Making idle conversation or forcing questions and answers doesn’t come easily to me.My instincts yell “answer quickly, brush it off and your turn will be over!”, it’s only when my sparring partner finds themselves on a topic which captures their interest long enough for them to begin talking unaided that I’m able to relax and close back down again. Remember being in school; the teacher scanning the room for a victim to question, everyone bowing their heads and praying they won’t be picked? That’s me.
So why is it that all of my school reports from toddler to teen say that I am chatty, loud, sometimes bossy and find it impossible to keep my opinions to myself? Reports of my unabashed vivacity far outlasting any reputation as a wallflower type?
A strong child, far too self-assured. A selfish teenager, absorbed entirely by my own emotions, blind to the victims I left scattered behind me. A daring young adult, if something could hurt me, I wouldn’t care if it did – I dared it to, desperate to be shocked.
“Like a pig in shit”, was how I described my darker moments. Like climbing on monkey bars high up in the trees, a harness on, but just in case. To climb to the other side; you’re tired, your muscles hurt, your hands are blistered and you’re tempted every second to just sit into the harness and let yourself swing. Usually, I would get up, hang onto the monkey bars and get myself across from morning to night. Other times, I would relax my whole body and let myself fall. Other times I would jump so I could thud back down – hoping I could bungee my way back up, or if not – for it to snap and let me collide with the ground.
More often than not, I would just close my eyes, let go of the bars, and let myself sit back into the harness, a long breath out and a perceptible shift in my mental equator. This always scared me the most. When I would choose to jump, there was a part of me that did it because I was hoping to be hurled back up to the bars, the results were often far more devastating, but usually only had short term effects. A quick stroll into the middle of a busy road, a swift razor to the thigh, a forceful fist to the throat, a shot or two of a Dettol cocktail. Whatever would be a mental slap in the face, a shake, to wake me up and scare me back into wanting to climb the monkey bars. I don’t remember this method ever working. It did, however, tire me out enough to make me sleep for a couple of days and when I woke, I would usually have enough in me to plod back along again.
What scared me, was the long breath out. The relaxing of the shoulders, the drop in my stomach and the glee of the dark, rubbing it’s hands together in the back of my mind, furious with me for having been gone for so long. The punishments cooked up and ready for me, the penance. For it to carry me, to keep me up, to take over, I had to deserve it’s direction. To pass the tests, to see if I was good enough yet. “throw away your favourite childhood book, don’t question why”, “cut your new jeans in half, you don’t deserve them anyway”, “£20 note? tear it up.”, “tell your boyfriend you kissed someone else, hurt him”. I had to prove that nothing physical mattered, that I wouldn’t chose any of it over the darkness. I had to put her first, above everyone and everything else. No limit could remain, otherwise she wouldn’t take me.
Maybe I always became too comfortable in the darkness, because I always ended up slipping out of it. The cruel irony of getting what you want, is that you become a certain kind of happy, and slowly, you lose sight. You chatter away to her as you stroll along, until you turn around and realise she isn’t with you anymore, and you’re alone, talking to yourself. Like a child, lost in a supermarket, you panic and think of all the terrible things that might happen now that you’re alone. You felt much, much safer in the dark.
But the door to get back, requires a very certain type of exhaustion. The great grandchild of panic, the grandchild of desperation, the child of succumbing, a submissive newborn. To be reborn into this state, takes time and coincidence, it cannot be born of deliberate desire. And every second alone counts.
As with everything, there is a fast lane into the neonate state. I bought and consumed a lot, all day, everyday. Eyes blurred and head fuzzy, I found that I could fall into a newborn state much more easily. I could collapse myself and let her take over. As long as I could keep up the intake, she would stay with me, it was too cloudy for her to leave.
That is how I ended up in the waiting room at a drug addiction facility. Criticising the brown, short-pile carpet with stain camouflaging patterns. Wracking my brain to try and figure out if I had spoken to the lady at reception or if I had just walked in here, sat down and said nothing. She was surely wondering why the fuck I hadn’t come over to her yet. So maybe I had, walked in, introduced myself and she had told me to sit down. Surely I wouldn’t have sat myself down? Did a doctor tell me to come here, did I google it, or just walk in off the street? And which street am I on, am I even in the city I think I’m in? But, more urgently, did the receptionist just ask me something, or am I now just looking at her like a lunatic? Is she definitely the receptionist or am I supposed to answer some sort of questions now? How long have I been here, has it been silent this whole time? Am I definitely here? Maybe I’ll wake up in my own bed and it will all be ok.
I remember being taken into a room with a lady, I remember she had a brown folder and she wrote some notes. I don’t remember a single word that she said, and I have no idea if I said anything out loud back to her. I don’t remember standing up and leaving, or walking out of the building.
