beauty, men, mental illness, short fiction, women

Watch For An Owl

He called at half past nine. It was a recent thing for him, having a phone but the first time he had sent Hedwig, my dog went nuts. He brought the phone as part of things you did in the muggle world.

Our friendship being one of them.

‘Hello mate, how’s tricks?’

He sighed.

‘Ginny’s in hospital. She had a breakdown.’

I put my shoes on.

‘Have you got anyone with you?’

He cleared his throat, said no in a soft, defeated voice.

‘No, but Ron and Hermione are coming. I wanted to tell someone what happened.’ he said.

I avoided my dog’s pleading gaze as I slipped my coat on and found my keys.

‘I’m on my way.’ I said.

They lived in an expensive house painted in warm yellow, looking out onto the sea. I sent him a text message when I was outside, knowing the kids would be asleep. Ginny hadn’t been well for a while now, but we would talk and I could see the flashes of her soul arise again.

He came to the door, glasses on rather than contact lenses. More people knew him as Daniel Radcliffe than the actual man. It was easier for him.

We became friends because I didn’t recognise him. In the second hand bookshop down Victoria Arcade, turning over a copy of Infinite Jest and grimacing as he set it back on the shelf.

‘I read it, but I admired it more than liked it.’ I said.

He smiled, thanked me for saving him a pound.

He asked if there was anything I could recommend. It started from there.

He talked about how tough it was being a parent. I talked about getting divorced. We both talked about films, books. Quidditch and I confessed I didn’t understand it. He explained it over a full English breakfast and I talked about the documentary I saw on Netflix about it. There would be pauses and we would change the subject.

He put the kettle on. We had a cigarette on the balcony and he told me what happened.

It had been over how he made the tea. He left the bag in too long and she shouted at him about it. She didn’t want to, but it made a horrible sense to do it.

Harry had shrugged it off before, but he was tired and dealing with a toddler and a newborn whilst Ginny curled up on the couch, sobbing with agony had scraped him thin. He kicked the kitchen cabinet, grunted loud enough to make her start.

She stormed out the house, snatching up her phone.

They found her in the park. She called the duty nurse at the clinic, said she was afraid about hurting herself so they were keeping her in for observation. She wanted to stop feeling like this, she loved Harry with a terrible depth and she lived behind a fog of guilt and grief away from them.

”She will be all right. You will too.’ I said.

He looked down, gave a choked sob and closed his eyes.

‘I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with myself, and I’ve been taking it out on her.’ he said.

I put my hand on his shoulder.

‘You’re doing the best you can with what you have.’ I said.

He looked up and smirked.

‘Sometimes you sound like a fortune cookie.’ he said.

I laughed and shook my head.

‘See, it was worth me coming over.’ I said.

He smiled and came in for a hug.

‘You’re a good friend.’ he said.

I chuckled.

‘Hey you’d do the same for me. Just making sure you’re all right. She’s getting the help she needs.’

The doorbell rang. He opened the door, we exchanged waves as I left. Hermione had her arms around Harry and he peered past her to roll his eyes as I winked at him.

Ron gave me a firm handshake and grinned through a rich spade of red-gold beard.

I walked back along the seafront, took the dog out and watched the waves as the sun set.

I watched the sky for the sign of a white owl. I sent him a short message, letting him know I was there if he needed anything. I had my work, but he called and said she was home.

He said more but something crashed and he said he would call me soon.

He hung up and I smiled. I rang my daughter and told her I loved her. If she asked why, I wondered what I would tell her.

20170218_124623

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fiction, mental illness, short fiction

A Game of Green and Yellow

The birds sing me awake, their cries loud enough to drown out my dreams. I wind the surrounding sheets, still bearing the musk of my skin, stale and dry these days. It is a talisman against the wet, greasy decay of what hunts me.

I hear it breathing – the pop and crackle of rice cereal, slow and hollow in a lake of lumpen, sour milk. I reach for my paints, unscrewing the lids on the Manganese Blue and Cadmium Yellow.

I smear lines down my arms and chest, my thighs and around my crotch in patterns derived from Hermetic sigils but already matted and altered by my nervous hand.

I dress in a yellow t-shirt, a long-sleeved green t-shirt and then a Norwich City FC top. I draw more lines on my face, warpaint against the thing that hunts me today.

