Changeling

Gazelle Twin has become my latest synaesthetic experience, and if that’s too wanky for you let me explain with what I have – billowing smoke, purple and bronze and black. I love the word “bronze”, it’s one of those satisfying moments when language is more than tool and expression, it’s got a form of its own in your mouth, like a magician’s trick. A ream of scarves, pulled beyond the throat and the teeth into the air, sailing against the sky.

“Changelings” is a stacatto beat of swordplay and temple interior, a dark hallway with angled walls and ceiling lost in shadows. I could hide there awhile, for reflection, for loss, for sustenance, for something that would make sense in an increasingly fragile world.

I feel prickly with heat, unnerved by the walls and doors and corridors. Every room I went into had grown eyes; mine were blind and my mind stupid. Birds and words and stones, falling from my mouth, too much at once, and where there are eyes there are ears too. I ran.

My legs are pocked over with scars from a childhood of self-harm, beyond conscious thought, when eczema and short hair and bullying were the bane of my life, and the pain caused me to roll over and over on the floor just to leave it all behind, since my hands were bandaged into useless paws. I’d sleep on the classroom carpet during lessons, and lie awake at night staring out of the window.

Scars. I tried to hide them with make-up when dancing ballet.

This hide has always been a threadbare thing. While in hospital, they thought I was burning myself with a cigarette, until it became apparent that the surreptitious sit-ups had worn the hole in my back.

I talked about this yesterday with the girl-ghost of my past and future, whose energy leaves me cold with regret for her suffering, and more alive and fucking glad to be so, than I have in a long time. She sparkles as mountain water running downhill, running uphill if she so wished, because after what she’s been through I doubt anything would be beyond her capabilities. A rare IQ and a list of mental disorders long as her arm. Nature is a cruel joke, we laughed at it, and solemnly reflected on how her school system had let her down. For all that intelligence, the system couldn’t work to her mind and her mind couldn’t assimilate the system. It happens. She told me of one teacher who took her to the back of the room and let her work alone, out of sight and earshot, so that within ten minutes she was done.
Not all those who wander are lost.

I can sympathise, if never fully understand. Everyone’s illness and experiences are their own. But while talking to her, it’s so clear how her recovery came about and will continue to run uphill, downhill, because she notices Everything. Subjects beyond anorexia, beyond anxiety, beyond depression. She told me of a nurse who had talked to her about the Little things in the World Beyond, while inside. We agreed that this is crucial in treatment – to lessen the risk of becoming institutionalised, that white stick of a word, which so many of us carried in the end. It took months to get used to life beyond locked doors, beyond ever-watchful eyes.

They were only trying to keep us alive, of course. But you never underestimate the power of owning power over a lock, thereafter – or indeed, your own thoughts and movements. The staff were our saviours and our enemies; not every choice/action was induced by illness, but by personal preference and human nature, yet they couldn’t allow for the slightest imbalance of the delicate peer pressure which the system relied on. If one of us got away with something, the rest would buck up too – for various reasons.

Anorexia is a manipulative, deceitful thing. It can turn a loving human into a wiry demon with hot eyes, raking nails. It’s an external manifestation of rage, fear, doubt, guilt, all the things buried inside where hurt has been caused or neglect has festered wounds.
To come back around, you have to learn to trust again. Not only others but your own opinions, ideas, emotional reactions, physical needs. And you have to finally confront what is inside, nothing so mundane as “good” and “bad” but You, and your place in the world. Because it’s useless trying to love and learn when you can’t bear to look yourself in the eye.

Triggers catch me out. Getting past immediate reactions is often the biggest challenge. Yes, I have a temper and I’m not excusing it. Control is a conflict within and without. I can try to explain, and fail.

I am not a nice person. I am black and white.

Experience has taught me to be distrustful again; I used to trust and talk about anything. After years of silence, it felt good to spill over and run on, until I learned that this could be used for and against me, or for and against other people. I still don’t know enough about how the world works, and rarely think beyond Today’s consequences. Such is the habit of survival and ignorance. The consequences don’t matter when you can pin your own selfishness and inattentiveness and arrogance on an eating disorder.
(When you still don’t know how much is You, and It.)

I never could get across what I mean to say. Being held accountable, responsible, these are things I’ve run from for too long – pride and shame have their say, much of what I don’t understand frustrates me, and I’d turn my face away rather than ask. Even when I bite my lip and confront, often the answers are elusive and sliding away in riddles until it all becomes the waste of my very precious time.
But I need to stick it out and ask again.

