….It all just falls apart

But when I look into your eyes, it pieces up my heart.

My answers are almost lost in the haze of the rain, of what this year has said and spent. It’s been –
“Learning curve” doesn’t quite cover it.

We only learn enough from the light, to know ourselves blind. Stand in the darkness, liebe, and cry, and feel it all as a bullet hole in the chest. Memories fill it up again, and we walk on.

Time doesn’t so much heal, as stitch the pieces back together, or fill in the gaps and the splits with seams of gold. But you’re never quite the same, again.

I took a blind man by the hand, and led him away from the sunken well, where he’d been trying to draw water from a dry and empty laugh. The thick smell of damp and lichen made us cough, and we staggered a-ways, with his gnarled hand on my shoulder. I let him loop it about, because I was no longer afraid of the Touch of others.

He became my eyes, in the dark. My senses were blunted from years, decades, millennia, of wandering with my mind fixed on the ground.

I thought we’d leave this for ourselves a hundred times before
But I guess we’re always leaving, even when we look the same
And it eases me somehow to know that even this will change.

Here we are, in our Now, with the pain of what came before and the wary knowledge of what is to come. Hit the ground, and run.

Except I won’t. Not this time. I’ve spent too long running, without stopping to wait for others; for feelings, for thoughts that might anchor me or hold me down … or hold me still, long enough to hear the whispered words on silvered breath.

Fierce and light, and young.

So we kicked up the yellow leaves and the dulled moss, the forlorn stones and the wires of flowers long-dead. The sky was a stretched skein of grey, a heavy head; the sun, a lowered eye. His shoulders slumped with the weight of it all, and I urged him to lean a little more.

I laughed so hard inside myself, it all began to hurt.

No one sees the salt that slides between the cracks on the clown-dolls’ face. That smile is a painted bridge between what is, and what must be. A coda of pain and hope. A web wavering in the winds that bring storms and rain.
A well uncared for, runs dry.

Have a care, world. We’re not all hungover. We’re not all lost, those who wander. But we are all here, and awake, and aware, and laughing with barbed wire.
Nothing worth knowing, is ever what it seems.

If you’ve still got some light in you, then go before it’s gone
Burn your fire for no witness,
It’s the only way it’s done.

When the light changed and the world moved on, we looked back. I showed him the path we’d made through the leaves, with my hand, brushing the silt and the sky from his forehead. One pass should do it; he won’t see, I’m not a miracle-worker. But he’ll feel it.
He’ll feel it.

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…”Well, when exactly do you mean?”

Tomorrow, I am going to have a look around a room that will, should I be able to take it, cut my monthly outgoings by £200. This will allow me to do a number of things without feeling guilty, or having to drop something else: afford to eat things outside of the value range, buy the occasional bottle of rum, and keep up with the price hikes of over-the-counter/prescribed medication. My gym membership has, for the past four years of living in this city, remained static – a blessing, since the same can be said for my wage.

Even last year, the freeze didn’t bother me so much. I was still living with my partner, prices were lower. But circumstances change. I didn’t foresee depression and anxiety creeping back in – and thought I’d got off lightly – with the cost of living up, and not much else.

Today, tens of thousands of people have protested in London, Glasgow and Belfast about pay and austerity. My voice is among theirs, if only via tweets. When I first began working with my company in late 2010, the set rate seemed a golden egg; I was well over the basic minimum wage, and able to secure a flat with my then-partner.

Fast forward to late 2014, and I am single, happy to live independently, but currently selling off much of what I own to make ends meet. I’m still over the basic minimum wage, but below the Living one. There’s no place for sentiment when you need to keep the balance up; Ebay and Amazon are my new best friends. Apart from underwear, I haven’t bought any new clothes since last summer. This isn’t such a big deal, as I’d rather spend money supporting independent bookshops, second-hand vinyl stalls, and friends with crafty fingers and book-writing of their own.