Ridicule is a small price to pay against your eternal soul.

I grab the battered, incomplete copy of Call of Cthulu, with the irrelevant sections long since torn away and the spine is now so much tattered remnants of the glue and thread that bound it together. We are related in this, falling apart whilst holding onto the illusion that we are whole.

It stole most of my dice, but so long as I have one twenty-sided die, I can arrest its advances. I have enough pennies in the jar to afford something to drink or eat but not both.

Location is everything so I consult my map and the closest congruence of ley lines is the KFC just before Regent Road. It will be busy, but my survival outweighs my concerns over the opinions of others.

I run from Gordon Road, muttering a protective mantra to disguise my position. Its roar sounds, shaking the windows of the surrounding houses, already angered by my countermeasures and I sprint through the park.

A warm, thick breeze brings the smell of sulphur to my nose and I almost lose the rhythm of my mantras. A car stops, a horn sounds as I dash across the road. I see the KFC and enjoy the gentle, lilting spark of hope that arises in my chest.

I order a cola which is all I can afford and look around, seeing an empty table at the front which is where the best energy tends to pool. The young girl who serves me has a pained smirk on her face and manages to ignore my appearance long enough for me to pay and take myself over to the table.

The screen.
The book.
The die.

The game demands enthusiasm and focus to be effective. I miss the guys I used to play with, picked off one by one by marriage, work and social lives. They have stopped playing the game, but it has not stopped playing them. It never will.

There is a father and his son to my right, who both shoot disbelieving stares as I set up and start playing.

I describe the KFC, the surrounding people to add weight and reality to the ritual. I keep the descriptions brief to avoid insulting anyone but it is my desperation that offends people.

How many pleasant afternoons have I ruined in defence of my soul?

As many as I need to.

The rules call for a perception check. I roll a one which is when a member of staff comes over to me, embarrassed but determined to do his job. I turn and knock over my cola with my right hip, which makes the father on my right stand up and swear as some of it splashes on his jeans. His hands are forming fists but the staff member calms him down in halting, thickly accented English before he asks me to stop playing.

To everyone around me, this is an affectation, a game but to me, it is life and death. I turn and continue to play, hearing a chorus of disapproval rise behind me. Tears fill my eyes, a sparkling bitter anxiety flowing through me.
Children stand at the window, watching me as they laugh amongst themselves. A smartly dressed man comes up and speaks to them which encourages them to leave, still laughing but nervous with it. The man looks at me with empathy and his eyes drift to the Call of Cthulu rule book.

He nods and moves on.

I make another sanity check and pass. The green paint tingles on my arms and cheeks, warning me of an incursion. I glance around and see that the team leader is putting his phone back into his pocket with a guilty smile on his face.

I hear the wail of sirens, and I know that they are coming for me.

I am close to establishing the ward and so I mumble my way through the rest, rolling the die and sending it spinning off the table. I knock into the couple on the other side and receive a loose, weak punch on the side of my head but it does not hurt me.

The siren reaches a pitch and then stops. I see the flashes of green and yellow and feel a deep, powerful relief as they come to me, saying my name with a gentle familiarity. They take me with them, and one of them even picks up my book, my screen and my die to bring with her.
I am safe with them. In the ambulance, the ritual begins again and I welcome the pinch of the needle then the deep, plasticizing relief of the drugs as they kick in.

It roars at my escape, forever hungry and determined to catch me. They strap me in with care and we drive away. I manage to smile to myself before I allow myself the pleasure of surrendering to the drug, knowing that for now, I am safe.

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mental illness, short fiction, social media, women

Blocked

Chris smirked at her lawyer as the jury filed back into the courtroom. She loomed over Harvey, her court appointed attorney as her soft bulk spilled over the sides of the chairs and she scribbled on the pad in front of her with such intensity that the pen broke through the surface of the paper. She would look up and grin at anyone in her eyeline, her brown eyes slightly distended in their sockets which gave her the appearance of someone about to throw away their temper rather than lose it.

Judge Rozelle looked at the jury with the weary patience of a parent and asked the jury if they had reached a verdict. The foreman, a tubercular elderly gentleman who wore a suit and tie each day, gave a solemn nod and in a voice worn rough with talking announced that they had.