Oh we talked about that, too. Time. How you can hear it passing. The deepening of your voice and the creaks in your lower spine, the way things become funny for no apparent reason, how the world suddenly holds colours and is vital for it, and how some friends slip away while others remain. Some become vacant spaces of themselves and others the tapestry of a life renewed. It occurred to me (again) the other day, my 30th birthday, that we all change our minds as well as our skins every few years or so.

Become a new person. Shift the mindset, the style, the tone. We leave traces of ourselves behind, for others to follow. My mother has gone from exasperated parent to fearful carer to curious friend and confidante. I never dreamt we would one day have this sort of closeness; she was drawn to my sister and my father to my brother, when we were children. Nanna was the one who sat with me to reminisce and to weave past and future together. Her stories of our ancestors, of vague sepia-tinged memories of post-WWII England, now ring through my mind with those history lessons of school when I wish I’d paid more attention, or that more details had been presented for me to memorise.

Hurtling forward. Glancing back. I felt it at age 15, something changed, and my spine ridged itself while tension squirmed through me. I remember standing in the tuck shop with my friend K, trying to tell her what was wrong and coming up with nothing. Only that it felt bigger than me, than us, than homework and boys and periods, all the minutiae of life-change we were going through. To this day, I still don’t know what caused it – pale mind – but it lasted weeks, months, possibly years. I’d always been a worrier, but this felt different.

Half my life time ago, and here. 30 was supposed to bring the answers. I feel more confused and fearful than ever, but within context… There have been a lot of recent changes. Perception and perspective are everything. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to cope well with moving to a new station. The distortion of routines would have brought on panic attacks, restrictive eating, over-exercising to compensate and alleviate frayed nerves.
Now, it’s a loose laugh and a weary rub of the cheek, and enjoying the tension-banter while everyone adjusts, and… Performing the funeral rites of a tired old building. Walking each corridor, each flight of stairs, each floor one last time – turning out lights, closing windows, watching the sun burnish the horizon line (still blue) before turning away and closing the door.

When the world takes priority, things start to make more sense. Not everything, of course, but enough that I can get by. I’ll still miss cues and wonder why and how I stepped off the edge, and I’ll still run and hide from company and questions when it all becomes a bit like that butter scraped over too much bread. Thank you, Tolkien, for I’ve never found a better way to describe what extended interaction can mean to someone used to being alone. Whether through forced isolation in illness or as a reflection of Self, the child on the windowsill behind long curtains, reading into the twilight.

Sounds of the rain at the window. I hate that what I loved can become tinged with negative emotions. Symbolism is my friend and enemy. I have to watch what I say, and it segues through to how I think. Exasperated and… To be left alone. That was all I asked for. Some damage can never be undone. One man’s objective view is another’s inability to let go, so that I start to question Everything. I hold fragments of trust in one hand and opinions in the other. The pressure behind my eyes is often unbearable. I used to fall back on what others told me was Right, wanting to be Good and to go along with it, not to cause upset… But I know what makes my skin crawl, my mind go dark with old fears, and won’t go that way any more.

It’s not really anyone’s fault that this happens. But when these experiences are already known, and the prodding continues, I will give back what I can. Or turn my face away, whichever is easiest, since constant conflict is bad for the digestion and nerves. Fight-Flight is for the real moments of danger and fear, not an everyday experience. I’ve wasted enough time already.
Past still reaches out to present. I’m not an easy person to be around at the best of times. As Ma puts it, I walk into a room on heavy feet.

To quieten the room, damage limitation, I left by the side door and now Exile is a comfort I’ve longed for. It means I can concentrate in a quiet state, sitting in this library-mind where I’ve finally caught up on reading all those hoarded files, gratefully picked up along the way when offered; though whether I retain what is learned remains to be seen. Details usually emerge and flow back on a trigger, and then rarely when I need them, but it’s nice to know they lie there like neatly-folded blankets in the cupboard, ready for a change.

How to put them into anything useful that belongs to me, is another matter. Still too many gaps in my mind where context should be.
But listening helps. I pick things up as I go along, popping them on this shelf and that. I prefer listening to speaking.

What it’s all for, I couldn’t tell you. But it feels important to know how to connect past with present, conflict with peace, politics with people; and it staves off this Awareness, the fear that one day I’ll look around and realise I’m walking on the fence. Breathing underwater. When you become too Aware, you fall off, you drown.
Life just happens. That’s recovery.

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….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.

October

There’s something about the changing light in this month – the pale mornings, the brassy texture of the sun as it eases into age – that fills me with a nostalgia born of melancholy, thoughts on a year’s weariness. All those goodly things thrown into the mix; stirred up in the creaking branches of a storm, the white splinters over a midnight sky; the bone-rattle-hiss of burnt out grass, and the croaking of ravens wheeling over a pastel twilight, wings blotting out the threadbare sun.

