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 clichés 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.