EXCERPT: I have a son closing in on his teenage years, nothing unusual about that – I’m just another single parent renting in the 2020’s. As thousands could testify, it is not the most comfortable place to be.
And then comes the threat of Covid: Am I supposed to quiver? A quick death in a hospital bed is better than a decade on the streets.
I’m in great old form these days. Writing daily is really helpful. I have found a nice little routine that works for me and I’m never short of ideas. I guess it’s like any other muscle. The more you use it, the more you have in the tank.
A journal is a reflection, like a mirror. Suddenly you become aware of yourself. I look back on my thinking and see what needs to change. At this stage I don’t know if I am writing the journal or is the journal writing to me.
Anyway, whatever, it’s cheaper than a therapist. The only problem with peace-of-mind is that it makes for boring writing.
Which is why I decided to enter a short story competition. With three more weeks on lockdown what else is there to do? Fiction, I decide, gives me the freedom to tell the truth of humanity, which, for whatever reason, is too uncomfortable at the level of fact. There are so many pressures in non-fiction – litigation, paymasters, gentle editorial suggestions where a word or two changed can change the whole tone of a piece.
The newspapers might write of critical conditions or life-changing injuries. An author could tell you what that really looks like. In the fantasy realm there is no need for euphemisms for all the pain, the grief, the blood, the rage, the sex, the fear, the love and the hate. Fiction makes it palatable.
I’m thinking of characters I might like to create. Naturally, I draw on my own experiences and those of people I know and it’s illuminating. Viewing myself as an outsider looking in teaches me why I don’t fear Covid.
I’m middle-aged now; an expanding belly pays homage to that. I was too young to buy property in the boom and I’m on the cusp of being too old now, not that banks give money to retained firefighters anyway. An ill-advised journey through college ate up years I couldn’t spare, time slipped by and now it’s almost too late.
I have a son closing in on his teenage years, nothing unusual about that – I’m just another single parent renting in the 2020’s. As thousands could testify, it is not the most comfortable place to be.
There have been lots of nights awake, staring at the sleeping boy, wondering if there will be a bed for him to sleep in or a room for him to bring his mates to in months and years to come.
Any bad break – an injury, mental health problems, an illness, a landlord’s bankruptcy – threatens homelessness or a hotel room and alienation from my child and I’ve rode that rodeo before. At best, the rest of life will be subject to the whims of owners who call the moment the rent is late, yet ignore texts to fix the broken upstairs window that spells doom in the advent of fire.
Those are the nights I Panic: Fear – Thoughts Turn Inwards – Depression – Self-Hatred – Self-Annihilation – The child – I Have To Live. I will the thoughts into a box in the reaches of my mind and force the lid closed.
And that is where they remain. But the void has been kissed and it infects the heart like a callous lover you would have been better without, but can never forget. I face it – I heal – I move on.
And then comes the threat of Covid: Am I supposed to quiver? A quick death in a hospital bed is better than a decade on the streets, more socially acceptable than self-obliteration.
Just because I am happy today does not make those realities any less true, either for me or the thousands of others who voted for change. I will continue to journal, but I feel I have reached the boundaries of what I can write without causing too great an offence. Yet the desire to speak my truth burns too hot to suppress. Now is the time to step into that.
I have served my time in the valley-of-death and don’t want the experience unrecognised. From this position of peace I will reach into that locked box and tell a tale of human experience more truthful than anything I have ever had published before.