Part of my new ‘Life Plan’ is to spend at least 10 minutes a day writing. Even if I feel like I have nothing to say, I will endeavour to set aside the time and try.
I have aspirations of being a writer. The solitude, the self doubt, the image of Paul Caan in Misery bashing the keys of the antique typewriter. Why, when I conjure up the idea of a writer in my mind do I choose one that has had his legs shattered by a sledgehammer to force him into writing?? The end of book ritual of a cigarette and bottle of champagne undoubtedly appeals to my romantic notion of the suffering writer/addict.
I co-wrote a play when I was 15 and have periodically tried to be a writer ever since. My first love of acting felt like an impossible pipe dream after I became a single mother and left drama school but I loved the idea of writing. I keep journals as a teenager which were full of absolute untruths so I had plenty of practise at fiction. (I destroyed said journals when I turned 20 and realised if anyone did read them I could possibly be responsible for innocent people going to prison and possibly myself being committed.)
I have periods where I can write and write. Days, weeks at most and then its dies. I feel empty. I have absolutely nothing to say. I don’t know if its writer’s block or if I really don’t have that much to say. I know that in the past I have found being high or drunk unlocks a door. I have also found the first few weeks after a relapse, that point where I feel euphoric to have survived, particularly inspiring. Trying to be creative in sobriety can feel so forced.
Here’s something I wrote in the first days after my last relapse.
“That’s your Uncle Lukey,” I say quietly to her. “He died before you were born.”
She doesn’t understand, she’s only a baby. She tightly clutches the photo of my brother and bashes it on the floor. It’s a toy to explore. Another thing to touch and discard. She doesn’t know how precious it is to me. I switch it with a real toy and sneak a proper look at him.
I have many photos of him in frames around the house but I don’t look at them. Usually.
It’s simply too much. My brain can not process how familiar the face is and yet it’s nearly 8 years since I have seen it with my own eyes. Too much.
I force myself to stop and really see him. His lovely face.
Here come the tears. Not as hot and angry as they used to. Just sad.
When he was dying I’d hold his hand and stare at his fingernails. I’d always been jealous of his strong nails. They grew long in hospital and I envied them. I spent hours just looking at his hands so I didn’t have to look at his face.
I look at his hands just casually at his side in this picture. Funny how instantly recognizable hands can be.
I want to hold them.
The baby tries to take him off me.
“I had a brother once” I whisper to her.
When he was ill the thing that terrified me most was the thought of being 30 or 40 years in the future. An old lady and saying the words; ” I had a brother, once.”
This tormented me.
And here I am saying it to my new baby. Born years after he left. She won’t remember him like my older children.
Uncle Lukey!! Yayyyyy!
She might find herself saying to a friend one day, ” My mum had a brother once. He died before I was born.” To her he will just be an abstract idea.
To me, he is my childhood. He was the only person who got me. The person I will miss until I die. A face in a photo frame that I only let myself glance except for moments like this with only the baby as witness.
I’m sorry I’m moving on Luke. I vowed not to. I dug my feet in and tried to stay where I was, closer to you and a time when you and I existed together. But everyone else kept on going. I dragged my feet. I trudged slowly and took backwards steps but you weren’t keeping up. The distance between us got further and further and I have people who need me here. I have to let you go. I’m so sorry.
I put him back on the shelf.
Touching the wooden frame tenderly as if it was his hand.
I had a brother once.