I could jack in the gym membership, but for the security it offers. With anorexia nervosa and compulsive exercise disorder for the past fourteen years, I know what my boundaries are, and solitary “formal” exercise is still a stumbling block. I’m currently trying to keep serotonin levels high enough to feel enough like myself to warrant eating, while maintaining “sustainable” levels of activity. I can’t emphasize enough how important that balance is. In terms of therapy, I’d be required to shell out on bus fare to travel the distance to reach the next available psychiatric service specific to needs… which would also entail taking time off work.
The word “liability”, haunts my mind.

I could, as many people in my life have advised since I went back to work in 2005, post-hospital, find a “better” job. But I happen to like where I am. Let no one convince you that cleaning/maintenance is easy. In a police station, when you’re on your own and it’s pissing with rain outside, and the teams have been out on a search for a misper (missing person, to you), and they’re dragging back in all manner of mud and sludge and water… it can feel a bit like pushing a golf ball into a straw. But I get a kick out of it.

My colleagues are friends; more than this. They’re not called the Family for nothing. The midnight humour is often the only thing keeping me afloat, smiling, even if only on the inside. They’re no-nonsense, and accustomed to dealing with mental health issues; I don’t feel any awkwardness, having a chat with someone about the time spent as an inpatient, or long-ago suicidal tendencies. The thought of leaving this security knots up my stomach even more than the idea of having to face a cliquey office environment with faddy diets and gossip. Been there, done that. Nein, danke.

Working alone, I have all the time of a shift to burn off excess energy, stifling the gnawing demon in my head that demands a high-intensity day, while ticking over thoughts on writing, art, music … all the whimsical things that make me who I am.
I’m also spoilt rotten with rum and book tokens, nights out on the town, because they know damn fine what it’s like to work with the thin end of the stick, and collectively go out of their way to give me the chance to experience “normality”, away from mental illness and memories of this. In the last four years, I’ve woken up to the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around me and this eating disorder, and that it’s a very complex kaleidoscope, with plenty of grey. Things you can’t pick up in reading books and articles, watching TV.

But they can’t pay my wages directly. And to be honest, given what they have to put up with on a daily basis, I’ve got the easy job. That’s an obvious statement, but I thought I’d put it out there, in case anyone thought I was square with what these men and women in uniform – in every sector of the emergency services – do for our country.

Each year, the corridors echo that little bit more, the building flakes off more plaster and paint, and lights go out in more offices. The great-awful thing about cleaning in the Nick, is that I never run out of things to do, and take home nothing but knotted muscles and a feeling of satisfaction. I learned from a very good woman in 2005, who saw a kid with stubby hair and stick limbs, and still decided she’d make a decent apprentice for a private-hire cleaning company. It was just the two of us, and I learned as much about hygiene as I did the general upkeep of a building.
For now, my job description would overlap several sectors.

I’ve never looked back. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s work, and crucial to every part of society. Sure, there are some who don’t work up to standards – but as with anything, it’s what you bring to the day (or night.) I happen to be one of the lucky few who is still in full-time employment, given the rise of the zero-hour contract, particularly in this trade. The chances of finding anything remotely like what I have at the moment, are few.

There are many people going through it, across sectors, with some working up to three shifts just to get by, as with the Whitehall cleaners who campaigned this week outside HMRC, for a pay increase to the London Living Wage of £8.80.

“Iolanda said that she leaves her home at 4:30am and lives on the other side of London. She said that she gets back home at 11:30pm and earns £6.31 an hour. ‘I’m trying to do this for me and my friends. It’s too much.'”

I’m only offloading what has been on my mind for quite some time. I bury it, usually, under things that don’t concern me directly. But every now and then, a situation unfolds to drive the message home, that things can’t stay the way they are. I’m rather good at running from responsibilities, and have the ostrich-thing down to an art form. Writing about other worlds, I don’t need to focus on my own.

