Using a combination of what I believe my parents and sister thought were ‘subtle and undetectable’ signals, my parents realised my sister wanted some ‘alone time’ with me, and announced with poor theatrics, that they were going to find us all some ‘real’ coffee , as the stuff that spurted erratically from the vending machine up the hall was not worthy of the title.
The door closed, and my sister Catherine (Kath/y), sighed, ‘They mean well’.
Then there was a long silence in which neither of us looked at each other, stretching out until I was about to speak, when Kathy grabbed my uninjured hand tightly and looking in my face asked “WHY Ali?.
My eyes flicked away. There were a thousand glib reasons I could have given, but I decided to be upfront for once.
I took a deep breath. ‘If i start to cry you have to leave. Promise me.’
She could sense the seriousness of what I was about to say, and nodded.
‘It’s my p..’ my voice cracked. ‘It’s my punishment’.
‘What the fuck?’ Kath sounded confused. ‘Punishment for what?’.
‘For every thing. For life, for failing life.’ Once i started, the words rolled out of me.
And not just that, to correct a mistake. People always assume that the universe doesn’t make mistakes, that whatever happens is the ‘natural order’.But it does. I should never have existed Kath. We both know that. Not like this.
“I was in pre-Law Kath! Pre-Law! Practically a shoe-in for the full degree. Then I was an arts student, then a drop out arts student, then I was a nothing, and then I wasn’t even that.. Just a fucking joke.’
‘But you’re sick, you have reason for that..’
I choked on a combination of a snort and a laugh.
‘Bi-polar’. The biggest joke of all. Even people who know what it is, don’t know WHAT IT IS.
I get responses like “oh yeah, i I had that but i just worked my way through it. Even you, and the olds, you don’t really know what it is like.’ I was tearing up now..
‘We do our best’.
‘I know you try’, i said, ‘but you don’t have the slightest clue.’
‘You don’t know that…’
‘Yeah, i do. Cos if you did, you’d have let me die.’
She started to protest, but i started humming. The louder she tried to speak, the I louder matched it, until I started singing the lyrics loudly:
‘you do it to yourself, you do,
And that’s what really hurts
Is that you do it to yourself, just you
You and no-one else
You do it to yourself,
You do it to yourself.’
‘DON’T YOU SING FUCKING RADIOHEAD AT ME.’
She was shouting now, I was practically screaming my vocal chords raw.
‘YOU DO IT TO YOURSELF, YOU DO,
AND THAT’S WHAT REALLY HURTS..
She screamed in frustration, balling up her fist, but realised she couldn’t punch a restrained patient, even if it was her sister, so she left, slamming the door ineffectively, as those kind of doors don’t really slam.
And I kept screaming the same two lines over and over, as best as I was able, through the sobbing.
And that, dear reader, if you’ve been with me from the start, you may recognise, is where we came into this (poetry) blog:
Singing Radiohead at the top of my lungs……
Maybe that’s a good note to break on.
My heart hasn’t been in it since…..
I won’t call it ‘closed’. But I will say that many wounds of many kinds will have to heal before I can find the lightness of spirit to be glib and smarmy again.
“One day I’ll get to you
And teach you how to get to purest hell….
You do it to yourself, you do.”
-Radiohead / Just