Monday, 29 October 2012

It's about hope

Staring at the fucking wall.

It’s the same damn wall. Double layer of paint, the brush strokes obvious on the bump not sanded down quite right. A shitty attempt to cover where the rollers failed.

Just stare at the same damn wall again and again. Focus on. Focus on anything. The yellow. It’s yellow. Fill my mind with yellow. Push out all the memories, thoughts, obsessions revolving around, round and round, round and round, push them as far into my skull, away from the inside of me, to edge of my skin. Focus on anything to keep it at bay.

The door creaks, pushed open. She peers in. I turn my head, over my shoulder. A slight shake of the head. She double blinks, her little habit when she tries to smile a hopeful smile. Hopeful. It’s hopeful. It gives me a second of only seeing her, and no-one else. No words, faces, anything. Just her. She leaves with the little shake of my head. I go back to staring at the wall. Lying, wrapped in my duvet. I find the world cold. My legs tired, muscles ache.

The day is bright. It illuminates my room from the thin curtains, and the gap they have. Unclench my fists. Pain stabs through my hand. I didn’t even realise. Nail marks have become the lines that predetermine my future.

Roll out, literally, pushing the duvet away, rubbing my face into my pillow as I figure out how to work my legs, just trying to get out. Stumble to my window, sneak a peek through the gap in the curtains. It’s so damn bright. Leave them closed, fall back down onto my bed. Take in the piles that take up my space. Newspapers and magazines, neatly stacked, balanced, between the soft broadsheets and the thicker glossy paper, alternating, on my desk. Clothes, in hangers, folded over themselves, the metal wires tucked in so not to hurt the midnight wanderers. Bags, and books, so many books, and shoes, and lotions, and towels, neatly folded in pile on the desk chair.

There’s comfort in the small pathway the things provide. A little stability.

Take the path to the door. Hand on the cold knob. Twist.

Keep them shut. A little tighter. No glow from the natural light. Just a second of being in the same place. As soon as my eyes are open, I am away. Distanced from the stability behind me. It would be so easy to close the door again, hide back in my little world of piles and the same faces and thoughts that taunt me. Pick up a paper, and place it back down. Move the edges in, perfectly lined up with the rest of them.

People said it loads. Tried to understand, and make me understand. Nothing bad’ll happen if you don’t keep touching the edges, or, God hasn't based your destiny on whether the papers line up sweetie. For a while it turned to, She’s attention-seeking, whispered in the garden under my open window, and, She doesn't even keep doing it the same number of times... There’s nothing wrong with her.

There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t do it seventeen times because that number has some recurrent theme in my life, or four times for the four of us in my family. I do it, continuously until the thought, whichever one it is that day, the face or words or memory, go out of my mind for one second, so I can let go, and hope – God, I hope – that with that little action of aligning whatever and ending that thought at the same time, that thought will be locked away and ended with the end of that action. It’s about hope. I do these things, and it’s become a habit, in some hope that one day the second of peace will extend onto the next action, and the next, so I can walk about and do my things without a clogging up of my mind, and an anxiety building because I cannot perform a coping mechanism.

There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s about hope. It’s a coping mechanism. Because without it, I’d go mad.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Art for Art's Sake

-as defined by 'The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory' (4th ed.), J. A. Cuddon:

"The phrase connotes the idea that a work of art has an intrinsic value without didactic or moral purpose. This concept seems to have been first put forward by Lessing in ‘Laokoon’ (1766), and became something of an artistic battle-cry or slogan following the publication of Gautier’s Preface to ‘Mademoiselle de Maupin’ (1835). Throughout the 19th century it became a guiding principle for many writers. Oscar Wilde was one of its leading advocates."

