Written April 2011. Despite opening with a statement of intent as forceful as a promise, I didn’t end up killing myself. Not physically, anyway.
So for once in my life I’m going to do the decent thing. I’m embarking on a journey which involves a litre of vodka, 20 cigarettes and a packet of razors. I’m not sure how long this journey’s going to take or whereabouts I’m going to disembark but the good news is that I’m on the train, I’m comfortable, I’ve paid for my ticket and I am definitely, incontrovertibly leaving here. At the moment I’m sitting in my flat, feeling the niggling little maggot of nicotine addiction worming into my soul, calling me away from the screen and towards the open window. Once I worried – hell, lots of times I worried – about whether or not my love affair with the cigarette would end up dumping me, betrayed and alone, in the oncology ward but now…it doesn’t matter. There’s no way on earth I’m going to live long enough for cancer to be an issue, so I can chug away with gay abandon. Smoke upon smoke, it doesn’t matter. Having resolved to be dead within the next forty eight hours is extremely liberating – there’s nothing now I can’t do.
Having said that, 48 hours is quite a long time. The older you get the faster you seem to romp through the months but there are times when life seems to enter bullet time, everything moving so slow you can stand back and watch the vapour trail from every word you utter form and then dissolve. I’m drunk, already, which I have to say is something of a surprise. When did I become such a lightweight? Sometime over the last week or two, presumably. Before then I could drink from as soon as the pubs would let me in until they scraped me up and tossed me out. Today I’ve had about six vodkas and already I can feel my thoughts turning to mush, my usual articulacy breaking down…I’m sitting here with a chest scored with superficial razor slashes and a burgeoning …something, fuck, I’ve forgotten already. But I’m sitting here dripping blood and BLACK EYE, that’s what I was going to say, a burgeoning black eye from where my wife punched me in the face a couple of hours ago, and fuck it, I dunno. I’m sitting here counting down to oblivion and you know what – it doesn’t feel bad. It feels OK. It feels RIGHT. So there you go. I’ve got a life story to tell before the sands sift down to nothing. Nobody will read it, those who do won’t care, I’ve got nothing to gain by telling this tell apart from the relief of lancing an emotional boil. So here goes.
This is not in any particular order. So I’m starting with what was, until very recently, the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I was living in Abergavenny, South Wales, with a girl called Kate who I’d met through…fuck, I dunno, are they called The Golden Wheel? Whatever, it’s like a pen pal facility for occultists, oddballs and the mentally ill. I was recovering from my first experience of divorce, living with my mother and picking aubergines for a living and I’d started writing to a girl called Kate, who lived on The Mardy, a sprawling council estate in Abergavenny which, contrary to anything Marty Wilde may have told you is NOT full of paradise people. It pisses it down with rain all the time and the only people who believe they’re living in paradise are fucked out of their heads on class A’s. Kate was very beautiful, but she was also very mad. She’d had many different diagnoses over the years, and in the end they decided on schizophrenia with a side serving of depression. She heard voices, had two unicorns living with her, walked and talked in her sleep, had made a couple of fairly serious attempts to kill herself and was prone to sudden slumps into almost catatonic misery which came about without warning. She was also incredibly intelligent and incredibly funny. When we met I wanted to look after her, take care of her, be the one good thing in a life which had seen more than its fair share of unhappiness. She was raped at 13, got pregnant, miscarried, and it was round about then that the voices and the visions started. After we spent a couple of months writing to each other she came and stayed with me for a weekend, I then made a couple of trips to see her in Wales and on my last visit she asked me to stay. I did. I just didn’t go back home. We had a lovely life together. For a while I couldn’t find work and we used to spend all day together talking, walking, reading, being creative. It was like living with some beautiful alien, some impossible being from another realm. There were only a few episodes of acute mental illness during our time together and her health workers were delighted by her progress. I found a job at a local factory and was able to bring a little money home which she usually spent on clothes and jewellery, and we were, most of the time, very happy. Then, I came home from work one day and came across an email that Kate had sent someone, asking them to call her but not to do so when I might be at home. I questioned her about it and she admitted she’d been talking to a man she’d met online, and there were romantic undertones. I was devastated. She was devastated. We sat and spoke and cried then she went out for a walk to clear her head. When she came back she was swaying, her speech was slurred. Overdose. I called an ambulance and struggled to keep her conscious til they arrived. She spent the night in hospital and was released the next day, no harm done. We spent the day talking. She was seriously depressed, saying she’d ruined everything, saying that I’d never see her in the same light ever again. I told her that I was hurt – very hurt, but that my love for her was greater than my pain and that if she wanted to, we could pick up the pieces and carry on. I offered her every alternative – I could stay, I could go, we could try something in between. Whatever she needed, I would have done for her. We went to bed, slept, woke. She phoned her mum who came and picked her up and took her over to her house. Alone in the flat I rolled a spliff and distractedly surfed the web for a couple of hours. I wandered over to the window. A white car pulled up at the kerb and two burly, serious looking men got out and began walking up the path. My first thought was that they were bailiffs, we’d fallen behind with the rent and the council tax. The buzzer sounded and they asked for Kate. Not in, I told them. They asked if they could come in. What’s it about? Police, sir, we’d like to talk with you. I didn’t know what to think. I let them in. They asked me when I’d last seen Kate.
“A couple of hours ago, why?”
“And how did she seem when she left?”
“Well…she was OK…she’s gone round to her mum’s…she’s not been well, she’s got mental health problems…”
“And was she wearing any distinctive jewellery when she left? Does she have any tattoos?”
“Yes, she…look, what’s this about?”
They ignored my question. “Do you have a recent photo of Kate?” I handed them one I’d taken only a week ago, Kate sat by a stream in a wood full of daffodils. He looked at it, passed it to his colleague.
“Look, I’m not going to answer any more questions til you give me some kind of clue what’s going on – is Kate okay?”
He took a deep breath. There was no emotion in his voice or on his face. He was probably used to giving people bad news.
“The body of a young woman’s been found at Raglan Castle – we have reason to believe that it’s Kate.”