Sedative Hangover

I should make it very clear that I am not about to take a long walk off a short pier, regardless of what the following piece of writing might suggest. The words below are the result of temporary mind-scramble (not actual scientific terminology), a side-effect of medication I take very occasionally, which is infinitely preferable to relentless nocturnal anxiety attacks. I usually keep the contents of my brain to myself on those mornings-after, but it seems more interesting to let them out sometimes, in text format in a controlled environment. Make of this what you will. To be taken with a grain of salt.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It is not so much stream of consciousness as a subterranean river, tributaries and dark crevices and tunnels in the rock, unexplored and tight spaces.

If they lose their air supply, you must let go. You must not fight for them. You must save yourself. Only yourself. Let them sink and fall.

This is what it means to sleep with silence. This is what it means to cocoon your dreams in muffled peace and almost awaken, staring out from the centre of your mind through eyes glazed and slow-motion blinks that sweep across memories blurred.

This is how to mute the brutal moment when you thought “I am not a real person” and it felt like ultimate truth, like you finally understood, then started drifting around that realisation, caught in its gravitational pull and spinning through space and mud and fire on the surface of icebergs and blue.

The outside is as numb as the inside and you fall into imagined violence and blunt force trauma and delicate slices that gape open with delayed reaction smiles in your skin to challenge yourself to still feel something. Your body becomes an experiment in nerve endings even though you do this not to feel and you have nothing to prove to yourself beyond a scientific interest in how much you can experience without being truly affected.

It is daylight but there is no sun and the sky is grey. Grey seeping in through the cracks in the curtains. Grey soaking in to the cracks in your hands. Grey and grey and grey. But your head is not spinning and you are not defined by the speed of your thoughts and the fluctuating volume and pitch of your voice as you fight to articulate concepts that you have no words to wrap around.

You indulge a vague recollection of warm breath on your neck and being handed pills and a glass of water with a soothing murmur of “Sleep now and everything will be alright in the morning”. But the arms around you are your own as you carry yourself off to sink into comfort and quiet.

And you wake up wake up wake up but you don’t, not really, and everything is flat and you are breaking the fourth wall, whispering into the camera that isn’t there to the audience that is only yourself, “It is better to jump than to fall”.

Ever the Optimistic Enabler

At this time of year I always think of you and I’m reminded of the trips we took, like when we camped on the beach and we talked about your father’s nervous breakdown and how much of himself he sees in you.

He always gave you warnings and you always heard them as something else, something more like being reprimanded.

Like when that girl you were in love with, who judged everyone by her own standards, assumed we’d been having some kind of secret affair, which of course we hadn’t, but you drank a whole bottle of vodka and you were angry so you tried to throw yourself out of the car while I was driving.

Then you punched the door and thought maybe your hand was broken because of how it felt the last time you punched something when you were drunk. And I didn’t speak the whole way home because I’d run out of things to say many corners ago. It was dark and my head hurt and all I could see were the lights on the cars in front and on the other side of the road.

And the memory of every time I’d tidied your apartment before I went home, frozen and silent, putting things back to where they’d been before you kicked them across the room or threw them against the wall in a rage that you never really tried to understand but constantly fought to justify.

Because it was always someone else’s fault.

Then the next day when I drove you to hospital and you kept saying “Sorry”, over and over again, and you asked how you could make it up to me and I said, “Just never do that again because I can’t watch you destroy yourself any more”.

And you promised you wouldn’t. But I let you break my heart a few more times before I let you go. Because I always hoped. And I should’ve known better. I do now.

It would be such beautiful comfort for all of this to be part of someone’s grand plan, God or the collective consciousness, the initials of enlightenment – LSD MDMA THC (not necessarily in that order).

I hope that in the time since we last spoke you’ve found some answers and somewhere to stop running from, that you’re flying instead of falling.

And I wonder if you still wear a few broken shards of our 4ams on a chain around your neck and if you miss those hopeful times as much as I do.

Do you still walk into rooms and forget why you’re there?

Weren’t you going to do something?

Originally written July 2011.

Darlington, Breathless

Everything here is red brick and I half expect to notice you standing on the platform as I turn my head and try not to think about it being over a decade since I saw you last. This time, again, I’m just passing through and the man next to me mutters under his breath through gritted teeth into his phone,

It would’ve been easier just to keep the dog, wouldn’t it?
I’ll talk to you later. I’ll talk to you when I get home.

But here I am. I’m kind of leaving and it’s unusual to have so many things to go back for. I feel them pulling much more strongly than when you knew me. It’s a comfort to have these anchors now.

Would you even recognise me after all these years? I sleep at night now, most of the time. No more skin dripping from vodka-soaked bones and no more desperately cutting all ties with myself, with everything.

Maybe you’d look up and our eyes would meet at the station or on some busy street and we’d both know it made more sense to just keep walking.

