QvA | By: Kayne Browne | | Category: Short Story - Biography Bookmark and Share

QvA


Iím not sure how I should respond.

- Tell me again in forty days and I will take you seriously. Your hand and two dry lips on my cheek, then walking away.

Iím not sure what I expected you to say but it wasnít that. In truth I hadnít a clue how you would react. My wildest dreams and I, we imagined a few things and it had the decency to play along. We both probably knew I was clutching, tendons blaring, at straws. Even my idealistic side holds too hard and too fast onto cold realism.

I will blame Charles Darwin for that. What price paid the truth, if possibilities, our moments of magic are reasoned away or worse, unthought at all? I should never have hedged my bets on him.

- Where will I meet you, I asked.

0.

††††††††††† The club was quiet. Arma was quiet today too, his volume and level of general excitement at yellow, a good moment for my bipolar buddy. On a bad day he can be like an explosion and it wears you out pretty fast.

- Forty days? Sheís a funny one that girl. Sheís giving you time to get over it.

- Not near long enough for that to happen. I took a swig of my beer. A swig accompanied by a nervous tightness, creeping down my neck and into my stomach. Iíll think about that later, now is time to assert myself.

Ė Whatever happens I canít worry myself over it. We see each other in 6 weeks and I take it from there.

Arma is a good man and a very good-looking man, sickeningly so. Think a young Shah Rukh Kahn, a little Benicio Del Toro then abundance intelligence, metric, sensitivity and thatís him. I have oft thought if he were not my closest confidante Iíd hate him out of pure jealousy, or at the least, out of principle. But I love the guy even considering the perpetual pointless black duck he makes of me with the attention he gets from all and sundry. I still get a kick out of being the voyeur to his life, itís a gas.

- Donít let it get away. He always knew the right words.

†††††††††††††††† The beer goes down, our volume goes up.††

1.

††††††††††† Waking up drunk is always fun. Even at 6.15, even to the tune of the alarm, even with an anonymous body sharing the bed. There is a moment of panic of course. I clumily crane over to have a look, and whom did we take home?

Thank God, sheís beautiful. Text the boss, gastro or something. Back to sleep.

- Tim? Tim? Wake up. WAKE UP.

- What? Bleary, goddamn bleary, whatís the time? Canít see the clock radio.

- Thereís a girl here, in the kitchen. I went to get a drink and sheÖ

- Yeah thatís my flat mate Gen, whatís the problem?

- You said you lived alone.

- No I said I have my own place, she lives with me. I still wonít fully open my eyes

for the searing fear of light.

- She gave me daggers.

- She gave you a fucking dagger? What for?

- She gave me a death stare. Sulkily.

- I thought for a second you were married or something. Apologetically.

- Iíd be pretty bad at it if I was. Who are you?

- Gina. You donít remember me? Last night? She sounded a little hurt, a

little incredulous maybe. I struggle the eyes to open. By the look of her, sheíd be used to being remembered.

- No but itís a nice name. Ah, Iím going to have a shower. And my name isnít Tim. I

trod out naked, towel over shoulder.

††††††††††† She was gone when I got out of the shower half an hour later. Hmmm.

- She left in a hurry you big stud. Gen smirking. I kissed her forehead, gave her

a quick hug.

- Did you get her number for me? We both laughed at that.

1.

††††††††††† Lying in bed, 13.20. I can feel the darkness coming at me. I wrap myself tightly in my doona until I canít see light with open eyes. Thereís a weight on my chest so I roll over trying to shed it. Thinking about you, then Gina and that self-loathing slinks through me, with me. I have no control over the bad thoughts, no defence against this heaviness of fear. Why canít I just be happy?

††††††††††† I must have dozed. Awake now, sweating under the blankets, soaked. The feeling is still there, making me so tired. I throw off the blankets and I drift off again.

When I wake it is dusk. I start to cry and make myself stop, I ainít doing this anymore, I made a promise. Think about you and that causes me panic. Think about the times with you. They must have been fleeting for you, I decide. I play on and pray on the negatives with all my will. Have I lost you? Of course I have. No self-respecting girl, not one as wonderful as you, could love this failure. This loser.