We’re not quite at the end, but it already seems this way. My thoughts turn to the new year, and in this case, it really can’t come soon enough. 2013 was difficult on personal terms; 2014 has shown me the multifaceted pain of a world I hadn’t recognized, known about to explore.

I’ll remember it for the words, twisting back on themselves; for the riddlespeak that was mine and not mine (such an early arrogance, to think I alone knew it), pain of the point pushed further and further in, until I wondered if my mind or spirit would break first. The ocean seemed deathless and without end, until I hit the bottom and waited to see what would happen next.

As it is, I found out in a packet of pills. Prescribed, at least.

I’ll remember it for the way I thought I would never let go, until the thorns shredded my skin, my ego, the pages I wrote upon. The voice in my mind found a soul mate.

I’ll remember it for the way a blue petal fell, turning black on its descent, to land at my feet in the toxic rainbow that sifts gently down to the drain.

I’ll remember it for the way I woke one morning without burning eyes. For the way I could breathe again, no knot in the chest at the thought of Alone.

I’ll remember it for the ocean eyes, for the wanting and the need and the knowing that when worlds collide, the fallout is a child’s dream of home.

Most of all, I’ll remember it for the way Responsibility became not only my friend, but my standard, after years of fleeing this mind-numbing foe.

I have been many things – names, people, animals, swear words, poison; I’ve been heartless and so full of Lionheart, I wanted to die rather than acknowledge the fact that what I clung to, would keep me down on my knees (clinging to that standard still), head lowered. Depression is knowing that what you hold dear, will make you come undone; it’s disregarding other’s fears and cares and words, until only your own voice is the piping in a blue wind.

It’s finding the grace to let go, without a name given, without a name taken. I was nameless, and not blameless.
I was myself, until even that wasn’t good enough. Maybe it never was.

You were the King of Swords, upright and inverted both. I was a dreamer – and we know what happens to those.
They see things in the stars.

One year on from a message sent in friendship, sympathy – empathy? – perhaps more; it was a difficult time, and I didn’t know myself. Didn’t really know you, either. That was the point.
Should I have just walked on by?
There’s a question only the October song knows.

And still, one petal blue. Because there are no happy endings, as nothing ever really ends.

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.

Shutter down, Shining out

So here we are, on a day and in a time when the tears fall as rain on the mountains; when the sun is all the brighter in the sky, for our knowing it is still there. Coming in through my front door this evening, to the fragrant smells of wine and paella – my landlady is a great cook, and of the kindness that is bent around caring for others, so that I am always invited to join in at meals – I felt myself to be Home. The dog was curled up by the fire; warm smells of pine went trailing golden fingers through the house. Where others are not so fortunate, and have been hounded from the place of their birth, the land where ancestral bones lie deep as legends, I can claim this place for my sanctuary.  I know a newly-learned gratitude for all that I have, those seemingly small and insignificant things, as I once knew them after coming home from hospital. But it is too easy to forget, to become complacent again.

The wind is already turning blue on my side of the world, with a rawness in the pale arabesque of the morning. In these tumultuous days, we are leased into softer eyes and gentler smiles; our sharp shining edges are smoothed over by empathy. Shared sorrow, frustration, anger, fear. Doubt. Confusion. And still, more fear, as we wonder – with each click and scroll – what will happen next.

On Tuesday, 19th August, the world saw the face of its foe – what was revealed of it – hovering like a baleful moon above that of James Wright Foley, a US citizen and freelance photojournalist, captured in Syria in 2012. Though about to be taken by that most futile act called murder, for an even more futile cause, James didn’t flinch or try to pull away. He probably knew well enough where the contents of that video would end up, how it would be used for propaganda, as a shock of reality; for the awareness of the wider world, for the threat of the same fate meted out to others. Still, his face remained set as that of a clock, dialling down on its own time.

Perhaps the same is true for those who have watched the grim facts of that video in full. Perhaps they too, haven’t flinched. But, whatever their agenda, it cannot even begin to be measured against James’ own strength.

The perpetrators are more than willing to take the rest of humanity down with them, on their way to a faux-martyrdom. As James Kirkup of The Telegraph rightly pointed out, to call James’ death an “execution” is to give it more honour than it deserves. He was murdered, by hands and a heart too cold to know love and respect for another.

Walking home tonight, I found myself mulling over this, and other things that have come to pass. The blue-black cloud of inertia that had filled me up like ink sifting through water, slowly slipped away. In its place wove a silver thread of desperate hope, twined about with the pale green of worry … a thin petrol-rainbow of fear.

