The End Of The Girl

This post has been a long time coming.

When I went into rehab in August last year, I felt so optimistic and light, as though my bones had been hollowed out and the stagnant old marrow replaced by cool air and sparkling water, as though the old feather bed underneath my skin was finally being aired, as though each ethereal step could transport me into another, better life; hovering above the baking pavements like the heat haze, like a cloud in torn jeans.

Well, it hasn’t quite worked out like that.

I’m 31 years old and the passion I once had for life has bled out through the bandages. I’ve relapsed and come shuffling back into the rooms like the haggard ghost of myself, I’ve realised that you can meet the right person at the wrong time and have it quietly shatter you over the months like a window cracking under ice. I’ve admitted that I dont know who I am or where I’m going. I’ve been suspended in the atmosphere living life as a spinning plate, as a shard of something bright and jagged mirroring the stars like glass being passed off as diamonds. It’s been heartbreaking, feeling all that newborn hope I had seep away, like watching baby birds die.

This blog has undergone many changes since it first began. I’ve compartmentalised my life into so many different people, terrified that no one would want to read the disjointed reality, so that I actually have a couple of blogs where I talk about different things. I dont believe I can do that anymore. I don’t even know what I can do anymore. I just need all the threads of my life to converge in the centre of the web, so that perhaps they can pull me back as I step like The Fool off the edge of this cliff.

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Not too long ago I was reading about runic inscriptions, there is a piece that was found in the grave of a woman in Germany which reads: For The Wayfarer, Love.’ It has been translated a few different ways: for the soul of the dead – from the beloved; for Odin (the traveller) – with love. I prefer the idea that the soul is being sent with love on their journey, For you, flying between worlds; for you, arriving on unknown shores; for you, the wayfarer, love.

I have finally, at the end of these months of despair that have strangled my days like quiet but lethal bindweed, begun my real journey, to a creative life in sobriety, to finding out who I am without drink and drugs, which have kept me numb and suppressed and half-here since I was fourteen years old. To a magickal existence rooted and winged, not fuelled by the false promises of power lurking like a wet specimen in a bottle. Because no matter how many times I die inside, I resurrect; I claw my way through the living grave of my own body and rake the glowing ashes of my brain, again and again. I hope you enjoy the trip with me, as I sail somewhere new from the end of my world, from the end of the girl.

Persephone’s Feast

Get up, because the draught has woken you again, make a thin, weak instant coffee and listen to the absolute feathery white static silence of the night. Try to be positive; think how lovely this breeze will be in the summer, as you rub the blood back into your feet. Check the cupboards and nibble a slice of hardening bread.

Back in bed, with the covers wrapped cocoon-like around you, wonder if today’s the day you can have a hot shower, or a bath without boiling the kettle seven times, because maybe by some miracle the plumbing your landlord won’t fix is better now. Wonder how many calories there are in the bread you’ve just eaten, tell yourself to relish the cold night because shivering burns fat. Wonder what you’ve become.

There’s an ethereal quality to the hours just before dawn, when the night is over but the day not yet born, it’s the counterweight to faerie’s dusk, when it’s dangerous to look in hallway mirrors. You know you should be writing but instead you’re thinking about Victorian seances and bathroom suicides and bad omens (before you woke you dreamed about a buzzard dying with its wings torn off). About bisexuality and lesbianism in bohemian Paris, about the likelihood of WWIII predicted in Buzzfeed articles, about dying your hair in lilac pastels and changing your name again. About the food you can’t afford (it doesn’t matter, starvation has 0 calories).

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When the sun comes, listen to the crowing of a rooster in someone’s back yard. Dress in cold clothing, staring at the freckling of peridot moss on next door’s tiles. There are bargain plums ripening in a bowl on the kitchen counter but they are not ready to eat; remember that time you bought a pomegranate and every seed was flawless and the most mystical thing you’d ever tasted, rivalled only by farmhouse eggs with the richest yolks of golden orange. Remember a house with heat and light and carpets, look around at the mould beginning to creep through another coat of nunnery-white paint. Wonder what you’ve become.

Call your partner, your sponsor, your friend. Tell them everything’s fine. You miss them, you’re still sober and getting to meetings, what are they up to. Block out the insistent whispering in your head by trying to act like a normal person. With going to the shops and gazing longingly at meat that won’t be reduced until 18.00 like a normal person. With running a tepid bath and lying there until your flesh is numb obsessing over torturous cold water therapy in Georgian sanatoriums like a normal person. With picking up the tablets that stop the worst of this putting you back in hospital.

Wait…Just wait for the quiet night to roll around again, when it’s just you and your ghosts in the Hades of this room, waiting for revelation between the clock hands, eating up the seconds like those pomegranate seeds.