I know I have to calm down, but I canít. Thoughts of death arrive and right on cue. The hose in my car, the car in my garage, the keys on my floor. I give up and sink into these thoughts without choice and they relax me. They swim everywhere without licence, unwanted, unwarranted, unbeatable yet comforting. Problems, solutions, remedies and full stops.

I need a beer.

1.

Alone at home and the beer has done itís job. I feel no fear, I feel no pain, think no black. But like last night, there is that gnawing feeling in me. I donít need this, this only solace.

So I keep it up until I canít keep my eyes open and find sleep on the lounge just as Gen and her boyfriend come in from wherever theyíve been. They are obviously drunk. I consider getting up for a drink but I donít.

2.

††††††††††† Today is Valentines Day and I donít get on my high horse about it. Labelling it a commercial rip-off got old years ago, now everyone is doing it. I suppose not receiving so much as a card for so long has made me pine for the days when I did. Whatever.

††††††††††† 10.13. I try not to think about you or the plans I had made for us today.

- Good morning soulless wonder. I like Brad regardless of the fact he is an idiot named

Brad.

- Where did you get to last night? As if I need to know or really care. Where

would we be without small talk? I light a smoke.

- Blue Corner. We bumped into someone you know. Smirk, glint them eyes. I

didnít bother asking, I figured he was talking about you.

- A pretty wee lassy going by the name of Gina. I roll my eyes, grunt indifference to

make it clear I donít care and donít want to hear about it. But he will tell me nonetheless.

- She really likes you. This is not what I had expected and that is obvious as I shift up

in the couch and laugh out a smoky hoarse response.

- What? Why?

- I asked her the same thing, I was as surprised as you are. He pauses to drag on his

smoke, purely for effect.

- Apparently youíre quite the lover. He is laughing at that the bastard.

- Screw her. I was pissed off with this. I donít remember the night at all and any half

selfless guy is a good lover with a tank full of beer in him. A man can be anything and anyone to some women but as long as he knows how to fuck, well the rest doesnít mean a thing. She remembers the sex? How about something to do with me?

- All she saw was an obnoxious drunk, she donít know enough to like or otherwise.

You though, you had never seen me drunk, had loved me for what I was and what I wasnít.

- I got her phone number for you.

- Keep it. I got up and went outside. And that hopelessness washed over me again.

I was swamped with the feeling I was the only one here, the only one connected enough to truly understand what we were for.

4.

††††††††††† Could life be any better?

††††††††††† Iím driving to work, the traffic in first gear and/or neutral. Weíre trafficking, bartering by the metre, unwilling to give up that precious tar commodity. When we do only an earnest wave of thanks makes up for the loss.

††††††††††† Iím feeling amazing this morning. I woke up on the right side of the bed it seems. Showered on the right side of the bathroom, driving to work on the right side of the car. Thinking about myself (also stumbling onto the reality that that is what I do most), I marvel at how good life is. Itís fucking good to be me and I pity anyone who isnít.

††††††††††† I imagine how we will be.

††††††††††† I am also concocting a story for the boss. Itís infinitely more difficult to convince when a day off merges into a weekend, as Fridays did. I canít remember what my reason was when I texted him either, I was too drunk at the time. I look through my phone but I have deleted my messages, more than likely to remove all trace of you. I check my contacts and sure enough, your number is gone.

Was it a stomach bug? Death in the family? Fear of terrorism? I have no idea.

Heís pretending to not see me enter.

- Morning boss.

- Give me ten minutes and meet me in the boardroom.

- We have a boardroom?

He plays his game, leaving me waiting for half an hour, reminding me who he is and who I wasnít. Nonplussed I read the paper.

- Max. I am aiming for a stance of respectful boredom.

- How are you feeling? I want him to elaborate and let me know what had been

ailing me. Am I physically or emotionally weak right now? Not that it made too much of a difference, we both knew I was fine but still, best to keep it up.

- Much better, the two days off helped a lot.

- Did you get to the doctor? Bingo.

- I couldnít get in. I rang when I woke at about half one but they were solid.

We get to the bones of it. Friday was my twelfth day off sick in three months of working

here and I was riding my last chance. Max lays it out in one dramatic, rehearsed moment of power and with such an air that is hard to resist a smirk at.

I consider the impassioned speech of loyalty and conviction, how I will improve

and all that but I donít bother, he can play this one by himself. I say my thanks and get back to my office.