Until I’m balancing medication against drinks for friends, cosmetics, sanitary items, birthday and Christmas presents.
Until I can’t take a train journey to see family in the south.
Until I can’t take a holiday, because it would mean digging into reserves I don’t have.
Until anorexia prickles its cold little fingers into my head – “do you really need to eat that?” – whenever I look at my weekly collection of shopping receipts.
Until I’m starting to consider quitting the gym, which sets that pale thing in my head shrieking all over again.

With downsizing on the flat / selling off unnecessary items, I will hopefully have accumulated enough cash in the next couple of months, to go and see my family and old school friends. I’ve been promising to do so all year. A change of scene wouldn’t hurt. Maybe, in the new year, a walking holiday?

Let’s not get above ourselves.

Still. I’ll find time to get out and see people more, jumble up the habitual life, which – as secure as it feels – tends to act as an incubator for this bloody thing in my head. I might even be able to pull off a job-hop, if necessary. But I’d rather just get a bit of a wage increase, and stay with the people who make me feel like a person – a team player – rather than a shadow. I’d rather give back to them what I can, in tea ‘n coffee runs when the weather is terrible, and extra hours put in to make the poor old place as comfortable and functional as possible. In my own small way, I make a difference. But in the end, it might not even come down to choice.

Whatever happens, I’ll find a way to concentrate again, with financial and emotional reserves. To sleep, and visit art galleries in London, the theatre, attend gigs; wandering around among the things that colour up my mind. I’ll be able to write, and actually have things to say. Maybe even take up studies with the Open University, to challenge this hive-mind with politics and economics, history – even if it’s just for the additional knowledge to put thoughts and current events into context.

Hope this wasn’t too much of a whinge. I know I’m better off than many, and am grateful to still be well enough to work. But every now and then, I need to put things into perspective, and this is the only place I have to do so. It’s difficult to talk about, and I’ve hashed out enough arguments over work with the people who care (and some who don’t, but feel they have the right to an opinion anyway.) This isn’t the issue – I like the balance of fewer take-home responsibilities / time for writing (mostly), and have more than enough reasons to stay at the Nick while still needed.

But ambitions come with increasing awareness of the world, reflective of improved mental health and experience – they form a push-pull scenario in my head, with the last ties of mental illness. I didn’t expect to still be alive 14 years on, let alone in a position to consider actually grasping dreams in my hands.

Maybe I should race the economic recovery.

Solos and Duets: On choosing to be single

Out on an autumn walk, under a splintered-sun sky, I took the familiar route down the old railway line. Bracketed by trees with their jaded eyes and golden lace, I found the trove of oddities which always make these walks memorable, no matter how many times I take their routes, which are the veins of the city.

A tree whose current seasonal hue spreads a wash of deep crimson light, like a lava lamp.
Another tree with a twisted-skin torso, even down to the muscular striations and fleshy creases.
Pale light sifting through talon branches, edging around their fine lines; it was as graphite stencilled on a watercolour base (or the imitations I would draw as a child, of the Ladybird copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles – thick cartridge paper holds watercolour pencils well, whether it’s a clouded blur of teal for the uneasy sky, or a fine nib pressed point-down to crosshatch in teal sedge grass. The moon was always a gloaming of yellow, edged about in such a way that it was less of an orb, than a wraith of a thing.)
Conkers with the glossy coats of a Bengal cat.
A small child whose large brown eyes and gap-tooth grin were my own, a long time ago.

There, and back again. It’s a long haul-walk down the line, but it’s the scenic route to the local supermarket. I could take the pavement alongside the road, and hack off at least half an hour… but you know the story already.
Arriving home with sore feet and a slightly hunched back, knotted shoulder blades, I found a yoghurt pot had split and spilt its vanilla goop over everything else. Mopping up, I chucked the bag out. It was frayed down to paperclips and staples, anyway.

All the minutiae of my world. Rain usually plays a part in making the day that bit longer, what with slopping through silty mud and drying off after; I could take the bus, as my Ma is constantly telling me, but this would chew a good £45+ out of my budget for a monthly card, when I’m already haemorrhaging money. Glancing around this eyrie heart the other day, I realized I have been here for just over a year – and haven’t even unpacked the DVDs, the NES, certain books. An overhaul is needed, and some downsizing. I can fit into the small spaces of the world, so long as there is light enough in the room to see by. It’s about economising and prioritizing. As ever, the things that matter the most to me are internal, rather than external.