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Last Day Of My Life - Part Three

...Six, five, four, three, two, one. Elena finally reaches the front of the queue and pays for her tea and a small slice of Victoria sponge cake, producing a worn note from her jacket pocket and passing it to a forgettable cashier. She stuffs the change back into her pocket, and manoeuvres her way through the round tables cramped into the light-filled canteen, raising her tray and swinging her handbag out of the way of chairs. She places the tray in front of me and sits.
I haven’t changed back into my jeans or polo shirt yet, unsure of whether I will be staying for post-op or observation. It is all quite blurry, but I feel confident that with a few hours my mind will be clearer. I look at my wife’s golden skin, darkened by a premature summer sun, freckled, marked with deep lines around the corners of her mouth and eyes. She does not look at me.
“Elena,” I say, half her name getting lost in what is meant to be a whisper, “I love you.”
I am happy, content, a little tired, but not in pain. Elena sips her tea, and crumbles off a bit of cake with her fingers, a nervous habit which often leads to food being torn apart but never eaten. She still does not look at me, but I see her lips move slightly, and she whispers, “Jay...”
She wants to say something, I can tell, but won’t, so I sit back in my chair somewhat disappointed, but never annoyed. I want to stretch myself, shrug off the tiredness, but am afraid of rupturing my stitches. So, I stay as still as possible, looking out the window at weak, baby trees planted in large pots, cluttering a small cobbled courtyard in between the canteen and an unknown doctor’s office.
A man sits on a small plastic garden chair squeezed between the plants. Dressed in black jeans and a black shirt, his pale face is turned up towards the sky, eyes closed, legs stretched, coat over his lap, and sneaky cigarette between his fingers which he keeps low, by the side of the chair. His lips move, no words that I can read, and he repositions himself while taking a drag. No-one stops him, and he, obviously, takes no regard of the ‘No Smoking’ signs stuck on the windows of the office behind him.
He checks a small silver pocket watch and shakes his long black hair away from his face. I leave observing the man who wears black on a sunny day, whose skin is as white as the clouds that are no-where to be seen, but still stretches his neck up towards the sun to get some rays pour down their goodness into his nicotine infested body. There is no need for me to read this man; he is nothing to me.
My wife finishes her tea, and leaves the empty cup with the plate of broken cake on the table, picks up her bag and pushes in her chair, slowly and deliberately. I follow suit, getting up, but not bothering to push my chair in. Elena leads the way, walking slowly through the tables, and I keep close behind. The hospital is still quiet past the swinging canteen doors. It feels strange, eerie, but the corridors are cool, and the white floors and ceiling and walls are calming, patterned with stripes of grey and blue.
We arrive back at the waiting area where I had left her hours before. The two occupants have gone, and no-one sits behind the reception desk. Elena sits down, placing her bag on the plastic seat next to her. I stand, looking around for signs of life. My search is quickly over as I hear the clicks of the nurses shoes down the passage way. She walks down, does not acknowledge me or my wife, and I am slow to stop her, as my brain does not register the nurse is actually my nurse, Jacqui, until she has made her way down to the swing doors.
“Jacqui,” I raise my voice a little, cautiously, aware that there is only silence in theses halls, and follow her.
She does not answer, so I quicken my pace, and call her name again. As my feet move faster, and my heart beat increases, I feel a sharp pain in my chest. I place my hand on my side as I continue to move. There is no blood. My stitches are fine. The pain returns as soon as soon as it goes, but my feet feel an urgent need to follow this woman, and my mouth to get her attention. I call louder, “Jacqui,” and it is met with a harder, deeper pain in my gut.
I stumble. At the same time another jolt hits me in my arm. I hit the ground, and the white floor turns black as I fall on my side. The floor is cold on my cheek. My lips move but nothing comes out. No name, no sound, no breath.
In the darkness, as I try to keep hold of any remaining oxygen I have taken in, I can hear a low mumbling, a slight buzzing, and my heart hammering, pleading to escape its jail. Someone is coming down the corridor. I am sure. Their voices are getting louder, clearer, and the buzzing is becoming, sounding, more and more like a rapid beeping.
Beep beep beep. It is almost louder than the voices, and I struggle to make out the words of my saviours as they walk down the corridor towards me, the man collapsed, on the floor, barely out of surgery.
I hear faintly, “Baker, Baker...”
Beep beep beep beep.
Beep beep beep beep.
“Dr. Andrews!” Voice, female.
Beep beep beep.
“Baker, call it.”
“...Time of death, two twenty-eight.”
They haven’t come to save me - there is someone else. Someone else, where are they? I didn't see them in the corridor. But they were here, so will someone notice me now? Take care to see there is another man lying on the ground that needs their help. I need their help. I need it.
I lie. On the ground. Feels like the operating table. Waiting, for someone to realise that I need saving. The silence flows through the corridors, the operating theatre, wherever I am. I listen closely. There are no voices, no sounds of buzzing or beeping, and no heart attempting an escape.
Time is a stranger. I cannot count the seconds, so no new minutes arrive. My brain is not working, and neither are my senses. I cannot feel my heart thumping, or register my chest going up and down, up and down, as I try to calm myself and wait. The operating table keeps getting colder, and the room seems to be getting darker. I can tell, even though I cannot see anything.
I’m not dead, as no-one has tried to save me. I have not seen my life flash before my eyes, or a bright white light with reassuring figures guiding me towards it. No deep Godly voice calling me, or demanding justification for my sins. No fire to cleanse my soul and no cloaked figure with a reaper. Although I cannot see or hear, or feel my heart beating, I can feel everything around me, and am aware of myself. It is dark; the lights have been switched off. It is cold; the warmth of my life is escaping me as I try to hold on, waiting for someone to notice.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Last Day Of My Life - Part Two