This has dented my pride a little but I know I just have to play along for a little while, a few weeks, until things smooth out. And hope the project I am working on pans out in my favour.

I ponder my options for the rest of the day, and do nothing. Consider things, all things considered.

8.

††††††††††† Friday lunch at the pub. Sparrows flit everywhere, under the table, on the table, looking for any fleck to run away with. They annoy the hell out of me, and I try to kick one or two. They remind me of me a bit.

††††††††††† Itís my first beer since Sunday and it meets my lips as well earned. Itís probably been ten years since I have had four dry days running. But again that stab, fuck this. I should get to thinking about that, it is certainly not welcome.

But not now.

I am at lunch with Malini, a girl I have had an eye on since I walked in for the job interview. I arrive five minutes after her and almost immediately our food arrives, steak for us both. She grimaces at the bloodied meat I am eating, I guess it reminds her she is dining on life. It reminds me of that too but if you want it to taste good, you have to let it bleed. I had a brief relationship a few years ago with a girl who claimed Buddhism yet ate meat. I found the irony of believing in reincarnation among species whilst also being a carnivore simply delicious.

We get along well, this being the first time we have had a chance to talk more than hello or work related stuff. We play a game of pool, which I win easily.

- I must get back cowboy. Cowboy? I tell her I am staying for another hour or

so and she grabs me another beer on her way out, a good sign. I end up having another four or five and she comes back after work. Laughs at my excited tipsiness.

- You been here all afternoon?

- I told Max I was seeing a rep. I did a full week, figure I deserve the afternoon off.

Shaking her head at my audacity she gets me another beer and herself something green. I really respect audacity. We agree to see a movie together across the road at the beat-up heritage cinema and I let her choose. The movie was woeful, about an old alcoholic who turns his life around just in time to die. Why does Hollywood bother with sentiment? They force, they strip away, they simplify. Maybe real doesnít sell on the big screen, some things are better left at home. The movie had a great soundtrack though, Iíll have to download that

††††††††††† We have dinner together and she ends up staying at my place. I think I really like her but then there is still you in everything I do. And I know alcohol is playing a starring role in this, weíll see how it goes tomorrow I suppose.

9.

††††††††††† Waking up drunk is always fun. Even at 6.15, even to the tune of the alarm, even with an anonymous body sharing the bed. There is a moment of panic of course, that moment after comprehending the situation but before seeing the full picture. Swoosh, and whom did we take home?

Itís all coming back to me, Malini from work. I hate it when I forget to turn the alarm off for the weekend.

She rolls over and kisses me on the mouth and slips straight into sleep again with her head on my arms and breasts warm on my torso. I look down at her face and sheís beautiful (unconventionally, but quite) even first thing in the morning after a night of mayhem. I donít sleep and the more I look at her, the more I want. I touch her, kiss her until she comes to and we slide into love like we had done this a thousand times before.

- Youíre amazing I tell her.

- I am she says.

I feel alive, untouched and damn near untouchable. We spend the weekend

together, their barely a moment with her naked skin not against mine. She left only to get clothes for work. The love was something else; we make contact like we had always done this. I canít remember ever doing this. But have I?

††††††††††† We are late for work by 35 minutes, a last gasp effort had to be showered down.

13.

- You need to see someone. Arma is saying his piece, a few years in the making.

- Leave it, forget it man. I canít cope with this interventionist shit.

-†††††††† Forget your pride, youíve got a problem so fucking see someone. His word is finality.

I had haphazardly mentioned the suicide kit in my car, my back up plan. I was making a statement, standing on the side of stupidity in a pointless debate, when I let this slip. I have forgotten now what my point was supposed to be, but it had all stopped in a split second, and come down at me like a hailstorm. What had I been thinking?

He goes on. He has gathered a lot of little things over the years. From words said, looks stolen, actions dissected and whatever else, he has had my measure. Heís just been keeping me in check until he knew he had to act.

††††††††††† He holds out a card.

- See him. Iíll pay for your first couple if I have to, just go. This is more than too much.

I reach over take the card from him and I agree. Edward Fenton, the card sighed in a warm font.

††††††††††† - Tomorrow. Heís got his phone out and making a call. Fenton will see me at 19.00. Without analysing, without any though at all on the matter I feel something lift away from me, a weight evaporated in that moment. Optimism in my bones, in my lungs, in my brain. Mostly in my stomach. This is hope. I almost taste how truly desperate I had become.