Wonder what you’ve become.

Withered Words

I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write.

My mind is a medicated fog these days as I stumble from one sunrise to the next, I’ve moved house again in an exhausting whirlwind of black plastic bin liners and Mr Muscle, I’m back in the rooms after relapsing just before hitting eight months sobriety, I feel dazed and exposed and heavy. I smell of bleach and damp laundry, I drink endless half litre bottles of water to clear my head. I sleep too much.

My words have withered. I feel like one of those neglected Victorian graveyards full of crumbling stone and brittle ivy, I am looking out at the world through pupils filmed with cloudy water, my body is lead-lined. This is, of course, depression at its most classically apathetic.

Not much else to say. I wait for the mad globe of my brain to spin round to the sun again. This will pass, it always does.

Shallow Graves

Sometimes I look back at the first few days of treatment, scuffing the toes of my shoes against the warm red brick of the garden wall and watching the stifling, sultry sun of August settle on next door’s yellow roses, and at almost eight moons sober it feels like another life – a Polaroid photograph or dream snippet half-remembered over morning coffee. The link between my two selves feels strained and trembling. The weight of my sober life is a drop spindle, pulling the thread tight.

I can stare into the past and catch glimpses of this new me amongst the chaos, like seeing veins of bloody red quartz running through a black stone. The last decade was a long game of hide and seek, my hands over my eyes as I counted to one hundred, and I kept expecting to find myself behind the sofa, or the curtains, but I never did. I get it now. Someone once told me you can’t go searching for enlightenment because it isn’t outside you, that’s like leaning out of a window and asking for directions to the building you’re in. Finding the real you after 16 years of being permanently drunk is kind of similar. People talk about travelling the world to find out who they really are but I didn’t go to India or Nepal or Peru and catch a glimpse of God, I went to a rehab clinic in a filthy grey little English town and dropped back inside myself like a stone shattering the surface of a frozen lake.

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I used to run up against the idea that sobriety is like a treasure map, that if I just went to enough meetings and made enough weak, watery tea and coffee in enough cold and echoing church kitchens then the path would become clear, that the red X would seep through the paper and I’d know where the treasure was buried, but the treasure isn’t out there, it’s somewhere under the ruins and ash of my old life; glints of iron and gold and pomegranate garnets piled up in the elegant fist of my ribs. The reality is that red X is like the medieval mark of a murderer, when the accused would place their hand on the shroud of the victim and if they were guilty the corpse would bleed. My old life is shouting my guilt from beyond its grave. I put my hands up, soaked as they are with something red, and it could be blood or wine, I admit that I killed myself.

Not everyone gets a resurrection, and I feel I’m letting down all those addicts who never rose again, because I should be happier. As the whole world around me cries out its renewal with lilting birdsong and the powdery purple crocuses carpeting the parks and the delicate yellow of primroses, I should be happier.

The Well of Loneliness

‘What’s it like? The new place?’

I struggled to find the words. Cold. Bleak. Liminal. I wanted to show her the slim rivers drying on my cheeks, leaving a trail of ashes and salt. I wanted to play a film of the last six weeks and have a lightning flash of understanding tear through muscle and electrify bone. I wanted to say the unfamiliarity is killing me.

I was sitting in my room – my strange, alien room – after I was released from the clinic – (none of these memories will be in order, by the way, Mind: Out of Order) – knocking back black instant coffee, sharp and sour and necessary as breathing, curled up in the hollow of God’s palm like a spider caught in a match flame; a jumble of delicate, breakable limbs. I wanted to say: You know I had a fiancé, right? A warm home in a beautiful part of the country? A glamourous if stressful job? Now I’m single and jobless in halfway housing, what do you think it’s like?

‘Yeah…It’s okay actually.’

I was a coward. I sipped my thin, watery caffeine and remembered standing on the warm concrete of the clinic yard watching the stars come out, like spots of bright rain on the other side of the glass. Life suspended in the atmosphere, life as a spinning plate, life as a shard of stardust wandering bright and aimless under Heaven, step by faltering step.

STEP ONE – list five things drinking/drug taking gave you in the beginning…

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…and I wrote power…escape…belonging… among others. Thinking about it, right from the first time the glass lip of a bottle clinked against my teeth, I was swallowing escape. A magical elixir that could make me like other people, that could tailor the awkward suit of my own skin more neatly around my transgressive, psychedelic watercolour soul, that opened a door to anywhere but here. I used to think the miracle ‘Drink Me’ was about lifting myself out of the well of loneliness; but I realised during Step One that it was always, always about crawling right inside the broken ribcage of my loneliness, shuffling on bleeding knees like a sinner to the foot of a rotting cross, and dying there.