Don’t get me wrong – being single is fucking hard work sometimes. Fitting literary ambitions and research around the clatter of the house I currently rent in, bills, shopping, work-shifts bracketed by blue shadows, my head does spin. But I’ve got it fairly easy in comparison to some; and I’d rather handle these things alone, if only to prove to myself that I can.

I’ve been alone for much of my life, out of necessity and choice. Having travelled with the folks around Europe while Dad was in the RAF, I knew – in that trickling-awareness way of kids – that making friends wasn’t always a safe bet. There was every chance we’d be off again soon, so best not to get too attached. When we did finally settle in Sussex, I learned to keep my head down in school when some kids called names, refused to hold hands in case I was contagious; universal eczema had left my skin in scarlet croquet patterns. But early school reports also testify that I was “a chatterbox” with the close friends I did make (“daydreamer” crops up a lot too, especially around Maths lessons.) I only have to mention gremlins to a certain friend, to spark off a nostalgia-fest that involved playground games and scrappy exercise book maps.

Middle school, I was the butterfly between groups. I found it easier to stay on the fringes, even while secretly wondering how it would be to live in these nucleus-worlds. They flicked ash at each other and excelled in sports, formed bands, broke windows and smoked. Some lads liked to ping my bra-strap, when Ma eventually persuaded me to wear one (Sod’s law that the girl who hated being a girl, got the chest she couldn’t hide under baggy shirts.) One told his friends, with the low-loud tone and hyena eyes of an orator, that I was “only good for a grope.”

I shrugged it all off and affected a brassy tone, while quietly aching inside for all the embarrassment and awkwardness. Not so much because of the sniggers, but because anything sexual caused me to feel this way. Boyfriends – anything based around sex in general – was more of a low-key acknowledgement of feelings in my paperback diaries, rather than anything so overt as some peers managed. When the girls put on lipstick and adjusted their skirts in the changing rooms, I watched in silence and wondered – for myself, for them.
Nowadays, I still wonder, and with more admiration than I felt back then. There has been a lot to learn about feminism, especially in the past couple of years; even now, reading certain things on Twitter, I catch myself – “Why wasn’t that obvious to me before? Why haven’t I realized that how I was feeling / what I was thinking, might be wrong?”

Well. That’s a story for another time, I guess.

I have yet to embrace my sexuality as a woman and as an individual, but there have been small victories. I can stand to be alone in the room with a man, even strike up a conversation; I’ve evolved with the influences of a five-year relationship, and can give my opinions and lay access to feelings (after a bit of a headstart.) Twitter and Facebook have been particularly beneficial for creating the necessary “buffer zone”, allowing me to speak and to slip away from all company when things get overcrowded. It’s this element of online sociability that I find most appealing while out on walks: pointing out to friends across the world what I see in the world around me, breaking past the white blur in my head to describe purple skeins of bonfire smoke, the leaping orange flames; the charred tang in the throat. Then there is the option (without wishing to cause offence) of going offline, of retreating back into myself.

The line sometimes offered by (well-meaning) friends and family, is that it’d be a “bit of a waste” for me to remain single. But then, they’re not living this life. They weren’t there to see me break down before a night out with J, when the dress I was wearing revealed (to my mind) too much of this changing, healthier body.
(He did the right thing, as ever – comforted the child within, as well as the clogged-nose woman without.)

“The pressure to settle can be very real, even if it is not communicated explicitly… From our earliest days, we learn that our worth is tied up in our ability to find a mate; that marriage marks the passage into mature adulthood and is our most important adult relationship; and that we are not complete until we find our other half.” (Juliana Breines, Psychology Today.) If my personality and achievements in writing aren’t enough to engage the attention of a man, then he’s not likely to prioritize these things in a deeper relationship.