Passing through our local Muslim community, I found myself faced with the troubled faces and downcast eyes that are sadly reminiscent of other times. Such fear is palpable, like the wavering heat rising from a radiator. 9/11. 7/7. 22/5. Numbers that would be meaningless, without the context of death and tragedy, of atrocities carried out in the name of Islam; when it is the innocent followers of that faith who must bear the fallout. As though they had any part in it at all.

“We do not tolerate it, we forbid ISIS in Indonesia… This is a new wake-up call to international leaders all over the world, including Islamic leaders… [to] review how to combat extremism. Changing paradigms on both sides are needed – how the West perceives Islam and how Islam perceives the West.” – Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of Indonesia.

I remember the face of my friend, who once walked the beat as a hate-crime officer, giving a sympathetic ear and trustworthy pledge of hope to those he served in the Muslim community; and his words, full of sadness, telling me of the young sons and daughters taken by shadows of fear; the mothers and fathers left behind, bewildered and terrified for their children. For each other.

I read the latest blog entry of my dear friend Nillu, who is a Shia Ismaili Muslim, and the fear becomes personal; it becomes a pale rim around my vision, half-thinking about what is best left unsaid, unknown. The future is what happens when it arrives, not what we try to foresee. She is Nillu, one of the loveliest and most empathetic women I have ever known, and the thought that anyone might think negative thoughts of her, based upon her religion, burns out my mind. She is the peace of her faith, personified.

I recall how on Monday, when our worlds met at the borderline of thought and dream, I had told my other beloved friend Amira that, while the little things matter in this life, the finer details, we cannot escape the Here and Now, how this affects us. When we hit those patches of black ice, nothing is so very important than to get the words down before the usual inertia of getting-by steers us back towards equilibrium. How else would we know, how else would we remember what had hit us hard? (Sometimes, it really is a case of diving into the nearest cafe or stairwell, to record a piece of existence that would otherwise go unnoticed, dropped like a coin into a well; a brief glitter, then blackness.)

To which she agreed, as ever she would, for we are alike as twins in mindset.  Her own blog entry wrapped itself about the anger and fear felt for Ferguson, a suburb in her hometown of  St Louis. While the tension has since begun to unwind, Amira’s entry – posted  in lieu of a literary article about fiction and publishing – told its own story of the immediacy of that situation, how it caught and affected her.

“Screw that blog post I wrote about literature and fiction – it can wait. There are more important things at stake right now.”

And yet, for all this – for all my waffle and whimsy in attempting to make sense of what I and others have witnessed, day by day, on rolling news feeds and carefully edited images – from the scene of James Foley’s last moments, and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine – I find myself, at the end of this day, so full of dark thoughts … and somehow still willing to get up and try again. For a smile and a prayer, at least.

Entering the cathedral for a walk between those dark-wood polished pews, drifting with the dust motes that are like so many silver sparks, I spoke aloud the words and cried the tears held back all day. I commended his memory to whoever might have been listening, anyone or no one. I have no particular faith. I just walk where there is peace to be found, between cool marble columns etched over with long-ago dates and names, upon rainbow-glitter sprays flung from the stained glass windows.

cathedral girl

James, I didn’t know you, or your family. But you symbolized what I want to be, what I want to achieve, and it’s for this reason that I take your words to heart, more than most.
You had your romantic ideals discoloured by reality, and still carried on. For that, no act of inhumanity can diminish your memory.

Following an unpleasant encounter with an unedited photograph taken from a jihadist Twitter account – tossed about with the carelessness of a tennis ball, among people who ought to have known better than to give the perpetrators the notoriety they seek – I decided to find out more about graphic content, its origins and uses. The principle focus was on how this type of media fits into the growing scope of social networking, as an instantaneous publisher. With the rise of portable technology, we have nothing to fear in terms of missing a moment in the world. What we have to fear instead, is the decrease in ethical judgement when it comes to sharing what we have found – live, unedited, raw footage, often taken from conflict zones and scenes of tragic events, passed about to … what? Inspire retaliation? Instil dread? The lines grow blurred. What is useful propaganda to one party, is click-bait to another; and to still others, it is a symbolic vocalization of what cannot be described in words. Though I do wish more people would try. For that matter, Twitter has at least started cracking down on graphic content, and is actively suspending accounts which would use it for propaganda and intimidation.

For all that I am a writer, with words supposedly my weapons (and you would think, some kind of clarity), metaphors and symbolism are all too often my fall-back. Such is the delight of Twitter, with its reams of information-imagery and algorithms, that I am never short of those stars for a constellation of emotional expression. A picture can sum up far more than I could put into words. That being said, I pull up short before pressing any buttons on the sort of content that has become an unpleasant side effect of following certain topics, in order to learn more. I’ll confess now, my fingers have itched. Some images have sent my mind down into a blankness that only long hours of walking, and missing a meal – startling my body awake with hunger – could shred. For long moments, I pause, wanting to show those who follow me – “Look. Look at this. Look at what these people who are not people, have done to this woman, this man, this child. Did you ever think that blood could run so thickly, that it turns black?”