“Are you ready?” She asks, dark circles under her eyes, which no amount of sleep can erase.
I reply with a nod, and reassuring smile, sitting down on the stairs as my son had done half an hour before. I put on some trainers, and give my feet a stretch in the stranger footwear.
Elena drives. It is unusual, watching her drive me. She is rough on the gears and gives too much gas, but is careful still. She looks both sides before pulling out at junctions, and knows where every crossing is, slowing down and letting pedestrians cross, increasing a debt of good deeds. The roads are busy, parents getting to work after the school-run, mums running back home to put the laundry out, and some dads dropping off their kids who are late for the first lesson of the day.
Although we sit in traffic every few minutes, I do not notice much of the journey. I am aware that Elena looks at me every once in a while and smiles her dimpled smile. I am aware she switches the radio on to break the silence, but keeps it at a low volume in case I feel the need to talk. I am aware that she is taking the quickest route to the hospital, the same we have been taking for the last few visits made there.
I switch off the air conditioning and roll down the window, craving real air as we turn off the main road onto a curvy lane that leads straight to the next town. The wind blows my hair away from my face and I let the sunshine bathe my face from in between the tall trees. As we near the hospital, my heart is again reminded of why we make this trip on the sunny Wednesday morning, and takes the chance to beat a little louder and a little faster.
Elena parks, front first into a spare bay by the west entrance. She reverses, and straightens up, and then reverses again to straighten up. Happy that she is within the white lines, and that we both have enough space to get in and out of the car without hitting the white pick-up truck on my side, or the silver Mercedes on hers, she switches off the engine and gives me one final car smile.
We slam the car doors shut. Not at the same time, but close enough together to mimic my heart beat. Ticket paid for and displayed. Way made to the entrance and to the correct department, where the receptionist is informed of our arrival. We sit only for a few moments in the near-empty waiting are. There are only two other people who take command of the green plastic seats: a lanky teenager, with a defined jaw, dark brown hair, good skin and beauty spots, and a woman who is perhaps in her mid-forties or, if time has been unkind gifting greys and deep set lines, in her late-thirties.
Jacqui, the nurse who had seen me all the way through, pigeon-steps into the waiting area with her small feet and wiry black hair. She gives my wife and me a big smile, and speaks in her thick, sweet Philippine accent, “Hello Mr. Jane, and Mrs. Jane. How are you? Are you ready? There is no need to worry, Dr. Andrews is very good. Very good.”
She continues to comment on the practised doctor, speaking fast, not letting me reply as I leave my wife with a kiss and squeeze of a hand. She leads me down the white corridor, plastered with posters on health, transplants and new NHS procedures and schemes, then through swing doors which take us down a bare corridor.
The ceiling is flickered with moving yellow dots. I squint my eyes, and then shut, but the dots are still there, tattooed to the inside of my eyelids. Open again, and Dr. Andrews peers over me. I can tell he is smiling from underneath his mask by the deep laugh lines around his eyes which seem to get deeper every time we meet. Over my other side, a young man with strawberry blonde hair and striking blue eyes stares at me.
Dr. Andrews, veteran, marked with whites sweeping back from his sideburns and infesting his thick black eyebrows, introduces me to Dr. Saunders, the anaesthetist maybe, “Who will be assisting this morning. Lucky you, two great doctors, eh. We’re going to start you on a little local anaesthetic.”
I am certain that the young, blonde Doctor can hear my heart hammering my chest to get out because he whispers, “A little something to take the edge off,” coupled with a chuckle and the gas mask being lowered to my cold face.
I count backwards as directed by the men in bluey-green scrubs. Ten, nine, eight, seven...