Anorexia held me back for a decade or so. In and out of hospital, isolating myself in Ma’s house to carry out the symptomatic behaviours (such tight coils) of the beast, there wasn’t time or any inclination to see friends. Dating was out of the question. I was terrified of men, though you wouldn’t know it, for the way I hunted the streets with a lowered gaze and dagger chin, close-cropped hair. People just thought I was angry, which I suppose is also true. The anger, the bitterness, manifests itself now on bad days, when it feels like my spine will never loosen up, and every remark is a shot over the bows or a verbal grope. But I know, through therapy and interactions on and offline, that these are just residual reactions. The perpetrators are out of my life, and it’d be wrong for me to paint their faces elsewhere.

Since literature makes up a large part of who I am, balancing on a knife-point of self-worth, it’s not something I can turn off for a relationship. Luckily, J understood, as a writer and fellow daydreamer. We both needed space; we gave each other time, the freedom to hear our own thoughts. He’d bugger off to the pub; I’d go for walks. We worked around each other, because it was this, or going our separate ways. In the end, I chose to do so because that latent ambitious streak rose up, reaching out across the world, causing me to learn more about it and myself – not altogether pleasant, but necessary. I still harbour guilt, but the outcome would’ve been worse had I lied to us both, and stayed.

I’m not a Sistah doing it for herself, much less a Holly Golightly (though, rereading Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I do find it easy to laugh at myself through her words.) Whoever I do have a relationship with, their company has proved engaging enough to convince me to give up time spent alone. I’m fine with sitting in a pub garden, nursing a pint of cider under tree shadows; with wandering over the local countryside, Mogwai and Sigur Ros plugged into my ears, ticking over thoughts on art and writing. Additional input is grand, but not something needed on tap. Individuals complement each other; no validation necessary.

As my friend Vittoria put it, “If I want a picture of the Eiffel Tower, I’ll get on a Eurostar and take one by myself. If I want to be congratulated, I’ll tell people about my work, or tell them a joke… I own my house. I have sex. I meet men, sometimes it works, sometimes not. I don’t look too far ahead. And I certainly I don’t settle.
I validate myself through how happy I feel, not how happy a man makes me feel. I validate myself through my work, my wit, my friends, my quality of life, my experiences and my health. I feel no need to spend my evenings swiping left or right, forcing myself to “see him again because maybe it’ll be better this time” or simply being with someone for the sake of being with them. I love my space, I love my own company, I can survive on my own.”

For some, being single is the blank stage between acts, with low light and the hollowness of echoes; for others, that same wide open space signifies freedom of thought and movement. Chances are that these feelings won’t be static, since life tends to shift like the colours of a bubble, and what “single” once meant to a person can alter with circumstances, experiences, and age. What’s most telling is that, for all our previous community-based organising, single households are on the rise. Economic development and social welfare, gender equality and the rise of tech-based social networking: these and other factors have contributed to the increasingly self-aware state of individuality, with many young people seeing their single status as not only a mark of independence from the need for attachment, but as a “mark of distinction and success. They use it as a way to invest time in their personal and professional growth.”

However, not everyone who is single got there out of choice; circumstances dictate the outcome. Another friend, Jo, gave me her own perspective as someone averse to being single, but with the experience to make her wise in erring on the side of caution when it comes to relationships:

“The needs of a small, vulnerable child who has already suffered rejection of the worst kind in his life has to come first… It makes me sad that those who have started relationships with me knowing I was headed towards taking on his care, subsequently couldn’t handle the thought of the responsibility. It makes me feel melancholy that, me, being me, who has never found romantic liaisons the easiest of courses to navigate, has to face the harsh reality that any future relationships will be more tricky to come by… I cannot have men flitting in and out of my life. Even if little one never had any contact with them, my emotions run too high, I invest too fully and too wholeheartedly not to fall hard when (for it has always been when) they don’t work out.