But no. Because why should I be so selfish as to pretend there isn’t a sneaking voyeuristic pleasure-horror to be gained out of seeing others’ reactions? Or is it that I want to stand a mirror up between us to find the same emotions, the same words, to know that what I have seen is real, and not the darkest nightmare?

Oh, I still long to show you all, to make you understand how terrible the suffering was of those people … But I don’t know it myself, because I wasn’t there, and I didn’t experience it. I know nothing of the situation, but what I’ve seen from a tiny set of pixels in a frame, holding the last image of a person who was alive and breathing once, beloved, longed for, educated, born. That picture, that video, is but a fragment of who they were. Whatever the perpetrators of their death thought to gain in taking that last image, or allowing it to be taken, to be passed around on social networking sites, they can’t diminish these facts.

So why, then, should I have been so upset to see that image – the first piece of graphic media I had come across on Twitter – treated the way that it was, transferred from one user to another, to illustrate the point of the murderer’s violence?
Ah, there’s the paradox. I guess I would call it “dignity in death.”

This article from the Guardian, summed up what I have been trying to spit out for weeks about the perks and perils of sharing graphic content on social networking sites. Blogs such as this one, written by BBC journalist Alex Murray, and this on The Conversation, have helped me to see both sides of the flipped coin. Because I want to know how it feels to face that kind of reality, when it’s all caught in pixels on a screen in the newsroom, with only a hand to reach out and no way of changing the ending. I want to know, so I can better understand it.

“Whether or not a news organisation is right to use graphic material is a matter of opinion. But what this article has hopefully illustrated is that in certain cases the decisions to print or broadcast are taken with care and with a genuine desire to ‘do the right thing’. The mainstream media, if we can speak so generally, has its multitude of failings. But let’s not forget that when dealing with upsetting and harrowing imagery, journalists do not exist in a vacuum, unencumbered by the moral uncertainties that we all face.”
– John Jewell,
Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University.

We are all beholden to each other’s goodwill and ethical standards, on social networking sites – it’s a push-pull system of give and take. Each of us have a duty of care to our friends and followers, who come from diverse socio-cultural and religious backgrounds. In cyberspace, after all, there are fewer limitations on what can be seen; it is difficult to erase certain things from under the eyelids.
And we are not even on the ground as witnesses, feeling the whump of explosives and feeling the sting of heat, or handling raw footage for editing.

“That much of this material is shot point of view and handheld does have an impact. When this sort of video is edited, it’s pretty easy to treat it simply as ‘material’. When it is a single continuous shot, there is something about its unified perspective – as the point of view of a real person, not of a piece of a broadcast – that can be difficult to cope with.

This isn’t journalists trying to sort facts and report ‘the story’, this is people showing you what they are experiencing, as if to say: 
‘I don’t understand why this is happening. Why are they doing this to us? If I show you, then perhaps someone will explain what is going on.'” – Alex Murray, “The Hazards of war reporting from the other side of the world.”

While graphic media, submitted by citizens as user-generated content, can be used to raise awareness – drawing in a wider audience to the fracture-lines appearing in our world, and bringing to bear the reality of life under conflict – it is also known for its white-out effect of desensitization. There is the Long Blink of ignorance left in bliss – which none of us has the right to deny another, for our individual worlds are populated by enough troubles – or the self-propagating cycle of seeking out yet stronger content, more brutal scenes, to achieve the same effect. Then there is the consideration of safety for those with the means to produce such content.

“The temptation is to be out at the very front with them – where the fighting is more dramatic, more filmic. Front-line reporting – capturing and communicating the essence of war – is always a gamble, but one where we think we can set the odds… The further forward you go, the more powerful the pictures, but the greater the chances of being killed or injured. Our flak jackets and helmets are far from invincible. As a cub reporter I was always told never to become the story.” – Alastair Leithead, “Hazards of war reporting from the Libyan front line.”

“Journalists now constantly have to make difficult decisions about protecting the safety of people caught up in these events… But being aware of the need to do this doesn’t always come naturally if you’re not used to reporting wars from the newsroom.
What about the monitoring of phone calls or even email traffic?
What language can be used to identify yourself without endangering the contributor?
How do we introduce ourselves?
Is Gmail safer than Hotmail?” – Matthew Eltringham, Editor of the BBC College of Journalism website; “The new frontline is inside the newsroom.”