Guilty.

Chris, for all her rhetoric and misguided passion, stared around her with the despairing expression of a child finding out that Santa doesn’t exist and then burst into a shuddering mass of tears and foul language. The judge, hiding her smile, instructed the bailiff to remove her from the court and threw in that they would announce sentencing tomorrow morning at nine a.m.

Chris knew that the legislation was set against her. She had instructed her lawyer to approach her case on the freedom of speech angle. Her attorney had sought the help of the ACLU, the EFF, the whole alphabet soup of electronic free speech advocates but after an initial reflexive interest, they had looked into her case and backed away at speed.

Her attorney still tried though. Which, when she slipped from incandescent rage into self-pitying melancholy, was something she swore she would thank him for. A note, perhaps.

Chris knew the legislative axe that hung over her head. The precedent of United States v Baker was a strong one, but her attorney argued that case without any real impact on the jury. All the noble talk of free speech gained a patina of foulness whenever the jury looked at Chris or read the transcripts of her online activism.

That and the advent of the Valenti Act meant that Chris was forced to consider that she would not escape the consequences of her actions. She was prepared to jail if she had to, her dad had once admitted to her mom that he preferred prison to being married to her. The food and sex were better.

She promised herself she would be stoic in accepting the judgement whatever it is. A fine would be paid, a sentence served and in time, she would move on from a bad time in her life.

She promised herself but when the judge announced the sentence, her eyes rolled back in her head and she fainted like a Victorian lady. It was the most delicate gesture anyone had ever seen from her.

Full Spectrum Blockages were a grisly juxtaposition of private and public sector applied to ensure that the affected person could not access social media or the internet for a period. The sentencing, generally was for a brief time, and had its roots back in the days when Anonymous were not selling branded clothes and running candidates for the Senate and the House. Chris had prepared for this as she wasn’t considered a violent criminal.

It was the idea of it being for life that slapped her across the frontal lobes hard enough to make her faint.

The computer had been her lifeline. The rest of the trailer park was a warm, worn patchwork quilt of people but Chris forever believed herself to be a snagging thread on it, apart and in the acceptance of that, she found a terrible egotistical power. On the internet, she could be anyone she wanted.

Her poorest decision was in deciding to be her. She posted comments on everything, without expertise or experience of the issues involved. Her feeds started off as disjointed updates then shared memes and finally mutated into a ghastly amalgam of the two, pulsing and seething with the need to be heard. She lacked focus or direction so her harm was minimal, the kind of encounter that people referred to when they considered how freedom of speech was a double edged sword.

Then Raymond Kessler walked into an elementary school with an assault rifle and his mom’s brains drying on his army jacket and Chris found her true calling.

The truth.

A truth.

Truth.

Chris started to believe and then prosecute the unfounded accusation that Kessler had been a state actor, working to undermine the second amendment. She posted these evident truths in thick blocks of text, links to sites crawling with malware and pop up ads and if anyone dared to question her, they became collateral damage. Pointing out that using eighteen dead children to advance a political agenda was spurious flew straight over her head. Chris had her cause now and woe betide anyone who got in the way of that.

Few people did, so she went looking.

Kyle Brannigan was eight years old, shot in the head by Kessler whilst trying to run from him. His parents had been publicly vocal in pushing for stronger legislation, unaware that the battle had already been lost after Sandy Hook and in a world where time was sometimes measured in a number of school shootings ago.
She started to stalk them. Trolling was such an odd word to use, with its roots in fairy tales and mythology, and Chris seized the word for her own empowerment. She commented on their feed, creating new accounts when they cottoned onto her and blocked her, even pulling off a rudimentary denial of service attack on the website they put up to solicit donations for a scholarship in their son’s name.

Chris followed the Brannigans around without ever meeting them. She would have been able to claim a degree in their broken, muted world without their youngest son but it was not enough. She saved her welfare, borrowed money from people around the park and took herself over to Michigan to follow them in person.

When she got her nose broken by Kyle’s mom with a kick honed from three years of krav maga, that was the beginning of the end. The police, some of whom had seen the awful sight of children’s bodies carried away in bags held no sympathy with her and when the District Attorney announced charges founded on the Valenti Act, Chris saw it as an opportunity to make her case, to feed the poisonous myth of her ego.