Part of me vows never to have another relationship. My heart can’t take the disappointment when it goes wrong and depression is hell enough on your own without a child depending on you, wondering why you are crying. For rejection causes me depression and I wish I could change that, but it seems I can’t.”

Jo’s self-awareness and commitment to the needs of her son, mean that he is protected from the disruption and emotional fallout that a relationship-breakdown can create. On the other hand, it’s this same self-awareness that creates something of a risk-aversion mentality that I hope – with great respect for Jo’s vibrant personality – wouldn’t discourage her from entering into a relationship. As she herself acknowledges, “The other part of me knows how desperately unhappy I am without a partner, and I live in hope I can meet someone right one day.”

Worth considering, though, are Jo’s achievements as a single-parent writer. Her time-management is a delicate weave of responsibilities and fulfilment in creative output.

“It can be tricky as I’m on my own. I also work, and although this is technically part-time, teaching means I clock up 6-7hrs a day and a few at the weekend, so in all can be 30hrs a week… Writing does take the last place behind everything else, including housework and all those other everyday things but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get done. It’s what I do instead of watching TV or going to the pub. My boss told me not long a go he was starting up his blog as he was inspired by me as I spent my evenings doing something productive, chasing my dream and pursuing something I enjoy rather than wasting that time. This is not to say I don’t ever have evenings where I just veg out, of course I do, but in the main I use my ‘me time’ to be productive.”

This improves on the argument Suzanne Moore set out in response to Tracy Emin’s decision to choose art over parenting: rather than living between two camps, with the belief that children are “incompatible with the creative process or a substitute for it”, women should look for the grey area between. “Parenthood is not simply sacrifice. Art is not simply selfishness. Female creativity exists between these imaginary states.”

As for me – independence, taking care of my health, writing, and the freedom to come and go as I please, are grey areas enough, for now at least. Selfish? I don’t think so. It just means that I’m learning who I am, where I fit into the world, and how to get to know and help the people who matter.
And where mental health is concerned – it feels as though these last steps are best taken alone.

Being single is an opportunity to build strong friendships, devote yourself to activities and causes that you’re passionate about, and develop a sense of self-worth and identity that is not attached to a romantic partner’s love and approval. These experiences will serve you well if and when you find yourself in a relationship: if you feel satisfied in your life independent of your partner, you may be less likely to have the unrealistic expectation that your partner can and should meet all your needs.” – Juliana Breines.

For now, I’ll stick with my own sense of stability – colleagues who are the equivalent of big brothers and sisters, friends I can get in touch with by picking up the phone, meeting in the city under the lamplight. Any relationship that goes beyond appearances and even similar interests, to form a bond that is heard in silence as well as words, is something to consider when it arrives – not to wait around for.

On Aphex Twin

Thoughts on Aphex Twin, by that mister Campkin.

jimmi campkin

I can remember the first time I heard an Aphex Twin song, and it would go onto become my favourite – a song that I would carry with me were I stranded on a desert island with only seven songs to occupy me for the rest of my life.  In 1999, whilst groin deep in nu-metal and teenage insecurity, I saw ‘Windowlicker‘ on MTV.  It was not love at first sight, but the briefest glimpse towards a new reality, a fast moving train passing through a station.  This strange and bizarre record confused me at first, but enough to want to see and hear it again, and in 1999 it was his breakout hit.  The stuttering beats, the ambient waves of sound and the constant clockwork groan of a distorted voice – I’d never heard anything like this before.  And then there was the video.  A disturbing satire…

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Shadow, thorn, and one blue rose

I find myself frequently bemused by this face.

Looking into the mirror as a child, I would stare hard until my eyes bled out tears; until the small, fine lines swam into adulthood – until an image of who I might one day become, was an image grasped in the hand of argent moonlight, riming the effortless sheen.

“I disappeared the lines – as memories came flooding in, the tears blew out my eyes.”

I am not so much who I thought I would become, as an evolved form of what once was. Older and quieter, arrogant still; believing herself to be above the world, even while walking at its feet. This is what sets me apart from those who are documenting what conflicts rip open the threads of humanity, bringing the truth of the world to unresolved eyes, to hearts that have learned the riddle-speak of care and continuity.

