fiction

THE KNIGHT PERHAPS

chris r-1-56 Illustration by Christine Renney

Cocooned in my parka, head down, I walk. I keep to the edges of the pavement and I follow the cracks between the slabs and in this way I cover my patch. I tug at my hood just to be sure; a habit I can’t, or won’t, break, and I scan the ground at my feet. When I spot a cigarette butt, a good one, I reach down and snatch it and place it in my pocket along with the others.
I must appear erratic, resemble a chess piece, the rook, or the knight perhaps, my movements awkward and jerky. Any progress I make is difficult to determine as I trek the board, seeming to endlessly fail at making my way across.
But I don’t raise my head and I don’t know if anyone is watching. I suspect that when I am noticed it is fleetingly and that they steer clear. I am just somebody scuffling, a scavenger.
There are plenty of cigarette butts but I only collect the good ones. The best are those that have been pinched or stubbed out before being dropped and not stamped upon. But I’ll take any that might still contain a little tobacco rather than just dry dust and ash. And I have become adept at spotting these and I know when to reach down and which ones to gather. Throughout the day I fill my pockets and when they are full I leave, I abandon the board.
I never stray far from the Centre now and I settle behind the bins at the back of Pound Saver. I empty my pockets and set to work, rubbing with my thumb and forefinger I remove the burnt tips. Stripping the paper away, I pull out all the good tobacco and without wasting a single stringy strand I drop it, one pinch at a time, into the tin. When it is full and the tobacco is tightly packed, as I roll the first cigarette, just fleetingly I am content.

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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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prosetry

An Education

Once upon a time, my odd behaviour, strange way of thinking, and outrageous antics were endearing. Everyone loved me and my wild ways, perhaps even because of my wild ways. But now that most people have a greater awareness and understanding of mental illness, my behaviours are appalling, tragic, pitiful, dangerous, distressing. “Such a shame.

Once upon a time, it was funny when I climbed into a chest freezer in a supermarket because I was so tired and wanted to sleep and the shop was too noisy and I needed to be cold because I honestly thought my blood was on fire. “Omg you’re sooo crazy hahaha!” “What a nutter, you’re so funny!” “Lmfao I fucking love you, you crazy bitch!” “You are SUCH a legend!” If I did that today, you’d call 999, failing to hide the embarrassment on your face. You’d scuttle away from the “scene”, but not before telling the crowd of onlookers that I’ve “been like that for years.

The idiosyncrasies of mine that were once adorable are now utterly deplorable.

It’s funny how things change. Unfortunately, I haven’t. I’m still as sick as ever. But at least you’re educated about mental health now, right?


Originally published on The Magic Black Book as 010218.

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poetry

I am, I am, I am

1.

​I am a letter.
I have been sliced open
And arranged with all the others.
Important,
Ignored,
Anticipated,
Dreaded,
Unexpected.
Bringing more bad news than good.
Sometimes lost,
Sometimes pinned to the wall,
Eventually finding the hands of the right person,
Eventually discarded and forgotten about,
Not worthy of being cherished
Or hidden in the shoebox
At the bottom of your wardrobe
To be reread on a rainy day.

2.

I am a crucifix.
Worn,
Believed in by many,
Feared by some.
Adored by the faithful,
Notorious to the faithless.
I can be your constant,
I can be your last resort.
You’ll either mock me or need me,
Possibly both.
My pained face hangs over your head
When you’re lying in bed,
And I will be there at the end of the aisle,
Watching you marry the wrong girl.
I might make you uncomfortable;
Or I may provide the greatest comfort
That you’ve ever known.
Or you can, you know,
Just wear me for show:
Don’t think about my meaning,
I am just an accessory.
I have the power to intimidate
And the power to forgive
And I can look pretty while doing it.

3.

I am a vase.
Smashed into pieces on the floor,
Hidden from the parents,
Frantically reconstructed by a sibling,
Taped and glued and bandaged up,
Imperfect,
Cracked,
Fragile,
Susceptible to further damage,
Praying that nobody notices,
Plotting excuses for when somebody does,
Playing the blame game,
Holding it together,
Knowing that it’s only a matter of time
Before the parents find out
And panic
And shout
And throw me out.
No longer functional
No longer beautiful
No longer pride of place
Just an ugly, broken waste of space.

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fiction

DESCENT

Chris R-0315 Image by Christine Renney

I am attempting to forge a route that takes in all of my haunts, all the places where I have taken shelter after dark. The doorways where I have pushed back and stretched out and where I have slept. But there are too many and as I move between them, making my way back and forth, I feel disoriented and this sudden compulsion is now pulling me from the Centre or at least from the part of the City I have accepted as the Centre, a place where I have loitered and lingered. But my reluctance to leave seems to have deserted me and I am fleeing, but to where?
I am pushing against the City and it is dense and difficult to navigate. I look because I must but I can’t focus and I can’t see my way through. The idea of a Centre here, that it could exist, is inconceivable and yet I have conceived of it and somehow I have found my way. But how?
It must have been slow, my descent. So gradual that the progress I have made is all but impossible to detect.

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prosetry

Benches

​”Why are you crying, poppet?”

Because I am so devastated that there is no document that exists that can tell me every single bench I’ve ever sat on throughout my life, where that bench was and with whom I was sitting. I just need to know. I just want to fucking know.

“That’s why you’re so angry and upset? Because you don’t have a list of every bench you’ve ever sat on?”

Yeah.

“Look, I know you’re mad, poppet, all the best ones are. But you can’t be insane. Not here, not now. Not ever.”

But–

“Ahh ah ah ah. Come on now. Settle, petal.”

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