Instead, she had been cast down into perpetual silent exile. She was not even allowed a cell phone unless the FSB approved the make and model.

She returned to the park, finding that the FSB staff had already removed her laptop, her desktop, the broken tablet that she had found and rebuilt with sheer will. None of them made eye contact with her, even Shereen who had left a gig with the TSA to sign up with them.

She sat in her trailer, unnerved by the silence until she pulled the emergency bottle of hootch that she had as the only legacy from her mom and started to drink.

2.

The silence was the worst of it. She started to leave the television on, fighting the twist of anguish when the anchormen begged for people to post on social media and provide content for the show. She managed two days before putting her foot through the screen and buying a radio from the pawn shop, trading the last of her mom’s jewellery for some, and some forged scripts for Percocet for the rest of it.

The rest of the trailer park gave her a wide berth, lost as they were to their screens. Chris vacillated between a superior contempt and a yearning envy without pausing to reflect on anything she had done. All the people that she had collaborated and shared information with were as far away from her as though they were on a different planet.

What made her maudlin was that she knew nothing about the people behind the user names and accounts they held. They might have known about her from the news or the trial, and every day she hoped that one of them might go analogue and write to her, alleviate some of the burden of exile. She had cast herself as a martyr without considering how that might look each day.

After a month, she was stood in the stained, peeling lounge of a shack just off the interstate, handing over the last of her forged scripts and getting something heavy wrapped in grease-stained cloth as well as a sarcastic warning to be careful.

Chris could not afford too many bullets, so she knew that she could not gain the attention that Kessler did. She was forbidden from leaving the state, and where she lived had been dying by degrees, long before she was born.

She walked into the grounds of the public school one autumn morning, shaking with tension and fear, the gun jammed into the pocket of the oversized coat as she willed herself into action. Her jaw had started to ache, growing in intensity until a second burst started in her chest and her mouth filled with a sharp bloom of nausea. She staggered, dropped to one knee as the gun slipped from her pocket and skidded across the asphalt.

She tried to look up as one of the security guards advanced on her with his gun drawn, eyes bulging with terror as another sharp stalactite of pain pierced her through the middle. She glared around the empty playground, heard the soft laughter of children and shook her head to remove it from her consciousness.

When the small, cold hand touched her face, she did not open her eyes.

‘It’s okay, Chris, you can let go. I’m not mad, you can come and play with us.’

She turned her head as much as her pain would allow, struggling to breathe beneath the impossible block on her chest and looked into the smiling eyes of a child.

She tried to say she was sorry that she had been lonely and angry and that she wanted to be a good person.

Kyle smiled at her and giggled before he took her hand again. He understood, but children always do.

She left, relieved to escape the pain and mass and followed Kyle somewhere else entirely.

Standard
fiction, mental illness, short fiction, women

Secret Origin

Why did I let you in here?

You knocked.

No one here does. They just come inside. They insist. They invade.

You knocked. I appreciate the show of respect.

So please, sit down.

The lack of restraints always comes as a surprise to anyone who visits me.

The visible ones, anyway.

It is the administration’s credit that we are afforded a small degree of autonomy, or the illusion of it.

There is a small device implanted in my head. It was my welcoming gift here.

What? No, I trust you either or could find out what measures are in place here.

Plus talking to people is the only pleasure I get outside of a good book. So, go on, ask away.

I always felt that your articles positioned that those affected were all women a little preachy. I was reading about a woman who tried to frame another woman for drug possession over something involving the PTA.

There is no inherent nobility to a gender. There are individuals, some of whom try to be better than others and some who do. We don’t even know what happened to trigger the changes.

I know that it saved my life. It’s what I did with it afterwards that got me put in here.

So, you spoke to Leanne?

Fascinating case, but when you use a child as a human ashtray, you tend to expect some form of justice applied.

I mean, there are a dozen women like her for every Brennigan Bradley. Now, before a lot of those women would incorporate the things that had happened to them. However, you introduce a massive charge of whatever form of energy that was and –

POW.

Look, tell me something, is it true what she did to her mom’s boyfriend?

That’s pretty impressive.

You tried to hide your revulsion there. As good as your training is, and considering how many drugs they have me on, well I will tell you this.

