Alright, so this post is about endings and beginnings, arrivals and departures.
Endings & Departures; summer, my nineteenth year of life (by which I mean I will be turning nineteen soon—this whole thing is like the eighteenth century and the seventeen hundreds being the same thing), leisure time, The Extended Short Story, and a four-year friendship.
Beginnings & Arrivals; autumn!, my twentieth year of life, my mother-to-be cousin, second year of uni, and possibilities.
Summers are significant to me the way I suppose New Year ought to be. It’s this weird interim from normal life where the rules you’ve been abiding by the rest of the year invert themselves and you never really know quite what to expect. Maybe it’s because one year and the next are separated by not even a second, and summer spans at least six weeks. Maybe it’s because I don’t live in the southern hemisphere, so the end of a school year always coincides with the summer holidays. Or maybe it’s because the formative years of my adolescence were infused with The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books
and I totally wanted to be Tibby. Whatever the reason, that’s the way it is. I always look forward to summer with the anticipation of change. It is a pivotal time, quite literally.
Now, the completion of my novel, the end of a friendship, and the expanse of possibilities on the horizon are all integral to one another. And I kind of want to chronicle why. Because I have a funny feeling that, in ten years time, I will look back and I will think that the summer of 2007 and the summer of 2011 were bookends to a very significant period of my life.
March 2007 – Rosie meets friend. They click.
July 13th 2007 – Rosie stamps on the object of her infatuation’s hand because she hates him. He drags her back in the grass and tickles her. She hates that. He asks to go for a walk. Rosie says no. Tears spring to her eyes. She doesn’t understand why, but she has the distinct feeling something significant has just occurred. Nothing is going to be quite the same again. She needs to feel in control, so she takes her friends to the top of the car park from which you can see everything. She takes a lot of pictures.
October 2007 – Rosie’s erratic behaviour has alienated most of her friends and she cannot find the words to explain or apologize. This is when she needs to check-out the most. She picks up a book and rediscovers her love for reading. She remembers her childhood dream of wanting to write. Her fingers itch. The cogs of her imagination begin to turn.
April 23rd 2008 – Rosie scraps the thing she was writing before and embarks on something new. She has become increasingly taciturn and introverted. Her mood swings are violent. Enough is enough. She begins writing with the sole intention of exorcising the inner angst monster. It’s in diary form, through someone else’s proxy, because she was never brave enough to keep her own diary.
October 2009 – Rosie takes off to Australia for a gap year. She returns eight months early after realizing that what she was trying to get away from was not everyone else, but herself. Which is impossible. Friend expresses his happiness at her return.
January 2010 – Rosie unwittingly embroils herself in The Most Stupid Fall Out in the History of Mankind, resulting in the hiatus and death of several friendships, for which she is later extremely grateful and realizes had to happen.
February 2010 – Rosie becomes an unconscious adherent of Descartes’ first Meditation. Strip back to the fundamental basics. Trust nothing. Rebuild.
June 2010 – Rosie laments the unstable nature of her friendship.
July 2010 – Rosie experiences a series of epiphanies. She breaks the surface of the water. She stands on the beach. She looks back. She’s exhausted, but she’s made it.
August 2010 – Friend suddenly gets back in touch. It is always like this. He always starts it. He always stops it. And each time it is like starting from scratch and being strangers all over again. She tells herself not to get attached, have no expectations, and to go with the flow.
August 22nd 2010 – Rosie finishes first draft of novel and runs into the inspiration, having not seen him for two years, and in a place he has never been before. Rosie tells him their old school has been demolished. They talk about toilet paper.
September 2010 – Rosie is unsatisfied with the first draft which has the inspiration’s blessing. She thinks there’s more to come.
October 3rd 2010 – Rosie’s eighteenth birthday sucks. Okay, she gets a lot of money from her parents, but it’s pity money, and she doesn’t spend any of it. She also gets a set of knives from her dad. To cheer herself up, she and the friend decide to go see Ludovico Einaudi in Edinburgh. He is one of their sacrosanct and exclusive commonalities. Rosie feels victorious.
October 2010 – Glasgow Uni art students have a reading & writing week off classes. Rosie has thirteen mini breakdowns about her Descartes essay. Her parents are genuinely scared for her health. Unbeknownst to them, however, she stays off most of the following week because she is simply paralysed by emotional exhaustion. Her paranoia and insecurity surrounding the friend are giving her nightmares about falling. Her guilt over a previous transgression, for which she tried to apologize many times but couldn’t because she never understood why she did it, is poisoning her rationality. She makes herself go out on Tuesday but physically cannot get off the bus. She makes it to Waterstone’s and gently the horrifying truth she’s been fighting for a week dawns on her: she needs her friend to save her. Her worst fear is losing control, and she has lost it. By some miracle, her friend asks her to meet him for coffee. She doesn’t like coffee, but she goes anyway. Later on he remarks she was ‘reserved’. Hearing this from someone she cares about makes her listen.