I remember spending days locked in my room, seeing no one, not even drinking water, terrified of making a single sound in case someone heard me. Controlling my breathing to make it as quiet as possible. Standing with my ear pressed to the door in case someone was outside. I remember a knock on my door and I froze, it was the loudest noise I had ever heard, and I was absolutely petrified, I stayed perfectly still until it became light outside again, barely breathing. My muscles were so stiff that it took me nearly an hour to be able to stand up. The second I did, I passed out and woke up with dried bile crusty on my cheek. For months, I lost the feeling in my hands and feet and my eyes were always fuzzing and filling up with black from inside my brain. I was constantly bruised, my face was funny colours, all of the veins in my chest were clearly visible and you could see them all going to my heart, my frame was sharp and pointed.
I had gotten into an elevator, going up and up and up through the ceiling into space and way past my brains comprehension, I went to the outer edges of the universe, to islands far beyond, and then new islands further than that. I was outside of it all, observing the metaphysical from a distance. No longer myself, or anything at all, just an observing thing. with nothing hidden behind me, no consciousness or even sub-conscience, I was at the very back looking at everything in front.
I looked at my body as if it was hidden behind a TV screen, it didn’t belong to me anyway. Part of it belonged to the me that used to slice into it to see if the blood would still run. Part of it belonged, safely, with the boy who protected it for a time. Part of it belonged to the man who spiked my drink and took too many of my Firsts at an 18th birthday party. Part of it belonged to smiling photographs for people I thought I loved enough. Part of it belonged to the men who excited themselves with broken little girls. Part of it belonged to the victims in my wake, to the hearts I left open and exposed. Some parts, I had tried to donate to anyone who wanted to take them. But the rest of it, was hers.
I used to cut, very slowly, eyes always wide open, fascinated at how the skin could fall apart so easily, and little bubbles of fat and flesh would be visible for so long before the blood would start to come. That was me, my gluttony, with my own body. But that was when I was young and still bold. After you take the long breath out, it’s no longer up to you. Eyes would be closed, moving quickly, slip, not bothering to take care of it, anything to add to the shame, to make for better punishment.
I once wrote; “I don’t remember what my voice used to sound like, how I used to speak. I don’t recognise any of the voices inside my head, even the voice reading this as I write, all I know, is that they all must really, really hate me, and I don’t think I know why anymore”
I remember feeling like a child as I wrote it. I remember writing it and believing it with every atom of my being, any pride of self preservation was gone, any sense of entitlement or dignity was diminished.I remember feeling a group of grown ups yell and shout abuse at me as I wrote it, betraying the privacy of them as secrets. I was a bullied child, and I didn’t know what I had done wrong, what I had done to make them all so hateful. I knew I was truly, truly sorry and I knew I was alone.
But then it was summer. And my body was cared for. Still sometimes punished, but always then mollified.
I can still remember how to be bolshie, vivacious, sassy, curt and crude. I know how to be shocking and brave, to say things that are controversial and bold.
But when I come home, I like to nestle in for the night, to hide behind locked doors and closed windows, to relax knowing that I cannot be seen or heard. To spend some time saying nothing at all and decompressing the day. I like living in the cold, logical reality of the world. I find comfort in pragmatism and scepticism. Pessimism makes me feel safe and guarded, protected and realistic. I don’t like getting lost, or not knowing the plan or what’s going to happen, I hate getting drunk or sleepy and its never a good idea for me to spend too much time alone. I know, not very romantic, or spontaneous, I can’t stand surprises, I don’t want to run away with anyone and get lost or go on adventures that haven’t been planned out – preferably by me. Don’t try to get me to go anywhere with you without telling me exactly where we’re going and what time I’ll be home. I will not sleep if I’m at someone elses house and I’d rather die than to stay there anyway.
And yes, I know you thought I was dangerous and wild and a little bit untamed. You thought I would push your limits and take you places you’ve never been, you thought we’d get lost together and go to mysterious places for no reason. Fall asleep on trains with you and wake up some place new. You caught me at the wrong time I suppose, you should have met me in 2012. You could have come with me in strangers cars into dark alleys to be introduced to men with knives in their belts and sickly looking women sitting behind them. You could have joined me when I would run up and down the railings on motorways and slept in bus stations. When I would leave at 4am and return days later, with no one, for nothing. But I’m a little more cautious now in 2016, older, more brittle. I look forward to locking the door behind me in an empty flat, or going shopping alone. I enjoy the mundane Tesco shop, I like cleaning the kitchen, I like anything that feels real, normal, light.
Sorry to disappoint you. But not that sorry, because I would rather you leave me all alone, than to have to go back to that part of my life.