You still move so slowly to me, like single frames of film. It’s quite relaxing.

Is that a healthy reaction, Doctor? Expecting someone who is post human to behave in an idealistic, entirely unrealistic way?

I apologise. I am defensive about the others, even the ones that I loathe.

Especially the ones I loathe.

So you’ve met the majority of us then?

Then, absolutely yes, please ask more questions.

Although, can I make a suggestion? Something has been bugging me since you walked in here.

Lose the centre parting. It does you no favours at all. I know you want to be taken seriously, but that is too severe for your bone structure. Also, whatever blusher you used, go home and burn it. Please.

Look, I spent ten years earning my black belt in passive aggression. It would be a tragedy if I couldn’t break a few boards now and then, wouldn’t it?

Jason and I never had children. Corrine and Ellis were in their early teens and lived with their father since Laura died. She drank herself to death, and I never made the connection until it was too late.

It was, at first, a business arrangement. He loved me for appearances and I loved his money and his status. It should have been perfect for the pair of us.

Have you ever had a man hit you?

No, not like that at all. I like it when a man shows me he wants me. No, I’m talking about when he throws a good, hard right into your stomach. You can’t wear a two piece that summer.

He would hit me where people would not see. I would look back and see blood in the toilet bowl or limp for a few days but he would leave me pretty.

On the outside, anyway.

He was adamant about not wanting children but refused to wear anything and when I suggested a vasectomy? He laughed and said he played enough golf with those men to know he would never have them near his testicles.

He stopped laughing when I showed him the white stick and the blue tick.

By that point, large parts of me were already dead. He celebrated the news of impending fatherhood by kneeing me in the stomach.

I knew why his wife drank herself to death. I admired her courage.

So after The Shift happened, I was laid up on prescription painkillers, weeping at animal charity commercials.

I was already looking at taking on the liquor cabinet as a lover when Jason came home from a bad day at the clinic. He glared at me like I had offended him and he paced the room, working up the courage to do what he had been thinking about all day, to prop up his flaccid, petty ego.

He would never stop.

Something clicked in my head. You’ve interviewed enough of us to get an idea of what it was like but you can never really capture it. It was like waking up after a long time asleep and like falling asleep after a long time awake.

The clarity of sensation is entirely exquisite. Power is seductive, but this was a lover’s caress made manifest in every fibre of my being.

I could see Jason and I knew what to do.

His brain registered as a neon cat’s cradle, stretched to infinity. I reached out and tugged. It was not a refined action but then neither was kneeing me in the stomach.

Pinching the soft upper flesh of my arm until I cried for him to stop.

He collapsed onto the floor of his study. His eyes were blank and his tongue protruded from his lips. It was a look that suited him.

I walked on that charge. The abuse came out but medically they could not explain how I might have murdered him. I was a great success as a widow. I did not waste the time with grieving; I went into myself and started to figure out what I can do and who I was.
Everything else, you know.

I am not insane. I am in possession of an elevated perspective and I lack the humility to pretend otherwise.

There are no heroes or villains.

Just people.

There are no origins, secret or otherwise.

Just births and deaths and events.

Wow, your expression is priceless. I bet some of them gave you pretty little speeches about responsibility and our place in the cosmos.

I consider it a mark of honesty. Someone like Brennigan, she’s hiding things. She still has to deal with them. Now trauma can make ordinary people do terrible things, but imagine someone like Brennigan if one night she just broke?

What? I can still read people, I just can’t reach in and monkey around anymore.

Unless my medication stopped working. Or, with all this free time, I’ve altered my metabolism to break them down into inert compounds and I’m here for my own amusement.

You should have sex with him. You were thinking about him a moment ago and your dopamine levels went off like a rocket.

I’ve enjoyed this.

Let’s do it again.

No, it is not a request.

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books, creative writing, mental illness, short fiction, women

A Vicious Wittering

They always warn you. They volunteer it, safe in the knowledge that no one ever takes such sentiments at face value.

‘Oh, I’m just crazy.’

Regional and national variations might alter the phrasing but not the sentiment. They cloak it in focused doses of energy, exciting to be around at first but in most people it ebbs away. They adapt to the environment and become part of the smooth order of things.

Terri was not most people.