I’ve written so many letters to you, to myself, to us-at-nineteen-and-lost. Some I kept for years and some I tore to pieces as soon as I finished writing them. This is just another pile of wasted words, before the fire.

From the window of the train, the world slides by under the watery light of a tired sun and I remember that my life is something else now. Something different. Something more.

And as I drift off to sleep, I hear in my head the chorus of a song we used to play on repeat with the curtains closed against the blistering late afternoon, our bodies curled in my bed like a tangle of sadness, wishing for anything that might be easier than this.

Lessons Learned From Seven Men

Full title: Lessons Learned from Seven Men Through Love, Hate, Sex and Friendship (in no particular order)

– I –
I hate that you issued instructions like Don’t put on any weight. You’re small so it would really show, at a time when food was already the enemy and starvation felt like feeding the parts of me that were anchorless.

But I love that you showed me You’re so different from anyone I’ve ever been with actually means We are way too different for this to work and saved me a lot of future heartache.

– II –
I hate that you misunderstood yourself so much that it made you suspicious of everyone around you.

But I love that certain places will always hold magic for me because of the journeys we took together.

– III –
I hate that you walked away from something potentially lovely, if only ever destined to be temporary, because the people who were actually important in your life wouldn’t have approved.

But I love that you reminded me that strength of character is a tragic thing to be lacking and I made it the first thing I looked for in everyone after you.

– IV –
I hate that you hurt me so much at a time when I was already so broken.

But I love that you taught me how much courage it takes to walk away, and that courage has carried me through so much since.

– V –
I hate that you said I will always be on your side and then showed in such a profound way how little you actually meant it.

But I love that I found a mirror for the worst parts of myself in you and that made me realise how much I needed to change and how many doors opened for me when I did.

– VI –
I hate that you were twice my age, or slightly less than twice the age I told you I was.

But I love that you made Pink Floyd and sandalwood incense beautiful forever, even though I never saw you again.

– VII –
I hate that we only kept in touch sporadically and eventually became lost to one another.

But I love that you never wanted more from me than I did from you, and we had this simple connection when everything else in my life felt too complicated.

Originally written April 2014.

This Is The Body That Is Rarely Seen

this is the body that is rarely seen
because i drape it in loose swathes of fabric
not because i hate it or because i’m ashamed of it
but because i despise other people’s reactions to it
and i don’t like the person i become
in response to their assumptions of an overtly feminine sexuality
that is not an accurate reflection of who i am

i do not like being angry
but at least i am no longer angry with myself
i apologise to my breasts and my waist and my hips
for everything the world has decided they represent
and for my uncomfortable rejection of what they simply are
what they have no choice in being
now that i am less in control of their dimensions

you can stare at the colour of my hair
and the ink beneath my skin
and the metal studs and rings in my face
and you can stare at the sticks i use to walk
and i can take it because it is not so different
from when you stared at the weights i used to lift
and the empty spaces on my plate

in the summer when the city feels like a pressure cooker
and i dare to wear weather appropriate clothing and have a body in public
you can keep your fucking mouth shut
because my legs and my shoulders are not an invitation to comment
because it is not a compliment
but i refuse to hide from the world
just because you cannot accept that you have no right to define me

As If You Bleed Miracles

and she sinks

because no-one really walks on water
even though she was stirred to rise by god
and her faith gives her breath to waste
all divinity, magic and blissful denial
as she dredges the sea-bed in dead jade green
for broken glass to tip a spear for your side

as if you bleed miracles

– – – – –

This was originally written about ten years ago, maybe a little more. It’s about someone and something very specific and describes the reason why I have absolutely zero time for people who claim religious motivation for actions that are purely selfish and only serve to further shatter someone who has already been broken into pieces.

The alternative title was At Least Jesus Loves You but I didn’t want it to come across as a dig at all Christians, which it absolutely isn’t. It’s a dig at one particular person who I can’t even bring myself to refer to as a Christian. It’s also not a dig at Jesus, who is not my deity of choice but probably a total dude.

As for the person who didn’t bleed miracles, he is not unbroken but beautifully rebuilt with gold in the seams between the pieces, which is a miracle in itself.

Prosopagnosia Is

so i taught myself to memorise faces
d i a g r a m a t i c a l l y
like delicate wireframe sculptures

the tilt of a chin
the meeting of lips
the curve of eyelashes sweeping a blink
the angles of hairline-browbone-cheekbone-jaw

my own reflection
a formula wrapped in dysmorphia
painted on canvas scrolls and carved into stone

the mirror is a biblical master
a vengeful god

but a photograph
is hearing my name whispered
in a language that was excised from my mind
by a quiet stranger who follows me

always arms-length behind

– – – – –

For information about prosopagnosia, or face blindness, visit