November 10th 2010 – Rosie and the friend go to Edinburgh to see Ludovico. They both bring their winter hats and the friend says Rosie is back to her usual self. Ludovico is amazing. Rosie should be happy, but she is only allowed to feel content. Her friend cannot tell the time. On the train ride home they stay awake by playing Trivial Pursuit.
Christmas 2010 – Rosie spills her guts in a letter, but unlike all the other times she has tried with other people, this does not feel contrived. It feels right. The friend responds with an equally intimate letter. Rosie issues a reluctant but necessary ultimatum; the friend must be in her life, or be out of it. In spite of all her self-destructive bullshit, he says “Well it would be pretty stupid to let go of four years of friendship.” Rosie cannot believe someone is actually sticking around. And yet it is not enough. She wants him to lie on the floor with her, but he’s too luminous for that.
January 2011 – Rosie has failed Philosophy.
May 2011 – Rosie goes to the friend’s house with his birthday present and another letter. She feels guilty inflicting it, but she has to. She has spent four months trying to escape the inevitable, and she can’t do it anymore. She gives him the letter and she runs. The letter expounds the cartography of her psyche; how she has steadily lost control to him ever since he waltzed back into her life, how she sometimes wishes she had never known him, how she sometimes genuinely hates him, and how she is terrified of regressing to that numb place again. He comes to her house to sort it out. She says “I don’t trust you because I don’t trust myself”, meaning, she has too little confidence in herself. He says “But you know me, you know I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you” and she says “But I don’t really know you, do I?” And the irony of him once calling her reserved laps at her conscious now. He is just as reserved. He says “I don’t know what to do.” She says “Just tell me that you’ll be there, if I need you.” He nods, says “You know I will.” She says “Then say it out loud.” He does, and now he runs.
Summer 2011 – Rosie takes this time to distance herself from the mania of the past few months and gain perspective again. She writes tirelessly. She makes a promise to herself that when she has finished writing, she will contact her friend again. And so the final paragraphs are postponed and postponed. Her favourite phrase becomes “I don’t want to talk about it”. She has never seen a hedgehog here, but she sees one now, again and again, and she can’t help thinking it’s a sign that she is reverting into that defensive, numb place once more.
August 2011 – Rosie notices a conspicuous influx in the number of spiders.
August 2011 – Rosie notices a conspicuous influx in the number of spiders.
September 2nd 2011 – Rosie runs into the inspiration almost a year to the day since she last saw him. It’s much less awkward now, and she cannot help marvelling at the timing. They talk about the last time they met. They laugh about the toilet paper.
September 11th 2011 – Rosie has come to the conclusion that she had it wrong; in order to finish her novel, she must first resolve things with her friend, not the other way around. They have not spoken for three months, apart from when he said well done for passing Philosophy. The entire summer has passed, and the tectonic plates of their friendship have inevitably changed. It is raining heavily and the sky is dark. This type of weather always makes Rosie feel safe. It’s as though something benevolent is hugging her, and reassuring her that everything will be okay. It is a good sign. Just as she is about to make contact, the friend does. Except it’s not him, it is someone from his work. Pushing down the ominous feeling in her stomach, she strives to reconcile. She hates texting. She cannot tell his tone, his manner. She cannot read his expression, which is always so telling, even when he is not saying anything. He calls her “my love” and she finds this endlessly patronizing. He is going, she can feel it.
September 13th 2011 – She gives it one more shot. She says they should meet for a “catch up” even though she detests the term. He “completely agrees. When does she think?” They set aside the following Friday, time undetermined.
September 17th 2011 – At one minute and forty-three seconds past two in the morning, Rosie writes ‘The End’ to a continuous loop of See You Soon. She smiles. She’s happy. She’s done.
September 20th 2011 – On her way to the bus stop in the morning Rosie sees a magpie. One for sorrow. She makes a mental note to keep track of her bad luck in the following week.
September 22nd 2011 – The cosmos is telling Rosie tomorrow will be a good day. One of her favourite childhood movies, Jurassic Park, is being rereleased in the cinema, her mother tells her that Ludovico Einaudi’s album is about to top the charts (this isn’t strictly good since Rosie cannot listen to his music anymore without feeling sad, but it is a connection) and her friend Stephie, whose Friday is also shaping up to be significant, tells Rosie that us Libras are to be bestowed with luck on the 23rd. The cosmos is telling her, but she is not wont to believe it.