Work had been my refuge. David and I had divorced, not long after the kids had left for college. The house loomed over me, in its oppressive silences and voluminous shadows. I was not management, but by virtue of experience, I had knowledge to offer which I did without caveat or resentment. All I asked was mutual respect.

John brought her in whilst I was working my way through a pile of unpaid invoices. She had rounded, soft cheeks, a waddle of loose skin around her jawline, a long sharp nose and hazel eyes. Her voice went up and down like a whistling kettle. She smiled like she was fascinated with everything. The beam of her attention, however brief, was heartening, but I knew that the nature of the business meant that we would not spend a lot of time together.

In hindsight, this was tempting fate.

After a week, I walked into my office to find a second desk had been set up and Mel from IT had set up a desktop computer. It was like discovering a lump in the shower.

Terri skipped in, holding an oversized take out cup of coffee, grinning like a cartoon.

‘We’re going to be roomies.’ she said

I managed a morning of internal debate, acknowledging her incessant line of conversation whilst desperately trying not to engage her any more than necessary. By lunchtime, I could describe her boyfriend’s cock to a police sketch artist, I knew more about her friend’s stomach complaint than her doctor did and I could tell you, with a smooth, eidetic recall what Kardashian sister she liked most.

Kaitlin. She was super brave, according to Terri.

I went to see John, who had finished a fractious call with our office in Boston, judging by the sheen of lanolin where he had ran his fingers through his thinning hair whenever he had to deal with fractious issues. My arrival would not be taking away from his woes.

‘What’s the plan for Terri?’ I said.

He gave an apologetic grin and my heart sank at the prospect.

‘She’s too loud for the main office.’

I raised an eyebrow. He sighed and reached to play with the chipped Game of Thrones mug filled with HB pencils he kept on his desk.

‘You know she’s Mick’s niece, right?’

Mick was our seldom seen but omniscient owner. I had been personally refuted by the myth of meritocracy and I slouched back to the office. I heard her before I saw her, the tinkling out of tune piano of her laugher shattering my melancholy to reveal the despair that throbbed like infected flesh underneath.

We seek happiness on our own terms and schedules, remaining open to the random possibility of its arrival. Terri brought the opposite to me, without considering my sensibilities. After a week, every molecule in my body vibrated with irritation at the sound of her voice. I started to take a medicinal glass of wine before bed, so that my nights were not spent with gritted teeth and restless limbs, dreading the day ahead.

Her cracked, high laughter followed me into sleep.

Her lack of internal monologue made me privy to the smallest details of her life. I learned about her diabetes, her recovery and her string of failed relationships. All of these were conducted under ambient duress. She confessed without seeking absolution or attrition.

She simply would not shut up.

I updated my resume, and by that, I meant created one. After fifteen years helping build the company, one shrill, dim little bulb was driving me out. I received sympathy without effort or action, cursed to be a sounding board for Terri’s one woman show. I would look at my reflection in the black mirror of the computer monitor, the hollows beneath my eyes, the wiry grey hairs at my temples and the sallow skin that never recovered from the indiscriminate blows life threw at me.

Her relentless joy was stealing my light by degrees.

The worst things we do are not concocted in the seething midnight of insomnia but whilst a kettle boils, whilst you choke down one more fucking anecdote about their vacation plans.

Women of my age stand out in certain neighbourhoods. Good customer service and cash asserted themselves despite the cultural and racial divide. Apparently I was not the first middle aged white woman to seek their services.

They looked like chips of white soap. I was not sure how much I had if it was good value for money. I was too paranoid to search for the federal statutes on possession and whether what I had was enough. It resonated with my personal credo:

It’s the little things that matter.

Terri’s blithe openness was the vector of incrimination. She would take ten minute breaks in the restroom at frequent intervals but leave her purse behind on her desk. These visits were open and accepted by everyone except me until I saw them as an opportunity.

I slipped the baggie into her purse, saw the lipstick blotted tissues and foil packets of medication. A pang of empathy lurched through me until I heard her laughter and I decided to go back and sit at my desk.

She left work early. I took out the disposable cell phone I had brought, reported her erratic driving, gave the first half of her license plate and a vague description of her car. With those who wore the burden of duty, you were better to be less specific. They were used to that from innocent bystanders.

Model citizens like myself.