James Foley had the backing of the GlobalPost, based in Boston, but took no fewer risks than his peers. His death brings up again what freelance journalists face when reporting from warzones, “lightly resourced, laughably paid, almost wholly uninsured… often armed with little more than a notebook and a mobile phone.” There has been particular focus on Syria, where James was taken, which has been labelled “the most dangerous country in the world for journalists” to work in, by The Committee to Protect Journalists.

At least 69 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict there, including some who died over the border in Lebanon and Turkey. More than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria; with frequent abductions, some of which go unpublicized, it is difficult to know exactly how many. CPJ estimates that approximately 20 journalists, both local and international, are currently missing in Syria. Many of them are believed to be held by Islamic State.”

I still have a petrol-rainbow trickle of an idea about what I would like to do in the near future. There are big decisions to be made. But more and more, with each turning leaf and golden bar of sunlight turning to brass, with each red-rim eye of a news story, I find my thoughts turning to my family. I see the bravery of the Foleys – read his mother’s words – and must now think on such things as consequences. For all that I have no further responsibilities or ties, other than my current job, there are still those left behind to consider.

There is only so much the human mind can take, before it must shutter down and shine out. I end my days now, after online research,by turning my phone off and sticking my head into an Alice Hoffman book. It’s this, or break under the heavy iron band stretched over my skull, leaving its tang in my throat, a soreness around my eyes.

There are always those sparks of drifting dust – our histories, our lives – to call us back. The beautiful smile of a friend, tweeting a picture of herself with family; the unique charm of a compliment for a posted story. The fluffed fur of a kitten with ocean eyes, caught in a noir photo; the lingering words of one who lies on the peripheral line where the sky meets the sea. The pleasant swatch of colours found in a tweet describing the morning-sounds of birds on the feeder, and bacon on the stove.

For all that the blood is a book, to be read over and again in the hopes of learning from our pasts … we live for the future, and it is Now. So while sharing the seemingly mundane, the cheerful, the cherished, we take our stand against those who would spread only darkness. When we speak of the dead, those taken from us in the most diabolical ways, let it be with images of who they really were – the people who lived, worked, spoke and fought for freedom, ours and theirs; for knowledge, for one more assignment, for one more day. In using hashtags like #ISISmediablackout and #StopPutin, we set our faces to the changing winds of tomorrow – denying the murderers and the liars the voices that would continue the fear and oppression – while remembering that today is for Us, and the memories of those who are gone.

It’s only when we stem the creativity, the playful tweets, the Good Mornings, the most wire-grin banter, that the perpetrators of that insidious fear have won.

Well, that’s me done. Hope I haven’t inadvertently offended anyone or left something important out; if I have, drop me a line and I’ll apologise. Otherwise, it’s

Guten nacht

from me.

If you want to continue following my work, I’m at https://lamplighthaven.wordpress.com now. Ta.

Lampenlicht

Another twilight, another moss-covered wall; another lampenlicht walk, under a sky threatening to split with the weight of its thoughts. Conflict, my dear friends … it is the word of today, tomorrow, forever. It doesn’t seem to end, so much as stir from one ripple to another. To another, to another.

We have slipped beneath its dark surface again, tinged by the reddening sky; and in all my fanciful dreams, all those silent-screaming thoughts of the night (only a handful of months ago, and somehow another time, another place already), I could not conceive of it all. Such sights. Things I, and other unfortunates, will never be able to erase from under the eyelids. Such white-out times of pain and loss, for those hounded across ancient diamond teeth.
And the long fingers of evil stretch further, and further across the walls of the land, slipping between the cracks of history, to rear up

– sudden and swift

against your own tomorrows –

Into today.

I dislike using the word “evil.” It is too easy, too sweeping; it does not allow for coherent debate, for the flip of a double-sided coin. No positive argument to make, though, for a head on a pike. For a child, spilt like a misspent word into the sand, into a timeline. Into the world, passing from one to the next, until the life is an image of itself.

No, I won’t forget you. I won’t, and never want to; because for all that your identity was stolen away in blood, your innocence, the new light in your eyes … You were a life, and you were someone’s beloved.
No, I won’t forget you. I wish we had met under any other circumstance but the baseless, senseless defilement of that symbolism, for all that the perpetrators had to go upon. Religion is not theirs to keep; the flame goes out in hands too cold to know life, reason, and love.