We talk some more about his bi-polar and my first suicide attempt, age twelve. We

hug as we leave in separate taxis.

I have never been the target of concern and it has woken me from a stupor, as drunk as I am.

On the way home I dare to believe in the idea of being not so much happy, but like everyone else. Maybe eh?

But then again it will probably be doomed to be just another drunken moment of clarity like so many before. Unattainable and unreasonable come the morning light.

††††††††††† Thatís more like me.

15.

††††††††††† I have finalized the project and it went as well as I hoped it could. Word got around pretty fast and the MD gets me in for an informal to discuss this and that. He is impressed with what I have on the boil and lets Max know just how much and as he shakes my hand in congratulations we both saw the same thing in the other. His job is mine, whether tomorrow or in a yearís time. Itís a god eat dog world no doubt.

††††††††††† I am on top of the world and donít even bother keeping my arrogance in check. It flows.

††††††††††† I had the meeting with Edward Fenton last night. Heís a nice guy. Of course he has to be, but I did feel relaxed and spilled pretty much everything I could think of though admittedly acting suave and nonchalant all the while. The hour ended up being closer to three and it exhausted me, though today I feel light and clarity. It really has been a day to remember, the hell I am used to so far away. This structure will not crumble again because this is a new tower I am in.

Iím feeling big and celebrate with a thumping bang.

†††††††††††

16.

††††††††††† Lying in bed, 11.12. I can feel the darkness coming at me. I wrap myself tightly in my doona until I canít see light when I open my eyes. Thereís a weight on my chest so I roll over trying to shed it. Thinking about you and fear slinks into me, through me. I have no control over the bad thoughts, no defence against this heaviness of fear. Why canít I just be happy?

††††††††††† Where did Malini go? She was with me last night. I probably flipped out, as I do.

††††††††††† I must have dozed. Awake now, sweating under the blankets, soaked.

The feeling is still there, making me so tired. I throw off the blankets and I doze again.

I wake at dusk and check my phone. Malini. Prick, is all the message says. Sorry, is all my reply says.

I start to cry and make myself stop. Think about you and that just makes me panic. I have lost you forever because no self-respecting girl as wonderful as you could love this failure. Why am I spending time with one when all I want is the other. Selfish, insecure, obsessed.

I have to calm down, but I canít. Thoughts of death arrive and right on cue. We swim.

I need a beer.

Alone at home and the beer has done itís job, I feel no fear, I feel no pain, I think no black thoughts. But drinking is bringing along guilt. I donít need this, my only solace.

I call Malini and I sort it out. It wasnít as bad as I feared. It wasnít as bad as it has been in the past anyway. Iím not sure why I bothered.

So I keep it up until I canít keep my eyes open and I find sleep in the recliner.

17.

††††††††††† I see Fenton and I am painfully hung over. I ask him why he doesnít have a couch like a good psychiatrist. Because drunk assholes like you would pass out on it, he answered with a cool calm snap. That pulls me up and we get started.

††††††††††† Apparently alcohol is a depressant. Didnít get that memo. Or did I?

We go into my drinking and after a bit of delving we settle on a figure to work with. One hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty (standard) drinks a week. I kind of shrug at this, it means nothing to me. I suppose five years ago it was a badge but now itís just normal and sustainable. Edward doesnít agree and starts in on an anti-alcohol spiel.

I am loath to hear it; I have heard wowsers before tonight.

To my credit I am not stubborn and brash like I usually would be, I am honest and

forthright. The more he talks about the ills of alcohol the less I dismiss, the more I see myself in what he says. I take it in. I take it until I feel almost sick, more than a little uneasy about my life.

But I canít be, sober, I canít. I have no personality without drinking. It may not make me who I am exactly, but it does let that person out to play. Should that be the way? Maybe not, but it is what it is. Who wants to be dull? And who wants to have to listen to himself? I fear these two things more than anything else.

- You have resilience but you got scars all through you boy. Go to Alcoholics

Anonymous, tonight. Internally I automatically respond with angry defensiveness and well I should, I know guys that go through AA and I wasnít one of them. I paused and shut my eyes, took it all in for a moment as Edward waited. I guess the guy knows his stuff, he had been right so far. And I really couldnít say life was peachy now could I? Change clearly wasnít going to come out of my book of ideas; that book was exhausted long ago. I was exhausted long ago.