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Last Day Of My Life - Part One

A British summer night, hot and wet, keeps me awake among other things. The pitter-patter of rain on the windows is somewhat soothing. With the pounding of my heart, they mix together to make a rhythmic drum beat that echoes through my body. The sky is black, cloudy, no stars peep through the holes in the net-curtains, but the moon provides a little light. Books and plants on the window sill throw long shadows over the bed where we lie wrapped in the thick duvet with little clothes on underneath.
I wonder to slip out of bed and into the next room, to check the chest of my little son rise and fall as I did for so many months when he was born. Those months have gone. He is no longer a baby, but he is a child. A proper child, with a chubby face and pudgy fingers. Sometimes the feeling from five years ago, the urge, to reassure myself of his life comes over me on sleepless nights. As routine dictates, I go into his room, the back of my mind knowing it is an obsession to think negatively, and my heart plunging at the guilt to want to stop my head assuring his safety. I’m quiet over the carpeted floor, and lean over his bed. I can hear breathing. I know it is his, but the risk, the thought, of mistaking my own breathes for my child’s overcomes me, as it does every time, and I lower myself onto the floor. I lean my head against the yellow wallpaper marked with steam-trains and aeroplanes, and watch as his chest goes up and down, up and down.
A feeling I had thought I had forgotten, relief, swells a little in my heart, and I sit for what feels like a few minutes. The night passes in these minutes, as I finally get up to make my way quietly to bed, get some rest, sleep a few hours before the sun wakes, and in turn, wakes us. Stepping back into my bedroom, my wife is dead still. Dead quiet. She makes no noise, and shows no signs of disturbance as I get back into bed, letting some cold air into the warmth created under the covers. As I settle onto my side, back to back with my partner of eight years, friend of ten, I reach down to my phone, in its rightful place on the floor, tied to the charger. Press any button and the screen lights up to show a picture of Elena with her dark curls making a moustache for five-year old Sam with four digits accompanying: 03:47.
It is too late to sleep, I will be getting out of bed once more in just over two hours, but the sandman whispers in my ear: sleep is most becoming at awkward hours.
I turn, uncomfortable, sunlight shining through the net-curtains. Elena is awake, staring at the ceiling, hands together over her stomach. She turns her head slightly and gives me her morning smile: closed mouth, drowsy eyes. I give my closed mouth smile in return, and she looks back up at the ceiling, as I close my eyes, eager to savour the last few minutes of shuteye that has been awarded me this morning.
The good intentioned, self-consented five minutes turns into a morning nap, and when I finally drag myself out of bed, my little boy is dressed, ready for school in small grey shorts and white short-sleeved polo shirt. A knotted red and grey striped tie, with elastic making the neck, is hung on the banister with a red book bag, and his mother is putting his small shoes on his small feet. I pick him up and give him a big kiss and move his dark hair away from his eyes. His face is warm, cheeks pudgy and lips sticky with jam.
“Love you, love you,” I tell my son and wife accordingly, giving my wife her kiss, passing the sticky jam on. She takes Sam’s hand, his packed-lunch, book bag, and car keys and exits, shutting the door behind her.
In the shower, the fast, heavy beats my heart emitted last night return. I try to calm myself. The shower gets hotter, and I feel faint. Rinsing myself off, I hurry to get out and drink some water, towel wrapped around my legs, hair dripping and feet leaving small patches of water over the bathroom floor.
The water cools me, soothes my throat, removing the scent of soap that often gets lodged at the back of it. My hands are still quite warm, and veins stick out on the back of them. They are soft and disappear when I make fists, or run my fingers over them. I forget quickly enough as I stand in front of my wardrobe, staring at suit after suit, shirt after shirt. It seems inappropriate, but what is appropriate for such an event? Tracksuits? Gym clothes sit at the bottom, untouched for two months, where the local fitness centre has suffered my neglect. I settle for a pair of tattered jeans and a light blue polo shirt to match. The lawyer in me, shying away from the casual look, must always co-ordinate.
I hear the door open downstairs, as I pull on dark blue socks. Wiggle my toes, to make the pointy ends of the seam comfortable on the end of my little toes, make my way downstairs where Elena stands waiting at door, without Sam, packed-lunch or book-bag, but with car-keys nonetheless. She smiles and sighs and greets me with a kiss as I hit the last step of the stairs.
“Are you ready?”