Oh my friends – we hold each other in these white-out times; we keep our minds cradled in the lap of knowing the other’s despair;
And oh my foes –
I know your shadow-name, and I know you for what you are.

beetle black

I fear for this world, and am trying to find myself ready for it. Insofar as anyone can be ready, setting their face to the sky, to the watchful sun; to the circling pen-mark of rooks on the wind; the haggard trees, the lampenlicht nightwalk, and my old comrade-in-arms; the Lady Cathedral.

cathedral girl

lampenlicht

Tonight, I listened to the piping sweet-bell language of the bats, and knew the changing of the watch. The leaves are burning up on the buildings, scarlet as the mornings and ragged to their tips, like the wings of the rook, like the frayed ends of my hair.
It is almost blonde again; that brown-gold colour of youth. Combined with a near-normal body, I am slowly coming back around to what once was, while keeping these gentle lines about the eyes, these freckles on my nose; this somewhat yellowed laugh, like a papyrus scroll unrolled, filled with spider-black lines.

Uncover our heads and reveal our souls; we were hungry before we were born.

The past catches us up in the end. Run as hard as you might, and you run only from yourself.

I am quitting this blog tonight. It is too full of last year, which was painful, and still aches to the touch. There are places in town, across counties, which I still cannot enter, for the ghosts that run past me, trailing thoughts and feelings in their wake. Each time I think myself known in this new life, I am somehow only my own shadow, crawling up the wall.

You, Nosferatu; you long fingers, you smiling-abuser, you – with your burning touch, who would not let me go. Who still find my dreams, and riven them all around with brambles, choke me in mud of the past, until I am fighting awake and screaming for air –

And it will not end, until I turn and stop running. Stop running, and turn, turn about again, and find the light in all places, the one which will never go out. It has been here before, has come again; a different intensity each time. It is life, and love, and knowing that these claws sink only so far; that the nightmares will die in the day, with the dreams.

One coin, two sides.

I am wondering at the validity of this therapy. For all that I used to come awake and know myself frayed, frail, parched in the throat, dying a little more inside, but still alive – now, I find it difficult to feel anything at all.
To connect one thought to another, to find the patterns that were constellations. Or perhaps this is end-game after all, and I am walking ahead.
I see nothing but darker days, as yet. Anyone could tell you that, I suppose. You only have to look at the pitfalls awaiting the Eurozone; at the blue winds rising over Russia and Ukraine; at the red-rimmed eyes of the sun, the morning that fades a little more with each breaking heart.

I had thought myself paled into Forever, and had all but decided to disappear, back up into the tower of clicking needles and spinning thread. Those red-black stones called; the brambles lashed against the sky, filled with an everlasting storm made of torn angel wings, and a man’s blood on a knife clenched in her hand. That was a story and a song of long ago, when I was … about thirteen, I think. I had forgotten it, until now.

“You should never run from anything immortal, it attracts their attention.”
or indeed –
“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.”

Shorn wings, and the silver-fire cage of an Ever-Storm; that angel learned what it is to love a mortal, to feel the chillness of steel on bone, marking her as one like him after all; while forgiveness and punishment found her still, huddled into the rain-fretted mud, as one of His own. No love goes unacknowledged, no tear is forgotten. Silver and white, and blue and black; red as the life on the long thistle-song.
Jealousy reaps its own rewards.

barnes elias

But then came this, the lark’s rising song in the voice of Vicky Beeching; and I found myself able to cry, and to know colours again, and – while still alone, without touch
(which comes closer to a feather-trail of memory, every day)
I was awake and aware, and feeling what should be. Rubbing my cheek, and drinking a black-hearted coffee, and going on with a smile.
Such bravery in the writing, you would find in the heart of a unicorn, for all its ageless pain and wisdom; the ability to touch so many, to lift them from the dark place where we may go, from time to time.

Oh Robin. If only I had such words as these, by the inimitable John Underwood, to set the last bar. You were a dear childhood friend, known on a soundtrack to my RAF youth; found in a film for the rough-ready teens; and a summer sun of adulthood, which will never die.

apola sun

Keep the streets empty for me, Liebe.
Now I know your face, and I know your name
(the one you will learn; we are roles reversed, through the clock)
May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.
My King of Swords. Cut which-and-every-way, the song remains the same.
Dreaming of Mercy Street.

Round Two: Dream/Nightmare

You know those dreams, those nightmares, which seem so real that you question nothing but your own sanity, for fear that it might break under the fear?

Sitting in this pale morning light, I am off-kilter, and feel outside of Time. I need to get this all down before I forget.

I was perfectly rational, lucid, in waiting for a near-unknown correspondent at an old inn we had decided upon as a venue for our finally meeting. The rooms seemed pleasant enough, innocuous in that way of golden sunlight flooding one space, before falling into strangely dense pockets of shadow … The air felt clotted, claustrophobic, but then – upon wandering further along narrow corridors, over creaking uneven floorboards, you would come upon yet more gold bars of light, and you would twitch and feel yourself to be silly and paranoid, rubbing your cheek in irritated confusion at the welter of nerves under the skin. There’s nothing wrong with this place.