What intentions I had, were commensurate to the pain she had caused me.

The road to hell is paved with such things.

They pulled her over. Patrolman Walter Kincaid was a dutiful and professional peace officer. He noted her erratic behaviour with care and proceeded to act with caution.

He noted it, but underestimated it.

The body camera footage was nauseating. Her voice reached up, distorting the volume into a high, thin shriek as she went from amused disbelief to histrionics. I watched until she tried to grab his side arm and switched the computer off.

It became grand and fearful in my imagination.

In death, she was elevated and recreated from a series of anecdotes and facts. Her struggles with mental illness, her estranged but loving husband who was caring for their child whilst she made the upward climb to reintegration. She had a smile and a joke for everyone, apparently.
I work alone now. People were not as eager to offer sympathy, but I guessed that was projection on my part. The afternoons have collapsed into low stretches of time so thick I can barely breathe, punctuated by the occasional phone call.

I still hear her voice. She follows me everywhere, and without her, my viciousness has turned on me. It reminds me of what I have done.

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love, mental illness, poetry, women

A drop of water against the mountain

crazy

You have been

Told enough

Times

That you feel too much

That you’re crazy

That you’re crazy

That you’re crazy

A drop of water,

In time, can wear

Away a mountain

And someone

Telling themselves

Or being told

Can be convinced

But listen

Let my voice

Go with you

You’re not

And I would

Tell

You

If you’d

Only

Listen

To

Me

Not blinded

By

Love

But able to

See you

And want it

All

The embraces

And the spaces

The knowledge

Of when to shut

The

Fuck

Up

And

Listen

Don’t let

Those

Caring

Assassins

Keep

You

From

Those

Who

See

You.

 

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ambition, anxiety, beauty, book reviews, books, craft, creative writing, drafting, editing, emotion, experience, fiction, hunger, inspiration, mental illness, passion, process, psychology, purpose, Uncategorized, wisdom, work, writing

kent_rogowski_bears_30

Image: http://www.kentrogowski.com/projects/bears/

It was about momentum, trying to lift the weight of my process against the resistance of anxiety and depression. These times are when all the bland, fat days of getting it done reap their reward.

It isn’t about external validation, or money in the bank a lot of the time. You do things that you would rather not do, in order to make it through testing times and write. I hit the 270 page mark this morning, after ten pages yesterday. I am close to the end now of Lawful Evil, two sequences or perhaps three, and it’s followed the story grid pretty closely. Once that is done, it will go away for a while whilst I continue editing on She’s Here, possibly Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere, and developing two new projects, both of which I’ve pitched to my agent.

I finished reading A History of Seven Killings yesterday, Marlon James’ award winning book about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley and the intercession of the CIA in the country at that time. Nowadays, Marley is a meme, a signal of virtue that never captures the purity of the man and his music still carries that rawboned elegance. No Woman, No Cry is Dylan with a joint on the go.

I started Perfidia by James Ellroy yesterday, which has a thematic relation to James’ book in that it uses the swirling undercurrents of personal ambition, corruption and politics to show us a point in the past and teach us that history shows who we are, not who we say we are. I’ve been reading Ellroy for a long time, enough to see how his work has influenced later authors. Lawful Evil probably bears some of his ideas, because he has found the corruption in Los Angeles and found the poetry, the humanity within it.

Reading and writing help, and even the sentences that bring tears to my eyes, do so in the spirit of healing.  Same with the poetry too, they’re all tools I use to build an idea bigger than can be contained within me. I am not at peace anywhere, but on the page, there are moments where it calls to me and offers that hope. It’s a long slog, isolating and polarizing sometimes, but the feeling of being done is always good.

She’s Here is benefiting from a solid line edit. There is less to change thus far than I expected, but am still reading and editing it like I hate it, looking for the bits that would stick out, that feel like affectations or moments of ‘hey look’ which survived the first draft. The pain and the grief are there, and I am now into the haunting sections which represent my first attempts at the genre and hopefully don’t suck too badly. Chewing through the rind of time, sucking the bitterness away and hoping there’s enough nutrition to keep you moving for another moment, another hour, another day.

So I keep breathing, meditation to alleviate the worst of the symptoms and working on myself to find my centre again. Thank you for reading.

 

 

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