On grief and time


The doorway looms, a portal to another dimension to terrify and confuse in equal measure. I find myself in that familiar limbo where my only companions are voices. Sometimes flashes of a past I am told I must escape. I lie to both psychiatric professionals and myself and fill our ears with the correct words.

‘I’m doing much better and only think of London on occasion.’

‘I rarely experience the urge to run without looking back now’

‘I have licked my wounds and find them beginning to heal; there is comfort in stability.’

In truth I long for freedom and the return of invisibility; were it not for my leg I’d be over the threshold in a heartbeat. I’d take the familiar journey surrounded by those harried, tired individuals. Those who spent their lives in a state of coming and going. Those who find themselves trapped in the cage I begin to understand.

To be young and alone again, with only boots and backpack. To regain the capability to vault fences, scramble walls and dive into the city beneath the city. To once again know her beating heart. To be free of all those who wish to greet me and talk about a daily life I still do not comprehend.

There is a possibility I am in fact broken, for peace eludes me. I knew it when I was another face in an endless crowd, and the nights were for roaming darkened streets. Days were for resting in the quiet of walls where others have long feared to tread. Hours spent smoking and watching others, dreaming their stories as they passed by. My head secure on the shoulder of a beloved friend as we waited for the day center to open.

Homelessness was horrifying, and yet a liberation of self.


When I finally arrived home, she was there. The girl with the violin who’d give her life for another if asked. The girl who’d hand you her coat in the blistering rain, and ask you if the cold was biting.

I’d argue she was better than me, but that’s not saying much. In truth she was better than most and her spirit still haunts me. Each time I see one of my beloved violins freed of the case or hear a symphony, she’s on my shoulder.

Nine years is a long time, and she’d be approaching twenty six. She’d likely be touring the world with some orchestra but still make time to comfort friends. Existing in exhaustion but cheerful and full of life. I imagine with her schedule she’d never find the time to care for her skin.

Beauty routines and social niceties left by the wayside in favor of sleepless nights. I picture her in hotel rooms in soft light, pen in hand and ink staining face as she transposes pieces. The furrow of her brow and intense concentration that sprang from passion are vivid. I imagine her arguing with airline staff about the importance of her beloved violin. ‘If she’s not by my side, I’m not boarding.’ I can see her expression of stubborn consternation and worry in perfection.

But she’s gone now.

Nine years is a long time and when Tuesday arrives so will the fear. That as I grow ever older she slips further from my grasp. That I may forget certain expressions or quirks. As I grow, she slips away into a wasteland I am both terrified to visit, but scared to abandon. I attach myself to so few in this life, and she knew who and what I was.

I don’t imagine I do.


For both of us recognition was a symptom. She learned to revel in it; the applause would push her forward. She was a motor forever in motion. The adage of candles twice as bright burning out quicker than those content to flicker must be true. I sit here and postpone life, hoping against hope to wake and discover the familiar has returned.

I loathe others on principle but am bound by insecurity. Always the voice. Wondering if winning more competitions or successful publication will expose me to scrutiny. Life dissected by strangers in search of entertainment who cannot begin to empathize. In the modern world a sense of respectability is impossible to find. I realize that success will come with judgment.

Of both illnesses and past experiences: the road I’ve traveled will be a stomping ground. Those with no understanding of homelessness or combat will pass opinion. As a writer I am supposed to ignore such things: as an individual with PTSD and scores of lost sisters I’d like to hurt. Both myself and them, for retaining a comfortable existence. One where they have the time and energy to autopsy anothers’ choices in a nuclear environment.

I do not believe that statement to be hyperbole. The streets are a volcano waiting to blow, the homeless already frozen in ash for the most part. It’s so simple for the more fortunate to claim they chose such a life, and claim addiction as cause. In reality, it is more often a symptom. Something to black out the casual violence, the derision of others and horrors seen.

Though what would I know? I’ve had the middle class liberals who claim respect and act as civil servants piss on me in doorways. It has never taught me wisdom, but misanthropy in all its’ extremes.


I could be ungrateful. In all my time following the rhythms of Londons’ beating heart with my boots, I never imagined making it this far. You spend long enough in a state of vigilance, find yourself exposed to so much violence, you assume the end near.

After failed suicide attempts and near misses too great to count, I find myself still lost. Even after a stint of death which lasted approximately seven minutes I remain in a state of loss. What do you do when the mental health offices no longer accept the calls? When your psychiatrist prescribes you the benzos on top of a drinking problem? When possible fatality is preferable to the doors in your head springing free?

How do you live when the most untrustworthy individual in life is yourself? I picture myself as a small child, before the streets and fires and all that befell me there changed the world. It’s impossible to return to a state of innocence, though Christians tell us otherwise. One day you reach a point of no return: where the crisis is every day, and normality is a foreign concept: horror.

You can stitch up a knife wound or plug grievous wounds without a blink, but bills and letters are a thing of anxiety. The brain rewires itself according to circumstance, and then refuses to be unbroken. No stability in the world, no comfort or routine can lessen the vivid nature of such a life. The psycho babblers tell you things will fade with time, but it is the biggest lie.

You grit your teeth and try to be another member of society.

You listen to unbearable small talk with patience.

One day you wake and long for a return to chaos, because you are incapable of anything else now.


You’re stuck in no-mans’ land, while battles rage around you.

As a poet I’ve always loved the works of Plath and Clare; as a human subject to the demons of my own mind I relate. It’s strange to imagine that if I survive the next year I will have gone further than Sylvia ever did, year wise. Not in a sense of literary prowess but with regards to a measure of time.

Life is something we have yet to understand.

We march forwards with regards to ‘progress’, but experience is universal. A man who lived three hundred years ago deemed brilliant finds himself boarded up. The psychiatric hospital he died in still stands, open for business. A brilliant woman not quite surfacing from youth puts her head in an oven due to domestic abuse.

For all our supposed evolution, the song remains the same.

I have become a cynic, of this I am certain: humanity will not change. We may make it to another planet. We may map the depths of the ocean and reach the edge of the galaxy. But at our core we will endure as strange, selfish creatures who are prone to violence, jealousy, rage. Revenge, selfishness, judgment.

I envy the animals and birds and fish, for they have no knowledge of such things. We are a species with a penchant for self destruction regardless of labels or diagnoses. From the moment we are born a battle rages: some of us walk through the fire. We hope it will give us strength, but in reality it takes a pound of flesh and leaves us growing tired. Others cannot bear the fight and decide to step off of the worlds’ wheel: I often wonder if they are the courageous.

I may have become too tired by the dance.

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