals in our second-rate historybooks than for old farm land by the snaking river that for millennia preceded the highway’s bifurcation, still holding claim though not through ancient custom or rite but through the anachronism of thick books with delicate pages that they eagerly yet without intention allowed to limn the past an impossibly remote, ever-present matter of romanesque words from a language other than their original and it’s all still there, still that, but I am not and never was though like those words I’ve been old and other all my life.

And the years advance simply, without us, like the soundscape of those spaces, humming a song that needn’t be as sad as it sounds, as it fades and I keep learning to speak.

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prosetry

Smiles

​I stepped outside and you were right there, ground to a halt at the zebra crossing, left hand gripping the wheel, right arm slung casually out of the open window. Our eyes met for a moth’s wing-beat of a moment and then my legs stopped working. My lungs seized within their ivory cage; my skin recoiled, terrified, clinging on to its muscle beneath, trying desperately to appear less on fire than it actually was. You were so close that I could touch you. You looked the same: as before, as always. I looked unusually good, even better than you’d remembered: this excellent coincidence confirmed my suspicion that God is female.

Instead of speeding off, you stayed put, and everything around me came to a standstill. I looked in every direction apart from yours and yet all I could see was you. Without even looking, your face was all that I could see. I fell in love with you with my eyes closed in the first place, after all. You were smiling at me; you were happy to see me. It wasn’t your old smile though, the one I have chalked on the wall of my skull. This smile was heavy, so fucking heavy, anchored down by heartbreak and regret and shame. For the first time in some months, we were breathing the same air as one another. But this air was hot and stale, saturated with the vicissitudes of nostalgia. The memories that we had so carefully created and curated fell from the open sky and smothered us, a fusillade of love and pain and love and hate and love and loss and love.

You were waiting for me to acknowledge you: with a wave, with a smile, with a middle finger, anything. And I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I ignored you but my heart was being fed through a paper shredder and I didn’t want you to see me suffer, or rather, see me still suffering because of you, tragic and dismissible like a half-mangled fox dying by the side of the road. It would’ve been kinder of you to run me over, to put me out of my misery. That would have hurt less than it did to see you smile.

I realise now after all these years that that smile you wore was saying “I’m sorry” but, back then, I didn’t want to hear it so it fell on deaf ears. Now I want to listen to all you have, to all you are, to all you have become without me. We are older but none the wiser. Love is love, no matter the style of our smiles.

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prosetry

Tracks

​By the time you’d finished reading the LOTR trilogy, the grass had grown over the railway tracks where we used to lie.

How I loved filling those empty hours with you at the train station in my town, in that same spot, off the main platform, over the safety barriers, under the concrete stairs.

Tuesdays and Thursdays. Autumn and Spring. Never the times in between. Always evening. Always vodka. Side by side, sky high, putting the world to rights. “What we think, we become,” you said one night. “I fucking hope not,” I replied.

I cried a lot back then. You let me. But you never let me get too close to the fast trains, even when it seemed like my mind had already hurled itself in front of one. You were splattered with the viscera of my brain, but through my words, my stories, my secrets, my ideas.

No one likes to have their train delayed, not by a technical fault, not by staff shortages, and certainly not by a jumper. We hate so much for our train to be delayed even by a few minutes and yet we willingly delay so many great things in our lives, out of fear, out of diffidence, out of our minds.

You did not delay in telling me that you loved me. That was a great thing you did. It was urgent, as if you’d been waiting your whole life to love me. I think that staying alive is delaying me from attaining the greatest thing of my life: nonexistence. I am causing my own delays out of fear, fear of the unknown.

I am not as brave as you. I used to be fearless – you know, that’s when you loved me. Now you are fearless, just as I taught you to be, and thousands of miles away, while I am still at the station and I am afraid.

By the time I’ve finished reading the 1Q84 trilogy, the grass will have grown again over the railway tracks where we used to lie.

Our initials are still spray-painted underneath the 7th stair, above where we used to shelter from the rain. The black letters look as fresh as the day you sprayed them, a decade ago. I remember the black paint on your white shirt, and how I pierced your ear and you pierced my nose, and we lay our heads on the tracks and listened for the heavy electricity coursing through the rails and cables, the static jolts of the approaching train, stronger and longer, nearer and louder. We’d move out of the way at the last moment and laugh for England as the police chased us away. We have grown too tired and too cynical to thrive on adrenaline and blind faith like we used to. London has caught up with us.

You said you’d always be here, there, somewhere, not necessarily visible but present, like maggots in ketchup. While I delay in finding peace out of fear of missing the madness, I will not delay in saying this: I am still here, there, somewhere, not necessarily visible but present, like the empty vodka bottles that are under the stairs, at the station, where we used to shelter from the rain, by the fast trains, by our graffitied names, by the railway tracks where we used to lie.

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