September 22nd 2011 – Later that day Rosie finishes uni and texts her friend on the bus journey home to fix a time for tomorrow. She is not at all surprised when he says he couldn’t get the time off work. Ironically it is his apology which rankles her the most. Flippant, off-hand, piteous. She detests pity. And she feels it, the undeniable truth that this is it, this is the point at which she loses him. She barely holds the tears in. She wants to scream. She’s mad and she’s hurt and she doesn’t understand what she did. She thinks of all the other times she sat silently crying on buses or in cafes or in bed, toiling on only because of what she’d already invested, unwilling to let those almost five years become obsolete. She cannot stand that loss. She cannot stand that humiliation. She trusted him, against all her better judgement. And now she realizes that this past year she’s been blinded; she believed the pain and constant dissatisfaction was testing her, would pay off in the end, but now his actions stick out in her mind much clearer than his words. He doesn’t care anymore. He was using her, as he always had done. He’d waltzed into her life for gratification, for entertainment, for a fleeting moment of intimacy, never asking her permission to bluster through, and never stopping to tell her he was leaving again. Right now she hates him, she hates what he’s become. It hurts her to be angry at him, but she is. She hates the impossible standards he sets, and how he brings out the very worst in her. He once said he never wanted to change her, and look what he’s allowed her to be reduced to! She has given everything she can, she can give no more. She will not sacrifice herself. She will not disappear into him.
September 22nd 2011 – At home her mother can tell there’s something wrong. Finally she gives in and the surge of emotion almost defeats her. But she must cook. Her mother offers to stir the vegetables while Rosie has some wine, but “No! I have to cook! I have to do something!” So she chops the peppers up, the fucking bell peppers, the only person who ever called them that, and she’s screaming and crying the whole time but she just needs to know that the right thing to do is to say goodbye, because he isn’t going to. She needs to move on. She needs her life not to be about him anymore. The concept of his absolute absence terrifies her, and has done for a long time, but she’s been denying its necessity because her life ceased to have meaning as soon as she thought of him not in it. It’s irrational, she knows, but that’s how it is. It’s because he knows everything. And it felt right to tell him. And she was safe with him. And now she has to start all over. And she can’t be bothered. She’s too tired. She’s thinking of how love is a chemical high in the body that lasts for approximately four to five years. She’s thinking that’s how long it took the last time. She knows she has to pick herself now. She cannot keep picking him. Thank God Walking with Dinosaurs arrived in the post this morning or she might have sank to cyan. She watches the entire thing and goes to bed.
September 23rd 2011 – Rosie has just one lecture today, and when she comes out she checks her email. She is expecting a confirmation of the printing job she’s requested, and when she opens her inbox there is one from the printing place saying her manuscript will be ready to pick up after 2pm today—not next Friday as she’d anticipated. She has three hours to kill. She jumps on a bus to Waterstone’s, buys a hot chocolate with two marshmallows, and sits upstairs at her favourite table where he once came to pick her up and remarked the staff were rude which, frankly, should have tipped her off about him. She jogs upstairs and selects the two books she was perusing when she came in. One is about zombies, their blind slavery to cannibalism, and how to survive them. The other is centred around the idea that love is a disease, for which scientists have developed a cure and the government has made mandatory. The significance of the themes doesn’t sink in until later. Rosie feels no anxiety as she types out the valedictory message and hits send. It is a belated reply to the nebulous text she received yesterday as a solution to the problem of meeting up; “Okay, I’ll text you soon :)” Rosie types back; “Hey, listen, I know you said you’d text me soon but I don’t know what soon is and I don't really feel like waiting around to find out. If you don’t want to be friends anymore that’s fine! But just tell me that okay?” Predictably, he doesn’t tell her. But as soon as she’s sent it, an enormous weight lifts from her shoulders. She doesn’t have to wait anymore.
September 23rd 2011 – A little after two Rosie heads back to the West End to the tiny print shop that’s like a cosy nest of wood shavings. She wants to hug the woman behind the desk who presents her finished, printed, bound manuscript to her. It is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen in her life. And she did it herself. It’s hard not to compare the whole thing to pregnancy and giving birth and seeing her baby for the first time, being allowed to hold it! And it is the same weight as a baby; her rambling skills have ensured that. All the way home she smiles. She feels freer than she has in years, since the last time she was at the ocean at Durness, at the top of everything. She has become herself again, evidenced by the three new books in the Waterstone’s bag she will find the time to read somehow. Even the wasp on the bus doesn’t bother her. She listens to Komeda’s It’s Alright Baby, U2’s Even Better Than The Real Thing and Eddie Vedder’s Hard Sun delivers her right to her front door. So today didn’t turn out the way she’d planned, by sentencing herself to masochism. In fact, it turned out a fuck load better. And she got home by herself.
Allllllll the post-its :).
Folder of character drawings/outtakes/procrastination,
the post-it pile,
the Leaning Tower of Pukka Pads,
and The Manuscript (L).
Boathouse, Phegans Bay, Australia, October 2009.