“All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung suspended a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air. ”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
I’ve been writing again and generally feeling better about life. For the millionth time I’m starting on a semi-autobiographical novel that chronicles all the things me and my friends did and/or could have done when we were younger. It’s going to be funny and sad and witty and we will all learn a lesson about life at the end. Or I’ll get bored by the third chapter and it will stay in my ‘Fiction’ folder of abandoned Word documents.
Anyway, here’s the first couple of paragraphs:
Nicole came in to find me sitting on the sofa eating a Topic bar, still in my coat, hair unbrushed. She knew I’d been out last night but she didn’t know the details; sambuca, cocaine, hazy skin-on-skin in the bathroom with a guy with a gap year tan and tattoos. More cocaine, then a stumble home with a tight jaw and an unbearable nicotine craving.
‘You need to sort your life out,’ she said with a steely voice usually reserved for her asshole on-and-off boyfriend. She hung her coat – black wool, very clean, very smart – on the rack and stared at me.
‘I know,’ I said, mouth full of chocolate. ‘I will after I’ve had a shower.’ I kicked my boots off –fake leather, not very clean, slightly slutty – to prove that I meant business too.
‘I mean in general,’ she said. ‘You can’t keep living like this.’
I wanted to tell her about the permanent tightness in my head. About the constant slow trickle of irrational anxiety into my bloodstream. How doing anything other than self-destructing felt like trying to kickbox at high altitude. But I didn’t. I nodded my head and promised her that I would clean up my act.
I think she was disappointed that moving in with her didn’t automatically turn me into an upstanding citizen but, much like soldiers with PTSD, you can’t just stick someone into normal society and expect them to adapt straight away. You don’t just develop a healthy sense of self-worth when you’ve felt like vermin for so long.
At least I’d given up on trying to run away from my past and almost never felt suicidal anymore. When I did, I no longer had intense visuals of my body shutting down organ-by-organ from a massive overdose or rotting away in an overflowing bath with flayed wrists. I just imagined what it would be like to no longer be around. I didn’t think it would make people’s lives better but I definitely believed it wouldn’t make things worse. But I’d stopped planning it. I just promised myself that if by the age of forty I was a chubby suburban housewife with kids and an office rat husband, I would step in front of a train. Preferably the Eurostar, to fuck up more people’s days. Welcome to the UK.
I shook my head to chase away images of goggle-eyed lycée students live tweeting about my guts all over the tracks. Nicole and all the others were right; my life could be so much worse. And I’d always ranted about people who refused to help themselves get out of whatever bad situation they were in.
Now that I was one of them, it didn’t seem quite so easy.