I still have far to go. Inhibitions are invisible manacles about my feet, and the years are heavy yet. But they will break. They must break, because I will have no one but myself to blame if they don’t. We are the successors to our own tenure, coming as going – or the flatline of Existence over Life.

I am thirty years old next April. This only bothers me in the context of what I have not achieved, may never achieve, if I don’t find the willpower to focus my voice; to know what it is I wish to talk about, and with whom. Right now, I dither from one place to one more commission, to one more job. There is freedom in these scrappy lines; I am able to up sticks and leave whenever I choose. But as Dido once said – and I do believe in this song, if no other – “But if my life is for rent / And I don’t learn to buy / Well, I deserve nothing more than I get / ‘Cause nothing I have is truly mine.”

I am still afraid of plans. Of setting down roots, of putting trust in anything longer than it takes to change my mind. Why?
Because I have felt the breath on my neck, of one who does not wait. Even as I try to slow down to enjoy things – food, company, a book, a life – I am aware of those thin spinning fingers, and the whispering echo, and the way it all came so close.

But what is a life, of a thread pulled taut?

Grandfather Time, within your tower
– Darkened brick and filled with icy
Breath of ages, standing still –
You hear my voice
You know my name
You watched a lifetime dialling down
To needle clicks and spinning threads.
Now pointing west, the arrowhead
Is finding love that cannot lie
That will not sleep;
You know my choice
A shadow, thorn, and one blue rose.

He bids me rove. There is still much to learn; to be accounted for.

King and Lionheart.

I had locked him away in a pillar of ice, hoping to set his heart free, so that he might return to his duties – for are we not all bound in such ways? Certainly, no royal can remain asleep forever, even while touched by the tint of a blue rose – and this heart does not lie easy, for knowing its shadow falls on a picture painted elsewhere, in another realm. I had hoped that by stifling his voice, so full of thorns, I might return to my own barren ways, this wild wood, this writing in black-gold … but it’s never so easy, is it?

Summer sun and winter moon
I have forgotten who is who
And still we chase, across the sky
The one to live, the one to die.

His blue-black shadows of doubt, for this lionheart. His dark water for my fire. I stride forwards, even while falling back; there is no letting go, though the words meet my eyes as thorns in the palm. I cannot deny what has not been done. Just as I cannot let go of what has not yet set beyond the horizon.

The sky is filled with both moon and sun so rarely; it is these times I cherish, with the world held between, a little black kitten with ocean eyes. We are the balance, do you understand?
I am tired, inside and out. Even this heart grows weary of pain, though she cuts open her own lip so frequently, on a wire-grin.

I live for pain. To feel alive, to know that I still exist. That I am not merely asleep. This once took the form of self-harming, hot needles on the skin (irony lives in fear of contamination, even while drawing blood.) I once danced my legs down to the knees, and trained beyond the gravel-pain of heartbeats in the throat.

Now, I set the moderation bar, and try to remember that to live is to know peace, too. Quiet. Sifting dust. Just because I am awake and aware, does not mean that I must push to the very last breath –

– before fading out.

These are but thoughts, as ever. I have been called many things recently – “wise”, “adorable”, “arrogant bitch.” I would say, put in a blender, they might summarize someone I would like to be. Who I thought I would know, when “all grown up.”

Instead, I am merely blinking away tears in front of the mirror, trying to resolve a firm image of the person staring back, with water-dark hair and freckles that have seemingly appeared from nowhere. I never had them as a child. But they are a good find.

I like tracing patterns. Stars, algorithms, the flecks of a magpie’s wings against a gunmetal sky, in accordance with the turning pages of a book, clasped in the hands of a hurtling-home commuter.

I can pretend to be cute, for all of an hour, before growing bored and wanting the serious façade back. Then this will be dropped too, in time for a giggle over a colleague’s terrible mug of coffee.

