When it comes to finding an idea for a story, I don’t think I have ever struggled more than I did when writing my second year fiction coursework.
After not connecting enough with my first piece Lilac I moved on to a new idea that was a lot more inspired by real life. They say you should write what you know and whilst I’m not an alcoholic with a strict mother, the rejection from someone you’re meant to be close with is definitely something that I was dealing with in second year.
I wanted to write something that would help put my feelings into words and make it easier to cope with the minefield of love that I was stumbling through at the time. My love life, particularly during those first few years of university, is complicated and painful, but it’s not something I want or need to go into. Creating ‘Reliant’ helped me to get some of my anger out on the page, which in turn gave me a story to discuss and share at feedback sessions.
The reason that it never made it as a final draft for my coursework is because by the time the therapeutic element of the writing was over I struggled to find the right story to tell. The piece needed to conclude within the 3000 word set limit and I wasn’t sure where exactly this story was going and whether it would get there quickly enough. Whilst I did give myself time to think about it, the clock was very much ticking to get a draft out and peer assessed before the deadline. When you’re working on 8 different projects at the same time, not knowing what you’re doing can really add to the stress.
Ultimately I changed tact and decided to write a piece from scratch that was completely fresh and unrelated to the work I’d already done. ‘Reliant’ is something I’m still very happy to share though, if not at the very least to remind myself of where I was two years ago and the progress that I’ve made in that time.
It wasn’t until four missed calls later that the half-arsed apology came through.
Work calld me in. Was anemergency u free tomorow?
The sun had already set on my uneaten carbonara and I was sat there in the glare of the moonlight dancing my fingers across the table and making gooey eyes at the cat. I had just finished my sixth glass of Echo Falls (he’d stood me up, you could hardly blame me) and I’d started to reach that point when the fuzziness in my head moved southwards to my stomach. Heavy drinking and I were an unfortunate mix, and the smell from the open bin bag by the sink was doing very little to help.
Note to self: remind Emma whose turn it is to take out the bins.
I contemplate writing it down but after a bout of hiccups and the several seconds it takes to steady myself, I figure I’ll remember to tell her in the morning. Instead I turn to the window, shaky hands finding balance against the countertop, as the church bell rings out ten chimes of the clock. For a second they echo in the silence, then the howling of the neighbour’s dog breaks out and the walls seem like they’re made of paper. Pinching my nose is no way to deal with a headache but I do it anyway, if not to ease the pain then to distract myself. His message was still repeating itself in my head:
Work calld me in. Was anemergency u free tomorow?
My frends made plans couldn’t sayno,ill c u next week?!
Soz, is mums bday tomorow. Totlly forgot how bad am I?!!?? Will let u now whens good.
I mutter to myself that it could be true. Those nights when he cuddled me as he apologised certainly made it seem so. He had a knack for bringing out forgiveness in others. It was something about that face, all doe-eyed and childlike as he held you close.
When I was ten my mother warned me not to be fooled by boys and the tricks they played, to never let myself get wrapped around their finger. She’d caught me with my eye on Michael Grady on the way out of school one day. He was the playboy of class 7B that every girl had a crush on, even those of us that were several years too young for him. He was the forbidden fruit that outweighed the immaturity of the ten year old boys. We’d never met, but that hadn’t mattered when he’d caught my gaze that day and smiled back at me. He probably did it just to get me in trouble with my mother who’d forced my hand into hers and dragged me through the front gates past a group of older girls. It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I’d ever dared look at boys again.
I take an eager sip of rosé then blink once, twice, three times until my eyes remember how to focus. Outside the wind is rustling up a storm, the dancing silhouettes of trees in the distance a blur in the dark light. For a second I think I see someone else in the garden, another woman, her figure hunched, leaning towards me on the other side of the window. When I bring my hand to my eyes she copies me, but then the neighbour’s back porch light comes on and I see she’s gone.
So I move away from the window and just stand in the middle of the kitchen, questioning the blue light blinking on my phone. Another text. I can hear without needing to look, his voice, distorted, laughing in my head. There’s an unease in my chest, my heart beating too fast, and the taste of more wine on my lips brings back the feeling of nausea. I’m on the edge, and I’ve been here too many times before.
I could question this, I could question everything. That would be pointless though. I know that where my head has grown tired my heart has not. Perhaps it never will. I’m too much of a child. I get wrapped up like a babe in its mother’s arms and I let him rock me back and forth for as long as it suits him. Then he’s gone and I’m crying in my crib until the moon is high and I’ve lost the energy to keep going. When the morning comes I’ve found that two glasses of white make a good breakfast, though it normally makes me unproductive for the next few hours and I’ve already taken one too many sick days from work. That’s when I hear my mother.
‘All over a boy’ she says, and then again, and again, until she thinks the words have sunk in. ‘You’re supposed to be worth more than this child.’
We haven’t spoken in three weeks. I’ve stopped picking up the phone; she isn’t the one that I sit there all day waiting to hear from. I know what she’ll say when I answer one day.
‘He’s made you trouble. He found you like a hooker on a street corner and now you think you’re made of him. You’re made of me, child, stop doing this.’
I see myself throwing the phone against the wall, and then taking myself with it. After the last glass of wine it’s likely to happen, though I don’t think I could. Not the phone at least. It’s the only form of contact these days.
*header image taken by rafa_luque at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rafa_luque/