Breathe out and what have I to lose?

- Okay. I felt so vulnerable and stripped. I almost asked him to come with me but

knew he would say no. The journeys that mean something have to be yours alone.

They say you donít have a problem until you start bringing it home, until you start going alone. That will be the solution too I see.

20.

††††††††††† Malini comes over. She is dull and I know I am too. She talks a lot and says nothing, I say nothing. She has a few drinks, gets a little tipsy and I resent both myself and her as we fuck.

21.

††††††††††† After two meetings with the twelve steppers drinking had lost its innocence, it was now the enemy. Not only that, I came to understand that feeling that had accompanied each cold schooner these past few weeks. It was guilt and it was you. You may never have told me what you consider right or wrong, never expressed disappointment in me, but I knew you knew me better than what I did. Was this what you wanted? Forty days to sort my shit out? Forty days of talking to myself in the dark? I think I understand.

I leave Arma after one beer that I donít finish and go home to sleep. Like the past four nights, sleep comes after five or six hours of frustration. I throw half a beer into the back yard at about three in the morning. I was hoping it would help me sleep, it made me think of you instead.

22.

††††††††††† The body is feeling surprisingly good considering the lack of sleep I have had since Sunday. But thatís the physical; the mental is just mental.

Peace, harmony, and a fucking recovery coin I donít really want to earn. If fortune favours the brave I am in for a hell of a time, more afraid now than ever. The cocky demeanour has all but abandoned me and left me meek, coy, smiling weakly. I want to do you proud though, so I struggle on the day.

††††††††††† Malini has noticed of course and is giving me a wide berth. Fair enough. I want to explain to her but my feelings are not with her. I find you donít leave my thoughts for more than a minute at a time. I find it makes me feel a little secure. I find an empty bottle of red in my office and I find excuses.

††††††††††† My thoughts are either uncooperative or semi-absent. I canít see what my work means and I canít even fake it. Apart from you I donít think with any conviction. Drolling. The word fragments keeps bobbing up.

††††††††††† I check for meetings tonight and settle on one, then remember I am going to the movies with someone.

††††††††††† Tonight I see through some of the fog. I wonít say clear skies but a struggle of light amongst the haze, maybe enough for me to palm my way forward. Something happens as I see myself older, happier, bolder and brighter. When have I ever seen forward through any space of time? The concept itself a strange one. The idea of future has never been more than a few hours away. Now I am struck with a sense of infiniteness but intuitively I know I should handle it tenderly. I go to the bookshop with someone and we talk about my weekend to come.

†††††††††††

23.

††††††††††† I drive along the coast, marvelling at the beauty I see from the road. I used to look at the land in this way many years ago, in my romantic teens. I laugh aloud, a good memory these days is hard to find.

Stopping at random and walking along the sands I see a tiny island and the sheer perfection of it thrills me to a gasp. I want to wrap my arms around it and hold it, own it in all its wonder. It points upward twenty feet or so in rocky spikes, greenage around its circumference, about a hundred metres from shore. I swim out to it. I spend an hour or so here, truly alone. Itís early morning and I am a good two hundred kilometres from home. I had woken early.

At the beach I read my book. It is worthy of its Pulitzer and I canít put it down. Much later, when the sun had swept half the sky across, it is finished. I lie for another while, the story swimming through me. I swim, I eat a chicken wrap I make from the ingredients in the Esky and donít mind so much the uninvited crunch of sand as I chew.

I want to run naked along the beach so I do and after the initial fear of being spotted goes away I spend a good hour in the surf, on the beach, naked. I feel light. Doing, not thinking, nobody to talk to. I am being?

I go to my car and open the boot and I take the hose and I walk to the shore and I swim. I swim as far as I can go, past my island, past the point of exhaustion. I let the hose go. I paddle about for a while catching my breath. I donít watch to see where it goes, I just swim slowly and doggedly back to shore.

Get in my car wet and covered in sand, drive back home. The smile fades as I am too alone in this car.

23.

††††††††††† Tonight I understand only three things.

††††††††††† One. Stability is too hard to grab a hold of, it ducks and it dives out of my reach.

††††††††††† Two. Iím losing sight of where I begin and where I end.