I cried when I put down the phone. I knew I’d get on the floor and talk to God in a minute, another minute, a breath, another breath; dragged in and out of my lungs like an oxygen clock, but the dial tone pushed my head under the water and put me deep in the well, listening to the sound of my own breathing echoing off the stones

Red or Blue

In my dream, Christ is painting his nails again.

We’re sitting on a park bench placed incongruously in desert sands, behind us, a vast stone has been rolled away from a tomb carved into solid rock, revealing nothing but cool darkness. One of his hand sports arterial crimson, the other a shimmering blue-green that reminds me of the ocean. He holds them up, waggles his fingers.

‘Which one, d’you think?’

I point wordlessly at the kingfisher blue. He nods thoughtfully, hair catching the sun in glints of electric jet. The rattle of palm leaves sounds above us, when I look up they’re like blades of jade against the pale sky.

‘Very interesting, you know that says a lot about you as a person.’

‘Don’t try and psych 101 me, Jesus.’ I say. He laughs, a burst of something loud and joyful and carefree…Whenever he appears in my dreams Christ laughs more often than, to my knowledge, he is ever given credit for.

We sit kicking our heels under the trees for a while. At some point, Christopher Walken joins us. He picks the crimson red nail polish, Jesus and I exchange a significant look.

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When I wake, it’s to the sound of the buses beginning their endless circuit of this town. I get up, make breakfast, swallow new pills designed to keep my Picasso brain in check again. I spend a lot of my days drifting in and out of consciousness at the moment because of the side effects, I’m told they won’t last too long. I am six months sober and clinging on to awareness like someone in a plane crash wondering if clouds could break their fall; it reminds me horribly of taking opiates, that struggling to surface like a fish with scales of iron.

Later at a meeting someone who heard my first main share last week, and oh boy was it as depressing as I told you it probably would be…

‘I drank because I am alive, but I didn’t want life; not adulthood with its loss and responsibilities and exit wounds…I still don’t know if I do…’

…Comes up and gives me a hug. They know I went into hospital the morning after that share because I wanted to kill myself; I’ve only just taken the plastic band of A&E baggage reclaim off my wrist. I get a mouthful of well-meaning angora jumper drenched in Chanel and her fingernails catch the light like swarming ladybirds, they are streaked the same bright poppy red of Christ’s right hand.

I think, Fuck you, Christopher Walken.

Venice of the North

‘Look at that,’ she says, pointing out of the train window. There is a wave of roiling cloud washing through the trees, streaked with yellow; a bruise flying over the fields. The long key is a kind of cold bone in my hand, the carriage smells of damp wool. ‘Do you think we can race the storm?’ I smile, I don’t tell her that we raced it months ago and lost. The little bed under the eaves has a patchwork quilt. An old dressing table leans by the window as the rain gently hurls its melody against the ground. She twirls, laughing, the hem of her black lace skirt ghosting across the old floorboards.

‘Isn’t it perfect? Isn’t it sweet?’ The beaded necklaces around her neck clack together, lapis lazuli, carnelian, amber. Her hands are as white and smooth as lilies, the brass buttons on her coat catch the light like old coins. ‘It’s Alice in Wonderland! You can be the Hatter.’

Yes, I think. Eat me. Drink me.

Outside the surreal womb of the hotel, the clip-clop of hooves striking the cobbles is always in the background, like the church bells. Faint wisps of snow flit across the bridges like tentative spirits; a haze of Christmas lights and camera flash and the raw wind stripping you, like silver bark peeled from a birch tree.

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We go to see the Holy Blood, a strange, speckled cloth housed between jeweled crowns, and her eyes fill with tears. I know she is not Catholic, but she crosses herself and smiles with folded hands and damp eyes at the woman standing patiently behind the sacred relic. I see communion in the woman’s eyes; happiness, approval. How does she do this? How does she connect so completely through so much impulsive artifice? It’s like holding a gloved hand, can’t they see? I want to drag her out into the aisle and shout, ‘It’s an act! Look! She’s an actress!’ As though the plaster would crack and fall and they’d all see the brick beneath.

I won’t. It never happens. Only my silence is required. I wonder sometimes if I am even there at all. I watch the glow of candlelight warming the old white stone and think of all the people who huddled in church as winter roared silently on down the centuries, staring at the little flames as I am now. Sanctuary. A pool of gentleness in the long, medieval terror of freezing water and salted meat.

After the wedding, we walk slowly through the town. There are shreds of cornflower and rose petals in her hair, from the moment they rained gently on the bride and groom. When she smiles, I remember everything. Somewhere underneath the plaster, the brickwork shifts. The laughter of tourists in a canal boat reaches me, a babble of French voices in a major key. I love that musicality transcends language; that I can tell those souls upon the water are happy, even though I do not understand what they are saying.