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

'Mad' In Three Thousand Words


I’m Kaye.

I’m twenty-four and here. Categorised, surrounded, but all alone. Alone, yes, but I don’t think it even matters because there is no space for any emptiness in my heart. The last straw for my mother was the year of the car accident. Twenty-three and on a bender of self-destruction; drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll never seemed so easy. And in this place, the nuthouse as we so lovingly call it, no drugs for me, sex on my mind and the musical score of my life tattooed on my brain.

When I was seventeen, my father died – committed suicide to be exact – and this is about those years between his death and Dan’s.

Dr. Daniel Jones - my young, pretty, dear Dr. Dan – in over his head, out his depth and all those clich├ęs we shared. He was one of the most wonderfully, misguided men I have ever known. And it could have been me... I think it was me.

I have a brother, Neel – us, among two other siblings, but we’ll get to them later. Me and Neel, we don’t see eye to eye anymore, but we did once upon a time. We were children, only a year separating us, and were like best friends – well, as best as siblings can be. But then we grew up, puberty, friends, weight-loss and football obsessions, me, him, respectively – all of it broke us up. But in my family, it was a given, we loved each other in the pure hatred that grows with growing up, and when finally grown – properly adult – we, the family would be strong, tight, and the love-hate passed onto our kids, the next generation, and the cycle repeated.

That was the expectation; what years of Long family ancestry spelt out for us, but when your brother blames you for your father’s death, how do move on from that look, those eyes that say all the words he won’t? How do you get past that hate, expected to step into a mellow love? We move on, or seem to, but I’ll never forget it. I know he doesn’t think it anymore, but he did once, and I did too. I still do. We wouldn’t both have been wrong.

After my father’s funeral, with a few weeks of watching my family rush around and try to stabilise everything shaken, I went back to school with this strange feeling - someone had died, but their lack of presence didn’t stand out as much as all the movies, TV shows and songs said it would. So, I tried my own brand of grief; I tried to stay still, not smile, or throw about my energy and demand attention. I suppose that stillness - the sadness I knew everybody expected me to express - was such a change from my usual never-stopping-self that it demanded the attention that my personality craves; a new low in the life of Kaye Long, my father’s death feeding my self-obsession.

Sixth form went on with a best friend girlfriend’d up, and a new high school love numbing the guilt, but intensifying every other emotion. I fell away from my guilt and anger every time I was away from the four walls and watchful eyes of home. In that, being normal, hormonal, I let the important things slip further than they ever should have. New friends, new priorities, trying to be a teenager – that was me.

Being a student at my school, that godforsaken place determined to crush every soul, was more than difficult, and me, needing all eyes to fall in my direction and usually conflicting with the student hierarchy of Forge Grammar, found a new dynamic having come back with a dead parent. We, the insane best friends sharing only one class, started to pull away from each other, spending more time with the respective loves, and their friends - my perfectly popular, worlds apart from me, love, central to the hierarchy.

Being welcomed to the hierarchy was nothing that I’d thought it would be. We had always shunned them as they had shunned us, and now, always off in my own world, I accepted the new lifestyle of the internal Forgers (me, external, a transfer to sixth form), and embraced their secretly alcoholic, violent life as my own without even realising it, falling into their patterns as if it was what I was born for. Then, as quickly as it had come, that high school love was over and the guilt, as quickly as it had gone, back.