††††††††††† Three. Love leaves you without reasonable recourse.

24.

††††††††††† Today I understand three things.

††††††††††† One. The black dog has got to mugging me.

††††††††††† Two. Drinking heavily is a beautiful paradox.

††††††††††† Forget it, jog on.

††††††††††† Four. There are more important things to do in this world than me.

††††††††††† Forget it, jog on.

28.

††††††††††† Inhale deeply as deeply as I can before it bursts. Stars. I shake my head; I literally shake the fuck out of it and it hurts like a bitch.

Out of nowhere, news to me, I scream. The shrillness hits everything and I am panicked so I close my mouth, lie still but the screamingís getting louder. Louder. My mouth is shut, my body still. Itís coming from me but itís not coming out of me. This is the single scariest moment of my life.

Slam like a door it turns off. All the major double uís take turns asking questions I have no answers to.

I am heavy, too heavy to move much. Instead I coddle my pillow and roll over like a dry, wretched whale. I moan like a dry, wretched whale. There are no thoughts as I am vacuum. For a long time I lie there, then I turn back over with the pillow as support and stare at the ceiling, trying to peg my memories into action. What the fuck is going on here? I donít look around much in fear of the unwanted but I want to know something. Anything. I breathe in and calm myself. What was the last thing we remember? Slow. Inhale, the other hale. Close down, shhh.

††††††††††† Mortar and pestle.

††††††††††† Green. Red wine. Green-red wine?

††††††††††† The memory tastes acrid and bites at my taste buds and my memory shrieks. I fall off hard for the time being until.

31.

††††††††††† This food is revolting. As hungry as I am I cannot finish it. It must be an exhausting hiring process to find someone to cook simple food that badly.

††††††††††† I poke at a pea. I am like a pea. Small and green and misunderstood. Is the pea misunderstood as a vegetable?

††††††††††† I spend the next three hours bawling into my hands unable to say a word to the other patients who have a go at attempting to try to console me and bless them, they mean well. I mean well but I am caught in my own rapture. I am pulling thirty-three years of angst into one moment and it hurts. The violence of the hurt has my chest ready to crack from the pressure. I bawl. I bawl and I bawl. I donít think of anyone or anything. Not even you. I just think about me. It is a torrent. I understand the meaning of the word in a way that only one who has lived in a word truly appreciates.

††††††††††† I live in another word. Life. I love life, the mere fact life is and that I got be a part of it. I see how close I came and it brings me to a gaping awe of sorts. What I could have lost. I know more now, much more. The good in us, the evil in us and how I love it all.

††††††††††† Friends visit and they all cry for me and I donít, not anymore, I feel them. But no family, they have been silent for three years by now. No Malini. I hope she doesnít feel any responsibility in this, I never did really explain what my cocky outer was hiding.

33.

††††††††††† Drugged to the gills last night.

This is nice. I swim amongst myself and duly examine the ways and whys. I consider you for a moment.

††††††††††† I love you more than I had ever been able to acknowledge to either of us. You, the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on. You, my picture of perfection.

There is the realisation that I can never be with you and it doesnít hurt like it could, I just want what is good for you. And isnít that what love is meant to be? I cannot be your patient; love cannot be unequal. I smile for the first time in a long time with the clarity of that thought, a wonderful thing to behold. I box things, find confirmations and settle scores. The crying had been violently honest and the body, calmed from the release, has no distractions from what is real and what is important.

††††††††††† Arma has been in every day, a symbol of strength as only a man like him can be. He jokes, he chats about how he is doing, he lets the situation speak for itself. He doesnít prod.

Max comes in and treats me like his underling as ever, but I understand. It was big of him to show up at all. He stresses his and the companies support in whatever I need to do. I give him a hug to his obvious shock.

I am not granted the clearance to walk outside by myself and when I need a smoke I am accompanied. Which makes me a smoke a lot less, I donít want to take these people from what they are doing.

I am enjoying something. What that is I donít know, but something.

35.

††††††††††† Table tennis is perfect for asylum. Ping, pong, ping, pong.

36.