I was waiting for him, that correspondent, and the sun was climbing over the sky, while the landlady – a woman pretty in her plainness, with brown hair and a purple t-shirt that you felt were not her first choices – carried a broom about like a gun, or a pint glass like a grenade, and was cordial with the regulars (of which there were quite a few, scattered over the green-gold lawn and inside on tall stools set on tottering flagstones) while positively bristling with abrasiveness at all newcomers, such as me. I only realize now what she was trying to do; who she was trying to protect.

Yet more pockets of darkness, where there should have been light. So incongruous.

She was trying to turn people away, having suffered enough pain and abuse at the hands of the other two staff members – an old man, the janitor, and a younger man, the cleaner, who basically ran the establishment. They were both very powerful, I could sense that, but kept it hidden beneath drab clothing and silence … But every now and then, I saw the corner of one mouth curl up, and I know enough in this life (spread to the dream one) to take care of such signs. So it came as no real surprise when the younger man cornered me on the stairs, where I waited in black-gold light, in such trembling heat (one of those summer evenings when it is best to stay indoors, though the air is so sluggish and thick) – no surprise, then, when he pretended to be my correspondent, while hiding in the shadows.

But I knew his voice, though I had heard it about as many times as I had the one I waited for, and called him out. And when he tried to put his hands on me, I ran. I ran up a long corridor, and found a bathroom that was more like an indoor swimming pool, or some alpine spa; sheer rocks of plastic, ferns trailing into different kinds of water; the swilling kind to bathe in, the cascading kind to feign wilderness. And more of that light, pouring in at a wide-eye window, but even that couldn’t dispel the real fear surrounding this place, especially at this point… What need for the sides of a bath, ridged up in the water that is basically a pool in itself? How did they keep the water confined; where did it go? I don’t know why this should bother me so.

They were powerful, those men, but not powerful enough – when both tried to rape me, as I made my escape out the back door, I swung such blows at both that I sent them spinning, with a force I would never hold in real life; I whacked them both upside the head, you would have loved it. Laid them out flat, and I saw them then, small and –

But I ran, and the landlady followed me out. I saw her tears then, on her face, and the hatred and love she felt for me, for being able to escape while she could not. What kept her there, what power did they have over her and others who may have worked there, unseen, unknown?

There was something so beautiful, so wrong about that place; it reminded me of the warren full of snares in Watership Down, with the sleek and well-fed rabbits, whose lives seemed so perfect, yet they knew only resignation. There was real evil in that place, in the shining wires – the unseen enemy, that is exactly how this dream felt. They tried to draw the Sandleford warren rabbits in, to have them fall upon the hands of the enemy instead. Only Strawberry felt enough remorse to follow the escape, to beg forgiveness.

Silverweed’s poem, full of prescience and sorrow. I saw it in the landlady’s face.

No doubt after this entry is done, I’ll feel normal again, and will feel silly for writing this all down, and for sending a message to my own correspondent; yet the one in the dream never did turn up, though I had the feeling he was watching from the sidelines, as though this were a test. Possibly laughing quietly to himself. It felt like a test, and as ever, as in reality, my anger won out. I have thrown punches before to save myself, but in doing so, have I endangered others? When a childhood neighbour tried it on with me as we babysat my little brother, I locked myself and the latter in the master bedroom and stayed there until he had gone back downstairs to raid my father’s fridge again. And when my mother came home and got me to unlock the door, and sat on the edge of the bed to ask what had happened, my silence didn’t last long; not as long as the next one would, so many years.

I was so angry that I told her exactly what had happened. But whether it was dealt with in an appropriate manner, I cannot say. It was a long time ago, and I was a child still; not quite thirteen.
He told me he wanted to give me an early birthday present.
I told him No.

Right now, that dream is behind my eyes, and feels all too real. Is it possible for a second act? To go back, to save the landlady and others? Is it possible to meet my correspondent? Why send me there, knowing what was inside, and my history?
I suppose it is just a projection of me overcoming my fears, of using that anger to carry me forward, this inability to back down, this fear of losing to people who try to control me.

But even as I stride forward, I am aware of others falling back, of those still vulnerable. I don’t know. I don’t know why I felt the need to tell him about La Jetee, and Sans Soleil; to watch them as I was instructed by the second teacher, alone and back-to-back. I don’t know if he would care, if it would mean anything to him at all – I am 97% he won’t respond, either because he doesn’t know how to, or because he is that angry with me. It doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe that’s why I could finally get the words out.

This feels like something that has gone on ages; that has gone on long enough. This life, always on the run from some fear or another, of speaking up and speaking out.

Now it’s time to get up and go back to pretending at normality, which is basically what we are all doing anyway.