The year I should have started uni, I persuaded my mother to let me go travelling in Asia for a year. With the feelings of Dad’s suicide back, I spoke to his old friend, our family doctor, Uncle John about needing to escape, recuperate from everything that happens in England - every turning, sign, bus, shop, smell, reminding me of all the shit from the past, and how I had been so happy to do the bad things I had once hated the thought of. John managed to talk mother dearest around, and, with the assurance that I would call every other day and check in with her acquaintances, his acquaintances, and a far-off distant cousin doing charity work in Nepal (the philanthropy of some diluted blood relative forcing Mummy to believe I would be encouraged to live the proper, lady-like and conservative life), I was off with my real reason. North to South - Buddha, Krishna, Jesus. I think I needed to find God, ask forgiveness. Find peace. Ashrams.

Twenty – I arrive back to my older sister, Anj, getting married. And as any joyous occasion demands, a lot of interfamily conflict accompanied it. My big sis, the one we all looked up to, got up and left. I don’t blame her, none of us, siblings, did; she had every right to live her life away from our mother. And with the intermediary of most family arguments gone, Neel did too; happily he went off to uni, packing his things and moving, the same year I started. Just me and the baby of family, Jen, left at home in the kid department.

Jen is eight years younger than me, and I love her with all my heart. I have these strong feelings, a need, almost, which goes beyond the normal big sis role, to protect her. I think in my mind I wanted to undo any screwyness being in the Long family inflicts on her. The rest of us are already screwed, but we are old enough to try any change the pattern, or at least push it down and attempt to confirm to social norms. But, she’s just a kid, and I want to save her from all the pain that that screwyness brings with it.

At twenty-one, I say it started to fall apart again and I wonder if it was ever really together. Maybe my own pushing down? I threw myself into my studies in an attempt to focus my mind and lose the obsessive tendencies I have to re-think every moment that happens in my life. In retrospect, I don’t know why I bothered. But, and it was a big but, I saw him again. No, not the high school love, but the high school best friend, and this time he was girlfriend’d down. Enter me, enter love. Love. Cue: the world exploding into millions of different colours, rising up and swirling about us as we take each other in our arms, and melt in each others’ gaze.

Love can be such a beautiful thing. It is one of those things that incorporate a world of everything in it. Like a sexy word – transcendence, articulate, incestuous... A world full of scare and danger and desire, if you don’t know the real meaning. He didn’t and neither did I. The difference between us was that I knew I didn’t. We did everything. We wrecked our lives, our heads, our bodies, and we dragged everyone around us down too. There was something in me that wanted to rebel from every form of God I had found on my trips and falls; too much anger in me that the new sense of infatuation hadn’t completely numbed.

Deep down, I knew that forgiveness – asking for it, and trying to live righteously – would never be enough for my sins. No: enough for my sin. The only way I could ever earn my father’s suicide on my moral score sheet – to take it away from his – was to sin outside my body, inside my body and against it too. On my journey to destruction, mapping out the surest ways to the devil, to hell or reincarnation as a slug, or some other lowly kind of being, if anything can be as lowly as me – a hyena maybe, or a coyote - I found the easiest ways to take myself down. I would ruin everybody else too.

It was difficult to justify it to myself, the same thought: racking up the points on others’ score sheets. But I convinced myself, if one is tricked into the wrongdoing – whatever it is – or if it is done for altruistic reason, the sin is forgiven. The points passed along to the trickster. Trickster girl, me. If not, well at least I was racking up my own points, tempting, and why should I ever care about the world that never cared for me? Selfishness: the power food of leaders of the people. And me, with my deep brown eyes and face that begs you to ask me directions and trust me, easy to lead the people.

With this, I tore myself between the biggest issues surrounding morality, taking the lessons from every religious person I had ever met – drugs, sex, lies, and pain. Again. But I went further than just ruining my temple, inside and out, torturing my organs and breaking, inking my skin. I took all the rules written in scriptures, preached by sayers and said by preachers, and broke them too, in every way – the physical-doer, and the scholar, subtle in my way of breaking the faith of others. I took all the things that are forgiven (or so they say, reassuringly) because they are done in the best ways and I did them purposely, determined to evoke any of the rights that grant me a clean slate or forgiveness.