††††††††††† I heard a story about the place I am in, The Carl Petty Centre. A former patient named Benny, a man under the hip delusion that his name was Carl Petty, committed suicide in a toilet cubicle with a coat-hanger from the back of the door. His delusion was that he was the host of a light entertainment news bulletin program on commercial television called The Petty Revue. Every weeknight from eleven to midnight in the games room he played out the show in its entirety, first to a handful of bemused staff and then to those who lined up early enough to fit into the room. Those who saw him perform considered him quite the talent.

When he mutilated himself to death it was a national story. The entire system was beaten senselessly down by the tabloids, changes were forced and still today the event is considered vital a moment in mental health care as one action that started a positive reaction. The naming of the centre, the plaque said to me, is a reminder the importance of taking care. More realistically it serves as a reminder for the sane not to beat the crazy too hard so as to avoid the eye of the tabloider.

††††††††††† I love the story, real or otherwise.

††††††††††† I have never had such delusions as Benny did. I sit tonight in the games room and wonder what it would be like, whether it was a better option for him. I try to will one on but to no effect.

††††††††††† I wish Carl Petty had been a celebrity chef instead.

37.

††††††††††† All day talking. I want to go home but there is a general reluctance from them crooked professionals. My words donít help my case because all I can say is the truth, that I am fine, that I am happy. And isnít that what they would expect me to say? I am sure they get this same spiel time and time again.

††††††††††† It is plain and it is the most honest of truths though, I am happy. I become new when I woke in that hospital bed nine days ago. Mortality is a big, big word and in that word a part of me had died and another had been born.

††††††††††† We talk about my past ups, my past downs. I see the obvious inferences and respect it, but they are wrong. I am something.

37.

†††††††††††

††††††††††† I have convinced them to some degree and not in a sly way. Could it be they see a spark in my eye? Iíd like to think they do because I feel it pulsating brighter than bright within me. Donít get me wrong, I am not finished yet, I have archives to sift through. I am a sense of arriving but unsure where to go hence.

††††††††††† This afternoon I talk long of you.

Of our first kiss in pouring rain in a backstreet, you on the curb and my soaking shoes in the gutter. I try to explain how it felt but I cannot. I begin by expressing it like some dream made true but that pangs of deceit right away, as I never dreamed of such a moment. How could I have? I pull up thoughts of poets of old that yet leave the memory wanting as this is mine alone. More than a memory, beyond faithful description and within me immortalised, like finding god is to so many. Every of our moves and every curve of light ingrained in beautiful detail within me. Yet like a ghost it is mentally, intellectually, linguistically elusive and impossible to grasp. That is why I know I love you true.

I speak of my heart for you for hours.

38.

†††††††††††

††††††††††† And for another day.

†††††††††††

39.

††††††††††† In line for the little paper cup with the pill and trying to work out a line for a song I had rebounding last night in bed. I miss my guitar more than anything else. I canít help but think how Cuckoos Nest this is. Some of these people fill me with sadness because some donít have a fight left in them.

I talk to Stephan for a minute but he forgets me halfway through the conversation. Heís better to chat to after lunch. Ben is standing at the table as I walk out, ping-pong bat in hand, ready for a game. I put my arm around him and we kind of stand like that for a moment.

††††††††††† - Breakfast Benny, Iíll play you after.

††††††††††† We discuss music on the way to the dining room. Benny is a good man but not healthy of mind. He loves Hawkwind and my theory is that they are waiting for him to denounce this horrid excuse for a band before letting him back into society. And fair enough. He laughs a storm, calls me a music snob. And fair enough.

††††††††††† I sit with a guy who tells me he is not in here because he is crazy but because he has just come from a tour of Iraq and needs the rest and recupe. Seems a strange place to choose but I concentrate on my porridge, toast and orange.

††††††††††† I am not fussed because I like these people. I have never felt so much common ground.

40.

††††††††††† Iím leaving today and you are here. We embrace desperately and your tears donít stop for a long, long time while mine donít start.

- I am okay, I am okay. And I am sorry.

- No. You shake your head and hold me tighter.

- I love you.

- I love you. I pull back after a while to look you in your eyes.

- I canít say it. Your face says everything that needs to be said, you truly understand and I

am grateful for that. I kiss the tears from your cheeks and hold you longer.

- Iíll drive you home. Arma is here too, I can see him standing near the curb over the

road. He was going to pick me up but as I look at him he nods and gets back into his car. Heíd also been crying by the looks of him.

You drove and I hold your hand between gear changes and we say nothing.

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