We are only a collective of emotions, rick-rolling from one situation to the next. I used to believe that I had to be same person for each, a static entity, so that no one would doubt my credibility. But this is boring as whale shit, and not sustainable. Mutability lives in the fire, stirred up by the rising air; water flows to enjambment –
And earth clings to the shovel, digging your grave.

I am a nonsense of words tonight. Just flexing these fingers, after all – a warm up, before chasing the sun back across the sky, as Celena, as Gaia, as the pseudonym made up at age fifteen, with no clue (then) of what significance it would come to hold.

Here, fire lights upon the ice
The shadows thaw beneath the smile
Of summer’s name, now caught between
A sea of stars, to call you home.

Trust in this, if nothing else.
Tattoo

Here, at day’s end

A peach-gold glow spread over the sky this evening; the air was full of the satin-smell of roses in full bloom across gardens stitched with tall lavender and buddleia. Their heads were hung low with the weight of their thoughts, the dreams of the wandering bees. Such sticky sweetness to find, to follow the trail from one place to another, until home is a distant memory.

Tomorrow marks the birthday of my landlady’s twins. They are currently clambering over one another to be first to peek over the bannister, as their mother and a family friend lay out the arrangements for a party of “some significance.” One balloon has already ended its own life without compromise, in a bang so loud that the dog saw fit to rest her racing heart outside in the lush summer grass.

(Whenever she thinks herself alone in the house, she will lift her long nose and let loose a soul wavering in the howl of ancient people; the wild roads call her blood still, but it is my voice from this eyrie heart, which brings her back. I would call with her though, had I the words of the wolf; such an aching testament to what was, and what might have been.)

These two beautiful children will be a year older, and I have known them for less time than it takes to walk from one shore to another. They have grown on me, in the way that some kids do, until I am surrogate big sister and confidante both; when their giggling whispers grew too loud tonight, I sent them on their way with the promise of a wake-up call first thing, with a breakfast fit for tiny kings and queens. That I am not much of a cook, is beside the point. You can’t go too wrong with pancakes and maple syrup.

And, watching their mother glide about the conservatory, hanging balloons and banners without needing to stretch, I was hit with such a sudden pang in my chest that I had to duck away, to stare up at the darkening sky and find stars … To remind myself that I chose this writer’s life, this solitude. This illness, this not-for-me-danke, this wandering road that still goes ever on.

I am not immortal, and that is what I would ask of myself, for a child. And the sort of dedication – the perseverance – which I know is not inherent of my personality. Whatever dreams may come tonight, let them hang on the supermoon, on a horizon boundless. It has been a dark week; I could use a little light.

In letting things go, I don’t make easy decisions. I’m a pack-rat, and tend to hoard that which gives me pleasant nostalgia, the sort of electrifying thoughts that are reminiscent of another life.
A life I could know, and never Know. Words remain within their boundaries until turned into experience. Into incidence, circumstance, situation, action. Currently, I have –

– only this heart.
And a dim light, in the west.

Tomorrow, I think I will escape to the City, to wave at the diamond-teeth along the skyline, and to wait for the frantic spill of energy at home to abate. I am as much confused by children as inclined to empathize with them. They work upon instinct; there is little, if any premeditation. When a small boy passed me on the street in 2005 and – turning to his mother – asked Why is that boy wearing a skirt? (pointing at me), it was yet another kick in the shins from Whoever, that I really should be taking more care of myself. I wore cropped hair then, and the raw bones of illness. There was little to distinguish me from my teenage brother.

I saw a photo of him earlier, posted by our mother on Facebook. He has become a man, quite without my noticing.

In trying to see all the world at once, I miss a great many things.
In trying to keep others safe, I am the one cutting the rose from its roots.

I hope the twins enjoy their party, with the sort of gut-ache giggling-wildness that only small things can really appreciate, like a kitten chasing a bubble and knowing itself to be outside of Time. That, more than anything, would make me smile, come tomorrow evening. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

Breaking my lip upon this thorn.