I inflicted guilt on others, and I was calculating and cold in this. I let them sin inside me, and I sinned against them. What the idea of love does is one of the most wonderful things in the world, because you will do anything if you believe it is real. And one of the most wonderful things this world can offer us is the drugs that take these feelings to the edges of the universe, fill our hearts until they push against our ribs, trying to break free, amplify every feeling of love thousands of times over. They believed my love was real. He believed, best friend, and she believed it, pawn in my score-sheet game.

In my journey, my pulling the righteous off their paths, there was one redeeming feature, but I tried to hide it as much as I could – I wanted to keep Jen out of it, make sure she never saw what the others did, so she could be the best she could, and be it on her own. No gratitude owed to the family. To any of us. My mother screaming, Where did I go wrong? at us, and me holding Jenny, Jana, my Jenna, and I’ll never forget wanting to protect her. She’d freak out as Mum’s voice would get higher and higher, shriek – conditioning from her childhood - and I’d cover her ears and smile down at her, remembering Anj doing the same with me. Anj - bulimic, Neel – completely taken himself away from all things Long, and me – everything else.

I don’t hate her; it’s not even her fault. Mummy - as we called her, children, bouncing around the room, trying to get her attention, and sometimes even when we were older – had her own problems. Her own family things before I can remember, but I heard all about it from Aunties and cousins and Uncles. Mum and Dad never spoke about it though. Too much hurt there. It’s never easy for a person to lose a parent early in their life, and maybe that was passed down from Mum’s side. But ours was a lot simpler than hers. Grandmamma gone long before to cancer, and my mama trying to support Grandpapi in his manic depression, as she was the only girl in her family that didn’t hide away when she married off – maybe down to my Dad’s own family, her in-laws not being there to demand her attention, but her trying to support them in country far away on top of all her other duties.

Like I said, the year of the car accident was it for my mother. Maybe she decided she had hit the limit of craziness in her family: father, husband, daughter, and now second girl. Neel ended up driving to the wreck, tired, but there like any good brother should be. Pissed off secretly, but showing all the concern one should. The guy in the other car was young; he didn’t even consider it could have been my fault. The girl covered in talcum powder, sideswiped, silent. He took the blame, but my mother, fed up, frustrated, frightened, feeling all the f’s in the world, turned to John. He – doctor to the family Long, family broken, with a fresh-faced, kind of round, colleague - sent me here.

And we get back to the beautiful, young Doctor J, Jones, Daniel, Dan. I could say his name over and over again. We kind of conflicted at first, I think. Not greatly, but in a way that we would never have even looked at each other. He was blonde, I was crazy. Crazy. It was the kind of thing, unless thrown together and possibly even when thrown together, there would be no spark – we would do what was expected of us and continue with our lives. Separately, and not looking back.

I think about it, and I have no idea how it happened, both of us dysfunctional in our own ways perhaps. I did watch him, observe his little movements in our sessions, but never for the reasons with which I watched everyone else. I watched him because he watched me, and it was just another person to lie to. Even the little bad things added up.

Eventually, I found myself not lying, but thinking, and seeing everything clearly, a little more spaced out – not just all cramped up in my head – but making all the score sheet connections. I suppose that was when Dr. Jones started to see me differently. The sessions became something more. Down time; slow and careful and thoughtful. I don’t know if that is what made Dan start to think about me more, fill the bland confliction with spark and light.

Our conflict was now something real. Blonde became beautiful to me, and crazy, to him, maybe? And I began to tell him the truth... Every single bit of it. I didn’t come up with justifications, but he did, as he turned from being the man who was suppose to sit back, listen, analyse, to the man becoming obsessed with the obsessively determined. In our talks, over the suicide chess and coffee table, I started to feel a bit sorted out, stopped watching him so much. If only I hadn’t stopped watching him, maybe I would have seen him take on all my sort-out and mess it all up again, log it in his head and like me, begin to obsess.

It was like he was playing my life backwards, only he didn’t get too far. Dan Jones, Doctor Dan - the man I would have passed in the street, him blonde, and me crazy - took on all my insanities. And the spark that bought me here, the final point for my mother, the car accident that told everyone I was in pain, insane, deranged and strange, it became his last point. I think insanity should be for only those who can handle it, or you get overwhelmed with it, dragged down by it, cut up, and you never make it out alive.